Goblins, Demons and a Dash of Grass
By Johnny Apocalypse
My name is Justin Taggart. I live in Colorado and I work campus security for a computer conglomerate whose stock is diving into the Marina Trench. All the rent-a-cops were supposed to be on the watch for thieves, trespassers and disgruntled ex-employees. The only interesting thing I had seen in my two years of employment was an employee shooting heroin in the men's room.
Well, I take that back. I once found a ghost in building five. That building was under construction when company stock took it's first fall, leaving it's exterior complete but the interior a scary, desolate shell.
"Dispatch to mobile one," my radio came to life.
"This is mobile, go ahead."
My security company used to have two mobile units a shift, but budget cuts had left us with one. Protocol still required that we say "mobile one", but I constantly use "mobile" for no purpose but to be an asshole.
"Mobile one," Ray, the radio operator spoke calmly, but with a tone of irritation, "Are you planning on checking any buildings this shift?"
"That's negative, dispatch. I checked all the buildings during swing shift."
"Sorry, mobile one, but all five buildings must be checked each shift."
On any other twelve hour shift I would have said "fuck that" and turned my radio off. Sadly, my coffee cup was empty and sleep was settling in fast.
"I'll check building one and that's it," I replied.
Building one was the smallest and easiest to check, but Ray wasn't going to let me off the hook that easy.
"Tell you what," he answered. "If you check building three, I'll leave you alone for the rest of your shift."
Building three was the biggest, but a night of silence was worth the extra hassle.
Most of the security guards I work with like to check the buildings from the bottom floor up, but I liked to work from the top floor on down. A good elevator ride to the highest level and an easy, downhill walk from story to story on the stairs.
I stepped into the empty lobby and could almost smell the bustling office work from hours ago. This building housed the company's accountants and legal teams. The entire place pulsed with the vibes of expiring contracts and plummeting money on paper.
I filled my cup with hot, black coffee, and by the time I reached the fourth floor it was empty again. I found a break area, poured myself some more and started checking the building. Shaking locked doors, making sure no one had died in their cubicle.
By the time I reached the third floor I was starting to fear kidney failure and a severe caffeine addiction. But if the coffee was going to kill me, at least my shift would end early.
I hit the second floor hard and fast, my arteries pumping a black, dangerous mixture of blood and French roast. Normally I'm a little fearful of the second floor, because it could put a toy store to shame. All the employees on this level felt some uncanny need to bring in as many teddy bears and stuffed animals as they could. One office was home to a five-foot tall plush Gumby doll. Late at night, I would start thinking that all these little toys would come to life and beat me to death with their soft, furry hands. But now, being more java then man, I was ready to take on Gumby and all of his little friends.
I wrapped up the second floor and nearly sprinted down to the first. It was halfway checked when I felt the pressure in my bladder and learned the error of my ways.
The nearest bathroom was down a long hallway. I had the energy to run but not enough strength to hold the flood back while doing so. I ended moving in a maneuver that was somewhere between a brisk jog, a drunken stagger and a dash of Riverdance thrown in for style. If any of the security cameras caught my waddling dance to the pisser, I would probably get sent to the loony bin.
I finished the journey, more stagger then walking, and nearly crashed through the door to the men's room. Thank god it was late at night, otherwise the entire building would have heard me.
"Ahh, DAMN that's good!"
With enough pressure to move a semi-truck and the boiling heat to melt Antarctica, I had found heaven on earth.
I stumbled away from the now cracked urinal and pushed through the door into the hallway. I was about to snag some more coffee when I heard a nearby door rattle.
My first guess was that maintenance was in the area, fixing something complicated. But, the company I work for pays me to check on these sorts of things, so I decided to try something new and do my job.
"Hey, maintenance, you around here?" I called out.
I received no reply. A bad sign in my book.
I took a few tentative steps down the hall when I heard the noise again. A rattling door, almost vibrating against it's frame. The door was right around the corner, next to some offices and cubicles.
I called out for maintenance again, but still no answer. Unless the door was near an air vent, the only possibility was that Gumby had tracked me down and was looking for trouble.
Many people have told me that when I start getting nervous, my mind likes to run to unlikely possibilites, sometimes borderlining the insane. Maybe so, but after getting into a rumble with a ghost, anything seemed pretty likely to me.
"Okay, Gumby," I spoke as I sidled to the corner. "I don't like you and you don't like me. But I'm hyped up on caffeine, ready to kick some ass, and you don't have Pokey the horse to help you out this time!"
I spun around the corner, busting out my best ninja pose, and found nothing. No stuffed Care Bears, no five-foot Gumby. Nothing.
As I looked to the door I stood next to, it rattled again. I took a step back and regained my ninja stance.
The door was marked "Comm Room", which meant that it held a lot of telephone wiring and junction boxes. I had learned to stay away from these rooms long ago when I had attempted to discover a way to make free phone calls to China. All I succeeded in was killing twenty phone lines and kicking a hole in a wall. Luckily, maintenance decided that the hole in the wall meant that a mouse had chewed through the lines, and called an exterminator.
But previous experiences with telephone tomfoolery or not, I still had to check behind the door.
I took a meager step forward and the door shook again. Pushing my foot forward another inch convinced me that this was not a coincidence, as the door clattered some more.
As I kept creeping up on the mysterious door, not only did it continue to shiver, but light started to force it's way under the door jamb. I peered closer and realized that the light was shifting colors. Red to purple to a dark jade green. Having only learned the style of the ninja from old Japanese moves, my kung-fu wasn't strong enough for this shit.
The door was a foot away. My hand closed around the knob. I took a deep breath, turned the handle and yanked it open.
It was like standing on top of a mountain and being able to see everything for a hundred miles. But this peak wasn't surrounded by green, grassy fields or flowery pastures. Instead, I found myself gazing at rivers of molten lava and flaming brimstone plummeting from a blood-red sky.
The burning rivers flowed around large plateaus of dark obsidian. On each island of black rock, dozens of nude men and women were chained together, cowering on their knees. Tall, thin demons with gray, putrid skin surrounded these tortured souls, thrashing them with whips. With each loud "crack" of the whip, the evil creatures grinned and drooled, while the people screamed and moaned for relief.
I stood in the doorway, my mouth gaping open and my limbs shaking. I was about to slam the door shut and weld it closed, when two of the demons looked up the mountain and saw me.
Dropping their whips, the leaped off of their island, over the lava and onto the foot of the mountain. Disgusting smirks of pleasure and anticipation creased their vile faces as the began sprinting towards me.
I took a sharp step back and slammed the door shut. It began shaking, more violently then before, ready to burst off the hinges. I tried to pin it closed with my shoulder, but the door bounced me away. I tumbled to the floor, landing hard. Scooting forward, I planted my feet on the bottom of the door, praying to keep the demons and goblins on the other side.
I lied on my back for an eternity, my eyes closed in fear and my legs trying to hold the quaking door. My energy was draining rapidly. I felt unconsciousness falling over me when the shaking subsided.
It took some time to get back on my feet. I had to brace myself against a wall and wait for my breathing to slow down before I could key the radio.
"Mobile to dispatch," I huffed into the microphone. "Building three is the gateway to hell!"
Ray the dispatcher was not at all pleased when I asked him for a report form.
He quit complaining for a few minutes once I brought in a pot of fresh coffee. That is, until he found out what my report was about. Then all hell broke loose. Thankfully, it was only figurative this time.
"Jesus Christ, Justin," Ray was nearly screaming. "I thought that you were calling building three the entrance to hell because it's so big and that you were getting tired. Now I find out that you actually believe you saw this gateway, and you want to write a report on it?"
I drained my cup of coffee while writing the last sentence. Ray snatched the paper from my hands while I helped myself to another serving of caffeine.
"This is crazy," he continued. "Absolutely nuts. I could get you committed for this. Hell, your damn ghost story was more believable then this."
"You see," I began, "No one took me seriously back then. I think it's because I didn't bother to report the problem. Maybe now people will see what's up and do something about it."
Ray tossed my report back to me and poured himself a cup of coffee. "You think this will actually get something done? It might convince someone to hide your corpse where it will never be found. Shit, while you're here do you want to file a back report on the ghost?"
Ray's sarcasm couldn't effect my position on the gateway. Someone needed to do something before the demons were attacking everyone but the lawyers.
"I already dealt with the ghost."
Ray quit pacing the floor and poured us each more coffee. He sat down in front of his computer and stared at the wall behind it.
He said, "I'm not filing this report, you know."
"Sure you are," I said.
"Oh? And what makes you say that?"
Lucky for me, I knew Ray's weakness. No coffee lover in the world could touch his addiction.
"Ray," I said calmly, "What's your favorite kind of coffee?"
"Any particular brand?"
I stood up and tossed my empty Styrofoam cup in the trash.
"Tell you what. If you file that report for me, I'll buy you a big can of Maxwell House's Hawaiian blend coffee."
Ray was silent for a short moment. "Two big cans," he countered.
"One big and one small."
For the final hours of my shift, I cruised around the parking lot, blasted the radio and kept running inside for more coffee. Whenever I drove by the third building I looked in the windows for any signs of demonic infestation. By three in the morning, my relief had arrived and building three looked to be free from the grips of Satan.
Twenty minutes after I left work, my car was pulling into the driveway. I live with my parents while I'm going to college. All they ask of me in return is decent grades, a steady job and to pay for any liquor I drink.
It was a Saturday night, and my parents had decided to head up to the mountains for a few days. Once I got inside the kitchen, I saw the supply of food they had left for me, sitting on the counter. Boxes of pop-tarts, bags of cheetos and a few TV dinners.
I grabbed a NewCastle Brown Ale from the fridge and scampered down the half-flight of stairs into the family room. With the push of a button the television was up and running. I managed to catch the last half-hour of "The Maltese Falcon" before my caffeine buzz died, the beer kicked in and I passed out on the couch.
I woke up to a ringing doorbell and an early morning aerobics show. Climbing off the couch was not a favorable choice, but the bell was irritating the hell out of me.
Before I reached the door I caught the slight scent of marijuana, and knew Chris was standing outside. In the foggy haze that was my mind, I had almost forgotten that I was supposed to grab breakfast with my best friend.
"Hey bro, what's up?" I was greeted once I let him in.
"I just woke up. What time is it?"
I led Chris into the kitchen and out to the patio so he could smoke one of his "funny cigarettes", as my mom calls them. He had one lit before both feet were out the door.
"I worked late last night," I explained. "What time did you get up?"
Chris coughed up a cloud of smoke. "Seven, yesterday evening."
My pot smoking friend kept a worse sleeping schedule then a narcoleptic. I wasn't too surprised.
"I'm going to jump in the shower," I said, my eyes still half closed. "When you get done smoking, you want to make a pot of coffee?"
"Yeah, you bet, man. I make great coffee."
I took a few steps inside before I froze.
"I don't want any weed in my coffee, Chris."
"Oh, okay. Don't worry, it'll still be good."
A solid twenty minutes under hot water had me running and ready for the day. I had a bounce in my step as I strolled into the kitchen, heading straight for the coffee pot.
With a full mug in my hand, I sat across from Chris. He was staring into space with dilated eyes, but I knew he wasn't really out of it. The man had smoked enough weed in his life that he could look stoned but function as sober as a priest.
"Bro, you never drink coffee in the morning," he said slowly, still staring through the wall.
"Yeah, I had a lot of coffee last night to help stay awake. I think I might be addicted to caffeine now."
Chris' eyes came back into focus. "It's a good thing you don't smoke weed, my friend."
Once I drained the coffee pot, Chris and I were off to breakfast. We hit up a diner a few miles away from my house. It was like every other restaurant that specialized in breakfast foods, like IHOP. Several varieties of eggs, pancakes and waffles, as well as a few lunch and dinner entrees.
Our waitress took our order immediately, Chris getting chicken fried steak and eggs and I ordered a plate of pancakes and coffee.
I leaned in close to my friend after the waitress left.
"Man, there was some freaky shit at work last night," I whispered.
"Was there another guy shooting heroin?"
"No, I mean really freaky. The gateway to hell opened in building three."
Chris' eyes opened wide, "Whoa, no shit?"
"No shit, pal. There was fire and brimstone, rivers of lava. Hundreds of people were chained together and being tortured by goblins and demons."
"Were there any gnomes?" he asked.
"Gnomes? Why would there be any gnomes?"
Chris smirked. "Gnomes are mischief makers, bro, and mischief makers go to hell."
"Well, I didn't see any," I continued. "But a few goblins saw me and started hauling ass to kill me. I slammed the door shut, pinned it closed, and the gateway closed up."
The waitress brought our food over and refilled my coffee cup. I was famished and started digging into my pancakes.
"That's a hell of a story, bro," Chris said through a mouthful of eggs. "Good thing you got it fixed."
"Well, I'm worried that it's going to open again sometime, and I won't be there to stop a goblin army from invading."
My friend pondered this while chewing on a chunk of beef. "I don't know, man, that might not be so bad. Maybe you could convince one of them to take all the bugs out of Windows. They're probably the ones who put then in there."
I drained my coffee mug. "I don't work at Microsoft."
"It's a computer and software company, right?"
"It's all Microsoft, bro. It's a global conspiracy."
The gateway to hell opened again, but this time in my mouth. The most evil language was trying to tear out of my throat in the face of such logic, but I managed to close the portal.
Our waitress stepped over, carrying a full pot of coffee.
"Okay," she glared at me, "I'm just going to leave this pot here for you. You're drinking coffee faster then I can refill it."
Chris wiped his mouth with his napkin. "That's okay," he said to the waitress. "We're ready to leave."
"No," I said, "We'll stay for a bit longer."
As Chris and I stepped into my house, the phone began to ring. I grabbed the receiver as my friend walked outside and lit another joint.
"Justin, it's Tony," my supervisor spoke over the line. "I just got done reading this report from last night."
I figured that I would finally be taken seriously, that something would be done. "Frightening stuff, isn't it?"
"The only frightening thing is the possibility of sending one of my most reliable guards to the nuthouse. I just called Ray and he said that you were dead serious about this gateway to hell."
"What?" I asked, "You don't think that an opening to hell is a serious matter?"
"Only if we're living in a John Carpenter movie. Listen, I'm going to chalk this up to working late and being tired. Take tonight off and get some rest."
"I'm already off tonight."
"Fine, take tomorrow off. Just come back here on Tuesday refreshed and in control of your imagination. If you're lucky our manager will agree that it was fatigue and let you off the hook."
I took a deep breath. Sometimes being rational can be a problem.
"Okay," I said, irritated. "But when building three is being overrun by the ghouls of hell, don't say I didn't warn you."
"I'll take my chances."
Chris and I spent the next four hours watching "Blacula" and "Blue Velvet". Cult films are our passion. If we had the money, we'd open our own production company.
Once the movies were over, Chris had smoked a lot of marijuana and I had drank a lot of coffee. My friend was getting the munchies, so he made a quick trip to the grocery store. While he was out, I took a quick, hard nap. No matter how much coffee you drink, when you start to crash, you crash hard.
I woke up with Chris throwing Fritos as my head. My stomach was sore from all the coffee, so I ran up to the kitchen and slammed some water down. After microwaving a frozen burrito, I came back down the stairs and settled back into the couch, my head starting to ache from caffeine withdrawals.
"Welcome back, bro." Chris said. "'Escape from New York' is starting pretty soon."
"Sweet," I said. "Snake Plissken would know what to do about this opening to hell."
Chris looked at me. "Hey, bro, Kurt Russell has a house up in the mountains. Maybe we could ask him."
I rolled the thought through my head for a minute before answering. "No, he would probably just call the cops."
We sat in silence for most of the movie. Chris smoked more weed, and I tried to wean myself off of coffee. My head started throbbing from caffeine withdrawal, so I decided to have one cup to ease the pain.
"I've been thinking about your problem, dude," Chris said, "Do you think an exorcism would work?"
I took a sip from my mug, contemplating the possibility. "Well, I think exorcisms are mostly for houses or possessed people. But it couldn't hurt. The only problem I see is trying to find a priest who will believe us."
"Shit, I already got a religious official in mind. Reverend Flashback."
"Who the hell is Reverend Flashback?"
"He's in charge of my church, man."
"You don't go to church."
"Well, it's not your conventional church, no. But he preaches about doing God's work while smoking pot. I even volunteer as a counselor once in a while."
I used to be constantly stunned by Chris and the crazy shit he knew or did, but that was a long time ago. I had since learned to accept it at face value and see how things panned out.
"Okay," I said. "We'll try an exorcism. When can we meet up with the good Reverend?"
"He has a mass tomorrow, we can ask him right after."
I tossed my hands up in the air, willing to try anything. "Sounds like a plan. I was just hoping for a one-time opening to hell, but it's better safe then sorry."
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