Flash Fiction: “Paying Dues Without Clues”

Here’s another story of goblins and fairies in the modern day, but not everything is what it seems (then again, when is it ever?).

Paying Dues Without Clues, by Alexander Paul Willging

Word Count: 655

It was a beautiful spring morning in the countryside. Dr. Nora Volante drove up the road to the lone farmhouse near the edge of the woods. The house didn’t look like it had been cleaned or renovated for many years, from rusted door hinges to ancient creaking timber planks from rooftop to ground floor. Like it had grown out of the woods itself.

As she parked her car and got out, Nora double-checked the manila folder that her friend at the police station had given her. Along with a chuckle and a pitying look. She familiarized herself with the notes written down and the official complaint registered by several neighbors.

All variations of disturbing the peace. But who was the more disturbed, she wondered.

Her patient greeted her at the front door. Michael St. Clair was not a young man. Standing six foot five, he had both the snow-white beard and the belly to play Santa Claus all year round. When he moved, his gait was slow and ponderous, like he was expecting a threat to jump out from every corner. Nora kept her cool and sat down in the living room while he offered her coffee and a tray of crackers.

“I’m sorry if the road was bumpy,” said Michael, cringing. “It’s not my fault, I swear!”

Nora replied with a kindly smile. “I’m sure it’s not, Michael. May I call you Michael?”

The old man sat quivering in his armchair. “I’m not c-crazy. I’ve seen things, you know!”

“Like what?” Nora took out her notebook. This wasn’t her first case of dealing with a paranoid schizophrenic. But it was the oddest case by far.

“They… they come out at night, mostly.” Michael’s bottom lip jiggled underneath his beard. “Thousands of ’em! Little green ghouls!”

“Well, I’m sure it’s—”

“It’s a goblin army, I tells ya!”

Nora lowered her pen. Now they were getting somewhere. “Right. Goblins. And why do they, um, visit you again?”

“Well, it’s ’cause…” Michael’s voice trailed off. His eyes darted to the nearest corner of the living room.

She found that he was looking at a beautiful antique sitting on the floor. The box was gilded oak, with hundreds of mystic runes lining the surface. Her mind puzzled over their origin. Norwegian, maybe? All Nora knew for sure was that the skin on the back of her neck was crawling the longer she stared at it.

“Because of that?” she asked.

Michael dropped his head. “Y-yeah. But I only stole it for my grandkids. So… so they’d have something nice for their birthday—”

“Now that,” a tiny voice called out, “is a load of crap and you know it, Mikey.”

Nora believed that she must’ve inhaled whatever her patient was smoking. Because out from a hole in the moulding came a tiny green creature, bow-legged and wrinkled from head to toe. And top off the whole delusion, he was wearing a small pinstripe suit and chomping on a cigar.

“Stay back!” Michael cried. He leapt from his chair and reached for a poker from the fireplace.

He froze, however, when he and Nora noticed two more goblins appear on the mantlepiece. Wearing little more than loincloths, they stood shoulder-to-shoulder with miniature crossbows in hand. Their grim stares fixed on Michael’s face, as did the gleaming tips of their arrows, until he withdrew his hand and sank defeated into his armchair again.

“Mikey, Mikey, c’mon buddy.” The goblin boss hopped up onto the old man’s shoulder. He blew a ring of cigar smoke in his face. “We had a deal, okay? I got you this farm, and you were supposed to pay us back, remember?”

“Um,” Nora interrupted, “how did you get him the farm?”

The goblin stared back with an evil grin. “Do you really wanna know the answer to that, little lady?”

“Oh. I-I see.” She turned to her patient once more. “Michael?”


“Give him back the damn box.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Thanks to my supporters on Patreon for their contributions that make stories like this one possible. This story is dedicated to Links Drop.

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