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It had taken only a few seconds but the old lamp-lit street you were walking on suddenly melts away, and you stand in a crowded thrum of bodies and shouting. Looking around you notice the things around you are far from human. Goblinoid creatures with silver-white flesh, Amphibious bipedal creatures with blue-green scales, and even a few humanoid beings parade down the street entering all manner of establishments along the street. A tall man dressed from head to foot in a dark blue dress shirt and trousers black as midnight spots you and drags his feet in your direction. A tie hangs loose around his neck and a fedora perches itself on his brown curly hair like a crown. As he gets closer you notice his eyes and can’t decide whether you see them as a muddy brown or emerald green.
“My dear young goblin.” He bows and tips his hat towards you. “You seem rather lost are you new?”
Goblin? You look down at your hands and notice they are more like claws, and the same silver-white as the creatures skirting around you. “Y-yes. I am.” You stutter; you feel deep down that if you proclaim your humanity he will kill you. He may look human, but perhaps it’s the uncertain colour of his eyes that makes you uneasy.
“Well that is certainly rare.” He said, before slapping himself. “Oh damn! Where are my manners?”
He spins once in a circle and spreads his arms wide. “My name is Melvin Maudley, and welcome to Melvin Maudley’s Malevolent Market! Spells and Sorceries! Trinkets and charms! Curses and Cripplings! We have it all! Have an enemy whose existence eludes you? Erase his actual existence! Make him fade from the world, never seen nor heard from again. Homeless people hogging the sidewalk? Give them a new home; the ninth circle of hell! All are free to shop! All are welcome! So don’t be shy-”
You will not be disappointed. He never said those words, yet they echo in your head. You try not to shiver. He wraps an arm around you and leads you through the marketplace. “When I say all are welcome, I mean it. I even let some humans around as well. You don’t mind humans do you? I love them. In fact! If there is one thing I love about humans…”
If there is one thing I love about humans, it’s the vicious voracity of their vengeful minds, the pitch blackness hidden away in their hearts more monstrous than our own. What hypocritical creatures they are, these pious degenerates? Yes, I like the sound of that. Pious degenerates, so gentle when powerless, yet so ready to abuse all the power in the world. Also stupid. Unbelievably stupid.
That reminds me of this one human, Gregory Stonewall, a man I watched stumble into this very square as if by accident. However, my dear Gobbish friend, there are no accidents where the market is concerned. He wandered here as most humans do; drunk and out for petty revenge. I remember I stepped up to him tipping my hat slightly forward as all gentlemen do.
“Gregory Stonewall!” I gasped, feigning surprise at his sudden visit. He mumbled something in return, eyes clouded, breath reeking of alcohol. Isn’t drunkenness the most adorable vice? However, I couldn’t exactly lead him anywhere while drunk much to my dismay, so I pulled open his mouth and spat in it. The fogginess of his alcohol induced stupor drained from his body, from the top of his balding head to the tips of his fat wormy toes. He stumbled backwards, sober as a father the moment he realizes his children will never amount to anything. Perhaps it was because I tore him from the warm buzz of altered personality or perhaps it was because I spat in his mouth, for he glowered at me fiercely. With a wave of my hand, the memory of our intimate moment faded from his mind. I welcomed him to the market, gave him the very well rehearsed introduction I gave you, his smile growing wider as I explained the purpose of my market.
I pulled him through the crowd shouting, “Come! What brings you to the market? Who has you oh so very vexed?”
And like every human before him he answered in a roar that snapped the chains suppressing his wrathful nature. “Oswald Costello!”
I probed the depths of my memory. Oswald Costello…Oswald Costello…Oswald Costello! I remembered an Oswald Costello. He was a run of the mill mob boss in the human world, revelling in his tremendous power, wallowing in the weakness of his subjects, hoarding treasure with the covetous greed of a dragon, and regular customer of Darren Ditton’s Dirty Deeds. It pained me to lose such a wonderful customer, but in the end the loss of one customer brings in many more. Such is the nature of the market.
“And what did Mr. Costello do?” This time, I added.
“He killed my daughter, and made me watch.” Gregory failed to keep his eyes from watering, grief sew his mouth shut. Let me tell you something my dear goblin, when a human cries their voices staccato as they sob, and they moan in a melodiously slur. Never has there ever been sweeter music, the memory of his darling daughter a symphony of rage and sorrow.
“How?” I asked.
“I can’t say. It’s too horrible.” She was skinned from head to toe before being dipped in a large vat of apple cider vinegar. Her screams were a wonderful opera.
“That is terrible,” I placed a hand on his back. “If it is any consolation, I know for a fact that she is in heaven looking down upon us at this very moment.” Screaming at him to turn away and touch nothing, for they would never meet again should he do so.
“You’re very welcome.”
We arrived at Sheila Stuart’s Confectionary, a shop seemingly made entirely out of gingerbread. It isn’t. Sheila’s Confectionary is composed of 95% pure gingerbread. The other 5% is made up of brownie bricks when she ran out of said gingerbread. The store front looks like it is decorated with frosting of purest white and brightest baby blue. It isn’t. The frosting is made of plastic. Cold, hard, inedible plastic. At least the stained glass in the windows are made of candy.
And so we entered Sheila’s mostly gingerbread shop but found no one at the counter.
“Why are we in a candy store?” Gregory asked.
“Vengeance.” I replied. “Sheila! Are you in the back?”
A petit woman in a powder white apron came rushing to the front of the store, a friendly smile on her face.
“Sorry for the wait.” It occurs to me you have never heard her speak, so I will just say that her voice is sweet as sugar maple and she has a Scottish accent thick as honey. “Welcome to my confectionary! What would you like to purchase today?”
“Again what are we doing here?” said Gregory.
“Ignore him Sheila, he’s new.” I rapped the glass window shielding her delectable delights. “Just run him through the choices.”
“Okay then.” Sheila replied. “We have choking chocolates, transfiguring treats, and carcinogenic candies.”
“Carcinogenic candies?” Gregory scratched his balding spot.
“Candies that give one cancer.” I explained. “For example, over there is the Leukemia liquorice, and over there is a lung cancer lollipop. We won’t be needing those. Our target is rich and already quite old, he’ll be living it up. The choking chocolates are too quick and not even close to weird enough.”
“Hey! I worked hard on the breathless brownies.”
“I’m sorry but aside from the pneumonia nanaimo bars, which is a disease easily cured today, there is really nothing interesting there.”
“Polio Pavlova, Bubonic Boba tea, Scarlet Fever Pixie Sticks…Oooh. Hold on, What’s this?” I pointed to the back of the shop.
“Turkey Turkish Delight. Turns people into turkeys.”
“Seems useless, but…” I turned to face Gregory. “Thanksgiving is just around the corner correct?”
He nodded. I turned to Sheila . “We’ll have one of those. With a little addition.” I whispered my little request to her and a few minutes later she produced a small box containing Gregory’s Turkish delight.
“Now before you take that, there is the matter of your payment.” I motioned to Gregory, beckoning him closer. “We can deal in the money of your world if you choose but not that the price will be high. For something like this, we’ll say five thousand dollars.”
“Five grand for a slab of gelatin?”
“Five grand for the death of the man who wronged you. Five grand for sweet, sticky vengeance.”
“I don’t have that much on me.” He turned out his pockets and shook in fear, in disappointment at having his revenge ripped away inches from his grasp.
“I’m sure we can come to an agreement.” The market often senses our needs which is why in the next moment the confectionary disappeared and we found ourselves in the small confines of Gregory’s hideaway, a filthy decrepit motel room. I walked around smiling at the blob of confusion Gregory had been reduced to. I knelt down and picked up a small unlabeled medicine bottle. I shook it once in my hands and it became a glass vial with a long neck. I handed it to Gregory. “Hold this and don’t drop it.”
His grubby hands clutched the bottle tightly as it left mine. Crack! I slapped my hands together in front of his face, his eyes grew wide and he screamed in shock. The bottle fell from his hands and into mine. “Why the hell did you do that?”
I showed him the bottle and waggled it in front of his eyes. From the bottom to the brim it was filled with his blood, blood freely given for dark purposes, paramount to the formation of malicious properties. He looked at his hands and found no mark, but the experience left him feeling quite light-headed. “This should settle the debt quite nicely Mr. Stonewall.”
“That’s all? That wasn’t much.”
“It was actually quite a lot.” I insisted. I removed a dry erase marker from my pocket and handed it to Gregory. “Draw a circle on a mirror to watch your product work its magic. Consider the deal made, and I hope to see you again in the market.”
Any conceptions that I might have cheated him were gone a few weeks later. Costello had eaten the Turkish delight which was lain tantalizingly on his desk. The skin and flesh of his body shrunk much quicker than his bones causing it to tear, then his bones broke and reformed to be hollow and light, he grew a beak and feathers burst from his already painful flesh. Upon finding a turkey in Costello’s office, the bodyguards shot it to death and sold it to a local butcher. The feathers were plucked off as quickly as they had grown and the turkey sold to an unsuspecting Christian family. After roasting the turkey the father proceeded to carve it, and lay a piece on each member’s plate, and then they prayed and gave thanks to god for the food they were given. The moment they mumbled Amen the several pieces of turkey shook and grew back into several pieces of crispy, golden brown human. My little addition to the Turkish delight.
Melvin yawns and removes his arm from your neck. “It’s getting late. Even the market is tired.”
You remain silent.
“You are so cute, my little Gobbish friend.” He nudges you playfully as the market begins to disappear in static bursts. “I hope to meet you again. Hopefully to tell another story.”
The market fades from sight and you are back on the black bitumen of the old lamp-lit road you’d been walking on. You look to your hands seeing normal human hands, free from claws and silver-white skin. You sigh with relief and think to yourself it must have been a dream. Just as you start believing there is no Malevolent Market, no Melvin Maudley, a newspaper is blown onto your path by a sudden gust of wind. The pit of your stomach feels cold as the headline comes into focus. Mob Boss found Cooked and Carved on Thanksgiving Eve.