“Good morning, how’d you sleep?” Wendy asked. Edgar had just pulled himself to a seated position on the cot when she threw the door to his cell open. He looked up and smiled at the orange-haired woman.
“Like a baby, I haven’t felt that safe in years,” he chuckled.
“It gets better,” she grinned. “Your bloodwork checked out, quarantine’s over. Tonight you get a real bed in a real room.’
“Oh, God,…” Edgar hung his head and gave a long, peaceful sigh. “That’s amazing, thank you.”
“Don’t thank me,” Wendy stepped into the cell and held her hand out for Edgar. “The council wants to meet you, you can thank them.”
“Right now?” he asked as he accepted the gesture with a quick grasp and stood up.
“Gotta pull your weight to earn that room,” she winked a coffee-brown eye, then whirled around. Her orange curls bounced as she walked out of the cell expecting Edgar to follow her. He did. “Don’t be nervous, they’re not going to kick you out or anything,” Wendy added. They stepped out of the small-town police station and into the bright sunlight.
Edgar noticed almost two-dozen strangers strolling the town’s narrow main street. The walked in and out of the shops lining the street carrying various bags. He initially thought it was odd until he noticed the bags were all carrying the same items.
Edgar split his attention as he followed Wendy through the fortified town and noticed a flow. The townsfolk all walked into and out of the same stores, carrying the same things. They exited the general store holding a burlap bundle of plain containers, then entered the cleaners. Everyone came out of the cleaners carrying similar-looking clothes. There were other shops he couldn’t identify, but the townsfolk always reappeared carrying the same packages.
Edgar was about to ask Wendy about how bartering worked, but she suddenly came to a stop. He was surprised to see two armed guards standing outside the town bank.
“They’re just going to ask you a few questions to see where you fit; don’t worry about anything,” Wendy said, and she encouraged him toward the door.
“You’re not coming in?” he asked. Wendy shook her head.
“I’ve got other chores. Oh!” she said suddenly. “One more thing,” she leaned in closer and dropped her voice to a whisper. “They’re not human. Don’t freak out, they’re very nice.” She patted Edgar on the back. “Good luck!” Wendy left with a smile then walked up the sidewalk.
“What do you mean they’re not human?” Edgar mumbled to himself as he pulled the bank door open. He received an answer as soon as the walked into the lobby. There did not appear to be any customers in the bank, but a circle of bar stools stood in the middle of the lobby. Atop each stool sat a short, sickly-green, person wearing a suit. The suits were all different and seemed to indicate personal preference instead of any sort of ranking hierarchy.
Each member of the council took pride in their appearance. Despite their over-sized noses and broad, triangle-shaped ears, each member’s hair was neatly combed.
“Welcome to Goblintown,” one of the council members spoke up when he spotted Edgar. His voice was deeper and smoother than Edgar expected from the short green man that he suddenly realized was probably a goblin. Edgar reached the town the night before; it was dark and he hadn’t seen any signage. He’d never heard of a place called Goblintown, but he assumed it had another name before the zombie apocalypse.
“Thank you,” Edgar replied as he made his way into the center of the circle. It seemed like the appropriate thing to do. He looked around at the six smiling, green faces and realized he still felt at ease.
“You’ll need to pitch in if you want to stay. We have a few questions to go through to find you a compatible position,” the goblin that spoke up first said. Edgar assumed he was the one in charge. He nodded at the head goblin.
“Where were you born?” the goblin asked.
“Uh,” Edgar faltered for a second; it wasn’t a question he expected. He had no idea how is birthplace came into play, but he didn’t want to offend his hosts. “Wisconsin,” he said. The head goblin gave him a curious look with a slight head tilt. As Edgar glanced around at the rest of the group nervously, he noted they all gave him the same puzzled look.
“Which Wisconsin?” the goblin asked. Edgar nodded with a slight chuckle.
“How many are there?” he asked. The goblin remained quiet for a moment, then asked a new question.
“How old are you?” Edgar saw the reasoning behind that question and considered lying to make himself younger. He did not want to get relegated to ‘old man’s’ work. He looked considerably younger than his 47 years and knew he could shave off at least a decade. But something inside told him that wasn’t the right move. These goblins were trying to help him; it didn’t seem right to lie for no reason.
“47,” he said. He expected another question. Instead, he heard six goblins gasp in surprise simultaneously. Immediately the goblin to the right of the one Edgar had been speaking to made a downward swipe gesture with his hand.
Edgar had seen several strange things wandering through the zombie-scape on his way to Goblintown. But, the smokey-grey, glassy slate that appeared and hovered in front of the goblin was new to him. The goblin tapped and swiped on the slate several times, then looked up at the head goblin.
“Paradise server, 46 years old,” the right-hand goblin said. A broad, toothy smile formed on the head goblin’s face and his large muddy-green eyes sparkled.
“What’s your favorite number?” the goblin asked.
“35,” Edgar answered before he could wonder about the relevance of the question. Even after his answer, he was distracted by the fact that he had a favorite number he didn’t know about until then.
The quiet bank lobby was suddenly filled with the cheers of six goblins. Each of them was so excited they hopped off their barstools and began congratulating each other. Edgar felt like he sunk the winning shot at the last minute in a game he didn’t know existed. The celebrating goblins hugged and patted each other on the back and more or less ignored Edgar for almost a full minute. Finally, the head goblin seemed to remember Edgar was there and turned his attention to him.
“Go find Wendy. Tell her you’re an Estrella and let her give you a tattoo,” he said.
“Do I need the tattoo?” Edgar asked. The goblin nodded. “Then what?” he asked again. He had no idea what kind of help he could pitch in that required a tattoo.
“Then, you get to learn how to play the game,” the goblin grinned and shoo’d Edgar toward the door.
“What game?” Edgar asked. The goblin burst into laughter.
“Why do you think there are zombies running around out there?”