Pain & Paranoia

Jason is a hardworking employee, with a good life until he starts seeing two little goblins that torture him. His friends and co-workers can't see the goblins and question Jason's sanity. Can Jason fight off the goblins or will he end up in a psychiatric ward?

Pain & Paranoia

The itching in his leg consumed Jason’s attention as he sat in his bland, beige cubicle. He scratched at his shin with the heel of his shoe, while trying to keep a smooth rhythm of clacking on his keyboard. He answered his phone without stopping the rubbing at the front of his shin, just above his ankle. The digging of his shoe heel caused an aching and a bruise throughout his shin, but only stopped the itching momentarily.

Jason could barely concentrate on his phone conversation. Once he hung up the phone he smacked his hands on the keyboard and pushed away from his desk. Yanking up his slack leg, he raked the front of his leg with his fingernails. The tingling sensation of the itch was gone, but he continued to dig his fingernails into the skin. The scratching felt so good. The front of his leg turned bright red.

“Jason, do you have the file on … Will Marco … finished?”

Deep in his scratching, he never noticed Tiffany appear over the top of his cubicle wall. Jason peered up at her as if he had just been caught in a gruesome deed. His hair had fallen across his reddened face. His eyes were wide and he was panting.

“What the hell are you doing?” Tiffany asked, annoyed by Jason’s antics.

Jason sat up and brushed his hair back with his hands. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath and let out it out slowly. He looked up at Tiffany, “I’m sorry. I had this massive itch on my shin and I couldn’t get rid of it.” He paused, “You were asking for a file?”

“Stop being a freak.” she stared at him in mock horror. “The people who come in here are bad enough.”

“The people who come in here have problems and we need to help them.”

“I know, but you don’t need to start acting like them.” Tiffany walked around the cubicle wall and sat down in a chair across the desk from Jason. “I’m looking for the file on Will Marco.”

“I don’t have his file. The last I saw it, Jennifer was processing his information for food assistance.”

“Crap!” Tiffany shot a quick glance around the opening of Jason’s cubicle. She then turned sharply on Jason, leaning across his desk. “I need you to get him set up for school. His classes start next week.”

“As soon as Jennifer is done with his…OOWW!” Jason jumped back. His chair slammed into the filing cabinet, shaking the plant and toppling the Batman figure. Jason looked down at the floor. He jumped again and pulled his feet up onto his chair. Pointing at the floor, “I just saw a rat! I think it bit me!”

Tiffany jumped up on the chair in a crouching position on the balls of her feet and grasped the front of the desk. “Are you serious?! Damn it, I can’t work in these conditions!”

A woman in her late forties charged into the cubicle and slammed her hands flat on the desk. “What’s wrong with you two?” She growled in a low voice. She turned to Tiffany and grabbed her pant leg. “Get down from there!” She demanded.

Tiffany peered around the office. Co-workers and clients alike were peeking over cubicle walls. She did not know what was worse, the rat or the questioning stares. Tiffany compromised and sat down on the chair, with her legs pulled tightly into her chest.

“I’m sorry Mara,” said Jason. “Something bit me. When I looked, I saw it scurry under my desk. I thought it was a rat. We both panicked.”

Mara nodded at Jason’s leg, “Let me see it.”

Jason pulled up his pant leg to reveal a dark red area. Tiny holes oozed blood. The four corners of the bite mark had bigger holes than the rest. Jason felt the wound pulsate.

“Wow!” Exclaimed Tiffany, “That looks bad.”

“Damn!” Mara bent down to look under the desk. “Do you see anything over there?”

Jason got down on all four and peer under his desk and across the floors into the other cubicles. “I see a lot of dust, chords, feet, and half eaten snacks, but no mice.” As he climbed back into his chair, sharp pain radiated through his leg.

Mara stood up as well. “I guess we’ll have to get the exterminators in here again.” Mara sighed and crossed her arms. “In the meantime, Tiffany would you please go replace Stan at the front desk. I’ll have him set some traps.” Mara looked down at Jason, who still looked panicked. “Jason, go get your leg checked and go home.”

“But I have some people I need to get finished up, before their classes start next week. Can I just come back after I see the doctor?”

“Jason, this is a state run government agency.” Mara said wearily, “The place is not going to blow up if you miss an afternoon of work. Tell Debbie what you’re working on before you leave.”

Jason tried to object, but Mara stopped him with an up-lifted hand. “Besides, these people think we’re crap. It would destroy their world if we actually proved them wrong.” Mara chuckled under her breath, “Now get out of here.”

~~~~~~~~~~

A middle aged doctor with thinning hair swung around the examination table on his chair and held up his tablet. “I really don’t think you were bitten by a rat. Here’s a picture of your bite.” The doctor tapped and dragged his finger across a picture of Jason’s leg and it zoomed in. “The bite you have is semi-round and then there are these four larger punctures that are more like fangs.” The doctor swiped his finger across the screen and a drawing slid into view. “This is a drawing of a rat bite I got off the Internet. A rat has four teeth that it bites with. The upper two are close together and the lower two are also close together, but set back. A rat won’t make the wound you have.”

“OK, so what did bite me?” asked Jason, staring at the tablet.

“I’m not sure. Maybe a small cat or kitten. What I do know is the treatment’s the same. I’m giving you a wide spectrum antibiotic. Your first dose will be a shot, to get the antibiotic heavy into your system. Your records show you are up to date on your tetanus, so we don’t need to worry about that. I’m also going to take a tissue sample to see if there are any bacteria or anything else that we need to worry about.”

Jason nodded. His concern piqued.

“I’ll have the nurse dress it and give you some supplies to keep it clean and wrapped. I’ll want to see you back in a week.”

“What about the pain?”

“Some ibuprofen will take care of it.”

A woman dressed in flower pattern scrubs entered with a tray and various instruments.

The doctor turned to the nurse, “Ah, good. Let’s get that sample.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Jason limped into his apartment. Pausing by the front door, he emptied his pockets onto the table. He then plopped down on the couch and lifted his injured leg up next to him. He snatched the remote off the coffee table and turned on the television to some cartoons.

Jason leaned back and took stock of his surroundings, which made him feel good. Jason had worked hard to get a nice apartment and to fill it with nice furnishings. He did not have top of the line furniture, but it all looked good and was just as well built. Most of his pride laid in his collection of superhero statues, toys, and comic books. Since he was a little boy he enjoyed reading about all his favorite heroes and buying their toys. He had always been careful with his collection. He loved to play with the toys, but always made sure they stayed in perfect condition.

Jason was proud of the good decisions he made when he was hired at the Department of Health and Welfare. He could have run right out with his first paychecks and bought a bunch of stuff and run up his credit, but he saved his money, until he could pay for the really nice things he truly wanted. He now had a nice place to call home and he was surrounded by stuff that made him feel comfortable and safe.

He thought about the eight years he had been with the department. He proved himself to be reliable and needed, when others were being laid off because of cut backs. The clients have yelled and threatened, but he just tried to understand that they were scared. His co-workers have been jerks at times, but he gave them breaks because they were just overwhelmed, plus he had had his moments of being a jerk as well. Jason faded away as he thought how hard he has worked and how it has paid off for him.

Jason barely acknowledged the existence of the couch and television, when he started sputtering and coughing. His stomach felt like it had been caved in and he could not breathe. Jason rolled over on his back. He coughed hard and dragged air deep into his lungs. His breathing was ragged.

Jason’s stomach cramped. He pulled his dress shirt out and up. Looking down the length of his body, a dark red spot developed just below his ribs. He touched it. His stomach twitched reflexively.

A shadow darted across the top of the couch. Jason looked up over his left shoulder. He froze at the sight of a seven inch green creature, standing on the arm of his couch. It had a large belly and bald head. Fangs poked out of the top and bottom of its mouth. It wore ratted doll pants that were tight and short. The creature was holding a large wooden war hammer hefted onto its shoulder.

The green creature took a deep breath, puffed out its chest and raised the war hammer like a golf club and yelled, “FORE!”

~~~~~~~~~~

“Jason!”

Jason did not register the voice calling his name. He did feel the hardness of the floor pressed against the side of his face and chest. A sharp pain split the side of his head in half.

“Jason! Can you hear me?” The voice was female and it was shaking him.

“If you keep shaking me, my head is going to fall apart.”

“Can you get up?” Jason finally recognized the voice as his girlfriend, Dana.

“I don’t know. Will my head fall off if I move?” Jason pushed up to get his knees under him.

Dana grabbed Jason under his shoulder and helped him slowly onto the couch. She dropped her bag on the floor and gingerly touched the side of his head. “The side of your head is covered in blood. You must’ve hit the edge of your coffee table pretty good.”

“Garbage can, please.”

“Huh?”

“Going to hurl.” Jason strained to hold his head and stomach.

Dana dashed for the kitchen and quickly returned with the trash can. Knocking the top off the can, she tucked it under Jason. He lurched forward into the trash can, releasing guttural sounds and stomach churning smells.

Jason pulled himself up to see Dana standing over him with a towel and a glass of water. “I must love you, Jason. Why else would I stand here watching you barf?”

“You have no life and therefore nothing better to do.” He retorted.

Dana tossed the towel in Jason’s face and plopped the glass on the coffee table. She grabbed the can and marched it outside to the back porch.

“I didn’t hit my head on the coffee table.” Jason wiped his face and leaned back.

“Then what happened?” asked Dana incredulously. She sat down next to him.

“I saw a little green guy with a belly, holding a wooden mallet and he whacked me in the head.”

She looked at him sideways, “You’re joking, right?”

Jason held the towel gingerly to the side of his head, “I swear, a little green guy hit me in the head.”

Dana pointed across the room to the bookshelf of action figures and collectibles next to the couch, “Are you sure you just didn’t see your Hulk action figure?”

Jason stared at the figures on the bookshelf. He scanned each figure to see if any of them matched what he remembered. Maybe it was the Hulk figure, but it did not have a belly. He could not think of what on the shelves could have been the war hammer.

Dana caressed Jason’s shoulder, “Hey, it’s OK. Tiffany called and told me what happened at work. She said you could use some babying.” Dana grabbed his chin and turned his attention to her. “You need some babying.” Dana nodded towards the bathroom, “Come on, I’ll clean up the side of your head.”

Dana stood and took Jason by the hand and led him around the corner. As they walked into the bathroom, Dana offered, “I’ll cook your favorite dinner for you tonight. I’ll order an all meat extra-large pizza.”

“Aw…You do love me.”

“I have to. I’m your girlfriend.”

~~~~~~~~~~

The small bedroom was filled with darkness. Faint light cut through the room from Jason’s shaded window. The room was silent. The apartment felt like it was asleep. The only sign of life was the faint sound of a television coming from the neighboring apartment.

Dana had said goodbye and left shortly before Jason went to bed. She could not stay because of another shift at the bistro. After work she needed to put in some time on her thesis, for her Master’s degree. Dana promised Jason she would check on him tomorrow.

For the past hour Jason laid in his bed. The throbbing in his head and shin were too distracting for him to sleep. Jason’s mind filled with images of the green creature with a wooden hammer. He told himself there were no such things as little green men. He wondered still, what did he see?

Instinctively, Jason popped his head up. Painfully, he winced and slowly laid his head back down on the pillow. He heard something move. Jason’s mind raced. Was it a burglar? How perfect an ending that would be to his painful day. He laid still and listened. He heard it again. It was a shuffling. Something was pulling on the edge of the blankets. It started creeping slowly across the bed.

Jason shot up and turned on the nightstand light. The light splashed across the bed. Staring back at him were two little green men. The first one was the large bellied creature that had smacked him in the head. He was still carrying the same wooden hammer. The second green creature was an inch taller than the first. It was skinny, but also had a pot belly and four fangs poking out of its mouth. The skinny one leaned against a spear. It had dirty brown hair and wore what looked like a tattered plaid doll skirt.

The skinny creature looked at the round one, “Ya know, Garl, I never get used to how these humans jump up and look around sometimes.”

Garl chuckled, “Yeah. Every once in a while they can get a sense of us. I like it. It’s fun to see them freak out.”

“Yeah.” Lank said, with a chuckle, “You remember that one back around 1941 who could actually see us? Oh grief. The look of fear and how she just froze, while we beat on her.” Lank stiffened up like a board and then relaxed into a laugh.

Jason reached out to the green creatures, “You things are real.” He poked at the round one. It jumped back and swung his hammer. Jason quickly pulled his hand back, barely escaping the hammer.

Garl slapped the skinny one, “Hey Lank, this one can see us.”

Garl and Lank stared at the human. Jason stared back at the two green creatures. Garl and Lank looked at each other, shrugged, and charged screaming at the human. Jason leaned forward and smacked the green creatures down with his hands. He held them in place on top of the bed. Garl and Lank tried swinging their weapons at the hands that held them, but could not reach around the fingers.

“What are you?” Jason asked in complete shock.

Garl and Lank stopped struggling and stared at the human. There was not much else they could do, but answer the question.

Lank offered, “We’re Goblins.”

“Can’t be. Goblins are huge.” As Jason spoke the words, he realized his statement was absurd. He told himself Goblins were not real, but here he was holding a creature that claimed to be one.

“Oh, you’re thinking of our cousins.” Lank chuckled, “Yeah. One of them mated with a Pixie. Don’t get me started on how they managed that one. Blows the mind. Anyways, we little Goblins were created.”

“Did one of you bite me?” Jason demanded.

Garl laughed loudly, “Yeah. That was me. I love that stuff. I took a bite and you thought it was something like a rat. By the way, you’re pretty tasty for a scrawny one.” Garl struggled and grunted trying to wriggle loose, “I wanted another bite, but you jumped up too quick.”

“Why the hell are you doing this to me?” Jason leaned on them more.

Lank grunted, “Don’t bother trying to hurt us, you can’t.” He replied to the added pressure on his chest.

“What do you mean I can’t hurt you?”

“You’re not from the magic realm. Only things from the magic realm, like our weapons, can hurt us. As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t be able to see us. But, every few decades there’s a story of some human that can see us. They usually go mad.”

“I guess I’m one of the lucky ones.” Jason spat at them, “Why are you doing this?”

Garl shrugged, “It’s nothing personal, kid. We just do this for fun.”

“Fun?!”

“Yeah. It’s one of the sports we have at our club.”

“Club?! You hunt humans?!”

“No, no, no. We just come out here and mess with you. Back at the club there’s a magic pool that shows the stuff we pull. We have competitions to see who can come up with the best way to screw with one of you.”

Lank laughed, “Yeah. You remember that time Slar swung from that ceiling fan chain and sliced that guy with his sword. The guy was like a foot from the fan, but he thought he hit his head on it.”

Garl cracked up, “That was one of the best. My favorite was when Twag pushed on that gas pedal so the girl ran over her fiancé’s foot and broke it.”

“Oh, yeah.” Lank’s eyes brightened up at the memory, “He called off the wedding and they were getting married like two days later.”

Jason sat back in horror, letting go of the Goblins, “You guys are sick!”

Garl stood up and brushed off his pants. “Well, boy,” hefting his war hammer over his shoulder, “not as sick as you’re gonna be.”

Lank and Garl charged at the human again. Jason swiped at them. Lank jumped over the swooping hand. Garl took the full brunt of the back hand and flew across the room, smacking against the dresser and flopped to the floor. Lank landed on Jason’s leg and raced up the thigh, dragging his spear behind him. A trail of ripped sweat pants and blood followed the spear.

Jason howled in pain and anger. He grabbed Lank and jumped out of bed. Jason ran to the bathroom, slapping the light switch, and slamming open the toilet lid. He threw Lank as hard as he could into the toilet. Water splashed up in a plume.

Lank floated on his back, looking up at the human. He saw Jason’s hand push down on the silver handle and he began to spin around uncontrollably. Lank tried to get his head above the rushing water, but was disoriented by the swirling and the sudden blackness.

Jason looked to the bathroom counter just in time to see Garl swing his war hammer. The human threw up his arm, just in time to deflect the blow. He cried out again, falling to his knees, and holding the wounded elbow. Jason looked up to see Garl running off the edge of the counter, with war hammer held high above his head. Jason snatched Garl out of mid jump, squeezing Garl as hard as he could.

“I got somewhere good for you.” Jason snarled and stomped out of the bathroom and into the kitchen. Garl struggled against Jason’s grip. The little creature’s wooden hammer was wrapped inside the human hand and could not break loose. He pounded his free fist on the hand wrapped around him.

Jason clumsily raised his injured arm and turned on the light over the sink and then turned on the water. Jason shoved Garl into the disposal head first, pushing and shoving at Garl with his fingers. The green creature fought back and tried to push his way back out of the darkness. Once crammed down into the hole, Jason covered the opening with a flat fanned out hand. He flipped the switch and the disposal roared to life. Thumps bounced up and pounded against Jason’s hand and then nothing, but the loud whir of the disposal.

~~~~~~~~~~

The same middle aged doctor leaned over Jason’s leg with the eight inch slice running above the knee. He cleaned the wound with some alcohol and was now spreading iodine over the length of the wound. “Well, this cut is not very deep.” The doctor plopped down on his rolling exam chair and looked up at the face of Jason that was twisted in discomfort. “It’s a clean cut. Looks like you used a very sharp blade.”

“It was sharp.”

“What did you use, a kitchen knife?”

“Oh! No! It wasn’t me.” Jason looked down at the doctor, shaking his head. Jason was stumped by the quizzical look staring back at him, “Honestly, I didn’t do this to myself.”

The doctor swiveled around to the tray with supplies and utensils and picked up a small cardboard with white strips of tape. “The wound isn’t deep, so surgical tape will keep it closed, while it heals, but you are going to have a scar.”

Once the tape was applied, the doctor took Jason’s bruised elbow in hand. He moved it slowly back and forth. Jason winced, but the joint rotated smoothly. “Your elbow isn’t broken, just deeply bruised.” The doctor stood up and moved over to the counter. He leaned against the edge, while tapping away on the tablet.

The doctor put the tablet back on the counter and crossed his arms. This was a scenario he was never comfortable addressing. The patient always denies there is a problem, “Look Jason, how about you tell me what happened.”

Jason scooted to the edge of the table. He straightened his leg and relaxed it, to feel the surgical tape and the cut. “I know it sounds crazy, but I’m being attacked by these little green goblins.” Jason looked up at the doctor to read his reaction. The doctor was a statue. “They go around inflicting pain on humans. They do it for sport. They did this to me.” Jason waved his hand over his leg, “They used a spear to slice my leg.” Jason held his elbow. “Another used a medieval war hammer to hit me in the elbow.”

“Where are they now?”

“I flushed one down the toilet and stuffed the other in the disposal.”

Looking Jason over, the doctor could see his sincerity. “I know this seems real to you.”

Jason groaned and dropped back on the table.

“Hear me out please,” The doctor walked over to Jason, “There’s no such thing as goblins. They are fantasy.” This is the part he hated. He helped Jason up to a sitting position. “What I have seen are people who become overwhelmed by their lives. You work for the state, right?”

“Yeah, Health and Welfare Department.”

“That’s a really stressful job. Maybe it has started getting to you.” Jason was being quiet and listening. The doctor thought he might be getting through to him. “I’ve seen people who get overwhelmed and deal with it in bad ways. Some drink, others do drugs, some cut themselves.”

Jason laughed under his breath and flopped his head up and down in acknowledgement.

“I’ve also seen where people lash out by hitting something and they end up hurting themselves.” He paused to try and make eye contact with Jason. “Did you try swinging your arm at something like a wall really hard, trying to break it?”

Jason only looked at the floor. Anything he said would be pointless.

The doctor stepped back from Jason. He knew he had lost him. He picked up a note pad and took out a pen. He scribbled a name and phone number down and tore off the page. Holding the paper out to Jason, he sympathized, “I really am trying to help. Unfortunately, it’s not my area of expertise. I would like you to call Janell Rafferty. She’s a good counselor. She can help you deal with your stress.”

Jason reached out and took the paper. He slid off the table and turned around to pull his pants off the exam table.

“I’ll let you get dressed. I’ll leave your prescription at the front with some dressings for your cut.” The doctor grabbed his tablet and walked out.

~~~~~~~~~~

Jason’s work day was two hours and a few minutes from being over. He could not take being at his desk anymore and decided to wait out the rest of his day hidden in the break room. As soon as he walked in this morning all eyes were on him. It did not help he came in over an hour late and everyone was staring at his war wounds. The looks made his head throb harder and his limp more painful. He had to make a full report to his supervisor, Mara, but left out the part about little green goblins and made up some story about dropping a big knife. Tiffany teased that Dana beat him up and she gave him a phone number to an abuse hot line. His co-workers wandered by his desk. Some tried to be sincere. Others had to joke about his condition. Some even tried to feign surprise and claim they knew nothing. You had to be dead not to hear gossip in this office.

The only quiet place in the office was the break room. It was small. There were three long tables set in a U shape, all crowded with chairs. A person had to hug the wall to get around to the far side of the tables. Jason was sitting inside the U, hunched over trying to lose himself in the newspaper comics.

A crunch, crunch moved across the newspaper pieces that were spread across the break room tables. Jason lifted his head and was eye to eye with Lank and Garl. “Ah crap.” He lurched back in his chair.

“Hey kid,” Garl greeted him with a low growl, “how ya doin?”

“What do you mean, ‘how ya doin?’ You should know.” Jason glanced at the break room door. It was closed. He glanced at the clock. It was still fifteen minutes before most of the office would take a break. He hoped someone would walk in early.

Lank patted gently at the air in front of him and took a couple of steps forward, “Take it easy. We just came to thank you.”

“Thank me? What the hell for!?”

Garl stepped forward, just in front of Lank, “Normally a hunting group only gets one shot at a human and they are done, but the lodge is all excited about how insane and paranoid you look to the other humans.”

Lank took a few steps back, “Yeah. We’re gonna get Hunters of the Year because of you.”

“That’s right and the lodge wants to see how far we can take this.”

Jason screwed up his face in confusion, “How far you can take this?”

Garl dropped his hammer on its head in front of him and placed his hands on top of the handle, “The lodge wants to see how much pain and how much paranoia we can cause you. There are bets going on to see if you end up in a nut house.”

Jason leaned forward, fire in his eyes, “I won’t go down. I’ll fight you.” A sadistic grimace crossed his face, “I’ll tear you guys apart.”

The same sadistic grin crossed Garls face. Just barely loud enough for Jason to hear, he said, “The prey wants to play.”

A green blur appeared behind Garl that planted a long skinny green foot on his broad solid shoulder. Jason registered the blur as Lank just in time to lean back. Lank flew through the air, with his spear held high and pointed at Jason’s face, but his flight was stopped just out of reach of Jason’s nose, by Jason’s hand.

“Nice try, Lank. Garl tried this same move last night.”

It was now Lank’s turn with a sadistic grin, “We know.”

Jason looked down at the table. Garl was in full swing flying to Jason’s chest. Jason could not react quick enough. He willed his body to dodge the incoming attack but was frozen. Garl’s war hammer swung from around his body and connected with Jason’s lower left ribs. He felt a pop and was pushed backwards in the chair. The motion stopped with a jarring thud on the concrete carpeted floor.

Lying on his back, Jason couldn’t breathe. His muscles locked. His face turned purple and hot. With a sudden explosion he blew out all his air and sucked back in more. He lay on the chair panting. In his tight grasp, Lank was looking down at Jason’s face.

Garl called from the edge of the table, “I told you he would grab you!” Garl jumped off and landed on Jason’s sliced leg. Their prey let out a yelp.

The hand holding Lank prisoner flopped to the floor and he rolled out and up to his feet. Lank strolled over to his prey’s face. Garl appeared next to him.

Garl leaned against his war hammer, “I owed you for shoving me down the disposal. Took me forever to stop being dizzy.”

Lank leaned into Jason’s view, “I still owe you for flushing me down the toilet.” He straightened up and drove his spear into Jason’s shoulder, with one hand and yanked the spear back out. Jason winced in pain. Lank leaned back in, “Now we’re even.”

The two goblins turned and walked away. Garl waved back at Jason, “See ya tonight kid! We’re gonna have some fun!”

Jason tried to move, but it was too painful. The break room door opened and Tom strolled in, “Let’s see what there is to ransack from the fridge.” Tom stopped in mid-stride when he saw the wreckage on the floor out of the corner of his eye. He turned and dropped to his knees next to Jason, “What happened?!”

“Got knocked out of the chair,” Jason groaned.

“How?” Tom asked, amazed.

“Little green goblins.”

Tom sat back on his legs and chuckled, “That’s a good one.” Tom noticed blood spreading on Jason’s shoulder. Lying on the ground next to his shoulder was a paring knife from the break room. “So did one of the goblins stab you in the shoulder also?”

“Yeah. You want to help me up now?”

“Oh yeah, sure.” Tom grabbed Jason’s left arm and started to drag him up.

“AH,” Groaning in pain, “I think I broke some ribs.”

Tom shifted to where he could pick Jason up by both shoulders. He slowly lifted the injured man and placed him in an upright chair. Tom knelt down in front of Jason, “Are you OK? Did you hit your head again? Are you feeling dizzy?”

“No.” Jason said, slowly moving his head around.

“I’m going to get help. Don’t move.” Tom got up and ran out of the room.

Tom returned with Mara, Jason’s supervisor; Jill, the office manager; and several on lookers. It was decided Jason was in no shape to be at work. The consensus was that Jason was overcome with dizziness and fell backwards in the chair. By some strange poor luck, Jason had dragged the paring knife down with him and it landed in his shoulder. Jason was ordered home and was put on leave, until he had clearance from his doctor to work again. Jason could do little to argue the point. He was in a lot of pain and knew Lank and Garl had no problems with making a scene that made him look crazy.

~~~~~~~~~~

Tiffany drove Jason back to the doctor. He did break two of his ribs and this time he needed stitches for the cut on his shoulder. The doctor was more concerned about the continued harm Jason inflicted on himself. He recommended Jason check into the hospital for observation, but Jason refused. He was adamant that he was not harming himself. He also knew observation was exactly where his little hunters wanted him. They would torture him for everyone to see and then he would be committed to a psychiatric ward. Jason decided the only thing he could do was face Garl and Lank in private.

When Tiffany dropped Jason off, he assured her he would be fine and was just going to rest. In his apartment he locked all the doors and windows. He called and left a message for Dana, explaining he was really tired and was going to sleep and would talk to her in the morning. Jason then cleared a corner of his bedroom to sit. He prepared himself for a long night, with some propped up pillows and blankets. He had water and snacks and kept a butcher knife and a hammer next to him. He also found some fishing line to tie up his tormentors.

Jason waited. After about two hours in his corner he decided to watch some television. A couple of hours more and he needed to go to the bathroom. Carefully and slowly he made his way to the bathroom, all the while checking under furniture, in corners, and behind doors. When he returned to his corner he thoroughly searched through the blankets and provisions. He was safe. There were no little green goblins. Jason made himself comfortable in the corner and watched more television.

Sometime after three in the morning, Jason was finding it difficult to keep his eyes open. He slowly slumped down and then over on his side. He kept trying to open his eyes to see the television. He was interested in the show about green men with medieval weapons.

Jason’s eyes popped open wide and he jumped up to a sitting position, just as Garl’s war hammer slammed into the floor, where his head was. Lank ran at Jason with spear held in front of him.

Jason dropped his own hammer down on Lank, “Ha! I got my own hammer ya freaks!” Jason slammed the hammer into him again. He slowly lifted the hammer to peer at Lank. The skinny goblin looked like a little animal that had been run over by a bicycle tire.

Garl stared in disbelief at the smashed body of his hunting partner. He tried to fathom that a human was actually fighting back. He heard the rush of air of the swinging hammer. He snapped out of his pondering and barely dodged out of the way of Jason’s weapon.

Lank stood up and shook his entire body. He ran at Jason again. Jason grabbed at Lank, but the front of the little spear imbedded in his hand. Jason instinctively reacted jerking his hand away and tossed Lank across the room. Lank smack against the wall and bounced off.

Jason howled in pain and looked at his ankle, where Garl landed his war hammer. Jason kicked at the round Goblin, who jumped over the swinging leg and landed between his feet. He took a long arching swing and connected with the inside of the human’s knee. Jason quickly picked him up and tossed him over next to Lank.

Together the goblins got up and ran back at Jason. He swiped at the green hunters with the butcher knife. Their fronts split open and they fell to the ground. Jason grabbed Garl. The round goblin’s stomach wound was sealing closed. Garl looked up at Jason, “See, I told ya we can’t be killed by your world’s weapons.” The round Goblin twisted around, swinging his war hammer again, this time slamming it into the human’s forearm. Jason dropped Garl, but quickly grabbed the Goblin with his other hand.

Jason shook and pumped his hand into a fist a couple of times. He picked up the fishing line and began spinning line around Garl, “Maybe you can’t be killed, but I know human stuff can hurt you and it can hold you.”

Jason furiously wrapped Garl tight with the line. A sharp pain shot through his abdomen. Glancing down, Jason saw the line of blood where Lank swiped with his spear. Anger flushed through Jason’s body. He smashed Garl flat against the carpet and snatched up Lank, who was running for cover under the bed.

Holding the spear, while the skinny goblin dangled in mid-air, Jason leaned over against the wall and jammed the spear into the light socket near him and jerked back as sparks spewed from the holes. Lank’s body did a spastic dance. Sparks continued to shoot out and shower down on Lank. Smoke wafted up from the socket and from the burning creature.

A silent pop shot through the room and everything went dark. The television was blank. The alarm clock next to the bed was dead. The lights were out. There were no more sparks. Lank’s singed limp body flopped to the floor, like a bag of dirty rags.

Jason picked up the still bundled Garl. The round Goblin had stopped trying to free himself and was staring at his limp friend. He kept waiting for Lank to move. He wondered if the human actually killed him. Jason wrapped several more loops of fishing line around Garl and tied knots on top of knots, making sure he could not get loose. Jason pulled himself up to his knees and opened his bedroom window. With the butcher knife he sliced open the screen and dropped Garl through. Jason fed the line down several feet, so Garl was trapped between two apartment floors. Jason shut the window on the remaining line holding the goblin in place.

Jason turned and slid back down the wall, into his corner. He sat there for several minutes, holding his bleeding stomach with his bleeding hand. He looked over at the wall socket. Around the socket was black and singed. On the floor, there was no goblin. Lank had disappeared. Jason looked around the room and under the bed. He could not see any little goblins.

This fight was over and Jason had survived. One of the goblins was barbeque and the other was bait for birds. He did not care, so long as they were gone. He carefully and slowly lowered himself onto his bed and fell asleep.

~~~~~~~~~~

A few hours later, Jason was awakened by his front door slamming shut. He could do little more than twitch in response to the sound. He decided it did not matter who was coming for him, he had no more fight. They could either torture him or put him in a psychiatric ward.

There was movement through the door of his bedroom. He opened one eye to see Dana. “Good Lord!” She dropped her purse on the floor and rushed to the bed.

“Ah … Ahh” Jason groaned in anticipation of being hurt.

Dana stopped short and gingerly placed her hand on his shoulder. Looking around the room at the mess, she had to ask, “What the hell happened?” Dana spotted the charred portion of wall, “Was there a fire?”

“I fought back last night. They got in a couple of good shots, but I won. I got rid of them.” Jason rolled over onto his back.

Dana saw the blood on his shirt and bed sheets. “Holy hell! You’re bleeding!”

“Tis but a flesh wound.” Jason smirked.

Dana jumped off the bed and headed out of the room, “Do you have a first aid kit? Where is it?”

“Yeah. It’s under the bathroom sink.”

Dana returned and knelt on the bed next to Jason. She cleaned the wound on his belly with some cotton balls and alcohol. “Well, it doesn’t look deep, but it’s going to take a large dressing to cover it.” She took Jason’s wounded hand in hers and peered closely at the hole, “This hole in your hand is deep.” Dana looked into his eyes, with great concern. “Babe, I think you’re going to have to see the doctor again. You need stitches.”

“NO!” Jason rolled away from Dana and towards the edge of his bed. Holding his stomach and wincing in pain, “I can’t go back to the doctor. He wants to have me committed. He thinks I’m doing this to myself. He doesn’t believe me about the goblins.”

Dana scooted across the bed and carefully hugged her frightened boyfriend, “You have to admit it is pretty hard to accept that some mythical creatures are doing this to you.”

Jason looked up into her face, with tears streaming down his cheeks, “I swear they are real. They are doing this to me.”

She could see the sincerity and terror. Dana decided to do what Jason wanted. She would clean him up and take care of him.

After dressing the wounds, she propped Jason up on the bed with his pillows and got him some water and something for his pain. She bent down to look at the singe marks on the wall, around the socket. She noticed Jason’s hammer lying on the floor and a dent in the carpet next to the tool. Dana ran her hand over the carpet and found a couple more depressions in the floor.

Dana stood up and stared at the destruction, “I hope you can work this out with your landlord.”

“That’s the least of my worries right now.”

She noticed a plastic spool of fishing line hanging from the window, “What’s this?” She opened the window and began to reel in the line.

“I tied one of them up in fishing line and hung him out the window.”

Dana pulled a tangled mess through the screen and dangled it for Jason to see. “There’s nothing here.”

Jason stared at what used to be a tied up goblin, but was nothing more than a ball of knots. “It’s gone.”

Dana dropped the fishing line and sat on the edge of the bed. “What’s going on?”

Jason closed his eyes and leaned his head back.

“Look, I want to help, but there is nothing here that says goblins beat you up.”

He resigned himself that there was nothing he could do to convince Dana or anyone else of what was happening to himself, “Look, I appreciate you taking care of me, but there is nothing else to do. I’m going to rest. How about you head home.”

Regardless if the goblins were real or not, it was clear to Dana that Jason could not be left alone, “I’ll tell you what.” She offered, “I’ll stay here with you for the weekend. We’ll see together what happens.” She caressed the side of his face.

“Thank you.” Jason smiled, comforted that he would not be alone.

~~~~~~~~~~

Dana stayed with Jason for the following week, while his wounds healed. Several times during each day Jason would search the apartment. He would awaken during the night to first search his bed and then the rest of the house. When Dana left to go to work or run errands, Jason kept his hammer in hand and settled into the corner of his bedroom, where he fought Garl and Lank, but the little monsters were never seen.

Jason visited his doctor twice in that week and avoided any conversations about green goblins. Jason’s wounds were healing. The doctor agreed to let Jason return to work the following week, under the condition he started seeing a counselor. Dana made him agree to the counseling.

Jason was very nervous on his first day back to work. He pushed concerns of the goblins to the back of his mind. He was more worried how his co-workers would act towards him and how much work had piled up on his desk.

The first half of the day was uneventful. He dug his way through the files on his desk and deleted most of his e-mails. A couple of his clients stopped in and visited.

Dana stopped by and took him to lunch. They picked up sub sandwiches and went to a park to eat. Jason had not been outside in over a week. He reveled in the feeling of the cool breeze and warm sun on his skin. He vigilantly watched the flitting movement behind trees and on branches. Every movement he spied was simply a squirrel or bird. He tried to convince himself his hunters were gone. They were not coming back.

At his desk for the afternoon, Jason relaxed and settled in. He even threw a couple of paper balls and an airplane at Tiffany. He began to feel confident that his ordeal was over.

Jason was leaning back in his chair, talking on the phone to a counterpart at the Health and Welfare Department main office and swaying back and forth in his chair. Jason swung around to face the phone on his desk. Standing on the phone, just above the buttons was a eight inch tall green goblin, with a pot belly. He leaned against a spear. Leaning against the side of the phone was a slightly shorter goblin, who was wide shouldered and very round. The tall one had long dirty brown hair. The short one was bald. Jason stared at them, trying to tell himself they were not there. Jason clamped his eyes closed and opened them. The phone slid from the side of his head as he stared at the creatures. “Lank, Garl.”

Lank, the tall one on top of the phone reached over with his foot and pushed the button in the phone cradle to disconnect the call. “I love this,” Lank giggled and looked at Garl, “He actually thought he got rid of us, because we left him alone for a while.”

Jason slowly placed the receiver back in the phone cradle, the entire time not taking his eyes off of Lank. Once the phone was down, he snatched Lank off the phone.

“Hey!” Garl yelled.

Jason grabbed a heavy office manual from the side of his desk and dropped it on Garl. Turning his attention back to Lank, he squeezed the creature with both hands as hard as he could.

Lank held his spear above his head, “I learned something from you.”

“Yeah, what?”

“Don’t let your arms get trapped.” Lank rammed the spear into Jason’s hand, between his thumb and forefinger.

Jason yelped, but tried to muffle it. With his good hand, he grabbed the spear away from Lank, turning it around in his hand and pointing it at the little monster. He did not look at Lank’s face. He stared at the center of the goblin. Jason pulled back and shoved the little spear through the center of Lank. The green creature gasped. Bright green blood spurted from the chest. The same bright green blood oozed down Jason’s hand, where the spear had pierced through the back of Lank. Jason yanked the spear out and held it over Lank, to see if the limp body would move.

“Holy Crap!”

Jason swiveled around to see his supervisor, Mara, peering over the top of his cubicle. She could see the red blood and the cut on Jason’s hand. She could see the sharp stick he was holding. Mara could not see the dead limp body of Lank.

“Jason, what the hell is your problem?!”

“It’s OK. I got him. I actually killed one of the goblins.” Jason held his hand high, grasping at empty air, for Mara to see. Red blood slowly streaming down his hand from the wound Lank made.

“That’s it. You are gone!”

“No. It’s OK.” Jason stood, trying to reassure his supervisor, “Everything will be alright now. See?” Jason held his bleeding hand a little higher.

“I’m getting security.”

~~~~~~~~~~

It had been a full week since Jason was admitted to the mental health wing of the hospital. He had been deemed a risk to himself and was on a suicide watch. As a result he wore white scrubs with slippers. He was given a bed, a mattress, a pillow, but no sheets or blankets. He had a small room to himself, but no privacy because of the camera at the top corner of the room.

There was a day room where the other patients mingled. They played games, did crafts, read books, and met with friends and family. Jason tried to spend as little time as possible in the dayroom. He preferred the enclosed space of his room.

Dana visited him every day and brought him some of his comic books. With permission from his psychiatrist, Jason was allowed to keep the books in his room. He was glad for the daily visit. It comforted him to have the care and support.

It took some time, but Jason’s parents finally visited. They lived several hours away and they had to take time off from their jobs. They stayed at Jason’s apartment, even though he pleaded with them it was not safe and to stay in a hotel.

Jason was not sure why the Goblins had not visited him. He thought one reason might be they got what they wanted, everyone thinks he is crazy. It did not matter to him. The green torturers were not hurting him anymore. He was happy to stay right where he was provided the goblins came around no more.

After another week Jason settled into a routine. Dana and his parents still visited him daily. Every day he ate at the same time. He sat in the dayroom in the same spot every day and read one comic book then he would return to his room where he spent the rest of the day reading more comic books and taking naps. He met with a counselor every other day, where he discover he did have some issues, but disregarded it as everyone has issues.

In the meetings with his counselor, Jason learned it was best to stop talking about little green creatures. He talked about the issues the counselor found in him, just to appease her.

“So Jason, you’ve been here for almost a month now, how do you feel your stress level is doing?” The counselor asked, relaxing back in the couch.

Jason sat up in the couch opposite of her. He did not make eye contact. It was very difficult to. Instead he scratched and picked at the arm of the couch. “I think it’s pretty good. I don’t think I could get more relaxed in this place.”

“That’s good.”

“Yeah, but that’ll all change when I get out of here. I’ve lost everything. I don’t have a job. Friends won’t talk to me. My apartment is gone. My folks have put all of my stuff in storage. Without my job, I don’t know how I’m going to pay for my time here.”

“That’s not anything you need to worry about.” The counselor waved her hand, as if magically dispersing Jason’s cloud of worries, “Your parents on your behalf got you approved for long term disability. That will cover your medical expenses and your living expenses. You will have plenty of time to get back on your feet and find a job that doesn’t cause you so much stress and you will make new friends.”

Jason continued to concentrate on the arm of the couch and nodded his head at her. He knew she was right and it was comforting to know he had the financial support, but it bothered him to think the life he had had been destroyed. Jason had to rebuild everything. He did not even know if he could rebuild any of it.

The counselor leaned forward on the couch, “Jason, talk to me about the Goblins.”

He stopped picking at the arm and looked up at the counselor, “They’re gone. They’re nothing.”

“Do you still believe these Goblins were the ones that hurt you?”

Jason had been here before. He knew the counselor did not believe his stories. No one did. It was just easier to agree with them, “No. I don’t believe in the Goblins. They didn’t do this stuff to me.”

The counselor scooted up to the edge of the couch. With a show of concern she asked, “Then why do you still search your room every time you go in there? Why do search the area around you in the dayroom every so often?”

Hanging his head, Jason did not know what to do. It was pointless to lie, but telling the truth just kept him here longer. Taking a deep breath, Jason prepared himself for a long talk about his delusions.

~~~~~~~~~~

After a month and a half, Jason walked out of the mental health building on a local medical campus. He stopped just outside the front door and looked up to the clear skies. Taking a deep breath and holding it, he looked around the campus. It became his habit to always check his surroundings.

In the middle of the concrete open area was a large oval garden. It was raised up chest high from the ground. Ivy hung down the sides. Going into the garden the plants and flowers became shrubs, which became small trees. Circling the garden were benches. Sitting on a bench waiting for Jason was Dana. She saw Jason come out and stood up. The couple crossed the open area to each other.

Dana wrapped her arms around Jason, “So, do you get to come home?”

“Yeah.”

Dana noticed the defeated tone, “What’s wrong.”

“They believe I am no longer a threat to myself, so I can go home. But, I still have delusions, so I will continue twice a week visits and daily check ins.”

Dana swung around to his side and kept her arm around him. “Hey, this is progress.”

“I guess.” Jason hung his head. “I just don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve lost my job. My folks still talk to me, but they act weird when they are around and everyone else I know has cut me out of their lives.”

Dana slapped him playfully on the tummy, “Hey! You still have me.”

Jason smiled at her, “Don’t let me forget that.” Jason threw his head back and sighed, “It’s just that I know what I saw and what was done to me.” He scratched his head, “I don’t know. Maybe I am nuts.”

“Whether the goblins are real or not, it has been six weeks since you have seen them. This is probably over.”

“Yeah. Maybe you’re right.”

“Of course I am. Now I got really hungry waiting out here for you. Let’s find a place to eat.”

“OK.”

They started walking towards the chest high garden area. After a few steps Jason looked at the garden, following the ivy up the edge to some ferns that were bunched together. He noticed some of the fern branches rustle. Jason disregarded it as a squirrel. He stopped dead in his tracks. Squirrels are not green. Surely he must be seeing things. That is what everyone has been saying. Jason concentrated on the moving fern.

“What is it?” Dana asked.

It came into Jason’s view. It was not brown and it did not have fur. It was the size of a squirrel and it was green. Jason immediately recognized it as a goblin. It was the goblin Garl. Jason turned gray.

“What’s wrong?” Dana prompted again.

Jason raised his arm and pointed at the ferns. “I know you won’t believe me, but it’s Garl.”

Dana stared at the garden, “Where?”

“In the Ferns. He has something.”

Garl heaved a crossbow almost as big as himself out of the vegetation and prop it on the concrete edge of the garden.

“No.” Jason pleaded as he took a step back. He felt a punch to his chest. Instinctively he put his hand to his front and looked down. Embedded in his chest was an arrow. Jason stumbled.

Garl pushed the crossbow to the side and pulled another one from under the ferns. He again propped the large weapon on the edge of the garden.

Jason concentrated desperately to keep upright. Another sharp punch to his chest and he dropped to his knees.

“Jason! What’s going on?!” Dana was frantic. She was shaking his limp shoulder.

Jason could say nothing. All his strength was gone. He fell over on his side.

Dana started screaming, “Someone! Help! Someone get some help!” She bent over Jason’s still body.

A man ran over and dropped to his knees next to the fallen man. He rolled Jason over on his back and listened to his heart. “His heart stopped. He’s had a heart attack.” The man straightened up and started pumping his hands hard into Jason’s chest.

Jason rolled his head to the side to see Garl walk around Dana’s legs. The little green monster stood inches from Jason’s nose and spat in his face. “It took me a long time to convince the club, but I finally got permission to get revenge for Lank.”

Jason could say nothing. He could not move. He only felt the rhythmic pressure on his chest. His eyesight faded as he watched Garl lumber away.

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Pain & Paranoia