The Goblin Child
Michael Forester’s award winning short stories and flash fiction range from fantasy to young love and old fear, Gay & Lesbian to spirituality & religion, metaphor to morals to literary fiction. Always these powerful, highly original tales are gripping and readable, stories that surprise, illuminate engage and enrich.
- A man who remembers his birth in terrifying detail
- A woman who is certain she has given birth to a goblin child
- A child who takes his god to school for show and tell
- A youth who prefers his revenge served cold
- A teenage girl who, due to her love of nature, falls under the spell of a sexual predator
- A priest confronted by a man who believes he is Santa Claus
- A worker in a care home who is never permitted to leave
- A man who sees the purpose of his life only after he dies
- A dying poet who searches desperately for the interracial love of his youth.
In this apparently unconnected and eclectic group of tales, Michael Forester explores the circularity of our lives. The collection culminates unexpectedly in the story of a dying poet who finds, then loses, interracial love in a racist age, and discovers with TS Eliot that he ‘arrives where he began, to know the place for the first time.’ In so doing Forester reveals to us the circularity of our lives and that the events in them, so independent, so seemingly random, are truly interdependent, connected, planned.
Story 19 of 30: Vile Body
Madeleine can’t stop crying. She’s always like this when she’s about to kill one of her children. The pain she feels is indescribable but the need for termination of imperfect progeny is beyond dispute. It was Daddy, dear, dear Daddy who taught her that such aberrations must be eradicated as soon as discovered. He also taught her that it is kinder if this is done quickly.
Each time she gives birth, Madeleine is hopeful for her new child. At first she looks upon it with a radiant, all pervading love. So overwhelmed is she by the thought that this independent life came from inside herself, that she is incapable of seeing any imperfection. She engages with the new infant; looks at it this way and that; talks to it incessantly; works with dedication on its development. Then, as novelty yields to familiarity, she notices some minor deformity. Initially she convinces herself that this is unimportant; that the child will develop strong and healthy regardless and will outgrow such an insignificant imperfection of, perhaps, skeletal structure or sense.
Yet as each child reaches that point of adolescent detachment and begins to grow away from her, out of her control (and somehow, it is always at the end of chapter VI that this happens), she is forced to acknowledge that yes, this child, too, is deformed.
Always it ends the same. Always there must be cleansing. Always there must be death.
Madeleine has experimented with many forms of extermination over the years; death by submersion has too often failed to obscure completely; death by the blade can always be reversed. No, it has long since been established that there is only one form of eradication open to a loving parent such as herself who seeks true perfection – and that is death by fire. Why did it take her so long to realise this when it was Daddy himself that had shown her it was so all those years ago?
Today is Maddie’s seventh birthday. She is playing with her babies in the corner of her bedroom: Suzy-Jane and Lady Sarah, Ragged Julie and Baby Mary, Teddy and Barbie who must never be parted. Maddie loves her babies. She wants for them to love her back. They want so much to show her they love her too but they cannot move. Maddie wants her babies to move but she cannot make them move.
Now comes the shadow; a darkness, creeping over her from behind, so slowly that at first she barely notices. For Maddie is too busy loving her babies: Suzy-Jane and Lady Sarah, Ragged Julie and Baby Mary, Teddy and Barbie who must never be parted. The shadow spreads until she and they are covered. They can all hear it breathing behind them.
Now the shadow speaks. “It is time Madeleine. When I was a child I thought as a child, I spoke as a child. But when I became a man I put away childish things.” Maddie wants to argue, but she cannot make herself argue. Suzy-Jane and Lady Sarah, Ragged Julie and Baby Mary, Teddy and Barbie who must never be parted all want to argue but they cannot argue.
And so, one still summer evening, Madeleine descends the fire escape from her second floor Camden Lock apartment to the communal back garden, where the area allocated to her flat is the one furthest from the converted house. Other allocated spaces indicate the leisure proclivities of the tenants – a climbing frame here, neat rows of Brussels sprouts and lettuces there – but Madeleine’s territory is different. It is overgrown with savannah length grass, all except for a trampled path that leads from the broken wicket gate to the centre of the plot. There stands an ancient brazier, its bright red paint almost entirely peeled away by rust.
From the front pocket of Madeleine’s apron protrudes a bottle of barbeque lighter fluid, and hidden further down there is a box of matches. In her right hand she carries one of her precious children; in her left is its identical twin, a carbon copy. She lowers one bunioned foot in front of the other down the fire escape steps, gripping her children tightly. As a result she is unable to use the handrail to steady herself. Yet she will not risk loosening her grip on them, lest they blow away and their imperfection be scattered to the winds. She reaches the ground successfully, her face reddened with rosacea and effort. Morbid obesity has long since caused her features to recede into the drooping flesh of her face. Madeleine’s only concessions to femininity are an auburn Henna rinse now six weeks old and bright red, though terminally chewed, fingernails.
‘And the Lord said unto Abraham, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and offer him for a burnt offering upon the alter I shall show thee.’
Suzy-Jane and Lady Sarah, Ragged Julie and Baby Mary, Teddy and Barbie who must never be parted look at her, pleading for Maddie to save them, but she cannot save them.
“Put away thy childish things, Madeleine,” says the voice. “Take now thy babies whom thou lovest and offer them for a burnt offering upon the alter I shall show thee.” They want to move but they cannot move, Suzy-Jane and Lady Sarah, Ragged Julie and Baby Mary, Teddy and Barbie who must never be parted. Maddie wants to move and she can move but only as the voice tells her to move. “Take now thy babies Madeleine.” She picks up her babies. Baby Mary squeaks and blinks her eyes sadly. Barbie is in her evening dress. Suzy-Jane is sullen, silent.
“Turn around, Madeleine.”
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Pegasus House Publishing; 1 edition (1 Sept. 2016)
Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.4 x 22.9 cm