Based loosely on Edvard Grieg’s classic song, the tale concerns a boy who stumbles in a cave of man-eating goblins and his mad dash for escape.
‘You give those back, Peer!’ his aunt cried, waving her wooden spoon after him. ‘Or you’ll get it.’
Peer stuffed a muffin in his mouth as he fled into the woods. His aunt had been planning to put him on a diet for months, and for the last few days she had finally taken action. While his cousins and uncle ate pie and rabbit stew and soft cheese and all manner of sweets, all he’d been left with was cabbage soup with the occasional soggy green, and he was starving. What did she expect? Leaving a basket of muffins within his reach was asking for trouble.
When the house was at a distance, he plonked his fat arse amidst the leaves and snatched another muffin from the top of the pile. He missed home, but his mother and father were poor now and couldn’t afford to feed him. He sighed and took another bite.
He looked up as he ate. The mountain stretched into the darkening sky, clouds gathering around its heights like burnt marshmallows. The woods were filled with the sounds of crickets and frogs and the pounding of a nearby waterfall, while an eager owl hooted at the setting sun.
It wasn’t long before he scraped the bottom of the basket, his fingernails gathering the last crumbs. His shoulders slumped. He was eighteen in a year, and he couldn’t wait. Once he was an adult, he would move away, find himself an equally fat girlfriend who liked to cook and they would eat all the muffins they damn well pleased.
Peer sniffed and licked his lips, then looked up and sniffed again—somebody was cooking. He stood, closed his eyes, letting the scent gather in his nostrils—stew. It smelt like stew. Like Auntie’s rabbit stew. What he wouldn’t give for a bite. He glanced back towards the house, but the smell was coming from the opposite direction—from the mountain.
He hurried ahead, pushing through the brush, nose lifted. He picked up his pace. Night was approaching, and he didn’t want to get caught out in the cold or lose his way in the darkness. He burst into a clearing and stopped. His mouth watered. The smell was thick now, and yet he was alone. There were only the trees and the mountain above. He looked around, confused. Where was it coming from? He searched the branches, the bushes, high and low. Then he came across a curtain of hanging vines. He pushed it aside, and Eureka!—an opening.
Wiping his mouth, Peer glanced over his shoulder, then crept inside. It was warm and bright. Flaming torches flickered in their sconces every few metres, illuminating his way and making him sweat more heavily than ever. It was a surprisingly large corridor, the walls so far apart he could hold out both his arms with only his fingertips touching either side. The ceiling was so high he had to crane his neck to see it. The path underfoot was worn smooth. He passed a couple of openings, one on his left, one on his right, but he ignored them; they were dark, and the smell was thickest ahead.
His ears pricked at the sound of a mad cackle. He paused, uncertain. Maybe he should go back. More laughter followed—many voices. His stomach growled, and he kept on. It sounded like they were having fun, maybe even celebrating. Maybe they would enjoy having someone extra for dinner.
Shortly, the corridor widened into an enormous cavern. He stifled a gasp and quickly hid behind a pinnacle of jagged rock. Goblins. Hundreds of them. And they were celebrating, just as he suspected. They were lounging and chatting and laughing around a large vat. Billows of steam coiled towards the ceiling. Peer’s appetite shrivelled to the size of a walnut. He swallowed a swell of muffin-tasting vomit. It wasn’t rabbit he was smelling. He gazed in horror. There were bones with flapping tissue; disembodied heads with jagged stumps for necks; piles of arms and legs. There was even a backbone with the ribcage still attached dangling from a rock like a windchime. He swallowed and gasped. The goblins crunched and gnawed, sucked and chewed, tore at gristle and joints. He could hear their grunts and grumbles of pleasure even above the laughter, and it made his stomach turn.
A party of men had gone out camping about a week ago. They weren’t due back for days—weren’t due back at all by the looks of it now. Barely daring to breathe, he carefully backed away, trying to keep to the shadows.
He shrieked when a heavy hand thumped down on his shoulder, making his knees buckle. A goblin stood behind him, so enormous Peer was little bigger than a toddler against him. He was hideous, with great yellow eyes and leathery skin which sprouted long wiry hairs. There were tusks coming out of his mouth between broken yellow teeth, and they were grinning down at him eagerly. He wore only a disgusting loincloth to conceal his nakedness, and he stank like he had just stepped out of a sewer. Peer swallowed his muffins again.
The goblin’s grin broadened, then he grabbed Peer by the scruff of the neck and hauled him into the centre of the cavern, bellowing his excitement.
‘Looky what I ‘ave.’
Hundreds of yellow eyes turned his way, and the chatter and laughter ceased. Peer quivered in his grasp. Something warm ran down his leg, and he realised he had just pissed himself.
What must have been the biggest, ugliest goblin of all rose from his seat. He wore a crown and clutched a golden sceptre. He was clearly the leader. Unlike the goblin holding Peer, he didn’t have tusks but enormous flapping ears that trailed down his barrel chest. He was covered in sores and blisters, and there seemed to be something growing out the side of his hip. Peer dared to look closer at it, and finally vomited, spattering chunks of muffin all over the cavern floor. It had eyes.
‘What is this?’ spoke the leader. ‘Did some food escape?’
‘No, my king.’ The goblin shook him so hard Peer blacked out a little. ‘Methinks it wandered in all its own.’
‘Did it now?’ The goblin king licked his swollen lips. ‘A fat one. Lucky us. Add it to the vat.’
Frozen with terror, Peer didn’t resist as the goblin dragged him to the simmering cauldron. Another goblin added more kindling, sending more smoke coiling into the ceiling and such a gruesome stench of cooking flesh into Peer’s face that it stuck in his nose and made his eyes water.
The goblin lifted him up, and Peer gazed down helplessly at the boiling, pink slop with its bones and blood and floating bits of hair and teeth. His bowels loosened.
‘Wait, Father, he’s mine!’ cried a voice. He felt himself lowered, and he breathed again. ‘You promised I could keep the next one.’
Peer looked over to see another goblin, female by the looks of her, tugging at the arm of the goblin king. She was no fair thing to look upon with her great drooping breasts, rolls of fat and hideous face, but at least she didn’t have anything growing out of her. She had long, straggly greyish hair but was bald at the top, and her smooth green crown shone in the firelight.
‘That I did,’ her father agreed. He sighed and smiled at his daughter, a grisly grin. ‘What I do for love. Fine. Take it. Schlen, give it to her.’
She snatched Peer from Schlen’s grasp and hugged him, crushing him into her enormous breasts. Peer coughed and gasped and spluttered. Oh God, the smell.
‘Thank you, Father,’ she shrieked. ‘I’ll take good care of him.’
‘You’d better because if it tries to escape, into the vat it goes.’
She was still hugging him as she skipped away.
‘We’re going to have lots of fun together,’ she said, her deep voice rumbling in her chest. At every step, his face rubbed up and down against her hard, leathery nipple. ‘My last human didn’t last long. He was naughty. But you won’t be naughty, will you?’
She stopped skipping and finally held him away. He gasped and choked, sucking in the air. Grinning, she gazed down at him with her yellow eyes and sat him atop a shelf which seemed to have been carved into the wall.
‘I’m going to call you TimTin,’ she said. ‘And you’re going to be mine forever.’
His head spun. It was clearly her room: stone bed with a filthy pink quilt, a rotting torn rug on the floor, a blazing fire in a stone hearth, and dolls, dolls everywhere. He turned to the doll on his right and almost shouted. It wasn’t a doll, it was a man. It might have been wearing a dress cut to size from a filthy loincloth, but it was a man nonetheless. Peer slowly reached out a trembling hand and touched him. He was as hard as stone—petrified, a look of utter terror on his face. It was the same on his left. He swallowed. It was the same with all of them.
Peer could still hear the other goblins continuing with their celebrations in the distance as she combed out her hair, great sheets of it falling to the floor. Then she applied what looked like lipstick. It was a bloody red. She smacked her lips and grinned.
‘Am I pretty?’ she said.
Peer nodded quickly.
Giggling, she picked him up, and together they spun around the room. Then she kissed him on the head and lay down on her bed, Peer on top of her.
‘Now,’ she said, putting her hands behind her head and arching her back. There was flesh everywhere: sagging breasts in front, a mound of fat behind, wobbling thighs. ‘Suck my nipple.’
‘I said suck my nipple.’
‘Suck me, or I’ll send you to my father.’
Her breasts were sagging over the sides, pooling in puddles of flesh. Her nipples were dark and the size of dinner plates and sprouted more of those long, wiry hairs. Trying not to cry, he gathered over her left breast and took it in his mouth.
‘Deeper,’ she moaned.
He closed his eyes with a whimper. She tasted like sick and her nipple grated against his tongue. She began to purr.
‘Good. That’s enough,’ she breathed. ‘Now—’ she spread her legs and lifted her loincloth ‘—pleasure me.’
Peer stared. He had never been with a girl before, but he had learnt about the female body at school. There was supposed to be a clitoris, but he wasn’t sure what it looked like and whether she even had one. He looked away, wincing, as he pushed aside the flesh on her thighs. He felt around for a moment, found her labia, gagged at the wetness. There, he thought—engorged and hard and twice the size of his thumb.
She moaned as he masturbated her.
‘Harder,’ she said.
There is no God, he thought as he rubbed harder and harder, his hand now clamped between her thighs as she squirmed in ecstasy. He pressed his other hand to his mouth, trying not to be sick. Her breathing turned heavy. She started to growl. She thrust against him, hands clenching the pink quilt, thighs and belly and breasts wobbling. Then he felt her spasm, and it was over. She sagged into her bed, panting. Peer was panting too as he pulled away a hand covered in goop. He broke out in a cold sweat and shivered.
‘You shall sleep with me tonight,’ she said. ‘And we shall sleep like lovers.’
She rolled onto her side and squashed his face into her breasts.
Peer didn’t move, listening as her snores turned long and even and the din outside lessened to babble, then murmuring, then silence. The fire in the hearth crackled and snapped as it steadily died. It grew cold, even when pressed up against the goblin’s hot flesh.
Very slowly, carefully, he eased out of her grasp. He slid to the floor. She hadn’t moved. He backed out of her room and had almost reached the doorway when he tripped and stumbled. He gripped onto the shelf to steady himself. One of her damn dolls. Its eyes were wide, its mouth agape in a silent scream. He froze as she murmured something and rolled over. His shoulders sagged in relief. She was still asleep, eyes closed, her arms clasped around herself, hugging a body that wasn’t there.
Play audio here and listen to Grieg’s song as you read (if you can).
He snuck out the door, keeping to the shadows as best he could. His feet scuffed against the smooth stone, sending rocks skittering about. The torches along the corridor were low now, some burnt out, others wavering in the breeze as he passed. Several corridors split off from his, and he could only hope she hadn’t taken any turns.
It was with terror and relief and exhaustion that he reached the immense cavern. There were goblins everywhere, splayed out along the floor, snoring and grunting and snorting, concealing his gasping breaths. The king was slumped in his stone throne, crown askew, head in his hand, snoring the loudest.
The corridor leading home was ahead. But it would be no easy feat to get to. He grimaced; there was no clear path, goblins strewed everywhere. He would have to creep between them. He swallowed, took a breath and started ahead.
The goblins were restless sleepers: rolling over, kicking out, hollering. Once, a goblin grabbed his ankle, and Peer almost wet himself again, but the goblin’s eyes were closed, and he released him moments later before turning over with a grumble. Several times he had to step over a sleeping goblin because they were pressed so close together there was no way to go around.
By the time he reached the centre of the cavern, he was dizzy and sweating. His eyes strained so hard against the flickering fires that tears fell onto goblin backs and hands and faces. A goblin snuffled and wrinkled his hideous brow when one dropped onto his nose.
Peer ducked to the floor at the sound of a great bellow. ‘TimTin!’
He curled into a ball as the goblins around him stirred from sleep.
‘TimTin,’ came another bellow.
The cavern seemed to shake around him as they hefted their great bodies from the floor. Rocks and debris clattered from the ceiling. He peered up fearfully between his arms, keeping himself in a tight ball; none of them had noticed him yet.
The female goblin came wailing into the cavern. ‘Father!’
‘What is the meaning of this, Kezna?’ the king snapped.
‘My human—he’s disappeared.’
‘What! Search the mountain,’ the goblin king roared. ‘It must not escape.’
Pandemonium ensued as goblins charged around the cavern, howling their outrage, their great feet pounding against the floor. It was like rolling thunder, and it made Peer’s whole body vibrate. An enormous rock dislodged from the ceiling and crushed two of them with an ear-splitting crack. Blood and debris and bits of bone flew in all directions. More rock rained down as the cavern shook. A large, hairy foot slapped down right beside his head. Peer scrambled to a crouch. He had to get out or be crushed himself.
He weaved and wound his way through waddling, fat legs. Loincloths brushed at his head, feet thudded around him. He was accidentally kicked and sent skidding across the floor.
‘There!’ roared the goblin who kicked him. ‘I found it.’
A goblin made a snatch for him, but Peer dodged him, keeping low. The cavern groaned, more rock smashed, dust billowed, as the goblins chased him down. Peer was screaming as he dodged snatching fingers, swerved around kicking legs. One swung a metal-studded club directly at his face. He dropped and rolled, tripping over a goblin who knocked over several of his comrades like bowling pins. They crashed to the floor, their successive heavy thuds making the cavern groan again.
‘BREAK ITS BONES.’
‘SPLIT ITS SKULL.’
The floor began to shake. More rocks fell. Peer coughed and spluttered as a haze of dust fell around him. He locked eyes on his goal. The tunnel leading out was just ahead. He was almost free.
He reached the tunnel, and with every ounce of strength he had left in him charged for the exit—and freedom. He could hear the goblins thundering after him. He glanced behind. They were making chase in a mad crush. Their shoulders crashed through the walls. They swung their clubs, threw their fists, sending more rock flying. Two fell and were trampled beneath. Another smaller goblin was tossed in the air and sailed back over their heads.
Peer’s heart was pounding so hard he thought it would burst from his chest. Tears streamed down his cheeks. His throat ached, his lungs were on fire and his legs were beyond pain. The tunnel shuddered, and he almost crashed into the wall to his left as he overbalanced. He glanced up in horror as the ceiling slumped. Dust and bits of rock fell in a shower. The cave was about to collapse.
The goblins bellowed in fear as they too realised the danger. They kept running, but now they were running for survival.
Then leaves brushed around him, sunlight glared and Peer’s shoes hit soft ground. He was outside. He hadn’t taken a few steps when the earth shuddered, and he was knocked off his feet. Squinting, he looked up in horror as the side of the mountain slumped, then slipped. He leapt to his feet and ran again as an avalanche of earth and uprooted trees and rock came tumbling down. A goblin made it outside. He bellowed in triumph, but his relief was short-lived when he looked up and realised his fate moments before he was crushed beneath a flood of debris. Rocks and branches flew, more debris came raining down. Peer took cover amidst the trees, dropped to the ground and covered his head. Branches snapped, there were several heavy thuds, a roar as more earth shifted, a hiss of dust, then silence.
Peer’s ears rang in the quiet. Everything was so still he could have believed he was dead. It was several minutes before he dared look up, and much longer still before he got the courage to return to the cave entrance. He slumped against a tree, legs buckling. Buried beneath a wall of earth and shattered rock, the Hall of the Mountain King was no more. His nightmare was over.
He was in a daze on his journey home. He stumbled and lurched, his legs like wooden pegs, so parched he couldn’t swallow. Then the trees peeled away, and the house came into view, and he saw his uncle and auntie and cousins standing outside, their hands lifted against the glare as they viewed the spectacle. He looked behind him. The haze of dust was still settling, but he could see that a chunk of the mountain was gone.
‘Peer!’ Anya, his youngest cousin suddenly squealed, pointing at him.
‘Peer, where have you been?’
And they all rushed over.
He was peppered with questions, hugged and kissed by his auntie, tugged at by his younger cousins, frowned at by his uncle.
‘Please,’ Peer said, tripping on his feet. ‘I’m exhausted.’
‘And you stink,’ his older cousin said. ‘You smell like sh—’
‘Lucas,’ his auntie warned. Wrinkling her nose, she smiled at Peer. ‘Of course sweetie, but I suggest you bathe first.’
Peer did, and when he was done, he slept all day, not waking until after darkness.
They were all sitting at the dining table, waiting for him. The table was set, and his auntie was busy in the kitchen—dinner was coming. Peer pressed a hand to his belly. He couldn’t wait. He hadn’t eaten in almost a day.
They all stared at him.
‘So,’ Lucas said finally, ‘are you going to tell us what happened?’
At the sight of his younger cousins watching him eagerly, Peer pursed his lips. ‘Maybe later. It’s not a tale for kids.’
Howls of protest followed.
‘That’s not fair!’
‘I’m almost seven!’
Anya gazed at him, tears in her eyes.
‘That’s enough,’ his uncle said. ‘Leave him be.’
‘All right, everyone,’ his auntie called, carrying a steaming pot into the room. Her hair was in a frizz, her apron covered in stains, but she was smiling. ‘Dinner is ready.’
Peer rubbed his hands together. It looked considerably more than his usual soup and greens.
His auntie grinned at him as she lifted the lid. ‘Your favourite.’
Peer swallowed a surge of vomit. He began to shake. Sweat prickled his brow. That smell. The smell of cooking flesh, of petrified men and sagging breasts, of swinging clubs and collapsing mountains—of death and fear.
He watched in a daze as his auntie ladled several spoonfuls into his bowl. It was pink too, just like the vat.
Peer wiped his forehead, took a deep breath and exhaled as his auntie ladled out bowls around the rest of the table.
When she was done, she sat and looked at his dish with a frown. ‘You’re not eating. Something wrong?’
‘I’m really sorry, Auntie.’ He gave her a quivering smile and gently pushed the dish away. ‘It looks delicious, but I—I guess I’m not as hungry as I thought.’
© Morgan Tonkin 2018
Note to the reader. This story is based very loosely on Henrik Ibsen’s scene six, act 2 of his 1867 play, Peer Gynt, and was inspired by Edvard Grieg’s classic song, In the Hall of the Mountain King, both of which are public domain.