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The Goblin

Christina Sng is the Bram Stoker and Elgin Award-winning author of A Collection of Nightmares (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2017) and Astropoetry (Alban Lake Publishing, 2017). Her fiction has appeared in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Frostfire Worlds, Grievous Angel, New Myths, and Space and Time. This is Christina's first appearance in Daily Science Fiction.

Its face is still.
I peer warily at the body sitting at the bottom of the sea, half-shrouded in shadows. My heart pounds in the dark, bubbles escaping to the surface just as I long to, but cannot.
Okay, get it together, I remind myself. This is your job. Get it done.
I shine a torch at its face. Its brow is so pronounced that I can hardly see its eyes. They are closed but covered with a thin, translucent membrane. There are no pupils as far as I can tell.
Vertigo suddenly hits me. I stagger but remember to take slow, deep breaths. Through the helmet, my exhalations echo hollowly. I grit my teeth around the respirator and continue with my examination.
The creature has no nose or discernible mouth but on its head are spindly ears like a goblin's. Goblin. Yes, that is an apt description of it.
Visually, its skin looks slimy and rubbery, like a Halloween costume. Not unlike a whale's. But why would a sea creature need ears, I wonder. My hairs begin to stand despite the heated dive suit.
I brave a glance back. Beside me, Morozov and Watanabe watch wordlessly, their spear guns pointed at the creature. Morozov frowns at me, her eyes telling me to hurry. Watanabe gives me an encouraging nod. I nod back.
I shine the torch at the creature's body and limbs. It has webbed hands and feet with no discernible elbows or knees. The torso seems more manatee than human, perhaps to protect its organs from the subzero temperatures of the sea.
I should be overwhelmed with excitement. This is an alien life form. Our first encounter. This is what I've trained for my entire life. But all I feel is a primal dread.
Watanabe's voice startles me. "We have 15 minutes remaining. Document what you need and then we will need to haul this body to the surface."
"Copy," I respond, pushing aside memories of all the horror movies I've watched in my life. The monsters. The goblins.
Hands shaking, I move to touch the creature's arm. How does it swim, I wonder, or had it fallen into the sea?
"Something large is coming our way. And fast," Morozov says urgently, looking up from her wrist monitor. "Let's take the body and go."
Too late. Above us, a huge shadow looms.
Instinctively, I swim away from the creature whose eyes suddenly dart open and turn toward us, not ten feet away. It sends a piercing high-pitched sound through its body.
The three of us scramble for the surface as the shadow swims toward the creature. It ignores us, almost brushing against us in the icy darkness.
Our helmet lights reveal a creature like the goblin but with enormous fins like a manta ray. It spans ten times the creature's length. That explains its incredible speed through the water.
We surface, checking below if it has followed us, but the seas are, thankfully, clear.
Our ship Peacelily is still there, waiting. And our pilot Gray grins at us. "Are we staying to try and nab us an alien?"
"Get us in the air in case Mama can fly like Sharknado," Morozov snaps. "We have got enough video footage to make us rich a thousand lifetimes over. They can send a bigger team to retrieve bodies next time."
Watanabe and I agree. An alien discovery is wondrous and groundbreaking but not if you're eaten.
We lift off without a hitch, watching the surface warily.
"You know, with that fin span, those creatures could potentially fly," I note wryly.
Gray increases the speed of Peacelily.
Below us, I see huge shadows of the creatures searching on the surface. Now that their baby is safe, they're hunting the monsters that almost took it. Not too different from us, I think.
I keep my eye breathlessly on the shadows, making sure they can't fly, exhaling only when Gray announces, "And we've now sadly departed the planet, aptly named The Goblin."
"May we never return," I whisper to the twinkling stars.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, February 4th, 2019

Author Comments

The discovery of dwarf planet 2015 TG387, nicknamed The Goblin, has everyone excited for it proving the existence of Planet X. But for me and every other alien hunter out there in space, The Goblin must surely hold some secrets of its own.

While the ideal story often means we successfully communicate with intelligent alien life, a more realistic best-case scenario is that we actually survive the first encounter.

- Christina Sng
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