Photo by Ali Kazal on Unsplash

I Felt We Should Ask The Goblin Guard His Opinion

The Story of Ghost Law | Chapters 15 + 16


Chapter 15

We closed the door. For such an intimidatingly large goblin, he “gave up the ghost,” if you will, faster than I expected. After we dragged him in he laid limply on the floor, defeated, complaining of a brush burn on his elbow and promising that he was going to tell on me if he ever got the chance. I spent several minutes telling him to punch me in the arm so we’d be even before the ghost surgeon convinced me the goblin had already locked me in a cell to be dissected like a frog and that most would consider us “even” by this point. And besides, we were going to vaporize him anyway, she added, handing me a vaporizer.

This made me pause — vaporize him? Was that necessary? I mean sure, I’d vaporized people accidentally before — hundreds of them — but to vaporize on purpose? That was where I always pictured myself drawing the line.

But my new ghost friend — who told me to just call her “Scary” after about an hour of repeatedly failing to guess her real name (I refused to just let her tell me because I was convinced I’d guess it right eventually) — told me there was no other option. If we let him go, he would surely escape our clutches and inform Madam Twilge on our asses. Is that what I wanted?

I told her we should ask the goblin his opinion on the matter. She said she could probably already guess his opinion, and I began to get the distinct feeling she thought she was a better guesser than I was. This only made me want to ask the goblin his opinion more.

We approached the goblin, whom we’d tied up by this point, and I knelt down and asked him if he minded much if we vaporized him. He said he’d rather we didn’t because he wasn’t sure his insurance would cover it. Scary said he could pull up his portal to check his coverage but he said he couldn’t remember his password.

Round and round we went in this moral dilemma until I felt my head was spinning. I decided on a compromise: we should only vaporize half of him. They both felt this solution acceptable, which was unfortunate as I was hoping for a kind of “King Solomon baby” situation here.

I pointed my vaporizer and figured I should aim for the middle. Then the goblin said something that stopped me in my tracks: “Just tell my brother that I was brave.”

Wow. He had a brother — just like me. This really made me think. I wondered if his brother’s name was also Chuck. I wondered if we shared any other similarities, like favorite board game.

“OK, on three I want you to say your favorite board game,” I said. And sure enough, on the count of three, the goblin and I both blurted, “Monopoly, Lord of the Rings edition.” Scary said, “Settlers of Catan” and we both rolled our eyes at her.

“I can’t vaporize half of this goblin,” I said in such a courageous and dramatic fashion I wished someone had been filming it. “It would like vaporizing half of myself — the half that loves Monopoly.”

Caught up in the moment, I threw the vaporizer away in a symbolic gesture of my new outlook on life. This turned out to be a mistake as the heavy vaporizer flew right into the left side of the goblin’s head.

I said, “Oh, crapolla.”

The goblin’s head flopped to the side and his tongue rolled out like a red carpet at the Oscars.

“Do not pass go,” said Scary, solemnly. “Do not collect $200…”

“Really, Scary? Seriously? This is the time for that? As if I don’t feel bad enough? For real?” I was incredulous — I couldn’t believe she had thought of that epic line before I had.

I was going to say something else, but there was a knock on the door.

“How’s it going in there?” Madam Twilge’s unmistakable voice gargled through the pinewood door, jiggling the doorknob. “Didja slice his brain?”

Chapter 16

When I was younger I used to wonder which sins were worse than others. Was a steal equal to a lie? Was it worse to lie than to experience wrath? And, most importantly, where exactly did fried Oreos factor in?

I suppose these questions eventually get sorted out with experience. And as I stood there before the goblin I’d inadvertently smacked in the head with a vaporizer, I contemplated whether a white lie to the woman who’d tricked me into her experiments would be so bad in the grand scheme of things.

Fortunately, Scary didn’t seem to need as much time for contemplation of the moral or ethical implications.

“All fine in here,” Scary responded to Madam Twilge. “Really good brain. Cuts like warm butter.”

I winced. Did she think I had a buttery brain?

“Madam Twilge wants to see,” Madam Twilge said.

“No!” Scary said. “Don’t come in here. He’s, uh, naked.”

“Gross!” Madam Twilge said. “Madam Twilge can’t bear to look at that big red butt again.”

This was becoming humiliating. I felt my face begin to turn as red as my butt.

“But Madam Twilge does think there’ll be much to learn from that brain,” Madam Twilge continued from behind the door. “Imagine the hauntings we could prevent, the wounds we could heal, if we could determine the causes and impacts of a specimen exposed to so many hauntings in his lifetime. You know…Madam Twilge is not opposed to a co-authorship on that scientific paper we could write… Such a study could redeem a certain surgical outcast in the eyes of her colleagues…”

I watched Scary’s face as she floated there, listening to this proposition. I couldn’t help thinking this was the face Eve may have had while listening to the serpent’s logic for eating that apple. I often thought of whether I would do the same thing as Eve in that scenario, and concluded that it would depend on the type of apple. If it was a honey crisp, sure. But a red delicious? How hard is that to walk away from? Not very.

But in all my considerations of that fateful moment I never thought I would be in the apple’s position. The apple in this particular case was my brain, an organ people always told me might come in handy someday if I was ever interested.

I realized then that my brain was certainly a honey crisp for Scary and her future. And wasn’t it me and my own selfishness that had put her in this position in the first place? How could I deprive her of that wonderful autumnal apple?

Before she could answer Madam Twilge’s call, I jumped over the goblin and up on the operating table.

“I’m going to make it easy for you, Scary,” I said. “Take a bite out of this honey crisp brain of mine and discover knowledge! You deserve it!”

Scary turned and gave me that confused look I know so well. Then she looked back at the door. Then back at me. Then she pulled a muscle in her neck and massaged it for a while and took an Aspirin. When I opened my mouth to inform her she’d taken more than the recommended dosage, Scary hit me with the general anesthetic.

The next chapter of Ghost Law drops June 28. Catch up on past episodes here:



r.j. kushner

Dubbed by the New York Times as “all out of free articles this month.”