Fellow fictionpressers—the novel I'm posting is sitting complete in my Google Drive account. I'm posting it bit by bit here, looking for feedback and advice on improving it before I send it off to be published. My hope is that you'll drop a few lines at the end of each chapter about what you liked and what you didn't like and why you did or didn't like it, and that when the story is finished you take everything you've read into account and tell me everything you think I could improve, as well as everything you think I did well.

Also, there is some violence in this story, and although it's not graphically described, there are some fairly intense injuries—although nothing quite as bad as the webcomic with the same name as this story (shudder.) No, nothing nearly as bad as that. So let me know if you think I should crank the rating up to M. I don't want to get in trouble with the site mods.

I hope you enjoy the story—mostly because the more people enjoy it, the more will be tempted to buy it when it comes out in print.

Also, I'd like to point out that although it opens with an action scene, this is not an action story. Action scenes get less and less frequent as the story goes on, this is done quite on purpose.

Chapter One

It clapped both hands over my ears, then clamped down on my head and slammed it into the wall behind me. I was lucky we were in one of the classrooms where the walls were made of drywall, and not out in the hallway where they were cement bricks. Still, I was seeing stars and my whole head was throbbing and pulsing.

It let go and I slumped to the ground. I've never been strong enough to fight them. I just hold them off and try to stay alive while I wait for Kat, Lily and Chapman to show up.

Lucky for me they like to play with their food before they eat it.

"So, human," said the six-foot-tall goblin, kneeling down to look me in the eyes, "Do you have any last words to say to me before I end your meaningless existence?"

Goblin. Orange one this time. You get them in all sorts of colors, but the basic shape is usually the same. Except green, never green. Long, pointed ears and noses. Big heads, horns all around the top making a kind of crown. Long, thin limbs, crammed with muscle. Claws. Skin, thick and tough like leather. Almost what you'd expect from the myths. The only thing they tend to get wrong is the size. The short ones, two to four feet tall, the ones that vandalize homes and steal babies, the ones you usually hear about, those are the children. They're not too harmful by themselves, but you still have to kill them on sight. When they grow up, they can be as big as six feet tall, towers of muscle wanting nothing more than to spill your blood.

I had to keep it focused on me. That's my job. I sense when the portals open between our world and theirs—Portals, magic more advanced than anything I'd ever seen before, something straight out of science-fiction—get there, and keep them in one place, keep them from hurting anyone else until the others arrive.

"Anyone ever tell you how much your breath stinks?"

He threw back his head and laughed. I don't know why they always find that one so funny, but they do. Gives me some time to catch my breath and think while they laugh.

Goblins. Creatures of myth and fantasy, things I never thought I'd see in real life. It was useless, I knew, but I tried to crawl over to the other side of the room while it was distracted. It didn't work.

He kicked me in the stomach and I fell back down, my side hitting the linoleum floor first, then my head.

"Oh, but this one does give the most lovely compliments. Maybe I should keep it as a pet." It put it's face right next to mine again. "What do you think? Would you like to be my pet?"

There's a couple responses I've come up with for that one, but most of them just tend to make them angrier, more violent. The first time one of them said that to me, I spit in it's face. That didn't help. Not that I'd really expected it to. The next one, I told it where I'd see it in the afterlife should I be ridiculously unlucky. It didn't like that either. So here was a new one.

"Yes."

It laughed again. Looks like that was the right answer.

"What kind of stuff would I do as a goblin's pet?"

That made it laugh even more.

It picked me up by my throat with only one hand. My feet came off the floor, and I couldn't breath. Looks like that was the wrong answer.

"Oh, we'd play all of your favorite games!" It said, shaking me slowly from side to side. "You'd watch as I killed everyone who mattered to you. I'd make you scream in pain again and again, until you'd beg for death. I'd take out your entrails while you watched. And then I'd finally let you slowly slip into nothingness." Then it got angry, or maybe it had been angry the whole time. "DOES THAT SOUND LIKE FUN TO YOU? DOES IT?"

It swung me around and threw me. I slammed into the legs of one of the desks, skidded across the floor and hit a few more. The room was a mess, and I think I broke a few ribs that time.

A random useless bit of trivia flashed into my mind: Some people are born with one or two less ribs than others. Not me, though. I'm not sure if I should count myself lucky that my organs have that protection, or wish I had less ribs to break. Mine have a tendency to break.

You never quite get used to the pain. You learn to grin and bear it, you learn to snark and crack jokes while covered in cuts and bruises, but believe it or not, pain still hurts. Like a bad feeling, painful thing.

The door flung open. Finally.

Mr. Chapman was the first one in the room. He held a glowing, blue orb in his hands, and it fired a beam of light, hitting the goblin and knocking it to the ground. It got up and charged at him, but Kat was next into the room and she shoved him out of the way and took the hit herself. She barely budged, then grabbed the goblin by both of it's shoulders, picked it up over her head and threw it back-first onto the ground. I heard a sick crunching sound; it must have broken a bone.

I guess it was bleeding when it got up, because Kat said "What a waste." She wrapped her arms around it and plunged her fangs into it's throat. It started beating on her back, but it was losing blood fast and could hardly muster up any strength.

Lily stepped into the room next, a set of hunting knives floating around her.

"It looks like there's not much left for me to..." But then she saw me and lost her concentration. The knives fell to the ground.

She ran over to my side.

"Justin!" She yelled. "Are you alright? Can you say anything? You have a rib poking out of your chest!" So that was what that feeling was. I was wondering about that. Normally I'd have made some Captain Obvious joke, but I honestly hadn't realized that before she said it. Also, I was in pain. Lots of pain.

Chapman pulled a glass bottle full of a bright red liquid out of his leather messenger bag.

"Here," he said, "drink."

A healing potion. Oh, how I needed that. I pulled out the cork and drank it all down, within seconds I could feel my wounds healing and the pulsing and throbbing in my head subsiding.

I handed the empty bottle back to Chapman.

"Drink? Thanks for the advice, I thought you wanted me to bathe in it. Would have been awkward if I started doing that with the three of you still in the room."

"He's fine," Lily said. She picked one of the knives she'd left across the room and levitated it straight into the goblin's heart.

Kat finally stopped sucking the blood from it's neck and pushed it to the ground. She pulled a small, red stone from her pocket and, pointing it at the goblin, fired another beam that made it dissolve into the air.

"How can you still be hungry?" I asked. "Didn't you already have dinner?"

"I followed my instincts." She looked at the space where the goblin had been. "I followed my instincts, and he's dead. He's dead. He's..."

I put a hand on her shoulder and, gently but firmly, said "It. Not he. And if you hadn't stopped it, it would have gone off and hurt a lot more people. There would be a lot of people dead if you hadn't killed it. If a lion had got out in town, and you'd killed it to stop it from killing someone else, they'd be giving you a medal."

She nodded and and closed her eyes, fighting back the tears.

"Try what I do. Next time you fight one, crack lots of jokes. They don't even have to be funny, they can be real groaners, horrible puns, things like that. It helps you cope. Make fun of everything the next one says or does. It helps you remember that it's not a person, it's just another killing machine. It doesn't feel anything but anger and blood-lust. We have to stop them all, whatever it takes."

Mr. Chapman walked in front of Kat, and opened his arms. She embraced him, and started crying onto his chest. It made sense. He was almost a second father to the Kat-ster.

Lily came up and and put her hand next to mine and her head on Kat's other shoulder.

Eventually, Kat pulled away.

"We've got to get this room back in order," she said. So we did. When we were finished, she looked at me and said: "Thank you. I'll think about your advice. I think I'll try it."

I got back home late that night. It was almost 11:00 when my sixth sense, specially trained and tuned to detect when portals to the goblin world open, woke me up. After dealing with the goblin and cleaning up the classroom, it was almost 1:00. So I guess it was early, then.

I closed the door, and fell down on my bed, exhausted.

I'm not a violent person. I swear it. I enjoy what I do, the taunting, the teasing. Even the fighting, when I get to do it. But not the killing. I don't enjoy the killing any more than poor Kat does. But we have to. We have to keep the innocent safe. Even if we had the spell technology to send them back home, we couldn't trust them not to just come back and kill more people. They've taken enough lives. We need to fight back.

...Right?