Isla’s parents had made a foolish mistake well before she was born. They had found themselves in a tight spot and they were desperate for help.
But no one could help them.
It was a matter of do or die and neither one wanted to die. There was one last hope. One last thing to do.
So, they did it. They called upon the Goblin King to help them. Just this one time.
He played around with his black leather gloves as they begged and pleaded for his help.
He smirked and arched a well-shaped eyebrow. “Will you give me anything I ask for?” he asked. His voice was smooth and pure mercenary.
“Yes! Anything you ask for. Just please help us!”
He pulled a small crystal ball out of the plain air and twirled it around his fingers. “What if I ask for the moon and the stars?”
“We’ll find a way to give it to you.”
He swooped the crystal ball onto his other hand. “And if I ask for your first child’s heart?”
“We are childless. You cannot ask for what we cannot give.”
He tossed the ball at the wife and she caught it. “Sleep with this under your pillow.”
She examined the object in her hand. It looked like a flat river rock.
“I’ll be back in nine months.”
“Wait!” the husband said. “You will give us a child only to steal it away again? That hardly seems fair.”
“Fair? Fair? You think I am unfair?” He strode over to the husband. “I am bending myself over backwards to help you muddling fools. But to even things out, I will wait until the tenth bell has rung. Then, I will come for the child.” He smirked again. “How’s that for fair?”
The husband opened his mouth to object, but it was too late. The Goblin King had disappeared.
The wife slept with the river rock under her pillow. She didn’t really believe that it would work. Goblin magic was very trick-oriented. If anything did come about, it would surely be a hideous goblin baby. It would not be her own flesh and blood.
All the same, she slept with the river rock under her pillow.
Time moved on as it did, as it always would.
Minutes became days. Days became weeks and months.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine months.
And she was very decidedly pregnant.
She was excited.
She was afraid.
She wanted to keep the child.
She wanted it to wither away.
She wanted it to live.
She wanted it to die.
Most of all, she wanted it to be hers. She wanted it to be the offspring of herself and her husband.
She did not want to give birth to a monster.
It was not a monster.
It was a baby as lovely and as perfect as any baby that’s been born. She hugged the baby and sang sweet music to her little girl.
Her little Isla.
Her husband loved his wife. He loved their child.
He feared the Goblin King’s promise.
What kind of bells? Church bells? Starting when?
If only the Goblin King had stayed a little longer so they could hammer out the specifics. But, of course, the Goblin King was not like that. There was a good reason why the goblins had chosen him to be their king.
The couple kept all bells from entering their house. No toy bells. No Christmas bells. No bell-shaped flowers.
They took no chances.
“She will be safe.” the wife said. “Our little Isla will be safe.”
Despite their cautions, the husband worried.
How long could they keep it up? How long could they keep her safe? If bells rang outside their house, would that be the beginning of it all? Or did the bells have to be inside the house?
He cursed the Goblin King’s flippancy.
If only he had stayed long enough to explain! But really? That was too much to ask for.
Time passed them by and the curse was kept at bay.
The first year…No bells.
The second year….No bells.
The third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth…No bells.
The husband’s fears abated.
Maybe it would never happen.
Maybe she would be safe.
But the Goblin King never said when the first bell would ring. The husband wondered if it ever would.
It was Isla’s tenth birthday and her parents had big plans about how they were going to celebrate.
Isla ran into her parents’ room first thing in the morning to wake them. “Mom! Dad! Come on!” She jumped on the bed and shook her mom’s shoulder. “Coooome on! Let’s go!”
Her mother mumbled something in her sleep. She grabbed the corner of her pillow and rolled on her side, covering the side of her head with her pillow and exposing something unexpected.
A flat gray, river stone lay on the mattress right where the pillow had been. It wasn’t a particularly interesting stone, but Isla picked it up anyway.
She rolled the stone between her fingers: one, two, three, four, five, four, three, two, one.
She liked the way it felt against her skin.
Isla tossed the stone, intending to catch it with her other hand.
But the stone didn’t come down. It hovered in the air and transformed into a large bell.
Isla stood on the bed and reached for the pull rope. She couldn’t explain why, but she felt that it needed to be done.
She pulled the rope.
It rang once in a surprisingly quiet voice for a bell its size. It didn’t even wake her parents.
It disappeared and a slightly smaller bell appeared in its place.
She pulled the rope.
It sounded slightly louder, but barely.
Again, it disappeared. A still smaller bell took its place.
She rang it.
That one was just loud enough to make her mother turn over in her sleep. Her father tossed and turned. “Bells…” he muttered.
She rang the next bell that appeared and the next and the next and the next and the next. Each one grew progressively smaller and progressively louder.
She rang the next bell and her father woke. He sat up straight and glanced around. “What?” He gasped as the tenth bell appeared. “Isla! Get away from there!”
Her mother woke up. “What’s going—-Isla! No!”
The tenth bell was so small it looked like a toy. Or something that would be attached to a stuffed animal’s neck.
Isla smiled at it.
Her father frantically uncovered himself. “Isla! Don’t touch it!”
She wondered how loud this one would be.
Her mother and father tried to grab her.
She took hold of the very small pull rope and pulled it.
“NO!” They cried out in despair.
“What?” She looked back at her parents. “What’s wrong?”
The Goblin King appeared beside the bed. “That was the tenth bell ring.” He held out his hand to Isla. “Come, my child. Come home with me.”
“No! You can’t do this!” her father said. “It isn’t fair!”
“She’s our child!” her mother cried.
“There you go again, complaining to me about being unfair. We made a deal, an absolute bargain and you both agreed to it. Seems plenty fair to me.”
Isla got off the bed and approached the leather-clad man. He took her hand without another word.
They both disappeared.
June Writing Prompts