A Steady Stream of Imps

 Posted by Bob the Hamster on August 29th, 2005

Current mood: Dreaming

I returned to my home a different person than when I left. I was now old and bent, and white whiskers floated around my chin. My right eye had been replaced with a magical green one.

I saw many people that I had once known gathered on the seats of the great meeting hall, listening to the mayor speak, but they did not smile and greet me, even if they did seem to recognise me. I suppose that many had taken my long absence for an abandonment.

The people were gathered and the mayor was speaking in the meeting hall for a reason. Into the back door of the hall, and out of the side door, moved a steady stream of Imps. Each was about 20 centimeters tall, reddish of flesh and yellowish of clothing, and they danced along in the stiff way of creatures crudely built and badly jointed. I looked out the back door, and saw them approach down the long hallway, grouped in pairs. The two of each pair were spaced about a meter apart, one in front of the other, and each pair was spaced about five or six meters apart. They danced through the door, around the perimmeter of the room, oblivious to the room-full of people who stared at them bitterly, then they pranced out the side door. The side door led into a dark tunnel cut at a gently sloping angle down into the earth. At the end of this tunnel was a great pit from which red light glowed, and situated over this pit was a small platform suspended by ropes from a pulley on the ceiling. A mass of gears and wheels and engines were hidden in the recesses of the tunnel, and they provided the mechanation to raise and lower this platform. When a pair of Imps would reach the end of the tunnel, they would each snatch a whole chicken (nearly as large as themselves!) from an inexaustable bin of chickens, and hop onto the platform. The weight of two Imps plus two chickens would trigger the mechanism, and the engines would chug, and the platform would suddenly drop out of sight, returning empty in time for the next pair of Imps.

The people in the meeting hall had been debating these Imps ever since they appeared, though I could not tell exactly how long that had been. I had arrived on just the right evening to see them enact a new measure to stop them. I sat in my place, and watched as everyone else did, as the mayor threw a switch and activated a new device that had been recently and secretly constructed to stop the Imps.

The first of a pair of Imps walked across a special place on the floor near the wall, and a huge piston shot down from the ceiling, timed perfectly to crush the second Imp like an insect. As the second imp was crushed, the evil fire that animated him escaped in a little yellow puff, which ignited the clothing of the first Imp, and by the time he was exiting the side door he was engulfed in flames, and nothing but a wisp of black ashes ever reached the inexaustable bin of whole chickens at the end of the tunnel. The next pair of Imps was dispatched in the same way, and the next, and the next. They died like clockwork mice being devoured by a clockwork cat.

The people in the meeting hall were overjoyed, and there was a murmuring of approval. This fantastic system of mechanically crushing and burning the Imps was certain to once and for all put a stop to their endless theft of whole chickens, and would certainly also inhibit whatever evil purpose the chickens might be being put to deep beneath the ground. Anything the dark forces would need to provide that much food to could only spell trouble for humans in the long run.

Everything seemed to be going well, when suddenly some beings who were not Imps burst through the back door, each carrying a different type of black box, and slammed the door shut behind themselves. One of the strangers, a man who carried a larger black box than the others, raised his box to his eye, and aimed a disc on the opposite end of the box around the room, at the mayor, at the steaming pile of crushed Imp, at various people. Another of the strangers stepped out with her black box at arm’s length and began asking a series of angry and provocative questions, without waiting for answers.

I, and several others immediately rose to move these strangers out of the way of the door, for they were blocking the passage of the Imps into our killing-trap. One could see the Imps building up in a heap atop one another through the crack in the door. They did not have enough of a mind among them to deviate from their paths, they could only push against the door and expect it to open.

The third intruder, defending the other strangers, leaped through the air, and wrapped himself around my shoulders, and for a moment I wrestled him before I was able to lift him and throw him atop one of the strangers, who he then wrestled with as vigorously as he had with me. Despite his human head and face, he did not seem to have a human mind or human intellegence to him.

Finally, after much confusion, the strangers were cleared from the room. Many of the people had gone after them, and I was left with only a few others to survey the wrecked metting hall. Our Imp-crushing piston machine had been destroyed in the fight, and now the door buldged and trembled with the surging mass of Imps in the hallway, pushing to get through.

I idly stood by the smear of crushed Imps on the floor beneath the now-stilled piston. They were so completely crushed, and there was so little inside their hollow shells except magic, that even after all the Imps that had been crushed, there were only enough scrapings to half-fill a bucket. I did notice one larger fragment, that had been thrown some distance when an Imp was crushed. It was an Imp’s claw, with it’s three fingers still twitching and clutching a small slip of card paper. I picked up the claw and the paper. The claw was red and smooth, and the backs of the fingers felt like the shells of beetles. I thought of how much Imps were like insects, just inflated to larger sizes and given proportions faces and clothing that were a sick parody of the shape of man. The piece of paper was a ticket. It was light-blue in color and had some runes printed on one side of it, saying something to the effect of “Work Ticket: 1 Whole Chicken”. I realized that I had noticed before that all the Imps carried such a ticket, but I had payed no attention then.

I was unsure what to do with the claw, so I carried it with me. I walked to the side door, and down the dark tunnel, treading in Imp-ashes. I reached the end, and looked curiously at the mechanized platform, and the red glow that came from far beneath it. Why not send the Imp’s claw back down there were it belongs? I mused. I took the claw, broke the larger of the three fingers away from the smaller two, and then tossed the pieces lightly onto the platform. It did not move. I then tore the Imp’s work-ticket in two, and let them drift down to the platform. Still, the platform did not move. I stared at it for a moment, and then reached down, and exerted downward pressure on the platform with my hand. When I reached the ammount of force that was probably equal to one whole chicken, the engines behind me clicked, and whirred, and the platform dropped out of sight.

Dusting off my hands, I started back up the tunnel. Up by the door I saw an alarming sight. It seems that the crowd of Imps had finally broken through the back door and had come flooding into the meeting hall, and they would now be pouring down the tunnel towards me in an impenetrable mass, were it not for the inititive of two small children. Just inside the tunnel, less than a meter from the door was a big metal plate in the floor. These children had lifted this plate, and had exposed a cluster of spinning gears which were part of the engine mechanism. As the stream of Imps entered the tunnel, they fell into this opening, and were ground up by the gears. However, the Imps were coming too fast, and had began to build up in the opening. I ran to the children, and helped them stomp down the Imps, putting pressure on the seething mass in an attempt to force them through the grinding gears faster.

When the last of the flood of Imps was in the hole, the two children leaped over the hole, and ran accross the meeting hall to safety. I also leaped across, but turned back to continue forcing the imps into the gears. I had to do this carefully, for the ones near the top bit and clawed and struggled, and if I pushed too hard or too deep, I risked getting my own hand caught in the whirring gears.

Suddenly, a sound came from the far end of the tunnel. The platform was back in its waiting position, and the red glow beneath it flickered brighter and brighter, climbing to a yellow glare.

Something was coming up the shaft.

I instantly regretted sending down the broken claw and the torn ticket. A break in the flow of Imps and whole chickens could be explained in any number of ways, and the dark powers would not be too worried about it, nor too swift in investigating. However, a purposefully broken Imp claw, and an evenly torn work-ticket could only have been taken as a message– a threat– a defiance, by whatever denzien of the darkness was down there on the receiving end of the platform. Something was coming up the shaft, and I had a terrible feeling that it was not just coming up to investigate, not just coming to wreck revenge, but that it knew very precisely what specific hand had broken that Imp’s claw and what had had torn that ticket, and that it was coming up for ME.

I grabed handfuls of Imps and Imp-fragments from the top of the gear-pit and tossed them down the tunnel, until the floor was soon littered with tottering squeaking Imps. I hoped this might confuse or slow the attackers just a little, but I did not put much hope in it.

I fled the tunnel, fled the meeting hall, ran down the stairs to the courtyard, and did not turn around until I was outside. many other people were there, percieving that some evil was approaching from within, they were preparing to fight, and I stood ready with them. I had my own ways of fighting, my own magic powers, but they were limited. I found myself wishing I knew how to throw fireballs or lightening bolts, rather than the simple spells I knew that all required me to touch my foes with my bare hands.

And there at the top of the stairs, the doorway to the meeting hall was for an instant filled with moving shapes, which resolved themselves into fiercly armed goblins, and many many screaming Imps that danced about their feet and poured down the stairs like rats.

The goblins parted, and three blue-robed gremlins walked past them and surveyed the humans waiting for them below. One was clearly the leader. His robes were finer and bluer, and his head was much bigger, and he wore a wild pointed hat. His face was greatly covered in yellow scars. His left eye, a small, round, green, magical eye stared arrogantly down, but his right eye did nothing, for it was not there at all. A big black patch covered the socket from whence I had stolen his right eye, the last time I had faced him. His left eye glanced upon my face, and he smirked evily, as if to say he had known he would find me here.

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