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Goblin Gulch - The Curious Story of Milton, Nevada
#1
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Chapter 1: Before I fly away...


As most stories go, it was a dark night, as often such spun tales go, and as often as most nights do. I was on my last European vacation. The reason why it was my last... well, I know when I'm to depart this dusty orb to my celestial hereafter, but a-more about that later. I was to meet with someone of historical significance, in the fields of mathematics and physics - two learned disciplines which I'm sure will unlock great human achievements in the centuries to come, and unravel mysteries of the universe.

Why him you might ask? Well, when someone so deeply entrenched in the tall tales of Americana comes across such a grand tale as I had the privilege of witnessing for myself, one finds himself reaching desperately for someone, anyone who might understand my plight, and bring some sort of logical providence into such a far-fetched menagerie of the fantastical.

So here I was, outside the University of Zurich, Swiss cigar in my hand; an icon, I must add that pales in comparison to a fine-rolled Jamaican or any rolled in Hispanola or Mexico. His papers, which I were privy to; Brownian motion, special relativity, and the photoelectric effect would seem like grandiose science beyond my grasp, if it weren't for a colleague of mine speaking such babble in an event that... well for this 'young' author, borders on the fantastical fiction; an event that took me all the way from the tiny beleaguered town of Milton to San Francisco, around the Orient, up into the cradle of civilization itself, around the romantic Mediterranean and up to this bastion of high learning on the other side of the world.

I found the door to be quite imposing, huge Rhine Oak doors with wrought iron borders, but found the subsequent hallway within warm and inviting. It didn't take long to locate his office door. It was the only one in the hall open, alight, and alive with some activity. As I doused my acrid cigar against a outside brick, I sojourned inside, slightly intrigued by the 'click-click-clacking' that emanated from within.

What I had at first perceived as an office was instead much like a lecture hall, with eight large slates affixed to the walls, and a lone figure clacking a piece of chalk steadily against the surface, scribing out a mixture of Greek symbols, numbers, lines and mathematical symbols with the efficiency of a San Francisco telegraph operator.

"Dr. Einstein, I presume?" I spoke, thus realizing exactly how dry my throat was at that particular moment, revealed to the world as my throat cracked out the words with a cough. 

The figure, perched amid a ladder mounted on a track above the chalkboards slowly looked down upon me and smiled. Rather comically, and not to detract from the interaction, the tails of his coat made him and his lantern-diffused shadow appear as a murder of crows or ravens across the slate.

"Ah, Mr. Clemens... or should I call you Twain?" 


Chapter 2: A Good ol' Yankee in a Swiss Doctor's Court

His words while heavily accented with the Germanic-Swiss vernacular still held great regard for the English language. It was a relief that I didn't have to scour through my booklet of translations to at least speak with a man, because, well, some of what I was about to tell him, I wasn't entirely sure they had created a German word for it.

"Samuel will be fine, sir. I... I'm also glad that I didn't outrun my correspondence. It would be awkward, me being here before my letters announcing my intent arrived."

I searched his eyes to be sure that my letters actually HAD arrived first.

"Oh, ves, the letters came. I didn't quite know what to make of zem. You have a flair for the longwinded spin, sir, and in some parts of your letters, I truly, and I mean no offense, would have hoped you would have been more direct."

I nodded in personal reflection at the fact that I can go on and on, even in inner monologue. However, such long spins HAVE netted me a small fortune in my literary works. So, I lend myself to a greater power to judge my idiosyncracies. 

"Well, with what I told you, what do you make of it?" I asked, unsure if he considered the whole diatribe of emotional editorial I sent him a bunch of hogwash, or if there were any parts of it that caught his curiosity.

"Well..." Albert stepped down from his ladder. "First, let us go to the study, I dont zink I can focus on it with all the math on the boards, it's distracting me for a time now. Please..."

Albert led me straight away to a small parlor. As I stepped in, and smelt the faint odor of pipe tobacco, I smiled, pulling my cigar back out. Two small decanters of schnapps, two large cushioned seats, a fireplace, a pipe in one man's hand, and a cigar in another's; yes, this was the perfect scene for such dialogue. After a long draw from the pipe, Albert spoke first. 

"Well, I had ideas before of how one could move from one place, in space and time, to another. Zis event would be highly difficult. Even now, the math eludes me, but, theoretically, Space and Time MIGHT be traversed in such ways. Your letters said these... Emissaries? They simply arrived in a flash of light? Like a faint thunder of sound? Interesting. As I read the words, I thought 'Are ve sure he has ze right doctor? Dr. Freud would be most intrigued."

I laughed amidst a choke of a wrongly inhaled puff of cigar. "Yes, I'll admit, Even I questioned my sanity as the events unfolded. However, I'm a man of humanity, always excited by the technologies and advances of my fellow man, and I can't fathom how he did it, or if he didn't do it, what manner of illusion or charlatan's trick allowed us to BELIEVE he did it. But I saw it with my own spectacled eyes, The man flashed his hand wildly, and drew a scepter, waved it at a copper mine wall, and opened a doorway to another place."

"Interesting." Einstein spoke. "Ze doorway, did it have form? or was it like a curtain, a plane as thin as paper, with an emanation of light from its canvas?"

"Exactly." I extorted "Flat as a bedsheet, you could even walk around it, as though someone had simply cut a hole out of the world and hung the hole out to dry on the line."

Albert took another puff. "A bridge... A bridge of space, possibly space und time."
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#2
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Chapter 3: You'll excuse my candor but...



Albert raised an eyebrow as I pulled a few photos from my inner coat pocket and laid them on the small table between us. I pointed to the light on the otherwise stoic rock wall. A small particulate from my cigar fell onto the photo, which I quickly blew away, as to not mar the evidence that I was able to curate.

"See there? It's very hard to truly describe the light with a photograph. We had no repeating cameras, like the ones they have for the new-fangled motion-photography, but imagine if you will, a curtain, like this, where the image stirred like the waters of a lake. Not so caustic as say an ocean, but like a mild wind was racing across its surface, causing it to distort and shimmer, wave to and fro. I myself saw three of the eight of these portals and it didn't matter where the portals were, they all had the same luminosity, shimmering and shining as Providence's gates, but bearing no heat no matter how warm or alight the scene on the other side appeared. "

It would see I was beginning to win young Dr. Einstein over as he sat up a little more in view of the photographs. His eyes darted about the picture slightly, not so much as to appear maniac, but enough that I was sure he was about to take a cool swig of his schnapps to draw him back to his senses. As Albert indeed took a sip, a curl reached into the whiskers of my face and tugged the corner; the left one; of my mouth. "Aha? You see?"

Albert looked it over, and tilted his head ever so slightly. "Okay, Mr. Clemens... Samuel, tell me more."

"Well... As you may or may not know, there's a silver trade in the middle of Nevada, criss-crossing from the south to the west, across to the railroads, over to the old Deseret lands, to Salt Lake, and beyond. And well, in one week, no one in Milton cared about the silver. It was about monster hunting, plain as day, Terrible creatures of gargantuan size, some would call them giants, others titans... still others called them what I feel they were. Goblins."

"Goblins?" Albert scrunched his eyebrows. "vat are Goblins? Like from fairy tales?"

I knew that at this moment all scientific credibility I had thus far been able to tender may have been lost at my fantastical statement.
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#3
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Chapter 4: A modern day Atlantis
"You see my good friend, Milton was, how do you express the incredulity of such a place? Milton was beyond even our greatest advances. The silver trade, copper and even gold from the old Janson's Range brought hundreds... even thousands of souls into what was at first only a miniscule oasis on the long trek from Lubbock and Amarillo to San Francisco for the cattle traders. With the advent of Steam, more and more fantastical architecture and culture came to the thriving boontown. It turned from a few scant saloons and hotels to a veritable city in a matter of years. Steam powered. Hot water, cool bathhouses, A virtual 'Atlantis' of the modern times! I..."

I paused for just a brief moment, first to quaff another gulp of the Schnapps, and then to give my new colleague the benefit of a reprieve of my usual longwinded banter. It seemed that he had a bit of a reserved approach, leaning back in his chair to 'take it all in' as they would say. I then continued.

"I would dare say that if the events of September 7th, Eighteen hundred and eighty eight had not occured, Milton could have one day become another Chicago, or St. Louis, but malicious forces had set in motion events that would, well, ultimately lead to the downfall of the great city."

Albert paused, tilting his head with a bit of a quirky grin on his face. "Downfall?" He asked in one word, a definite contrast to the waterfall of verbal descriptions I had just orated for him.

"Downfall. Well, at first it started with the flashes of light in the skies north of Milton. Not like lightning or any desert St. Elmo's Fire, but something more. Photoelectric, I believe the term you used? Where lights can... emit, from two universal points?"

I had to admit to myself, that using such scientific terms in front of a well-educated doctor of mathematics and physics was like a layman telling a butcher how to get the best prime cut of steak from a cow, and the words coming out as though I had asked him to sliver it off of the hind-end of a horse.

Albert sat back up, and picked up his glass of schnapps. The glass in his hand hovered above the tiny leather-clad and dark mahogany table for what seemed like easily have a minute, before he sat it back down, opting to not sip for a moment. Instead he took a puff on his pipe that had been awaiting his inhalation for a while.

"You speak of light-borne electrical impulses... and say that someone caused the phenomenom to erupt with merely a gesture. Let's say for a moment I grasp what you're saying. The power needed to create such a thing, would be... well, it would be not possible with our current sciences."

Even though Albert's brain was stirring, I knew there was a tiny bit of dismissal in his truncated response.

"And of course..." he continued "You said that... goblins... were able to walk from another place into this world through..."

He paused once more, taking another puff of his pipe.

"... this curtain of light? Zat would mean that in the constant, two bound electrons that were allowing passability through the effect would have been allowing photovoltaic particles to interact with the electron, and were then spit back out from the same interact with ze bound electrons. A bridge, between places so to speak. In the furthest stretches this might be possible for light, or something without mass, but... Herr Clemens, I'm afraid I can't fathom any possible way that anything of tangible form could make such a journey."

I remembered one time, in my sojourns in New York, on a Broadway exposition, where someone had used mirrors and light to divert the image of a person below a stage to a ghostly apparition above the stage, viewable just on the other side of a pane of glass...

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#4
Chapter 5 - A Hundred for a Head, Thirty for a Hand


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But, as Einstein had said, this too was just light and shadow, nothing tactile or flesh and blood. I however felt the need to impress upon him as much as I could. This old man had been in a few scraps and although I must acknowledge the corn, I also knew where the potatoes were buried, so to speak.

"And that, Dr. Einstein, is why I sought you out, because on that ever fateful day of September 7, 1888; The day that the mountains flashed and the canyons growled, creatures of varied sizes did indeed march out from the caves and mines into our world. Not as simple phatoms of light and shadow, but as flesh... and blood, or what ichor those monstrosities used for blood. Led by a cruel manager of things most occult and..."

"Fantastical?" he responded with a chuckle. "You use the vord a lot, Herr Clemens."

I chuckled back, taking a puff of my cigar, since a quarter of it had been already consumed to ash.

"Well, yes, fantastical would be a good description, however, I was leaning on the words... Mythical? Biblical? Inconceivable? My good doctor, not since the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah had I any reference by which to judge those events. Fireballs in the skies? Banshees that turned hardened iron and copper mechinitions to rust and dust with but a scream, Savage weaponry that put old Colt's weaponry to pittance, Seven by Nine in comparison. At the first sightings, the assayers and even the Marshall of the town set our people upon the 'invaders', offering bounties for their heads, or hands..."

Albert chuckled, his face gaining a bit of humor and levity on its countenance. Perhaps he was understanding my plight, or maybe he was taking me for a bufoon and playing along to entertain this old adventurer on such a dark Zurich night. I did mention how dark it was outside, of course?

"Bounties, like the real old gunslingers, yes? Hang them high on the gallows, yes?" Albert actually laughed. "But, I must ask... why a bounty, on ze hands?"

My eyes grew wide. He didn't know. Despite their ability to walk through curtains of light, despite their monstrous size, the creatures - "They didn't have guns or firearms as you would think a well formed militia of the occult-like monsters would. At least not at first. No, they carried huge swords, more cleavers than say, a calvaryman's sabre. Huge axes that could topple even a mighty oak with but a few swipes."

Albert stopped me. "Like Paul Bunyan?"

I rolled my eyes. He was playing across my banter like a child skipping rocks upon a pond, the pebbles never dipping below the waves to get at the volume of the lake of my revelations.

"Needless to say, I had just arrived in Milton, looking as it were for source material for a new novel. I hadn't quite settled on a topic, or a story, but hearing of the advances in steam mechinations; flying ships and horseless carriages, a cargo train that ran without a track, I had to see such things for myself, and thus, as fate and perhaps an avatar of inspiration would have it, I checked into the Willingham Hotel and Saloon on September... 6th. "
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#5
Chapter 6: The Jam Between Ze Tarts

Albert paused, hearing the date. "So Vu saw the beginning, and witnessed ze end, but what about the .. how you say... ze jelly between the tarts?"

I chuckled at the slang, and began my usual oratory, being sure to add the structural pauses so that my new colleague could digest them like finger sandwiches, instead of the whole tartaned loaf.

"Artemis Calhoun Willingham was the owner and proprietor of the Willingham Hotel and Saloon. Situated right near the main railroad line, it was prominently featured, as though Willingham or one of his progenitors had struck a deal with the railroad to ensure it was the first proprietary establishment one would see upon exiting the coach. I wasn't one to take to laurels and roses, but I must say it did feel good to have the proverbial velvet carpet rolled out for me. He... Artemis, I mean, was a thinner fellow, with one of those needle-like goatees, a handlebar mustache, and slightly crazed green eyes."

Albert simply nodded. "Are Americans known for zose crazed looks? - a prolonged effect of living in wild places?"

I stopped for a bit of inner reflection, and couldn't deny that the further from civilization I had wandered, the more 'crazed' my fellow man looked. Perhaps a hint of desperation in their eyes, or perhaps paranoia? Lack of good relaxation and libation?

"What struck me odd at first wasn't his vest, or the scuffmarks on his otherwise polished boots, but to his periphery; two large men, each with an iron-cladding about their overcoats and clothes, marred and indented in places, as though the plates were tempered to actually repel or render negligible any shots fired at them. Piece-mail, so to speak. They had no facial descriptives, as both of their faces were hidden behind iron masks, save for spectacle-like panes of glass for their vision, and their ears. Why one would go to such lengths to protect their faces and leave the fleshy bits of their ears exposed to any errant buckshot is beyond me."

"Perhaps so ze could hear better? A mask muffles such things." Ah, Albert the astute.

"Ah, yes - Well, at any worth, they were each three portions of a man, standing at each of his flanks, with a stoic stance that even made me question whether I myself was a threat to the man. I looked back to the fine glass windows at the front of his taproom, before looking back with a slight confusion setting in upon my face. He assured me that his welcoming party was not for me persay, but that as of late, 'ruffians' had been beleaguering him, and went on to describe the main culprit, a silver exchanger, a Hessian by the name of Griegor Von Erhalt. In less time than it took for me to register the name, and inquire further, the two 'gentlemen' had taken my luggage and parcels and set them to a gilded cart, which was most expeditiously taken away to be gathered to my room."

Albert breathed a sigh. "Mr. Clemens? Ze light storm?"

I took a quick respite of schnapps to wet my tongue and lips and started anew. "I'm getting there, I'm getting there. As fantastical as those events were, it's important to set the stage. I dare say the problems in Milton were well established upon a foundation of greed and ambition, backstabbery and drama well before those monstrosities began to show their faces through the curtain of light."
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#6
Chapter 7: Pay No Attention to the Man behind the Curtain

"Once I had received my key to my room, which I must say, wasn't nearly as modest as I would have imagined at first, I began to do a bit of meandering; sight-seeing, so to speak. I found that the rail line ran in the south of the city, where the wood shanties and other 'Old Milton' establishments were. To the east were the stockyards and other places of industry, out of the sight... and smell of would be travelers. "

Albert nodded slowly, before tipping his pipe into the ash urn that sat to the side of the urn. I too looked at the stub that was once my cigar, and let it fall into the urn as well.

"Trust me when I say this, you would be blessed to stay upwind of those stockyard. To the north of the town, new houses and mansions set on cultivated yards, cobblestone streets and flagstone paths. Gardens and greenhouses, a verifiable oasis in the otherwise scant arid contrast of the rest of the state. And in the center? A stone edifice for their courthouse, and another for five buildings. An assayer's office, where folks would barter and trade on the price of gold, copper and silver, the aforementioned courthouse, a Bathhouse that took advantage of a warm spring from beneath the fair city. A place of education, like a college but... smaller, and of course, a church. I believe at the time, there were plans for a library as well, but... "

"The downfall.." Albert sighed, raising an eyebrow. My long-windedness had got the better of me, as I watched his countenance grow weary of the appetizers, eager to savor the meat, or... get to the dirt of the matter at least.

"Yes... " I inhaled. "The downfall. Needless to say, the curse that comes with any plot of ambition is that there is always someone who wants you to fall. Even before the mosters started coming out of the caves, people were taking sides against one another, with secret plans to watch those others wither and die as they prospered. Anyway. September 7th..." I adjusted myself in my seat.

Albert, as though like a pantomime, mimicked my adjustment.

"I can tell you the one who led them was human. Or at least human-like. He commanded them, strategized with them. After the lightning storm, they poured out and went after the first thing they could, a cattle range of one Wyatt Janson. I would dare say that was a good strategy... food and provisions for the troops so to speak. But well, Janson didn't take to the idea of his cattle being dragged off to the caves... So, he hired men to take over the threat, confusing the goblins for a local native tribe. I was not privy to the exact travesty that befell Janson's men, but I DO know on the next night, the Goblins attacked a few other farms, wearing the clothes that the Janson roustabouts had on, and well... you can imagine the confusion and misidentification that ensued."

"Oh my... this does not sound like simple and mentally inferior monsters, but more and more like an invading army." Albert nodded.

"Yes, and invade they did. They started attacking the ore shipments from the copper mines, the silver and gold, and with it, were able to start curring alliances with certain folks, people who were gullible enough to believe that once the monsters had finished their claims of power, they'd simply leave those that stood by them alone, save for the occasional parlor and tea. But I digress. Alliances indeed were made, mistakes made and well all we could do was watch the town fall asunder."

Albert nodded slowly... "Let's say that I believe there's a remote possibility that people could enter a curtain of light from one place and arrive in the other. Did you hear of anyone... going back?"

"No. It was as though God himself was barring us from entering the curtain."

"Us? So... So you went into one of these caves? And tried to enter one of these portals?"
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#7
Chapter 8: The Serb?

I glanced at the diminishing ration of schnapps in my tumber and then to the bottle. With nonchalance, my host acquiesced my yearning for a refill. 

"Well, as it were, in cosmic happenstance, a Serbian man... his name may misfire in my neurons at the moment, possibly an effect of this good Schnapps you so generously have provided - He seemed to believe that by alternating, and re-polarizing the current of photoelectric current being passed through the curtain we could... flip the switch so to speak, and make the curtain traverse one from our world to the other, one way - to stop the would be invaders from gathering reinforcements to brutalize our vastly underprepared world. The Serbian thought that if he could do such things, it would be up to us to then drive the creatures back into the curtain where they would, we hoped, be sucked back into their dominion to stay."

"Vait... Vait... so you were ze... lab rat? The risk if it didn't work?"

"Well." I had to admit, the idea seemed much grander and foolproof before this current inquiry. "It was going to be him, pulling the switch, polarizing the effect, and then us walking through, and then him pulling the switch again and us walking back, just a proof of concept. The curtain seemed to only work in one direction regardless, so either the experiment was going to work, or it wasn't. If it worked, I would have been able to cross the threshold as entering a posh bathhouse, with no issues. And if it hadn't, well... I would have embarrassed myself by walking into a wall. Which, at first... I did."

"So the Serbian was wrong, it didn't work?"

"Oh no, Herr Doctor, I never said it didn't work, just not the first time, for me. Samuel Clemens on that day did NOT cross the thresholds of time and space, taking part in the grandest adventure of all time. But, someone... well someone did. I pray someone did."

Albert Einstein raised both eyebrows. "Why do I feel that, when you say someone did, there is a bit of sadness in your recollection, Mr. Clemens?"

I sat my tumbler down, tapping its rim with a finger.

"It was set in historical verse and, quite officially regarded that the city of Milton was swallowed into the brittle motley of sand and shale, a victim of rampant mining throughout the town, but in actuality, it was the sacrifice of one Hank Morgan and his allies that fateful day that caused the invasion to end, that rendered the doorway between our world void, and ended the chaos of the 'Goblin Gulch'... I commemorated Hank's sacrifice by writing a novel, telling his story how I wanted it told, making his ending better, so to say."

"A good sentiment" He nodded, a tinge of a knowing smile on his face.

"And of course, The Army, as well as the damnable Secret Service pretty much demanded that no one speak of the real story of Milton Nevada. They washed the whole thing up like yesterday's textiles, and to this day have quartered off an area of Nevada as to dissuade any from entering. They destroyed the land's scant resources, and with no potable water, or land that could grow anything, the people moved out and away and for the most part forgot about Milton, forgot about Hank, and the others whose story only now lives in the minds of those who by Providence, were lucky... or ill-fated to have witnessed them. Some of those people deserve to be remembered... others, well, others are probably better off where they are, in unmarked pits of sand, with nary a headstone to mark their earthly husks. My novel as well, couldn't speak of goblins or the savagery of what they did. SO... I did what any good adaptable author would do, and simply gave the literary version of Hank a good ol' conk on the head, and set him off on his glorious verbal adventures... the origin of which as far removed from Nevada as geographically I could muster."

Albert nodded with a bit of a smile still present, and rose from his chair. He walked across his study to a recessed bookcase, and drew out a book that I immediately recognized from the blue spine and silver lettering. He set my copy of 'A Yankee in the Court of King Arthur' down on the table. "I must ask. if all is corrected, and all is done as you say, then why seek me out now? Simply for a logical stance on the mystery of your ill-fated town?"

I shook my head slowly as I ran my finger down the spine of the book. "No, no... The reason I asked about the forces behind what would cause such a thing were, well... two weeks ago, as I sojourned through San Francisco, on my way to your very doorstep, a newspaper article caused a stir within me and a cold sweat. The article spoke of a freak lightning storm in the mountains east of that gilded city, and the next day, reports of savages butchering cattle nearby. I feel that if something is not done soon, San Francisco may suffer the same fate as Milton Nevada. 

"Well, let's make sure zat it does not, Herr Clemens." Albert pulled his hat from the top rung of a nearby coatrack, his coat, and then an umbrella, as though we were preparing for a trip. "Contact your Serbian friend as well. I feel his expertise may be warranted if vat you say is true."


- The END ... For now. -
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#8
After the events of Goblin Gulch, Samuel Clemens DID write his novel "A Yankee in King Arthur's Court", letting Hank Morgan live on within an immortal tome.

Albert Einstein went on to great notoriety, his theories on Time and Space, Relativity, and more captivated scientists and physicists for centuries.

And the Serb? Well, After the success of Nikola Tesla's reverse polarity, his patent for a derivative device was picked up by Westinghouse, much to the chagrin of one Thomas Edison.

And San Franciso? Well... a year later, the events that were foretold could very well have been responsible for the death of thousands and the destruction of the Pearl of the Pacific.


(And you should know, this work of fiction is in no way truly tied to real historical events, and any correlation to them should simply be abandoned, and this interaction enjoyed for the historical satire that it was.)
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