The 31 Days of Hallowe'en - Shattered Like a Glass Goblin
- S h a t t e r e d L i k e a G l a s s G o b l i n
By Harlan Ellison
So it was there, eight months later, that Rudy found her; in that huge and
ugly house off Western Avenue in Los Angeles; living with them, _all_ of
them; not just Jonah, but all of them.
It was November in Los Angeles, near sundown, and unaccount-ably
chill even for the fall in that place always near the sun. He came down
the sidewalk and stopped in front of the place. It was gothic hideous,
with the grass half cut and the rusted lawnmower sitting in the middle of
an unfinished swath. Grass cut as if a placating gesture to the outraged
tenants of the two lanai apartment houses that loomed over that squat
structure on either side. (Yet how strange ... the apartment buildings
were taller, the old house hunched down between them, but it seemed to
dominate them. How odd.)
Cardboard covered the upstairs windows.
A baby carriage was overturned on the front walk.
The front door was ornately carved.
Darkness seemed to breathe heavily.
Rudy shifted the duffel bag slightly on his shoulder. He was afraid
of the house. He was breathing more heavily as he stood there, and a panic
he could never have described tightened the fat muscles on either side of
his shoulderblades. He looked up into the corners of the darkening sky,
seeking a way out, but he could only go forward. Kristina was in there.
Another girl answered the door.
She looked at him without speaking, her long blonde hair
half--obscuring her face; peering out from inside the veil of Clairol and
When he asked a second time for Kris, she wet her lips in the
corners, and a tic made her cheek jump. Rudy set down the duffel bag with
a whump. "Kris, please," he said urgently.
The blonde girl turned away and walked back into the dim hallways of
the terrible old house. Rudy stood in the open doorway, and suddenly, as
if the blonde girl had been a barrier to it, and her departure had
released it, he was assaulted, like a smack in the face, by a wall of
pungent scent. It was marijuana.
He reflexively inhaled, and his head reeled. He took a step back,
into the last inches of sunlight coming over the lanai apartment building
and then it was gone, and he was still buzzing, and moved forward,
dragging the duffel bag behind him.
He did not remember closing the front door, but when he looked, some
time later, it was closed behind him.
He found Kris on the third floor, lying against the wall of a dark
closet, her left hand stroking a faded pink rag rabbit, her right hand at
her mouth, the little finger crooked, the thumb-ring roach holder
half-obscured as she sucked up the last wonders of the joint. The closet
held an infinitude of odors -dirty sweat socks as pungent as stew, fleece
jackets on which the rain had dried to mildew, a mop gracious with its
scent of old dust hardened to dirt, the overriding weed smell of what she
had been at for no one knew how long - and it held her. As pretty as
pretty could be.
Slowly, her head came up, and she saw him. Much later, she tracked
and focused and she began to cry. "Go away."
In the limpid silences of the whispering house, back and above him in
the darkness, Rudy heard the sudden sound of leather wings beating
furiously for a second, then nothing.
Rudy crouched down beside her, his heart grown twice its size in his
chest. He wanted so desperately to reach her, to talk to her. "Kris ...
please. .." She turned her head away, and with the hand that had been
stroking the rabbit she slapped at him awkwardly, missing him.
For an instant, Rudy could have sworn he heard the sound of smocooe
counting heavy gold pieces, somewhere off to his right, down a passageway
of the third floor. But when he half-turned, and looked out through the
closet door, and tried to focus his hearing on it, there was no sound to
home in on.
Kris was trying to crawl back farther into the closet. She was trying
He turned back, on hands and knees and he moved into the closet after
"The rabbit," she said, languorously. "You're crushing the rabbit."
He looked down, his right knee was lying on the soft matted-fur head of
the pink rabbit. He pulled it out from under his knee and threw it into a
corner of the closet. She looked at him with disgust. "You haven't
changed, Rudy. Go away."
"I'm outta the army, Kris," Rudy said gently. "They let me out on a
medical. I want you to come back, Kris, please."
She would not listen, but pulled herself away from him, deep into the
closet, and closed her eyes. He moved his lips several times, as though
trying to recall words he had already spoken, but there was no sound, and
he lit a cigarette, and sat in the open doorway of the closet, smoking and
waiting for her to come back to him. He had waited eight months for her to
come back to him, since he had been inducted and she had written him
telling him, _Rudy, I'm going to live with Jonah at The Hill_.
There was the sound of something very tiny, lurking in the infinitely
black shadow where the top step of the stairs from the second floor met
the landing. It giggled in a glass harpsichord trilling. Rudy knew it was
giggling at _him_, but he could make no movement from that corner.
Kris opened her eyes and stared at him with distaste. "Why did you
"Because we're gonna be married."
"Get out of here."
"I love you, Kris. Please."
She kicked out at him. It didn't hurt, but it was meant to. He backed
out of the closet slowly.
Jonah was down in the living room. The blonde girl who had answered
the door was trying to get his pants off him. He kept shaking his head no,
and trying to fend her off with a weak-wristed hand. The record player
under the brick-and-board bookshelves was playing Simon & Garfunkel, "The
Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine."
"Melting," Jonah said gently. "Melting," and he pointed toward the
big, foggy mirror over the fireplace mantel. The fireplace was crammed
with unburned wax milk cartons, candy bar wrappers, newspapers from the
underground press, and kitty litter. The mirror was dim and chill.
"_Melting_!" Jonah yelled suddenly, covering his eyes.
"Oh shit!" the blonde girl said, and threw him down, giving up at
last. She came toward Rudy.
"What's wrong with him?" Rudy asked.
"He's freaking out again. Christ, what a drag he can be."
"Yeah, but what's _happening_ to him?"
She shrugged. "He sees his face melting, that's what he says."
"Is he on marijuana?"
The blonde girl looked at him with sudden distrust. "Mari-? Hey, who
"I'm a friend of Kris's."
The blonde girl assayed him for a moment more, then by the way her
shoulders dropped and her posture relaxed, she accepted him. "I thought
you might've just walked in, you know, maybe the Laws. You know?"
There was a Middle Earth poster on the wall behind her, with its
brightness faded in a long straight swath where the sun caught it every
morning. He looked around uneasily. He didn't know what to do.
"I was supposed to marry Kris. Eight months ago," he said.
"You want to fuck?" asked the blonde girl. "When Jonah trips he turns
off. I been drinking Coca-Cola all morning and all day, and I'm really
Another record dropped onto the turntable and Stevie Wonder blew hard
into his harmonica and started singing, "I Was Born to Love Her."
"I was engaged to Kris," Rudy said, feeling sad. "We was going to be
married when I got out of basic. But she decided to come over here with
Jonah, and I didn't want to push her. So I waited eight months, but I'm
out of the army now."
"Well, _do_ you or _don't_ you?"
Under the dining room table. She put a satin pillow under her. It
said: _Souvenir of Niagara Falls, New York_.
When he went back into the living room, Jonah was sitting up on the
sofa, reading Hesse's _Magister Ludi_.
"Jonah?" Rudy said. Jonah looked up. It took him a while to recognize
When he did, he patted the sofa beside him, and Rudy came and sat
"Hey, Rudy, where y'been?"
"I've been in the army."
"Yeah, it was awful."
"You out now? I mean for good?"
Rudy nodded. "Uh-huh. Medical."
"Hey, that's good."
They sat quietly for a while. Jonah started to nod, and then said to
himself, "You're not very tired."
Rudy said, "Jonah, hey listen, what's the story with Kris? You know,
we were supposed to get married about eight months ago."
"She's around someplace," Jonah answered.
Out of the kitchen, through the dining room where the blonde girl lay
sleeping under the table, came the sound of something wild, tearing at
meat. It went on for a long time, but Rudy was looking out the front
window, the big bay window. There was a man in a dark gray suit standing
talking to two policemen on the sidewalk at the edge of the front walk
leading up to the front door. He was pointing at the big, old house.
"Jonah, Can Kris come away now?"
Jonah looked angry. "Hey, listen, man, nobody's _keeping_ her here.
She's been grooving with all of us and she likes it. Go ask her. Christ,
don't bug _me_!"
The two cops were walking up to the front door.
Rudy got up and went to answer the doorbell.
They smiled at him when they saw his uniform.
"May I help you?" Rudy asked them.
The first cop said, "Do you live here?"
"Yes," said Rudy. "My name is Rudolph Boekel. May I help
"We'd like to come inside and talk to you."
"Do you have a search warrant?"
"We don't want to search, we only want to talk to you. Are you in the
"Just discharged. I came home to see my family."
"Can we come in?"
The second cop looked troubled, "Is this the place they call 'The
"Who?" Rudy asked, looking perplexed.
"Well, the neighbors said this was `The Hill' and there were some
pretty wild parties going on here."
"Do you hear any partying?"
The cops looked at each other. Rudy added, "It's always very quiet
here. My mother is dying of cancer of the stomach."
They let Rudy move in, because he was able to talk to people who came
to the door from the outside. Aside from Rudy, who went out to get food,
and the weekly trips to the unemployment line, no one left The Hill. It
was usually very quiet.
Except sometimes there was a sound of growling in the back hall
leading up to what had been a maid's room; and the splashing from the
basement, the sound of wet things on bricks.
It was a self-contained little universe, bordered on the north by
acid and mescaline, on the south by pot and peyote, on the east by speed
and redballs, on the west by downers and amphetamines. There were eleven
people living in The Hill. Eleven, and Rudy.
He walked through the halls, and sometimes found Kris, who womid not
talk to him, save once, when she asked him if he'd ever been heavy behind
_anything_ except love. He didn't know what to answer her, so he only
said, "Please," and she called him a square and walked off toward the
stairway leading to the dormered attic.
Rudy had heard squeaking from the attic. It had sounded to him like
the shrieking of mice being torn to pieces. There were cats in the house.-
He did not know why he was there, except that he didn't under-stand
why _she_ wanted to stay. His head always buzzed and he some-times felt
that if he just said the right thing, the right way, Kris would come away
with him. He began to dislike the light. It hurt his eyes.
No one talked to anyone else very much. There was always a struggle
to keep high, to keep the _group high_ as elevated as possible. In that
way they cared for each other.
And Rudy became their one link with the outside. He had writ-ten to
someone - his parents, a friend, a bank, someone - and now there was money
coming in. Not much, but enough to keep the food stocked, and the rent
paid. But he insisted Kris be nice to him.
They all made her be nice to him, and she slept with him in the
little room on the second floor where Rudy had put his newspapers and his
duffel bag. He lay there most of the day, when he was not out on errands
for The Hill, and he read the smaller items about train wrecks and
molestations in the suburbs. And Kris came to him and they made love of a
One night she convinced him he should "make it, heavy behind acid"
and he swallowed fifteen hundred mikes cut with Methedrine, in two big gel
caps, and she was stretched out like taffy for six miles. He was a fine
copper wire charged with electricity, and he pierced her flesh. She
wriggled with the current that flowed through him, and became softer yet.
He sank down through the softness, and carefully observed the intricate
woodgrain effect her teardrops made as they rose in the mist around him.
He was down-drifting slowly, turning and turning, held by a whisper of
blue that came out of his body like a spiderweb. The sound of her
breathing in the moist crystal pillared cavity that went down and down was
the sound of the very walls themselves, and when he touched them with his
warm metal fingertips she drew in breath heavily, forcing the air up
around him as he sank down, twisting slowly in a veil of musky looseness.
There was an insistent pulsing growing somewhere below him, and he
was afraid of it as he descended, the high-pitched whining of something
threatening to shatter. He felt panic. Panic gripped him, flailed at him,
his throat constricted, he tried to grasp the veil and it tore away in his
hands; then he was falling, faster now, much faster, and _afraid_!
Violet explosions all around him and the shrieking of something that
wanted him, that was seeking him, pulsing deeply in the throat of an
animal he could not name, and he heard her shouting, heard her wail and
pitch beneath him and a terrible crushing feeling in him....
And then there was silence.
That lasted for a moment.
And then there was soft music that demanded nothing but inat-tention.
So they lay there, fitted together, in the heat of the tiny room, and they
slept for some hours.
After that, Rudy seldom went out into the light. He did the shopping
at night, wearing shades. He emptied the garbage at night, and he swept
down the front walk, and did the front lawn with scissors because the
lawnmower would have annoyed the residents of the lanai apartments (who no
longer complained, because there was seldom a sound from The Hill).
He began to realize he had not seen some of the eleven young people
who lived in The Hill for a long time. But the sounds from above and below
and around him in the house grew more frequent.
Rudy's clothes were too large for him now. He wore only under-pants.
His hands and feet hurt. The knuckles of his fingers were larger, from
cracking them, and they were always an angry crimson.
His head always buzzed. The thin perpetual odor of pot had saturated
into the wood walls and the rafters. He had an itch on the outside of his
ears he could not quell. He read newspapers all the time, old newspapers
whose items were imbedded in his memory. He remembered a job he had once
held as a garage mechanic, but that seemed a very long time ago. When they
cut off the electricity in The Hill, it didn't bother Rudy, because he
preferred the dark. But he went to tell the eleven.
He could not find them.
They were all gone. Even Kris, who should have been there wmewhere.
He heard the moist sounds from the basement and went down with fur
and silence into the darkness. The basement had been flooded. One of the
eleven was there. His name was Teddy. He was attached to the slime-coated
upper wall of the basement, hanging close to the stone, pulsing softly and
giving off a thin purple light, purple as a bruise. He dropped a rubbery
arm into the water, and let it hang there, moving idly with the tireless
tide. Then something came near it, and he made a _sharp_ movement, and
brought the thing up still writhing in his rubbery grip, and inched it
along the wall to a dark, moist spot on his upper surface, near the veins
that covered its length, and pushed the thing at the dark-blood spot,
where it shrieked with a terrible sound, and went in and there was a
sucking noise, then a swallowing sound.
Rudy went back upstairs. On the first floor he found the one who was
the blonde girl, whose name was Adrianne. She lay out thin and white as a
tablecloth on the dining room table as three of the others he had not seen
in a very long while put their teeth into her, and through their hollow
sharp teeth they drank up the yellow fluid from the bloated pus-pockets
that had been her breasts and her buttocks. Their faces were very white
and their eyes were like soot-smudges.
Climbing to the second floor, Rudy was almost knocked down by the
passage of something that had been Victor, flying on heavily ribbed
leather wings. It carried a cat in its jaws.
He saw the thing on the stairs that sounded as though it was counting
heavy gold pieces. It was not counting heavy gold pieces. Rudy could not
look at it; it made him feel sick.
He found Kris in the attic, in a corner breaking the skull and
sucking out the moist brains of a thing that giggled like a harpsichord.
"Kris, we have to go away," he told her. She reached out and touched
him, snapping her long, pointed, dirty fingernails against him. He rang
In the rafters of the attic Jonah crouched, gargoyled and sleep-ing.
There was a green stain on his jaws, and something stringy in his claws.
"Kris, please," he said urgently.
His head buzzed.
His ears itched.
Kris sucked out the last of the mellow good things in the skull of
the silent little creature, and scraped idly at the flaccid body with
hairy hands. She settled back on her haunches, and her long, hairy muzzle
Rudy scuttled away.
He ran loping, his knuckles brushing the attic floor as he scam-pered
for safety. Behind him, Kris was growling. He got down to the second floor
and then to the first, and tried to climb up on the Morris chair to the
mantel, so he could see himself in the mirror, by the light of the moon,
through the fly-blown window. But Naomi was on the window, lapping up the
flies with her tongue.
He climbed with desperation, wanting to see himself. And when he
stood before the mirror, he saw that he was transparent, that there was
nothing inside him, that his ears had grown pointed and had hair on their
tips; his eyes were as huge as a tarsier's and the reflected light hurt
Then he heard the growling behind and below him.
The little glass goblin turned, and the werewolf rose up on its hind
legs and touched him till he rang like fine crystal.
And the werewolf said with very little concern, "Have you ever
grooved heavy behind _anything_ except love?"
"Please!" the little glass goblin begged, just as the great hairy paw
slapped him into a million coruscating rainbow fragments all expand-ing
consciously into the tight little enclosed universe that was The Hill, all
buzzing highly contacted and tingling off into a darkness that began to
seep out through the silent wooden walls....
"Shattered Like a Glass Goblin" copyright © 1968 by Harlan Ellison.
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