"Alyx is a perfectly healthy child. Honestly, Martha, I don't understand why you strain so hard to come up with things to worry about!"
"Mary! How can it possibly be healthy for a six-year-old child to talk about goblins all the time?"
"From what you've told me, she talks about one goblin, her friend who doesn't scare her. They play follow-the-leader and hide-and-go-seek and find-the-leprechaun. It's quite normal for children to have imaginary playmates."
"A normal imaginary playmate is a child your own age who does everything you want to do. A normal imaginary playmate is not an eight-inch tall gray-green goblin named... Gray-Green the Goblin!"
"So, you want your child to be creative, but not in any unusual way?"
Solemnly, Alyx set the cat carrier on its end in the middle of her room with the open door facing up, just like Daddy set it up when Mee-Mee needed to go to the cat-doctor. Then she spread paper and crayons out on the floor and began to draw. Soon Gray-Green's knobby, fan-eared head peeked over the sill of her room. For a few moments his big orange eyes watched the bright colors prance across the paper, then like a tumbling swirl of sticks and leaves the little creature eagerly swarmed over the sill and down beside his friend. He cuddled there contentedly and bent his head to one side with one ear unfolded upward, looking like a rather hideous cocker spaniel.
"Now I want to draw you," Alyx said, pulling over a blank sheet of paper. She patted the rug. "Stand right here so I see you head to toes."
The goblin bounced up to pose. And the little girl reached out, grabbed his ankles, hauled him upside down and dropped him head-first into the cat-carrier, slamming the door shut and flipping the latch. Then she plumped down beside him and gazed mournfully through the plastic grating at his puzzled face.
"I'm sorry, Gray-Green!" she wailed. "But Mommy says I have to keep my imagination under control!"
Several minutes later Gray-Green understood that this was not a new game and Alyx had no intention of letting him out of the carrier. He could let himself out with no problem, of course, but that wouldn't solve what he perceived as the basic problem.
Alyx ran outside to distract herself by a game of Hit Something With a Ball. Gray-Green began rocking the cat-carrier back and forth until it fell horizontally and he was no longer upside down (Alyx having forgotten this detail of what Daddy did with Mee-Mee.) The goblin continued rocking back and forth until slowly, awkward as its shape was, the carrier rolled underneath Alyx's bed. He then bided his time, making plans.
It was a day, and a night, and Alyx went off to the place called School, before Gray-Green heard the sound of the vacuum motor. He peered through the grating until two decorously shod feet approached the bed and the head of the vacuum was shoved under it. As it was pulled back for another pass, he rolled the carrier out to lay by the decorous toes, the viewing side facing upward. His claws clung to the grating and his grin stretched back to show snaggled teeth as overlarge for his head as his ears and his glowing orange eyes.
Mrs. Jenkins shrieked, dropped the handle of the vacuum cleaner, and ran.
Gray-Green burst from the carrier and loped after the screaming woman, pacing himself. Just before she reached the bedside table in the Big Bedroom, he scrabbled up the right-hand wall to drop in front of the phone, still grinning. She doubled back into the Little Room beside Alyx's room. Before he let her pass through there he had a merry time scuttering around miscellaneous piles of Things Put Out of the Way, knocking them into her way, or posing on top of them to grin at her. He did let her out of there into the dining room, where she headed straight through the living room toward the front door. He let her get within a yard or so before leaping to the ceiling, spidering across it, and dropping to hang by his hindclaws from the top sill of the door, grinning upside down. She turned back to head through the dining room to the kitchen phone. Her screams were beginning to get hoarse, and this time, although he scrabbled up the arch between the dining room and kitchen, he let her pass through just before he swiped his claws down past her hair. That extra bit of teasing meant he had to bound to get onto the wall beside the kitchen phone just in time to make her pull her reaching hand back as from a hot stove. She turned to the back door, but he was in front of it. Stumbling now and gasping for air, she headed to her last refuge, the laundry room. He hung back to let her reach it. He relaxed in the doorway, leaning against the lintel and gazing up where she huddled on top of the dryer and underneath the cabinets, peering between her knees, her housedress tangled around her legs and her arms pulling them tightly to her chest.
"Relax, Mrs. Jenkins," the goblin purred. "I'm just your imagination." His grin spread wider than ever, showing off all his over-sized teeth. "All you have to do is... control me."