I'd like to preface this writing by saying that I am fully aware I've forfeited any chance I might've had of winning the competition by exceeding the word limit and by publishing my story unfinished. I'm going on vacation today and I don't have the time to finish this (not within the word limit, anyhow). I've still decided to post this in hopes that someone will read it and be kind enough to peer-edit. Hope you enjoy.
It seemed unkind to Max that the man received such brutal treatment. The guards, their uniforms once immaculate and blindingly white, now spotted bright red in places, wailed on the scrawny criminal relentlessly with their clubs. Each strike elicited a reluctant and pitiful cry of pain from the sinner.
"Please," the man begged them, his words punctuated by labored breathing, "forgive me. I'm not... I-I didn't mean to... I'm not with them!"
One of the guards, unmoved by the man's protests, dealt the transgressor a heavy blow. The collision of head and club made a sharp crack, and the man fell silent. Max could see a trickle of dark blood flowing steadily from the fatal wound over the corpse's matted hair. The spectacle, perhaps five minutes long in its entirety, was over. As the guards returned to their positions around the square, the crowd, whose attention had until then been held by the scene, began to move all at once, shuffling in different directions toward their original destinations. For many of them, this meant walking over the grimy, discolored sidewalk to reach work at one of the city's government compounds. Max, who at fourteen years of age was too young for such a job, journeyed instead to the nearby news station he delivered papers for. He arrived within minutes, yet as he opened the door to the station's lobby, his boss, a severe and unforgiving man, called out to him.
"Max," he began, obviously irritated, "you're late. Hasn't anyone ever told you that time is money?" Max mumbled a word of apology, hastily grabbed his paper stack for the day, and began his route, walking even faster than usual to compensate for the delay.
Despite trying to focus on appeasing his employer, Max couldn't help contemplating what he had seen in the square. He replayed in his mind with sharp detail the way the man had been sprawled out on the concrete, his limbs twitching with pain from the guards' blows. The man's words echoed in his head, spoken with such desperation that Max couldn't help feeling sympathy for him. Max, of course, knew what the man had spoken about, knew what crime he was so savagely executed for. The deceased had no doubt been unmasked as one of the unfortunate members of a clandestine organization supporting the enemy, supporting the goblins.
The war between humans and goblins had been taking place for as long as Max could recall, and as long as his father could recall, and his father's father as well. No one was sure when or why it started, only that the goblins were undoubtedly, indisputably the antagonists. Posters covering the sides of buildings hosted images of grotesque, savage goblin faces whose greedy eyes seemed to follow the passerby. Billboards displayed horror-inspiring artist depictions of the carnage brought about by goblin violence with captions underneath that said, "They did this." Before being capable of even spelling "goblin", Max had been taught that they were the enemy. For the longest time he had, on the surface, believed as everyone else believed. All his life, he told himself that he was on the right side of history. Unbeknownst to him until he saw the man's death, however, he subconsciously doubted what he saw, what he read. How was it possible, he now asked himself, that a government capable of dispensing such barbarity as slaughtering a man on the streets without further investigation or consideration of the value of life could be champions of morality? How could such monsters be in the right? Max completed his route mechanically while asking himself these questions, unsure what to think and how he would even go about supporting the other side should it seem appropriate to him. He was but a child, he told himself. He couldn't effect change.
As Max raised his hand to knock on the door of one of the last houses on his route, he was jolted out of his thoughts by a harsh rasping sound, unlike anything he'd ever heard. Then, a rough human voice issued itself from inside. Max was unaccustomed to crime, and heard his mother's voice in his head telling him entering a stranger's house without an invitation to do so was wrong. Then a louder voice, one quite unlike his mother's or even his own, spoke, urging him to open the door and discover the source of the hiss. Max grasped the metal doorknob, his fingers shaking on account of the daring act he was undertaking, and as gently as he could to avoid detection, he eased the door open.
First Max peered through the small gap he'd made between the door and the wall, hoping to get a peek of the noise's source. He could see nothing, however, aside from part of a bookcase lining the back wall of the room. He opened the door further, peeked, and could see nothing. He did this twice more before the door was half-open, and he took a tentative step inside, scanning the room around him. He had a brief glimpse of an oddly familiar disfigured face before he heard a shout and rough hands forced a crude sack over his head. The owner of these hands then pushed him along what must have been a hall, as Max gauged from the unobstructed length of his walk.
For what felt like hours, though was more likely minutes, Max sat, waiting for his captors' next action. He could hear them having a high-tempered conversation in the other room. Max felt tremendous guilt and fear at the situation he now found himself in and wondered if he would reach home tonight. Finally, he heard heavy steps thundering down the hall, slowly growing louder as their creator neared Max. The same large, calloused hands that had forced the sack onto his head now pulled them off. For a few seconds, Max was blinded by the light, then his eyes readjusted and he saw a tall, robust man standing in front of him, his arms crossed. Much to Max's surprise, the man's face, which contrasted greatly with his body, was kind.
"I will tell you this off the bat," the man began, his deep voice brought to occasional cracks by his state of nervous tension, "we are not going to kill you. We are not killers." This did not relieve Max, who had known from the second he saw the man's voice, just as he had known that he should enter the house, that he was not capable of murder.
The man continued, "I gather by your mailbag that you were here for a delivery. I assume you overheard my compatriot and took it upon yourself to investigate." Max nodded, impressed by the stranger's skill in deduction. The man's choice in words aroused Max's curiosity such that he found himself compelled to speak.
Max wondered aloud, "Compatriot?"
"Yes, compatriot. Jarskin!" the man called over his shoulder in the direction of the entrance room. A green, child-like figured, cloaked in shadows, slinked slowly towards Max and his captor, hugging the sides of the wall.
I'm not going to give away the ending of the story because I have every intention of finishing it later and would hate to ruin the surprise. Thanks for reading!