Chapter 1

Chapter 1

A Chapter by Angela Horst

It was one of those moments you take a step back from your life and ask: how the hell did I get here? I was standing in an aisle of my local grocery store, completely alone and feeling like an idiot pushing a cart full of cheap beer. Here I was: middle aged, hadn't shaved for a week, and contemplating how much dog kibble I could afford so that I didn't have to come back next week. I'll admit it was sad, but it was necessary. The guest at home in my basement wouldn't eat anything else, and I was obligated to attend to his every whim. Well, almost every. I grabbed three big bags of the store-brand dog food, hoping my guest wouldn't notice the change in quality. With how much beer he consumed a day, I doubted he would.

The checkout employee was as curious as they all were when I begrudgingly began stacking the booze and kibble. This was the part I hated the most. They always made small talk. Always. I was sure they were required to do so, but I was always quick to put on a frown to show I didn't appreciate it. Sometimes it worked. Most of the time it didn't. I tuned out her attempt at making a correlation between alcohol and dog food, glancing at her name tag as I let her finish.

“Listen, uh... Bambi.. just don't ask.”

Bambi didn't look offended, which made me think she got that request a lot. She only offered me an award-winning smile, nodded knowingly, and asked if I needed anything else. I did. I paid for several packs of Marlboro Red's, anticipating a long day.


Guinness is a gnome. Not one of those cheesy, fake-smiling gnomes you'd find in an old ladies garden, either. He's a gruff, no-nonsense gnome with a beard so long he has to part it and tie it behind him in a ponytail. His name isn't really Guinness. It's actually just a series of echoing clicks that sound like water dripping in a cave, and it goes on for almost a minute straight; we timed it once. I decided to name him Guinness since I don't have time to learn gnome talk, and he will do anything short of killing his brothers for a six pack of Guinness beer.

According to Guinness, he lived in a cave with nearly five hundred kin, and had never seen the light of day before ending up in my world. I created a veritable gnome paradise in my basement for him, complete with subterranean plants and cardboard boxes set up like a series of cave tunnels. It hasn't been easy, let me tell you. He'll only sleep on umbilicaria aprina, a rare lichen found in Greenland that I paid a small fortune for on eBay. Why do I cater to this craziness? Because Guinness is my invaluable side-kick.

I suppose I should explain what I do and why I have an ancient, subterranean gnome in my basement. In a nutshell, I get rid of nightmares. A nightmare exterminator, if you will. I'm not usually one to try and convince people of my validity -people are desperate enough to just trust that I can help most of the time- and I am finding it difficult to explain. The dream world isn't as inaccessible as most people think. Nightmares and fears can be overcome: for a small fee, of course. I'm not going to pretend I know the full process of why I seem to be the only one who can do it, but somehow it works and it's how I pay the bills and keep Guinness on his cushy, lichen-covered chair.

Guys like me aren't in the yellow pages, of course. It's all word of mouth, and most people who come to see me believe their friends that I can help. Guinness was a nightmare from an elderly lady that traveled all the way from Wales. He would rearrange everything in her house in her dreams, and it finally drove her OCD crazy enough to seek my help. He was one of the easier annoyances to get rid of, and to this day I can't figure out why he was the only nightmare that could travel back to the tangible world. I joke that he was too ugly for the spirit world to keep around, but he assures me that in his world, he was one of the more attractive gnomes.

“Store brand again?” Guinness asked in disapproval, flicking one of the bland nuggets into the trashcan in the basement.

I took a long drag on my cigarette and squinted at him in the gloom. He looked eerie with the amphibian lights I had to line the basement with, and not for the first time I began to doubt his self proclaimed attractiveness.

“If you haven't noticed, we haven't had a client in over a month. I'm also going to need to get the cheaper cat litter soon if we don't get work soon.”

Guinness scowled deeply and reluctantly chewed a mouthful of kibble. “Well, that's unfortunate. The cheap stuff gets stuck in my toes.”

“Yeah, I know.. I'm the one who needs to clean it up. Pretty soon you'll have to share the box with Bojangles.”

Bojangles is my manly tabby, and he doesn't take s**t from anyone. He's mastered that aloof presence and arrogant expression that most cats have, and people are only allowed to pet him, not obliged to. Cats have a way of noticing things that humans can't, and I take advantage of that fact by keeping him present with me at all times possible so that I'd never be taken by surprise. You never know what monstrosities could follow me back from a nightmare. Case in point: Guiness.

“I'm going to pretend you didn't just suggest that. Now.. why don't you advertise so I can get some quality food?”

“I'm sure people would have a field day with an advertisement for a man who hunts spirits.”

“It worked for Ghostbusters, didn't it?”

“That's a movie, Guinness. ...and stop watching my movies when I'm asleep. If someone looks in the window I'll have the Department of Fish and Game here faster than you can say your real name.”

I blew a ring of smoke Guinness's way, and he impatiently waved it away.

“I know it's a movie, but people got used to the idea, right?”

“I suppose.”

“Then do it. The movies about this kind of thing have gotten people used to the idea that the supernatural is out there. This is not the type of world you have to worry about most people thinking your crazy. They're desensitized to this kind of thing now.”

I rubbed the bridge of my nose and did what I usually did when Guinness started to make sense; I took a long drought of beer and waited for my buzz to kick in.

© 2011 Angela Horst

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A very good start. It got my attention well enough and made me want to read more. The chapter was well written and there were no noticeable mistakes. My only complaint is that it seemed to end abruptly.

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This is a very exciting first chapter, and you are off to a great start with a really great idea. this story has lots of potential. I love the first person narration - I use that a lot for my stories too - and the voice of the main character is perfect. you obviously have a handle on this guy and what makes him who he is. With this chapter you have set up the book nicely. The key to a great book is to hook the reader from the start and you have done this very well by setting a natural pace for the story. You don't reveal too much right off the bat. I suggest to keep feeding readers the details only as they need them. it's easy to overwhelm the reader in these kinds of stories by sharing everything you know, but if you just let them have on a need to know basis the tale unravels with more suspense and an unforced pace. I look forward to seeing where this goes. Awesome!

Posted 13 Years Ago

This sounds like an interesting book, though I wonder there's a catchier way of saying nightmare exterminator. It doesn't really roll off the tongue, does it? Over all, it was pretty good and I enjoyed it. Keep up the good work.


Posted 13 Years Ago

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3 Reviews
Shelved in 1 Library
Added on May 13, 2010
Last Updated on May 18, 2011
Tags: gnome, mythology, nightmare, dream world, dreams, comedy