~ a short story

Peter awoke to find his head wracked with pain and his mind with confusion. Searing, sizzling pain brought synthesis to his awareness. And the realization that he’d been defeated. A green gas puffed out of his lips. His body wasn’t responding. Sensation shimmered and faded from his half-conscious state.

“Wake up little spider. Wake up. No, you’re not dead. Not yet. Just paralyzed temporarily.”

The words crackled out of a mouth that was familiar. But the voice, the words, they stung like daggers. Shredded through his psyche unlike any person he knew.

It was him.

The image of the Green Goblin muddled into view. Exhaust smoke wafted from steel tubes along the ruddy surface of a three story somewhere in Hell’s Kitchen.

Peter’s skin tingled with anticipation. But the danger was not mortal. Not yet. He remembered Jameson’s office from before. Goblin had Jonah by the throat…

Jameson didn’t sell me out!

Then there was his intervention. The gas — 

“It’s no use Spider-Man. I’ve got you for the next six minutes…”

Goblin paced before Spidey’s utterly vulnerable form. It was well into the night, day when the attack on the Daily Bugle building occurred. Streets below hummed with the activity of millions of New Yorkers fiending for late night fixes of one kind or another. Peter lamented. Missing my patrol… He kept my mask on… Why?

Still unable to raise his arms, Spider-Man put his mind to work. Who *is* the Green Goblin?

“You’re an amazing creature, Spider-Man. You and I are not so different,” said the Green Goblin.

“I’m not like you,” returned Peter groggily yet instantly, barely more than a whisper. “You’re a murderer.”

Goblin shrugged. “Well, to each his own.” Peter could feel his smirk underneath the mask. The metallic emerald sheened with the splendor of the night’s aura, the moonlight from a clear sky. He wondered at who the mad man was underneath that mask.

“I chose my path, you chose the way of the hero,” Goblin said.

Peter sat and listened. His muscles twitched weakly.

“And they found you amusing for a while, the people of this city.” Goblin raised his finger, his voice became sharper, more incisive with every syllable.

“But the one thing they love more than a hero — is to see a hero fail. Fall. Die trying… In spite of everything you’ve done for them, eventually they’ll hate you. Why bother?”

Peter took a deep breath in through the microfibers in his mask. He studied Goblin’s eyes with their tinted glass coverings gone. There was much more than mere madness in the man’s eyes.

“…Because it’s right,” Peter managed to spit out.

Goblin moved closer. His suit was strong. Spider-Man’s fists could attest to that. But as he watched him saunter over to him — sensation screaming for him to fly while his body could not comply — Peter saw the material was nearly as light as air. Before, in their fights at the celebration, at the Bugle, Goblin maneuvered on the glider with ease.

The suit lets him move as fast as me. He won’t be easy to beat…

Goblin slapped him on the head, lazily, playfully. Peter furrowed a brow. His enemy leaned casually against the arched glass to his side. Spidey couldn’t do a thing to him.

“Here’s the real truth. There are eight million people in this city, and those teeming masses exist for the sole purpose of lifting the few exceptional people onto their shoulders.” Goblin tapped him on the shoulder, crouched down slow to make his words land.

“You, me. We’re exceptional.”

Peter looked forward, turned his head away. Resistance came with such simple motion, as pitiful as it was. To reply with words would be folly.

Goblin’s eyes narrowed as he studied his reaction through the suit. Gloved fingers raised his chin to face the daemonic green mask. He purred out the threat as he pressured his jawbone with unnatural strength.

“I could squash you like a bug right now. But I’m offering you a choice. Join me! Imagine what we could accomplish together… what we could create.” Goblin paused in apparent wonderment, then came disgust.

“Or we could destroy! Cause the deaths of countless innocents in selfish battle again and again and again! Until we’re both dead. Is that what you want?”

Goblin moved to jump onto his glider. Peter leaned forward, willing his body to a leap that would not come.

“What would you ever create, Goblin?” Spider-Man asked.

Sardonic, with a dose of mockery that he wanted the Goblin to feel. He kept all sincerity from his tone. Goblin’s glider powered down, settled back into place near the chimney.

Hands on his hips, Goblin leaned back into a raucous laugh. It went on for so long that Peter almost joined in too. Spider-Man tensed. He awaited Goblin’s response.

“Do you know why I wear green?”

“Don’t answer a question with a question, old man,” Spider-Man said.

Goblin lunged forward, arms raised. Peter flinched; Spider-Man didn’t.

“Come on, Spider-Man. Guess,” the Goblin sizzled his whispers from out of those silver fangs.

“Green is the color of greed. Envy. Goblins. You’ve got shades of all three.”

Goblin chuckled. “Try nature.”

“W-what?” Peter stammered, caught off guard by the word, his answer.

“Green is also the color of Mother Nature,” Goblin reiterated.

Spidey snorted, “Never saw you as a green thumb. Aren’t you neglecting your azaleas right now?”

A frown solidified underneath the mask’s toothy grimace, the Goblin’s eyes glazed over with an uncanny determination.

“Forty thousand years of evolution and we’ve barely even tapped the vastness of human potential.” Spidey could hear his knuckles bracing under the padded gloves of his suit.

“Is that what you want, Goblin? A new humanity, empowered by your technology, evolved by your super drugs — 

“Plant medicine!” Goblin snapped.

Spidey could suddenly move his neck, roll his shoulders. He did his best to hide it. “And what might Mother’s medicine do for humanity? Make it easier for people like you to hurt innocents, to wage war…” Peter spoke through gritted teeth. He would not let witty banter with a villain like this, no matter how much common ground they may have, turn him. Peter forced himself to remember all the people he’d hurt, the lives he’d taken.

“Innocents?” Goblin scoffed. “Look around you. This is New York City. The jewel of an empire soaked in more crimson than your pretty little suit…”

“Those people you killed didn’t hurt anyone!” Peter argued.

“Oh, but didn’t they? Oscorp oversees a vast array of inhuman machinery and human misery, all over the world and back here, too. War. Imperialism. Exploitation. Control. Those who wield the most power bathe in the most blood… Rest assured Spider, they got what they deserved.”

Oscorp! Peter exclaimed inside. That’s right. Handful of the casualties from the event were the board members from Oscorp. Nothing left but bones and dust. They were targeted by his tech, no collateral kills. Goblin is connected to Oscorp, wants revenge…

“The world is a complex place,” Spidey returned, unsure of what to say to keep the conversation going. Maybe I can pry out more, actually figure out who he is right now.

“Not so, Spider.” Goblin looked out over the midnight skyline, the gleaming billboards and dotted, golden towers aflame with sleepless laboring. Goblin shut his eyes, urged the moment of reflection upon Peter too.

“Take it in. Use those special senses. Understand the system you serve. The people that you ultimately protect. Yes, there are innocents. They’ll die like they do every day! But what I’m here to do is much more important than a few worthless lives along the way…”

“There are no worthless lives!” Peter Parker shouted, his voice coming back.

Goblin opened his eyes wide, stared through Spider-Man’s soul, bubbled out the grim reply in a deep tone, “There we disagree.”

“Violence is never the answer,” Spider-Man said.

“It is for what I want… Heh, as if you abide by that sentiment yourself.”

Goblin paced, took a heavy breath, then turned to the prostrate hero again.

“You wanna know what I really want, Spider? Change. Revolution. Want to understand what I wish to create? A new world. A world upside down! I am here to kill the tyrants and return the Earth to her people. That is why I dress in green.”

“Even if it means becoming a tyrant yourself,” Spidey spat. Sense returned to his fingers. His mind raced for angles, tactics, plans of attack. The glider still hovered a step back from him. Need to get him away from that… Take his sight, crack his jaw.

“A goblin is never a tyrant,” he barked with sudden ferocity. “An assassin, a jester, a bomb, yes… but never a king.” Goblin shuddered underneath his suit, words barreled down from his throat at an octave lower than before. Spidey tingled with insight. He suffers from psychosis…

“You’re delusional, Goblin,” Peter winced, an unmistakable concern in his voice. The words weren’t a slight. Peter wondered at what kind of affliction came with the Goblin’s powers, all while Spidey surreptitiously thumbed at his web slingers. He could nearly reach them to fire. Peter was eternally thankful no such chemical imbalance came packaged with his own powers. Or so I think…

Goblin’s tone shifted again suddenly; the elder studied his open palm with an unnerving grace. “Mythology pits the goblin as a force of nature. They have a responsibility to the world… I must be reckoned with!” he screamed from the roof.

“The goblin is chaos incarnate; the goblin does not lead, but reveals, revolves, revs up revelations for the people below. Goblin makes Man see his choices, his sins.”

Goblin’s words shimmered and echoed through the cool New York air.

“I don’t want to kill you, Spider-Man,” he finished with a crack in his voice.

“And you’re here to absolve us?” Spidey feigned absently, with a not-so-hidden urgency bracing his whole body for coming action.

“Precisely,” Goblin whispered gravely. He looked down at his enemy, squared against him.

“Guess it’s up to me to absolve yours!” Spider-Man exclaimed.
“Attaboy,” Goblin gurgled.

With that, Spider-Man jumped into action, finally free from the nerve agent. He used his left to fire a surprise web attack intended to blind. It landed true, stuck over the goblin mask’s left eye before the glass covering could shutter down; the other stared back with a fearful … grace. Spidey’s strength nearly failed from the murderous intensity of that glare as he delivered a right hook toward Goblin’s elongated mouth.

His sense tingled with a terrifying intuition. This was the first moment in Peter’s short career as a hero that he struck with less than certain intention. It was the first time he engaged in battle with the prospect *not* that he may lose — but that he may not deserve to win.

Why? Peter and Spidey questioned with no discernible answer.

The Green Goblin cackled with glee as he took one punch, two punches. The laughter grew uproarious, truly maddening as Spidey delivered a third. It all halted to silence as Goblin finally caught his pummeling knuckles with his left. Full stop, all momentum stalled. That single, rotten eye bore down. Peter’s bones crunched under the grip of the Goblin. With the same motion, Goblin cracked his right hand across Spider-Man’s mouth, knocking the wavering hero instantly unconscious again.

Goblin sighed with a glance down at his defeated foe, the boy’s choice seemingly made.

Maybe not… Goblin thought. Reason requires evidence. Even madness needs a cause. Villainy can be just… The bug’s own violence is proof of that.

The Green Goblin saw the world then as his foe saw it; Norman Osborn thought of theory, of the ongoing crimes and secret history of the corporate behemoth he spent the better part of his life building.

Norman thought of the kid underneath that suit, of his heart’s many possible paths. And responsibilities. Goblin schemed fresh plots to exploit them, to turn his heart into the revolution he envisioned.

Norman, the Goblin, hopped onto his purring glider. With one last look at the one and only Spider-Man, he left a whisper on the wind before departing,

“I’ll make a goblin out of you yet.” ~