Written for crtlcreep’s Invisible Networks 2022 challenge: “invent a social network each day”, today’s prompt: “Goblin Marketplace”.
“The Goblin Marketplace is that way. Assuming that you have ears on your head, you can’t miss it.”
The expression is not metaphorical: even if you were deaf, you would hear the sounds of the Marketplace. That is, assuming that nobody had cut your ears off. In that case, your ears would continue to hear it, but they wouldn’t communicate the sound to your brain.
Too bad you’re not a goblin.
The screaming tends to carry the loudest. Obviously, the Goblin Marketplace sells goblins. To help prove that the goods are authentic, there are campfires scattered around the marketplace, cut-off goblin heads roasting on top of them. They’re the ones who are screaming, for hours and hours at a time.
Next to the campfire, you’ll find a market stall. It’s staffed by the same goblin’s cut-off hands, or maybe just one of them, depending on whether the other one has sold itself yet. Most goblins are left-handed, so the right hand will go first, leaving the most important one to carry out the business.
If you are proficient in goblin tapping language, you can communicate with the hands directly, the two of you spelling out words by tapping patterns on each other’s palms. If not, you can bring your own translator, or employ one of the many hanging around the marketplace.
What’s usually for sale are the goblin’s feet, hands, and possibly the head, if it’s a place where heads are sold and it’s old enough that it wouldn’t regenerate a new body anymore. Or if you are willing to pay a lot of money. Otherwise, another goblin would pick up the head at the end of the day and go stick it to a spawning pool, letting it grow new body parts for sale.
The prices will depend on a number of factors, such as the goblin’s age, the part that you want to buy, and who the other owners are. Goblins will eventually die of old age, and any body parts will have the same age as the head they’ve been grown from. So a very old goblin’s parts might go for cheaper, since they won’t last for very long. On the other hand, an old goblin might have had the time to generate and sell quite a few body parts. They would then all be connected to each other, letting you send messages to anyone else who owned such parts.
Tap a message on a goblin’s hand, and your friend who owns another hand from the same goblin can have that hand tap the message to them. Or if one of you is lucky enough to own a head, you can send or receive messages by ordinary speech. A more common arrangement is to have one ear and one hand: you can tell the ear what you want to have sent, and receive responses from the hand. (It is unfortunate that just a tongue isn’t enough to talk: you do need a full head for that.)
Feet can also tap messages, though they tend to be slower. If for some reason you wanted to only send messages and didn’t need to receive them, you could buy a piece of a limb or the torso and tap messages on that, though usually such body parts are just sold for their meat. A goblin’s penis can express messages in a slow kind of Morse code.
There are many ways of using goblins. Often friends or family members who want to stay in touch with each other will arrange to buy parts of the same goblin. There are also goblins devoted to some topic, such as literature or gardening, who will let you stay in touch with other people who share that interest. Rich people may keep goblin heads in their homes, and hand out that goblin’s parts to anyone who wants to stay in contact with them.
At this point you might wonder, if all of the goblin’s parts are sold off for other people’s use, who gets the money?
In some places, it’s the goblin nobility. They don’t sell themselves, and instead just get rich selling off slaves or convicted criminals. The nobles tend to be rich and powerful, and can closely control their realms by spreading out their parts to all of their underlings and fellow nobles, thus maintaining lines of constant communication.
If you want a more ethical purchase, you can find a marketplace where the goblins own themselves. At such places, the heads are never sold. Instead, a goblin will just sell some of their parts every now and then, regrowing a body and going back to a normal life afterwards. Of course, this means that their parts will form a smaller network, though some of them elect to spend more time selling themselves in exchange for getting more money.
Such marketplaces will be more expensive, but at least you can rest assured knowing that the body part you are using as your communication device took on that role voluntarily.