“The goblins who haunt the synagogue hate Hanukah,” the little girl explained to Sam, all seriousness. Sam was kneeling and he still had a foot on the tyke as he listened to her tale of woe with total wide-eyed sympathy; Dean could practically feel the ovaries of all the women in the room yearning towards him, regardless of the fact that Sam was a goy. “They blow out the candles and break the dreidels! They throw the latkes on the floor. It’s a curse.”
“Don’t worry,” Sam told her. “My brother and I will help.”
Outside on the sidewalk, ignoring the masses of people bustling by, Dean grabbed Sam’s jacket. “Goblins? You know we’ve never done goblins, dude. You have any idea how to get rid of goblins? And are Jewish goblins different from regular goblins?”
Sam gave him that ‘Dean, you’re a solid mass of –isms’ look he’d perfected over the years, even though it was a totally legit question given the variety of different culturally specific baddies they’d iced in their careers. “I don’t know, Dean, are you going to help me with the research?”
Dean didn’t dignify that with an answer. Sam could be a bitch in the library as easily as anywhere else.
So, while Dean went to the corner deli and had himself an awesome sandwich, with pickle and slaw and cream soda, and chatted up the locals to confirm the girl’s story, Sam had his own kind of fun in the synagogue’s collection of folklore. Of course the adults wouldn’t admit to believing in goblins, but the list of horrible things that had happened to people in the area who’d been celebrating Hanukah last year was definitely long enough to trigger Dean’s suspicions. The police were saying it was some kind of hate crime. Maybe there was a neo-Nazi with a summoning at the back of it all, but Dean was betting on the supernatural as the weapon of choice, since according to the people in the deli the police hadn’t found any accelerants or other signs of tampering at the houses that had burned down from kitchen oil fires or candles gone wild. The guy behind the meat counter said it was a cold case, and that they were setting up patrols of their own this year, but he didn’t sound confident that they’d catch anyone.
Dean was an excellent big brother and got a corned beef on rye to bring to Sam in the motel. Sam sniffed, but he ended up eating the whole thing along with the side of applesauce, licking his spoon like a little kid, and Dean was even more excellent and didn’t demand to hear what Sam had found out until he was done.
Sam sat back at last, rubbing his stomach absentmindedly. Dean gave himself another mental high-five. For all his obsessive workouts, Sammy was still a bad eater, and Dean always felt better when he saw Sam well-fed. “Okay, so we have to spend eight nights in the old synagogue, lighting the candles each night, reciting the blessings, and keeping them lit despite the goblins’ attempts to quench them. Except on the last night, we have to get the king of the goblins to light them. It’s the only way to banish them.”
“How are we gonna do that, Sam?”
Sam shrugged. “Legends say that goblins can be tricked.”
Dean frowned. “Uh, I’m not sure I’m up on goblin riddles or whatever. And I’m sure you’ve got that covered, Sammy, but—” Sam was doing a lot better, yes, but that meant Dean would trust him not to break down in a firefight. Witty rejoinders required a lot more mental effort than that.
Sam sighed, not needing Dean to finish that sentence. “The texts also suggest that goblins are afraid of physical force. They’re on record as hard to kill, but historically they didn’t have many shotguns in the shtetl.”
Modern weaponry versus ancient evil—yeah, Dean liked the sound of that. Dean could definitely hold a gun to the goblin king’s head and see how long he resisted lighting a few candles. And if he didn’t respond to threats, there were always knives. “Wait a sec. Will the blessings work if we say them?”
Sam got his ‘things Dean’s not going to want to hear’ face—yes, okay, Dean had an extensive list, which was appropriate since Sam had an impressive repertoire of annoying faces—and said, “Holy water and exorcisms worked just fine for you back in the day.” Meaning: back when you said you didn’t believe in God and had no direct evidence either way, and if Christian rituals worked for you there’s no reason Jewish ones won’t too, right? Like Sam was maybe expecting Dean to confess that he’d really believed all along and was just hiding it out of bravado. Well, fuck that noise.
“Fine, then,” Dean said shortly. “Guess it’s time for you to learn some Hebrew.”
As it happened, they both memorized the prayers, because there was every chance that Sam would get caught up in the goblin fight, and it’d be awfully stupid to lose the opportunity to banish evil goblins just because Sam got choked or knocked out or otherwise silenced as he so often did (but never when Dean just wanted him to shut up, sadly) during their fights.
And it turned out that, yes, goblins blew apart quite nicely if you sighted right. Tiny things, though, a lot like Gremlins, only creepier. Huge matted crests of hair on their heads, stiff as dried wood. Good thing Dean was such a fine shot. (Sam got a couple of them too.) They even managed to capture one in a box, as practice for making the Goblin King do their bidding. Unfortunately, all it did was bounce around, screaming Yiddish curses—Dean didn’t understand all the words, but he knew a curse when he heard one. That also put the definitive kibosh on the whole ‘trick them’ thing, since even Sam would have trouble smooth-talking without a lick of comprehension on either side. The trapped goblin didn’t seem threatened by the guns; Dean thought it didn’t even recognize them. In the end, they had to put it out of their misery like the others.
“Maybe the King is smarter?” Sam said dubiously.
On the last night, they got set up as they had on the other nights, each on one side of the menorah, candles all at the ready. The synagogue creaked and settled around them in the way of old buildings.
The Goblin King exploded out of the floor, sending chunks of tile in every direction. Turned out that ‘Goblin King’ was like ‘rat king’—it was a mass of little goblins working as one giant body, disgusting squared. There was even a goblin hanging upside down between its legs, its extra-long crest looking exactly like a swinging dick.
“How are we going to get that to light the candles?” Dean ground out as he reloaded his shotgun. The little goblins started fighting under their own power when you shot them off the main goblin, which meant that it was kind of like playing a video game with added mortal peril.
“Don’t know,” Sam panted. “Ammo?”
Dean was running low as well, but he tossed a couple of shells over to Sam. If they didn’t figure out what to do fast, Dean was going to be reduced to lighting the candles and shoving them down the King’s throats, even if that meant it wasn’t banished forever.
Wait a second.
“King has to light the candles, that’s what it says?”
Sam didn’t stop firing. “Yeah.”
“Okay, cover me.” Dean dived for the King’s feet, two seething masses of hissing minigoblins. He reached up and grabbed the dick-goblin’s shoulders, pulling it out. The King screamed with every mouth, so he figured that must’ve felt something like getting kicked in the balls.
Reversing course, and squeezing the goblin against his chest with his jacket as a barrier against most of the bites and gouges, he got himself back to the menorah. “Hope this works,” he muttered to himself as he picked up the lighter.
The dick-crest burned like kindling. The goblin’s screeching and wriggling amped up as Dean used its head to light the first candle, then the others. (The other nights, Sam had done it the ordinary way, at least according to Sam’s narration, using the candle out in front to light the rest, but Dean wasn’t taking any chances—this little bastard was going to light all the candles.) The crest was nearly burned down to the goblin’s scalp by the time Dean finished the ninth, but it didn’t manage to put itself out, and as the final candle flared to life there was an enormous boom.
Dean found himself holding a handful of slick, rotten-smelling goo, and when he turned he saw that Sam had gotten himself a faceful of the same, which was almost awesome enough to make up for his own beslimedness. The synagogue was a mess, and the residents might not think that Sam and Dean had done them any favors—but there weren’t going to be any more mysterious fires.
He went to the table or altar or whateverthefuck was in front of the menorah and found a clean patch of cloth to wipe his hands on, then went to offer the same to Sam, who was flailing around and spitting. “Hey, Sam,” he said, guiding his hands to the fabric, “talk about a Hanukah miracle. That little dude’s hair was worse than yours!”
Dean pumped his fist in self-congratulation, which meant that the now-filthy cloth smacked him in the face when Sam lobbed it at him. Whatever, totally worth it.
Happy freaking holidays, he thought, surveying the devastated synagogue, chairs flung everywhere and goo dripping from the walls.
The thing was? He meant it.