Harlan Ellison

Shattered Like a Glass Goblin

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Shattered Like a Glass Goblin Summary

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“Shattered Like a Glass Goblin” is a short story by Harlan Ellison, published in the collection Deathbird Stories (1975). In the introduction, Ellison attests that the stories included in the collection were written over the course of ten years. While Deathbird Stories is considered one of Ellison’s strongest collections and an important work, “Shattered Like a Glass Goblin,” in which Ellison explores the dehumanizing effects of drug abuse, is generally regarded as a minor work.

Rudy arrives at a house in Los Angeles, known as The Hill, where a hippie-like commune lives. Rudy hopes to find his fiancée, Kris, there. A blonde girl answers the door and then, simply walks back inside, so Rudy enters the house and begins searching for Kris. He finds ample evidence of rampant drug use. When he locates Kris on the top floor of the house, he finds her insensible from drugs and hostile towards him. She begins to cry, asks him to leave, and kicks at him violently, but he refuses to give up. He tells her he has just been released from the army on a medical and recalls that eight months before, she had sent him a note saying she was going to live with Jonah at The Hill. He tells Kris that he loves her; she tries to hurt him but is too weak to do so.

Rudy hears several noises that might be audio hallucinations; in one, someone seems to be counting large gold coins. In another, he hears an animal tearing at the flesh of something.

Rudy goes in search of Jonah, finding him in the living room with the blonde girl who answered the door. The girl is attempting to remove Jonah’s pants to initiate sex, but Jonah is “freaking out,” convinced his face is melting. The blonde girl tells Rudy she was initially worried that he might be the law. Then she asks Rudy if he wants to have sex, because she has been drinking Coca-Cola all day; Rudy ignores her. He sits with Jonah, who recognizes him and asks if he’s out of the army. Rudy asks Jonah to let Kris leave; Jonah angrily tells him that no one is being forced to stay and Kris can leave when she wants.

Two policemen come to the door; Rudy answers. The police have received noise complaints from the neighbors, but Rudy tells them he is living there with his family, and there have been no parties because his mother is dying of cancer. His appearance, in uniform, satisfies the police and they go away.

The Hill allows Rudy to stay based on this demonstrated ability to interact with the police and other aspects of society. He deals with the police and takes care of chores for the commune. He arranges to receive a small amount of money, which pays the house’s bills. Because of these services, the other residents compel Kris to be nice to him, which includes sleeping with him. Rudy continues to occasionally hear the audio hallucinations that have plagued him since his arrival.

One evening, Kris prevails upon Rudy to “make it, heavy behind acid”—to have sex with her while high on acid. The experience is incredible, and instantly, Rudy begins to change, becoming allergic to the sunlight. It is implied that he becomes a drug user just like the other residents of The Hill. He does his chores at night and slowly devolves. At one point, he realizes that he has not left the house in some time, is only wearing his underwear, and his knuckles are swollen and discolored. He also realizes that he hasn’t seen any of the other residents in some time.

Rudy goes searching for them. He finds Teddy in the basement attached to the slimy wall of the basement, pulsing with a purple light. He locates the blonde girl who originally greeted him being consumed by other residents. He is almost knocked over by Teddy who has transformed into some sort of flying beast. He finds Kris in the attic, where she has become a werewolf and is eating the brains out of the skull of an animal. When she touches him, Rudy becomes aware of having transformed himself; he is now made of glass, transparent and empty, a goblin. He runs away in fear, locating a mirror where he studies himself.

Kris comes up behind him. She asks him if he has ever “grooved heavy behind anything except love.” Rudy begs Kris for mercy, but she reaches out, shattering him into millions of pieces that become part of the self-contained universe of the house.