GnaGna Na GnaGna, Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye

When Hansel woke in the morning, the air was very still and quiet. TOO quiet. The loud, rhythmic snoring reminiscent of sleeping a wall away from his sister was no longer keeping him company. The birds were silent. There was no breeze. Ants crawling in the earth were still. Very, very quiet. It was also well past the crack of dawn.

Aware of a pressure on his bladder requiring a private tree, partly the weight of the can of beans, he sat up, in theory. In reality, he yanked his hair in a couple dozen places and jerked back to the ground, clutching his scalp. Something whacked him on the top of the head, small but solid.

“Ow!” he ad-libbed. The crowd found it predictable. With one hand, he found the strings tying him to the ground by his hair, but the knots were tiny and impossible to take out. Unless they’d found another group of small, hostile beings, they hadn’t outrun the gnomes. 

Hansel surveyed what he could without yanking out his hair and did not immediately understand what he saw. If these were the gnomes, they’d done a drastic costume change. About half of them were in white, shiny bodysuits that looked sprayed on. Their faces were mostly covered by large sunglasses with reflective mirrored lenses, and each had a very pointed hat made of brushed metal. When they saw him looking, they contorted their bodies into twisted poses with clawed fingers. Their little pot bellies stuck out at odd angles. The others were dressed in every known shade of black and a few unknown shades of something blinding.

“Grendel, you still there?” Hansel called.

“Yeah, kid, I’m over here. The gnomes tied me down by my hair. All of it.”

“Rough.”

Their commiseration was interrupted by the squealing laugh of a psychotic dolphin. “EEEEEEE EEE EEE EEE EEE, you’re mine now!” Hansel strained to see the speaker, but his hair wasn’t long enough to give him a good view. The plastic-clad gnomes he could see hit their marks with scary claw fingers again. No way Grendel could eat them all, even if he could get them unwrapped.

“Hey, how about you let us go and I don’t squash you all flat with my feet?” Grendel called. That was certainly another option.

“I’m never gonna give you up!” the high-pitched gnome shrieked. All the gnomes Hansel could see struck a pose in formation. He could feel someone tugging at his hair.

“Yes, yes, let him up!” squealed the voice. Hansel waited while some of the weird gnomes fondled his hair. He was hit on the head again, and sat up, wincing.

GnaGna had changed as drastically as the others. Her wholesome gnome clothes were replaced by very unwholesome red vinyl scraps with peek-a-boos where no one should be peeking. Instead of a pointed hat, she had her hair twisted in an ice cream spiral, pure white with shiny bits of broken glass sticking out. Her face was so covered in white makeup that her features had to be redrawn over it, larger and out of proportion. When she closed her eyes, tipped with large, fake tinsel lashes, her eyelids had another set of blue eyes painted on them. She had enormous platform heels on and scary fingers like her subjects.

Grendel was truly tied by all of his hair. He looked like a string art of a monster. He wouldn’t be getting up without leaving a solid percentage of his pelt behind. His big toe was also looking red and inflamed in a new way.

“See? Now look what we have to do,” hissed a gnome in white next to Hansel.

“Nash?”

“No, it’s Gnash. You never are going to get that, are you? Anyway, every time one of the hairy guys runs, we all have to dress like this and dance. Do you have any idea how much chafing you are personally responsible for here today?”

“No? I think maybe your Queen is the person you should be mad at?” Hansel wasn’t about to claim responsibility for the gnome’s very personal irritations. Gnash shook his head, glitter flying in a corona, and moved away from Hansel in exaggerated gorilla lunges.

GnaGna climbed onto Grendel’s chest with some assistance, balancing there in her ridiculous heels. “YOU KNOW THAT I WANT YOU!” she screeched.

“Well, yes, I got that,” the monster replied. “I am not a prize to be won on a coin toss, though. I have my dignity.”

“AND YOU KNOW THAT I NEED YOU!” she screamed, ignoring Grendel’s pride.

“I am not so sure about that.” A growl was creeping into Grendel’s voice.

Good, Hansel thought. He was surrounded by the weirdo gnomes, and every time he tried to move, they menaced him with their stupid little claws. Grendel needed to do something to get them out of here.

GnaGna started waving her arms around and Hansel hoped she was falling.

Then the beat dropped. Mostly. A chorus of gnomes started a beat, making the drum sounds with their throats. A few random bird calls were mixed in, but overall, it was pretty impressive.

Grendel’s growl intensified, weaving in and out of the beat.

“WILL YOU COME BACK? THIS IS THE LAST TIME I WILL ASK.” Yowling at someone seemed like a bad way to convince them to love you.

Grendel bared his teeth. “NO. Stop this now before we both have regrets.”

“OO RA GNA GNA GNA!” she sang, and while she she was merely plump, it was all over.

The gnomes around Hansel snapped into formation and danced, chanting the nonsense syllables. He inched through the insanity, freeing himself from the crowd. He had to figure out how to get Grendel free. If he could cut the strings at ground level, they could deal with getting them untied somewhere else. He needed a knife, or a giant set of hair clippers, or a very large spatula with sharp edges.

“HEY LA OO LA LA! OO RA WA WA WA! IT’S A BAD GNOMAN—”

GnaGna fell off of Grendel when he ripped one arm free from the ground, leaving tufts of brown hair staked to the ground. She squealed, he roared, the crowd got off the beat and flailed arrhythmically to a stop.

“NO SINGING!” Grendel roared.

GnaGna dusted herself off, tottering on wobbly heels. She raised one tiny clawed hand in the air, counting down silently on her fingers. Three, two, the gnomes scrambled back into formation, one, punch the air, and the number started again.

“OO RA BA BA BA! RA GNA G—”

Grendel roared and ripped his other arm free, grabbing the small, strange gnome as she did a kick-ball-change into a creepy arm wave. Stupidly, she kept singing. Grendel took a second to remove the glass shard embellished wig, then he ate GnaGna, Queen of the Gnomes. The costume was very chewy.