Posted by: Matt Y | 09/20/2015

The Troll 2

Part 2

The Fall turned the little woods into a nightmare for a boy trying to run away from a group of bullies.  Dried out leaves and twigs littered the forest floor, every step an announcement of where he was, the twigs and bushes tearing dozens of small scratches into his arms and legs.  Kevin ducked under a branch and felt another branch gouge his cheek as he scrambled his way deeper.  He dropped his backpack at one point after it became snagged in a bush.

The boys following him shouted threats and yelled insults, and tried spreading out from each other in order to contain Kevin.  The difference was that they were having fun hunting him, while he was running for fear of his life.  Another difference was that he had played in these woods by himself since he was a child, pretending to be a World War Two soldier going after Nazis.  Kevin knew every inch of the woods around him, and even in a panic he fled to the areas he knew.  The narrow areas where thorny bushes made it hard to press through without having your clothes snagged, and the areas with sudden drops that leaves covered.

He ran faster and made it through these places quicker, until he had enough distance between his pursuers that he felt like he could stop and take a breath.  He could hear them still stomping through, yelling to each other with growing frustration that they had not yet found him.  Tyler’s voice echoed through the woods in wounded pain, having accidentally stepped into one of the holes that had been covered with red-gold leaves.

Kevin remembered an evergreen tree nearby and ran to it, then ducked under the branches of green spiky needles and climbed up into the tree.  The bark was rough and sticky with sap and tore at the skin on the palms of his hands, but he was able to climb high enough where he felt he could see through the needles but thought that it would be hard to see him.  Then he waited.

A few minutes later three of the four boys came near the tree where he hid.  Tyler could still be heard in the distance, swearing and yelling in pain for the others to come help him.

“I fucking know he’s here somewhere.” Steven shouted at the others.

“Come on Steve, this was fun, but I think Tyler might be really hurt back there.  Besides, you really scared the shit out of that kid, I’m sure he’s run home by now.  Dad’s going to be pissed if we don’t get home for dinner soon.”

Steven tried to argue against this, but Tyler’s cries were growing even louder by the minute.  Fuming, Steven relented and they went back that way they came.

Kevin stayed in the tree, holding on until his arms got tired, and then holding on some more until they started to feel numb.  He was sure that it had been some sort of trick, that he would come down out of the tree and they would be waiting there.  So he stayed, feeling the stickiness of the tree sap against his skin along with the minor stings of all the cuts he had received running through the woods.  Some small red spiders ran over his skin and he bit the inside of his cheek to keep from crying out.

Finally, long after Tyler’s cries went away, he decided it must not be a trick and he climbed back down, all of his limbs aching.

The sun was setting now, and the stretching shadows of trees at dusk made the forest look different, more sinister.  He tried to remember which way he had run from and was having trouble remembering any moments aside from the feeling of sheer panic.  He made his way to where he thought the creek was located.  As he walked, though he was familiar with these woods, he worried that he might be walking in the wrong direction.  He really did not want to be stuck out in the woods at night.

He heard the sound of the creek before he saw the deep depression that it lay in.  Using the creek as a guide he walked until he reached the path and the bridge.  The sun had nearly set and the remaining light of the day was a gentle glow that barely lit the bridge.  Above the sky was dark, with stars already shining brightly in the night sky.

When Kevin stepped on the bridge the opposite end was just a mass of dark silhouettes, shifting slightly with the evening breeze.  As he continued walking he watched as one of the shadows unfolded itself and turn towards him.  He was close enough now to make out some slight details, and saw that it was a man, who stood more than a foot taller than Kevin, wearing what he thought looked like a tattered jacket.

Is it a man? Kevin thought, or is it the troll?

He felt fear but was too exhausted from the flight earlier to run away, so he kept walking forward wanting only to get to the other side of the bridge and then home.  As he walked towards the shadow, the shadow shuffled towards him, getting close enough for Kevin to see the man in more detail.  It looked like a homeless man, like his mother warned him about, in a beat up tattered jacket and frayed jeans.  The man was bearded, with erratic tufts of hair sticking out at different lengths.  Kevin looked away and down at his feet as he walked forward, hoping he could just walk by the man.

As he neared, the homeless man said in a croak, “Hey boy, where are you going?”

Who is that clip clopping across my bridge? Kevin thought.  He didn’t respond, remembering his mother’s warning.

“Don’t ignore me boy, you should respect your elders.” the man said, slurring the words to the point that Kevin barely understood what he said.

Kevin tried to move past him, but the bridge was not very wide and the man made it difficult by swaying back and forth.  When he tried to slip by, the man moved quickly and grabbed him by the elbow.

“I asked you where you were going.” the homeless man said.

Kevin could smell the sharp scent of alcohol on the man’s breath, and now up close he could also smell the strong pungent scent of body odor along with something that smelled slightly rotten.  As the last of the sunlight faded over the horizon he could now clearly see what the man looked like, and in his fear what he saw was like his nightmare come true.  Bloodshot yellow eyes stared down at him; the mouth was open in a crooked grin and filled with dark uneven teeth that appeared to be jagged.  At that moment he knew he wasn’t being held by a homeless man, but a troll.  The broken nails (claws), the jagged teeth (tusks), the uneven bushy beard (fur), for a second he could even see two horns hidden in the wild mane of hair, and those eyes!

Kevin screamed and shoved with all the energy left within him.  A look of surprise crossed the man’s (troll’s) face as he was shoved backwards.  The bridge was not very wide at all, and as the man’s (troll’s) back hit the rail he let go of Kevin, pinwheeling his arms for balance.  He hung that way unbalanced against the rail for a moment, and then disappeared over the edge of it.

There was a slight splash along with the sound of something heavy cracking against the stones of the creek below.

Kevin rushed to the rail and looked down, in the remaining rays of light he could see the shadow of the troll, it had to be a troll he told himself, and could barely see the outline of a figure down below.  The figure was twisted in an unnatural way, seeing the body below made him hysterically think of the Three Billy Goats Gruff story again, I’ve got besides two curling stones, and I’ll crush you to bits, body and bones.

Another part of his mind thought, oh shit I just killed a homeless man.

It was not a man.  It could not have been a man.  He had killed a troll (a man?), and that was all, he tried to tell himself.

Kevin hurried the rest of the way home, feeling sick.  As he walked up to the door of his house he tried to sort out what he was going to tell his mom.  How would he explain that he lost his backpack, or why he was so late, or the scratches on his arms and face?  He wasn’t sure he could tell her about the troll.  What if they went out to see the troll and shone a flashlight down there and it turned out to be a homeless man after all?

With a lump in his throat he opened the door and cried out, “Mo-om?”

She came out of the kitchen and started walking towards him.

“Mom, I’m s-sorry I’m l-late, but-” he started to say but wasn’t able to finish whatever he was about to say.

Her hand flashed out quickly, and caught him on the same side of the head where his ear still hurt from the night before.

“I don’t want to hear it!  Late!  I’ve been sitting here worried about you and you come home with your clothes all dirty and start to tell me lies about where you’ve been!” she said and then his hand flashed out again, going the other way with a viscous backhand slap that rocked him backwards on his feet.

“But mom!” he said, knowing it was pointless when she was like this.  He could smell the same sharp and bitter scent of alcohol that had also been on the breath of the troll.

She swung again towards the side of his head with the injured ear.  He flinched back expecting a blow that did not come.  He looked and realized that he had actually reached up and had grabbed her wrist.  He turned towards his mother in surprise, wanting to say he had not meant to.  He saw a look of fear pass over her eyes for a second, and then watched her face crumple into a look of pure rage.

He dropped her hand and tried to say he was sorry, only she was beyond hearing anything he had to say.  She came at him, swinging at him with her fingers spread yelling, “How dare you try to hurt your mother.”

Powerless to do anything else he brought his arms up to protect his head and tried backing away.  Her nails struck against his forearms and a few times a hand slipped through and hit him in the head.  Looking at her between his forearms with her face contorted in fury he came to another discovery.  She was not the Bad Queen after all.

Were her eyes squinted and bloodshot like the troll’s?  Yes, they were.

Were her nails bared as claws like the troll’s had been?  Yes, they were.

Did he see maybe two little horns in her hair as it thrashed about?  Yes, he thought he did.

She was not the Bad Queen.  Kevin knew now that she was a troll.

And he knew what to do about trolls.

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