This is a story I started writing a couple years ago and having been adding to a little bit at a time since. I hope you like it. Make sure to click the "More" link cause there's a lot more to it...
Two Trolls, Part 1
Two trolls sat beneath their bridge and passed the day. Generally, trolls are very busy at their job of keeping people from crossing over bridges, but the Committee had assigned our trolls a train overpass, and no one came that way. (The Union Pacific Railroad had closed the line down back in ’86.) So the two sat, or stood, or paced each day away and chatted the way trolls sometimes do. Which is to say, rarely.
The older troll was named Hiccup (and I wouldn’t suggest you make any jokes about his name to his face. He won’t hurt you or tear your limbs off or anything, it’s just that trolls are given funny names all the time, so pointing that out to one is generally regarded as unfunny and awkward.) The younger one was named Abraham Lincoln. (Again, I would urge you not to make fun of his name, but because it truly is a funny name by troll standards. So if you made an “Honest Abe” joke or something the other trolls would probably laugh, but Abraham Lincoln would probably tear off your arms. He is just sick of hearing those jokes.)
Hiccup and Abraham Lincoln had been working the bridge for seven years. At first, they talked very little, being serious about their job. Unfortunately their little train overpass was in eastern Wyoming, just north of Cheyenne. If you’re anything like a troll then you have no clue about geography or states or where major population centers might be, but I have been in that part of the world and can promise you that no one lives there. There are cattle and pronghorn antelope and a couple farmers, but not one real person for miles. So they sat in silence, waiting. Then, Hiccup looked over to Abraham and said, “No one’s coming.”
“Shhhhhhh,” said the other troll.
But Abraham thought it over for a couple weeks and eventually looked over at Hiccup and said, “You’re probably right.”
* * * *
“My other bridges? Well I’ve had seventeen. I couldn’t really tell you where they were or anything, you know, but six were steel, four were concrete, three were wood, three were stone, and one was made of sticks.”
“Sticks?” Abraham Lincoln asked. “Like little branches?”
“Yeah. Turns out I was sitting under a dam. A beaver dam. I figured it out after a month. The bridge I was supposed to be watching was a couple hundred feet downstream.” Hiccup looked thoughtfully beyond the shadows cast by the train trestle. To the south the ground rolled down into a slight valley that held a small stream. Two young trees, their limbs emptied by the winter but presently holding hope for the spring, looked down upon it. Everything as far as they could see was a grayish brown, except at the horizon, where the world struck out into an unbroken blue. Hiccup sighed thoughtfully, and sat on one of the rocks. “It was pretty wet under that dam.”
“That’s nothing. I once spent a year under a porch.”
“A porch? Like in front of a house sort of porch?”
“Yeah. The Committee had gotten it wrong. They thought it was going to be a drawbridge, like at a castle. You know how those old ones had moats around them? One of those. So it was supposed to be a big promotion for me to watch this castle, but when I showed up all I found was an old wooden home whose front steps had been washed away by a rain storm. What the owners of the home had done, see, was to find all the scrap wood they could find and sort of make a ramp from what was left of the front walk to the door. There I am, suitcase in hand, all nine feet of me just staring at this mud puddle covered by plywood and stop signs. Someone must have exaggerated or something to the Committee.”
“So you just set up shop? Just like that?”
“Yes I did,” said Abraham Lincoln. “I stayed there twelve months in the mud before my orders came in to move out. They assigned me to an old aqueduct, which wasn’t that great but at that point I didn’t care. Anything was an improvement after the porch.”
“Yeah, that beats my beaver dam story.”
Neither spoke again for a very long while. I think it was twenty four weeks. Trolls can only say so much. It’s just their way.
* * * *
Hiccup stood and pushed his way through the snow and peaked at the sky. It glared back at him with empty anger. It would be weeks before the land would thaw from the late winter storms. During one of the squalls the trolls were sure that a person had come to cross under their bridge, and they had stood with claws and teeth and riddles ready, just like they were trained. It was dark and windy, but sure enough there was someone standing right there. But as soon as Abraham began to shout his bit about the Three Questions, the person asked his own. “Who?”
The two trolls looked at each other and asked, “Who what?”
“Who who!” the person said, and then his head flew away. Hiccup edged closer and saw that the thing’s body was made of pile of snow, blown there by the blizzard. He looked into the hole where the head had just been and saw the footprints of a bird.
“It was an owl. On snow.”
“Oh,” said Abraham Lincoln. “An owl.”
Abraham sat back down in the shadow of the train tressle, but Hiccup looked at the pile, which had grown into a wall of ice over the weeks. Idly scratching shapes in it, he shook his head, debating himself. He wanted to say something to his coworker, an idea that had been floating his troll brain for a few decades, but he didn’t know how to say it or even if he should. From across the their snow cave under the bridge, Abraham cleared his throat and asked what was the matter.
“I have an idea.” So Hiccup began to tell his coworker his plans. “I want to leave this troll business.”
“To do what?”
“I want to write chain letters.”
* * * *
“But… you’re a troll,” Abraham finally said. Hiccup had spoken for two weeks straight about his plans, laying out all the possibilities and advantages and business plans he had been daydreaming. He had sketched out pie charts in the dirt. Abraham’s head was throbbing. Trolls never talked this much.
“I know I’m a troll.”
“Well, okay then.”
“Okay then what?”
“Well you’re a troll, Hiccup. You sit under bridges and wait for people to come and you ask them three questions that they must get correct in order to pass. It’s just what trolls do. Well except for hunting elves, but there haven’t been elves for a couple hundred years. So- when I say you’re a troll, you are supposed to realize that trolls aren’t supposed to make their living writing chain letters, they’re supposed to be guarding bridges.”
“Don’t you mean bullying people at bridges?”
“Hey, don’t take that tone of voice with me, pal. You signed the oath of the B.T.C., the same as I did.” (That stands for the Bridge Troll Committee, which I did not expect you to know.) “You agreed a long time ago to the ethics of this business.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry, Abraham.”
“It’s okay. It’s just that… I don’t know.” Then he furrowed his brow and paced he blurted out: “It’s a bad idea. There, I said it.”
“A bad idea? What are you talking about? It’s a brilliant idea.”
“Writing chain letters? The letters people get in the mail that promise something bad will happen if the person doesn’t send the letter along?”
“Or good,” Hiccup interjected. “Sometimes it promises something good will happen.”
“Whatever. Good or bad. That’s not the point. I’m trying to say that it’s a lousy idea. People don’t even write letters anymore.”
“Yeah, but you’re forgetting the internet, Abraham. The internet is a whole new world.” Abraham looked confused, so Hiccup explained. “Look, I just got transferred from this bridge in a city. It was next to this internet café-”
“Did you get a lot of traffic?”
“Oh, Abraham. You wouldn’t have believed it. Thousands. We’d be asking our riddles all day long and into the night. People were kind of clever there, but we would still eat maybe a good three dozen a day.”
“Where were you?”
Hiccup thought about this. The next day he said, “I don’t know.”
“Yeah, but what was I saying? Oh yeah, this internet café.”
“I know what the internet is.”
“And it only reinforces my idea at the expense of yours, friend. There are many more chain letters online, but they have lost whatever value they once had. And monetarily speaking, it was originally at zero.”
“I don’t think you understand. Maybe I’m not putting it right. It’s such a good idea in my head.”
“Your idea is stupid. You should stick with what you know. You’re a troll. And that’s it. And lately, yeah I’ll say it, you’ve been a crummy one.”
And then Abraham Lincoln took his mighty leg and swept it over the graphs and spreadsheets Hiccup and written in the dirt.
For a few seconds, Hiccup said nothing. He didn’t even move. His attention had been momentarily focused on the freight train loaded with coal and mid-size Chevy sedans that was about to cross overhead. But then he realized he was being rude to his friend and remembered the words in his head, this time really listening.
Something bright flashed in Hiccup’s head and he didn’t know how to interpret it. Then he realized it was a feeling, or rather many feelings bundled together. Very quickly he listed them off: Shock, betrayal, anger and hatred. He let out a cry and grabbed a large stone from his feet (I’d guess it weighed three stone, which is a bit of a joke I’m making. A ‘stone’ is a British term for weight, and I always thought it would be funny to say how much a stone weighed in ‘stones.’ Anyways, you can look it up online to see how much it weighed, but just know it was pretty heavy,) and threw it.
It went about half a mile before it crashed into a thicket of spruce. The owl that had visited them months before was sleeping, so it didn’t know that the stone had killed him, crashing right through his nest. His light black body fell to the snow just after the icicles that had been hanging from the branches above.
The engineer in the train hadn’t heard the scream over the roar of his engine, but he did get a very bad headache, so much so that he did not enjoy his dinner at all and later sent some angry text messages to his wife that he would very much come to regret.