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Excerpt from Monsters

Troll Part II

Illustration by Anthony Chun

But then something happened that threatened to change everything. I learned that someone had filed a plan with the state to cut the small patch of forest where the female troll lived. She didn’t know where she could go. There was so little forest left, and we couldn’t figure out why they had to cut this patch near this little bridge over this little stream that was home to her and so many others (the trolls had introduced me to chickadees and other birds, and I had made the acquaintance of several slugs, who were indeed as courtly as promised).

I asked if this might be a good time for her to go ahead and relocate near the male troll she loved. I would help her move, in whatever way she would be comfortable.

She said, “But this is my home.”

“They’re going to cut it.”

“But this is my home. I cannot and will not leave my home.”

“Then you will die here. That is not good. I don’t want you to die.”

“I don’t want the forest to die.”

“So what will you do?”

She thought a moment before she said, “I guess I will do what trolls have been doing since humans forgot how to behave: I will die with my forest.”

“That’s what trolls do?”

She looked at me scornfully, said, “You don’t?”

I didn’t say anything.

She began to sing. It was clearly a song of mourning. I could tell she had a lot of practice singing mourning songs. I cannot, of course, describe the words to you, if words there were, or even the melody, if it had one. But I can describe the song’s effects on my body. I felt as though someone had cut off my arms, my legs, my ears and eyes and nose and mouth and had removed my heart and lungs and genitals and skin and every other organ. I felt as though I were being systematically dismembered. I felt as though I could not breathe, could not see, could not hear. I felt as though I were being killed.

I have never felt as empty as I did when the song was done. There was nothing left, either inside or out. There was nothing to live for. Everyone and everything I loved had been destroyed.

When the song was done I felt water on my cheeks.

I had never cried over anything so important.

I didn’t know what to do.

She asked, “What do humans do when faced with this sort of destructiveness?”

I wanted to tell her that humans normally file regulatory appeals and lawsuits, publicize the destruction, and so on. But then I realized that’s not true. A good portion of humans actively participate in the destruction, and the rest spend most of our time sitting on our butts and vaguely hoping that somehow more bad things won’t happen. I said, “Nothing helpful.”