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Excerpt from Monsters

Troll Part III

Illustration by Kyle Danley

When we got to the right bridge we repeated the procedure of me checking carefully for witnesses, then watching her disappear below the bridge. She had told me to wait about ten minutes, and then come down. Under no circumstances was I to come down sooner.

I didn’t, thinking of those big sharp teeth.

I went under the bridge and saw a tiny fire, and that’s about it. I moved close to it, hunkered down. I didn’t say anything. I just kept looking around.

Then I heard the beginnings of a troll song. I looked in the direction of the song—it sounded extremely close—but couldn’t see anything. I closed my eyes and listened. The longer I listened to the song, the more I felt a rage overtaking me. It possessed me. It consumed me, yet somehow left me more whole than before I began to feel it. I wanted to—needed to—let out this rage. I needed to aim it and let it fly like an arrow.

I began to pace back and forth next to the fire, beneath the bridge. I heard growling, and soon I realized the growls came from my own mouth, my own throat, from all over my body, from my heart.

And then the song ended. And so did the rage.

Or maybe it didn’t. Just as that first troll song, of joy and longing and belonging, had forever changed me in ways I could not even hope to articulate, and just as each of the troll songs I had heard since had done; so too did this song change me. Having for the first time felt such a righteous rage, I knew I could never go back to who I was before.

And then I saw the trolls. The two of them. All along they had been right next to me, but they had been, as they’d had to do for so long, hiding. And now they weren’t.

I said, “I will drive you wherever you want to go. I am with you now.”

Neither smiled. The new troll did not move. The female troll slightly nodded.

We walked back to the truck. When we got close to the road I went first to make sure no one was around. Then I motioned for her to come and get in. As she did, she said, “Every time I get in this machine, I feel a part of myself die.”

I thought, but did not say, Funny, I never feel a thing

I drove. She keened. We met another troll, and then another, and then another. Others, too, now, others I never knew existed. Orcs and goblins and ghosts and werewolves. Fairies, pixies, sprites. Ogres and salamanders and a couple of dragons. She didn’t tell me what she was saying to them, and I didn’t ask. Even though I was with her, each of them looked at me warily before more or less seeming to accept me.

We met others, too. She talked to rivers and mountains and rocks and toadstools and elk and bears and trees and little pieces of soil. She talked to fires. She even talked to a few humans. That made me feel a little jealous, but only a little. She was, I presumed, telling all of them of the plan she’d heard from the rat and from the fire.