Don’t Feed the Trolls – Chapter 04
Just when she thought everything was finally settling down, Shelly is once again thrown into the fray. Her friends are stuck on the other side of the Mississippi River, with no weapons, no food, and no chance of survival without her help. Throw in the complete collapse of civilization, extremely limited technology, and hordes of zombies that are becoming more and more sentient every day…
Hey, no one said it was going to be easy, but where there’s a will, there’s a way, and Shelly made sure to update hers just before she left.
Please note: this work contains language and themes that may not be appropriate for young readers.
June 15th 2018
You know…it occurs to me. You and I never really got a chance to sit down and talk. We were both a little too busy just trying to survive. Or, well, I was, anyway. You were trying to ensure the survival of thousands. We both had priorities, but man…as soon as I get back, you and I are going to sit down and have a nice long conversation. Over a shit ton of beer, because boy howdy are we gonna need it.
Just a quick question first though: what is it about the end of civilization that brings about a complete collapse of societal norms? Yeah, I pulled out the big words, but I’m serious. First, there were the asshats who tossed out Becca for being gay (or bi, I’m not even sure which one she was, and she’s gone now, so I can’t exactly ask, and it doesn’t even fucking matter, cause that was no reason to throw ou sorry, went off on a tangent), then Alex shows up with Lori and Ryan, and they’re in a triad with each other?? I don’t even know if that’s the right word, but they’re all together. I didn’t even know Alex swung that way. I remember him talking non-stop about his friend Lori, it was kinda cute, honestly, but this? I don’t even know.
Heads up: I’m about to dump on you, and don’t you fucking dare try to skip this part. I WILL be testing you on this shit.
Apparently, a few things happened in between Alex leaving us back in Virginia, and when he and his merry band of travelers found us again. Namely, he, Ryan and Lori all shared a cabin. And a tent. And a hole or two. *cough cough* Hey, I’m not judging – okay, I am, but I’m trying not to. I just don’t understand it, you know? According to Lori, she knew about Alex’s little crush, but she wasn’t that into him. She likes them a little…Rougher around the edges? I’m not sure how Ryan fits that bill, honestly. Yeah, he’s a little scruffy, but he’s a total softy. I mean, teddy bear material, right there.
Off tangent again, sorry. Anyway, Lori knew Alex wasn’t strictly straight, and she kinda guessed about Ryan? So she suggested a threeway, and things just kinda went from there, I guess? The problem is, she started losing interest, and before she could figure out a way to break it off, Alex lost his arm. So now, she’s stuck trying to find a way to tell him “I’m just not feeling it anymore” without making him feel like it’s because he’s somehow “less” now, and yeah, that’s another convo your people are gonna have to have with Al. Ryan told me before I left that Alex has been having anger issues. He’s not adjusting to his new handicap very well. Considering how it happened, I can’t say I’m surprised, but that’s another letter, and you’ll probably know more about that by the time I get back than I do.
Ugh, I hate patrolling. I always lose my train of thought and have to re-read what I wrote to figure out what I was saying, and half the damn time, I’m off on some random thread that has nothing to do with what I wanted to say. Like right now. Lori. And Alex. And Ryan, and I can’t be the only one who finds this weird, right??
Oh hell, I’m asking someone in the military about normalcy and polygamy (or whatever it’s called when it’s one woman and two men, I don’t even fucking know). This is how you know it’s the end of the world.
Patrolled again. I remembered where I was going with this. Lori wants to break it off with Alex and Ryan. Ryan knows. Ryan doesn’t want her to leave, because 1. He thinks Alex won’t take it well, and 2. He thinks he’ll lose Al if Lori goes. Lori….doesn’t care. She does, but she doesn’t. She doesn’t want Al hurt, but she doesn’t want to be stuck in a relationship with people she no longer has any feelings for either. Which is why she came to me. Or, rather, why she came with me. She knew this trip was going to take damn near a year, and she’s hoping that the time and distance will help him break his attachment to her, but she’s also considering ghosting him. She said that their little group ran into a bunch of settlements on their way down to dad’s farm, and that she’s hoping we’ll run into a few more along the way. If she can find a place with another settlement, she can give Alex more time apart from her, and hopefully, more time to get over her. She kept going on about how she cares about her friends, but she just can’t stand the thought of going back and finding out that her little plan didn’t work.
I didn’t really know what to tell her, so I didn’t say anything. I was hoping I would figure it out when I was writing to you, like, maybe by writing it out, it would somehow make sense? Obviously it didn’t work. I still don’t know what to tell her. I mean, I don’t even know if there is a right thing to do here…she shouldn’t feel pressured to stay in a relationship she doesn’t want any part of, but she also has a point about Alex maybe taking her wanting to leave wrong. I just don’t know if ghosting is the answer…it seems to me that it would just leave him with more unresolved issues, you know? It’s like, doesn’t he deserve some sort of closure? Besides, why should he suffer, just because she can’t man up and say, “I’m done”? I could see why she didn’t say anything while they were on the road, but they’re settled now. They have access to psychiatrists and therapists and all the other ists people…they would be able to help him see past things, right?
Ugh, unless it’s too soon and it breaks him, but then that would mean she would feel pressured to stay until it wasn’t too soon, and who knows when that will be?
C’mon Will, help a girl out here. I don’t know what to tell her…
June 18th, 2018
You aren’t much help, just so you know. I still don’t know what to tell Lori, and either whatever crap Hector used to mark his path back to base with was just that – crap – or we’re in trouble. We just spent the last 3 hours searching the area for his next marker and there’s nothing. We’d been finding the marks pretty regularly, but we haven’t found anything for the past 5 or 6 miles. All the others were maybe 3 miles apart. He didn’t report any problems on his trip back, so there’s no reason for him not to have marked the path, you know? So where is it?
We ended up falling back to this Bed and Breakfast place we found while Jean and Mike try backtracking. We’re hoping we just misread the last mark or something, and they’ll be able to get us headed in the right direction, but I have a feeling the mark is gone. The question is: was it washed away by rain, or was it removed? The ground has been pretty dry, so I really don’t think rain had anything to do with this.
I doubled the watch tonight. Most of the others think I’m being paranoid, but – and you might wanna sit down for this one – Jean agrees with me.
I KNOW, RIGHT?!
I gathered the troops (haha) earlier, and told them to keep their eyes open. Ty, sweet loveable, wants to get punched in the nuts, Ty…argued. He said we probably just haven’t gone far enough, and we should start looking again tomorrow. I was all prepared for a fight, but then Jean stepped up and just completely shot him down. I’m not going into specifics, cause I’m not sure if he’ll get in trouble for half the shit he said, and that’d be a hell of a way of repaying him for NOT acting like an ass. So, let’s just say, he went full on Sargent Short Dick…on someone else, for once. It was glorious to watch, no lie. I quite enjoyed it.
Then, when he was done, he and BG started talking about backtracking. I, personally, think it’s a waste of time, but Jean asked for permission. I didn’t have the heart to say no outright, so I told him that he could go IF he took someone as backup. I thought for sure he’d balk, and we’d be back to normal, you know? Instead, his ass asked BG which of his guys would be best suited for it.
Jean did balk when BG suggested Mike, but not for the reason I expected. Mike is the best marksman on the troop (squad?). Jean wanted Mike to stay with main group in case of an attack. The thing is, we had the numbers to make up for Mike being gone. Jean didn’t. So I sided with BG. Jean wasn’t exactly thrilled about that, but he’ll live (hopefully).
So now, we’re all holed up in this place. It’s not bad. Two stories. Windows everywhere, but they had these shutter things on the outside of the building. We took them down, and brought them inside. I’m upstairs, but I can hear the others nailing them into place.
We’re still trying to decide on whether or not we should camp up here, or downstairs. That one set of trolls were really set on us being upstairs, but we don’t know why…does being upstairs somehow lessen our scent? Or were they wanting us away from the windows?
Ah hell, there’s a staircase that leads to the second floor from outside…have to go let the others know so we can get that taken care of.
Oh, but before I forget, Jean said something rather interesting earlier in his…“discussion”…with Ty. Would you mind explaining just when/how I became MAJOR McElroy? Cause I don’t remember signing up for any military bullshit, and if you think I’m bowing to you, we’re going to be having one hell of a conversation when I get back…
-Major(ly Annoyed) McElroy
June 19th, 2018
We’re in trouble. We don’t know how much yet though.
Jean and Mike made it back okay, that’s the good news. They also found the mark, and we think we’re not too far off course, so even more good news.
Now for the bad: someone, or something, deliberately hid the mark.
Hector had apparently painted it onto a street sign. Jean said, whoever/whatever hid it, tore the sign out of the ground, dragged it about a mile, and dropped it face down into a pile of what looked like bear shit. How, exactly, he knows what bear shit looks like, I do not know – nor do I want to know, cause guess what? Yup, there’s more.
See, I tried rationalizing it out. Maybe a storm came through. A bad one. Signs have been knocked around before, you know? Main street, when that storm came though, remember? Scott helped with the clean up, and he told me about the traffic lights being down, and half the signs missing, so you know…it’s possible. The face down in bear shit thing….coincidence, maybe?
But then Jean told me a couple things that really have me worried.
- The part of the sign with the mark on it wasn’t in the shit…but it was still covered in dark brown. He sniffed at it, and it didn’t smell like crap. Tell me you’re thinking the same thing I am…
- They found where they think the sign used to be. The only reason they found it though, was because they were actively looking for it. Whoever/whatever tore out the sign…also tried to hide that they had torn it up.
- They found where another mark was carved onto a tree. Hector’s mark, so it wasn’t another group or anything. But here’s the bad part. The reason they found it…was cause Jean and Mike were getting pissed off at not finding anything…and were kicking shit around. Jean kicked a can, and it hit something else, and I don’t know the exact chain of events, but a piece of bark got flipped over, and guess what was on the other side? Yup.The mark.
Part of it, anyway. It was broken in half.
They started looking around, and found the other half, and a tree with a part of the bark missing. They said you could see the marks where a stick or knife was used to gouge the section off.
Yeah, I’m really not happy. Right now, we don’t know if it was done by other humans, or trolls. Because of the brown stuff on the sign, I’m inclined to think it was trolls. Most of the others think it was humans, because of the amount of planning and deception that had to go into the whole thing.
But here’s the problem…didn’t our trolls deceive us? To protect us, which is still weird, but…they let us get into that house…and then kept us there until the other bunch of trolls had passed. Doesn’t that count as planning?
They scared the hell outta us…but they never tried to actively attack us. Isn’t that deception?
Where do we draw the line now, Will?
And even if it is humans, how is that any better? Either way, we’re in hostile territory, and things aren’t looking good.
It’s almost dawn. BG, Jean, and I have been up all night trying to figure out what to do next. Something doesn’t want us going the way the Hector wanted us to go, which means it’s either the best way to go – or the worst, depending on who did the sabotaging, and why. It also means backtracking a good three miles, and hopefully not running into the saboteurs (sp?).
Right now, the active plan is for Jean and BG to take a small team and try to find the next mark – or the reason why the mark was hidden. I don’t like it, but it’s better than all of us walking into a trap. This place has a lake on the property, and we’ve spotted more than a few rabbits and squirrels, so we should have plenty of meat to last us the couple days they’ll be gone. They’re taking Doug on Lightning, just in case something goes wrong. They figure, no matter how fast the trolls are, they won’t be able to keep up with a boy on a horse. Especially that boy on that horse. We’ll have extra patrols and people on watch, to keep an eye out for them.
Gonna have to remember to get Kim to hook up the solar panels and stuff. While we’re here, we might as well restock our supplies, which means we’re gonna need the fridge and stove running ASAP.
See, Will. No reason to worry your pretty little head. Major McElroy has things well in hand.
-(Still) Major(ly pissed off) McElroy