Don’t Feed the Trolls – Chapter 03
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.
If this is the last thing you see written in this notebook, GET OUT. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, GET. OUT.
July 28th, 2018
Sorry about that last note. It was an…interesting? day? Ha. Okay, um, first: Happy 4th! It’s late, REALLY late, and not even sure it still counts as a holiday, all things considered, but it feels wrong not to mark it somehow, especially after the past couple days? Weeks? Yeah, looks like it’s been about a month. I’m pissed. Well, no. Not really, just…disappointed? I think my trip down from NY spoiled me. We got so far with the boats that first couple days, I dunno, I expected to be further than this? We’re on a lake…or a river? I’m not sure what it is, but Ty says it’s in our way, so you know. That’s nice.
I’m sorry. I think I’m too tired for this. I don’t even know why I opened this. I’ll write to you tomorrow.
July 29th, 2018
Sorry about that. We’ve been pretty much non-stop moving for the past couple weeks, and I think the lack of sleep finally caught up with me. I don’t imagine the emotion bullshit helped matters either.
We’re outside of, what Ty claims used to be Charlotte, so we are way off track, but it is what it is. We’ll have to make our way back north once we get across the water. I’m not going back through town. Not if I can help it. Do you have any idea how depressing it was, walking through that wasteland?
Well, yeah, I imagine you do. Sorry, sometimes I forget I’m not writing this for me. To me? I don’t know what I mean.
Ty used to live in Charlotte, did you know? Actually grew up here, before he decided to run off and join you guys. He thought we were lost. We gave up on trying to follow Hector’s marks after the last couple incidents, so we’ve mostly just concentrated on heading west, and hoping we were close. This though…this…I don’t know.
There’s a lot to catch you up on, by the way, and it’s going to be messy, just a heads up. I couldn’t really write things down as they happened. There was just too much, and not enough time. I jotted little notes when I could to remind me of the big stuff, Vik found one of those little notepads for me to use so the journal doesn’t get all cluttered up, but again…constant moving = not much writing.
Okay, so back at that bed and breakfast place (side note: I keep wanting to call it a “bread and bedfast place, wtf, brain?), this is like, only a page ago for you, but it’s a while for me, so, yeah. Remember Jean and them were scouting ahead?
Well, they came back. Wasn’t even a week. They had found a troll encampment, about 3 miles to the other side of where the mark was. Jean said they were all doing the twitchy thing, so we’re pretty sure that means they’re the bad(der?) type. They also found the next mark past the one that was hidden, so they charted a path around the camp that would bring us back to where we were supposed to be. Everything was fine and dandy. We had a plan. Everything was good. We all packed up and were ready to move at dawn.
We got up. We got moving. We even reached the mark like we were supposed to. And then shit happened. We don’t know if it was the same group or a different one, but we got about a mile past the mark and the woods just…exploded.
I want you to take a minute to process this, Will. We had YOUR GUYS scouting. We had at LEAST one person a mile ahead, to the side, and behind us at all times. And they took us by surprise.
There were only about 30 of them, and we were on horses and the wagons, so we made it out okay, but remind me to thank Danni and them for the trick riding lessons. One of the trolls almost got me by the leg. He looked like he was gonna run past me, but then he fucking jumped sideways at me. I brought my leg up real quick so I could kneel on the saddle and shot the fucker in the face. Not today, bitch. Ugh. Pretty didn’t like it much, she almost threw me, but I held on, and as soon as I could, I was back in her saddle right.
We stayed afterwards just long enough to make sure we still had everyone, and then we got outta there. Most of us stripped immediately, not much choice, with the way troll blood likes to work. We got to a clearing, and did a more thorough cleaning then. Vicki and Tiny have been checking all of us over every couple days since then, but it looks like we’re in the clear. On another note: now I understand why they insisted we have all moles/freckles/whatevers documented so well. I’m still not entirely happy about there being sketches of my naked body floating around, but Vicki and Tiny insist that HIPAA is still a thing, and it’s not like everyone here hasn’t seen me naked by now, anyway.
We burned the clothes, of course. We left them burning in a barrel type thing, so hopefully we didn’t cause a massive forest fire back there. Bryan wanted us to stay until it burned out, but then the scouts came in. The group we dealt with had friends, and they were headed our way. We’ve been pretty much constantly moving since then. We’ve been traveling until we literally can’t anymore, and then we find a house for the night.
We finally left them behind, but yeah, we had to skip trying to follow Hector’s marks. We just didn’t have the time or energy. We finally lost them and started trying to get back on track. Ty said Hector told him he had cut through Charlotte on the way home, so he suggested making our way there, and then hunting for any marks in the city. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Then we got closer, and…I just want to say, if this the kind of damage you guys can do without nukes, I’m fucking terrified.
Outside of town…looks somewhat normal. It’s deserted, of course, and there’s scorch marks on most of the buildings, windows are shattered…Ty said it was probably from the concussion. One of the houses we scouted for as a stopping place, the people had pets. Keyword there: had. A lot of them, too. We found skeletons of at least two dogs in the backyard. A cat was rotting underneath one of the beds. There was an aquarium that stunk worse than the cat, and a birdcage. We had picked that house cause the windows were still intact, but we couldn’t stay there. The smell was making all of us gag.
We found a different house, not too far from that one. The windows facing town were blown out, but the others were okay. We covered the blown out holes with some of that plastic cling stuff we found in the drawers. Not sure how well of a job it did blocking out our scent, but it was all we had to work with.
We left before the sun was fully up the next day, we were hoping to make it to the other side of town before sunset. By about noon, Ty was getting worried. He kept saying how we should’ve ran into so-and-so creek by now, and “where did the bridge go?” Another hour later, we all just stopped and stared.
I never really understood, before, when I would read books and they talked about metal skeletons of buildings left behind.
I do now.
I know exactly what they meant, just as I know what the skeletons of dogs and cats and people look like when charred.
We walked over what felt like thousands of skeletons. Human and animal, both. The further we went into the city, the less of the bodies were still intact.
Ty kept stopping and pointing out a building he thought he recognized. We passed by his parents’ old home. Or, what was left of it. He pointed to the corner where his room used to be. I didn’t ask him about his parents. I didn’t know how to. From the way everyone else got real quiet, and Jean did the cross thing, I’m guessing they all know. I’ll wait another day or two before I ask them.
Right now…well, we ended up giving up on going straight north through the town. There just wasn’t enough places still sturdy enough to serve as shelter. We went round the south side and cut west. The place we’re at now, according to the sign, is a yacht club. Ty said they used to hold sailing lessons though. It’s where he learned how to drive his uncle’s boat.
Now if only there were any viable ships here. Everything is either underwater or not big enough for what we need.
Mike, Jean, and BG are out with Ty right now. They’re searching the houses nearby to see if they can find a boat at least big enough for some of the horses. Sam said we’ll probably be getting some storms tomorrow, so the boys may end up having to shelter in place for a day or two, depending on how long it takes for the storms to move through. I have some of the others out in the smaller boats checking along the coast for something better. They’re under orders not to go too far. The wind is already kicking up a bit, and I don’t want to risk them capsizing.
There’s an outside storage shed thing, mostly filled with canoes, it looks like. We have the horses picketed in there for now. It’s gonna suck trying to get them on an actual boat and across the lake, but it’ll save us a lot of time if we can avoid going the long way ‘round.
I guess we’ll have to see how it goes.
In the meantime, I feel I should warn you to keep Vinson away from us when we get back. He’s on everyone’s shit list right now. Tiny woke me up today yelling some very impolite words. He was searching through the carts…for something, I don’t even know what, but he got to one of the totes at the bottom and lo and behold, what did he find?
An entire thing full of long range handheld radios. With batteries.
We all had a collective bitch fit. Mike and Jean said they’re pretty sure the “shitbird (?!) Vinson” was the one who packed the carts. I didn’t understand half the rest of what they said, but from what Vik translated for me, I’m all on board with having a little face to face with this jackass when we get back, and that’s not going to go well for anyone, I’m pretty sure.
I mean, do you have any idea how Those radios would’ve been really fucking helpful this past month, I’m just saying. As it is, I’m just glad we found them before we sent everyone out. At least now we have a way of passing on messages, besides sending out the kids on horses.
I hate to end of a bad note, so I have to tell you what happened at one of the last places we stopped at.
It was one of those houses that you just KNOW used to belong to old people. Linoleoum (however you spell the damn word) floor, pictures of grandkids and flowers on the walls, cutesy Bible verses carved on wood…the whole shebang. They even had a CORDED TELEPHONE in the kitchen, hanging next to the doorway into the living room. It was kinda depressing, cause it reminded me of my grandma’s house, but anyway.
We knew the house was empty, we searched it first of course, and it was after we had lost the trolls, so we all managed to get some rest. The next morning, we were sitting around in the kitchen, eating a quick meal, discussing who’s going to be on point and all that good stuff while we waited for Doug and his little girlfriend (I’ve known the girl for four fucking months, and I’m STILL not sure if her name is Kristin, Christine or Kristy. The way she says it is weird…) to finish up with the horses. There’s a quiet moment in the conversation, and then, I shit you not, THE FUCKING PHONE RANG.
It died a (very) messy (and loud) death. We heard other phones in the house ringing, but before we got to them, the answering machine picked up. The owners had one of those older ones, you know, the ones that play out loud, and you can hear the caller talking? We’re all standing around, listening to the “We can’t come to the phone at the moment” spiel, it gets to the end, it beeps and then a voice comes over the line. It was a telemarketer. One of those robocall ones about medical strength back braces.
We lost it for a good ten minutes, I swear. Every time we thought we were done laughing, someone would let a giggle slip, and we were at it again. Doug and Whatshername walked in on us having a complete meltdown. Jean complained about his back hurting earlier, and BG told him “That’s what you get for not ordering your medical strength back brace.” We ended up having to take a break, we were laughing so hard. It’s just…so fucking surreal, my god. I’m snickering as I write this.
When the end of the world really does happen, all that will be left are cockroaches and robocalls. I’m dying here, Will. Dying, I tell you!
August 1st, 2018
When it rains, it pours. Literally, in our case. It started raining not too long after I finished the last letter. The boats made it all back safe and sound before it got too bad. We’re all bunking down in the main…clubhouse, I guess it’s called? It’s stillraining, but it’s starting to taper off a bit. Sam said the front should push past us tonight.
The boys haven’t came back yet, but they’ve been reporting in every day. Haven’t heard from them today yet, but it’s still early. Plus, I’m hoping that means they’ve found something good and are making their way back now. We’ve been making plans for whatever the boys find out.
If the boys aren’t able to find boats suitable for the horses on this side of the lake, we might have to see about sending a couple people over to the other side to search there instead. Not exactly a plan I like, considering we’ve already been here for going on three days, but there’s really not much other choice. At this point, I’m not sure it’d be safe for us to go around anymore. We’ve been here too long. The odds of us not backtracking right into trouble aren’t exactly in our favor.
We’re also trying to make plans for if they do find any boats big enough for the horses. None of us know anything about transporting horses, and the best advice Doug had was to hood them before we lead them on, which is all well and fine, but once we’re actually moving, what then?
Lori suggested tranq’ing them, but how would we get them off the boats? These fuckers are big. I mean, yeah, there’s enough of us here that we could probably lift them one by one, but there are so many problems with that idea, I don’t even know where to start. If we found a boat big enough to transport all of them at once, we could probably swing it. Cause we could just get to the other side, and wait for them all to start waking up before we led them off, but I’m not counting on that happening, which means we’re probably gonna have to cart them over one by one, and that’s if we’re lucky enough that they even find a boat up to the task.
Doug asked why not just have them swim across, but there’s not enough of us with experience leading horses across rivers, and we can’t risk losing any of them if they panic.
There is another option. Sam said that, with a river/pond this wide, there should be a bridge nearby. Whether or not it will still be standing is an entirely different matter. We could go ahead and send Doug ahead with Lightning to see if he can find one still standing and check it out. See if he thinks he could lead the horses across it. If it’s still passable, we could take everything else across by boat, and have Doug, Kristine, and a few of the grunts go the long way around. It would take them a lot less time to go around if they just rode without having to worry about the wagons and such. Plus, if they run into trouble, they’ll be able to move a lot faster than they could if we were with them on foot.
Still. Not entirely thrilled with the idea of splitting up the group. At least with the handhelds, we’ll be able to keep in touch, and it’s better than just sitting here, but…I dunno. I’m totally the type to yell at the people in the movies “Don’t go alone, you idiot!” so maybe that’s just carrying over.
Oh well. I guess I’ll write more when I know more.
August 5th 2018,
Nothing much to report. It’s been quiet. We’re on the other side of the river/lake thing, so there’s that. Ty and them reported in close to sunset. The only boats they found that they thought might be able to work were next to a bridge a couple miles north. They checked out the bridge and the boats both, but figured it wouldn’t be worth it to try getting the boats to us. Kate asked if we should just head for the bridge then, and got an immediate “NO.”
First off, they said that parts of the bridge were missing. It was together enough that leading horses across the bad parts should be doable, but just barely, and only if they’re hooded. Second, they had spotted trolls headed west, not quite making a beeline our way, but entirely too close. They wanted us to go ahead and get everything packed up and headed across the water. They said they’d start heading our way, and would catch a nap while Doug and Kristine got the horses ready.
I had Jay and Garcia start getting the boats they thought would make the trip packed up. Kim, Lori, and Tiny volunteered to go across first to find a good landing spot, so I sent them to bed early. The boys got back somewhere around 3am, I think it was, and immediately hit the sack. Doug and Kristine woke up when they came in and started getting the rides ready, but there wasn’t much they could really do to get them ready. Since everyone would be riding, instead of leading, all they basically had to do was saddle them up, and there wasn’t much point to doing that before it was time to go. I made them take some supplies with them, just in case they got separated, but yeah. They kinda hung out til close to dawn, just to give the boys time to rest.
When the river group was ready, Doug and the others took off. Jean mentioned trying to distract the trolls from us, but I told him not to worry about it unless they were really close. We were moving along fast enough, we’d probably be gone before they got close enough for us to worry about.
Lori reported in about an hour after they left to report they found a good landing spot, and a motorboat. Tiny wanted us to get the wagons into some of the lighter rowboats. He said we could tie them to the motorboat for it to tow over and save us all some time. From what Kim told me later, what she basically did was haul ass across the lake, untie the boat holding the wagon and loop it to the pier there, then turn around and come back. No stopping and waiting for Lori or Tiny to grab the rope, just drop and run. It worked though. Once the wagons were across, we did the same thing with the totes. We were all done and across the river by a little after noon.
It took the boys and horses til the next day to make it to where we were. They ran into a few problems, and decided to make it harder for anyone else to cross the bridge, which took some time, but should be worth it in the end. We’ve been trying to make as few stops as possible. This side of the river didn’t get hit as hard for some reason, so there’s a lot of houses still standing. The one we’re in now, there’s a couple gas stations nearby. We raided them on the way through, but there wasn’t much to take. I’m guessing there’s some survivors around here somewhere, but we haven’t seen any other signs of them. Maybe they were just traveling through? I dunno.
We’re taking a rest day tomorrow. We shouldn’t, all things considered, but Doug is worried about the horses, and Sam said conditions are favorable for a pop-up storm tomorrow afternoon, so. Rest day.