Don’t Feed the Trolls – Chapter 06
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.
September 9, 2018
Trash pile acquired. Holes have been stuffed. Still no explanation for Poppy’s attitude problem, and it’s only getting worse. She’s growling at everyone now, even Lori. She’s not snapping at anyone though. Just growling and pacing. Tiny has spent the entire day/night with her, trying to teach her new words to see if it helps her explain what’s going on, but nothing so far. Just “bad” and “cloud.”
Sam said there was a little pop up storm not far from us, but he doesn’t think that’s what this is.
Honestly, neither do I. The last time we saw a bunch of trolls do this, it was with that group of twitchers. BG & Jean agree. We can’t stop working, but we’ve warned everyone to stay close to shelter, and we’ve doubled the guards, especially by the gate and where the cars haven’t been “stapled” yet.
Looks like we’re going to be staying another couple days.
September 9, 2018
Might’ve spoke too soon. I just woke up, and it’s storming its ass off. Checked in with Lori, and she says that Poppy is huddled inside, looking miserable. She let them brush her hair though, and clean her up. She growls whenever the wind gets too strong though, so I’m not relaxing just yet.
We don’t know how the trolls knew the twitchers were coming, but we’ve already established that their sense of smell is pretty damn good. If it’s even remotely possible that she’s smelling twitchers, and is trying to warn us…holy shit, Will. If she’s trying to warn us…what does this mean? This is so fucked up.
No. Nope. I am not thinking about this right now. We have hail, yippee yeehaw. I’m going to go find something to do.
September 11, 2018
It wasn’t the storm. We lost two people. We’re waiting to see if we’re gonna have to put the third down. All civilians. Part of the crew from Zeke’s. Yesterday.
They were stupid.
They knew they were supposed to stay inside. They decided they didn’t want to listen. They had been part of the trash crew. Saw stuff they liked in some of the houses. Went back to get what they wanted. Got caught by twitchers. Don’t know all the details past that. The boy who made it back has really bad gouges on his arms and shoulders where a twitcher tried to get ahold of him. Way worse than what Mike got, so we’re…concerned.
We sent a team through town, and we think we got all the twitchers that were hiding. Poppy has calmed down now. She let the girls give her a bubble bath today. She didn’t quite know what to make of the bubbles though. Kept poking them and then looking lost when they popped. Tiny was there. She pointed at the bubbles and made a sign at him. He laughed. From what I can figure, she was asking him “where go?” It was cute. Very childlike.
glad she wasn’t turning on us.
I just wish Nevermind. We have bodies to
September 15, 2018
People are real dicks, you know that? Yeah, I get the boy did something stupid, but this is ridiculous. We are, like, 99% sure that he is NOT going to turn. We’ve been watching him 24/7. There has been NO sign of infection. We even brought Poppy in. She snarled at the bodies of the two boys who didn’t make it. She snarled at the bodies of the twitchers. This boy…she just looked at him, then looked at us like “what?” So yeah, fairly certain he’s safe.
The “town leaders” held a meeting yesterday. They wanted him punished for causing the death of two people by not obeying orders from a commanding officer (me).
First of all, technically, we don’t know that it was his idea. He says it wasn’t, and yeah, maybe he’s lying, but the point remains. For all we know, he’s telling the truth, in which case, the person who actually caused this, has already been punished for their crime. We burned them and scattered their ashes outside of town.
Second, if they respect my authority enough to consider me his “commanding officer” then why the fuck aren’t they respecting my suggestion for his punishment? Put his ass to work, make him do the truly nasty jobs around town for a whole season, see if he decides to do whatever the hell he WANTS to do, instead of what he was TOLD to do again.
But no. They voted to kick him out. He had the rest of the day to pack up a small bundle of supplies, and be out of town by sundown. Lori is PISSED, and she’s not the only one. I have a feeling Alex’s Call is going to be under VERY different management when we come back through.
We leave tomorrow morning. I kinda want to see if we can find the kid before we get too far, but Lori watched him go, and said it looks like he’s headed back towards Zeke’s. I just hope he knows what he’s doing. If someone here goes back to Zeke’s and sees him there, this could be really bad.
On a different note, I think Poppy is upset? The townspeople aren’t happy about her being here. They were fine when they thought Poppy was human. Several of them told me they thought she was just a severely traumatized survivor we happened to pick up along the way. Now they know the truth, they want her gone.
Lori came to me and begged me to take Poppy with us. She’s worried about what will happen to her if she stays. They threw out someone who is human, someone they’ve, presumably, anyway, have known for over a year now. None of us can imagine they’ll be any nicer to an actual troll. I let our group vote on it. The majority voted to take her with us, but they also made it very clear that they’re not completely happy about it.
I had Jean and BG poll your guys, while I polled mine. According to BG, most of their group voted to take her because they think she’ll be useful for spotting the twitchers. Also, they’ve kinda adopted her as a mascot? I don’t know. Your boys are weird. Mine aren’t much better though. The girls want to take her, cause Lori’s got them all invested in “taming” her. The guys…the ones who actually voted to take her, said that she’s “too cute” to leave behind, but they’re worried about her going rabid. They were quick to assure me that they would be happy to “take care of her” if things go south.
Something about that sounded off to me, so I mentioned it to Tiny. He really didn’t like it. Told me he doesn’t want her left alone with those “boys.” I think his concerns are a bit different from my own though. He mentioned that her brain is very childlike right now, and open to suggestion. Combine that with the way the others have been helping her bathe, and she might now know what’s “okay” and what isn’t.
I tried telling him that I really don’t think that is gonna be an issue, but he got all pissy about it, so I let it go. When I informed the other women that Poppy isn’t allowed to be alone with any males unless I am right there and say otherwise, they all look relieved. Now, I’m worried.
What is it that Tiny and the girls have seen with these boys that I haven’t? The boys all call me “ma’am” and there’s only, like, five or six, maybe, that I know from Hope. The rest are all from the city. The same city we’ve been letting Melly go on overnight trips to. Yeah, guess what’s gonna be stopping the minute we get back, cause HELL no.
September 16, 2018
Well, the kid knew what he was doing. Kinda.
He didn’t go back to Zeke’s. Lori tipped him off which way we would be leaving town, so he swung back around and headed that way. We got about a mile down the road, and Jay radioed in. Said he had found the kid and would keep him until someone came to relieve him.
Boy has been going above and beyond, trying to make himself useful. Apparently Lori made it out to sound like I told her to tip him off, so he’s all like “Do you need this?” “Do you need that?” “Can I spit shine your boots and kiss your ass at the same time??”
This is so the last shit I need.
We made pretty good time, though, all things considered. We’re…I’m not sure where we are, actually, but we’re by a river. We got lucky, and the bridge was intact. We had to do some finagling to get the wagons around the cars, but it was fine. We’re just trying to get as far as we can.
I’ve been talking with the others, and we might end up having to leave people behind so we can move faster. I know I mentioned it before, but I’ve thought about it more, and honestly, it’s just making more and more sense.
Food isn’t that much of an issue from here to the river. It’s still early enough that there’s plenty of crap and animals to hunt. It’s only on our way back that things are going to be an issue. If we leave people behind, here, then we should be able to get the boys and make it back to the bases before we run out of food.
Actually, if we time it just right, we should hit the bases just as we run out of food. It’ll all depend on how bad a shape the boys are in though. Frankly, I keep hoping we run into them along the way. I’m just not delusional enough to think it’ll actually happen, you know?
Hell. I wonder…if you sent radios with us, does that mean you sent them with the boys, too? I never even thought of that. I’ll have to ask Jean and BG when they wake up. See if they know. It’s my turn to nap now. Bye.
Sept. 17, 2018
Fucking hell. We’re still here. Only for another night, the guys are working around the clock to build a wall. They think this is a good place to hunker down in. They rode the perimeter, and this particular area is bordered on three sides by the river (does that still count as a peninsula?) There’s a single road that goes across the land, from one bridge to another. The boys are flipping the cars on their sides and doing some quick metal work on them. We’re leaving Randall behind with a couple civvies to finish up the work.
Tiny helped pick out the people we’re leaving behind. He nominated two of the guys who had made comments about Poppy (go figure). I seconded. The way I’m looking at it, the less he has to worry about, when it comes to her, the better. Plus, one of the boys is actually a fair hand at stitching up people, and the other is a fucking plant whisperer. Leaving them behind is killing what? Four? Five birds with one stone? Pretty damn efficient, I’d say~
Anyway. The land is pretty big. They should have plenty of room for damn near anything they want. We’re supposed to send any survivors we find over this way to help out. I don’t think we’re going to find any that aren’t already settled, but we’ll see. If anything though, I think Randy’s gonna get most of his help from Zeke’s.
Whatever. It’s noon. We finished searching half the houses on one side of the peninsula already. We’re eating a quick lunch, and then it’s the other side. We’re not expecting to find anything, Poppy isn’t acting up, but we want to be sure before we head out.
Sept. 18, 2018
We are so off fucking course, I just can’t. We’re stopping tonight for about three hours, and then we’re going again. I can’t sleep, I’m too pissed off, so I’m writing, cause somehow, telling you about the bull fuckery going on helps.
Anyway. We came across a highway. Fuck if I remember which one, 156, I think? It’s changed names a couple times, I can tell you that much. We’ve been following it northeast, trying to get back on track, and scavenging what we can. Most of the stores have already been hit, which is just fucking typical, I swear. All these cars abandoned on the road, I’m betting the people got out of the cars and ran for the nearest “shelter” when they realized they weren’t going to get anywhere. The windows are all busted to shit and back.
We found some stores though, that we think were hit later. Probably this past winter, if I had my guess. We’ve been looking for whoever had gone through the stores before us, but we haven’t came across anyone yet. We did find a trail, so that’s something. They seem to be following the highway, too, and they’re marking the stores that have already been raided. I don’t know where they got the spray paint, but they’re making our life easier, so I don’t particularly care.
HOW DID WE GET SO OFF COURSE?!
Sorry, I’m just…screaming at the sky. I guess. I know how we got where we are, I’m just so pissed about it. Fucking trolls. Why can’t they be more like Poppy? She found a cat earlier. We’re pretty sure it used to be someone’s pet. It walked right up to us, meowing. The stores had still had cat food on the shelves, so we opened up a can for it. Poppy took a bite of the food and I almost choked on air, I was laughing so hard. The look on her face was fucking priceless. On a side note, we took a bunch of the cans with us. I am really hoping we don’t get to the point of having to eat that crap, but it’s better than starving.
I just saw a shooting star. Quick, Williams, make a wish!
Sept. 19, 2018
I dunno about you, but I kinda got my wish. I managed get a little bit of sleep last night. Was still tired as fuck today, enough that I actually did fall asleep in the wagon, but tonight, I am sleeping in a real bed. Cause guess what.
We found them. The people who were looting around here, I mean. Not the boys, though that would’ve been nice, too.
It’s a huge community. They have a farm, an entire section set aside for a small herd of deer and some cows. Turkeys, which we’ve been warned to stay away from (like we didn’t already know better). A windmill, irrigation…no indoor plumbing, but they have it set up so we had a bath that wasn’t damn near freezing for once. They have an actual wooden wall. At least ten feet tall. Jan’s friend, Bess, said that the wall goes down another five feet into the ground. There’s support beams and everything, and they have cars parked about every 10ft with even more support beams hammered into them. Their gate is only about 8ft tall, but it’s also at least a foot thick, I swear to God.
It was also wide open when we found them. Oh, the shit fit I had all over these people…BG covered my mouth and dragged me away until I calmed down. One of the ladies came by and told BG to sit down and let me yell all I wanted. He did what she said, so I spent a good half an hour going off on her, with her just sitting there, doing the “smile and nod” thing at me. When I finally stopped, she looked over at BG and asked “Is it safe to turn it back on now?”
Bitch had a fucking hearing aid. I thought my head was gonna explode. Then she tells me “Now, see, if you had the information we did, you would’ve saved yourself some trouble, wouldn’t you? That’s when she decided to inform me that they had seen us coming and opened the gate to be ready, and that they hadn’t spotted any “puppets” nearby in the past month anyway. Then went down a nice long list of reasons why her and “her town” were perfectly safe and I had nothing to worry about.
She finished off with a “Now, how’s a nice hot bath sound?”
I’m still not entirely happy, but I’ll get over it. She took me for a tour of the main part of town. It really is huge. I’d say about twice the size of Hope. Not a lot of people though. Jan says that’ll change here in about another month. They have teams of people out gathering supplies to start stocking up for winter. They have such a large group of people, they don’t have much other choice. They have the farm going, and they have the windmill bringing in some electricity, so they’re managing to can stuff, but the more, the better.
They’ve turned a couple of the buildings into storage areas for food, another for the animals. There’s one huge place, I guess it used to be like an indoor flea market place, but with less metal and more windows. They have shutters they put over the windows during the winter to keep the cold out, and everyone from town lives there through the coldest part of the season. They built in fireplaces along the walls to keep the heat going for the whole building. They have part of a drop ceiling going on, too. Apparently last winter, they lost a lot of heat because of the high ceiling and almost lost half the town. They’re hoping this will fix that issue.
What else…oh! The “puppets.” I thought that’s what they were calling the trolls, but nope. Well, not exactly. They call twitchers “puppets” and the trolls like Poppy, “pinochs” (like Pinocchio) – because “they’re puppets, but they want to be real.”
They even have a handful of them living here – four men, three women. They keep a constant watch on them, but Jan says that has more to do with their ability to sense when puppets are near than anything else. When the gate closes at night, the guards make sure they’re inside. They eat dinner with everyone, they take baths, they’ve learned to use a privy pot (which sparked an interesting convo with Tiny, cause I hadn’t even thought of that). They’re even able to help out with basic chores, like sweeping and carrying tools. They’re trying to teach one of the men how to work in the field.
I talked to Jan about the trolls a little more after dinner. She says they noticed, about August/September last year, that the trolls seemed to be developing different. Instead of attacking people on sight, some of the trolls would just watch them. Then they started trying to mimic them. Just like the one Dick showed me. One of the guards was eating something, and the troll was watching. The guard got bored and decided to toss part of the thing to the troll, and…yeah. By the time winter rolled around, the pinochs were showing up like stray cats waiting to be fed.
As it got colder, they noticed that the pinochs were starting to look bad. Like, pale. Some of them had blue lips. Then they found one almost “dead.” That’s when they started inviting them into town. Cleared out a corner in the building and let them huddle together.
Jan said they seem to learn quick, but it’s hard to tell if they fully understand what they’re learning. They answer to the names they’ve been given, and if you say “do you want food?” they can tell you ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (nodding or shaking their head – still non-verbal). But if you ask “what kind of food do you want?” they just look at the nearest food hut. So it’s a toss up at this point. Either they want ANY kind of food – and that’s why they look at the hut, or they just understand that “food” and that building are connected.
Tiny told her about Poppy learning some sign language. She was very excited. Said that she hadn’t even thought of that. Her eldest daughter was born deaf, so she knows ASL. We’d been keeping Poppy away from everyone else, but Jan asked to meet her. They had a little conversation, according to Tiny, about things that they like/don’t like. Poppy likes Tiny. Poppy likes baths.
Poppy doesn’t like “bad clouds” – which threw Jan a bit. Jan asked her if she meant “storm” and Poppy said she doesn’t like those either, which means “bad cloud” =/= “storm”….so what does “bad cloud” mean?
I have my suspicions, but I’ll hold off for now. I need to get some rest. We’re supposed to let Poppy have a playdate with the other pinochs tomorrow. That should be fun.
Also, Tiny came by a few minutes ago and gave me a talking to. He says he believes that Poppy may eventually gain the ability to speak, and if her first words are “fuck,” “twat,” “ass” or “mother fucker” he’s going to hold me down and wash my mouth out with soap.
I do outrank him…right?