Don't Feed the Trolls – Chapter 10
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.
Oct. 18, 2018
It is way too damn early for this, but I just got my first full night’s sleep in almost a week, and a lot of shit has happened between last time I wrote and now. Gonna try to get out what I can remember.
First off, the kid. Mike spotted her when he was scouting the night before, but he also saw her walking with some adults, so he figured there was a settlement we’d be running into or something. He didn’t get concerned until the next morning, when we were getting ready to leave, and he noticed that the “adults” he saw with her, weren’t quite right. He told me they reminded him of the Pinochs, so I went with him to check it out.
He wasn’t wrong. They were clean and dressed, but the way they moved was almost robotic. It was so friggen weird. We ended up staying way longer than we planned, just watching them. I want to say it was around noon when the girl showed up and started bossing the pinochs around like she ran the place. Turns out, she kinda does.
She says her name is Luna (I have my doubts), and she’s eleven (“and a half”). The night the Trollcalypse started, she had snuck out of her foster home to try and get back to her mom, but. Well. As she put it, “shit happened.” She hopped from one traveling group to another, but the last one was too “cultish” for her, so she ditched them and found herself in the middle of a hoard of twitchers. According to her, the group of trolls she’s with now chased them off. She says they look out for her the best they can, so she tries to look out for them. She’s “used to taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves” so they’ve been doing alright, but just so you know, as soon as I get back, I am headed to the library and I am reading every single fucking psychology book I can find, cause how the unholy fuck does that NOT count as Stockholm’s?!
Anyway. Luna said they’ve had to keep moving cause of how hard it is to find supplies for everyone, and the last time she tried approaching an all human settlement, she almost got shot. They thought she was one of the trolls. She won’t go to a settlement alone, either, in case the people try to keep her there against her will. She doesn’t want to risk leaving her “friends” behind.
We gave her what we could and told her about Jan’s town. Gave her directions, told her how to follow our trail. We offered to take her with us, and drop her off at Jan’s on the way back, but she said she’d rather be on her own. The only reason she’s even thinking of heading for Jan’s is cause of the food. She’s used to being hungry, but that doesn’t mean she likes it. As it is, she tries to keep her supply bags as full as possible. She’s apparently raided herself some backpacks to use, and has them spread out among the trolls. Quite effective. She makes them all carry food in their bags, cause she’s worried that if they get too hungry, they’ll go back to eating people. She’s even been giving them the bigger portions of food just to avoid the possibility. She has six of them though, so it’s been a bit rough. She got a crash course on what’s safe to eat in the wild, and what isn’t. She was excited to find out that dandelions are edible. I suppose it makes sense…I know I’ve seen a shit ton of them while we’ve been traveling. To her, it might very well be the difference between life and death. I just really hope she makes it to Jan’s. She’s a smart kid.
Which brings me back to the trolls. She taught hers how to talk. She said she was trying to teach them how to pass for humans so she could take them into town. Talking is a big part of that. They’re not so great at getting to a bathroom in time, but they can recognize each other and call them by their names. If you ask Harry to get Ron, he goes off and brings Ron back. Ask Hermione where Moony (see why I have my doubts about her name?) is, and she’ll point you in the right direction. I was honestly a bit scared to bring Poppy near them, I really didn’t feel like another bitefest, but um. These trolls have a…different way of transferring information. Instead of biting…they kiss. I’m not sure where/who they learned THAT from, Luna swears it wasn’t her, and from the disgust in her voice, I’m inclined to believe her.
At any rate. Poppy talks now. Quite a bit. Way more than Luna’s did. Now they’re all chatterboxes, but they talk weird. Tiny says it’s like they’re talking sign language…but out loud? I dunno, but he’s quite excited about it. And I’m off the hook about her first word being “fuck.” Her first official words were: “Tiny, stop.”
Yeah, there’s a story there, too. He was…mildly unhappy…when he found out how these trolls share info. He was fucking pissed when he found out that we let Poppy get involved. He said it was bad enough that these trolls are going around kissing each other, not knowing what it’s all about, but having them kiss Poppy? At least these trolls know each other. Poppy’s never even met them. “If a guy walked up to a random woman and started making out with her, he’d be arrested, so why is this okay?”
I mean, he had himself a full on hissy fit about it, and hey, not gonna lie, he had a point. I actually felt bad. Obviously, none of us were thinking like that, which, I think, is part of the problem. We don’t think of her as “human” so we don’t think about things like her getting kissed or anything like that, and these are things we do need to think about. Tiny’s been ahead of the game from the beginning, and boy do I feel like shit about it. As a woman, I know the dangers we face. This world isn’t any safer just cause there’s a lot less people running around, and ugh.
Sorry, tangent. I had to pace. I’m done now. Getting back to what happened, Tiny was having his (completely justified) soapbox moment, and then we heard, “Tiny, stop.” and…he did. He made a sound like a squeaky toy getting stomped on, but he stopped. Gave us all glares that were damn near lethal, then led Poppy off to do her processing thing in peace. That was, two days ago? I think? We’ve been trying to move fast to make up for the million and one side trips, but it’s been one thing after another. First the road was blocked, then the horses refused to move (rattlesnake. Thought it would be too cold for snakes. Oops?), THEN we ran into a broken down bridge. We finally gave up getting anywhere and broke out the tents. We were all pretty wiped anyway.
On a side note, I think I pissed off Vicki. She’s the one who told me earlier that Anna’s attachment doesn’t count as Stockholm’s. I kinda went off on a rant about it, and she interrupted me to tell me, “don’t worry Shel, you’ll understand when you’re older.” I’m gonna take a wild guess that there’s a massive backstory there I should stay away from. It certainly explains things though.
Oct. 21, 2018
So. That was fun. Turned out our little run of bad luck was a blessing in disguise. Right after I finished that last letter, I woke up Jean for his shift, and went to bed. Maybe three hours later, he woke me up to tell me we had company.
Luna had caught up with us. Turns out, she went ahead and left the same day we did. She stuck to the road, but didn’t even reach the end of the fork when her trolls started snarling. They’re not good with directions, but they know how to point. She was going to sneak ahead to see how many were there, but she came across someone hauling ass the opposite way. Apparently there’s a base somewhere near where we were. The boys said they didn’t see it, but the guy Luna ran into told her where it was and to get her ass moving. There was a horde incoming.
She took off, but instead of going to the base, she grabbed her trolls and started our way. She said she doesn’t plan on staying us the whole way, but she trusts us to let her go her own way more than she does “those dickheads.” She also told Jean and BG that if they tried to boss her around, she’d kick them in the nuts. I think that amused BG. He just looked at me and shook his head. Jean, on the other hand, looked very…disgruntled. I think she reminded him a bit too much of Aubrey.
Wow, I went off topic again. Such a shocker. Ugh.
So, anyway. Luna had been traveling non-stop since she found the hoard. Well, almost non-stop. She had to give everyone breaks, but each time the wind would shift, the trolls would snarl again. We were kinda in a little valley, out of the wind, so Tiny took Poppy up the hill and instantly got “bad cloud. Bad bad cloud. Go. We go.” We’ve been moving since then. Threw as many of the trolls as we could on the horses, and Luna in a wagon, and took off. The stupid bridge was a problem, but luckily the creek wasn’t very deep. We waded across it and hauled ass back up the other side as fast as we could.
We found this huge store front that we could’ve used to bunker in until the horde passed us by, but we didn’t have enough supplies to make it through any kind of long term stay at the time. The boys have been hunting again as we’ve ran, but it’s kinda hard to run and not scare away game. We managed to restock our food, for the most part, later, but then we couldn’t find anywhere to hole up in.
I take that back…we did find a couple places that looked like they were former settlements, but the barricades were all broken down, and there wasn’t anything left for us to scavenge or patch up the holes in the defenses with. We did stop at one for a little while. It had rained that morning, and we hadn’t really had a chance to change clothes or dry off. The place had three hotels, so we went through and found some towels and clothes. We left some of our old clothes behind. We’re hoping that between the rain and the new clothes, the twitchers will be thrown off our trail.
We’re in a house now, kinda set back in the woods. Out of sight from the road. All the windows and doors are as sealed up as we can get them. We have scouts all around, each with a troll and a radio. No snarls or ‘bad cloud’ yet, so fingers crossed.
October 22, 2018
Today wasn’t so bad. Had to take a few detours cause of downed trees and crap, but we made good time, anyway. I thought Luna would slow us down, but if she got tired of walking, she’d get one of her trolls to give her a piggyback ride until she was rested. She didn’t make one of them all the carrying, either. (Told ya she’s smart.)
She’s also been letting us borrow her trolls. We’ve been spreading them out so we have more coverage when it comes to twitchers. We spent today teaching them how to count. We’re not sure yet if they’ll actually be able to tell us how many twitchers are coming, but it’s worth a shot. They learn amazingly quick. Once they figured out 1-20, all they needed were the words for…what do you even call it? Tens? Thirty, forty, fifty, etc.? I dunno. They learned it though. They got up to a thousand, so they’re good until they reach a million, and frankly, if they get that high up when counting twitchers, we’re just fucking done.
Oct. 23, 2018
Apparently it’s called “base ten.” #TheMoreYouKnow
PS. Jay is a nerd.
Oct. 25, 2018
The trolls have mastered base 10. They’ve been counting cars as we pass them. Annoying as fuck, but none of us have the heart to tell them to shut up. Luna is teaching the trolls how to skip. And the boys. Some of them, anyway. I thought everyone learned how to skip when they were kids? You men are so deprived, I swear.
Anyway. Still no trace of the horde, so we’re pretty sure we’ve lost them. We went ahead and marked the area on the map though, so we remember where to watch out for them on the way back. We’ve had a couple good days of no rain again, but our luck ran out today. It’s been raining off and on since around noon. It wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s also cold, and we have Luna now.
The boys found a hotel and went in to clear it out, but some asshole apparently came through and smashed the windows of the ground floor rooms, and ripped the balcony doors off of most of the second floor rooms. We had to really hunt to find a room where the beds and carpet weren’t molded over. There was another hotel right next to it in a little better shape, so we went for that one, instead. It kinda sucks, cause we WANTED to use the other one. It had some of those barbecue grill things, and we didn’t want to have to cook over there and run the food over here in the rain. Ignore that. The boys ripped them out of the ground and brought them over. Not sure I understand the point of that, considering they’re still IN THE RAIN, but. You know. Whatever. I’m gonna go help Kim set up the hot plates. We wanted to save the solar power, but…food.
Oct. 26, 2018
It’s still raining. Just a light drizzle, which is somehow making it worse. It’s like the water is getting EVERYWHERE. We’ve tried waiting it out. Spent most of the morning looking over the maps and trying to figure out the best way to go after we reach Nashville, but Sam says this could go on all day, and we really don’t have time for this shit. We’re getting Luna’s trolls rain ready, and then we’re headed out.
Luna’s pissy cause we told her to stay in the wagon where she’ll be dry. Said that if she wanted to be bossed around like a 2 y/o, she’d’ve stayed with the first buncha people she ran into. Fair point, honestly. She’s been letting us split up her trolls to help keep watch, so it’s not like she hasn’t been pulling her own weight, as it were. I told her she could walk with us if she’d prefer, and I would take her place in the wagon. She’s “thinking about it.”
They’re done. Time to go.
Oct. 26, 2018
Two letters in the same day. Lucky you. Actually, it’s a little after 4 in the morning, so I guess it’s not technically the same day, but who even cares.
We didn’t get very far from the last letter. The drizzle was bad enough, but then the fog rolled in. I said fuck it, and had the boys find somewhere dry. If the rain can hide our scent from the twitchers, who’s to say it can’t hide theirs from our trolls? Getting an extra mile down the road just isn’t worth the risk of running into a horde.
On the downside, we had a cold dinner tonight. On the upside, we had an interesting conversation with the trolls, and boooyyy, that was a sentence I never thought I’d say/write.
See, I got bored (this IS me…), and started rereading the letters I’ve wrote you so far. The thing about the first horde we sat through still bugs the hell out of me. I figured, we have a group of trolls now. They all speak somewhat, even if it’s kinda weird. Let’s see if they have any answers. We got…something? None of them were there in the first horde, so they couldn’t tell us why those trolls did what they did, but we got some insights into the whole twitcher vs. troll thing.
For one thing, our trolls don’t see as food. They claim not to, anyway. We are “begin cause” (still trying to figure that out…we caused them to begin to think? We caused them to BEGIN, as in exist? Luna suggested teaching them to read and give them a dictionary. Maybe they’ll be able to explain themselves better), and “food” is “tasty.” “Begin cause” apparently isn’t “tasty,” but when we asked the trolls why the twitchers still try to eat people then, Ron said “broken.” We managed to narrow that one down. The twitcher’s brains/thoughts are broken. We asked why their brain was “broken” and their faces went…weird. They all do the puppy head tilt thing when they’re confused or don’t understand what we’re asking of them, but this…it was like the question didn’t even compute. Like asking someone what the color nine smells like.
We did find out they call themselves “clouds” (we kinda figured), though we don’t know WHY. They just say that’s what they are. Sam, Jay and I spent a good hour talking about that, and we have a few theories, but we haven’t been able to figure out how to phrase the questions for the trolls yet. Luna might be onto something about teaching them how to read and giving them books. It’s what we do with kids, who says it won’t work for them? I’ll discuss it with everyone tomorrow. Time flies when you’re having fun (or patrolling). The sky is starting to get a little brighter. Time to wake everyone up and get going.