Don't Feed the Trolls – Chapter 11
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. 28, 2018
I have to say. I’m rather impressed with Luna. We’ve actually managed to make up for our little rainy day break. I was NOT expecting that. When I was making my way down from New York with the kids, we had to keep taking breaks. With Luna…I forget she’s even there. She gets hungry, she starts hunting through her sack of snacks. She gets tired, she either hitches a ride with Doug or Kristine, or climbs into a wagon. She’s the most low maintenance kid I’ve ever met. I love it. Not saying I don’t love Timmy and the others, but…it’s just a relief that we don’t have to slow down for her, you know?
I did talk to the others about teaching the trolls to read. They’re a little worried, because our trolls are already enough of an information source that Jay and Garcia have concerns about twitchers going after them for it. They pointed out that if the trolls can exchange information with each other through bodily fluids, it stands to reason that the twitchers could, too. If the twitchers attack our trolls and manage to get any of their blood or fluid, and it transfers the information to them…our trolls know how to communicate. Poppy is getting pretty good at emoting. She can smile, she can frown…she even glares at Tiny when he gets annoying. She’s not cussing yet, but I’m waiting for it. He’s a bit ridiculous, no lie, but getting back on topic…if the twitchers are able to steal the troll’s information, it might make it easier for them to fake being human long enough to get into attacking range. What if they come across a place like Jan’s, where they bring in trolls to take care of? I mean, hopefully the pinochs would be able to tell the difference and give them warning, but what if?
We asked the trolls if that was possible, but none of them know, either.
Luna decided to teach her trolls. We’re not entirely happy about it, but we had all agreed from the beginning that she makes the rules for her own group, and she was quite happy to remind us of the fact. Besides, as she pointed out, we tend to group up around Poppy anyway, and her own trolls tend to stay close to her. As long as we protect her and Poppy, the twitchers shouldn’t be able to reach her trolls, and if they DO reach them, then we have much bigger problems than the twitchers stealing any information, cause that means we’re getting our asses kicked.
That was early yesterday morning. BG, Jean, and I had a nice long conversation last night. BG wants Luna to start training. Jean thinks she should only learn ranged weapons, cause if they get close enough for her to need hand-to-hand, as Luna pointed out, there is a HUGE problem. BG countered that Luna doesn’t plan on staying with us, and that twitchers aren’t the only predators she might come across. Vicki came by for that part of the conversation, and yeah…Jean lost. Vicki and Tiny added first aid to her list of lessons.
Adding insult to injury, when they did Rock Paper Scissors this morning to decide what the first lesson was gonna be, Jean lost to BG, Tiny AND Vicki. He spent a good ten minutes bitching about how he had been “trying to fucking lose, dammit, what the fucking hell?!” That was fun. At least Luna was excited about it all. Everytime we stopped, she practiced. She spent a lot of time in the wagons today and passed out hard tonight.
Jean worked with her a little bit more before we all ate. He told me and BG that she did a LOT better than he expected. Tomorrow is BG’s turn with her. He’s working on a bow for her as I write this. He plans on having it done before his watch is over.
I’m off to bed. It’s been a decent day.
Oct. 31, 2018
Happy Halloween! I wonder if Scott took Bridgette out this year? Ugh, I hate being away from home.
It doesn’t help that the past couple days have been pretty miserable. The bridges we needed/wanted weren’t usable. The first bridge wasn’t a big deal. The water wasn’t that deep or fast moving. We could’ve waded across, but it wouldn’t’ve done us any good, cause the next bridge we would’ve ran into was barely standing, and what WAS standing wasn’t worth the risk.
They found a train bridge not too far south of it, so we took that instead. It was a pain in the ass, apparently Luna isn’t fond of heights when it comes to rivers. She never learned to swim. I kinda feel bad for her. BG told her she’s getting swimming lessons at every single watering hole we stop at. If it’s not snowing or freezing rain, she’s swimming. She was already annoyed with him, now she’s outright pissed.
Off topic again, sorry. Anyway, we looked at the map and found out I40 goes over this same damn river like 10 times. (Okay, probably not really that many, but close enough, dammit.) Since we couldn’t be sure the bridges were all solid, we had to find another way around. We had to leave 40 and take a bunch of backroads. Just about ALL of them were fucking uphill, too. On the plus side, we had a gorgeous view. On the downside….IT WAS UPHILL. Oh, and the view? Yeah, kinda hard to appreciate when the TREES BLOCK EVERYTHING.
Ugh. By the way, we’ve apparently been seriously underestimating our horses. Or, rather, under…utilizing? I’m not sure how to phrase it right, but earlier today, Luna happened to wonder outloud how people went for months traveling by horse and carriage just to go to the nearest town. That sparked an interesting conversation amongst the boys and Doug. Did YOU know horses can go 40-50 miles a day, pulling a heavy wooden wagon? Cause um, *I* didn’t. Luna was quite excited to find out that we were traveling so far…but curious about how she was able to keep up with the horses is they were walking so fast, and Jean and BG got to explain to her that we do NOT, in fact, travel 40-50 miles a day. That, in turn, prompted her and I BOTH to ask, “WHY THE HELL NOT?!”
Turns out, none of them had an answer, so tomorrow, we’re loading up early, and we’re all mounting up, or getting in a wagon. The boys are reorganizing the wagons right now, making benches out of the totes and putting up the stakes on the sides so we can put the cover over them. It won’t be comfortable, but it sure beats laying on top of everything like we HAVE been doing.
I was worried about us being too heavy for the horses to pull in the wagons, but Kim pointed out that the wagons were designed to be lightweight and horses in the old days pulled much more. Kristine and Doug also say that since we have two horses hooked up to each wagon, they’d be able to carry just about all of us in ONE wagon without a problem. I don’t plan on testing that particular theory, but it’s good to know that we have a lot of room to work with.
On another note, it’s been really warm yesterday and today. Very Indian Summer-ish. This is NOT a complaint, but here’s hoping it’s not so hot we all die, crammed together in the wagons tomorrow.
Nov. 1, 2018
Of course it rained. Because why WOULDN’T it?!
Whatever. We didn’t make it no 50 miles, but we did reach Nashville. Or what’s left of it, anyway. The wagons worked pretty well. They weren’t as cramped as I thought they would be, either. Between the horses we brought with us from home, and the extras Joe gave us, we had enough rides to keep EVERYONE from having to pile in with the supplies. As expected, it wasn’t exactly comfortable, and we all took turns between the floor and the totes, but we did get a lot further than we would’ve just walking, and no one had to spend the whole day wet.
Honestly, the only major downside is that we’ve reached far enough that we don’t really have a good place to take shelter in. Where we are, the buildings are all broken down and burnt. We’re all spread out so we have a roof over our heads in case the rain starts again, and the walls keep out some of the wind, but that’s about it. Still, it could be worse. Mike says the bridge over the dam is in one piece, talk about a fucking miracle, there. BG says they probably focused on the city center. The suburbs are downstream from the dam, and they weren’t as hard hit with the virus/plague/whatever, so it wouldn’t make sense to blow the dam and kill the uninfected. Especially when every living body is needed to rebuild a society. Makes sense, when it’s put that way.
Got to listen to Luna bitch at BG a bit, today. Remember I said she was annoyed with him? Yeah, that bow he carved and strung for her? He showed it to her the next day when he was done. Went over how the string comes over the ends and fastens, taught her the basics of pulling and releasing…then took it apart and made her practice stringing and unstringing it. Then he started teaching her how to find a good length of wood to carve into a bow, herself. Refused to actually let her shoot anything. When she complained, he told her that she needed to learn how to take care of her weapon, or it would be useless. The whole, give the man a fish vs. teaching a man to fish thing. Since she was confined to the wagon today, she got to practice a bit more on taking care of her bow. She told BG, “I thought you’d be the fun one.” The look on his face…
Tiny and Vicki took over from there. Vicki was going to teach her how to sew, but she already knows how to do a passing job of it, so she’s been put to work mending tears in clothes, instead. When she complained, Tiny pointed out, “the person you’re stitching isn’t always going to sit still while you work. Think of the wagon as a moving patient.” She still muttered some not nice things about it, but “at least it’s not boring like B.”
Jean snickered. Jean also got glared at, and decided he should switch places with one of the riders. Shocking.
Ugh. It’s time to try and get some sleep, but I’m not tired. Time to count the stars, I guess.
Nov. 2, 2018
What you guys didn’t destroy of Nashville, Mother Nature did. We didn’t even make it halfway into town. From what we can tell, between the buildings being blown apart and the bridges collapsing, enough crap fell into the river to dam it up. Rivers don’t LIKE being dammed up, so they tend to find ways around the shit holding them back. This one decided the best path to take, was the one going straight through the city.
Ty and Kim were the first ones to report back on Lake Nashville’s existence. I had to go see for myself. It’s creepy as fuck. The water doesn’t look all that deep, but Vicki says not to trust it. She pointed out one building, looked like a hotel, and said that the windows we could see were probably on the 2nd story. Walking through it would be a complete bust. Even if it wasn’t too deep, Tiny creeped me right the fuck out of even THINKING about trying to wade through it. Talking about the dead bodies probably buried in the water, and the UNDEAD bodies, and just, NOPE. No. Not doing that.
Right now, we’re kinda camped out not far from the water’s edge. We have two teams out, going both ways to see if we can find a bridge across this mess. I’m hoping we won’t have to go too far out of the way, but anything is better than just sitting here. As if Tiny’s creepy ass comments weren’t bad enough, Jay had to go and talk about how all the water coming in from the dammed up spots “has to go somewhere” and not wanting to be near the water, “just in case.” Just in case, WHAT, Jay?!
Oh, let’s see, alligators, floating dead things, parasites…yeah, thanks, Jay. Fuck off.
Nov. 3, 2018
Well, we’re on the other side of the river. I wanted to write more last night, but the sun went down, and I didn’t want to break into our supplies for candles. Especially since I knew I’d be stuck in the wagon today, anyway. Not like there’s much to do in the wagon besides sleep and write, you know?
Garcia and Fin found a path for us. Actually, they found quite a bit more than that. They were looking for a path, and then someone came across the radios. Apparently they’re some of your guys. Well, not yours yours, but they’re part of the engineers that were in charge of the river when all hell broke loose. They directed us to this weird walkway the boys called a “pontoon” bridge (I thought “pontoon” was that stuff Canadians eat, but okay then). We had to lead the horses across one by one. They were NOT happy, but they all made it.
Gomez, the guy who radioed us, invited us to stay with them for the night to catch up on what’s going on in the outside world. They only have the one bridge at the moment, and it was gonna take at least all night to either move that one, or make a new one on the other side of town, so we said fuck it. We gave them a radio and told him about the fort. He said it’s too late in the season to try and make the journey now, but once it started warming up again, he’d see about moving his people that way. They currently have about 200-250 people living in/on the flooded buildings. They used to have more, but some drowned, and others got sick.
One of Garcia’s men told us that originally, they were camping out in the suburbs, and just made trips into town to try and salvage what they could. Then, one of the salvage crews got stuck between the flood waters and a horde. By that time, the water was already chest high on most of the men, and had a pretty decent current going. They didn’t know if the twitchers could swim, but they figured it was their best shot, and off they went. They swam to the nearest building they could reach, and watched the twitchers that chased them get swept away. They came back later to check out the buildings. There was plenty of room on the inside for everyone, and with the water as a barrier, they wouldn’t need to build any walls to keep the twitchers out, even if they DID figure out how to swim.
They added a couple makeshift dams of their own to divert some of the flood water away from the city before it got any worse, and made the bridge so they could come and go as they pleased.
They also cobbled together some homemade boats to go back and forth between the buildings, and made a couple rooftop gardens…they don’t exactly grow much there (they do a lot of the farming outside of the city), but between what theyDO grow, and the traps Garcia and his people put out, they’re surviving.
Their next project is to remove some of the debris blocking up the river. They want to restore enough of the flow to keep the north end protected, without losing the southern bend.
When we told Gomez where we’re headed, he said he’ll have someone keep an eye out for us on the way back. One of the guys with him is gonna get their people working on a bridge to keep on that side of the city. All we have to do is make our way back down here, and we have a safe place to stop. That’s part of why we gave them one of our radios. Gomez thinks it should only take us, maybe two weeks, to get to the boys and back. I’m not that optimistic. I’m figuring closer to a month, just to be on the safe side. Either way, if we can let him know we’re on our way, he can be ready for us.
Originally, he wanted us to start trying to radio him for as long as we could, so we had to tell him about how the trolls are able to somehow pick up on the radios being used. That set them all off on a geek out session, but when things finally calmed back down enough, we agreed to only radio in during the first half of the day. That way, if any twitchers pick up on the radios, we SHOULD be able to see them coming. Though, with Poppy and Luna’s trolls, I guess that doesn’t really matter. Still. We can’t rely on them too much.
Let’s see, what else…Luna is still working on teaching her trolls to read. They’re doing okay. Gomez had us stay in a building away from the others. He said they’ve come across a few trolls that didn’t attack, but that didn’t mean he was okay with having them around his people while they were sleeping. Poppy telling him “You taste bad” didn’t help matter, either. I know, shocking, right?
The guy who told us about how they came to the city gave us something neat though. He put a piece of scrap paper in one of those plastic page protectors, took a dry erase marker, wrote on the plastic thing…and then wiped it off. The page protector makes it work like a dry erase board. I love it. Luna did, too. She asked for a couple more so she can have the trolls practice writing the letters. He asked how many trolls we had, counted out 7 of the protectors…and then added a handful more. He looked at me, and just shrugged. “You never know.”
I think that’s everything…I dunno when I’ll write again. I’m riding outside tomorrow, and then maybe scouting. I guess it’ll just depend on if anything happens between now and us reaching the boys.
Nov. 5, 2018
If I see another river between here and the Mississippi, I will cut a bitch. Fucking test me, I swear…We had to get through one yesterday that had us all soaked to the bone. Today, we crossed FIVE. FIVE FUCKING RIVERS. And NONE of them had useable bridges!! Two of them had collapsed, and the other fucking three were jam packed, and would’ve taken too much time to clear.
Honestly, I wouldn’t’ve even minded, but it was raining its ass off, and the sides of the damn things were sloped, so we couldn’t just drive the wagons across, NOOOO. We had to get out and CARRY the damn things down the slope on one side, and UP the other side, slipping and sliding in the fucking mud the whole way!
One of them had a bunch of trees stopping it up, so the bed was like, maybe an inch of water, and the rest all mud. So DOWN a muddy slope, ACROSS a mud field, and back UP. It was fucking ugh. The trolls all lost their shoes, and so did Luna. We’ll have to start raiding every fucking house we came by just to find them new ones. I’m still surprised mine didn’t come off, but they’re the ones you guys set me up with, so I guess that has something to do with it. As much shit as you guys have to do in these damn things, you can’t exactly have them falling off all the damn time.
Side note: Poppy has learned how to fucking WHINE. “Wet, wet, wet. No wet. No more wet!” This is ridiculous, I just want you to fucking know.
Also, we’re in Kentucky now.
Nov. 7, 2018
It’s funny how you can almost always tell you’re about to find another settlement. All the cars just disappear. The clearer the roads, the bigger the settlement, seems to be the rule so far.
I thought dad’s idea was unique, but I guess not. This group is really well off…when it comes to food, anyway. They’re on a lake, and they had a farming supply shop really close by. They don’t get a lot of meat, besides fish, but they have plenty of produce. And flowers. Their wall sucks though, and they’re constantly losing people cause of it. They started out with over 300 people, and are down to 150.
We couldn’t stay long enough to help them build their walls better, but we went through their supplies, and they have carts similar to the ones Mike built for us last time. We told them to make bags holding what produce they could, and whatever they couldn’t bear to leave behind, then fill the carts with dirt and transfer over as many of the plants as they could. If they can make it down to Nashville with Gomez, they should be safe. Gomez won’t turn them away, and the plants will be more than welcome, I’m pretty sure. Potatoes, especially, go a long way.
They told us to take what we wanted from the “fields” since there was no way for them to take it all with them. The trolls got to taste their first tomatoes. It was funny. Ron and Harry loved them, but Poppy was NOT a fan. She spat her bite out. “Not food! Not tasty!” The others ate theirs, but looked like they haven’t made up their minds yet. Tomorrow, they get to try cucumbers.