Don’t Feed The Trolls – Chapter 2

Don't Feed the Trolls (cover)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 13th 2018

Williams,

Sorry, ignore that. I was jotting stuff down so I wouldn’t forget it when I wrote this. We’re at a bed and breakfast place, it looks like. The sign was broken, so I can’t read it, but we’re still in NC. We were trying to put as much distance as we could between us and the trolls, but with the banging and everything for the past couple days…

So. Breaking it down for you. Kim woke me up, I think it was the night after the last letter I wrote, I don’t remember. Honestly, my brain is a little shot. I’m not even sure what day it is, but my watch says it’s the 13th, so that’s what I’m going with.

Anyway, Kim woke me up. She said the trolls were being weirder than usual. Before, remember what I said about the one troll moving so Kate could get to the breaker box? That was a good kind of weird. Kinda. Freaky, but it worked in our favor, so good. This though…this was bad. They were pacing and snarling, nose up in the air like they were dogs or something. And they were…it was almost like they were having convulsions? They were twitching. All over. Hands, necks, shoulders…

Anyway, I thought maybe one of the boys had started taking pot shots at them, but I checked with Jean and Mike, upstairs, and they both swore no one had done anything to get them riled up, so I sent Vicki to the roof to check in with Sam and get a better look around. I thought, maybe it was just the ones by the house, you know? No such luck. She came back and said all the ones in sight were doing the same thing. Said that it looked more like those leg jerks you do when you’re about to fall asleep, than an actual seizure, but without studying their brains, she couldn’t tell for sure. I sent her back up to relieve Sam.

As soon as she got up there, all hell broke loose. The trolls started banging on the windows and doors, like they suddenly remembered we’re food to them, and they were starving, but…the more I think about it, the more I think they were just trying to scare us. I mean, it wouldn’t’ve taken much for one of them to put their fist through the window, you know? Hell, I broke a window once, when I was a kid, so I know how easy it is to do, even on accident, but with all their banging and growling, not a single window got so much as a crack. How? And more importantly, why? It was loud, it was scary, but I’m pretty damn convinced that’s all it was supposed to be, especially considering that once we got everyone to second floor, the banging stopped.

Then, when I sent Ty up to the roof to check in with Vicki, and we were all waiting for him to get back, the trolls started jiggling the door handles. Not like they were trying to break in, though. It was more like they were checking to make sure the doors were locked. I had everyone get ready to evacuate to the roof, just in case, but the trolls seemed to stay calm as long as we were upstairs. Whenever one of us tried to go down the stairs to check out the sitch, the banging would start up again.

Ty finally came back, and said a second group of trolls were approaching, but they were different. Vicki pointed out that the trolls in the first group looked somewhat clean…like, their clothes had black marks on them, probably from when they first turned, but the dirt on their face was mostly washed off from the rain we had, and underneath, they looked fairly clean. The new group (group 2) were covered in brown. Dark brown on their arms and face.

They also “walked funny” according to Ty. Our trolls walked normal until this all started, but Vicki thinks the twitches and jerks of the new group is their “norm.” She told me to make a note of something called “kuru”. Said you would know what it means, and then spent a good ten minutes bitching about the lack of text messaging. Ty also said our trolls had split their…forces? I guess? One of them circled the house, the other was, basically, having a pissing contest with the new group. Ty and Vicki both reported the same thing. The new trolls kept trying to walk straight down the road towards the house we were in, but “our” group wouldn’t let them. They kept snarling and lunging at the new trolls if they got too close to the road (were they protecting us??). Lori said this is similar to what they saw on their trip down to dad’s farm, so I mean, at least there’s precedence (sp?), but still…

The second group eventually passed by, it took a while though…I went up on the roof at one point to watch, and Vicki told me a little about the kuru thing. If she’s right, this might be good news for us. She said people with kuru usually die within a year from starvation, and the jerking and twitches are signs of motor control loss. The problem she’s seeing is that, for one thing, it usually takes YEARS for it to manifest any symptoms, AND usually, by the time a person with kuru is jerking and twitching like that, they’ve already lost the ability to walk. These trolls are still moving, which means, whatever keeps these things alive, is also counteracting the effects of the disease. Vicki doesn’t know how, or for how long it will be able to continue doing so, but she said it gives her a bit more to work with, regarding the virus that caused the outbreak in the first place.

Anyway, once the new set of trolls were gone, our first set…they kinda lingered? They hung around for another day, and then, they left. The ones around the house went first. They just…walked away. Mike and Lori were on roof watch. They said the house trolls joined up with the trolls around the neighborhood, and then the entire group moved on. We hunkered down for another day after that, and then got the hell out of dodge. We haven’t seen any trolls since then, but we did come across a couple dead bodies. Definitely deaths by trolls.

Vicki and Tiny did a quick check of the bodies, and then made us move on. Tiny said the heart was missing from one of the bodies, and part of the lung. Another body was missing three fingers. I couldn’t figure out why that freaked them out so bad, until Vicki told me that all four bodies were missing the same three. The thumb and ring finger on one hand, and the index finger on the other.

Why would the trolls do that? It’s almost like they were taking them as trophies? But…that’s more of a human thing, isn’t it? And they were all missing different internal organs…one of the bodies, we found a good 30ft away. Tiny said the woman probably would’ve lived, if we had found her sooner. Probably would’ve turned anyway, but the trolls only took her fingers, and three ribs. Most of the bodies had been dead for almost a week, that one though…Tiny talked it over with Sam, and taking into consideration the heat and everything, says that she probably died in the last day or two. If we have the timing right, that puts those people’s deaths at about the same time we reached that house, and all the trolls blocked us in.

Which brings us back to the possibility of the trolls protecting us. It still doesn’t make any sense, but neither does anything else. Why would they keep us basically locked up in that house, but not attack us? Even the banging on the doors and windows, it’s not like it would’ve taken that much to break the glass. And the windows were HUGE. I didn’t mention it before, because it didn’t seem important at the time, but that was the one thing I was against when the scouts suggested that house. The living room had windows that were damn near floor to ceiling! If the trolls had wanted to, they could’ve WALKED through them. Hell, the first thing I did was make everyone take apart the box springs of all the beds and board that shit up! And then piled MORE crap in front of THAT. I wasn’t taking any chances, so wtf, Williams? Why didn’t they come after us? They should’ve seen us all piled in, and made like we were a friggen smorgasbord, but they didn’t?

I don’t like it, Will. I mean, I like that we’re still alive, but I don’t like not knowing what the hell is going on.

Whatever. We’re moving at first light, and I need sleep. Will have to think about this more.

Shelly


June 14th, 2018

Williams,

So I talked it over with the others, and we all agree. The way the trolls were acting definitely seemed like they were trying to keep us on the second floor, with no intent on actually harming us. Still not sure of the “why” but Lori told me something interesting…

Apparently, some of the people she was with had similar experiences with trolls, where they acted out of…well, character, I guess? When they were staying with George and Danni, one of their look outs saw a troll fall down, and the other trolls helped her get back up. Then when the troll fell again, and couldn’t stand up, they stayed with her until she could. She also said, they had a group come through George’s farm, but the trolls didn’t go crazy attacking everyone then, either. From the best they could tell, as long as no one ran, the trolls would pass right by the person. Is that prey instinct? Or predator…whatever.

Her and Danni also witnessed them trying to eat REAL food. Dick was feeding that one troll back at dad’s place, and it seemed to like it, so…what’s going on, Will? Is this a mutation? If it is, is it a mutation of the virus, or a mutation of the troll? If it’s a mutation of the virus, what does this mean for the rest of us? If it’s a mutation of the troll, what does it mean for them?

Yeah, I know, you don’t have the answers, and even if you did, I won’t get them til I get back, but that’s where my brain is at right now.

We didn’t make it very far today. One of the drawbacks of horse drawn carriages. We have all these roads, and that’s great, but they’re not much use when they’re chock fucking full of cars. We had to keep pushing cars off to the side before we could go anywhere. We ended up going off-road a couple times, there just wasn’t anywhere to put the cars. Even the sides of the roads were blocked up. It got too dark to go any further, so now we’re camped out. Kim and Lori are scouting the area, trying to figure out whether it’d be quicker to just stay off road, or have teams working through the night to get the cars out of the way.

This place isn’t bad. Typical rich-bitch type house though. More ridiculously large windows that no one really needs, but hey, whatever. Sam already found his perch on the roof. I swear, that man reminds me of a cat. Always has to find the highest place he can.

Everyone else is still checking through the house, seeing what we can scavenge. Ty and Kate said most of the cans are bulging though, so I don’t think we’re gonna walk away with much. Most of what I see going in the totes are friggen noodles. I think BG saw the face I made at the lasagna noodle packages. He laughed at me, and asked if he should go egg hunting. Asshole. (Jokes on him, if I see a bird’s nest, I’m sending him up a tree, see if I don’t…)

Anyway, we cleared the house before we moved ourselves in, of course. It was empty, except for the garage. I guess the owners decided to take the easy way out. All things considered, I guess I can’t blame them too much. This life is hell, Will. Even on the farm with all of the amenities we have, it’s not easy. Not like it used to be.

Man…never thought I’d see the day I would miss Candy Crush…

Shelly


June 15th 2018

Williams,

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. Lori was on point with me today, and I got to hear all about her and her relationship problems with Alex and Ryan. Apparently she’s the one who suggested them all being together, and she says they all love(d?) each other, but she kinda fell out of love, which…I’m not sure how that works in those relationships, but I would assume that means you just break up with two people at once, rather than just one? The problem here though,   is that 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.

I don’t understand the problem, personally. I mean, if Lori wanted to break up with just Al, I would get it. She wants to break it off with both of them though, so how would that make Al feel like less if they’re both being dumped? Then there’s the issue where Ryan knows that she wants to leave, but is trying to convince her to stay with them 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. Well, 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?

And you thought I had the “training” to handle this trip…

-Shelly


June 18th, 2018

Williams,

Either whatever crap Hector used to mark his path back to base was literal 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 had been finding the marks pretty regularly, but it’s been 5 or 6 miles now, and we haven’t found anything. 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, and we were staying close to what our map had outlined out, so wtf?

We fell back to this Bed and Breakfast place we found for now. Jean and Mike are out trying to do some 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. BG pointed out that we have the advantage of numbers though, while Jean would only have whoever went with him. Jean wasn’t exactly thrilled, but even he had to admit it was a solid point, so now they’re off and we’re here, 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 just wanting us away from the windows? Or maybe it was the doors…

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 15 yards, 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. First off, the brown stuff on the sign wasn’t just shit.  He noticed the brown stuff on one part of the sign looked different than the other side and sniffed at it. He’s not 100% sure on what it is, but it didn’t smell like crap (tell me you’re thinking the same thing I am…) Then, 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. The real cherry on top though, was when he told me that they found where another mark was carved onto a tree – Hector’s mark, so it wasn’t another group or anything – but they found it by sheer accident.

He said he and Mike had gotten pissed off cause they weren’t 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. Mike 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.

My problem with that, is that there is a very real possibility that we’ve already seen trolls doing all that…first hand I mean, that last group? Remember I mentioned how slow they were moving? What is they were moving so slow on purpose, to let us get into that house and get settled? Then, when that second group came through, and they did all the banging around… keeping us there until the other bunch had passed. Doesn’t that count as planning? Doesn’t that count as deception? We can’t rule them out.

Besides, 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

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