Don’t Feed The Trolls – Chapter 6
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 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 and disobeying 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, I would lie my ass off in his place, too, but the point remains. For all we know, he is 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 that doesn’t fix his little “Imma do what I wanna do” mentality.
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 Larry’s Call (Lori’s name suggestion got shot down) 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 Milly 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. Most of them just thought she was 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, either. Your people think she’ll be useful for spotting the twitchers. Also, they’ve kinda adopted her as a mascot? I don’t know. Your guys 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. One particular group was 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.
At first, 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. Then, 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. That got me worried.
What is it that Tiny and the girls have seen with these boys that I haven’t? They 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, that’s not concerning at all. Add that to the list of shit you and I have to talk about when I get back, cause nope.
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.
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. There’s a single road that goes across the land, from one bridge to another. The boys are out flipping the cars and getting them secure. 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 and Larry.
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.
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. And a ranch, complete with cows, deer (!), and even some turkeys, which we’ve been warned to stay away from (like we didn’t already know better). They’ve got 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. Their gate is only about 8ft tall, but it’s solid.
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 uses a fucking hearing aid. I thought my head was gonna explode.
Turns out they had seen us coming and opened the gate to be ready. Apparently, it takes a while to open, and she didn’t want us stuck outside waiting, especially since they hadn’t spotted any “puppets” nearby in the past month anyway. Then she 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 don’t exactly hate her anymore. 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 use it for a shelter in the winter. They’ve got built in fireplaces all along the walls to keep the heat going for the whole building and big shutters to put over the windows. They’re working on some improvements to the ceiling now. Apparently last winter, they lost a lot of heat because the ceiling is so high, and almost lost half the town. They’re hoping a drop ceiling will help 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. 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 help out with basic chores, like sweeping and carrying tools, and the guys are being taught 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 ask if they’re hungry, they can nod their head yes or no, 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 those buildings are connected.
She was very excited when Tiny told her about Poppy learning sign language Said that she hadn’t thought of trying 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?
After our last encounter with her signing “bad cloud” and the trolls, I have my suspicions, but I wanna wait til she knows more words to verify. 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?