Don’t Feed The Trolls – Chapter 7
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.
Sept. 20, 2018
So. Point of interest: troll playdates are terrifying. Seriously. 0/10 Would not recommend.
It started out fine. Jan introduced us to the three girls (Eve, Ruth, and Esther – think there’s a trend here?). They all look about Poppy’s age, so early 20s? Mid-20s at the latest. They just stood there and stared at Poppy at first. Then Poppy signed something to Tiny, and Tiny signed back.
That’s when it went straight to hell in a handbasket. One of the girl pinochs, I think it was Ruth, (Never mind, Tiny says it was Esther) just walked right up to Poppy and bit her on the mouth. Hard enough to draw blood.
We jumped in real quick and separated them, Tiny pulled on gloves and started checking to see how bad it was. The rest of us were all standing there, guns drawn, ready to take Bitey BitchFace down. Jan was yelling, Tiny was yelling back, I was yelling at all of them, and then Poppy yelled.
No words, just AGGHHH, but it got everyone’s attention. She kept signing “stop” at Tiny. Jan kept apologizing, swearing she’s never seen them do this before with each other…just as the girl went over and bit one of the others. Again. Right on the mouth.
Tiny hollered for me then, and I missed a lot of what was happening, cause I was too busy dealing with him and Poppy. When Poppy was hit by the hail, her blood had been red. There was an incident on the road, she stumbled or tripped, I dunno, but she skinned her knees and the blood was red then, too.
He showed me the bite mark, most of the damage was on the inside of her lip. It was scabbing over already, but the scabs and the little bit of blood still wet were all black. Tiny said that when he first reached her, the blood was red with little black spots.
We’re not entirely sure what this means, so for now, all of the pinochs – Poppy, included – are under guard. Jan told me at dinner that the three from earlier had bit the others the same way. They’ve been sitting in a group staring out into space since then. Tiny said Poppy’s doing the same thing. He went and checked on the other group. They all have the black scabs in the exact same place, except for Esther. She has scabs on her tongue.
Tiny thinks she bit her tongue on purpose, and then bit Poppy. We just don’t know why. Every time Tiny tries to ask Poppy if she’s okay, she signs “yes” and then goes back to staring at nothing.
The only other thing we’ve noticed so far, is that their eyes are moving, like, really fast, and they’re starting to twitch. The eyes, I mean, not the trolls. At the corners, kinda like when you’re really tired or annoyed, you know? Probably what your eyes are doing right now, but anyway. We’re waiting and seeing.
Jan feels bad about what happened. She said as soon as her people make it back to town, she’ll see about sending people down to Randall’s base to see about helping get things going there. She says it’s most likely too late for them to get any planting done, but they can still get in some hunting before it gets too cold. She recommended using it as a switching out post, almost. Like, only maintain a small base there. A handful of people and switch them out on a regular basis. I honestly don’t see the point in that idea, but she says that it could be useful for keeping watch on the roads between here and there. If one of the teams doesn’t show up when they’re supposed to, then we know that there’s something going on. I’m leaving that to your boys to discuss with her. That seems more like something for them than me, ya know?
Besides, honestly, I have enough on my plate. It’s the end of September already. It’s starting to get cooler – which, I mean, yay? Kinda? It makes hiking during the day much easier, because we’re not sweating rivers, but that means winter is getting entirely too close, and we’ve still got a long ass way to go. We haven’t even reached the mountains yet. Jan says we’re probably another two days from our first set to make our way through. She suggested following the highway. One of the first things they did after they got their area secured, was go back push the cars off the road to form a blockade. It’s not like dad’s or the ones we’ve been building, with the cars and stuff piled on top of each other, but that wasn’t what they were going for. They just wanted a stumbling block, basically. I’m not entirely sure I understand the logic, but hey. It worked for them, so you know, whatever. The point is, the path should be clear, which will make things a lot easier for us.
The highway she wants us to use will take us through Saluda. She says it’s all broken buildings and wild animals now. She doesn’t think it was bombed like the bigger cities, but something definitely happened there. Their running theory is that they did bomb the city, but instead of going in and completely annihilating everything, they just tossed down a few missiles here and there, and had boots on the ground outside of town to clean up any stragglers. I’ve never been to Saluda, so I don’t know how big of a town it is/was. Kinda curious what her idea of “broken buildings” is, because all I keep seeing is Charlotte.
We’ll found out soon, I guess. Jan also offered to keep some of our civilians here so we can move faster – we’re down to about 20 of us now, which is too many, but at the same time, if we’re gonna be making lil towns along the way to come back to, we might need them all? Then again, there’s the food and speed thing I mentioned before, so…
I think we’ll take her up on the offer. I mean, we’ll have to take Doug and Kristine, but everyone else can stay if they want. Even if they don’t though, I think we’ll be okay. It’s weird, but I’m feeling kinda optimistic?
Maybe it’s just the good food and comfy bed talking. We’ll see how I feel once we actually get moving again. It’s lights out time now.
Sept. 21st, 2018
I’ve sat here for the past hour (at least) trying to figure out how to say this. I’m still lost. I mean, it’s big, but it’s not?
Okay – just gonna rip the bandaid off: Poppy went potty.
I know. It seems so little, like “okay, and?” but remember the “interesting” convo with Tiny yesterday? He said they’d been trying to potty train her, but she was still in the learning stage – she’s only been with us about a month, now. Plus, they hadn’t shown her where the chamber pots were stored here yet. Hell, Tiny hadn’t even known. He stayed in his own house with some of the other guys last night, and none of them hadn’t gotten around to looking for one. Poppy though, she just suddenly stood up, walked over to the bathroom, got it out of the cabinet and went about her business. Wiped herself down, put the lid back on it, set it back up in the cabinet, then turned around and went to bed.
Tiny said he thought about waking me up to tell me, but he wanted to check on the other trolls, first. Apparently, they now can speak basic sign language as well. Tiny, Sam, and your other geek boys are all abuzz with ideas of how this happened. The fan favorite theory of the moment is that the exchange of blood was also an exchange of information, but they’re not sure how that worked. Tiny mentioned the black specks, and that got them going again. They’re all pissed off about the lack of a decent microscope, and I’m trying not to laugh at them geeking out. I’m just glad Poppy is back to her usual self.
Current plan: Sometime today, another playdate with the pinochs. While that’s going on, the others will move our stuff to the far side of town (they have an exit gate. Ain’t that fancy?). We’ll stay over there tonight and tomorrow, then on Sunday, we finish making sure we have everything ready, and if all goes well, we’re out of here Monday at dawn. Which, of course, means everything will go horribly wrong, just you wait and see, but at least I’m trying to plan this shit, you know?
Oh, and Jan said she talked to the civvies about staying. Most of them are okay with the idea and are already getting settled. We all agreed that Poppy is staying with us, though. For one thing, her ability to sense puppets is a huge help for us, and for another, if she stays with us, she might come across more pinochs like her that can share information. She’d be kinda like a walking surveyor? I’m not explaining it right, but the idea was good.
Except for the whole thing where she might get bit again. I’m not happy about that part. Tiny isn’t either. He gave the geek boys a “I’mma fuck you up” look when they got a little too excited about the idea. He’s decided that he’ll be moving into my camp from now on – “To keep an eye on Poppy’s development.” No one was dumb enough to argue with him.
Finn just came by to tell me that Brett is whining about staying. I told him, “too bad.” I get that the boy is trying to do better, but we don’t have room for that on this trip. He’s lucky enough to being given this second chance. He can either take it or go feed himself to the trolls. I don’t have time to play with him.
Sept. 22nd, 2018
Well, things didn’t go horribly wrong. The playdate went fine. The pinochs and Poppy had themselves a grand ol’ time, hands flying. Poppy even smiled! It was like her entire face changed, it was amazing. Tiny and Vicki are going to start teaching ASL to the rest of us. Jan and Beth said they’ll start teaching their people, too. They’re also gonna start trying to expand their pinoch’s vocab.
We took a break for lunch, and that’s when things started going downhill a bit. We were all sitting there, eating and watching the trolls “talk” with Tiny translating for us (it was mostly just a list of stuff they liked/disliked). Then, they all just stopped and put their nose in the air with this confused/angry look on their face. They kept sniffing the air and then signing at each other.
Tiny said it started out the same thing “bad cloud, yes no” – but he’s not sure if they were asking each other “do you smell a bad cloud?” or “is it a bad cloud?” He said it might even be “is it maybe a bad cloud?” cause they started out with that, and then slowly shifted to “bad cloud yes.”
Jean and BG were already headed for the wall by that point. As soon as Jan saw the “bad cloud” sign, she sent off one of her runners and we started hearing a loud metal clang go off. I had noticed before that they had these big things of metal freestanding all around town, but I didn’t really think anything of it, until today. Apparently, it’s their alarm system. Works pretty well, too. Loud as fuck, carries really well, and doesn’t require fire. A+ all around.
We got to the wall in time to see a good sized horde trying to launch themselves at the wall. Between Jan’s people and ours, I think we got all of them. No one spotted any runners, anyway, and when Jan sent out a cleanup crew to dispose of the bodies, they weren’t attacked.
I made the mistake of asking how they’re gonna dispose of the bodies, and now I don’t think I’ll be eating for at least a week. From what she said, it’s effective, and Jan says they always hold a sort of memorial service afterwards, so there’s that, I guess, but we’re definitely leaving on Monday. We need to get moving, and I don’t want to be here when they get started.
Sept. 24th, 2018
Writing from the road again. We were able to leave on Monday, but just barely. I didn’t realize how big that place was. I mean, I knew it was huge, but holy shit. It took a day and a half just to get all our stuff moved over to the north side of town. They put us at the very edge of town where the wall meets the highway, though, so Monday morning, we just had to wait for them to open the gate.
They loaded us up before we left. Corn, carrots, potatoes, rain ponchos and the like, which actually came in handy, cause of fucking course it started raining right after we left. Got maybe two or three miles down the road? If that? And it was a cold rain, too, dammit. I was pissed. The ponchos worked, for the most part though. Our feet and legs still got soaked and were cold as shit, but there’s not really much we could do about that. I thought about raiding a house for some trash bags to put around our feet and legs, but Ty says all that will do is interfere with our traction. If we need to run, it’s gonna be kinda hard to do that, slipping and sliding all over the place.
I wonder if wearing them inside the shoes would work though? It wouldn’t affect the traction then, I would think? I’ll have to talk to him about that. I don’t like having cold wet feet. (#spoiled, yeah, I know, fuck off.)
We did get pretty far today. Jan and them weren’t kidding when they said they cleared the road. The only reason we didn’t reach town today was cause it was all uphill. Beautiful view though. The house we’re in now has a drop off in the backyard. Lots of tree cover, too, which I’m not entirely happy with, but Poppy isn’t going weird on us, so I’m trying not to let it bug me too much.
An unexpected bonus to our little stay with Jan and friends: lots of spices and a couple of those hotplate stoves. Jan said we’d have more use for them than they did, since we have a steady source of power. The boys put that to use real quick. They had us get two big pots of water heating while we walked. All day, one of them would walk by and toss something in the pot. First it was some rabbit, then it was potatoes and carrots. By the time we stopped, we had two full pots of rabbit stew. We had to keep an eye on it to make sure it didn’t tip over, especially with the hills and such, but oh god, it smelled so good.
The house we’re at now had some of that instant Bisquik type stuff in the cupboard and a grill in the garage, so Kim and Tiny are trying to make some biscuits to go with the stew. As soon as they’re done, it’s dinner and then time to sleep.
They just called. Dinner time. Later, Will.
Sept. 27th, 2018
Saluda is gone. Flat Rock is gone. I hate people.