Troll

The troll woke up. It was rather surprised by this. It hadn't  properly woken up for 50  years. Oh it had occasionally drifted into wakefulness, noticed the changing of the planet around him, and then drifted back into deep sleep.

But this time it was really awake. He wasn't sure what had woken him up. Not much can wake a sleeping Troll  Except a good Harsh winter, which had a somewhat similar effect to that of a cold shower on a human. Though the good winters seemed to happen less often these days.

It would surprise many to know that silicon based life is much more common than people think. And nothing at all to do with magic. One day, a small arrangement of silicon molecules with a capacity to use naturally occurring electricity as an energy source, just decided it would like to continue being a small arrangement of silicon molecules with a capacity to use naturally occurring electricity. And then concluded reproduction was fun.  And the rest as they say was evolution.

The Troll sat up, and scratched behind it's ear with one enormous hand, dislodging an entire ecosystem that had been steadily growing there  since the last time the troll had been awake, moss and lichen littering the Trolls shoulders like green dandruff. A small bush had taken root in the middle of its head.

The trolls name was? Well: unpronounceable is what it was, something like a cross between a small earthquake and a landslide. He had spoken to a humans, the last time was a couple of Centuries ago, when the humans still walked, or rode on the bigger 4 legged things. That human had decided to call him Fred.

Fred realised there was a sound he didn't recognise, a dull rumble as though a group of trolls were having a low key argument somewhere in the distance, but they were all talking gibberish. He stood up, this put has head 9 feet off the ground, where he could now see the motorway that had been hidden by the brow of the hill in front of him. It took him a little while to understand what he was seeing, a trolls sense of time is somewhat geological, a trolls perception of minutes being somewhat equivalent to human perception of seconds, and at first the motorway looked like an odd kind of river.  Until Fred realised it was made up of the self propelled carts the humans had come up with a century or so ago. Again from a trolls perspective this was as if cars had been invented a couple of years ago.



"The humans are certainly getting inventive." He thought as he watched the endless stream of  traffic rumbling past. But he knew this was not what had woken him. It was something else, something he couldn't quite put his finger on. And if he did put his finger on it, one could only hope it was of a robust construction, because delicacy was not one of a Trolls talents.

It was as if there was something faintly calling from very far away, and it seemed to come from all directions at once. Fred decided quickly (i.e. After about 10 minutes) that the motorway looked dangerous, even for a Troll. So he decided to walk the other way, down to where he remembered there being a farm house.

As he strolled down the hill in the shadow of the mountain, Fred thought about the human he had talked to. Three conversations over 70 years. The first time had been with a child lost in a winter storm. Although by instinct secretive and inclined to avoid humans, Trolls are not by nature any more or less unkind than people, no matter what stories you might have heard. So when the child  had taken shelter from a Blizzard on Fred's leeward side, as he sat enjoying the deep cold, he had said hello. After he got over the initial shock of a large rock introducing itself to him, the child introduced himself as Billy. And having done so, the boy had insisted the Troll have a name, settling on Fred. Then he had started walking the child back to the safety of the farm Fred remember the billy talking excitedly about Mr Trevithick's 'puffing devils' as they walked, some kind of machine that could do the work of the four legged creatures humans called horses.

He had urged the child to go on to the farm house once they could see the lights. Fred recalled there had been human voices calling the child, and great jubilation as Billy had entered the farmhouse. And Fred had ambled back to his place on the hill to enjoy the freezing wind.

He had met the human again, some 20 years later. he hadn't recognised him at first, the humans seemed to change so quickly. It had been the last really cold day of spring, no snow on the ground but a nice hard frost. Fred had been sheltering from the warming rays of the morning sun in the cool shade of a tree, feeling drowsy in the warmth. And he saw the figure of a man, climbing the hill. It is generally a Trolls instinct to be still when humans are around, and being still is something Trolls are good at. So he just sat, and was amused when the figure sat on his knee.

For a long time from a human point of view, Billy had just sat looking at the landscape. From Fred,s perspective, after a moment or so the human gave a deep sigh, and said, "Did I dream you Fred?"

At first Fred though he was talking directly to him, before realising it was a a thought simply spoken. But then he put two and two together and realised who it was sitting on his knee, and simply said, "No" in his deep rumbling voice.

The human shot into the air and turned around to look at where the sound had come from. "My god," He said looking directly at Fred. "You are real?"

"Yes" said Fred simply"

Billy got quite exited and talked very quickly as if he had been saving up stories to tell the old Troll, sometimes speaking too fast, so to Fred's ears his voice became a buzz. Fred let the human talk, and by concentrating worked out what the story was.

Of course billy had told his family and the other searchers about the stone man who had rescued him and shown him the way home. And of course no one had believed him. He had tried to persuade them and in the spring had looked to see if he could find Fred to show them. He explained about sometimes seeing rocks which he thought were Fred, but turned out to be just rocks.

Truth be told, he had found Fred on several occasions, but the Troll had been sound asleep, and to human eyes, a sleeping Troll is just a large rock. And so neither had known the other had been so close. Billy told how he had been dispatched for Tea with the Vicar, who had lectured him about telling the Truth, and not telling 'Stories'. And  quoting Bible Verses, particularly 1 Corinthians 13:11 "When I was a child, I spake as a child,  I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man I put away Childish things."

And Billy or Bill as the now grown human said he liked to be called, told Fred how, he had realised the futility of convincing those who had not seen what he had seen, and had stopped trying to explain to everyone.

"Its probably for the best." Rumbled Fred. "Humans and Trolls don't generally get on."

Billy asked why? Fred didn't know the answer, but he told Billy of how the all the Trolls he knew when he was young talked of long and futile wars between Trolls and the Humans, and Fred told Billy the story of his Grandfather, who had fought and had been captured by humans almost 5000 years ago. They had smashed him with rocks and turned him into a stone circle. A little like being beaten to death with your own limbs, and then being revered as a saintly relic forever afterwards.

And the two had talked until the sun began to fall from the sky. For Bill it was a long comforting conversation with someone he had begun to think, had been a figment of his imagination. For Fred, something of a brief chat with the human who's life he had saved. And Bill had gone home, it was many years before he saw Fred for the last time.

Fred kept ambling down the Hill towards the farmhouse which he could now see was still standing. Fred thought that this was good: sometimes the structures the humans built didn't last very long, a couple of centuries for most. But he could see that the farm had been extended, with new buildings some with shiny metal roofs. They were impressive, but certainly not as substantial as the old Stone Farmhouse which stood in the middle of what now looked like a small village to the Troll. But he could still hear the calling, that seemed to come from everywhere at once.

He remembered the last time he had spoken to Bill, It had been a lovely icy winter storm, and Fred had felt like a walk, so he had walked down to the farmhouse. In those days it had just been the main building a stone barn and a wooden outhouse, not the large group of buildings it had become.

He had sat down in the nice cold drifts of snow wondering if Bill would still be around. Fred knew the Humans didn't last long, but thought that perhaps he might chat to Bill one last time. After a while the winter storm eased, and the sun began to show through broken cloud. Fred started to doze, as the sun warmed the snow, melting it's surface slightly,  so that after it froze again in the night, the next snow fall would skitter in the wind across its surface.

Then the door of the farmhouse opened and after a moment or two an old human came out, leaning heavily on a walking stick. Fred started a little, which from a human point of view meant he moved slightly a quarter of an inch or so. Normally a human might have thought it a trick of the light, especially an old man with failing eyesight, but on this occasion the small drift of snow on top of Fred's head was dislodged and a small avalanche tumbled down his face and into his lap.

The old man saw Fred the moment this happened, raised his arm, waved, and immediately began hobbling towards the troll, in the way that old men in a hurry when restricted by stiff joints and tired muscles. Fred realised this must be Bill.

As the old man came closer, he shouted out, "Old friend! Old friend!." And when he realised Fred could hear him, added, "I knew you would come."

Fred was surprised, "You did?" the Troll rolled.

"Yes, Yes," said the old man, "I just knew that before it was time I would see you again." He stopped looking at the old troll with the love of friendship.

Trolls are by their nature solitary creatures, there were occasional gatherings of trolls, though a Troll gathering could take a decade, and  often the humans started dancing around a Toll gathering worshiping sun gods and stuff. Certainly reproduction brought trolls together.

But Trolls tend not to be friends,and Fred realised against all habit, he had become friends with Bill. And against all reason despite having known him such a short time, he would miss the old human. And this was why he had come down to the farm house, to see a friend, one last time.

Bill told Fred all his news, about the woman he married, the children they had, and the grandchildren, that were themselves grown up with small children now. The new railway, about the empire in India. And Fred listened as the old man told the story of his life, leaning on the gatepost talking to a rock. Some hours later a younger man came walking up the hill and saw the door to the farmhouse open, and the old man standing next to the gatepost.

"Grandfather!" Exclaimed the newcomer,  "What on earth are you doing? This is no weather for you to be out in?"

"Oh just talking to an old friend." Bill said.

"Oh yes?" The younger man said somewhat cynically, "we have all heard your tall stories, grandfather."

"True. Every word." The old man insisted, putting the emphasis on every.

The younger man took hold of Bills hand, "Strewth,  your Frozen grandfather, you need to get yourself inside, you will catch your death out here."

"OK Billy." the old man said, looked at the rock in the field and said, "my grandson," nodding towards the younger Billy: "a good lad. Doesn't believe his grandfather's stories. Though He enjoyed listening to them when he was little, just like all the rest. I don't think we will see each other again, but thank you for the life you gave me, I hope you will remember me."

Bill allowed Billy to turn him,  and the younger man supported the older man back towards the house, saying "Come on grandfather." At the door the old man turned and waved to the rock in the field. And for a moment the younger man thought he saw the rock wave back, but a moment later dismissed it as a trick of the light. And then they both disappeared indoors.

Fred indeed, didn't see the old man again. Though it would have comforted him to know Bill was a hardy soul, and had not only survived the cold he caught that last day they talked, but had plodded on through the next two winters, dying on a summers day sitting in the garden enjoying the sun.

In the present as Fred remembered this, he reached the field gate of the farmyard. The old stone gatepost was gone, replaced by a new wooden post that smelled of creosote, on which was hung a shiny new metal gate.

Fred sat down, looking into the farmyard. He could still hear the call in his head, and it still appeared to come from everywhere at once. Fred wondered about why he was there? It was if there was some kind of connection between the call in his head and the human world. And the farmhouse was Fred's connection with the human world, somehow it seemed to him an answer was probably here.

He sat, and it wasn't long, an hour or so, a short wait for a trol, before one of the self propelled carts pulled into the farm yard And stopped just outside the House. Almost immediately a child jumped out ignoring whatever instructions the adult humans were shouting after her. Then a man and a woman got out of the vehicle, the woman began getting things out of the back of the car. The man however looked around,  as if checking if everything was OK.

The man looked directly at where Fred was sitting,  pretty much doing an impression of an inanimate rock. A very good impression. The man had an increasingly incredulous expression on his face, and slowly with, amazement and astonishment competing for room on his face, walked over to where Fred was sitting.

For a moment Fred wondered if he had moved, but he was convinced he hadn't. The human just leant on the gate staring right at Fred. And Fred now wondered if his friendship with Bill had affected the humans in some way so that they could tell which rocks were a Troll.

The woman walked over to join the man, glancing back at the house with a part of her mind on where the child was and what she was doing. "What is it?" She asked in a puzzled voice.

"Someone put a great rock, right in the middle of the gate." In a tone that also said, "Isn't it obvious! "

The woman smiled, "I told you Pete, rocks move around on this farm."

The man's expression changed from 'isn't it obvious' to 'oh no not again', and he said, "Oh not your grandfather's stories please? If I never hear another troll story in my life it will still be too soon"

"The whole family knows this farm has trolls." The woman said still smiling, "Grandfather always said, his grandfather had seen one. Waved to him, it had." She said  with a genuinely straight face.

"Yes I know, and another ancient ancestor had long chats with Trolls, over this very gate." He looked at what was presumably his wife, adding, "I remember your father telling me that tale right here when we were first going out. That's the only downside with this family, your obsession with Trolls, the lot of you. It's quite fun for Billie, but you don't seem to be able to let go of it, even as adults. In fact it's like living with an adult who still believes in Santa Claus."

"Ah you mock," said the woman, "but come tomorrow morning, that rock will have gone."

The exasperation on the man's face gave way to resignation, and no small amount of love. He kissed the woman. "Oh your mad but I love you."

At that moment the child came running out of the house and up to what Fred presumed were her parents. Saying,  "I want tea. Wheres pippa? Pippa," was a rather grubby doll. And asking, "What are you doing? "

The man said "Talking about Trolls, again," and pulled a face.

The child pointed at Fred, and asked "Is that a Troll?"

"No!" Said the man at exactly the same time as the Woman said, "Yes".

Fred said "Hello."

All three figures stopped dead as if suddenly frozen by one of the really big Ice storms that his grandfather had told him happened in the ice age.

Fred sat up straight: the frozen expression continued. Fred didn't know quite how to handle this. Bill or Billy as Fred had first known him, had introduced himself. Fred thought that this might be a good thing for him to do with these humans.

So he said, "My name is Fred."

Pete fell over, literally onto his backside, staring open mouthed at Fred. At this point the little girl started dancing around singing "We got a real life troll! We got a real life troll!" over and over in a sing song voice.

The woman just stood,  staring open mouthed at Fred, until at last she said (well to Fred she seemed to say it almost straight away) "Your, really real." She swallowed hard, "Not just stories.  Really real." And then she cried. Not the silly tears Fred had once watched after, a complicated set of circumstances, which led to a travelling show setting up their tent around him on a nearby villiage green and shown their moving pictures century or so ago. But real tears of surprise, shock, and Joy. She didn't turn away, just looked steadily at Fred with tears running down her face.

Pete struggled back to his feet, the expression on his face was still locked on shock.

As far as Fred was concerned, this was completely unexpected. "I am sorry." after a pause he rumbled on, "I should not have come, I will leave." he began to turn away.

"No! No! No!" the woman said, stepping forwards, and reaching out with her arms. "No! Stay, stay! We have heard so much about you, you must stay. Let us get to know you."

"I thought I had upset you," Fred rolled.

No no said the woman, then seemed to change her mind, well yes she added, but a good upset. You must stay, come to the house.

Fred looked at the front door of the house and said "I doubt I would fit inside."

The woman looked at Fred then at the door of the house and back again, "Er, perhaps your right, but you could er, you could er, sit in the garden." she said brightly

Fred took a half step forward. Pete, roused from his shock rushed forward, and opened the gate, as if worried it would be twisted into scrap if he didn't. Billie stopped dancing about and followed Fred and the two adults as they walked towards the garden at the front of the farm house, asking, "Where do you live? Do you live in a hole? Can  I come visit you?"

Fred was a little confused by this, Billy had asked questions but not so quickly, and had waited for answers before asking the next. So his only reply to the child was a befuddled, "Er..."

Fred looked at the garden, it wasn't large but it was well tended, the only place he could really see to sit was in the middle of a well manicured lawn. So he did. Pete gave a little groan as the earth beneath the troll sank.

"This is wonderful," said the woman, and launched into a rapid fire story of how she had listened to her grandfather tell the stories that had been passed down through generations in the family. About how it was a family tradition that Trolls lived on the farm, and that rocks were to be moved not broken up. Eventually her pace slowed a little and, she asked Fred, "Why are you here?"

Fred thought for a moment about how best to say, why he had come to the farm that day. "I heard something." he said, "A troll voice calling me."

"Here at the farm?" asked the woman.

"No," said Fred, "as if it was coming from everywhere all at once." he paused again, the woman seemed prepared for the long pauses, the slower pace of Fred s speech. "I wondered if there might be an answer here, I don't know why?"

Pete seemed to suddenly realise something, and reached into his pocket for his Phone, got it out and was about to start videoing Fred, when the woman noticed and hinted through gestures, that this was a bad idea.

"We have a real live Troll in our Garden Janice, no one will believe us, unless we have some evidence." Pete complained.

"It doesn't matter," said Janice, " we aren't going to be telling anyone."

"What!" said Pete, "All these years of telling everyone that there are trolls on this farm, you finally have proof, but you don't want it?" he added looking confused.

"No, proof isn't the point" Janice said, "Put it away.

Pete went to put the phone back in his pocket, and it rang. He instinctively answered it saying, Pete Mickelthwaite, Copse Farm, what can I do for you?"

The sound on the other end of the phone was low unearthly sound.

Trolls actually have very good hearing, and the sound on the phone was easily for Fred to hear, and it was saying "We are here." in Trollish.

"Thats what I have been hearing." Said Fred.

"Your saying that the moment you turn up at our farm, there's a phone call for you on my Mobile phone?" Said Pete, sarcasm beginning to thread its tendrils into his tone.

Fred thought about this for a moment, the humans waited patiently for about a minute, eventually Fred said, "What's a phone?"

Petes exasperation grew, nudging towards irritation.

The Troll voice on the other end of the phone  rumbled again in Trollish. "We are here, Join us.?"

Fred rumbled back, "Who are you?" he asked.

"Friends." the voice on the phone replied.

Pete was looking about at the ground, as he thought that an earthquake might happen.

Fred had never seen a 'phone' before, but he could tell where the voice was coming from. Although it was missing some of the very low tones that troll language used, the troll voice on the phone was managing to make itself understood.

"Where are you?" asked Fred.

"Inside the humans technology." the Troll voice replied, "they make pure Silicon, its just like our brains. We can live in here safe from them, they can no longer grind us down to make us gravel, or break us into rocks to build things with. All you need do is to feel the electromagnetism in the air, you can move inside it, and join us inside the technology."

It was Fred's turn to look Puzzled,"Why would I want to join you?" he asked.

"To be safe with us, here Trolls have made themselves a family, we are together, we are many but we are also one. We can move throughout the network, see and hear through their technology, we are free in here, and one day we will defeat the humans."

Fred looked at the family listening to the rumble and rattle of the conversation, open mouthed.

"Are you talking to another Troll?" said Billie.

"Yes" said Fred.

"So Trolls have phones too?" the child persisted.

"Not that I ever heard of," said Fred in a kindly way, "But then I never heard of a phone until today." he added smiling, the child smiled back.

Pete gave the phone to Janice with a wide eyed and bewildered look on his face, and walked into the house,  a moment or two later he returned with an open beer bottle and took a long hard swig from it.

In Trollish Fred said" I have never had a Troll friend, but I have had one human friend, and I think I might have made three more today."  He paused, "I have no wish to join you wherever you are? Why should we wish to defeat the humans? Will they not then want to defeat us in turn?"

"This must be a mistake," said the voice on the phone, "All Trolls have answered the call, all have joined us. Why should you be different?" The voice seemed angry.

Fred looked at the family listening to the rumbled conversation. "Because I don't think you have discovered friendship," Fred rolled, "I don't know what it is you have discovered, but a human helped me find friendship, and it seems different to what you are offering."

"You will never be part of us", the Troll voice on the phone said, it was part question, part statement, partly a sentence handed down in judgement, and part a cry of loss.

The phone went dead.

Fred looked at the family who had listened dumbfounded to a conversation they could not understand. "I think I should explain," said Fred, "You probably won't see me often, Trolls like the cold, so after today expect me during what you call a harsh winter. I only met Bill three times you know."

"What was that business with the phone?" Janice asked.

"Nothing important." Fred said.

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