Tag: human

Flashback Friday: Candy is Poison

This story was originally posted on August 24, 2017. I like to write about trolls. They can be simple or complex, and live alone or in groups. That gives a lot of room for different stories. They live on the edges of human society, which gives them an interesting perspective on people. As an added bonus, they usually have fun names!

The human laughed.   “Thanks guys for helping me carry this money from the bank to where I’d parked my horse. Now I can give all this money to poor people. Here’s your payment.”

He handed the trolls each a sandwich. Then, he started attaching the bags of gold to his horse’s saddle.   The poor thing looked really weighed down.

The trolls started eating their sandwiches. “No meat,” Gark said.

“Of course not,” the man said. “They’re mustard sandwiches. They’re very good.”

“Ok,” Gark said. He took another bite of his sandwich and made a face.

“It’s like stealing candy from a baby,” the man said.

“What’s candy?” Gark asked.

“Oh, sweet things that children eat. They’re very good.”

“Like mustard?” Gark asked.

“No, more like the opposite of mustard. Well, I’m off,” the man said. And he jumped on his horse and rode away.

Now that their job was over, the trolls wandered away to sit under their favorite bridges. Gark’s bridge was in a lovely park. There were lots of pigeons to eat and a fountain where people left money behind.   He fished out the coins at night for his hoard.

Today, as he dozed and listened to the children screech their high-pitched lullabies, he thought about candy. Mustard was terrible. Was candy wonderful? Wasn’t wonderful the opposite of terrible?

And just then, as he pondered this deep philosophical question, a child dropped his cotton candy onto the rocks beside the bridge.   “My sweeties,” the child wailed.

Gark turned and stared. Was this candy? The child said it was sweet. The child’s feet pounded across the bridge as he ran away. Gark darted out a hand, grabbed the cotton candy, and pulled it under the bridge.

It was very, very pink. And it looked like the part of sheep his mother said was not for eating. Gark was not sure about this.   It seemed like a terrible idea.   He reached out his tongue and touched the very tip of it to the candy.

His tongue was on fire. Gark tossed the cotton candy far away and dipped his head in the stream. It felt like his tongue was still burning. How could humans eat such things? If candy was the opposite of mustard, it was because mustard is edible and candy is not.

Finally, finally, Gark’s tongue stopped burning.   He started to brush the water out of his fur, only to stop in dismay. His fur was now bright pink! How could he hide if he was bright pink?

He coated his fur in mud. It was cold and slimy and heavy. And then it dried and he couldn’t move until he’d managed to roll into the stream and soften the mud. And then he had to start the mud applying process again, because some of it had washed away.

It was a week before his fur faded and he could risk traveling to attend the next troll gathering. That week gave Gark plenty of time for thinking. He came to some surprising conclusions.

“What happened to your fur?” someone asked when he arrived at the meeting place. “The color is all wrong.”

“I have an announcement to make,” Gark said.   “Candy is not very good. Candy is poison.”

“But the human said it was very good,” a troll said.

“Yes he did,” Gark said. “I have learned that humans can say things that are wrong on purpose.”

The trolls gasped. “But then how will we know if anything they say is right?” someone asked.

“Exactly,” Gark said. “I don’t think it’s worth the risk. I nearly died tasting candy.”

The other trolls yelled in outrage. “I will never work for another human,” a troll yelled.   “Me neither,” another said.

And the trolls warned their friends and relatives.   And that’s why you never see trolls anymore. They’re hiding from us.

The Riddle Game

It was Grak’s turn to travel to the surface to check the position of the stars. He grumbled low in his throat at the thought. But, there was no sense in putting it off. He grabbed the bag with all the notebooks and started up the path.

Hours later, he had finally finished his observations. His eyes were watering and his head ached. Why did the stars have to be so bright? It was unnatural. He shoved the last notebook into the bag and scratched behind his horns, claws catching for a moment in his fur. It was time to go home.

He hurried back into the cave and slipped through the door at the back. He leaned against it for a moment and then slid down to sit back against it with a sigh. He kept his eyes closed for a long moment, until the headache was mostly eased.

When he opened his eyes again in the familiar darkness, he was face to face with a tiny human carrying a light brighter than the stars. Ouch. He growled in pain.

The human dropped the light, and it went out. How considerate. Humans really were delightful. The last human he’d met, centuries ago, had known so many interesting riddles. Perhaps it was a human custom?

“Do you know any riddles?” he asked.

“I…I think so,” the human said hesitantly.

“Excellent. Have you heard this one? There are three gems on a table. You take two away. How many gems do you have now?”

There was a long pause. “Two?”

Grak smiled. “That’s right! Your turn.”

“How far can a deer run into a forest?”

Grak thought for a moment. “Only halfway. Then he’s running out again. Clever. Here’s a classic. Poor people have it. Rich people need it. If you eat it you’ll die. What is it?”

The human began muttering quietly to himself. “Nothing. It’s nothing,” he finally said. “I guess it’s my turn again. What can you hold in your right hand, but not your left?”

Hmmmmm. Good one. “Your left hand. My turn. Many have heard me, but no one has seen me. I will not speak back until spoken to. Who am I?”

The human shuffled, then paced. He suddenly stopped and turned. “An echo.” He smiled. “I have the perfect riddle. Never resting, never still. Moving silently from hill to hill. It does not walk, run or trot. All is cool where it is not. What is it?”

Grak thought for a while. He considered all the riddles he’d ever heard or told. He thought about the world above and the world below. “I don’t know. What is it?”

“It’s the sun,” the human said.

The sun. He’d heard of its horrors. It was bright enough to strike anyone blind who dared to look upon it. He shivered.

“So, I win then?” the human asked. “You couldn’t answer it.”

“It wasn’t really a contest, but you did tell me a riddle I couldn’t answer.” Ah, humans. Apparently they were as competitive as ever.

“Then I can leave and you won’t eat me, right?”

“What?” Grak looked around. Oh. He was sitting in front of the door, wasn’t he? How embarrassing. “Yes, of course. You can go now.” He stood up and shuffled out of the way.

The human darted forward and tugged on the door. Grak reached around him and pulled it open. The human looked up warily. “Thank you,” he said.

“You are welcome to come again,” Grak said hopefully. “I’d love to trade more riddles.”

The human shook his head and gripped the straps of his pack tightly. He stepped quickly around the door and started running. Grak squinted and watched him go for a moment, before closing the door.

It was sad that he’d probably not see the interesting human again. But Grak cheered up when he thought about the new riddles he had to tell. He picked up his bag and hurried down the path towards home.