☰ Troll ★ Trigram Origins

I hate using public restrooms. I always have to line the seats with paper and perform acrobatics to not touch the porcelain.

So, when I’m forced to use a public lavatory, it takes me forever. 

On one such occasion, I was setting up the flimsy squares of thin toilet paper just so… and I heard this…thing.

Walking around outside the stalls.
I froze. 
Wondered why something that sounded like a horse was clod-hopping through the women’s bathroom. In Houston, Texas no less.

I immediately stood up straight and listened.
I tried not to breathe. 
I considered standing on top of the commode itself, but I was almost sure I wouldn’t have time to hide myself. 

The thing outside the stalls was heavy, and I could smell it. 
But it wasn’t the smell of a cow, or a horse or any farm animal really. It was the smell of… a truck stop bathroom. 

A dingy bathroom. 
I wrinkled my nose in disgust.
That’s when I saw it through the crack. You know the one I mean. 
Every time you're forced to use a public stall, you can clearly see straight through to the other side. The gap between the door and the wall. 

I saw green skin. 
Warts, moles and stray blackish hair.
Ugly and huge. 

All I saw was the thing’s arm as it walked past my stall. 
It kept going to the farthest stall over. The largest one. 

I gathered my pocketbook off the hanger and unlocked the door as quietly as I could. Every step of whatever passed me on the other side of the door was loud, and it echoed eerily against the tile. 

I slipped out of my own stall just in time to watch the door close on the handicapped stall. It didn’t hide the monstrosity that was occupying it though. I could see green skin through the door gap, and its head was taller that the flimsy little walls that made each toilet private. What was it doing in there?

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. A voice inside my head trembled and recited the awkward prayer I hadn’t uttered in years. 

I walked on my tiptoes, careful to keep my high heels from clicking on the tile; hoping to make it to the sinks without being killed.

Blessed art thou amongst women.

I was going to die today, I could feel it.

My nerves were getting the best of me and the keys hooked to the side of my handbag jingled in my fear. 
I made it to the sinks, but the door still looked so far away. I began to get tunnel vision, but I couldn’t stop to catch my breath. 

Another stall door opened behind me and out came a redheaded woman who was quite small. She wore jeans and didn’t even carry a purse with her. 
A bit of white powder still clung to her nose.

Like I said, this is a women’s restroom in Houston, Texas; anything can happen here… And usually does.
She noticed me looking at her then snapped at me. 

“What you lookin’ at, bitch?”
Rather than gasp, my eyes were drawn to the way too thin man sliding out of the stall behind the redhead. I didn’t have time to care what those two were up to, all I cared about was getting out alive. 
I turned on my heel and sped to the door, not caring whether my shoes clicked or not anymore. 

I flung the door open and rather than be greeted by the inside of a giant grocery store, I opened it to see woods. 
Forest as far as the eye could see. 
I gaped at the view. 

Normally, I would have thought it was beautiful. Rolling hills, fruit bearing trees, bright green grass— but today was anything but normal.
The redhead pushed past me, her man trailing behind her and they both stopped. Then started screaming. 

My eyes widened and my instincts told me to take cover, so I did. I shot towards the sinks and hunched underneath them. I watched the couple scream bloody murder until the monster in the last stall came clod-hopping back out on horse’s hooves. I could see its powerful legs pumping towards the coked up couple, and it seemed angry or hungry.

I shivered uncontrollably. More afraid than I’d ever been in my entire life and forced myself to stay silent.

All the sudden, out of nowhere, a bright blue light overtook the room, then, when the flash was gone, a man stood there in its place. Between the cocaine couple and the creature. 

I’d say the man was over six foot tall, at least. He wore a blue t-shirt, jeans, a leather jacket that had a thumbs up on the lapel, boots and a scabbard on his back that held two short swords.

The flash of bluish light irritated the monster and it lashed out at the man, who had jet black hair that waved about the top of his head.

He ducked and rolled towards me. I skirted farther under the sinks, hoping to blend in, but it was no use. 
The man rolled to his feet and looked right at me. 
“Hey.” He said, and winked at me. 
He had the most striking gray eyes I’d ever seen.
In fact, I’d never seen a person with gray eyes in real life at all. Only in magazines.

Parts of the wall fell to the tile floor where the beast threw its angry fist near the hand dryers. I screamed and the couple ran out the door while the monster was distracted.

The man who came from light tried to yell that the couple stay put, but they were too horrified to hear, especially over the creature bellowing out a roar of its own.

I watched the gray eyed man focus his attention back onto the monster. The beast was slow and angry. It was also female and completely naked, and not in a good way.

He pulled his short swords out of the holster on his back and rolled back towards the thing. It didn’t expect that, and it tried to swat him away like a fly.
“What are you doing?” he asked it.
“None of your concern, Traveler.”
The beast could talk? 

The man rolled between the beast’s legs and when she turned to face him again, she realized she was too slow. He holstered one weapon and used his free hand to dig something out of his pocket. 

It looked like a bead.
He threw it to the floor.
When it exploded, the air around the monster turned to smoke and then froze, holding the huge creature in place. Some of the smoke from the bead flew onto me. I brushed it off of my face frantically and I heard the gray eyed man rush towards me now that the monster was subdued.

He grabbed my shoulders.
“Are you okay?”
I couldn’t speak. I was in shock. I’d never seen anything like this before and I couldn’t let the horror of it all pass through me. Couldn’t let it go.

I nodded but it meant nothing.
“My name is Thierry Adler.” His eyes searched my face. If I hadn’t been so afraid, I might've found myself smitten, but I was way too traumatized for that. “What’s yours?”

“An- An- Anmai.”
His eyebrows raised.
“Okay, Anmai. We are gonna go out that door and get those other two people. If we don’t, they're going to get left here.”
“Whe- where is here?” I asked.
He tried to help me up, out from underneath the sinks, but I wasn’t ready yet.
“Here is another plane. Another dimension.”
“How’s this possible? You came from light. From nothing, just out of thin air.”
“Yes. Are you gonna be okay with that?”
“No. I don’t think so.”

He frowned. “Anmai, you have to get up. Come with me while I find those people.”
I pointed at the frozen beast as I finally allowed the man to pull me out of my hiding spot.
“It’s a Troll.”
I shuddered.
“Why is this bathroom in the middle of a forest now?”
“Beast portal.” He answered. “They are becoming more and more prevalent. It used to be, when a portal opened up, it would be so far off the beaten path, nobody would be the wiser. Not anymore. The balance is off. Things are changing.”

“Beast portal?”
“We just call them that because that’s how most people even know they are there. A portal opens up, something freaky comes out. But I can see them. Feel them. And I can get to where they lead without a portal. I am the portal.”
“Then are you also a beast?”

He wavered.
“I’m not human if that’s what your asking. Not technically.”
“How can I trust you then?”
He waved towards the seven foot tall Troll frozen in the middle of the floor.
“Okay.” I said.

The forest was thick, sweltering and full of creepy crawly things. A centipede the size of a sapling dropped out of a branch above my head and grazed my arm before it plopped to the ground scurrying away.

I yelped, and the Traveler turned around to see what was wrong.
“Bug.” I said, with a quiver in my voice.
“Yeah. This place is pretty gross. The centipedes are the least of it.”
“What is… this place? Does it have a name?”

“It’s our world’s counterpart. The next one over is nothing like our home. They have a blue sun.”
“So you've been to all of these worlds?” I struggled to keep up with him, brushing thick branches out of my path and keeping a careful eye where I put my foot next.

“No, not all of them. A lot of them.” He held up his forearm. Tiny lines, more than I could count were tattooed into his skin. They were perfectly straight, and some were smaller than others. They were tick marks. “One for every world.” He informed me.

“I don’t think I would have chosen a tattoo quite that bold for myself, even if I did have your powers. It must take a lot of upkeep.”
“No upkeep. It’s a spell. A curse, put on me by a goddess with a lot of issues.”
“A Goddess?”
He nodded. 

“Do you know their names? The people who were in the bathroom with you? I just lost their trail.” He looked at me and our eyes met. 

He was a very pretty man, too strange for me though. 
I liked normal.
No trolls, no Travelers. No more public restrooms.
I shook my head ‘no’.
He rubbed his chin with his right hand and I tried to count the black lines on the back of his wrist. A few leaves fell down from the tree tops and floated towards the forest floor. I looked up.

Something skittered through the branches above our heads.
“What was that?” I whispered.
“Who knows.” He said and grabbed my arm gently pulling me behind him. He checked his watch.
“Big portals, or blips like this have a tendency to reset themselves in less than an hour. We need to find these two and get back to the ladies room before then.”
“So, at anytime, that bathroom could disappear, and we’d be stuck here?”

“Well,” the man scoffed, “not ‘stuck’ per say. But you would be if the bathroom disappears and something happens to me.”
My eyes widened and I shivered.
“I’d better make sure nothing happens to you then.”
“I can’t Pulse all four of us at once, so, rather than leave anybody behind, I’ll just get everyone back to the bathroom before it jumps again.”

“Makes sense.” I said, more worried about something worse than a centipede falling on me from above.
“I see their trail again.” He informed me. 
I didn’t see why we couldn’t leave without them, but maybe I was being cruel. 
The redheaded woman had been a snip after all.

I followed the man’s boots and watched them stop abruptly in front of me. I almost walked into his broad back.
He looked back at me, his body blocking my view of whatever was going on in front of him.

“Back up, Anmai.” He whispered. “Back up, but be silent.”
I did.
I took three steps back, and on the last step, a twig snapped in half underneath my right shoe.
The Traveler’s face fell. He turned back to look in front of him, and drew both short swords out of his scabbard. 

I saw it then.
What he’d been trying to get away from without being seen.
A troll. But this one was a male. Its hands and face were covered in blood. As I looked down the slope and into the small valley, I saw the couple clearly. Both were dead and half eaten.

I screamed.
“Run!” the Traveler told me as I instinctively took cover behind a tree. 
The Traveler, (I forget his real name), slid down the slope and propelled himself into the tiny valley. Fearless, weapons brandished and ready to slice flesh from bone. 

The male troll lunged at him.
The Traveler dodged and sliced a deep cut into the troll’s arm. The troll bellowed and pulled a tree right out of the ground. In two tugs, the tree was uprooted and sent sailing towards the Traveler. 
Dirt flew everywhere.

As the tree glided through the air, the Traveler released his short sword and sent it flying through the air towards the troll. 

The sword sliced through branches and leaves and dirt all whilst it was still in the air and landed right in the middle of the troll’s right eye.
The beast dropped to the ground and shook the forest floor.

Then, silence.
I rushed to the Traveler’s side.
He was pinned under the tree. He winced with every breath.
“Oh my God.” I whimpered. “Now what do I do? I can’t lift this off of you.”
He shook his head. “You don’t need to lift it off me. I just need a second.”

“What are you going to do?” 
“I’m gonna Travel out from under this tree.” He looked at me thoughtfully, even though I new he must have been in a lot of pain. “Could you grab my sword from that Troll’s head?”

I nodded, but it looked more like a fear-filled, full-bodied spasm. When I turned my back, I saw a flash of light behind me, then another one to the left of the first bluish flash, and I knew he’d freed himself.

He sat on the ground and tried to catch his breath as I braved crossing the small valley to retrieve his weapon.

The redheaded woman lay at an impossible angle, her right foot behind her left ear. Her man didn’t even look like a man anymore. Despite how thin the redhead’s boyfriend was, he did, in fact have meat on his bones. Most of which was stuck between the Troll’s teeth.

I scurried to the Troll and wrenched the sword out of his face with all my might. I couldn’t stop looking at the half-chewed centipede hanging out of the dead Troll’s mouth. The sword came loose on the second try. I ran back to the Traveler, offered him his weapon.

“Thanks.” He winced when he reached for it. “We gotta get to that bathroom.”
“Can’t you just use your powers to get us back?”
“I’m injured. Broken ribs most likely. I don’t think I can carry us both all the way home.”

I brushed a long tendril of brown hair out of my face.
“Okay, then. We don’t have much time, so we’d better hurry.” I said as I helped him up. I was shaking like crazy, and I knew he could feel it. He leaned on me for support as we fought our way back up the slope and out of the little valley the same way we’d come in.
“You're pretty good at this.” He grunted as we followed our own trail back to the women’s restroom.

“Me?” I scoffed. “You're the one who’s good at this. I’ve probably had several strokes and a nervous breakdown since we arrived.”
He chuckled. His voice was deep and so was his laugh.
We stumbled through the trees until we saw the bathroom. It was a perfect cut out of what should have been part of a grocery store in Houston, Texas.
When I saw it, I felt immense relief…. and then, something else.


I would've screamed if I’d had enough air in my lungs, but the shock of such intense agony left me winded and silent. All I could do was let go of the Traveler and flail on the ground.
He dropped down to my side.

“What?” he checked my arms and legs for wounds. “What’s wrong?”

I couldn’t speak, all I could feel was white hot fire making its way through my veins and mixing with my blood.
He stopped searching when he found something on my arm. 
“Fuck.” He spat. “The centipede bit you. I’m shocked you can even move, they have a paralytic kind of effect on most people.”

I gargled something that couldn’t be deciphered and I watched him pull a small knife from his boot. He clipped the spot on my arm where I’d been bitten and proceeded to suck out the poison.
I screamed, but the pain began to die down.
I was able to catch my breath.
He spit the poison onto the ground.
“Better now?”

I nodded. Sweat rolled down my forehead.
“Good, we have to run if we’re going to make it back to the bathroom before it returns itself to where it came from. I can feel the portal opening up now.”

I made it to my feet and helped him sprint the last leg of our journey. We made it safely through the restroom door. We panted and huffed when we arrived.

The female Troll was still there. Still encased in frozen fog.
I pointed to it, about to ask what would happen if people saw something like that in a bathroom.

“Just watch.” He told me.
The lights blinked (which, I really don’t know how they were still on in the first place), and the troll disappeared.
I felt nauseous. Like I’d just been in an elevator.

“We’re back.” The Traveler told me. “Pretty smooth trip, huh? Considering.”
“What happened to the Troll?”
“The spell ball I hit her with made sure she stayed in her own dimension. Genius, huh?”
I grunted weakly and looked at the door.

“You can go. In fact, I recommend you get out of here before people find out something’s off. This place will be crawling with… well, people you don’t want asking you questions pretty soon.”
I swallowed thickly.

“Thank you, Traveler.” My voice was so soft, I wondered if he heard me. 
But he must have, because he said: “Call me Thierry.”
I opened the door to see a well lit grocery store. I made my way to the exit and never returned to that place again.

Two Weeks Later

I didn’t notice my body begin to change until it was too late. 
One morning, I woke up and all of my skin was the color of a greenish yellow bruise. 

The only person I could think of who might be able to help me was the Traveler, or, Thierry, as he prefers to be called. I would've looked for him if I hadn’t been so hungry.

I cleaned out all the meat in my refrigerator and ate it raw.
Steak juice dribbled down my chin and I moaned in pleasure, but as soon as it was gone, I realized it wasn’t enough.

I didn’t care about much beyond my own hunger, but I had the good sense to wait until nightfall before going out. I draped myself in a silky black floor-length housecoat and pulled the hood over my head. Underneath my disguise, my skin was turning black. But, to any eyes that fell on me, they’d think I was wearing a leather body suit, but I wasn’t. 

My epidermis was becoming my exoskeleton.

I hunted in alleyways behind strip clubs. That’s where most of the trash was in this city. And by 'trash' I mean, humans that deserved a run in with me... 

I’d let them kiss me, then watch them convulse on the ground in agony, unable to run, before I helped myself to their entrails. 

It became easier to hunt over time.
Easier to climb things. 

I didn’t have to go around buildings, I could go over them. I decided I liked the sewers better than my apartment and I stopped going to work. 

Stopped paying rent. 
Light became bothersome. 

Dryness and cleanliness became gross to me, I began to consider them in the same way one might consider hot trash. I would eat three or four people in a night and if I’d had a television in the dark depths below the city, it would have probably mentioned the murders and the bloody scenes I left behind.

I was sitting in silence one night, petting a rat, when I heard footsteps slosh through ankle deep water. I gave the air a sniff and realized I recognized the smell.

I let him come closer, then stood up.
“Anmai.” He pulled his short swords from his scabbard and squared his feet.
“I made a mistake.”
“Mmmm. You think?” I flung the rat aside. 

“I shouldn't have brought you back with me. I should've killed you then.”
“You decide who and what lives and dies?”
He nodded. “In this world I do.”

Rather than argue, I jumped to the ceiling of the dark tunnel and skittered overhead. 
He lost sight of me for a moment. 
I could feel his confusion. 
His worry that I’d kill him first.

“You've created a monster, Thierry. What will you do if you can’t kill me.” I liked how my voice echoed in the tunnel menacingly. If I were him, I would've been horrified.

I sneaked above him as he looked around for me in vain. I shot out my tail and let it wrap around his neck. His short sword clanged to the ground as he tried to free himself. The Traveler struggled to speak.

I let him take a breath.
“What was that, dear?” I mocked him, then laughed.
“I probably can’t kill you. Not by myself.”

I jumped from the ceiling and splashed into the water below. I pulled him down with me until he was on his hands and knees, still fighting to breathe.

“That’s right, bitch. I’m not alone.” He spat at me. “You’d be surprised what a Troll will do for a good meal.”

I unwrapped my tail from his neck and turned to run the opposite way. 
I bumped into something huge. I couldn’t smell it in the sewer, (not with all of the other beautiful smells mixing together down here), but I didn’t need to smell it to know I’d bumped into a troll. 
A male troll and it was huge.

I heard the Traveler chuckle behind me. Heard him shove his sword into its scabbard and turn to leave me alone with the hungry beast.

“Trolls love centipedes.” He said as he left.

My screams echoed through the tunnel as I fought for my life with every trick I had. But it’s true, what Thierry said: Trolls really do love centipedes.

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My novel, Trigram, is in the works, but in the meantime, I'll probably be working on short stories such as the ones on Wicked Shorts. (Wink)

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