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Tom

by Chad Rhoads 2 months ago in Short Story

The Troll Under the Bridge

Artwork Commissioned by juliakadziela on Fiverr

Troll Bridge, thus nicknamed for the man who resided under it, who some say is a Troll. The stories told about him would make you wonder how anyone got across the bridge. As stories have it, he demands a toll to cross the bridge, otherwise you’d be eaten. People thought the only safe way was to drive across the bridge, or if you’re quick enough, cross on the other side from where he stands. As such, the East side sidewalk is completely vacant and has been for as long as people can remember.

This story intrigued me, as with any newcomers. I came to this city for the lower rent. I’m a writer, and well, my stories haven’t made me much. As a writer, I had to see this Troll. I walked down to the bridge and saw him sitting there. A can out in front of him, and a sign that says “Have a beautiful day”. As with everyone else, I was shocked and appalled by the man. As well as a bit intimidated. He was huge, maybe seven feet tall. He must have weighed five hundred pounds, but not in fat. His face was disfigured, probably from sunburns, and age. He wore a couple warts on his face. One on his nose.

It was the man’s eyes that made me see something different. They were small in comparison to the rest of him. I saw sadness, loneliness. That’s when my heart sank. I built up the courage to walk over. When my shadow fell over him, he looked up and there was a glint of hope.

I didn’t have any money, but I did have a peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwich. I sat next to him and offered him half of the sandwich. His voice was deep, but he was thankful. I sat with him for several hours. I learned so much from him. This man’s name was Tom. He had been living out here for as long as he could remember. Since then, I visited him daily, bringing an extra sandwich with me.

“Morning Tom,” I said as I sat next to him, handing him half of my sandwich. I started to come in the mornings when he told me that the sun rises were gorgeous, and he wasn’t lying.

“Morning Jake.” He took the sandwich and looked down at it. “I’ve always wanted to ask you. Why do you do this for me when you barely make ends meet as it is?”

I shrugged. “I’m selfish.” Tom looked at me, a bit confused by my words. I laughed and explained. “I do it for the company. Since this is pretty much all that I can afford, you are my source of any human interaction. You’re my break from my writing. Looking at a blank sheet of paper all day is pretty boring. And I can’t afford to hit up the clubs or bars, so I come here, since the only thing I need is a PB and J sandwich.”

Tom laughed. “It’s your toll.”

I laughed. “I guess I better keep bringing you sandwiches, otherwise I may get eaten.”

Tom shook his head. “Not enough meat. I may use you as a toothpick.” We both laughed.

“So tell me, why do you stay here? You obviously have a bad reputation. Why not travel around?”

Tom’s head lowered. “Truth be told, I was born here. I’ve been homeless my entire life. My mother was raped and gave birth to me under this bridge. It’s my home.” He looked at me. “Why did you leave your home?”

“Got evicted. Couldn’t afford the rent. Writing doesn’t pay the bills.”

“So why do you write?”

I thought about it. It had never occurred to me the reason, I just did it. “It’s the only thing I can do. It’s what I do. Why does a firefighter run into burning buildings to save people? Why does a soldier face enemies in war? It’s our nature. We do what we’re born to do I guess. Writing was a calling. I could’ve made money, and I did for a while, but I wasn’t happy. So I write. Though I don’t have money, I’m happy. I hunt for the right story.”

Tom nodded. “Well then Hunter, can you come by tonight after dark? I want to show you something.”

It was a strange request, but it was better than twiddling my thumbs, or trying to think of how to proceed with the book I was working on. I agreed and departed. My goal was to get a couple thousand words written, then maybe hit up one of the fast food joints for a job. My savings were gone, and I was already late on rent.

The area in which I lived was hardly the safest. Police toured these streets by the minute. So when a gun went off, it didn’t so much startle me, as it put a bit of a hop in my step as I rushed home to where I was at least somewhat safe.

A knock came on the door, and when I opened it, the landlord was walking away. On the door was an eviction notice. I took it down and shut the door. I had to be out by the end of the week. Where would I go? I looked at the room. A mattress sat in the corner with a pillow and a blanket. A makeshift desk made out of milk crates, two 2x4s, and particle board. All of which I found in the dumpster. That was my desk. The chair and the laptop were the only things that were actually mine.

I shrugged and grabbed my stuff and left, leaving the door unlocked and the key behind. I would have to find another place, but it was evening, and I had to meet Tom.

I made it to the bridge just after the sun went down. Tom smiled when he saw me, and led me under the bridge. There he had a fire going with a pot cooking a stew. I figured it was probably Squab or something in it. Asking was probably not a wise move, so I sat.

Our conversation went on for a few hours. My living situation was brought up, and he told me that things would turn out. I read him a few of my stories, including the “Journal of Eladra” that I had been writing.

Tom stood up and motioned for me to follow. He took me to the river bank and we sat. “Watch the water. It should be happening in a few minutes.”

“Why? What’s going to happen?”

“The story you’ve been hunting for will come to you.”

I cocked my eyebrow, confused, but I trusted him, thus I watched patiently.

When I thought I would fall asleep, the water began to glow. It was a sight that is hard to describe. The light grew brighter until orbs lifted out of the water. At first I thought they were ghosts, but they disrupted the water when they left. They danced around in the air, and a song started to play. It sounded like a symphony. Each note touched my soul, bringing forth all kinds of emotion.

The world didn’t seem to matter anymore. My troubles were forgotten, and the tears flowed freely. No more stress, no more sadness. It was pure euphoric joy.

Tom held out his hand as one of the orbs of light landed on it. “People write about this all the time, but few have actually seen this wonder.”

I held out my hand and felt the weight of the creature land in my hand. “What are they?”

A big goofy smile came across Tom’s face. “Pixies.”

The green orb of light faded from the one that landed in my hand, and the sight was beyond words at that time. She was small, fragile, yet fearless. She danced around in the palm of my hand, playing a tiny fiddle, smiling, spinning, and enjoying every moment in life before flying up to join the others.

“This is amazing. I always thought they were…”

“Fairy tales? Most do, but everything has a source. Every fictional story has a layer of truth, and thus Hunter of Stories, you have found what so many sought after.”

I had to ask, “Then, are you really a…”

“Troll?” He let out a hearty laugh. “Yes. Though the stories of the Troll under the bridge forcing people to pay tolls and what not is hogwash. People fear what they don’t understand.”

“This is why you live here?”

“This is a benefit. They’re my friends, like you are. Not afraid of the unknown. Always curious. I’m their protector. Not a bad gig if I say so myself.”

I couldn’t believe this. The world was so very much different than what we were led to believe. Legends, myths, folk tales, all have a basis in reality, in some fashion. Tom let me become a guardian with him. My story was done. I’ve reached my truth, my purpose. I write because I want to, not because I have to.

For years I was with them, never publishing anything, but being content to just keep the stories to myself. The last night one would think was a sad night. I had come down with an illness which had made it impossible to write anymore. The Pixies offered to heal me, but I simply told them I had lived my life and would die happy.

I was fifty-three. Tom knelt down beside me, “My friend, there is one last gift the Pixies and I would like to give you.”

“Tom, you have given me more than enough. You do not need to give me any more gifts.”

“This is the last one, but maybe one that could repay the friendship you have given me all these years.”

The Pixies flew over to me and lifted me up. It was as if I was floating on air. It was one of the most amazing sensations I had ever felt. They brought me to the river and slowly lowered me into it. I shut my eyes, letting the cool water wash over me.

When I opened them, I had expected to be in heaven, but maybe it was my heaven. I got up from a bed of leaves that was by far the softest thing I had slept on. I walked along a massive branch and froze. Before me was a city, not one of stone and steel, but one of trees and magic.

Thousands of orbs of light danced around while tall lithe figures walked gracefully around in the trees, descending stairs that were naturally grown in the trees. The trees were shaped to help house these beings whom I found were Elves.

I had reached my end. This was the greatest reward anyone could have given me, and I was saddened Tom could not be here with me. The Elves and Pixies brought me in, and I became one of them.

Now I guess the most appropriate ending would be, “and he lived happily ever after”.

Short Story

Chad Rhoads

My primary genres are fantasy and sci-fi. I love coming up with new worlds and new things within that make it interesting. My stories tend to be more character driven as I find how the brain works fascinating.

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Chad Rhoads
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