Many times you have overheard the villagers telling their children not to cross the old stone bridge after dark. Nobody talks to you -- you're an outsider to the group, even after all these years -- but you have listened and heeded that advice nevertheless.
You stand at the edge of the stone bridge and wonder whether you should [[cross the bridge]], or [[climb down into the ditch]]. Perhaps you should just [[go home]].
#[[''Troll''->at the bridge]]
by Jason Ermer
(font: "Georgia;font-size:60%")[Cover image by <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/glyn_nelson/20601227791/" target="_blank">Glyn Nelson</a>]
Tense with fear and anticipation, you take your first timid step from the soft grass onto the cold, hard stone of the bridge.
Do you tempt fate and [[take another step]]? Or is it better to quit now and [[go home]] before something bad happens?
You step from the gravel pathway and into the tall weeds. Just as you reach the steep sloping edge of the ditch, a rumbling noise echoes up from the darkness below the bridge.
The sound is gone so quickly that you are left wondering exactly what it was. Perhaps it was just the [[gurgling of the brook]]? Or maybe it was more like [[snoring]]?
"Better safe than sorry," you decide. Your friends might tease you for not going through with it, but you'd rather be //called// a chicken than //eaten// like one.
Everybody says there's a troll under the old stone bridge, and that may or may not be true. Perhaps you'll never know.
"It's just the brook," you convince yourself as you climb carefully down the steep slope. When you reach the bottom of the ditch, you see that you're right. The little creek gurgles and glubs as it splashes over the rocks.
You relax knowing that it's just the sound of the water. Otherwise, you would really regret having left your monster-hunting spear back in the hut.
That's when you see the terrible yellow eyes peering at you from the darkness under the bridge. Gulp! You swallow hard.
A few moments later, so does the troll.
"Aha!" you think. "There //is// a troll under this bridge!" You skid quickly down the steep side of the ditch, monster-hunting spear at the ready.
When you reach the bottom, you see that you're right! Terrible yellow eyes peer at you from the darkness under the bridge. You [[lunge with your spear!]]
The troll is slow, but its leathery skin is tough and your spear does little more than scratch. That is enough, however. The troll howls at you and runs off into the night.
You have chased it away, but this is only a temporary victory. Bridges attract trolls. It's only a matter of time.
You sit down in the shadow of the bridge and begin to sharpen your spear.
Another step, and again nothing. "Nothing! Nothing to worry about after all!" you think with relief.
Encouraged, you begin to [[run]].
You sprint, howling, across the bridge and into the village.
The villagers scream in terror and run for their lives. Their little huts are just made from sticks and mud, however. You can easily smash them apart with your leathery troll fists to get at the delicious, chewy people inside.
You think of all the times you heard them fretting about the bridge, as you lurked in the shadows. "But, crossing the bridge was so easy!" you think as you gobble up another fleeing peasant. "I just might do it more often."