Thursday, February 14, 2013
This is the "expanded" version of my flash-fiction attempt, 'Chuk the Troll.' And by expanded I mean unconstrained. I rather like this version a lot better.
Chuk's father always told him how dangerous it was to leave home. But Chuk was old enough to leave the cave, and so he did.
The mountain upon which Chuk and his family lived was icy and windswept. Theirs was the company of mountain goats and elk and high-soaring eagles. In Chuk's world, there was no spring, summer or fall, because in his short life he had never ventured Downhill to see the leafy trees or grass. All of his memories comprised of his year-round snow-capped mountain, and on clear days when snow did not fall and the clouds were low, he could see dozens of other mountaintops, far away. Often the view was shrouded in a gray veil, making his home feel as an island in a sea of mist.
Chuk's father had assured him that there were in fact others in the wide world like them, though he had never seen them other than kin. Living in small groups like them was proper behavior, it was said. Besides, there were dangerous creatures Downhill, noisy animals that were too thin and weak to live on the mountain like Chuk and his father. Animals that stole and wore the furs of other animals. Chuk shuddered at the thought.
But Chuk was a curious troll, and decided he would venture Downhill and have a look at the noisy thinskins himself.
The journey was not very tiring, for trolls are hardy folk and Chuk, though young, was strong for his age. He leapt from rocks, climbed down precarious cliffs, and held fast when powerful winds clawed at the matted hair that so covered his body. Large piles of snow fell from pine branches as Chuk made his way down, bumping into the trunks in the dark of night. Whatever snow that pelted him was hardly noticed.
Then, walking through the night, Chuk saw some lights ahead of him through the trees. He approached cautiously, the snow muffling the steps of his bare feet, and pressed his face near a hole covered in clear ice.
It was like a cave, only without the hill, and was made of cut and stacked trees. From the top there spiraled a trail of smoke into the starlit sky. Looking through the window, Chuk saw a family of the ugliest, skinniest animals he'd ever seen.
One was tiny, evidently the child, and the other two must be the thing's parents. They all huddled around a dying fire, and though Chuk was familiar with fire, he did not understand why the ugly creatures were shivering. He surmised that they were simply much less resistant to cold than trolls – how impractical! He snickered at the thought, but took pity upon the freezing, ugly family.
The next day the child emerged from their wooden-cave and found their wood pile towering with dry logs. The parents came forth and shouted with surprise and pointed their little fingers at the many tracks on the ground. They could not understand where all of the wood had come from, and safe from a distance, Chuk watched from behind the needles of low-hanging fir tree. He watched as their confusion turned to glee and gratitude, though they looked up toward the sky when praising their thanks. Chuk did not understand this, nor did he understand any of their words; the ugly animals made fast, chattering noises like birds or yipping wolves. At any rate, they seemed happy enough for the firewood he had brought them.
Besides, each family member was wrapped in animal hides. Chuck shuddered as he saw this, but realized that when they moved about the snow, they did not shiver.
Chuk looked down upon his own feet, wiggling his exposed toes in the snow. As a troll he understood what it felt like to be cold, but he was unaccustomed to any sensation other than mild unpleasantness. His skin was so thick and his feet so tough that, like a deer and bear, there was no thought of protecting his feet beyond that which nature had given him.
But Chuk saw the ugly people and decided he wanted what they had. Perhaps if he had his own hide-shoes, his feet would not slip as often on the ice and rocks when climbing back home.
Chuk abruptly came forth from the brush. Loud footsteps heralded his approach, and the family froze when he appeared, though no chilling gust caused their motions to cease. The child and woman ran behind the largest one, obviously the father, and Chuk slowed to stand before them. In the daylight, Chuk could see them clearly, and saw noted how short and weak they appeared. The hide-wearers stared up towards him, for they had never before seen a troll.
And they were appalled.
The father shouted and backed his family into their home, and Chuk's sensitive ears caught the sound strong. He flinched, and tried to speak. He spoke perfect, fluent troll language, but they only stared at him. The door of their wooden cave slammed shut, and after a moment the man emerged again. Something long and shiny was in one hand, and he held a strange branch with a string tied to both ends in the other...
Before Chuk could understand what was happening, he felt a stinging pain in his shoulder. He looked, surprised, to see a short, thorny branch in his arm - the father had shot it at him! It didn't hurt much, but it was bothersome. Why would he do such a thing?
Another arrow. This time closer to his chest. Chuk reached and casually plucked the pointy sticks from his leathery skin. Trolls were a rough folk to one another, but this seemed like no greeting.
The child came out of the house with a torch in one hand. Trolls knew about fire not because they needed it, but because they feared it. The child thrust the torch at Chuk, and even in the daylight it seemed brighter and hotter than the sun. He fled, the shouts of the family following him.
Chuk decided it was time to go home, and as he slowly climbed the mountain, he heard wolves barking and howling behind him - unwilded pets of the hide-wearers. Chuk was chased as angry men followed his trail, setting the collar-wolves after him. But the troll was too accustomed to climbing mountains to be followed by the likes of them. He lost them quickly, though he was frightened, and did not divert his path. The hunters had given up the chase halfway, but Chuk did not stop until he was high upon the summit, his home.
Later, Chuk stood upon one of the highest cliffs of the peak. He stared down, gnashing his teeth and thinking angry thoughts. He vowed to himself that one day, when he was stronger, he would once again venture down the mountain, and he would have his boots.
But he would make them out of the skin of the hide-wearers.