The Bus Troll by Daniel Duffield
Original story was written in 1972 by Daniel J. Duffield. Revised and copyrighted © 2014 by Daniel J. Duffield. All rights reserved.
All characters in this story of purely fictional and any resemblance to real people are purely coincidental.
Mark carefully threaded the rope through his country’s flag. Once it was secure he began pulling the rope to drag the flag up the pole. “I think it should be at half-mast today. The kids in school need to remember what happened to Alice and all the other kids before her.” He thought to himself. “I am sure Dad would agree if he were still alive today and he would fight them too.”
When the flag was half way up the pole Mark stopped it and then tied the rope to secure the flag in place. He stood there for a few moments looking at the flag. It clung against the pole in the early morning calm. He could see streaks in the frost that covered the silver pole where the flag had rubbed on its way up the pole. He heard the rumble of a loud engine coming down the gravel road behind him and then the familiar screech of the brakes as the yellow school bus stopped in front of his home.
Mark reached deep into his pocket to feel. He wanted to be reassured that he had his Boy Scout knife before climbing the bus steps. His fingertips caressed the cold metal as he started walking towards the open bus door. He passed an old maple tree where his dad had helped him build a magnificent tree house in the lower branches of the massive tree. He often retreated to that tree house when he pretended to be a soldier like his dad. Someday he would grow to be a man. Then he could fight in wars against evil just like his father had before dying in battle.
Mark placed his right foot on the bottom step and then quickly pounded each of the three steps in succession to the top. “Hi Sam!” He greeted the bus driver.
“Good morning Mark!” Sam replied. “You look serious today for a young lad.”
“I am ready for them if they come again!” Mark’s face hardened slightly.
Sam’s smile disappeared. “Don’t worry your young head. They won’t come here. This is my bus. Those trolls know who I am. They know I won’t let them eat any of my kids.”
Mark turned to head to the back of the bus. “Maybe so, but doesn’t hurt to be ready for them.”
Mark walked down the long, black rubber aisle towards his friend Rick who was sitting in the very last seat in the back of the bus. When he was just in front of the exit door, he pivoted to plop down on the hard seat cushion. “Hey Rick! You ready?”
Rick opened his right hand to reveal his pocket knife. “Yeah, I am ready for them. They are not going to eat me.”
The brown curls of hair on the two young girls seated in front of the them seemed to dance as they whirled their heads around to face the young men. “We are not afraid!” Sue told the boys. “The trolls only eat kids when they are starving. As long as we make sure we don’t take their food away, they will leave us alone.”
Julie nodded her head in agreement. “Yes, it is our own fault if we get eaten. Not theirs.”
Mark shook his head from side to side. “That is just crazy thinking. The trolls will eat anything and they are hungry all the time. Why they will eat each other. If they ever try to eat me, I will kill them dead.”
“Oh you boys are always so violent.” Sue added. “Just leave them alone and they will leave you alone.”
“No! That is not how it works!” Mark barked. “It is the other way round. If they leave us alone, then I will leave them alone.”
Sam released the brake and pressed down on the gas pedal as the bus moved slowly down the road. There was a slight grinding as the driver shifted through the gears until they were traveling at 50 miles per hour down the bumpy, gravel road. The bus hit a deep pot hole in the road with a thud and then hit some more before Sam could slow the bus down a bit. Mark hadn’t heard the noise under the seat in front of him because of the creaking and banging the bus was making bouncing through the pot holes.
Sue suddenly shrieked and grabbed the seat back in front of her. “My leg, something has my leg! It hurts!”
Mark quickly lowered his head to peer under the bench seat. “The troll, it’s the troll! It broke through the floor and has her leg. It is biting her leg and eating her alive!”
Mark retrieved his pocket knife from his pocket and pulled the blade out. He looked back at the floor and saw his friend Rick was already stabbing the troll’s head. The troll reeled from the small blade to pull its head back underneath the bus but it still had both hands around Sue’s ankle and began pulling it through the hole in the bus floor.
“Help me, help me!” Sue repeated as Julie wrapped her arms around Sue’s shoulders in an attempt to hold her on the bus seat.
Mark barked out quick instructions. “Julie, keep holding on to Sue! Rick, keep slashing at the monster’s arms and hands!”
Mark jumped up from the seat, turned, and then opened the emergency exit door. A siren went off and the bus lights started to flash as Sam hit the brakes to stop the bus. When the bus was stopped, Mark hopped out of the back door and landed on the gravel road surface. He extended his right hand holding his pocket knife and ran under the back of the bus aiming his knife at the side of the troll’s neck underneath its wild, frizzy hair. He plunged the blade deep into the troll’s neck and began rapidly moving it back and forth to sever the carotid artery. After a half dozen movements of his knife he saw the scraggly, orange hair next to the troll’s neck turn dark with the almost black blood that gushed from the knife’s wound. The troll released his grip on Sue’s ankle and turned to face Mark. Its green, jagged teeth were still dripping with blood from Sue’s leg as it returned and evil grin at Mark. Then it placed his hand over the neck wound momentarily before the dark eyes rolled upward to become white and the troll’s claw-like feet released their grip on the under surface of the bus and it fell to the road surface. The troll laid on the road surface clutching its neck as it bled to death.
Sam was now lying face down at the back of the bus looking underneath it at the dead troll. “You alright Mark? Looks like you got him.”
“Yeah, I am alright, but Sue has a bad wound where the thing bit her.” Mark replied.
Sam reached under the back bus seat and pulled out the first aid kit. “We better take care of it and get her back to school for help.”
He had Sue lay on her back on the bench seat while he crudely wrapped some pads and gauze around her leg calf to stop the bleeding. Then he wrapped the white tape from the kit around it to tightly apply pressure and secure the bandage. Once he helped Mark climb in the bus through the emergency door and then shut the door. Sam walked swiftly back to his seat, took the emergency brake off and shifted through the gears towards the school leaving the dead troll lying on the dirt road behind them. He radioed ahead for an ambulance to meet the bus at the school.
After about 20 minutes, Mark could see all kinds of flashing lights in the parking lot next to the school. There was an ambulance, a fire truck, and half a dozen county sheriff cars. After the bus had come to a stop, Sam opened the front door to let the EMTs on to retrieve Sue. They placed her on a narrow board and carried her off the bus and into the ambulance. The school counselor boarded the bus and began counseling some of the children that were scared and crying.
One of the law enforcement officers came to the back of the bus where Rick and Mark were still seated. “Hi boys, I am Officer McVey. Sam told me that you boys are the ones that fought the troll. Is that correct?”
Rick spoke first. “Yes Officer McVey, we both used our pocket knives to fight him.”
Mark chimed in. “Yeah, and I killed him by stabbing his neck and cutting his vein.”
“Boys.” The officer began slowly. “I will need your knives. It is against the law for juveniles to have weapons on school property and this bus qualifies as school property. The county attorney will likely press charges against you and you may never be able to have a weapon of any kind in your possession ever again.”
“But Officer McVey!” Mark protested. “That’s just crazy! How can we protect ourselves from trolls? They prefer eating children you know.”
“Yes, I know, but my job is to protect you. You will have to call for a law enforcement officer to fight them the next time you are attacked.” McVey explained.
Rick lowered his head and looked at the bus floor. “But by the time an officer gets here to help, we could be eaten.”
“Well, I just enforce the laws. That doesn’t mean I agree with them. Sorry boys, hand over your knives.” The officer reached out and took each of their knives and then left the bus to return to his car.
The next day Julie started a campaign at Sue’s suggestion. The campaign was to honor the dead troll. They argued that trolls were part of the natural order and that they couldn’t help eating children because it was what they did.
Soon most of the community was moved with compassion for the troll. A small group of troll supporters went back to the dirt road and retrieved the troll’s body. They wanted to give the troll a proper burial. Several days later, they even had a funeral with a pastor from the local church officiate over the burial of the troll and they put up a marker that read: “Here lies Herman the Troll who was fulfilling his role in life until two boys ended his life tragically”.
Several weeks later, the fame of Herman the troll spread. The people that supported the troll even collected funds to erect a statue of the troll. However, the statue made the troll look lovable and harmless. Not at all like the wicked creatures that trolls really were. They placed the statue in the town square for all to see. Then they had miniature replicas of the statue made which were placed on each teacher’s desk in all the school classrooms to remind the children that the troll played a special role in the order of things in their world.
One month after the death of the troll, Mark was hoisting his flag to half-mast in protest as he had done every day since he killed the troll. When the flag reached the half-way point on the pole, he secured it in place. He backed away from the pole a few steps and then stood there in disbelief of all that had happened to him and his best friend Rick.
He looked up at the pole and then heavenward as he began to pray. “Dear God, how could this be?”
Suddenly he saw something at the very top of the flag pole. It was right on top of the silver metal ball at the tip of the pole. It looked about the size of an owl, but didn’t have an owl’s shape. The object began slowly descended down the pole until Mark could make it out. It was a tiny man with a reddish beard. His clothes were greenish in color and odd looking, almost elfish in style. He slid down the pole until he was at eye level with Mark where he stopped and looked directly at Mark with his piercing brown eyes that seemed to see right through Mark.
The little man’s gaze was so intense that Mark lowered his eyes to avoid eye contact. As he did, Mark saw a word tattooed on the tiny man’s forearm that spelled out the name Dov. “Are, are you a watcher?” Mark asked.
“Why yes, yes I am.” The little man answered. “The Creator heard your prayer. I was sent with a message to give you I was. You see, you live in an upside down world where compassion and justice are not balanced. Good is called evil and evil is called good. There are many worlds that suffer the same fate and don’t recognize evil for what it is. In your world people worship trolls, in other worlds that have not trolls, they honor and worship other things that do evil. You did right and your father in heaven is proud he is.”
Mark took a step closer to the little man. “If you have come from heaven with an answer to my prayer, have you seen my father? He died in battle several years ago.”
“Yes indeed, I just said that he is proud he is.” Then the little man floated up while he disappeared in a wisp of vapor like fog that evaporates in the sun’s rays.
Mark pondered the little man’s words. As he thought about them, he smiled for a moment as he remembered his father. Then his thoughts returned to the trolls and how the people in town now loved them.
In the coming years, Mark continued his battle against the trolls. He was determined to fight evil as his father had done in the war and used any weapon he could get his hands on, most of which were pitch forks and axes. Because of the help from Rick and other like-minded people, Mark was successful in defeating the trolls and driving them from their farms and woodlands.
The surviving trolls fled to the cities and villages where folks openly loved and accepted them. There were lots of children to feed on there and the adults welcomed this new form of population control. Soon the number of trolls grew and expanded within the cities until the trolls had complete control as the people willingly accepted this new way of things. At first it was just an occasional child that was eaten, but once the trolls were in control things changed. A new kind of restaurant appeared that was marketed for the troll masters. These restaurants served children, sautéed in butter with just the right amount of salt and pepper. Now man and troll lived in together in peace as they both dined in the new restaurants. Dov was right; it was an upside down world after all.