The Midnight Troll

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Perhaps it was required for the magic to work, or maybe it was only a coincidence. Nonetheless, just as the rising moon cast its first visage of pale light, through the bedroom window, the obsidian-looking stone moved.

It was the smallest of movements, a jiggle really. In truth, a slight repositioning, as if the stone wanted a better look at its surroundings, which is exactly what the stone wanted to do. The stone studied the boy in the bed. Satisfied that the child was indeed sound asleep, it did the most amazing thing. It unfolded and stood up.

There, in place of the smooth stone, stood a small creature about six inches tall, black as obsidian. Its arms and legs were slightly too long, and out of proportion to its body. At the end of each muscular arm, in place of hands, evil-looking claws twitched, as if itching for mischief. Its repulsive face looked like something from a stone carver’s nightmare. Under a sharp protruding nose, a mouth, seemingly too large for its face, was upturned in a wicked permanent grin that exposed nasty, sharp, and yet strangely beautiful jewel teeth. Its ears, if that is what they were, pointed upward resembling devil’s horns. Other than the arms and legs being a little too long he looked like a tiny evil man carved from a single, overly large, black diamond. Its movements were not like a stone, but smooth and velvety like a dancer.

Unfortunately, its gemstone-like appearance was eclipsed by the evil expression on its face.
It was evil, you would not have to be as well trained as I to see that. In fact, if a reasonable-seeming person was to look at this creature and say anything about it was good, his reputation would be irreparable, and his opinion on anything would never be asked for again.

The tiny devil surveyed the room. Then rubbing its revolting claws together in nefarious delight, and with surprising agility, it began its midnight crime spree.

Using schoolbooks as a step stool the creature scrambled to the top of the desk and the first thing, he stole was Travis’ neckerchief from his cub scout uniform. Hopping to the floor it tied the ends together and began looting the room of its most valuable items.

A pen without a cap, a pocketknife with a broken blade, a baseball card with tattered edges, and a plastic moulded army man with the rifle permanently held overhead, were among the first treasures to be placed in its makeshift haversack. Then two socks (not matching), three marbles (all solid colours, it avoided the “cats’ eyes”), a spoon, and the missing thimble from the Monopoly Game.

At that point, it paused to review its plunder; it did not look satisfied. It darted under the bed and came out quickly with one of Travis’s old tennis shoes and some small items I couldn’t quite make out from my vantage point.

It dumped the things I couldn’t see into its bag. I thought it was going to try to steal the shoe as well. Instead, in one fluid motion, it removed the shoelace and discarded the shoe on the floor.

It had to be almost done, I thought to myself, it couldn’t possibly carry more and expect to escape. On that I was wrong. In a twirl the demon headed for the bed, it grabbed the bedcover and hauled itself up. And there it saw it. On the pillow next to Travis’ head was the watch his father had given him.

The villain regarded the gold-plated timepiece with a rapacious stare. After a moment, each of its repugnant, clawed hands twitched greedily, and it reached out. “That is enough,” I thought. It was time for me to act.

I had been watching the loathsome beast from my perch on the bookshelf. In truth, I was suspicious of the stone ever since Travis brought it home from his hike earlier that day. However, up to this point I had been more intrigued than alarmed.

I scanned the room one more time. The only exits in the room were the door to the hallway and the bedroom one window, partially open, to let in the night’s cool breeze.

The door had a small gap between its bottom edge and the floor. It concerned me. It was a big enough gap that anything similar in size to a mouse would have no trouble passing under.
A mouse had once entered the room that way but met with, umm “disaster.”

The gap was not too small for this criminal to slide under. However, the overstuffed satchel of ill-gotten gains seemed way too big for the gap under the door. I was not worried that that was the way it was going to try to leave the house. It would go for the window, I was sure.

For a moment I was bemused by the greed of this creature. I was sure it would be its undoing.
However, a moment is but a heartbeat, and in that tick of time, my reverie turned to alarm.

My front legs were extended before me, my back arched in mid-stretch, a necessary calisthenic to get my body ready for the inevitable showdown when my heart froze.

The enfant terrible, with the watch in one abhorrent claw, and the neckerchief sack of pillage in the other, was not headed toward the window. Nor did it turn toward the door.

When tonight’s frightful events began, I was sure the window would be the route of escape and it was there I was planning my interception. Now, with a feeling of panic, I watched as the diamond demon did something I didn’t anticipate. It dropped to the floor and began pulling at the grate that covered the vent.

It is true, I must admit. At the time I did not know they came up, I thought they were part of the floor. Embittered by my complacency that nearly allowed this hobgoblin to escape, there arose within me urgent anger. There was no time to repine my miscalculation, I needed to make my move.

I leaped down from the bookshelf to the headboard, three quick steps to the edge and plop, I landed in front of my startled foe. The stupefied look on the surprised demon’s evil face was quite satisfying. My element of surprise over my adversary did not last long, however. Just as quickly as it was there the surprised look on the evil creature’s face vanished. Simultaneously, the creature did two things. And I admit both caught me off guard.

The fiend quickly covered his eyes with the arm that was holding the stolen watch. With the other one that was clutching the bag of plunder, it struck me across the whiskers.

Befuddled by the sneak attack, I momentarily lost track of the scoundrel. I heard the clatter and realized my foe, pushing things onto the floor as he went, had climbed to the top of the desk. The chase was on.

I leaped with all my feline fury. Books, pencils, and a model car, displaced by my body were sent into the air and ensnared by gravity, clattered to the floor. Travis rolled over, muttered something about me behaving but otherwise was still asleep dreaming his sweet dreams blissfully unaware of the robbery taking place. That, unfortunately, did not last long.

As I was making my landing on the desk, I noticed the thief still shielding his eyes, running across the headboard. I was in pursuit. Here, I should pause and explain, if this was any other kind of confrontation, say a mouse or a lizard or a big beetle, I might have been more careful, but these were extraordinary circumstances. The monster needed to be captured, so what followed was not necessarily my fault.

What happened next, Travis’s mother would later describe as a whirlwind of carnage.

The troll sprung from the headboard to the bookshelf, and I followed. Everything that was on the bookshelf, books, models, a cement plate with the impression of Travis’s hand, a 2-quart Tupperware container full of Lego pieces, and a porcelain giraffe, headed to the floor.

From the bookshelf, my enemy jumped to the top of the open closet door. It must have been looking for another way to escape the room because when it got onto the shelves in the closet the little nasty started throwing things.

I could not let this stand. I leaped onto the top shelf in the closet. The bandit was cornered. But before I could pounce, the shelves gave way. Boxes containing books, games, toys, stacks of videos and video games, and a host of other things no longer getting daily use came spilling out of the closet. Half buried in debris; I was only partially aware of Travis stirring to wakefulness. In a matter of seconds, Travis was no longer stirring but was now wide awake. Mom was awakened by what happened next.

From my entombment under the contents of the closet, I saw the beast was once again headed to the vents. With no time to waste, I hastened myself out of my burial. Unbeknownst to me, I was entangled in the electrical cord that powered Travis’s TV and video game console. The whole thing came down with such a crash as to shake the whole house.

It was mere moments before our alarmed mother swung the door open and turned on the light.

My night vision was shattered, and my advantage was lost. In that moment of distraction, the creature had opened the vent and disappeared with its ill-gotten booty.

I just had time to notice Travis sitting bolt upright in bed looking around his room with perplexity, his mouth hanging wide open. Mom gasped, “What has gotten into that cat?” I had no time to make her understand. I had regained my feet and dove headfirst into the vent, the last thing I heard was Travis exclaim, “Mom, Shadow has gone insane!”

In the maze of air vents, I, no longer concerned with stealth, let out a ferocious growl and pursued my enemy. The chase involved so much speed that making the sharp 90-degree corners was difficult, and I slammed into the sides of the vents on every corner. The vents vibrated with such force that they begin to shake loose. When I finally caught up with the beast the noise of our battle was terrible. The vents shook loose from their hangers and the thin metal bent and twisted trapping the foul little creature and me together. I pounced. It tried to cover its head with both arms, but the greedy thing would not drop the bag or the watch. In the end, it was its covetous nature that gave me the advantage, and I was eventually able to pin it on its back. And then it had no choice, it looked me in the eyes.

It was morning when they finally came to my rescue. In all the ruckus someone, probably a neighbour called the police. They couldn’t do much but then the firemen came, and they had all the right tools to dislodge the disaster that held me. It took a while for the men to locate the damaged vent I was trapped in and using their tools they freed me.

A fireman wearing heavy leather gloves reached in and lifted me out.

“Put him in the cage,” I heard mom say, “I don’t want that crazy thing tearing the place up again.”

“He seems alright now,” the fireman that was holding me said. He also rubbed my fur in a soothing way. “A nice man,” I thought.

Mom, still holding the cage said, “I just don’t know what could have got into that cat, to make him act that way.”

“Hold on,” said one of the firemen, “there is something else here.” The man reached in and was handing out objects to our befuddled mom.

“I don’t know what to make of this,” the fireman said. “It seems someone has been hiding treasures in your vents.”

“My neckerchief,” Travis exclaimed, taking the bundle from his mother.”

“This can’t be,” Mom gasped. I understood her surprise, last night was scout night and I watched her pick it up off the floor, and hang it in its assigned place, all the while gently chiding Travis about tidiness.

The surprises were not over. As the bundle was unwrapped and the treasures within exposed. The expressions on the human’s faces grew even more perplexed. They puzzled at the pen without a cap, the pocketknife with a broken blade, the baseball card with tattered edges, and the plastic moulded army man with a rifle permanently held overhead.

Then two socks (not matches), three marbles that were not Travis’s favourite (he preferred the Cat’s eyes to the solid colours), and a spoon mom instantly recognized as the one Travis had with his dessert this evening. I could see mom, despite the odd circumstances, making a mental note to scold Travis about it later.

Their human brains were desperately searching for a way to rationalize the situation. “Perhaps these are not our things, but similar items that found their way down the vents over the years,” Mom said weakly. The fireman handed her the watch that Travis always kept with him and never slept without.

Not a word was said. Mom and Travis just looked at each other. Travis’s mouth, once again, hung open in that slack jaw way that happens when someone is trying to understand something beyond their capabilities. Mom’s mouth was shut tight, her lips thin.

“There is one other thing here,” the firefighter said. But he said it in a dreamy sort of way as if his mind was absorbed by some long-ago memory.

Mom and Travis looked at him. In his hand was a small statue made from what looked like a black diamond. “A master carver must have made this,” the other fireman said. “Worth a pretty penny, I’d imagine.” The one holding the statue said nothing.

The details were exquisite yet grotesque. Each detail was clear and sharp from its pointy horn-like ears to the clawed three-fingered hands. They were all puzzled at the lifelike face, its large mouth and protruding teeth were pulled back in an o shape and there was such an unnatural expression of surprise and terror on the jewelled monster face they all wondered how any artist could be talented enough to carve such a thing.

They, overcome by the moment, and lost in their individual thoughts, examined the item in silence, for what seemed like a lifetime but was just moments.

Then a firefighter, holding the statue in one arm and me in the other, looked at me. I noticed he had kind eyes and his voice was soft.

“My grandmother used to tell me stories,” he started. Mom looked at him and indicated she was interested. He continued, “Rock Trolls are real, she would tell me. They are forged in the earth out of rare stones and sometimes precious gems. And ingrained with a desire for things it thinks are human treasures. Things we often hold and touch and especially things we have an emotional connection to.” He looked at the watch then Travis and continued. “If they get into your house, they cause all sorts of trouble. They like to steal, and no one can say what a rock troll will find valuable. You can’t trap them, and you can’t kill them. There is only one thing a rock troll fears. The eyes of a cat. It cannot look into a cat’s eyes, for if it does, it will turn into a statute forever.”

They were all looking at me. I, wanting to look calm and composed, began cleaning my paws. The firefighter held me up to his face, it was a kind face. He then declared, “I am not sure what happened here tonight, but I believe this cat has been through something amazing. And,” he continued, “though things look bad, this statue is a treasure. When it is sold, you and your son will be set for life with enough left to feed this cat, salmon and steak dinners every night for the rest of its life.”

I liked that idea! but I am a humble creature like most cats are. So embarrassed, but proud, I purred and snuggled into him. He was a kind man, a very kind man indeed.

THE END

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- Total nr. of readings: 756 Copyright © The author [2020] All Rights Reserved. This story may not be reproduced without the express written permission of the author except for personal use.

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