106. Washed Up

Flossie’s scream went from operatic swansong to abrupt silence. One of the trolls had leaned over the side and grabbed her. Only, she had already fallen too far to be caught by normal hands. The troll’s arm was stretched like chewing gum pulled out of someone’s mouth to its breaking point.  

Unlike Mr Fantastic, whose limbs could snake about and do all sorts of useful things, the troll’s arm hung limp and Flossie swung to and fro under the bridge.

Below her—far, far below her—a river snaked through the middle of the canyon. It didn’t look very big, maybe a stream. If she fell, it probably wouldn’t save her.

I was lying on the boards holding on as tight as I could as I peered over the edge, but the vertical view made me feel quite nauseous. I rolled onto my back, panting for breath.

Everyone had immediately stuck their heads over the side, making the bridge tip over precariously and I felt we could all easily slide off. They were calling out to Flossie, telling her everything was going to be okay and other lies.

I sat up, clinging on to the guardrail on the other side. “Everyone stop leaning over.”

They all raised their heads and looked at each other, and then, like they’d just remembered we weren’t out here alone, at the giant. He had his head tilted right back, the last drops of liquid falling out of the sack into his open mouth. Old Faithful was about to blow any second.

Dudley scurried over the boards on all fours and wrapped himself around the trolls legs. “Pull her up,” he pleaded. 

From the strain on his face, it was clear the troll wasn’t used to having his extremities elongated in this fashion. He grunted, barely able to hold on, never mind reel her back in.

Flossie started squealing and waving her arms and legs about, which only made the troll grimace more. 

“Stay still and keep calm,”  I shouted down. “I’ve got a plan.”

I didn’t have a plan, but it seemed the best way to stop her panicking.

If the troll had lost control over the muscles in his arm now that they were all slack and droopy, we’d have to pull her up ourselves and hope he could keep hold of her while we did it. 

“Go stop the giant,” I shouted at Keezy. But Keezy didn’t move. His eyes were on the other side where the Gidiots were watching all this unfold. I couldn’t tell what they were  making of it, but it must have seemed strange for a soldier to suddenly go all Stretch Armstrong in front of them. 

The giant dropped the sack, his bladder presumably reloaded, and aimed his three-foot pecker in our direction. 

“All of you lean the other way, and hold on.”

As they all went in one direction, I went in the other, stepping over Dudley and grabbing hold of the troll’s sleeve. His arm was too thick to get my hands around and what little purchase I could get kept slipping out of my grasp. As I fumbled around trying to find some part of his arm that would provide a decent hold, we were hit by Gargantua’s refuelled penis attack.

The blast knocked me off my feet and sent me skidding along the bridge. I barely managed to grab onto one of the cables forming the guardrail before I was swept off the side. I hung on with my feet dangling in the air.

The liquid barrage continued unabated for the next couple of minutes. The troll’s face scrunched up with the effort of holding on. And then it crumbled. His human features lost their shape and definition and his whole body swelled up.

Once he had transformed back to troll, his strength seemed to return. With a heave he yanked Flossie up and onto the bridge where she landed with a splat.

The stream of urine dribbled and spluttered to an end, but then the giant raised the tip preparing for another go round. This time he seemed to be taking more careful aim.

I desperately tried to pull myself up but I didn’t have the strength in my arms to just clamber back onto the bridge, and I couldn’t get my foot high enough to do it that way. A hand grabbed the back of my jacket and I was jerked up and onto the bridge, landing on my feet.

Keezy, my rescuer, wasn’t looking at me. I followed his gaze to the Gidiots, who were drawing bows and nocking arrows. They must have realised the soldier with the unfeasibly long arm and sudden rocky countenance wasn’t human. Which probably meant the rest of us weren’t human either.

“Run!” I shouted. With arrows pointed at our backs and a giant cock aimed at our faces, we didn’t have the best options to choose from, but since the trolls no longer needed to disguise themselves, I figured our best hope was to get to the giant before he discharged his next jet of piss. 

As we all ran, the trolls transformed into their original form and shouted out Gargantua’s name. It was enough to make him pause and squint, leaning down to see who was calling him.

“Keezy?” bellowed the giant. “Is that you?”

“Yes, you lumbering oaf,” shouted Keezy, his voice filled with panic.

“Sorry about that,” boomed the giant. “Didn’t recognise you.”

Arrows began to fly. They came two at a time and whistled over us, but once they found their range we wouldn’t be hard to pick off.

A sudden sense of danger overwhelmed me. I turned and held up the shield I had taken from the armoury. It wasn’t very big, a buckler attached to my arm, but the arrow about to impale me slammed into it, the copper tip punching through the wood and slicing open the sleeve of my jacket.

I stumbled backwards, using the shield to block the arrows which were now aimed far more accurately and, not to sound paranoid, specifically at me. The buckler did not provide the greatest defence. Two of the tips drew blood as they broke through the splintered wood and ate into my flesh. The force of each arrow rocked me on my heels, making it hard to keep my footing. I couldn’t see the arrows and where I was going at the same time and one wrong step would easily trip me up. 

Hands gripped me by my belt and guided me backwards. I felt the ground under me change from wooden planks to solid earth.

The arrows were no longer finding me so easily, and I turned, casting the pin-cushioned shield aside. Jenny, soaked in piss and hair plastered to her face, stood behind me, breathing heavily and looking about ready to collapse. The others were running for their lives, headed for the gap between two feet the size of SUVs. Arrows continued to fall.

If we could get behind the giant’s feet we would at least have some protection.

The others had had the same thought and were already there and diving for cover. I grabbed Jenny’s hand and ran, dragging her along with me as I scrambled after them. I managed to get behind the giant’s left heel and sank to the ground. Jenny fell on top of me.

All of us had made it.  With the giant between us and them, they stopped firing, but we weren’t safe yet.

Ahead of was an open field, beyond which there were trees. If we could get to them, we would be safe, but we’d be exposed for at least a few seconds. The further we got, the less likely we were to get hit, unless they got very lucky. Or we got very unlucky.

I didn’t fancy leaving it to fate, since fate made a point of never doing me any favours.

“Keezy!” He was crouched behind the giant’s other heel. “Can you get Gargantua to back away towards the trees?”

He nodded and shouted the request up to the giant. Slowly, the feet rose and moved backwards.

We all scurried away to avoid getting trampled, but with the giant shielding us we were able to get to the trees without exposing ourselves. We threw ourselves behind tree trunks, which felt small and dinky compared to the giant.

Arrows still fell around us, although they were being shot higher to reach further which cost them a lot of their accuracy. The trees were spread quite thin though, and we could still get hit.

“We need to go deeper into the woods,” I shouted over to Keezy. 

He wasn’t eager to leave the safety of the tree he was flattened against, but he put his hands around his mouth and called out to the giant.

“Gargantua, can you keep them busy?”

“Hmmm,” rumbled the giant, which made my chest vibrate. “They aren’t the only ones with good aim.” He strode purposefully back towards the bridge. Considering his first choice of weapon, I didn’t want to see what he planned to use for missiles. 

With the giant taking the focus off us, I decided now was the best time to make a break for it. “Let’s go!” 

We all spread out and ran  hoping to avoid a stray arrow. 

Everything went quiet. The only sound in my ears was my own laboured breathing, but I felt a presence behind me, like a hand reaching out. I stopped running and turned around. 

High in the sky, a single arrow arced through the clear blue sky. It’s tip glinted in the sun. The chances of it coming such a great distance and finding its way to me might have been miniscule, but I knew better. I was undoubtedly its target.

I didn’t move. I wasn’t frozen with fear nor indecision. I was waiting for it. It had come far and carried a lot of momentum, but it wasn’t particularly fast. I just had to wait until I was sure where it was headed, and then step aside. 

Not even the slightest doubt entered my mind that it would miss. So it was with some surprise I realised it wasn’t going to hit me after all. I had been certain it was yet another example of the universe, any universe, having it in for me, but it was too high and going over my head.

Of course, if it wasn’t going to hit me it could still hit somebody else. Which one of my friends’ heads was it going to split open like a ripe watermelon? I spun around in time to see the arrow smash into a troll’s shoulder.

Normally, I would expect an arrow to bounce of the rock-like exterior the trolls possessed, and go ricocheting off (probably in my direction). But this arrow buried its head into the trolls body like it was a fork going into mash potatoes.

The troll cried out and threw up his arms. He fell forward, landing face-down on the ground. 

Everyone turned to look. The other two trolls froze where they were, horrified.

The arrow had gone in deep, but no blood seeped out of the wound. Instead, a golden bruise formed around the arrow. Glittering threads crawled over the skin, spreading out in every direction.

“Is it gold?” said Maurice.

“Brass,” said Keezy in a choked voice. He did nothing to help his fallen comrade.

Their kryptonite was doorknobs? It seemed a ridiculous weakness. 

Flossie ran to the troll and grabbed the arrow. She pulled it out easily but it was just the shaft. The arrowhead was still in his body, and on the move by the looks of it. “We have to help him. He saved mah life.”

She looked up at me, tears in her eyes. I’m not sure what the waterworks were for, it wasn’t like I intended to refuse to help. If we could get the trolls to owe us one, it would probably come in useful at some point.

“Let’s get him away from any more arrows first,” I said. Still the trolls didn’t budge. “It would be a lot easier if you’d help.”

“We can’t touch him,” said Keezy.

The rest of us grabbed hold of the stricken troll’s limbs and slowly carried/dragged him further into the trees. The brass veins continued to envelop his body. The other two trolls scattered out of the way to let us pass.

Once we were well into the undergrowth, we stopped and everyone turned to me. I knelt down and placed my hands on the troll’s shoulder.

I moved my fingers over his rough and abrasive skin. My hands warmed up, but the area under them remained cool. I pushed everything I had through my arms and into the troll. There was a definite transfer of energy between us; it felt like I was shrinking and it would have been easy to close my eyes and go to sleep. 

The veins stopped spreading and then slowly began returning to their point of entry. After a few minutes a small ingot of brass had formed where the arrow had struck.

The troll groaned. He shifted his head sideways and opened his eyes. “Please kill me.” 

There’s gratitude for you.

I turned to the others, expecting the usual fangirl adoration at my messianic ability to save lives (although that was mostly just Maurice), but they were all just staring at me, and not in a good way. 

Flossie raised her hand and pointed. “What happened to your hair?”

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