Flash Fiction: Oh, The Humanity

Drawing of Elizabet by Emily Tupper, age 8

Flash Fiction

A flash fiction response to a challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com.

The assignment, which I gamely accepted, was to mash any two of the following sub-genres together:

Southern Gothic
Cyberpunk
Sword & Sorcery
Femslash
Black Comedy
Picaresque
 

Obviously, this is quite a list to choose from! I did my homework and narrowed it down to Sword & Sorcery and Black Comedy. Then I imposed my own criteria which is to continue writing backstory for my book Tenderfoot.

While I was able to use the swashbuckling sword action component from the one, I’m afraid only the “black” in “black comedy” transferred successfully into the story.

Let me know what you think in the comments. Is there a smidge of offensiveness in the ending comments made by the trolls about humans or do I get token points good only at Chuck E. Cheese for trying?

*****

Once upon a time, among the schists of Dålsland, lived an un-baptized Troll named Elisabet. She was the second to be named Elizabet for the first, her sister, died upon birth. She and her many surviving brothers and sisters grew up in a cave beneath a great granite mountain.

One evening Elizabet was out tending to the animals at the nearby farm when she heard beautiful music coming from the family’s home. Elizabet crept close to listen. It was the most wondrous thing. It touched something inside of her that nights of stomping with her kin deep in the caves did not. There were many beliefs about sharing the land and sea with humans, all of them cautioning against involvement. Elizabet thought long and hard as the melodies of humming fiddle strings echoed in her head. In the end, she slipped on a human skin and set out for music school in Uppsala.

After several years, Elizabet felt she had learned what she could about the fiddle. She tied up her beloved instrument in a cloth bag, thanked her human teachers, and set out for home.

By this time, the human skin fit well. It was Elizabet’s mistake to travel in it at night for when she came to the river near the Ironworks, a troll sprang from beneath the stone bridge. Caught, she continued pretending. To her amazement, he was a beastly thing. Standing tall and broad shouldered with long tangled brown hair, his bulbous nose was overshadowed only by his big sharp teeth when he growled at her. This shocked Elizabet, but not in the way he intended. It was as if she was seeing a troll for the first time, finding it ugly and vulgar. Had her human skin ruined her eyes?

He drew close. “Lo! Do you think you are to cross this bridge? Not without payment, my pretty!”

At a distance of several steps, Elizabet found his stench overwhelming. And yet she was not afraid. This particular troll bore a resemblance to her mother’s kin. “I seek only to return to the  granite mountains of Dålsland. If I play you a folk tune, will that be fair payment?”

The troll scratched his great forearms and thought. “Yes, that will be fair.”

Elizabet gathered her skirts and sat down on the stones that lined the edge of the bridge. She carefully unwrapped her fiddle. Moonlight reflected off the glassy surface of the river as she played her favorite song about a waterfall. The troll sat quietly. When the tune ended, the music of night filled the silence. Elizabet wrapped up her fiddle and stood to cross.

“Wait! I cannot allow you to leave.”

“But what of our deal?” There was something in the way his gargantuan nose twitched that set her to worrying. Had her kind always looked this repulsive? She stepped forward. Distracted, the troll looked behind him. Elizabet saw her chance. She ran. Her thin leather boots slapped against the rough stones as she sprinted across the bridge yet he quickly caught her. In the blink of an eye, he slung her over his shoulder like a bag of turnips.

“Careful! My fiddle!” She cried. Kicking as hard as she could in the frail human skin, she failed to wrest herself from his grip. He carried her down the grassy embankment toward his lair. Elizabet thought as to reveal herself as a troll but the fear of being brought to judgment before the Troll King for living among the humans stopped her. At that moment, the clattering of horse hooves on the bridge startled them both. The troll rolled her off his shoulder into the grasses growing against the arch.

“Keep quiet!” He bounded onto the bridge.

Seeing her chance, Elizabet fled. The hawthorn bushes would provide shelter until she could disappear into the forest. From there, she could drop the skin and her once-hidden knobby troll feet would carry her away. When she reached them safely, she dared to look back.

To her surprise, the horse was gone. In its place on the bridge stood a handsome man. River water streamed from his wet clothes and coal-black hair. Time slowed as he drew back his sword and thrust it into the troll in one powerful motion. He wiped the sword clean on the fallen body then casually rolled it over the side into the river. Staring at where she hid, the stranger called out, “Dear Fiddler, will you play a tune for me?”

Crouched in the thicket of thorns, rivulets of blood ran down Elizabet’s fragile weeping skin. She held still, waiting.

And then he said, “I had hoped…” The swordman’s voice trailed off in the quiet splashing sounds of the river.

Elizabet did not return home until after her son was born. Worried the Troll King would learn of  her human dalliance with the shape-shifting water man, she knew she must protect her mongrel Fae child even as her heart was cleaved in two. She lucked upon a suitable human family who played music. And so it came to pass early one morning, Elizabet placed her beloved baby with coal-black hair side by side with their tow-headed baby and tucked both in. And yet Elizabet couldn’t bear the emptiness of her arms for a moment. She snatched up the tow-headed child and fled in haste, leaving her Changeling safely behind.

Then Elizabet sadly shed her human skin once and for all, burying it with her violin in the forest. At last she arrived home. She lied to her kin, and told grand stories of running with the reindeer up North. Then she revealed the stolen baby. The troll children gathered close. They were so curious, they poked and prodded until the baby scrunched up its pale face and cried. Elizabet shivered deep in her troll heart when one of the children giggled, “Who would want to live with such noise?” to which one mother replied, “Oh, the humanity!”

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