<<Previously… The ox has horns. / The S. has too. / S. does not bellow, / roar or moo. / The ox is kept / Inside a wall, / But walls won’t keep / Slow S. at all.
(answer to this riddle in next episode)>>
written for the theme: say it without saying it.
Just outside of New Orleans, nearly two centuries ago.
The swamp was thick and wet, weighing down on me so that my boots sunk deeper and deeper into the mud with every step. It was nearing dusk, and ever since leaving the Lady of the Swamp’s shack I knew I was being followed. The sounds of war in the distance had ceased, for the time being. The creatures following me were keeping their distance, so I holstered my gun and readied my musket. I couldn’t shake them, so I’d have to make a stand or risk leading them to Pierre. I did my best to hide among the trees, throwing down the British uniform coat – didn’t need to be wearing anything so bright red, though I’d still need it later to fend off the cold.
With the tip of my tongue I reached into the back of my mouth and teased the little flap that served as a door to a hiding place. I really hope Commodore Decatur was right about this trick, I thought. I’d been up in New London, Connecticut giving the Commodore a message from my boss, Pierre, and in turn receiving a message to give back to my boss. The Commodore knew I was being tracked, and said he’d dealt with their kind before. Funny thing was, the war was over – the peace treaty had been signed a couple weeks earlier. But I doubted the creatures tracking me down would care much if the war was officially on or off.
I kept my musket aimed towards them, though I couldn’t see anything yet. A voice echoed up to me from between the trees. “We can smell your dreams,” it said in a high pitched and thick English accent. “No use in hiding. Of course it’s more fun for us if you do hide.” English creatures are all the same – they’ve all heard one too many tales about how scary they are and let it all go to their heads.
Then I saw them – fluttering here and there between the trees. A handful of sprites, and they were following what looked like a miniature man, maybe three feet tall and bald with pigeon wings sprouting from his back. He was walking, as if his wings weren’t functional, and slowly making his way in my direction. Moving slow, I took aim at him. Sprites never act alone, and if there’s no one else around to lead them, they’ll most likely scatter and go back home.
At first I thought it was cannon fire – the sound of huge eruptions in the trees right around me. THOOM! In an explosion of mud something had landed right in front of me. I stepped back as the enormous blue creature stood up, black chains dangling from its torso like pearls from a chandelier. It opened a mouth that was bigger than my head and roared so loudly that my ears started ringing. I raised the musket and fired, but with a wave of its arm it knocked me spinning through the air, not to mention snapping my musket in half. Trolls? Decatur hadn’t said anything about trolls. Picking myself up out of the mud, I spun around, reaching with my tongue into the back of my mouth and opening the little trap door, trying not to gag as my mouth filled up with little salt rocks.
“There we are!” said the delighted voice of the pigeon-winged man, running up next to the troll. “Now how’s about you tell us what you know, an’ maybe we’ll give you a head start.” They had me pinned with the water behind me, assuming the other two explosions I’d heard were two other trolls.
I spat the salt into my hands and threw it in a half-circle over the muddy earth as the troll and the small man lunged at me, then were thrown backwards at the point where the salt was touching the earth. I picked a direction, either left or right (doesn’t really matter to you, does it?) and ran, but was headed off by another troll and a few pixies. Spitting again into my hands and throwing the salt between us, I made to jump into the swamp when I heard a loud engine of some sort. Crashing between the trees came some sort of mechanical tank, stopping just next to me.
The episodes started fluttering through my head like butterflies or confetti, and my wrist began to burn. I knew the future, or some of it, and I knew that this was no tank – it was a 1934 Model A Ford, over a century before its time. The door swung open and a woman looked at me from within, her eyes distorting the light around them into small explosions. She was the one I’d end up working for.
“Get in!” she yelled.
I slid in and shut the door and she stepped on the gas, slipping impossibly between the roaring troll and a cluster of trees, and by some miracle managed not to scratch the paint in the process.
photo credit: Infrogmation
Riddle from Guess by L.J. Bridgman, 1901 – answer to be given in next episode
story Copyright 2010 by Andy Reynolds
for more stories and a menu of the episodes, visit my website: AndyReynolds.net