It took every ounce of courage Marty possessed to take that first step onto the bridge. It was one of those old wooden structures which spanned the numerous brooks and creeks interrupting back country lanes in this part of the world. Innocuous as it appeared, she knew in her heart that this was a troll bridge. Exactly how many trolls called this bridge home remained to be seen. Of course, one troll was bad, but a clan was worse.
Holding her breath and commanding her legs to stop trembling, she started out. Marty clocked in at only one hundred and ten pounds, but still her weight caused the old boards to groan in protest. She managed four steps before she heard the rustling.
Soft, like dry autumn leaves whirling in the corner of the yard. She stayed in the exact middle, advancing in quick silent steps. Ten more and she was halfway there, desperately fighting the urge to run. A troll might let you pass if you stayed calm, respecting his right to challenge you. To run was a death sentence.
The sun had already sunk below the surrounding hills. The wind carried a coolness that forecasted the night climate. Ill omens both. But maybe there was only one. Could he be sleeping? Perhaps someone had come before and even now was satisfying his voracious appetite. She pictured his long snake-like arm reaching out for her ankle, yanking her quickly over the side.
After three more tentative steps she saw it. Four elongated fingers stretched around the side of the bridge. Frozen in terror, Marty noted the greenish color and two oozing warts erupting from the back of the attached hand. This was followed by a sinewy arm attached to a humped shoulder. Still she couldn’t move.
In a lightning-quick flash she saw the head and began to scream. It was far worse than Old Joe, the village beggar who had tangled with a vat of acid in his youth. The ears were gaping holes in the side of the troll’s head from which a yellowish slime trickled down his face. One black eye was slightly off center, while the other sagged below the cheekbone in folds of gray green hide. The nose was huge, a festering sore, pus congealed in the middle of his face. But even worse were the razor sharp jagged edges of his teeth, black and shiny in the fading light.
The scream died in her throat as she felt herself quickly pulled over the side. Within seconds she was face down in the marshy reeds, far from the light and air above. The stench of his gaping sores and foul breath engulfed her. Marty’s last agonized thought was of her family, safely hidden in the bushes along the lane. They could now pass safely.
Debbie Burgess is currently at work on her second novel. This is her first foray into flash fiction.