Introduction: When you’re alone, pay attention to where you’re going and don’t talk to strangers.
It was a foggy day but I jog daily no matter what kind of weather so I trotted out to my car. I arrived at the park and grabbed my gear for my workout. It was like pea soup outside but I finished tying my shoes and promptly got started.
I’d been jogging for a half hour when I entered the glen. The fog suddenly dissipated and although the sun was not out the area had an eerie light. I saw my path ahead but it looked different. I stopped and uncapped my water bottle taking a long drink as I looked nervously about. Everything seemed just fine I was lost and just being silly. Then I saw the bridge!
It was just down the path through the glen. Surely I took a wrong turn? The path I take every day has no glen or bridge. I could see it clearly but I rubbed my eyes anyway. I consider myself a very sensible person and at the moment I was feeling a little mad.
I looked up to gain my bearings. Trees were blocking out the sky and I didn’t recognize anything. I walked closer and couldn’t believe it but the bridge was beckoning me I felt drawn to it.
As I approached I saw a very old arched bridge made of hand laid stone. It had ivory growing all over it and the trees nearby were very thick so all I could see was green. I heard the water underneath as I got closer although I knew there was no creek in this part of the park but there it was!
Before walking onto the bridge I paused, held my breath and then stepped forward. I felt a strange electricity run through me as I walked to the middle of it taking in the illusion. Or was it real? I pinched myself like in the movies and I felt it!
“It’s a beautiful day today isn’t it?” Said a voice.
Startled I blurted back automatically, “Well, actually it’s been foggy and…” I glanced around frantically yet saw nobody on the bridge.
“Down here! On the creek bank,” he called out.
Then I saw “him.” He was strangely dressed in earth colors and blended in like an optical illusion and I was thinking he was precisely that.
I finally found my voice; “I don’t believe it” I said flatly.
I surprised myself at how calm I felt but I was confused and felt light-headed. The man had 2 arms, 2 legs, and a head firmly on his neck where it belonged and I could tell he was a man but that was where any comparison ended.
“Excuse me for surprising you like this but I’m a troll and surely you’ve heard of trolls and their bridges?” He was smoking a pipe and I was wondering what was in it.
“I don’t believe in trolls and this bridge does not exist so I must be dreaming.” I needed to finish my workout and had things to do deciding I must be in a section of the park I didn’t know about.
“Sorry to be rude but I must be on my way can you please tell me how to get back to the main parking lot?”
“Not so fast! You can’t leave this bridge without paying the toll.” His face remained smiling but his features took on a menacing look. He was short and stout but looked a lot more dangerous and had sharp pointed little teeth.
I was speechless! I still had to get some work done today, I was lost and now I had some homeless freak accosting me after getting lost. I found my voice, “I’m sorry err….whatever your name is, but I must be on my way now. I don’t carry money with me when I do this…”
“One gold coin you can pass, no gold coin trespass. You will not cross without it.” He rudely interrupted.
What could I do but look at the little troll spouting rhymes and laugh, “Okay, I enjoyed our little talk but you have kept me far too long.”
As I reached the end of the bridge I was bounced back hard on my rear. Surprised and angry now I scrambled to my feet.
“Ho..ho..how?” I stammered. As I spun around the troll was on the bridge facing me and he seemed much bigger now.
“I will give you nothing,” I screamed at him.
“You will not cross,” he said and now he stood squarely in the way. “One gold coin you can pass, no gold coin trespass.”
He kept growing and was even larger as he continued, “I have been waiting a long time to escape it was easy to fool you into coming here. You really must pay more attention to where you’re going.”
His head was cocked quizzically to one side like a cocker spaniel. “What’s the matter cat got your tongue?”
And indeed it had. My head was spinning and I felt light-headed. He smelled of cinnamon but something very bad on top of that and he seemed to fill the sky it was making me sick. I saw the whole world turn upside down as everything went dark.
I awoke in the dark and I jumped to my feet in surprise scattering the pile of damp leaves I was lying in. As they landed on me I dropped my gaze to my bare feet and screamed. I didn’t recognize it as a scream really, kind of pitiful.
Then I remembered the troll was gone, and my feet were not mine! I was under the bridge and ran to the water’s edge to see my reflection. My mind raced with past events as I looked at the stranger looking back at me. I had on earth colored rags and no! Surely that could not…be…me?
“It is you and you are now the toll-keeper,” someone said. I knew that voice.
His reflection was in the water his face near mine only he was now a normal looking man. I twisted my head around to look behind me and he was not there! I heard his voice as he spoke in a monotone telling me my fate.
“One gold coin they can pass
no gold coin trespass.
No gold coin then you must trap
another person to take the rap.
Trespass they take your place
taking tolls with a troll’s face.”
It sounded like a bad fairytale surely it’s not real! My mind was slow and sluggish to comprehend as he finished.
“I lost track of time under this bridge but you will remain here until you lure someone here that can’t pay. It may sound easy but the trick is finding a person in the right frame of mind and getting them to step on the bridge. When you put your foot on the enchanted stone you were caught in my trap. Didn’t you feel it?”
I was too stupefied to answer him still staring at the water.
He continued,”I am just a man as you see here but made the same mistake as you, losing everything because of one weakness.”
“What was that?” I managed to croak and he answered me as his reflection faded from my sight.
“Vulnerability my dear, you were vulnerable enough to fall into my trap!”
© Rebecca Sanchez 2013