Djinn the Troll Answers Questions from the Audience

by Erick Brucker

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I was halfway across a bridge outside of Phoenix and a huge woman crawled from beneath and was in front of me. She explained in couplets that she would ask me a riddle and that if I answered correctly I would become a troll and she would be free but if I answered incorrectly she would eat my bones.

 

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Specifically that she would eat my bones in her stew.

 

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It’s a sort of broth. Rabbit bones will do but of course the flavor palette changes. Rabbits are predominantly muscle and so we avoid the texture of the meat although the flavor prepared well can be quite good although when one must live forever one begins to lose track of for instance which flavor or texture belongs to which animal and the meal is strictly primarily the novelty of the meat.

 

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I had been walking to Phoenix and crossed a covered bridge which I could have gone around but crossed in order to say that I’d crossed it because it didn’t seem and maybe this is an effect of the troll under it or some subliminal sense from the wood looking old but yet not worn that no one had crossed it in some time.

 

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I had figured the sound of the troll beneath me had been a sign of old wood or maybe some leaves being blown beneath and looked down but of course this being an old and well-constructed bridge the slats were each connected. When I saw the troll I don’t remember whether I believed her or not but I also simultaneously don’t think it matters much given that a non-answer or some statement of disbelief would be taken as an incorrect answer to the riddle and I must have answered it as best I know how.

 

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One of the consequences of having someone answer your riddle is that you forget it yourself.

 

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I’ve come to the conclusion that whoever designed the system must have foreseen the possibility that men and women towards the end of their lives might in a panic return to the bridge taking turns of immortality with the current troll.

 

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I think that one could remain on the verge of death until the end of time whenever such time might be.

 

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I don’t remember why my name is Djinn. Trolls get bored and try all sorts of things that they’ve come across and I figure I came across the name Djinn at some point and liked it very much. Primarily trolls are very bored underneath the bridge and the light is not very good especially on my bridge which went east-west and so I never got direct sunlight for a full century which now I don’t care much for direct sunlight although today I had some and I liked it well enough so maybe I’m coming to it.

 

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I have tried to kidnap women. I have eaten people’s bones. I have disturbed birds for miles and miles with my wailing. I have I suppose had the qualities of a monster. I have been monstrous.

 

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I have been a cat.

 

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It seems appropriate to say a cat in this context because I believe that each time I was the same cat. Although I didn’t look at or admire myself while I was a cat I became a cat from my trolldom. Each time I began as the same troll and so I believe that each time I became the same cat.

 

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I wandered into cities for affection and milk.

 

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Trolls don’t have a community. Other trolls are hard to come by. I think all trolls must think they’re pretty powerful because they’re tall and they can turn into cats and they likely know a lot of things they didn’t know when they were humans but on meeting other trolls they find that they don’t know all that much and that turning into a cat and eating rabbit- or human-bone stew isn’t really such a great thing and maybe they would each realize they’re not so great but just regular trolls and still have to live for the rest of time but now knowing they aren’t much special. Trolldom in that way is essentially a masculine enterprise.

 

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Women are hard to kidnap because for one thing I had no place to keep any woman I kidnapped especially one who doesn’t care to eat stew for almost every meal and figured out after a short while that affection was easier to come by as a cat than a troll and so I think that affected my efforts and but primarily because most women have no interest in being kidnapped. For instance realizing immediately that I am or was or am a troll they’ll stamp their feet and yell you better not come near me you’re a troll and although I can yell such as to irritate the birds I am or rather was very tall and so I couldn’t run without lumbering and wide-bodied hitting trees but not able to knock them down by their roots quickly and meanwhile avoiding some of the traps that local people would set up in order to catch the trolls in order to keep us out of their towns.

 

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One trap would be for instance a hole in the ground with a sign over it that read Human Bones Are In This Hole or something to that effect which I never fell for and which most strangely I never recall having seen when I wasn’t a troll.

 

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One way you can imagine my situation is that I met a young man recently who on talking about himself explained that when he was younger he waited outside of his bus stop for years I think he said it was 13 years every day outside his house and the bus would come pick up him and he counted it out as over 2000 times and yet he didn’t remember a single day nor event that happened on account for instance of him being pretty tired every day that he waited outside and meanwhile it happened so often that each day blended together and he said he couldn’t distinguish any one day from any other nor even remember the experience on account of it being so constant. Inasmuch at least as it regards my memories of being a troll I think that anecdote describes my situation pretty well.

 

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When I was a troll I primarily thought about being a troll. The injustice here is that now that I’m no longer a troll and only maybe human I still primarily think about being a troll.

 

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I don’t care for people. I don’t for instance care for you all that much.

 

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I wouldn’t mind eating your bones in my stew.

 

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I don’t know any more than you. I have no great insight and my opinion is no more valuable than yours. It would be fair if I used to know a lot of things about life and the potential of an afterlife because I don’t know what kind of immortality it would be to have to live in ignorance of these things until the end of time and when I think back I don’t remember being confused about these big questions even though I was never exactly some sort of intellectual as in the way that you might be although often curious. But I must have forgotten whatever answers I had the same as with the riddle that was passed on to me and potentially for the same reason which is that if we humans knew a lot about life and death there might be some way to cheat ourselves out of it.

 

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Trolls enjoy the phrases after all and meanwhile and other prepositional phrases such as those which give us an ability to coordinate the time in which things take place because we or rather they but maybe we do have some trouble knowing about time.

 

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For one thing I was eight feet tall for decades. Before I was average height and I’m shrinking back to that height. It’s strange to describe myself as shrinking and yet I can see it in my own hands and feel it in the discomfort in my shoes and meanwhile the world around me is flourishing burgeoning amplifying and my wails as of these past several months haven’t even disturbed the nearby robins.

 

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Erick Brucker is an essayist and fiction writer from Richmond, VA. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Jelly Bucket, Grasslimb, and BULL: Men's Fiction. In hindsight, he misses working at Blockbuster and is planning a trip to Alaska so that he can wear his old uniform in the store one last time - he's convinced that this will offer him closure. He has an AAS in [General] from John Tyler Community College, a BA in Political Science from University of Richmond, and an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from University of Iowa.