“Can I kill her?” the boy wondered aloud. He stood alone in the middle of a sparsely furnished room. In one corner was a small desk. Up against one wall was a tall bookcase, quite bare looking with just a few hardbound books occupying its shelves. Those two items, along with a few decent paintings, were all that occupied the room, aside from the boy, of course. Riley was the boy’s name. If he had not had bigger and better things to worry about, he might have hated the name. But his name simply could not take precedent over his other problems. After all, he was considering murder.
“Maybe . . . ” Riley paused, suddenly jerking his head to the right, in the direction of the desk. He had caught a swift and sudden movement from that area out of the corner of his eye. It was a phenomenon that had occurred many times over the previous few weeks. Sometimes he passed it off as nothing more than his imagination. However, often times he thought it was some sort of small creature, most likely a troll.
“Maybe I can shoot her.” He was still looking in the direction of the desk, but could see no troll, or any other creature. A frown transformed his face as he leaned forward and stretched his neck out in an effort to see behind the desk. However, the effort was in vain because the area between the desk and the wall was darkened by shadows. It was not pitch black, but the lack of light was enough that a small figure, hunched down in the corner, could easily escape view.
“I wonder if he can switch between dimensions?” Riley asked himself, his train of thought suddenly taking an abrupt detour. “He could scurry around and stay out of sight. The little bastard could taunt me, catching my attention, and then just disappear before I got the chance to see him. He wouldn’t even face me. Little coward. I’d like to do some stuff to him. Yeah, I’d like to.” Riley paused a moment, the frown slowly disappearing from his face. “Will that kill him? Can that kill him?”
With quick steps, he approached the desk, scouring the dark space behind it with his eyes. Convinced nothing was hiding back there, he reached underneath the desk and ripped off the key taped to the underside. He carefully removed the scotch tape from the key and unlocked the top, right hand drawer. Now smiling broadly, Riley opened the drawer and gazed in upon the gun. It was an automatic; a Smith & Wesson .22 loaded with all nine shots and ready to kill. Sighing, he placed his right hand gently on the cold metal, slowly drawing his index and middle fingers along the barrel. “One takes care of the other. I can kill them.”
A few minutes later, Riley slid a Beck CD into his car’s CD player. Devil’s Haircut soon was blasting from his speakers as he carefully checked the road in front of his house and backed the car out of the driveway. He hesitated for a moment, his car pointed west, mapping out the way to Jan?s house in his mind. “Ok, let’s go.” He put the car into drive and slowly accelerated, making sure not to exceed the speed limit.
The .22 lay on the passenger site, in full site of anyone that could get near enough to the car to peer inside. If a policeman pulled him over, he would easily see the gun, which would cause a lot of trouble for Riley. But that was not the reason he was careful not to go over the speed limit. If that had been the case, he would have simply hidden the gun from sight. The simple truth was that he had always been a cautious driver. He loathed driving even a few miles per hour over the speed limit, and was always looking around, very aware of everything that was happening around him. Driving was a privilege, after all. A privilege that should not be abused.
About ten minutes later, as the song The New Pollution was beginning, Riley pulled his car up to the curb and took the keys out of the ignition. Beck stopped signing and the engine stopped humming. The car’s sounds died away, being replaced by the residential neighborhood’s strange silence. A one story, cream colored house stood just a few feet away, separated from Riley and his car by a stretch of green grass. He grinned at the sight of the house, anticipating what would soon happen. It was time to settle things. The troll had to be dealt with, after all. That could not be denied. I can’t continue to ignore it.
Something moved in the backseat. With incredible speed, Riley snatched the gun off the passenger seat and swept it up so that he had the barrel aimed toward the backseat. He poked his head in the back of the car, keeping the gun steady with both hands and sweeping its aim across the length of the backseat and the foot area behind the two front seats. There was nothing back there, causing him to curse softly under his breath.
“That bitch!” He knew it was Jan who was responsible for the troll. She was the one who kept bringing it into the world.
She hates me! She’s trying to kill me! She wants the troll to get me. She sends him to me. Riley’s chest heaved with deep, ragged breaths. His left fist clenched and unclenched at his side and his face was slowly turning red. It was a wonder he didn’t accidentally fire the gun, his anger was so great.
He flung the door open and came out ready for a war. Normally he would shut the door behind him, but today he simply did not have time for that. Riley stalked toward the small house, ready to end his problems and furious at Jan for creating those problems. It would have been good etiquette to knock before entering the house, but he was not in the mood to be nice or proper. He was in the mood to kill someone. He wanted to take care of his problems. He had to rid himself of the troll. The creature was haunting him. It would destroy him if given the chance. But Riley was not going to give the troll the chance. He was not going to allow it to ruin him. That little thing is not going to be my downfall. I don’t care what the dreams say. The dreams are wrong.
“Jan, you bitch!” His voice bellowed out, carrying into the house and across the neighborhood. Riley quickly covered the last two feet to the front door and grabbed the doorknob, twisting it back and forth. It would not open, though, for it was locked. He screamed incoherently and brought the gun up. Barely taking the time to aim it at the doorknob, he squeezed off two shoots. The blasts were loud, causing his ears to ring. Unfortunately for Riley, he was so furious he had not had a chance at hitting the doorknob. His aim had already been off, but when he shot the gun it had bucked in his hand, causing both shots to go high and lodge in the thick wood of the door. He had not taken the time to brace the gun with both arms, and had not steeled his right arm for the kick of the gun at all.
Again screaming in frustration, Riley retreated from the door and turned his attention on the large picture window. He could not see inside due to the drapes that covered the window, but knew it was his best bet for getting into the house. So he took a few steps back from the window, braced the gun, and put two shots in the middle of the largest pane of glass. Not taking any time to think, Riley backed up, took a deep breath, and launched himself through the window.
There was an initial jolt as he slammed into the large piece of glass. Then the glass gave away and he fell forward into the drapes, the sound of breaking glass sharp in his ears. Riley got tangled up in the drapes and hit the floor hard, shards of glass cutting deep and painfully into his flesh. Blood flowed freely from the wounds as he struggled to get out of the heavy material and stand up. Suddenly he was convinced that the troll was coming after him. The fact that he had dropped his gun while jumping through the window just caused him to panic more.
Ten seconds later, Riley finally managed to find his way out of the drapes. Standing triumphantly, the first thing he saw was Jan. A small girl, just five feet tall with a petite body and blond hair, she stood on the opposite side of the room, her legs spread apart in a shooter’s-stance, both arms straight out and rigid, holding a gun aimed directly at him. He did not even have time to figure out the make of the gun, or register his own surprise, before he heard the blast and simultaneously felt something hot and painful tear into his left shoulder, knocking him backward and down onto the ground. His head slammed into the windowsill and consciousness almost deserted him as his vision blacked out for a second. But then he could see again, as well as feel the incredible pain in his shoulder and head. He would have screamed in frustration once again, but did not have the energy.
Looking down, he saw his gun. It was lying at his feet, just waiting to be picked up. So he did just that, quickly bringing it up and aiming it at Jan. She had her back to him, retreating through a doorway. He was certain she was going to get the troll so they could kill him together. Grunting, he put his back against the wall, braced the gun as best he could with just his right arm, and took aim at the girl’s back. He pulled the trigger just once, the shot hitting her in the lower right side of her back, probably passing all the way through her body. She let out a surprised, yet strangled, cry of pain and reached out toward the wall with her right arm. However, her right arm lost all strength when it came into contact with the wall, and she crumpled to the floor. Riley grinned, knowing he had just saved his own life.
“Just got to finish her. That’ll take care of the troll.” He struggled to get to his feet, but the pain in both his shoulder and head made it hard to get to his feet. He still was not out of danger territory. He could easily pass out. He had to be careful, and he had to kill Jan if he wanted any chance at survival.
It took him a minute, but Riley finally managed to get to his feet without passing out. His balance was not very trustworthy, as was made evident through his slight swaying back and forth. He took a moment to try to catch his breath, and then proceeded to walk across the room toward Jan. It was hard keeping his balance, but he managed to make it across the room without falling down. While walking toward Jan, he noticed that he was virtually covered in his own blood. Jumping through the window had given him a multitude of cuts over his body. His arms were covered in blood and his grip on the gun was slippery because of all the blood. He could also feel blood running down his face. Some of the cuts were actually lacerations, which was not a good sign. But he put those worries to the side as he stopped next to Jan.
Looking down at her, he could see that she was not in good shape. In fact, she barely seemed to be breathing at all. That was good. All he had to do was put another shot in her back, around the heart, and that would take care of her. But Riley never got the chance to do that because Jan was not as bad off as he had thought. Suddenly, she reached out with her right hand, grabbed his left leg and yanked it right out from under him. Gravity was suddenly his enemy as he hit the ground with a grunt. The gun flew out of his hand and skittered across the floor, coming to a rest at the base of the wall just five feet away.
“Oh God!” he screamed, the pain overwhelming. Luckily, he had landed on his right shoulder and not his left shoulder. Otherwise, he would have certainly passed out. However, the situation he was now in was not much better. Jan was kneeling next to him, the barrel of her gun an inch from his windpipe. This close to the gun, Riley could see it was a snub-nosed, Smith & Wesson .38 Chief’s Special. Good gun for around the house, he thought.
“Why are you here?” she hissed, her voice hoarse with terror.
He glared at her, ?I think that?s obvious.?
“Obviously you’re trying to kill me.” Her eyes were wide and intense. “Why?”
At first he was silent, but she made it quite clear she wasn’t in the mood for games by jamming the barrel of her .38 into his wounded left shoulder. Screaming in pain, he jerked the shoulder back and away from the barrel. She moved her aim back to his neck while he recovered from the shock and pain.
“The troll? What are you talking about?”
“I’ll repeat, what are you talking about?” He thought she was on the verge of shooting him.
“No you can’t. You don’t have a gun.” She stared at him, a strange look in her eyes. He hated her so much at that moment it was literally burning him from the inside. He wanted to strangle her, but didn’t dare make a move. He had to be careful, like when he was driving, or he would not live much longer.
“Ok, ok. What if I leave?”
Jan blinked. “Leave?”
“Yeah. I’ll just walk out of here, we’ll forget about this.”
She laughed, but there was no humor in it. Humor was hard to come across considering the situation. “That’s B.S. I don’t think so. You won’t leave.” She paused, then added, as if she were truly curious, “Are you insane?”
He frowned. “No.”
“You’re talking about trolls trying to kill you. How is that sane?”
He was suddenly angry. “It’s reality. It’s not insanity. The goddamn troll is trying to get me. And you’re helping him! You conjure hi?” Riley stopped, quickly turning his head to the right. He thought he had seen the troll out of the corner of his eye, but now could see nothing. For a moment, nothing happened and he thought maybe this time it had simply been his imagination. The next thing he knew, however, the troll was clawing at his hair, ripping it out in clumps. Screaming in terror, Riley bucked Jan, who had a perplexed look on her face, off of him and struggled to get to his feet. He could feel the troll hanging painfully onto his hair as he raised his head. Blood dripped down his face, a drop falling into his eye and giving everything a red tinge. He was having trouble getting to his feet and was currently kneeling on the floor, his hands flailing at his hair.
Glancing slightly to his left, he saw Jan hunched down looking scared and bewildered. She seemed stuck in indecision. That phase did not last long, though, for she suddenly jabbed the gun forward at him and screamed for him to be still. But he could not be still while the troll was attacking him. With a sudden mighty effort, denying the pain that came from his entire body, Riley lunged at his .22 that lay just five feet away. Despite having been shot, Jan?s reflexes were still sharp. She pistol-whipped him as he dove for the gun, causing him to drop to the ground with his stretched out hand just inches from the gun. Darkness danced at the edge of his vision, threatening unconsciousness and death. The troll was no longer yanking at his hair, causing him to wonder where it had gone and what it would do next.
With one final effort, knowing he had to do something, Riley lunged for the gun, triumphantly snatching it up from the floor. He whirled around toward Jan, the pain from numerous lacerations, the gunshot wound, the blows to his head, and the ripped out hair threatening to overcome him. He thought he was going to win. He thought he was going to kill her and the troll.
All those hopes disappeared as a slug slammed into his chest. A grunt escaped him and he dropped back to the floor, the gun falling just inches from his outstretched fingers. Pain tore through his chest and his entire body seemed to scream in agony. He could taste the blood filling his mouth and knew the troll had gotten him.
The dreams were right.
Riley felt an inhuman hand grasp each side of his head. The troll had won, and was now claiming his prize. He screamed as the troll began to squeeze his head. But it was a scream that did not last long, for the darkness quickly claimed him.