ASN 1.0: Trolls

by Matt P.


It wasn’t even Spring yet, officially, and Border was already drenched in tonally appropriate rain. It cast a gloom on the nights when it rolled in like a specter, and the thunder that rolled in from Oklahoma kept people off the streets unless they had foul business in mind.

Ricky “Troll” Carter had foul business in mind. His family would have said that he always did and always had, but he hadn’t spoken to them in years so he wouldn’t have known. But he did know that he had what he suspected was about $5000 worth of Salvation in his pocket that he wanted to turn in to that same amount of cash, and the rain was no damper to the business of drugs. He liked to sell on rainy nights, because the cops tended to stick more to their cars.

Normally he would have parked his beat up old pickup truck further away so as not to attract attention, but on the rainy night he drove it right down to the small lot next to the Market Street bridge before getting out. The stairs down underneath it were slick but he was used to it—he had been selling under the bridge long enough that it had given him a nickname. He wasn’t stupid, he knew the nickname wasn’t exactly complimentary, but he didn’t mind—it suited him. He had always seemed at home in dark and cramped spaces, and he had a little cubby in the construction of the bridge itself that he liked. It was…comfortable.

Something struck him when he got under the bridge. Nothing looked odd at first, but there was something that prickled the back of his mind. He couldn’t have put his finger on it but he had learned a long time ago to trust the part of him that spotted things his conscious brain didn’t. But he was also territorial and aggressive, so rather than running away he figured he would escalate the situation.

He had purchased the Hi-Point C9 a couple of years before because it was small, fired a standard 9mm round, and was heavy as hell; he had pistol-whipped a few people who were trying to push in to his territory before, and he had shot one rival dealer in the leg that the cops had never found out about. He considered it his lucky charm, and he thought it would be lucky again tonight if it needed to be.

He brought it up and started edging in to the area under the bridge. It was dark and cold, and the rain dripped down from the sides and through whatever small holes or cracks it could slide down through. The place had a grimy, slimy feeling that seemed to make everything look the same—the metal, the stone, the bricks under his feet. All gray and green and sludgy. In the shadows of a stormy night it was even worse, and Ricky couldn’t see in to his cubby very far at all—he couldn’t make out the black and dark green door with the strange swirl-marks that he assumed went to some abandoned maintenance office.

“If someone’s in there get the hell out or I’ll be dragging you out in to the street and shooting the shit out of you,” Ricky called out in to the darkness. He continued to advance, gun first, toward his normal alcove. “Shooting right the shit out of you,” he murmured, to reassure himself.

No response came from the deep silence within the alcove. The only sound was that of his own breathing, heavy and raspy in his ears. His hand began to waver but he forced it to stillness as he slowly walked in to the darkness, his other hand pulling out his cell phone. It was only as he was thumbing on the flashlight function that he realized what his brain had been noticing all along.

It shouldn’t have been silent in the alcove, or anywhere under the structure. The rain coming down on the old bridge should have been nearly thunderous, echoing around in a watery symphony. He had heard it hundreds of times before, peaceful and yet riotous, and its absence was telling.

Ricky almost got his cell phone up, but he didn’t. Something that felt like claws or teeth tore in to his throat. For a heartbeat he felt warmth all over his chest. In the next heartbeat, he didn’t feel anything at all.