[Carny called me up this week, and we got to talking, and it made me want to run the first every story from him, from 2003. For those who have wondered about Carnivus Kickassius, here's your chance to find out. By the way, the picture above looks NOTHING like him, but he cracked up when I showed it to him, and said to run it, or else use this one, which is even worse. Oh, and Monkey Barn has a new look, if you're interested. Enjoy. - H]


If you had to list the top 5 cool things to be, in ascending order, I'm pretty sure most people's list would look something like this:

#5 Pirate {Who hasn't dreamed of fighting off scurvy dogs for the right to a lusty sea-wench?}

#4 Column Writer {Speaks for itself.}

#3 Clerk for the Magic Pygmy Rabbits {Only drawback: the secret handshake takes three months to learn properly.}

#2 Ninja {Black pajamas, flying stars, and dominion over everything totally sweet. What's not to love?}

#1 Jedi Knight {Pointy ears optional}

I would add a 6th item to this list; Troll, because as a troll I've gotten to do all 5 of the above. Yes, being a troll is pretty cool.

Which isn't to say it's all beer and skittles. There is a lot of uncertainty about us Trolls. I overheard a woman in a doctor's office the other day, talking about trolls:

"Is he a bad troll or good troll? A troll that is like me or a troll that is like a movie star? A troll that has lived a long life and has many things to tell us and can even see into the future or a troll that is a liar and says that he can see into the future and muck everything up?"

Trolls are like people; we come in all shapes and sizes. But humans generally assume the worst. Tell someone you're a troll, and immediately they start hiding their women and children, prattling on about us eating them.

I'm not going to lie to you. Some trolls do eat people. But that's a small percentage. Don't judge all of us for that. Look at it this way: some humans are T.V. Evangelists. See what I mean?

Another problem we trolls have is we always play the bad guy in literature. Just try explaining to folks how you were trying to take a nap under a bridge when these loud, obnoxious goats came trip-trapping all over the place to interrupt your peaceful repose.

A while back we did have a good marketing firm that was responsible for getting those little wild-haired troll dolls onto the scene, but I almost wonder if that wasn't a step backwards. Now, half the people run from me on sight and the other half rush up to shape my hair in ways God never intended.

What most people want to know is, what does a troll do? To answer: we do a lot of things. I have been a pirate and a ninja; I've also been a bridge-troll and I was a securities analyst for a while too. We trolls are pretty long-lived, so we get the opportunity to do quite a few things. Except being a lawyer; a threshold no troll would ever willingly cross.

For instance, right now I'm a Paranormal Investigator. This isn't nearly as X-Files as it sounds. I get called whenever the world you live in, the world you perceive as three-dimensional, when that world butts up against the lands of magic, the lands of maybe, the lands of never-were, and the lands of might-have-been.

I got a call the other day-this is the story Hyperion asked me to write about-that was pretty interesting, mostly because it reminded me of something that happened long ago.

Henry's wife calls me, nearly hysterical. My previous dealings with Henry concerned this bay where the watermelons grow, so I didn't know what the big emergency could be, but Henry was good people, so I hurried over.

By the time I got there Henry had come home and his wife was down for the count (Henry needed a horse tranquilizer to knock her out). Henry himself was pretty calm, like usual.

"Carny," he said. (Everyone calls me Carny.) "it's good to see you again. It's in here." Besides being calm, Henry was not one to talk your ear off.

Henry led me to this huge dining room. (I should mention Henry is loaded. He made a bundle selling Evaporated Water.) There was a dining table like you might see in a castle; about 80 feet long, stretching the entire length of the room, with a plush blood-red table cloth draped heavily, and beautiful lavender scented candles and cherubic figurines placed every 4 feet or so.

There were tapestries hung sedately on all the walls. I have a pretty good eye for that sort of thing: at a glance you could tell they were French, 17th Century. The rug was Turkish, exquisitely tasteful and refined; if you know what you're looking at. None of that, however, was why Henry had brought me in the room.

The ceiling went up in an arched dome, about 50 feet high at the base and at least 85 feet at the gentle apex. As a former architect ( I did a lot of work in Ancient Greece), I was quite impressed by the engineering required to build that ceiling.

At least, a small part of me was impressed. Most of me was riveted to what I'm pretty sure didn't come with the house: a gaping hole. This wasn't an ordinary hole, brought about by some poor bovine sucked up by a tornado and deposited through the roof unceremoniously like a beef meteor. This was a rip in the fabric of the world. In that hole there was a small pond visible, with-and I swear by Thor's Hammer this is true-bunny rabbits. The bunnies were swimming, sun-bathing; several were one a tire swing! It was straight out of Tom Sawyer; except for the bunnies. Oh yeah, one other thing. The whole scene we were staring up at, this idyllic slice of summer, was upside down.

I then realized the reason Henry came to me is because I have had some experience in this matter.

Once upon a time-long ago, the way you humans see things; just sideways the way we trolls do-I was the advisor to the King in a place called S'Noag Loab.

This was a peculiar land, by modern reckoning; quite cut off from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the world. S'Noag Loab (or just Loab, as the inhabitants called it) was situated on a parcel of land just south of Faerie and just north of Atlantis, just west of Brigadoon, and just east of Groom Lake, New Mexico (that's where Area 51 is, in case you're not up on these things).

The Loabians were an easy-going people; chiefly known for their industriousness, the exquisite throw pillows they produced, and their fondness for salt-water taffy.

The King was well loved and ruled his people benevolently, spending most of his time out of the castle and down in the villages and towns; lending a hand where needed, settling the rare dispute that arose, and occasionally kicking a little tail (but in a good "Father Knows Best" kind of way).

The people not only loved the King, but also transferred their affections wholesale to his son, the Prince. The Prince was the King's only child, and sadly, as a widower, was the only family the King had.

Now, I have to stop for a minute and explain something. S'Noag Loab was an isolated land, surrounded by a large clear dome. You might think it odd to have a dome enclose your world, but it's all the Loabians knew, and it didn't bother them too much, because they got plenty of sunshine, and their realm was big enough that they didn't feel closed in.

Because of the relative isolation, though, the tradition of Loab was to marry the children of the King to royalty of other lands (The King himself, back when he was a Prince, had married a Romanian Princess named Valkerie). But this Prince had other ideas. He fell in love with a commoner of his own land. (Coincidentally, her name was Bunny. Well, maybe it's not a coincidence. More on that later if I think of something to say.)

So the Prince , he falls in love with this common woman, Bunny, and there was the predictable outcry from the society mavens; the women walking to and fro, talking of Michelangelo-but eventually the Loabians came to accept it. They did love their young Prince, and if his actions violated custom, how did that stack up with how happy Bunny and the Prince made each other?

After a whirlwind courtship (well, two years, but by Loabian standards, this was like running off to 'Vegas), the Prince and his Bunny were engaged to be married. Here is where I come back into the story (other than telling it, that is). As I told you, I was the advisor to the King, the Royal Family, and the whole realm of S'Noag Loab. As such, I was consulted on not only all matters politic of the land, but knee-deep in the wedding plans as well.

(Now, some of you more close-minded people might be wondering why a Troll, even one as urbane and witty as myself, would be trusted to plan a Royal Wedding. Well, I'll have you know that one of the many jobs I've held is planning weddings of state. In feudal Japan, I was the creator of Troll Eye for the Samurai Guy.)

Plans for this wedding were coming along nicely. The Loabians decorated hundreds of throw pillows (for which I think I mentioned they were famous) with notable weddings in history: Solomon and Bathsheeba, Titania and Oberon, Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, David and Donna, Cain and his sister, Chandler and Monica, Oedipus and Jocasta, etc. There were also tens of thousands of Paravells, the exquisite flower grown only in the foothills of Outer Loab near the border of Fairie. I wish I could adequately describe its delicate beauty to you. Imagine a flower like a kaleidoscope, so that every angle looks different. Sunburst, plum, gilded silver, and a hundred other colors swirling and glittering together in the most beautiful display of nature this side of the Garden of Eden. Truly breathtaking.

The plan was to have the wedding in St. Fistandantulus's Cathedral, which was on a hillside overlooking the town. The morning of the big day everyone was all abustle. The night before there had been a huge feast to celebrate the Prince's last day of bachelorhood. After the wedding there was to be another giant feast; to commemorate the nuptials, and then the next three days there would be feasting for the honeymoon, and then after be honest, the Loabians just really liked a good party, and didn't need much of a reason to throw one (like a Frat, or Martha Stewart).

Anyway, the morning of, things were in a controlled chaos. As the wedding planner, I had a million and one things to see to. But events were going fairly well when disaster struck. The sky darkened suddenly and quickly, like an eclipse, but in a matter of seconds, and then the whole world started shaking.

Everyone and everything not nailed down got thrown around like a kitten in the mouth of a mastiff. It was obviously some sort of earthquake, but for some reason none of the buildings were moving, and as someone who had been in several major earthquakes, I remember thinking that odd.

I didn't have much time to dwell on it, though. My duties were clear: protect the King and the Prince. I didn't know where the King was, but I knew where the Prince would be: looking for his Bunny. I ran-stumbled is more like it in all the upheaval-to where Bunny's dressing chamber was. Not being a permanent structure, it was flattened like the rest of us, and I feared the worst.

Just as I arrived the shaking stopped, and the darkness receded as quickly as it began. And then, one of the strangest sights I've ever seen: the Paravell flowers started falling from the sky. They were everywhere, twinkling with their rainbow of colors, dropping all around me. I saw the Prince and reached to clasp him on the shoulder to see if he was all right, and saw his gaze riveted to the sky. "Carny," the Prince said. "What is that?"

I looked up, and above the Paravells falling softly was an even stranger sight: through the dome that cascades the S'Noag Loab sky there were what can only be described as monsters, giant leviathans beyond imagining staring down at us. For the first time since Golgotha, I was speechless.

The prince and I just stood there, transfixed by those gargantuan yet strangely human-appearing faces. Then what appeared to be hands descended onto the dome, and our world went dark again, and madness once again reigned.

Well, that was a long time ago. I'd forgotten some of the terror of that day until I started writing this. Sometime I'll tell you the story of how the Prince and I rescued Bunny, though sadly were too late to save the King, and how we made it out of there with the Loabian people and settled in another place, a place you know all too well.

To finish up with Henry, though, and those bunnies swimming upside down above his cavernous dining room, I gave him the best advice I could, based on my experience: Move.

And move Henry did. The house was sold quietly to a charity group, although to be honest I'm pretty sure the group is a front for another organization, but we best be letting that go for now.

As for me, I appreciate you reading my tale, and feel free to tell others. If you learned anything, I hope it would be to not prejudge anyone-especially us Trolls-based on looks alone.

And keep watching the skies.

Carnivus Kickassius

September 4, 2003

No comments: