Blue Scales of Tomorrow

By John Miller

When he looked through the gate his eyes widened and his jaw dropped. I would have laughed had I not been on a mission for Uncle Sam. I reached through the gate and grabbed the security guard by the throat and yanked. I intended to bash his head into the wrought iron bars, but once again I forgot my strength and ripped his throat out.

It’s tough being a troll.

I wiped the blood from my eyes and swore. Blood poured from the man’s throat, and I felt sorry for him as he fell with a gurgle. I didn’t mean to kill him since he hadn’t done me harm, but what can I say? I shrugged an apology and knelt to search for the keys I knew he had. His eyes dimmed as he watched me unlock the gate.

I shoved the gate hard and it struck his body. The bloody body flew twenty feet and struck a wall. A red splotch of blood marked the wall where the body slid down, and I shut the gate behind me. I couldn’t do anything about the blood on the cobblestone path, so I went deeper into the castle. Anyone who happened along would be alarmed at the site of the massive amount of blood, so I didn’t bother to hide the body.

The cobblestone path led to another gate, and once through it I hid behind a tree. I heard the voices of men at the next wall’s gate – more security guards. I could have pulled the same trick I did with the first security guard, but I wanted to play it safe. My blood had lit up when I killed the security guard, and it cried for more. Blood still wet my fingers and my heart beat fast, not from fear, but from the thrill of the hunt. Maybe it’s just the troll in me, but I feel a savage joy when I hunt humans, and nothing else comes close.

Well, there is sex (I’ve been told), but I am a troll and most mortal women scream or faint when they see me. So why wouldn’t I nestle up to some thick boned female troll with massive buttocks? Well, the truth is I’m part troll and part human. My mother happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I glad she didn’t believe in abortion.

They tell me I have human attributes, but what they are I don’t know. I’ve never been in love, never had sexual relations with a woman, and I’ve never had a lot of friends. Not many women want to kiss a troll much less look at one. Because of human blood in my veins, other trolls hunt me the same way they track humans by scent.

I didn’t belong anywhere.

It’s kind of hard to find a normal job when you’re eight feet tall and have six-foot wide shoulders. I have pink eyes that burn red when angered. My nose covers a good portion of my face like a potato, and my ears are three sizes too large in comparison to humans. Except for sporadic strands of hair, my bumpy head is bald. My fingers are thick stubs, but they can palm or crush a human skull with ease.

Mom hid me in the basement and attic on two acres of property outside Chicago adjacent to a woodsy campground called Gray’s Lake. I used to hunt deer with my bare hands. Oh, I remember those days with cherished fondness! I’d lie in wait in a deer blind I’d made, drop from the tree onto the deer’s back, and if my weight didn’t snap the deer’s spine I’d rip its head off.

The good ol’ days.

Mom died from a nasty fall down stairs when I was sixteen. I had no place to go. I lived at the campground after that, worried about survival. In a world where science rules, I knew if the government discovered me I’d be cut up for experimentation and dissection. Mom had instilled within me a fear of science and government. Maybe that’s a witch-thing. It’s ironic that I got a job with the very government mom feared.

When the government discovered me at the age of eighteen, I was captured and caged. I just knew they would pull out their dissecting tools, and I prayed I’d find some way to kill myself before they began the autopsy. “Here’s his heart and this little thing must be his brain.” I had worked it out in my head, how they would cut me open while still alive, pull my ribs apart, and try to figure out if I was the missing link or not.

Mom practiced her own style of magic. She spelled it with a “k” as in magick to differentiate it from stage magic, but I never bothered. She worked her spells with intensity and perfection, and mom got so she could communicate with denizens from other realms. She made contact with the Faerie realm. The few Fey I’ve spoken with told me she was pretty much a magical genius (for a mortal), and she even weakened the Veil between the Faerie realm and Earth in the basement of our home.

That’s the portal the troll used to pass through the Veil, and after he’d raped and left her for dead, the troll drug off the family dog and mom’s husband for a tasty snack.

Mom needed lots of stitches, and after six weeks in the hospital they informed her she was pregnant. She grieved, I suppose, that she carried a monster in her womb. Somehow she came to terms with it – she was a special kind of person, to be sure. She raised me in the attic the first three years of my life, taught me to talk and all the things three year old mortal children learn. When I turned four she showed me the portal in the basement.

We used to go for excursions into the land of the Fey. Around the age of ten I met a Faerie Witch who taught me Trolldom, a type of Scandinavian magic that has nothing to do with the word troll.

I used Trolldom to work minor magic. I learned to disappear and hide my tracks, even my stench – yeah, us trolls stink, but it’s something we get used to. Magic allowed me to start fires, a handy thing to know in the woods. The witch taught me how to use the staff to fight, but a staff to me is a heavy and thick rounded railroad tie.

One night mom left the Faerie realm drunk on Elvin mead, and she came home through the portal, fell down the stairs. The fall snapped her neck. Esmeralda, the Faerie witch who’d taught me Trolldom, came to mom’s funeral, just the two of us. We buried her in the backyard next to the elm. It was the last time I cried, but I cried enough to make up for all my unshed tears.

Now I hunt for pleasure like a good troll should.

The portal remained open for a while, but without mom’s magic it faded and disappeared. I tried Trolldom to contact Esmeralda, but my magic wasn’t strong like mom’s. I had no place to go but into the woods of Gray’s Lake Campground.

The FBI investigated a biker club that trafficked in white slavery and hid out in my woods. I’d killed a few of them out of spite because they’d invaded my territory. To celebrate I drank the last of mom’s Elvin mead. I slept off the magic brew, drunk off my ass and depressed. When they stumbled across me, the FBI wasn’t even sure if I was human or not, dumbasses that they are, so they called the Chicago Zoo. I didn’t feel the tranquilizers powerful enough to take down elephants they forced into my mouth. The FBI called in heavy hitters. The National Security Agency showed up, and next thing I know the NSA had a chaloop helicopter transport me to a holding cell somewhere in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, an underground missile base.

They didn’t dissect me. In fact, they knew all about trolls. Surprised the hell out of me. I found out they’d known about supernatural creatures for quite some time, and they did their damnedest to hide supernatural denizens of the world from the American People. It was a control-thing for the government. If the American People felt they were at the top of the food chain, the government controlled them with little effort: slanted news in the media; propaganda released to the Press; political movements such as environmentalism meant to pull their minds from the increased gradual control they wielded over the public. It became very difficult to control the public when they learned they weren’t at the top of the food chain. Panicked sheep can’t be penned in, don’cha’ know?

I received a small amount of training (six months). They equipped me with guns large enough for my massive hands, fitted me with bullet proof vests. The handguns I used were patterned after the .45 magnum called Desert Storm. The guns I used were more like miniature elephant guns and sounded like twin cannons when I fired the .85 mm bullets. I carried them in special holsters large enough to carry tennis rackets. I had other weapons, but my favorites were the Desert Earthquakes (my pet name for them).

Within a year I had taken down six vampire clubs and a werewolf pack. I worked alone. I had no friends. The government paid me well, and I started to spend my money on video games. The boys in the lab crafted special controllers for my gargantuan fingers, and it was a decent enough life, I guess.

And to think, had I been born a hundred years earlier they would have burnt me at the stake.

I was twenty-five when they sent me to Sicily. The Italian landscape was beautiful with its rolling hills and green meadows, but I wasn’t there to sightsee. Guido Giovanni had been born in the Family, an original gangster and wiseguy. Besides the Mafia, his interests included magic. He was a lot like my mother, and from his dossier file I gleamed he was talented.

“Operation Blue Scale is the most important assignment we’ve given you,” Lieutenant Daniels told me in the debriefing room four miles above the earth. “Don’t go into this thinking it’s just another werewolf or vamp, you ugly potato-nosed lump of shit.”

The debriefing room was on the jet that shuttled us from London to Sicily. My commanding officer had tried to befriend me over the past seven years, tried to become my mentor. But he said things that pissed me off and made me aware of the difference between humans and myself.

“So he’s a warlock?”

“Something like that. Intelligence reports rumors of human sacrifice, but nothing concrete. Other than some missing locals, we don’t know if he’s involved in black magic for sure.”

“So why send me?” I asked. “If he’s just a warlock, why send in the big guns?”

Lieutenant Daniels grinned. His close cropped hair was dark with gray at the temples, and his weathered face crinkled when he smiled. His eyes always darted about and took in everything, never met my eyes longer than a couple seconds. He didn’t know I smelled his fear as well as his human blood.

“Giovanni took an object from the spirit world,” he said, “And we want you to make sure he puts it back.”

“What is it?”

“You’ll know when you see it,” was all he told me.

When I hunt werewolves or vampires, I know what to do. I aim and shoot, and I’m not a bad shot with my Desert Earthquakes. This mission was more involved than the usual “seek and destroys” I was accustomed to. It was also ambiguous. I preferred targets, not riddles.

“What if I refuse the assignment?”

He chuckled.

“You stupid shit-for-brains, potato-nosed warthog!” I forgot to mention I have twin tusks that jutted from my mouth, a deformity I tried not to think about as he reminded me of it for the hundredth time – I hated when he called me warthog. “Don’t you know that we don’t send agents into situations like this unless National Security is at stake?”

“What?”

“Hell, son! Even the fate of the world is on the line!” I remained silent so he continued. “The only reason we send agents into the field without all the information available is when the mission is ultra-secret. And we won’t do that unless something major goes down, something in the works that will affect world politics.”

“So why send me alone?” I asked.

“The brass says your expendable.”

I shook my head and grunted. My face flushed red but I held my anger in, saved it for the mission.

“If you fail – and you’ll know if you fail or not – the brass will send in Apache Helicopters to raze the castle to the ground with .132 caliber rounds.”

“Well, at least I know it’s a castle,” I muttered. “At least that’s some information.”

When the jet was over Sicily, I buckled into my parachute (six sewn together). I packed it myself as I always did. I didn’t like to depend on humans who weigh a fraction of what I did. Daniels clapped me on the bicep because he couldn’t reach my shoulder without a good stretch.

“Come back in one piece, son!” he ordered with a smile.

I knew he didn’t give a shit about me because I smelled his fear, and it pissed me off. My eyes must have turned red because he backed away. I grinned and opened the door as the jet slowed. That jump changed my life forever as well as the fate of the world.

*

The two security guards lay behind me at the gate. The gate was twisted metal because I’d rammed it against one of the men and pinned him against the wall. He laid in two pieces. In my bloodlust I failed to see the infrared sensors, and now guards swarmed the area.

“This is for you, mom,” I prayed, my usual ritual.

The area stretched a good hundred yards between two walls. The inner wall surrounded the castle, and the outer wall was one of three walls I’d already passed. Twenty guards ran toward me in expensive black suits. Bullets drove dust up around me, and some smacked into my Kevlar padded black uniform. Why the NSA insisted I wear it when my own skin protected me against most bullets was beyond me. Bullets felt like bee stings, but the Kevlar slowed me down. The heavier rounds left small wounds, but my body healed with incredible speed same as all supernatural creatures.

The bullets struck the Kevlar shields, and those bullets that hit my body either bounced off or left small insignificant wounds. My skin is thick, and the deeper inside my dermis (or whatever the hell it is) it becomes denser. The only bullets other than an elephant gun with explosive rounds that can hurt me are magic bullets that have been blessed by a priest or enchanted by a warlock.

One such enchanted round tore through my shoulder and exited my back. The Kevlar stopped it and held it against the open wound beneath my shoulder blade. It hurt like hell but already my body began to heal. My right hand was useless until my shoulder and back healed.

“Got him,” a man yelled. “These bullets Giovanni gave me – ”

He never finished his sentence. I shot him with my left hand, my Desert Earthquake thundered and shook the ground, and the bullet struck him in the chest. I love it when people I shoot wear Kevlar. The round of my gun entered his chest and tore the Kevlar free from Velcro straps at the man’s side. The bullet pushed the Kevlar into a small crater inside his chest, and exited his back. The bullet flew at an odd angle when it left the man, the black Kevlar still around the heavy round. It struck the castle wall like a bloodied black ghost, cracked the cobblestone, and bounced into the head of another gunman. The guard’s head pushed in like a soft grape, and red juice exploded from the back of his skull.

The remaining gunmen hesitated. Some looked down at their own Kevlar vests with grimaces. I grunted in pain as I healed. The sound of my voice echoed off the castle walls, and the men didn’t know what to do. It was obvious I took out their leader and their resolve faltered. I was lucky! That was the plan each time I hit a vampire lair. With the leader gone minions were easier to deal with.

I opened fire with my left hand, my right shoulder almost healed. The first guard I shot had reached for the leader’s gun with its enchanted bullets. He flew backward, severed at the midsection. His lower torso struck the earth and bounced, while his upper half crunched against the castle wall.

They fired upon me again empowered by fear of certain death. I would have chosen escape had I been in their shoes, but they weren’t the smartest bunch. One guy had the audacity to step up to me and unload his Spas 12 automatic military-issue shotgun into my wounded shoulder. The other guards paused with hope etched into their expressions, and silence ensued. It did nothing but piss me off. My kick to his groin sent him over the outer wall. He was gone before the echo of his crunched pelvic bones faded.

Some fled in terror before my trollish rage, but some remained for glory. The glory they received was to fall in battle. My Desert Earthquakes shook the earth with each shot, and the minor quakes toppled guards that stood too close. I ran out of bullets but killed the last guards with my bare hands.

My heavy feet smashed bodies and tore chunks from the earth as I sprinted to the last gate. A guard closed it and turned the key in its lock. I smashed the gate down and it pressed down into the guard as I ran over him. I looked back and blanched – he looked like a grotesque human hamburger patty caught in the grille.

I reloaded my guns, and I took out another twelve guards as I ran toward the moat through the outer court. My leap carried me thirty yards over the dried-out moat to the closed drawbridge, and it shattered into shards. Two giant splinters stabbed two guards on the other side, and I killed the last eight men with my bare hands.

I left a heap of broken and torn bodies in the foyer. I ran without any idea which way to go, so I chose up. I hated dungeons from troll stories my mom used to tell me, and I didn’t relish the thought of dungeons in the bottoms of castles. A spiral staircase cycled up a tower. I thought I could defend myself at the top and fight my way down. I wouldn’t leave without completion of the mission anyway – a mission I had no clue how to complete.

At the top of the staircase a balcony led to a tall door. It was open and blue light shone from it, fell across the stone floor which reflected the strange glow. I ran toward the door and my skin tingled when I entered the blue. I sensed magic. Not just any kind of magic, but powerful magic much stronger than what my mother had possessed. I wondered just how powerful Giovanni was.

I leapt into the room and rolled. I destroyed a lab table with beakers and Bunsen burners with my back. When I came up my jaw dropped, and I knew I had to look like the first security guard I’d killed. Before me was Giovanni, but it was what lay in the nest behind him that amazed me.

The baby blue dragon curled in the nest of broken saplings and trees, its eyes closed. The noise of my entrance hadn’t wakened it, but Giovanni panicked. Although he wore a black plain robe with a heavy cowl, I recognized his facial features from the glossy photographs in the dossier file Lieutenant Daniels had shown me. He lifted a simple piece of wood, pointed it in my direction, and muttered something in Latin. An unseen force slammed me against the wall. A section of stone ceiling fell on me after I collapsed.

“What the hell?” I grunted.

“A kinetic blast,” he answered.

“Not your magic, idiot,” I said. “The dragon… a real life dragon?”

He grinned.

“Do you realize the implications?” I asked. “There hasn’t been a dragon on Earth for centuries.”

Giovanni chuckled as if he were a wise man confronted by an immature student. He opened his mouth to speak, but I shot him in the head. I wanted to blow his head off, but instead blasted him from the waist up. His lower torso and two legs stood and spouted blood. The wall behind him bled red with chunks of bone and gristle, what was left of his upper half.

“Nice shot,” the baby dragon said.

It looked at me with sleepy eyes, raised its head, and yawned. It unfurled its wings and stretched. Its wings covered most of the room, about twenty yards.

A baby dragon! My heart raced and breath caught in my throat.

“You can talk?” I marveled. “But… you look like a baby.”

“All dragons can talk after hatched,” she replied. “We start life with the total accumulation of everything we will have learned in life, and as we grow we lose our knowledge as physical strength grows.”

“I didn’t realize that,” I said.

I wondered what to do. I knew the legend about dragons. The Fey love legends, and Esmeralda had told me several of them. Most concerned Fey prophecies. When dragons came back to Earth, the apocalypse would be at hand.

It looked like dark days ahead.

“I’m on a mission,” I told her. “I didn’t know what it was until now.”

“And?” the dragon asked. It stood on all four legs, arched its back like a cat, and sat on its haunches. “What is your mission, man-troll?”

It didn’t disrespect me, but if the dragon had I couldn’t have done anything about it. From what she said, she had the accumulation of thousands of years of life, the knowledge of all the magic gleaned from the life she was about to live, as well as knowledge of the future. That meant while she wasn’t as large or strong as a full grown dragon, she had the magical ability to destroy me where I stood.

She also knew what I was about to say.

“My mission was to take the dragon egg that you hatched from, return it to the spirit realm,” I admitted. “I can see that now.”

“Now it would seem your mission is to return me to the spirit realm, man-troll.”

I didn’t respond. I gazed at her beauty. Serpentine grace formed her subtle movements. I watched her ribs expand with each breath, saw her blue vertical eyes against white orbs focus on my face. She glowed with beautiful blue light. My hands and soul washed clean in it.

“If you stay it means the end of this age, doesn’t it?” I asked.

She chuckled, a murmured sound of appeasement to my soul. I couldn’t shake the thought that she knew what I would say next, knew what I thought. The older she got the less she knew, but for now she knew the future for a span of a dragon’s lifetime – which was about three-thousand years.

“But it also means a new future,” I suggested, “A new tomorrow.”

“That is true, man-troll. The dinosaur bones your world’s precious scientists preach about are the bones of my ancestors. When my kind appears there is always upheaval and cataclysmic change, as well as when my kind goes extinct.” She gazed off but looked at nothing, perhaps a memory far off in the future. “I didn’t ask for the warlock to take my egg into your world, but he did.” I glanced at Giovanni’s remains and nodded. “The time is right, however; the time of change is upon us all. One question remains: will you die where you stand for the sake of a race that loathes you, or will you embrace this planet’s inevitable destiny?”

“I will work for you,” I told her. “I offer my services, such as they are, as bodyguard and protector. I wish to leave the old world behind. Maybe… just maybe there will be a place to belong in this new world that will form from the ashes of this present world I hate.”

“My name is Shastelshzzz,” she said. “I must destroy this world and recreate it. This planet has gone through many such incarnations. It goes from light to darkness and back again. It has done this thousands of times and it will do so thousand of times yet to come. Each incarnation lasts millions of years, and a new dominant race rules each era.”

“What will be my place in this new world?” I asked. I knew she had already lived the future. “What will happen to me?”

“You are man-troll,” she said with joy. “You shall be called mantrol, the first of your kind, the patriarch of the new species that will dominate Earth.”

In the years that followed she kept good to her promise. She destroyed the human race, but not as a blue dragon. Instead she became pestilence and death, chaos and mayhem. She used her great magic to create earthquakes and tidal waves that washed away coastlines, and she became insane greed in the heart of Korean rulers. Nuclear missiles fired and after the fire abated, darkness reigned for a thousand years. Shastelshzzz and I lived in the spirit realm and bided our time. After the clouds of ash let loose volcanic acid rain which reshaped the surface of the earth, and after the polar icecaps both melted, the land disappeared beneath the surface of the deep. Mount Everest appeared as the ice caps refroze, and that is where the first (somewhat) intelligent being appeared: little ol’ me.

I am Mantrol, and this is my story… the story from the very beginning. My race came to be known by my name, the mantrol race. Shastelshzzz created my wife from the dust of the earth and she brought her to me. I saw that she was fair and beautiful, and I took her for my wife. We had two children. I called the first one Cain and the second one Abel.

That was when dragons roamed the world. She was their Mother, and she laid her eggs in myth and care and raised her children to tempt and devour mantrol-kind. My children became dragon-hunters and killed her children.

“Why must it be this way?” I asked Shastelshzzz right before she died. She had given me immortality, but she had not granted it to herself. “Why must my kind and dragons always be at war?”

She said nothing. She gazed at me with dull eyes, and I knew the knowledge she’d possessed had been used up. Born in wisdom, it was time for her to die in ignorance. I called upon my People and ordered them to carry her body to the sea, all three hundred feet of it, and eighteen mighty ships drug her out at low tide. The undertow took her down. That was when ignorance came into the world. That was when I left my People and the place I belonged, the home I had craved while in the world of man that had come before.

I have done everything a mantrol can. I have loved and hated, wept and laughed, killed and healed. I have led nations and lost battles. I have seen the beginning. The one thing I cannot do is see the end; Shastelshzzz took the future with her beneath the waves.

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