Trolls do not always kill and eat their victims. A woman that falls in with a troll is dragged to its cave by her hair and then forced into slavery. She is trapped forever in its small, dark den and made to cook the bones of children down into paste for the troll to spread over toast and eat with coffee. Worse, the troll might take a real shine to her and make her into its wife. After months of abuse, of pinching and tugging, merciless berating, sometimes full-body force-massages of stinging ointments and strange potions, she begins to lose her human features. Her skin grows coarse and dull, her hair mats into greasy clumps, her voice shrinks into an unintelligible grunt. She will never again feel sunlight or know what it’s like to be loved by another human being. Eventually, she will forget what it was like to be human and dismiss all memories of her previous life as nothing but dreams full of too much colour.
The crossing guard waits until the children are out of sight before removing his head. His eyes close. His lips go slack and pale. I can never tell if he can see anything without his head — he doesn’t seem completely unaware of the world around him, but he doesn’t seem to care much about it, either. I wave to him from my window seat, just in case.
The last crossing guard chewed gum incessantly, spit great pink wads of it into the carefully trimmed hedges lining the walk. One of the neighbours passed around a petition to make him stop, or just go away, and a week later, this crossing guard arrived. He doesn’t chew gum at all.
I feel the familiar wave of envy sweep through me as I watch his morning ritual. I think I could be happy if I could remove my head. All of my troubles seem to stem from there, from my sad, heavy brain, savaged by electricity and silly little pills.
Sometimes I still dream about kittens and puppies stuffed under my shirt, feel tiny, pointed teeth against my flesh, hungry lies that deny me peace. It’s all for the best, I know. My whole life has lead to the point I am at now. Knowing that, knowing myself and who I am, those kittens would have died a long time ago anyway, even if they had made it to the outside world.