In the Billiard Room with the Cue BallChapter 9
The hallway slid beneath Marian’s feet. The troll’s enormous hand wrapped under her arms and bound her mouth shut. Its brother held Aaron in a similar fashion. There was no use struggling; each ogre towered six feet over them. Marian fought to see through the hair draped in her face.
A door opened, and each troll took turns squeezing through. Stopp, the one wearing monstrous glasses, went first, followed by Thimbledon holding his club and Aaron in each arm, and Wimbledon, the bald one, dragging Marian. The room was dressed like a lounge—long, indulgent red curtains draped across three wide French-cut windows and separated by four masculine, wooden book-shelves covered in books and board games. Esther would have loved to see all those books—old and new binds with cracking pages, colorful designs, and smelly burnt parchment. On the outside of the windows, opposite one another in the room, were two cushy green chairs with end tables for someone to rest and read. At the center of the room was a gold and green billiard table fixed under a glamorous, bright ceiling light. The billiard balls were scattered across the top like someone was recently playing and solids was winning.
Thimbledon threw Aaron across the room. He flailed over the floor and smashed into the side of the billiard table. His rib cracked against the table leg, and he coughed a fit on his hands and knees. Wimbledon let go of Marian, and she rushed to Aaron’s side.
“Not much on them,” Thimbledon growled.
“Must not have eaten their meat,” Stopp replied. His voice was high and shrill compared to the deep growl of his brothers. He slunk next to Thimbledon with a wry smile, looking over the children.
“Shut up, Stopp.” Thimbledon shoved his younger brother against the wall. He looked at the oldest Wimbledon and said, “You promised they were worth it.”
“I promised nothing,” Wimbledon sneered and lifted his long nose at him. “The raven’s message told us to get the Dolor children.”
“Actually, she’s the Dolor,” Aaron said, wincing in pain and sitting up on his haunches. “I’m just Aaron.”
“Justaren?” Stopp cackled. “I wonder how those taste!”
“Great,” Wimbledon complained. “We were supposed to grab Dolors.”
“What does it matter?” Thimbledon argued. “The raven said the ones outside of the mother’s bedroom. That’s what we did.”
The troll brothers argued back and forth while Marian lifted Aaron off the ground. “What do we do?” She whispered.
Aaron grabbed the edge of the billiard table and steadied himself. “What can we do?” He asked, and she noticed he palmed a ball from the pool table. He locked eyes with her and raised an eyebrow.
Marian shook her head “no” at him and jerked it toward the trolls. “Why in the world would you want to eat a couple of kids like us?” She hollered and threw her hands up like a stage actor, stepping in front of Aaron. “After all, there’s barely anything on us. Might just as well—eat some string beans!”
“Ugh! I hate beans!” Thimbledon growled and rubbed the club in his hands.
“You know soaking beans brings them back to life.” Stopp tapped his nose at his brother. “So we can drown the kids after we eat them and get seconds.”
“That’s not what that means,” Wimbledon hollered.
“Stop it, Stopp,” Thimbledon threatened. “You’re just trying to irritate us.”
“I never dreamt of exasperating—”
“Shut up, Stopp!” Both trolls yelled.
“If we didn’t get the right Dolors,” Wimbledon thought aloud, “—maybe we shouldn’t eat them.”
“Poppy-cock!” Thimbledon interrupted. He stormed to Wimbledon’s side and brandished his club in the air. “Who cares about these two maggots? It’s not the Dolor boy, and he’s the only one that’s off-limits.” The club smacked his open hand. “If he’s not the Dolor boy, and she clearly isn’t—I say it’s high-time we eat.”
“There’s no higher time for eating than lunch on a mountain,” Stopp quipped.
“Stopp,” Thimbledon thundered. “Mother ain’t alive anymore to keep you likewise. It’s about time now you grow up instead of down, or I’ll make you regret it.”
Stopp clenched his jaw, but a smirk escaped his pursed lips with a dumb expression like a clown.
“Alright,” Wimbledon said. “Tie ‘em up.” Thimbledon reached into his pocket and pulled out a length of rope. It looked like floss in his gigantic palm, but was enough to tie up each child. He stepped toward them.
“Wait!” Marian screamed, and for a moment Thimbledon paused, dumbfounded. “How about you let us go, and we never come back?”
Thimbledon looked at his brothers, perplexed and second-guessing himself because of Marian’s forthright demeanor. But in a moment, he snapped out of it, shook his head, and his raggedy hair flowed every which way. “I haven’t eaten in weeks,” he grumbled. “And you’re on the menu.”
“Psst! Wimbledon,” Stopp whispered. “Were we given a menu?”
Wimbledon rolled his eyes.
Thimbledon approached the children and reached out his hand for Marian. Aaron took a deep breath and put his hand around Marian’s wrist. He jerked her out of the way and swung himself forward. His right arm came around him like a pitcher, and the billiard ball flung from his hand.
It shot like a bullet into Thimbledon’s right eye. It was small enough to dig itself around the socket and lodge between his frontal lobe and eyeball. He screamed in horror and the roar shook the room like a rocket launch. Blood and yellow puss spurt into the air and splattered across the floor like wet paint.
Marian covered her mouth as the hairy giant crashed back and forth in the room. He smashed into a bookshelf and scattered books and board game pieces everywhere. Then a table smashed under his weight and went splintering into the air and across the floor.
Aaron took a breath, braced himself for the pain in his ribs and chest, clenched Marian’s hand, and pulled her behind him. He was charging for the door. He squeezed past Stopp, who was doubled over laughing at his brother writhing on the floor. Aaron reached for the door and turned the handle. But Marian’s wrist fell limp in his grip. He whipped around and froze. Her petrified eyes shook from under the heavy grip of Wimbledon’s hand. His fist engulfed her small head. Aaron looked up at the troll. His menace and quiet growl were threatening Marian’s life. Aaron let go of the door handle and stared up at him, flexing his jaw and listening to Thimbledon thrash around the room behind Wimbledon.
Wimbledon’s fist came down, gripped the boy’s shirt in his mighty hand and flung him across the room like a rag-doll. Aaron slipped in Thimbledon’s blood and slid to a stop under the pool table. Wimbledon picked Marian up by her shoulders and glared in her face.
“Got any more tricks, Dolor!” He yelled. “Or should I rip your limbs off one-by-one right now?”
Stopp cackled in the background as Thimbledon held his eye shut and composed himself. Long streams of blood dripped down his face and hand. Wimbledon carried Marian to the pool table and sat her on top of it. He picked the rope up off the ground and tied it around her waist and arms. She kept quiet while his heavy eyes peaked through the long hair and studied her.
After he tied her, he reached under the table and grabbed Aaron’s leg. Aaron squirmed and fought like a fish caught on a line. Wimbledon slammed him onto the tabletop and he gasped for air. He tied him up with the rest of the rope next to Marian.
Thimbledon sprung up from the ground. His one eye stared at Aaron and his chest rose and fell with ferocity. “Do it, Wimbledon!” His teeth ground together and blood bubbled out of his lips.
“We need to thinks about this a bit more.” Wimbledon held his hand up at his brother. “No use jumping to action when the Professor could get angry.” Thimbledon looked at him, shocked.
“Well, just think of it like this, Thimbledon,” Stopp butt-in. “We can get you some sheep, and you can live happily on an island as a cyclops.”
“Stop it, Stopp,” Wimbledon warned.
Marian looked back and forth between Stopp and Thimbledon, getting an idea. “You know you may be right, Stopp,” she added. “After all, it’s not like he’ll ever be able to ride a bicycle now. Much less drive a car.”
Stopp looked at Marian, before thinking about it for a moment and then bursting out in laughter. “Just imagine!” He howled. “The stupid brute is gonna bump into everything now that he can’t see his right side!”
Marian smirked. “And—and he’ll wear one of those silly eye-patches like a pirate!”
“Captain Thimbledon!” Stopp spat. “Have to get him a funny hat and peg-leg. Hey, Thimbledon, you can walk around with the Professor’s raven on your shoulder!”
“Stop it, Stopp,” Wimbledon warned. “Mother’s not around anymore. And this isn’t funny.”
“I bet you make it only a week before everyone is calling you Blackbeard.” Stopp fell onto his back, kicking his feet into the air. “Or Red-beard! We can dye your hair, Thimbledon!”
“Stopp!” Wimbledon thundered. But his final warning was too late. Thimbledon stormed across the room to Stopp. He put his foot high into the air and brought it down hard onto Stopp’s chest. Stopp didn’t realize what was happening before Thimbledon grabbed his kicking leg and gripped the calf in his arms. The children gaped as Thimbledon twisted Stopp’s leg, snapped it at the knee, and ripped it from the joint. The bones cracked and blood burst from the open wound. Stopp screamed and grabbed at the squiggling nerves inside of his knee with his fist. His shrill voice sounded like scratching chalkboards.
“And I guess we’ll call you Stoop from now on,” Thimbledon growled and took a bite out of his brother’s severed leg. “Haven’t eaten in weeks,” he whispered and dropped the appendage onto the ground next to Stopp. His eye looked up at the children.
Aaron’s mouth fell open while Marian wriggled in her restraints. “Come on!” She fought in frustration.
“There’s no hope for you, Dolor,” Wimbledon hollered. “There never was.” His hand wrapped around Marian and squeezed her like an orange. Thimbledon stomped over to Aaron and opened his mouth around his head. She stopped struggling in Wimbledon’s arms and closed her eyes.
“Jesus, help us,” she whispered.