The Hopeful Wanderer – The Toll

Old boards creaked beneath my boots as I meandered across a rotting footbridge. In the entrenchment it crossed lay the mere memory of running water in the layer of mud at the bottom. Leaf loam littered the ground beneath wide-spaced trees. I had my gaze upward, regarding the rustling branches above, when a hand grasped my ankle and yanked.

Pain shot through my hip as I slammed into the damp wood. My full length slithered over the edge, beneath the handrail that I couldn’t reach, despite my outstretched hands. Flung forward, the muddy creek bottom rose up to meet me. I landed with a squelch, muck packing into my nose and mouth and eyes as I flew backward.

I vanished beneath the dark overhang.

At my first attempt to sit up, I smacked my head against the spongy underside of the bridge. Feeling around revealed brittle twigs, damp leaves, goopy ground. A bumpy hand holding my ankle.

I sucked in a sharp breath.

At the same time, a voice full of gravel said, “You must pay the price to cross.”

My eyes adjusting to the darkness revealed the outline of a hulking figure. Hair sticking out everywhere. Knobby ears. Stooped posture. Lengthy arms.

My voice shook. “With what?”

A creaking, as of stretching skin. Rancid meat smell wafted over me. “One skill. The ability to forage.”

My jaw clenched. I carried little food with me, surviving on edible plants. So if I gave up this skill now, I could starve.

The grip on my ankle tightened. “That, or I eat you.”

When later I scrambled from beneath the bridge, I found every plant looked the same. While the bridge troll safely chowed down on berries, I would have to pick up a foraging guidebook to relearn all over again.

Thanks for reading!

If you like what I write here at Word Nerd Scribbles, you can leave a one-time tip for the price of a $3 coffee

At $1 a month, you can also join my creative journey @

To read more free original short fiction every Thursday, follow the blog, like the Word Nerd Scribbles Facebook page, or subscribe to my monthly newsletter!

Success! You’re on the list.

Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s