Read Trollhunters Online

Authors: Guillermo Del Toro,Daniel Kraus

Trollhunters (2 page)

BOOK: Trollhunters
13.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Slowly Jim craned his neck so he could look up into the underside of the bridge.

It was black. Nothing but black.

But then the black
moved
.

It happened naturally, almost gracefully. Giant, powerful limbs differentiated themselves from the concrete as they adjusted their clinging grip. Something the size of a boulder—a
head—rolled about until Jim could see eyes burning orange like fire. The thing took a breath and it was like the entire belly of the bridge rippled at once. Then it exhaled and the force of
putrid air blew Jim’s body back.

The thing let go of the bridge and dropped to the ground. Dirt billowed and trash flew into the air, and in that swirl of debris Jim saw milk cartons, two, three, four, five of them, cavorting
and twirling, the grins of missing children mocking their own deaths. The thing reared back like a grizzly and the street lamps gleamed off of two horns, which tore through the overhead concrete. A
mouth opened, glistening with huge, mismatched teeth. Orange eyes locked on Jim. Then arms—long, muscular pythons of matted fur—reached out.

Jim screamed. The underpass made it ten times louder, and the thing paused for just a second. Jim took that second and leapt astride his Schwinn, pushing off from the pavement. His left foot
kicked past Jack’s radio, killing Don and Juan once and for all, and then he was out from under the Holland Transit Bridge, still screaming, legs churning.

He heard it behind him: the gallop of a colossal thing, chasing after on all fours like a gorilla.

Mumbling with terror, Jim pushed his pedals harder than ever before. The squeak of the training wheels became a shriek. Still the thing closed in. The ground shook with each landing of monstrous
feet. It snorted like a bull and the expelled air reeked of sewage. The plastic ray gun dropped from Jim’s grip; never again would he feel the cunning strength of Doctor X. The thing behind
him growled so near that the entire frame of the bike vibrated. The streetlights threw a horrifying shadow of the thing’s arm, reaching for Jim with long, sharp claws.

Jim pulled off to the left, hopping the edge of the canal, bursting through ditch weeds, and exploding onto a sidewalk. There was a fire hydrant right in front of him, red like Jack’s
birthday bike—oh, Jack, Jack, what had happened to Jack? Jim tore around the hydrant and shot down the middle of the street. A car honked and veered out of his way. Jim ignored the angry
shouts. He was speeding like his brother, learning how to properly ride at last, and the training wheels tore off and went bouncing down the street, useless little pieces of rubber.

Home was
right there
, just seconds away, and he strained down the home stretch, screeching for air, tears streaming horizontally across his cheeks. The bike lurched up the curb and
collided with the white fence. Jim went head over heels before crashing down on the front lawn, his face scratched by Mom’s manicured bushes, his glasses unfastened from their Band-Aid
binding.

The dog was barking from inside. He heard footsteps, the front door opening, the commotion of his mom and dad hurrying down the steps. Jim realized he was still screaming, and that reminded him
of the beast. He scrabbled for both halves of his glasses and held them before his eyes. Nothing. He scanned the front yard, the quiet suburban houses, the mailboxes, the flower beds, the
sprinklers. There were no monsters, but at his feet he saw something else.

It was a bronze medallion connected to a rusty chain. It was engraved with a foreboding crest: a hideous, snarling face; indecipherable markings of a savage language; and a magnificent
long-sword across the bottom. Jim’s sobs caught in his chest and he reached out for it.

“Jim! What’s wrong?”

It was his mom, falling to her knees beside him, brushing dirt clods from his ears. His dad came next, kneeling in front of him, taking him by the knee and shaking it to focus Jim’s
attention. They were saying his name, over and over:
Jim
. How horrible it was that no one would call him “Jimbo” ever again.

“Buddy, look at me,” his dad said. “You all right? You okay? Buddy?”

“Where’s your brother?” His mother’s hoarse whisper suggested that she somehow knew. “Jim, where is Jack?”

Jim did not respond and instead leaned to the side to see past his dad. The imprint in the grass was still there, but the medallion was gone, if it had ever been there in the first place. He
felt a strange sense of sadness at its absence and an even more powerful sense of failure. He collapsed into his parents’ arms, crying, shuddering, and knowing that he had now experienced the
nature of true fear, the pain of true loss.

Jim Sturges was my father. Jack Sturges was my uncle. The story I just told you I wouldn’t learn myself until forty-five years later, when I was fifteen. It was then I
learned that Uncle Jack was the very last kid to disappear in the Milk Carton Epidemic, which ended as quickly as it had begun. The destroyed Sportcrest became a family relic; I’ve seen it a
hundred times. It was also when I was fifteen that I learned how my dad spent the following decades, all of his youth and most of his adulthood, visiting the Holland Transit Bridge at night with
flashlight in hand, searching for clues as to what happened to his older brother. There was never a trace of Jack aside from the milk cartons that would depict his brave, smirking face along with
the word
MISSING
.

What a perfect way to describe my dad in the years to come.

Contemporary accounts state that the historic and decisive Battle of the Fallen Leaves took place in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter on Harry G. Bleeker Memorial
Field at San Bernardino High, with our beloved Saint B. Battle Beasts up by only six points and our starting quarterback out with a concussion. It was then, during the most important game of the
year, and there, upon that dewy sod, that a brave hero fell and an unexpected victor arose. To this day, tales from that night fuel the bedtime stories and dreams of children of all
ages—human or otherwise. So read carefully these pages you hold. Go ahead, believe every word. After all, you may one day want to tell this story to your own kids.

Stranger things have happened. Just wait and see.

My name is James Sturges Jr., but you can call me Jim, same as my dad, and I used to be just like you. I was fifteen when my adventure began. It was a Friday morning in October and the alarm
clock went off at its usual rude time. I just let it beep; I had learned to sleep through it. Unfortunately, my dad, Jim Sturges Sr., was the world’s lightest sleeper. A gust of wind against
the side of the house was enough to wake him up, and then he’d come check on me, waking me up, too. I guess you’d have to attribute it to what happened to his older brother, Jack. That
kind of thing messes you up.

He came in and turned off my alarm. The silence that came next was even worse because I knew he was standing there looking at me. He did that a lot. It was like he could barely believe that I
had survived another night. I cracked my eyes open. He was wearing a too-tight dress shirt, dirty around the collar, and was trying to get that left cuff buttoned, something he did every morning
until he broke down and asked me for help.

He looked old. He
was
old. Older than most of the dads I’d met, going by the wrinkles pinwheeling from the corners of his eyes, the bushiness of his eyebrow and ear hair, and his
almost total baldness. He also had a slumped posture I didn’t see in other dads, though I doubt that had to do with age. I think it was other stuff, weighing him down.

“Rise and shine.” He didn’t sound particularly shiny. He never did.

I sat up and watched him take hold of the steel shutters over my window. He plucked his glasses from his pocket, broken as always and held together with a Band-Aid, and squinted at the key code.
After punching in the seven-digit number, he yanked upward and the steel panels accordioned to reveal a sunny day.

“Don’t bother,” I grunted. “I’m just going to have to lock them again when we leave.”

“Sunshine is important to growing boys.” It didn’t sound like he believed it.

“I’m not growing.” I took after my dad when it came to size and was still waiting for that growth spurt everyone kept raving about. “In fact, I think I’m
shrinking.”

He fussed with the left wrist button some more before heading out the door.

“Up and at ’em,” he said. “Breakfast is important, too.”

It didn’t sound like he believed that either.

After showering and getting dressed, I found Dad right where I expected him, standing in the living room entrance by the altar to Uncle Jack that was arranged above our electric fireplace. I
call it an altar because I can’t think of a better word. Every inch of the shelf was filled with Jack memorabilia. There were school photos, of course, of kindergarten Jack beaming above a
Lone Ranger
shirt, second-grade Jack happily displaying his various missing baby teeth, fifth-grade Jack sporting a black eye and looking darn proud of it, and eighth-grade Jack—the
final Jack—tan and healthy and looking like he was ready to conquer the world.

Other objects on the altar were weirder. There was the thumb-operated bell from Jack’s Sportcrest, speckled with rust. There was the bike radio that played its last song in 1969, a
weird-looking contraption sporting a crooked antenna. There were other things that had a brotherly significance only to Dad: a broken wristwatch, a wooden Indian figure, a little chunk of
fool’s gold. Most unsettling, however, was the object right in the center of the altar: a framed milk carton picture of Jack, a black-and-white replica of his eighth-grade photo.

Dad noticed me in the glass reflection.

He forced a smile.

“Hi, son.”

“Hey, Dad.”

“Just…tidying up.”

He held no cleaning liquid, no towels.

“Sure, Dad.”

“You want to eat?”

“Yeah, whatever. Okay.”

“All right.” He pushed that fake smile to its breaking point. “Let’s do breakfast.”

Doing breakfast meant cold cereal and milk. There was a time when we ate actual cooked food in the morning, back before Mom had her fill of Dad’s insecurities and walked out. Dad was doing
the best he could, I told myself. We crunched and slurped across the table from each other, faces to our bowls. On occasion he threw glances about the room to ensure that the house’s steel
shutters were locked tight. I sighed and poured myself some more milk. It came from a jug. Dad never bought cartons.

He kept checking his watch until I was guilted into tossing the rest of my cereal down the garbage disposal. As he tapped his foot by the front door, I hurried into my room, threw on my jacket
and backpack, and punched the key code into the shutters to lock them. Only when I was at his side did Dad begin to unlock the front door.

It was a ritual I knew by heart. The door had ten locks, each one more impressive than the last. As he shifted bolts and turned keys and slid chains, I whispered along to the same lonely
percussion solo I had been hearing for fifteen years:
click, rattle, zing, rattle, clack-clack-clack, thunk, crunch, whisk, rattle-rattle, thud
.

“Jimmy. Jimmy!”

I blinked and looked at him. He stood in the doorway, looking vulnerable in that ill-fitting shirt, a hand clutched to his stomach where his ulcer was acting up right on schedule. I wanted to
feel bad for him, but he was motioning at me with impatient gestures.

“Get off the porch or the pressure sensors will go off. Now, now, now.”

I shrugged an apology and made my way past him onto the lawn. I heard the electronic noises of the alarm system being armed, followed by the computerized female voice: “Home zones all
clear.” Dad exhaled, as if this outcome had been in doubt, and secured the external physical locks before leaping off the sensored porch. He landed beside me, the patches of hair above each
ear damp with perspiration.

The poor old guy was winded; he was in no shape to fight the personal demons that had grown to dragon size in his mind. His chest beat up and down, drawing my attention to the vinyl calculator
sleeve inserted into his front pocket and stamped with the logo of San Bernardino Electronics. Legend had it that Dad invented the Excalibur Calculator Pocket worn by science nerds the world over,
but Dad denied it. My theory is that his bosses screwed him out of the credit. That’s what happens to guys like Jim Sturges Sr. It made me feel like crap.

BOOK: Trollhunters
13.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

When It Rains by Glenna Maynard
Beverly Byrne by Come Sunrise
A Pretty Pill by Copp, Criss
Deadly Accusations by Debra Purdy Kong
Dead by Any Other Name by Sebastian Stuart
Sent by Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Shrouded Walls by Susan Howatch
Emily's Ghost by Stockenberg, Antoinette
Small Changes by Marge Piercy