Three travelers walked into an inn and handed the keeper ten silvers each. “We are traveling fools and we need a place to stay; we are decent folks and we want no trouble.” The inn keeper took the thirty silvers and told the bellhop to show the travelers their rooms. "No trouble follows I hope" the bellhop mumbled.
Half through the night, the inn keeper saw a red cardinal land on his windowsill. In these bad lands of frequent toil, this rare bird was a sign of better times ahead, or so he thought. He hadn’t seen one since his father was still alive and that was decades ago.
“The gods must have smiled,” he said to the bellhop who was falling almost to sleep, “it seems our guests either had brought this luck upon us or they had followed their luck here to my inn. Regardless, we will honor this sign of grace. Take five silvers from my safe and return them to the travelers as a token of our goodwill.” The bellhop counted the five heavy silvers into his palm. The cold silvers were heavy and tugged strangely on his legs as he walked those old creaking stairs. Just atop of the second floor, the bellhop stopped to ponder as gravity took its full toll.
“I have five silvers and there are three guests, how am I to divide this equally?”
Seeing that the guests may never know just how much was in his pocket now, five heavy silvers, he would just give one to each guest and keep two silvers for himself. Tomorrow is his birthday and he deserves a pint of aged sour ale. Win and win for all.
He knocked on each of the three guests’ door, told the same tale of tale of the red bird and good fortune for all. He handed each guest a silver from his pocket. Each guest gave the same gawk and gladly accepted the silver back into their palms. The bellhop hopped away with two heavy silvers in his pocket and dreamed of pints of old aged sour ale.
The red cardinal flew from the inn’s windowsill to the city near and found the old bossy trolls. The red cardinal told the tale of the inn keeper, the bellhop, and the heavy silver for the aged ale. The troll smiled to himself and mumbled back to the red little bird, “yet another riddle plagues the world.”
The city had been gloomed in darkness for a while now. Trolls had been trolls for the last few centuries and no one can remember much beyond the age of trolls. Sometimes, a glimpse of light would escape the toxic clouds above, and the old ones would muster some nonsense tale of old earth and green trees, people standing tall under the sun, and birds of all colors flew the clear sky and fish flew the sea; air afresh and water pure. Trolls would laugh because no one believes the living could be any other color besides brown, black, gray and the occasional red from blood and death. Only machines and neon signs took on the shades of yellow, blue, green, pink, and it was only the toxicity of color that the trolls could see. Nature, as the trolls believes now, is incapable of being or anything else.
The city had been gloomed in darkness for a while now. Now one seems to know what had happened but darkness took over. Everything now is a shade of gray and the sun hadn't been seen in years. Living things are rare these days other than the different mutated trolls; at least rare from what the eyes could see. But then again, most trolls don't have very much of an eyesight to begin with as they have adapted to the gloom and city life. They live on the edge of polluted mesh of land and spillage. They are guided by blinking neons and pitched noises to tell when they should eat, sleep, and pass into the abyss. Most of them have never seen a red cardinal in the city before. The only birds that flew the roof tops above the neon signs are crows. Red-beady eyed crows with blood redder than the trolls own bleed. A red bird is rare as the impossibles: sunlight and fresh water, both of which are forgotten by a forgotten people. The little red bird is a sore sight for the grayish world of the bossy trolls but the little red bird flew to the edge of one old troll’s windowsill. From the inn to the city, from the keeper to the troll, two windows and two different memories of what led to this world. The keeper kept his window open for the hope of seeing the little bird but this one bossy old troll had forgotten to close his window – a rare occurrence indeed.
To be continued
(Copyright - Jin Kong, all rights reserved)