Wrestling with the Midnight Muse

moon-mountainSomewhere up above the viscous fog that rolled and knotted itself across the meadow between fen and family farm, the moon shone full, a cold silver shield in the night sky.

Here on Earth, horses stomped, goats bleated in hyperactive sleepiness, and sparrows and ravens rustled overhead in the cobwebbed beams of the barn. Leaning against the side of the barn that faced the meadow, I shredded a hay straw. I’d slid the door open to let in whatever the night had to offer. So far, only fog, no illumination. I grabbed another straw and slid it into my mouth, chewing thoughtfully.

I was surprised to see him before I smelled him. First came a long, sharp shape, like the handle of a garden hoe, quickly followed by what most resembled the broad backside of a bull, bisected in the middle by a deep cleft. Above his chin and nose, a pair of blue eyes stared, as big and round as soup tureens, and topped by brows heavy and dark as marsh grass. Beneath his handle of a nose, he cracked a grin, his terrible teeth crooked and mossy as the tombstones in the old abandoned church yard.

A salty breeze kicked up off the ocean and snaked its way through the fjord and up the cliff side, curling around the family home where everyone else slept. Scrabbling over the top of the barn, it fussed and nattered and nibbled at the fog. As the fog thinned and parted, it revealed the rest of the creature. He bent over me, salt breeze mixing with his fecund fen funk, and I backed into the barn.

“What do we play tonight?” he rumbled, and he blinked one huge eye, and then the other.

I shrugged, and spit out the straw. He shook his great head, dislodging clumps of fen grass and sticks, then stomped a deerskin boot and tugged on his filthy tunic. He took another step forward, out of the fog and into the barn. The fog, wisely, did not follow.

“What do we play tonight?” Lifting both feet at once, he hovered for a brief moment. Only for a brief moment, however, because there is no way to keep a thousand pound mythical being suspended for more than that. It uses too much moonlight, and too much magic.

I tapped my foot, arms crossed over my chest, and lifted an eyebrow, and dropped it.

He landed on his rump, straw flying like arrows to all corners, the barn walls shivering. The sparrows and ravens exploded from the rafters, irritated at being discovered to be bedding down together.

“What do we play…tonight?” he flipped on his back and grabbed the toes of his boots, one with each three-fingered hand. He rolled from side-to-side.

“My name is Devon

Double-De Troll!

I want to play

And I like to roll!”

He flattened the goat pen with two rolls. The goats (being goats) easily escaped, some by scrambling on to his troll belly, and bouncing off his nose, then to the ground and up again to his belly. They knew this game, and avoided his teeth. Devon guffawed at his playful destruction and rolled toward the horse stalls.

“Stop Devon! Knock it off!” I ran to his shoulder and pulled his hair. “Only once in a while, D…and only in the meadow.”

He paused, let go of his feet, and lay on his side, blinking his great blue eyes at me. The goats scampered off and out the barn door, where the fog had finally lifted. Sparrow and raven settled on their roost with a windy shift of feathers, tucking their heads under their wings. The horses stomped and blew, and turned their backsides to the two of us, clearly bored.

“What do we play tonight?” Devon snickered.

I sighed and grabbed his finger, and pulled him out to the moon-bright meadow.

© Liz Husebye Hartmann (2017)

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