This week’s #writephoto prompt is ‘guarded’ and this picture
Jason Pondweed stopped the van and peered out of the rain smeared windscreen. This couldn’t be it, could it? He checked the clipboard listing his deliveries. Last one was ‘the Guard Stone, Lessis Moor, Yorkshire’ with the scribbled addition of ‘no postcode, just follow the path from the lay-by on the A6542 westwards’. Well, this was the only lay-by on the A6542 and there was a path heading towards the watery sun, so presumably that was westwards.
Cutting the ignition, Jason jumped down and straightened his uniform. He liked his uniform. Beige was easily his favourite tone. He had once called it his favourite colour only to be rebuked by Mrs Adenoid, his art teacher that ‘beige is too bland to be categorised a colour’. It would do him.
Checking the handset was charged so he could grab a signature he slid open the back door and appraised the parcel. Having loaded the van he knew it was heavy. Bracing himself he lifted it out and placed it on the verge while he locked up. Having done that he rechecked the instructions of what to do if the recipient was out. ‘Leave on the path. They’ll be a marker.’
This should be a doodle as long as this Guard Stone wasn’t too far, he told himself. He set off, whistling.
He hadn’t gone far when his attention was drawn to an odd, heart shaped stone placed on the path. It looked a bit worn, chipped in places but distinctly heart shaped. Odd, he thought. It looked like it was recently placed there. Still, there was no sign of the house so he hitched the packet and…
‘Is that for me?’ There are louder voices, and booming voices but few put you in mind of pits. Deep pits. This one did. It had a mineshaft timbre, a depth beyond deep to it.
Jason looked around carefully but there was no sign of the speaker. Might it have been the wind, a trick of the landscape?
‘The message said you’d deliver between 4 and 5.’
That was definitely Jason. He’d sent that message. ‘Mr Roll? I was looking for your house.’
‘You’ve found it.’ To Jason’s horror and disbelief the owner of the voice began to emerge from the enormous rock by the side of the path. In fact saying it emerged ‘from’ is something of a misnomer. It was the rock. As the boulder unpeeled itself from the ground and two slab-like hands brushed grit from the thing’s knees the voice added, ‘And it’s Troll. Mr Troll. Everyone assumes the T is an initial.’
‘You’re a troll?’
‘I like to think of it as I’m the troll, ever since that agglomeration of gravel over Ilkley way allowed himself to become the substructure to the Halifax bypass but I’m not precious. Is that for me?’
Jason had had the training. The gender sensitivity descriptors, the aggression defusers and the need to stick to the protocols. If in doubt ask the approved questions. He put the parcel down. ‘Can you confirm the first line of your address?’
The enormous animated sculpture jiggled which Jason thought might be a laugh but could easily be an internal earthquake. ‘I am the Guard Stone,’ it said. ‘Lessis Moor.’ A pause. ‘No postcode.’
Jason pulled a face. ‘Can you give me you date of birth?’
‘Not exactly. Though I don’t think you have a date, do you?’
‘Does it say “Shortly after the coalescing of matter to form the planets”?’
‘It says “Shortly after the coalescing of mat,” but that’s probably because there’s no more space on the form.’
‘Fair enough. Is that sufficient?’
‘What are you guarding?’
‘These days? Not much. Ever since the fairies went into interior design and the pixies focused on music production there’s not been many magical inhabitants to guard.’
‘Right. And this,’ Jason nudged the stone on the path with his toe, ‘is the marker?’
The troll nodded. ‘I need a new one.’
Jason hefted the box. ‘This is a stone heart?’
‘You replace your heart?’ He tried not to sound too incredulous.
‘Not unless we have to. Why do you need a heart, though?’
This time troll looked incredulous. ‘You don’t know much about magical beings, do you?’
‘No,’ admitted Jason.
‘Well, we may be odd and sometimes do strange things but the one thing of which you can’t accuse us is being heartless. Now where do I sign?’