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1802
The Tree Troll Forest.

The jukebox resonated through the dim-lit tavern. I had wandered to a town hidden in the dense forest, and found refuge in the tavern.
The bright blue sky turned to dusk, and then night time fell upon the woods and the moon hung low in a crescent.
I sat on an oak bar stool and sipped on a chilled mug of brew, I was talking to a dirty-blonde dreaded girl and her boyfriend.

We drank until the bar closed, and talked until the stars dulled.

They offered me a ride, and my hangover gladly accepted. I crawled into their beat up, white truck and sat between them... we puttered along the gravel in silence and through the thick woods.

A wide, winding river flowed between the trees and the road spiraled up, leaving a drop off to my right. I peered through the window and watched the river down below... something seemed magical about the forest.

The girls dark eyed boyfriend broke the silence and tuned the radio to some obscure station and tapped his fingers along the steering wheel with the beat.

The road flattened along either side of us, and the river moved closer to the road. I spotted a large wooden bridge connecting the forest to each side of the river... before I could ask, the girl spoke.

"Tree trolls..." she spoke quietly. "People don't go there... we don't go there."

My eyes widened.

The boy let out a sigh as he felt my curiosity...

I don't remember how I lost them, or how I convinced them to let me out... but, the next thing I remembered I stood before the tree troll on the wooden bridge.

His light blue eyes looked heavy upon his elder face... knots lined his torso... his arms wrapped around his gray body. I cupped my hand around my eyes and squinted up at the tree troll. I felt cold wind upon my skin, as his mouth opened to speak.

I vaguely remember his words, but they went something like...

"I'll ask you a question... there's not a right answer, but answer correctly and I shall let you pass..." he groaned.

A bit puzzled with his tricky wording, I accepted his challenge... and he bowed his head low upon my answer and let me pass by.

The forest was gorgeous. Covered in a light fog and a bit damp from morning dew, the grass glistened and rainbow auras outlined each tree and flower and bird that pecked along the ground. I walked further into the forest and discovered a beat down path... I did not follow.

I whacked through the brush and walked along the river, heading west towards the lowering sun.

His jade eyes looked bright upon his young face... vibrant leaves covered his dark brown body. I touched the branch that made his arm to gain his attention, and then sat upon his roots. I heard the leaves shake and he began to speak.

"Past me, is the most beautiful part of the forest... but, I will only let you pass if you find me six red tulips."

Without a word I spun around and searched the forest floor for glints of red... I rushed through the forest, beating the sun and gathered the flowers.

I tapped upon his arm again, and his leaves shook with my touch. I placed the bouquet between his fingers and a door opened through his torso and I passed through.

Red tulips covered the ground, and fruit trees mixed with oaks and maples. I twirled in the field and picked a peach. I stayed there until the sky grew dark and found warmth under a tree. I set off, out of the forest in the morning.

I encountered one last tree troll in the woods, and he was so strange.

His violet eyes were glazed over. His flimsy trunk shown gnarly knots ... he stood at the edge of where the forest meets the road, and had a pile of junk behind him. He spoke before I went to get his attention...

"I've met many folks... and collected many people things... now, bring me pizza!" he demanded.

Pizza... I thought... pizza. (I work in a pizza shop, and I find it so funny when pizza becomes a theme in my dream.) I hitched it down the road and ordered the tree troll a large pizza and hitched a ride with an old woman back towards the forest.

I spoke to her of my adventure in the tree troll forest, and she scolded me for venturing into there. But, then I brought the tree troll the pizza and he let out a warm, hearty laugh... in exchange he handed me a red tulip.

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