Chapter One: Introducing Walter and His Discovery of New Tailand

His First Mistake

Walter was trudging determinedly over a wide expanse of rolling hills. They were magnificent hills to say the least; very green, well attended to by the local animals, and full of thriving life. Walter noticed none of this beauty and simply continued his trudging under the staggering heat of a midday sun, with a large brown briefcase clasped in one sweaty hand. He did this because he was a traveling salesman, and traveling salesmen have to endure all sorts of landscape if they want to make their way in life. He did not particularly enjoy the traveling part, and come to think of it, really did not like the selling, either. He had earned himself a marketing degree, and dreamed of working in Hollywood for several big-name companies like McDonalds, The Gap, and Geico. Until then he was determined to build upon his blank resume, selling a cleaner called Wipe and Look It's Clean in bulk to a Scandinavian company.

This particular traveling salesman was nobody out of the ordinary. He was balding from the top of his head prematurely, which was a disadvantage when it came to a shining sun. One disadvantage was that he blinded anybody who might attempt to look his way. Another was that he was developing a rather painful burn. He was of sleight build and wore a suave suit to try to hide this fact. It didn't work very well at all, but he sure thought so.

Walter, as it so happens, was not making his way very gracefully through the lush hills. He did, although, stumble quite gracefully over a large stone, in such a way that he threw his arms out and twisted his feet so that he achieved a perfect pirouette. He didn't know this of course, but had a ballet dancer been watching, they would have been watching with envy. All he did was grumble something about his shoes, which had come from Tokyo. That's pretty far away from where he was, thus they were rather expensive. He, if you care to know, was in Limburg. Here's a history lesson, folks; Limburg is in the Netherlands, and is the only part of the country with hills. Coincidentally. Walter was somewhere between Heerlen and Maastricht and had just, as you know, pirouetted over a rock, when he suddenly came upon a sign. Yes, in the middle of the hills. It was in Pig Latin, which really should have been a dead giveaway to stop right there and go back home. Unfortunately Walter did not have a degree in The Obvious.

The sign read as such:

Elcomeway to Ewnay AilandTay, Okay?

Translation: Welcome to New Tailand, Ko?

"New Tailand? Do they mean Thailand?" Walter said, seemingly to himself.

"No."

Alas! Walter had not been talking to himself! He had been unknowingly talking to a gruff voice who had captured a haughty tone in one syllable.

"Who's there?" Walter asked. He suddenly became cautious, which looked to outsiders as if he had suddenly got something in his eyes.

"It's me," the voice piped up again in the same manner, "the First Goat."

Walter, quite flabbergasted, finally paid notice to a small Billy goat who had previously seemed to have been minding his own business, chawing on some grass in the background.

"Did you just speak to me, Goat?" the salesman asked, stooping low (but not as low as some might have had to stoop) to make eye contact with the small creature. It stared back at him with intelligent yellow eyes.

"Yes I did," the First Goat said, giving a matter-of-fact shake of his head. "I don't suppose you ended up here on purpose."

"Well, I thought I was on my way to Heerlen, where I was supposed to meet a man who was interested in marketing my product."

"I see," the First Goat replied, disinterested.

"It's a cleaner," Walter added.

The goat sniffed. "Won't do me no good."

"I suppose not."

There was an uncomfortable silence which Walter decided to end.

"It was nice meeting you, goat. But I have to be getting on, you know."

"Sorry," the First Goat said. "You can't exactly do that. I'm here for a reason and it is to protect you from making a rather nasty mistake. You see that bridge over there?" He motioned toward it with a wave of his cloven hoof.

"Well yes, but I don't see how it concerns me," Walter replied.

"I know these hills, sir, and I can assure you that the only way to Heerlen from here is by crossing that bridge, thus entering New Tailand-" (the First Goat said it Tay-land) "-following the groomed dirt path through the city until you pass through to the bus stop, which will promptly take you to your destination. Otherwise, you will be wandering these lovely hills forever, which in my opinion, wouldn't be half bad."

"So I just cross this bridge?" Walter asked.

"Correct."

"I'll be on my way, then." Walter took a step toward it.

"I can't let you do that." The First Goat grazed in front of him.

"Why not?"

The First Goat lent Walter a withering glare, then snatched it back. "Don't give me that tone, sir, I'm doing you a favor here. There's a nasty troll who lives under that bridge who only eats humans, and he'll eat you before you even get a chance to protest."

"So in other words," Walter summed up, "I have to cross this bridge to get to Heerlen… but… you won't let me do that."

"Right."

"Then how do you propose I get to Heerlen?" the salesman asked, trying to keep calm.

"You don't," the goat said simply, bending down to take a bite of grass. This was his way of saying that the conversation was over.

"I think I'll take my chances," Walter said, stepping around the First Goat.

"I'm telling you not to," he answered, his voice gruffer than ever.

"I'm telling you I don't believe a troll lives under that bridge!"

"Suit yourself," the goat snorted. "But when you and your briefcase are in tiny chomped bits of human and cleaner, don't say I didn't warn you."

"I don't think that would be my major concern if that happens," Walter said dryly, making his way toward the bridge.

"Wait."

"Yes?" Walter turned around.

The First Goat shuffled in his fur for a moment before retrieving a little colored pamphlet with his teeth. Walter took it and looked at the cover.

"A Guide to New Thailand," he read.

"Tailand," the goat corrected. "It's got a map and everything. In case you survive." He let out a small bay at that remark that must have been a goat chuckle.

"Well… Thank you," Walter said graciously.

"Good luck," the First Goat snorted after him.

The traveling salesman stuffed the guide into his jacket pocket and carefully stepped over all manner of rocks and brush. He finally stood directly in front of the plain wooden bridge. It looked sturdy enough, arching up in the middle with handrails on either side. He could see from the corner of his eye that the goat was conspicuously watching him between bites. Walter took a deep breath and set one foot onto the bridge.

Nothing happened.

"Silly goat," Walter muttered, taking another step so that he was standing completely on the bridge.

"Psst. Buddy."

Walter shrieked and leapt backwards off the bridge. He could hear the goat baying at him some more, and burned with embarrassment.

"You should eat him over there," Walter said loudly to the new voice, jerking his head in the direction of the First Goat.

"Why's that?" it asked, curious.

"I didn't mean it, I'm just saying. He's so discouraging. I'm trying to cross this bridge without getting eaten, you know. The least he could do is offer some encouragement."

"I'm not gonna eatcha, buddy," the voice said.

"And I'm not going to fall for that," Walter replied.

"Honest."

"You are not."

"All right. But can ya blame me? I haven't eaten in a long time. Humans don't pass by heres often," the voice said pleasantly enough.

"Then why don't you just eat something else?" Walter asked. Silence. "Hello?"

"I never thought about it," the voice said. "I guess it's because that's all me mum served me as a kid. I never eaten anything else."

"Well let me tell you, there are much better things to eat."

"That's what they tells me, but I don't believe 'em," the voice said lightly.

"Why not?"

"'Cos it's usually when I've got 'em in me mouth."

"Oh."

Another pause.

"Well, I'm not in your mouth, and I'm hardly in danger of being so," the salesman pointed out to him. "I have nothing to lose. While you on the other hand, need a meal. I understand your problem. I'm just trying to help."

"Really?"

"Of course. Humans are certainly not very tasty at all. That's why most of us don't eat each other."

The voice giggled. "Now you're pulling me leg, buddy. Are you saying then that some of yas actually eaten each other?"

Walter realized that this troll was taking things into a rather disgusting direction.

"Er, no. No. I'm not saying that," he covered, beads of sweat rolling down his temples. This time it was not because of the sun. "But if they did I'm sure they'd - well, I - what I mean to say is that-"

"Har har!" the voice laughed. "Har har! I like ya, squirt. What's your name there, buddy-o?"

"My name's Walter," he said faintly.

"Walter." The troll tried it out. "Walter. Walter. Well, Walter, why shouldn't I eaten humans?"

Walter sighed with relief. Now here was something he was good at; lying convincingly.

"Come now, haven't you heard?"

"Hoyd what?"

Walter tutted. "Well, of course you wouldn't know. But you should. Humans carry a species-wide disease."

"It don't affect us trolls I bet," the troll said.

"It's called chicken pox," he continued. "Ever heard of that?"

"Chicken pox?" the troll asked. "Sounds like a stew to me."

"Well, you see, it causes humans to turn into chickens. But only really mean and bitter humans."

"Why's that?"

"Because meanness triggers the disease."

"What's a chicken?"

Walter had him! "It's the best thing you will ever eat," he said. "It's a white bird that can't fly."

"Boyd?"

"Yes, but don't be discouraged by the feathers. You can pluck them, and underneath is a small, fat, transformed human, ready to eat.

"Feathers?"

"Are you following, man?" Walter asked in the troll's general direction.

"I think so," he replied. "But how is this kinda human better than the other ones?"

"Because there are oodles more of them and they taste a lot better," Walter snapped, losing his patience. He took a deep breath. "And you would probably like to save your appetite for one instead of getting full on me."

"When will a chicken come by heres?" the troll asked, now completely dependant on Walter's next words.

"I assure you, quite soon," he said coolly. "Now, will you let me cross?"

"I suppose so," the troll said. "Thanks for giving me the tip on chickens, Walter."

"No problem." He calmly stepped back onto the bridge and crossed it easily. The goat began to choke on his cud in disbelief. "See you around," he called, waving back to the empty bridge. Two animated eyes appeared through the darkness underneath the arch and focused merrily on Walter.

"Bye, buddy."

The First Goat huffed and reared his head indignantly. "Lousy human. I can't believe the troll fell for that one." He clopped onto the bridge and kicked it with his front hoof. "Hey, why'd you let that guy pass into New Tailand?"

"That's for me to know," the troll replied quickly, greedy to keep the chicken secret to himself. But he suddenly noticed something that sparked his interest. This goat, who had crossed his bridge on plenty occasions, was white.

The troll's mind went into overtime as the cogs in his brain reeled around to make sense of the situation. His thoughts made a table, as followed:

Chickens / Old Buddy

White / White


Can't Fly / Can't Fly
"Feathers" to Pluck / Weird Long Things That Could be Plucked
Mean and Bitter / Mean and Bitter Among Other Things
Had Been Sure to Come Quite Soon / Had Come

The troll made up his mind. The First Goat must be a chicken.

"Psst. Buddy." The troll assumed his regular position.

"What are you doing?" the goat asked, noticing the shift in the conversation.

"I'm a-gonna getcha!" The troll pounced over the handrail to reveal himself; big, dark greenish, and full of sharp teeth.

The goat froze in terror. "Wait!" he cried. "Don't eat me!"

"Why not?" the troll asked, his eyes returning to their regular animation.

"Because I'm not that good-tasting," he said lamely.

"That's not what Walter said," the troll retorted.

"Damn, I should have known!" the goat snorted under his breath, remembering Walter's seemingly empty threat he made at the beginning of the whole crossing ordeal. "Look," he said to the troll. "I'm just going to go back and get my brother, who's bigger and more delicious than I am, all right?"

"Okay," the troll agreed, though slightly put out. "But he better be quick about it."

"Don't worry, he will," the First Goat bleated over his shoulder as he stalked back into the field. "Good for nothing salesman!" he added curtly. "See if I ever help him again!"

Meanwhile, Walter was making his way down a groomed dirt path, well on his way to New Tailand, through which he hoped his passing would go unnoticed.

He had no idea.