It’s a cold night in the Milky Way. Gathered around Earth are four trolls so enormous that the planet is the size of a bowling ball in comparison.
We can’t see them because they’re composed of matter beyond our comprehension.
Their names aren’t important, but to personalize the story we’ll call them Dweezil, Gog, Magog and Bob. They don’t speak English or have our sense of time and space, so liberties have been taken with the following dialogue.
The trolls have been sitting around the globe for a million years — about a day in troll time — waiting and shivering in the cold vacuum of space.
“I thought you said this was it,” says Bob. “Nothing’s happening.”
“Don’t worry,” says Gog. “It’s written in the Holy Scripture.” He holds up a copy of Camping in the Milky Way.
“Is it nuclear or conventional?” asks Dweezil.
“It’s hard to say,” says Gog. “They have nuclear technology, but they also have 7 billion people burning carbon. One way or the other, it’s going to come soon.”
“Nothing’s happening,” says Magog. “I think we’re at the wrong planet.”
Gog frowns at his brother. He thumbs through the book, clears his throat, and reads: “Planet Earth, 93 million miles from the sun. Conditions are perfect for a species to arise with the intelligence to harness the energy of carbon and uranium. They will begin generating space heat on the 37th of Sirius, Year of the Troll 7864.”
Gog looks at his companions, who probably don’t even know what day it is, and continues: “Like all intelligent life throughout the universe, this species will heat and overpopulate their planet, and within one troll day will either blow themselves up with nuclear weapons or slowly make their planet unlivable through carbon emissions.”
“We know it will happen any minute now,” says Gog, looking down his fat troll nose. “We just don’t know if it will burn hot and fast or warm and slow.”
“Shut up, Gog,” says his brother, Magog, holding his palms toward the orb. “No one cares about your stupid science. We just wanna get warm.”
“Like I was saying…” replies Gog, pointing at the Earth, which begins to cast a faint orange glow. “Do you believe me now?”
“Beautiful!” says Bob. “I knew it would happen!” He rubs his hands together and leans his crooked smile toward the atmosphere.
The trolls fall silent, in rapturous comfort.
“Wouldn’t it be great,” says Dweezil, “if there was a way to make our own heat? Magic sticks we could rub together to make fire?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” says Gog. “If the Sky Troll wanted us to make fire, he wouldn’t have given us the camping guide.”
They fall silent again and eventually, one by one, lie down around the burning globe.
“So where to tomorrow?” asks Bob.
“Andromeda’s not far from here,” says Gog. “There’s plenty of smart planets there.”
“Hey Magog,” says Dweezil, still wide awake. “Did you bring any marshmallows?”
In a greater world beyond the ken of the trolls, a party of elves watches the troll universe, waiting for the inevitable warm glow to emerge. To them, a thousand troll years are but an instant, a million but a day.
Says Lightfoot, a young elf with purple pointed ears and a golden bow, to Dragonblood, their ancient leader: “I’m freezing. Are you sure there’s intelligent life down there?”
Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.