Figboot took slow and ponderous steps.
It was a common trait among giants. Most lived long lives so there was no sense in rushing. And with strides the width of some men’s nations they could traverse a great deal of land in no great hurry. Added to which, a giant’s legs were tremendously heavy things which required a lot of work to lift, even at the steady rate of one at a time. Furthermore, much as the higher air was fresher and cooler it was also thinner and rapid movements grievously shortened his breath. Slow was the only speed he knew.
During his walks, he would often take rest breaks. To stand and marvel at the faster things. Birds darting and swooping about his knees, some daring to soar as high as his waist. Near the shore, he’d crouch and gaze into the water to watch the tiny fish nipping about. It was a miracle his eyes could catch them. They were too quick for his fingers.
As far as actual catching went, such creatures mostly trapped themselves – fish between his toes as he paddled and birds freely roosting and foraging in his boots when he’d stood still a while and flapping frantically away when he resumed his stroll. He often wondered if there were smaller animals in the world, too fast for the eye to see. He wondered what they might look like.
He might have asked other giants about such things. Other giants were shorter and of slighter build than him and so it made a kind of theoretical sense that they would have a closer acquaintance with smaller things. But Figboot had never had the opportunity to discuss matters small or large with other giants. In all his travels, they had always avoided him. Precisely because, Figboot suspected, they were shorter and slighter.
He didn’t know if he would call them giants, but for the fact that the few men he’d had chance to talk to assured him that, yes, they were indeed giants.
There were Forest and Steppe and Desert and Polar giants. There were giants for all terrains and climates the world had to offer, but some would fit in the palm of Figboot’s hand. If they didn’t run and hide whenever he saw one and waved one of his hands. Monolith giants would duck inside volcanoes and risk being red hot and misshapen rather than linger to greet him. Even Tectonic giants, those who closest approached Figboot in size, would not approach him in any other way. They would turn and lumber into the ocean and sink out of sight until sure he had passed by.
In Figboot’s vast experience, the smaller things were, the faster they moved. The bigger they were, the lonelier. Men gathered in towns. Elephants moved in herds. He had flicked one once with his finger, far from its family, but it had found its way back to them across the sea of grass. Other giants met sometimes in twos and threes, threes and fours. Figboots wandered the world in ones. In fact, a singular one.
Some days, Figboot felt sorrier than ever that he had slain the tortoise. The tortoise had been so large as to be thoroughly alone, just like him. They should have been company for one another.
An eagle flew past his chin.
Ah, eagles. So tiny and yet such magnificent birds, the only creatures to reach as high as him. Only company for a matter of moments, but Figboot appreciated them all the same.
He blinked and looked about him. How long had he been standing here, thinking? He didn’t know, since one of the many things he hadn’t been thinking about was the time.
He raised his right foot.
A flurry of motion burst from his boot.
Planting his foot back on the ground, he peered at it. It was so far away, but he fancied he saw a cloud of grey dust scattering down there, all around his boot. He bent over, peering intently at the tangle of trees. Over and around the toes the bark showed definite signs of wear. Extensive gnawing. Squirrels, he realised. A common menace to footwear.
He really had been standing here a while.
He searched his surroundings. And spied a close-knit shawl of trees on the shoulders of some hills perhaps three strides east. Figs too! His favourite kind. The wood was supple and malleable and the sap had a sweet odour, perfect for combating the occasional case of smelly feet. Time to attend to some basic shoe repairs.
He turned for the hills.
Home could wait. It wasn’t as though there was anyone waiting for him.
Siggy stood in a quandary.
The giant’s footfalls had fallen silent. Twenty, maybe even thirty minutes passed – and about a hundred times that many thoughts. A lot of them were the same, whizzing around his head in circles, and the majority came to nothing.
He thought of diving into the pile of bright bulbs, but didn’t trust them not to bury him. And who knew what magic energies they contained. Even assuming it wasn’t starlight within, there was no telling what harm it might do if, say, one of the onions, not to mix his vegetable metaphors, sprang a leak. Besides, what would he achieve by concealing himself?
Safety, maybe. But his mission here was to establish dialogue with the giant and he could hardly get up a conversation by secreting himself in the midst of the giant’s treasure.
Siggy walked as far as the cavern entrance and, lingering under its shadow, he looked outside.
There was Figboot, several miles away to the east. A towering towering figure making the low hills look like nothing greater than cobblestones, even as he was kneeling like a fellow, calm as you like, tying his shoe laces. Except the giant appeared to be stripping the hills of their trees. Plucking them up, one by one, between finger and thumb. Then applying them in some fashion to his boot.
Siggy peered as hard as he could but couldn’t make out the details of the giant’s operations even through the narrowest of squints.
Then he thought: if it’s a trouble for me to make out what he’s up to, well, consider what hardship he’ll have seeing you, Siggy. Casting back to when the giant had crawled from his cavern and loomed right there in the air above him, Siggy remembered feeling helpless, shaking under his net like a frightened boy besieged by bedtime shadows, but the giant had paid him the same notice as the surrounding blades of grass.
Hiding was not the problem.
His challenge was going to be attracting the giant’s attention.
Figboot plucked up those trees like Siggy might pluck at his nose hairs. Siggy was no more than an insect to Figboot. Insects generally only attracted Siggy’s attention by crawling across his skin or, for example, ganging together to make anthills in his garden.
He stabbed his garden fork in the ground and leaned on it, thinking deep and hard.
An idea lit up in his head like one of those enormous magic onion bulbs.
He rushed out to the ground in front of the cavern entrance and started to dig.
[To Be Continued…]