Attached to a head which rolled like a boulder. Although all the nights Siggy had been out fishing he had never seen the Moon as big as this boulder. Of course, he had never seen the Moon up so close and personal, so it could well be larger – but less liable to roll unexpectedly when you accidentally brushed its hair.
The giant’s snores broke apart in snuffles, as though he had a thousand pigs up his nose, snorting away on his behalf. Then they sputtered to a stop and there came a groan like the world creaking open. Tortoise Mountain trembled. Not as much as Siggy but with a deal more noise.
An enormous shape like a spider crawled through the forest of hairs. A spider about the size of Siggy’s hometown, it seemed, limbs big as rows of houses. Three fewer legs than most spiders, but the deficiency failed to elicit Siggy’s sympathy for the creature. Clambering around the giant’s head, it squatted briefly, flattening the branches where Siggy had made contact. Siggy couldn’t have made any more impression than a flea would have made on his own normal-sized head, but the giant had felt the touch all the same.
Siggy backed a pace towards the opening, not keen to be squashed by a giant hand.
Thinking: perhaps he ought to return when the giant was awake. He knew he could be grumpy himself if he suffered from a disturbed sleep. He retreated another pace or two, putting back more of the footsteps he’d stolen in earlier.
Slowly. Stealthily. Patience battling fear and having a hard time of it.
The giant’s head rolled further, crashing to one side.
Figboot exhaled all the air he’d sucked in with the yawn.
It churned like a hurricane inside the cavern.
Baking winds blasted into Siggy and ripped his feet from the ground. Expelled him from the cave as easily as the giant expelled breath from his lungs.
Siggy slammed into the earth several stonesthrows from the cavern entrance. The marshy grasslands soaked up some of the impact, but he still felt like he’d been struck in the pit of his back with a tombstone.
He decided to sleep the pain off a little while. So he laid his head back and pulled his net up over him as a very poor blanket.
Figboot yawned. And stretched.
And bashed his elbows against the walls of his home. He always forgot, when waking up, what a squeeze it was in this tortoiseshell hovel.
He had slain the monster many many sleeps ago and still felt bad about it some mornings. It would have been disrespectful not to put its shell to worthwhile use. Figboot did everything he could to forget the rest of that story, even hummed rambling songs to himself to drown out the thoughts. But they kept coming back.
How he had envied the Tortoise his beautiful shell the first few hundred times he’d seen it. How smug the Tortoise had seemed when he poked his head tentatively out to peer at Figboot – especially during really heavy deluges. How he had wandered the world in search of shelter and found none better. Indeed, wandering the world took so little time he did it several times over to make sure. How he had waited for the Tortoise to die of old age. How the Tortoise continued to roam, stripping forests bare and chomping lazily on the choicest jungles, quite at peace with the notion of living forever. How, one day, Figboot woke in a particularly bitter winter, a glacier creeping over his blueing shoulder, and how he had poked a finger inside the Tortoise’s shell, not overly sure why. Perhaps meaning to warm one extremity at a time. How the vicious creature bit him. How, after they were through wrestling and the monster was dead, he wondered if he had poked his finger in there with the intention of provoking the fight. How guilt had preyed on him before he slipped into his doze.
How he had slept soundly for that long long winter even so because the shell trapped his body heat better than it did guilt. He slept well ever since, untroubled by dreams, and the memories only ever bothered him when he was awake.
He scratched his head again where the small animal had crawled through his hair. Probably a mountain goat or lion. He tried to probe gently just in case but it appeared to have found its way out. Well, that was something. Half-dreaming, he had swatted at the bothersome intruder and might easily have killed it. He didn’t like to kill anything, not since the Tortoise.
He closed his eyes and told himself to go back to sleep. But no, his thoughts quarreled with that suggestion.
Now he was going to have to get up and go outside just to complete his stretch. He didn’t like to leave things unfinished.
Groaning, he rolled himself over and hauled himself out of the shell. He had to squash his shoulders up tight to push himself through the entrance but eventually he was out on his hands and knees. He turned around and reached inside for his boots, sat and pulled them on. Then he was ready to stand.
It was a cloudless sky, except for a moody patch perhaps ten or eleven strides out across the water. He arched his back and stretched his arms out wide wide wide. The air at nose height was always fresh and cool and totally unlike the thick stuff close to the dirt that always made him so drowsy.
Then he set off for a walk, keen to properly work the creaks out of his bones.
He looked at the ground a lot because, being as giant as he was, it wasn’t every day he could see the world at his feet.
Siggy lay perfectly still. Or as still as the earthquakes allowed.
The giant’s left boot – a crude wickerwork item of footwear, it seemed, fashioned from interwoven trees – had missed him by a hair’s width. Thankfully, a giant’s hair’s width but still not nearly far enough from Siggy’s body to make him feel safe. The right missed him by a much greater margin but that didn’t help. He didn’t think he would feel safe until the giant had disappeared over the horizon. If he ever did.
He should have known. He should have realised.
A vivid imagination was one thing, but he strongly suspected that calculating a giant’s size involved mathematics and such dark arts did not feature among Siggy’s strong points. All of which had deserted him, in any case, for the time being.
You say the word ‘giant’ and it conjures an image of a very large man. Towering. Tall as a fortress, maybe. Tall enough, certainly, that the idea of venturing out to face one with net and garden fork in hand might cause stout hearts to murmur nervously.
Siggy stared down at his own boot, trying to see through the leather. Trying to picture his big toe. Trying to build a town hall and several large houses in the space of an imaginary imprint in the sand. Yes, he really should have been more prepared for what to expect. And now that he’d seen Figboot, he really ought to start working on believing it.
Siggy scraped himself off the ground, shaking. He gathered up his net and garden fork and ran for the only place he thought he might be safe from being stepped on. At least until the giant returned home.
Siggy raced into the Tortoise Mountain cavern.
He stumbled. Staggered to a halt. Blinked and shielded his eyes, admittedly fairly poorly, with the net.
Now that the giant was absent, it was much brighter inside.
A quality you didn’t tend to expect from caverns under mountains.
[To Be Continued…]