Siggy collapsed on hands and knees. The garden fork rested under one palm. By some miracle he’d managed to hold onto it and even got in a few prods at the giant’s finger although apparently none had made an impression. Not on the rough-ridged skin nor any deeper neither.
The same could not be said of the giant’s tweezer-grip on Siggy.
He lifted a hand to feel his crushed sides. If he’d suffered from any butterflies in the stomach they would’ve all flown free from his busted ribcage. Actually, no bones seemed broken but he wheezed and gasped as though they’d shrunk, squeezing around his lungs and other vitals. His skin flinched at the lightest of his touches as if it had been replaced with a single enormous bruise. To make matters worse, his heart was thumping rapidly against his skin from the inside and his breaths were stampeding out of him.
Siggy forcibly reined them in, until he could suck in one long gulp of air then blow it out nice and slow. Then once, twice more for luck.
With slightly steadied nerves, he lifted himself to a somewhat wobbly stand. Like he was on a rocky boat, but the ground was firm and stable, if unusually pink. He blamed the wobble on a pair of weakened knees and traumatised leg muscles.
Picking up his garden fork for a small measure of security and a prop in case he should need it, he searched his surroundings.
He was in a ruddy great cave. Not of such daunting proportions as the Tortoise Mountain cavern, but still capacious as a cathedral. (He supposed, if the legends were true, the Tortoise Mountain cavern ought to be termed carapacious, but that was a thought for another day, in the even that he survived this ordeal.) Unlike any cathedral he’d visited, the floor formed an uneven sort of bowl and the walls and ceiling curved high with a similar disregard for architecture or straight lines. There were no columns nor decorative stained-glass windows, only large lumpy deposits of some ore and a not too holy light spilling in through tufts of fuzzy brown fronds.
Which he guessed were hairs. And the ore…
Well, the deposits were a golden brown, but it was an ugly mucky gold. Put him in mind of ginger cake turned to mush with the addition of too much treacle or gravy. He kicked at the nearest pile and his toes discovered the mush to be a great deal harder than it looked. Crusty and stale, it seemed, and a crumb like a sizable rock crumbled away and rolled past him.
By way of an experiment, Siggy dug a little finger in his left ear and brought it out again for close study. Sure enough, a miniature version of the rock, albeit softer and waxier, had adhered to his fingertip.
Siggy had heard the expression ‘a flea in the ear’. That, he realised, was pretty much what he was to Figboot.
Men talked funny. They squeaked, unintelligibly.
Figboot could only guess at how he must sound to them. Like a thunderstorm or a hurricane blasting at their feeble little skulls, he imagined.
And yet, they had come to him in times past, sent representatives to speak with him. The first few occasions, he really hadn’t known what the tiny creatures wanted or what to do with them. When he’d noticed the first one waving, he’d dipped his ear low over the ground to try to make out any words but it had only been a shrill and seemingly endless series of squeaks like a hungry gull chick pestering its parents for food. Figboot understood men ate cattle so had reached over to the next valley and proffered the man a cow, but he’d only turned and run. Others had done likewise as soon as he lowered his head towards them.
It was a conundrum.
Until that last time, one of those slow giant thoughts had completed a circuit of his brain and he’d had the notion to relocate the visitor inside one of his ears.
He’d had the idea one day when talking to himself inside his head. Being alone so much, he did that rather a lot. It seemed to him if he spoke under his breath, the words travelled up his jaw to resound in his ears. So if a man happened to be in one of them at the time, well, he ought to be able to communicate to the creature. And in return, if he could encourage the man to speak reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaalllyyyyy slooooooooooooowwwwwly he might be able to make sense of their insistent squeaks.
And it had worked.
It had taken a long while to get the man to speak sloooooooooooooooooooooow enough and Figboot had found himself having to mutter really fast but they had managed to get through to each other. The man’s voice, even slowed, was still an uncomfortable shriek in his ear but it turned out that he had come to express a series of complaints and in spite of it all Figboot enjoyed his first proper experience of conversing with another living thing.
Through their dialogue, he learned that he had caused a flood in a nearby town and that news had not been quite so wonderful. Figboot expressed his apologies and promised to do his paddling further along the shore in future. The man, although not sounding overly happy, seemed to accept this offer and that had been that.
Figboot had poked a finger in his ear in order to help the man out but he had cried urgent objections and insisted that he would find his own way out. Figboot had shrugged and left the man to his own devices. Presumably he had climbed out and returned to his town as Figboot laid his head down to sleep, because Figboot heard no more from him.
And now another tiny man had come calling. Needing his help.
Figboot hoped there hadn’t been another flood or some other disaster.
Siggy stood still.
If he was a flea in Figboot’s ear, the last thing he wanted to do was give the giant an itch he’d feel the need to scratch. He surveyed his environs again, thinking on possible ways out. It being an ear, only one obvious opening presented itself.
What did giants want with sticking innocent fellows in their ears anyway?
Was that how they set to clearing out their wax? Forced labour?
Siggy examined the nearby gold-brown deposit, unhappy at the prospect of having to shift that lot. He gave it another kick and more oversized crumbs tumbled from the pile.
One of the smaller chunks settled upright and stared up at him.
Siggy stared back.
The thing was caked with wax but even so it was too round and smooth on top to be a lump of the stuff. Moreover it had a pair of dark, hollow eyes and a row of teeth that hadn’t been brushed in a long while.
It wasn’t saying much, but it was telling him all he needed to know about his likely future here in Figboot’s ear.
[To Be Continued…]