Was his audience sitting comfortably?
Figboot felt only an absence of movement in his ear so wondered if he should begin. It was very important to begin right. The last man he had spoken to in this manner had panicked – and if his voice did sound like a thunderstorm, Figboot supposed a measure of dread was to be expected. Thunderstorms were a nuisance and to such tiny creatures as men he could imagine they were fearsome entities. But the man had dashed about in such a frenzy, he’d managed to make Figboot dizzy, much the same way flapping birds did when they accidentally flew into his ear and found themselves trapped. And they were very difficult to extraxt without breaking their necks or wings. Small creatures were made of such flimsy parts. Had he made the world, he might have created small things strong and large things weaker, to even everything out. Then he may not have slain the Tortoise. Although the Tortoise would have been weaker than him.
Figboot sighed. There was no easy way to win in this world and he supposed it was just as well things remained as they stood. That aside, he reasoned he had best not remain standing, just in case the man currently in his ear got himself in a flap.
Slowly, he rearranged himself on the ground and sat. Laid his legs straight out in front of him and leaned his back against his home. The Tortoise’s shell had amassed a covering of rock and earth over the ages and it made for a great support when Figboot was in the mood for sitting up outside.
There. Now he was sitting comfortably at least, so he could begin.
He strived to remember how fast and high he had pitched his murmurs to communicate to that last man who’d visited, wanting to get it right first time on this occasion. And he mulled over the best words to set this latest visitor at ease.
He cleared his throat, then muttered the friendliest of greetings under his breath:
“Do make yourself at home.”
Siggy averted his eyes from the skull. His skin crawled with the idea that the hollow gaze of those sockets might follow him around the chamber.
He guessed the skull’s owner had ended up buried. In what he could only call a waxslide. Siggy hadn’t spied a shovel or other digging implement anywhere so perhaps the doomed chap had been forced to excavate with his hands. That must have made for a singularly unpleasant final few hours or days before his singularly unpleasant demise.
If it came to it, at least Siggy had his garden fork.
The substance, he supposed, must come loose readily enough without too much toil – otherwise how would it slide and bury a fellow? – but there was such a quantity of it all over this ear. And then what? Would the giant just transfer him to the other one?
Siggy did not fancy being crushed between the giant’s finger and thumb for the purpose of that transfer. Just to resume his labours all over again. Left ear, then right. Left, right. Left, right. Too much like being in the army and Siggy was no soldier.
What other options did he have?
The chamber rumbled and shook. Giant horses with boulders for hooves galloped up from the world’s darkest depths.
He could probably push his way through the dense growth lining the entrance, but movement through those thick hairs might tickle and then Figboot’s finger would likely come in to deal with the minor irritation. At best, shutting off his escape. At worst, squishing him. And even if he side-stepped that hazard, what then?
The throaty tremors seemed to form a word, crashing in on Siggy like some mighty iron avalanche:
Siggy clapped a hand over his ear. Without letting go of the fork, his other ear was left defenceless. The sound got in and rattled his brain around inside his head.
Far as he knew, the giant was still kneeling but that still placed Figboot’s ears at a height bound to do for Siggy in the event of a single slip. Sure, he might find a climb down through the beard safe enough, but after that? Would a giant’s chest hairs provide sufficient foot and hand holds? Siggy’s schooling was limited and he didn’t know of any education that included such details.
Siggy reeled as the ‘ground’ trembled some more and some hellish drum beat out another syllable:
People like us, his dear old Mar, rest her soul, used to say, don’t have many options, living down here at Heel. We have to make our own out of what we got.
These were the only things he could expect if he stayed here and weathered this dread thunder.
Abandoning his ear to fend for itself, he grasped the fork in both hands.
He scrambled up the deposit of hardened wax and staggered deeper into the chamber.
The ‘words’ no longer made any sense. But the noise fell on Siggy’s thoughts like lead rain as the chamber shook itself apart.
Wax crumbled, throwing Siggy off-balance.
He had to make it stop.
Home. Precisely where Siggy wanted to be right now. Now the quakes were playing tricks on him, toying with his fears.
He was no warrior. But he had to make one out of what he had.
He had to make one of himself.
He had to slay the giant.
[To Be Concluded…]