Figboot waited quite a while for any answer from the man in his ear.
When it came it was like an explosion.
A deafening, ear-splitting POP! Not unlike, he supposed, how the first crack of thunder must sound to a tiny creature like a man. A warm downpour burst forth in his ear, adding to the illusion of a storm in his head. Pain – furious, raging pain – spread like fire through his brain and put paid to any more supposing or imagining.
Figboot tried to lift his arm to cup a hand over the wounded ear. But he never made it that far.
His hand dropped to the ground and the rest of his body toppled to one side.
Then, after a long lifetime of doing everything slowly, he did one last thing with surprising suddenness.
Siggy floundered in a lake of blood. At the bottom of a deep cave.
Thinning daylight taunted him from high above, hazy rays finding their way down through a distant ceiling of thick, matted hairs.
He’d won. He’d slain the giant. With victory so recent, it was a wonder just how far away freedom seemed. The blood around him was viscous as red treacle, he barely had to paddle to stay afloat. But the walls of the ear were smooth and rounded and looked well beyond his ability to climb.
All in all, his situation could have been worse.
Figboot could have keeled over in the other direction, slamming this ear to the ground and drowning Siggy under a cascade of blood. And even if by some miracle he survived that horrible fate, well, he’d have been as securely trapped as a spider under a teacup. With the full weight of a giant’s head and a giant’s brain above him instead of a glimpse of sky.
Light, hairy and hazy as it was, offered some hope.
Siggy swam. Applying his best crawl, he ploughed through the syrupy gore. If he got himself out of this, he’d need to bath for a full week. And he’d have to fork out on a new fork for Mr Tarwick, since the gardening implement had sunk without trace somewhere below him. Lodged, presumably, somewhere in the depths of the giant’s skull. Maybe on a bed of brain.
As his arms pulled and his legs kicked, Siggy’s stomach turned.
Whether he was disgusted with his situation or more with himself, he couldn’t say. He was no killer. Killing was another thing for other men besides him. But he’d had to do it. He’d had to. Stabbing those rusty prongs through a giant’s ear drum had been no easy thing, but once he’d pierced that wall all hell broke loose. The world had fallen over, placing hell on top. And now here he was swimming in it.
He touched the edge and hauled himself out. He dripped blood everywhere but as it happened everywhere was already red and wet and very slippery. He picked his way to the nearest wall, lifting his feet high and placing them down carefully – not unlike he’d seen the giant do.
The insides of an ear might be rounded but up close and this large they were not so smooth as you’d think. The skin was ridged and uneven and the hairs that on Siggy’s scale would have been fine were thick as tree-stumps when magnified to Figboot size. The ascent was going to be long and hard work but not nearly so impossible as he’d imagined.
About halfway up it started to get a tad easier as he began to turn tacky. Then he decided he ought to get a shift on in case the drying blood glued him in place.
Finally, eventually, Siggy stood out in the open air with the triumphant exhausted feeling of a man who’d conquered a mountain. He was still the width of a giant’s head above safe ground, of course, but he was confident the descent could not be as difficult as the climb out of the ear. There wasn’t much of a view from up here as he was lost in a forest of bristles. But heads being what shape they were he knew he could pretty much walk in any direction and soon find himself headed (no joke intended) down towards terra firma.
First of all he sat a while, his back propped up against one of the bristles. Catching his breath and recovering what he could of his energies.
But the longer he sat, the more he thought about how he was sitting on the side of a giant’s head. A dead giant. A giant that he’d done for.
In years to come, thousands of years maybe, earth would build up over Figboot’s bones and legends – or myths or fables – would probably tell of how Figboot ridge, there on one side of Tortoise Mountain, had once been a giant, the giantest of all giants.
Siggy dragged himself upright to begin the long walk homeward. The thought of his pasty and that cider waiting for him back at his boat spurred him on. Least ways, he hoped his packed lunch was still there, because he had every intention of scoffing and guzzling the lot before rowing back to town.
Most of all, he hoped that when folks told the legend they’d leave his name out of it.
Legends – and myths and fables – did tell of Sigfred’s heroic duel against the giant Figboot.
They told how the slain giant became Figboot Ridge.
They told how Sigfred returned home to a hero’s welcome and how he easily paid for a new garden fork out of his reward. They told, in many instances, of how he became a wealthy man who nevertheless stayed in his modest cottage in Heel district. Not quite as wealthy as Burgermeister Chaffinch, mind you, who lived more lavishly than ever up in Big Toe, rebuilding the Town Hall and adding numerous extensions to his already spacious home, obliging several neighbours to move to smaller Toe districts.
They told how Burgermeister Chaffinch, on hearing Sigfred’s tale, sent carts and wagons by the dozen to collect those mysterious bulbs from the giant’s lair and commissioned the town’s wisest scholars to devise some means of tapping the energies contained within.
They told how that was the way in which men first discovered how to harness the power of electricity. Which many said was almost as good as magic really.
They told how that was how the expression ‘too big for your boots’ came to be. For if Figboot had only been as giant as other giants people might not have colonised his footprint and there might not have been half so much trouble. But creatures of differing sizes were forever finding it difficult to live side by side in peace.
What they hardly ever mentioned, but Siggy was apt to remind townfolk for all his years of long life afterwards, was how every time there was a flood, an earthquake, a fire or disaster of some other nature the aftermath was always more difficult for a great many to handle with no one like Figboot around to blame.