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Giant Killers

          His name was Walt, but he much preferred Dad, also Daddy, when there was way too much fun to be had. Had with his two little boys, James and Terry, ages six and seven, more or less. Every afternoon he was their giant, also mountain, also dragon, also cloud of delicious tickle.

          “I…can’t…stop…tickling!” he cried, and his sons died in laughter.  

          He came from a long line of giants, his father, his grandfather, big men who filled a room, big men in control of things, although they didn't necessarily want to be. Big men who remembered they had once been little boys, but were not too sure of all the details. Little boys who had swollen with time and ripened into giants, and who no longer knew how to fit the tiny spaces they'd once been crammed into.

          There was a great deal of responsibility in being a giant. Little people were everywhere, crawling over your shoes, getting into spaces you hadn't even noticed were there, chattering away in their secret languages, singing of their tiny joys. A distracted little person might easily be crushed because of one misstep.

          The giant Walt loved the little people in his house. In fact he had no words gigantic enough to express the size of his adoration. He was prouder of their small accomplishments than of the largest things he had ever done. At the same time they made him feel lonely in his isolated mental room high in the clouds. They had magically given uncertainty a physical form. They held it mysteriously in their fragile little bodies and in the regular but unpredictable pace of their hearts. He hated that they were so delicate, so ephemeral. Like fairies. Like dreams. Their impermanence horrified.

          Now and then during the long afternoons of play he became almost convinced they were imaginary creatures, the results of some enchantment, some befuddlement of the senses. If he could only turn around quickly enough he might witness their transparency, their wings, their horns. But a giant's body is a slow, deliberate thing, hobbled by syrupy circulation and glacial reaction. So sometimes, to test their reality, he was too rough with them, hoping to shake them free of spell and charm. He always felt terrible afterward, and they always giggled.

          When they climbed across his gigantic shoulders or balanced on his enormous knees, he had to restrain his movements in case one might fall. Some days his fears for their safety kept him locked behind the great door to his room, silent and frozen even as they wailed and beat dramatically on the other side.

          "Come out and play with us!" they cried. "We're so bored!" they insisted. All he could manage in response was some helpless growl.

          But these minions, these Lilliputians, were not to be dissuaded. These little people were insane—he supposed it was their smallness that made them so. They maintained that chatter and dance until bed and after. Their lives were so much bigger than they could contain, and they did not know what to do with themselves.

          Unable to tolerate their high-pitched whining, he would periodically leave his bed and settle on the rug in the great hall, holding himself still as they climbed and hung from his neck and arms. They screamed gleefully as they beat on his massive chest and head. Sometimes he snarled, but only because they wanted him to. Most of the time he simply sat there, measuring out his patience.

          Then in a moment of feigned mania he threw off his children, laid them side by side on the battered floor and hovering over them shouted "I'm going to eat you! I'm going to eat you!" over and over again, putting his lips to their necks, their arms, their bellies, pausing to breathe in their dusty little-boy smells, before opening his mouth and carefully pretending to bite.

          They screamed, horrified, and laughed until they made themselves dizzy.

          They were clever, these boys, and always got him back: a box of trash tipped from the top of a door, a rug full of marbles, jacks, and tiny, slippery cars. He fell more than once, he fell more than twice, and yet all he could think was how reassuring it was, because this is the way you survive in a world full of giants.

          Today he's a mountain they can climb. He crouches to make it easier. The first one to the top plants a flag behind his ear. He knows he is every impossible job they will ever have, every unreasonable boss. He is the hole that opens in the road, the dark cavern that has no ending, the terrible disappointment at the end of the day.

          He knows that sometimes it is the giant in him that makes them feel so out of control. If they go too far he grabs and bear hugs the madness out of them. His enormous sad eyes see everything. He glares down at their pale, translucent faces from his so-different weather.

          This morning he is their origin and their desire. This afternoon he is the seemingly unyielding shape of their destiny. At evening he is their demise.

          Out of his body came what they are, and yet to kill him would make them successful beyond their wildest dreams. Of course they should outlast him—giants are too big for their own good. In the final analysis, he is a dysfunction of disproportion.

          When sleep finally comes the giant-killers dream of the giant who lives in these mountains. They can see his legs and arms sprawled into ridges, his enormous head in that peculiar stand of trees. In his sleep and theirs they are safe to live another night inside him. But they all know that other day will come. They pack their bags with crackers and Kool-Aid for the journey. He washes himself until every thread of dead skin has vanished into the drain. They gather their bats and rackets, sharpen the tiny nails at the ends of their skinny fingers. He sits quietly on his great landscape of rug, patiently awaiting the arrival of his beautiful sons.









Steve Rasnic Tem is a past winner of the World Fantasy, British Fantasy, & Bram Stoker awards. His recent stories have appeared in such venues as Asimov's, Postscripts, and Black Static, and in the anthologies Werewolves and Shape Shifters and Visitants. A collection of all his story collaborations with wife Melanie Tem, In Concert, recently appeared from Centipede Press. Speaking Volumes (www.speakingvolumes.us) has brought out his audio collection Invisible, and his first two novels have been re-released as ebooks from crossroadpress.com. For more information, visit: www.m-s-tem.com.


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