Aroused An original short story by mfptkd.
Sit in the circle of my arms.
Close your eyes.
Feel the softness of a touch on your temple,
fingers in your hair,
freeing the tangles of today.
Listen to the whisper in your ear.
It tells a tale of long ago;
of storms and spring,
of responsibility and fault,
of conflict and clashes,
of love and loss,
of equally heartfelt suffering and joy,
of reckless magic and wondrous enchantments,
of witches and giants,
and of waking up from an excessively long nap.
She tells herself that it is the rain, constant and cold, keeping her confined in a small cottage, way off the road, as removed from the neighborhoods as it can be, without encroaching on the boundaries of the next town. Late afternoon, she is just getting up, but defends the hour as immaterial. Alone, she can structure her day however she likes, but since arriving her calendar has mostly been filled with sleep. Still tired but unable to rest, she examines the covers of her books. Considers watering the plants or tidying the only used room. Pours a cup of coffee, wraps herself in an old thinning quilt and sits down to write. Nothing forthcoming. Gets back up. Catches herself pacing and wanders to a window, but can only see the soft silhouette of a colossal tree, shadowing the same spot since before time was counted.
The winds shift the relentless downpour into a frenzy of atmospheric drama, with earth shaking booms and sharp explosions of light. She jumps at each flash and admonishes herself for being a girl.
“It’s only the rain,” She explains out loud to no one.
“And now I’m talking to myself.”
Cold, she busies herself with the fireplace until there is a warming blaze, and then looks through the cupboards, although knowing she will not find what she is looking for.
“Marshmallows. Why did I not bring any marshmallows?”
There is a loud crack of lightening and the power goes out. The lack of electricity doesn’t phase her as she prefers to write long-hand. Taking a notebook, she sits in front of the fire to work, but the words still won’t come and soon she is drifting off.
An earsplitting strike has her instinctively up and at the window before she is truly awake. Peering through the water streaked panes, she watches as the next hit splits open the neighboring tree. She blinks. Rubs her eyes and wipes the fog from the glass. Squints to be sure of what she sees. Huddled in the open trunk is the figure of a man.
Sliding on shoes and grabbing a jacket, she runs out the front door. The rain momentarily pounds her back inside. She drapes the coat over her head, creating a makeshift umbrella. Pushing through the gale, she reaches his side. He has fallen face forward in mud, still wound tightly in a ball. Putting her hand on his shoulder, she realizes she may not be able to move him unassisted. He is enormous. As a clap of white light illuminates the gray, he gasps in a huge breath, comes up to his knees and then stands, flinging open his arms and stretching out his legs. She jumps back, startled and astounded. He is more than double her sixty seven inches.
“Giant,” she whispers.
But she has not moved back far enough. At the sound of her voice, he turns, outstretching his long arm, grabbing her by the throat and lifting her to her tiptoes.
“Witch,” he demands. “Where is the hag?”
“I don’t…” she chokes, “I’m not a witch.”
He lets go, not for what she says, but because he has caught sight of the tree which encased him. He looks up, defying the rain, trying to see how high the branches go.
“It’s been too long. No one found me,” he lets out a sad laugh. “No one even looked.”
And then, despite his size and apparent strength, like a building on a faulty foundation, he collapses at her feet.
He is unforgiving, wielding the sword as if it is simply an extension of his arm. He can not hear the explanations, the words and warnings. Allows only for vengeance, seeking out the worst offender. Until it is done, nothing else gets through; not his wife or his fold, certainly not the boy’s mother whose entreaties fall on deaf ears. But the youth’s death does not end the tragedy, for now he must too be avenged. Prejudices reinforce. Blame intensifies. The killing goes back and forth, creating it’s own justifications, until there is war.
And then there is only loss.
The giant stands on the edge of the battlefield, fueled by anger, still wanting to punish, somehow excise his hurt, but unsure now of how it came to this, what brought him here and where he is supposed to go next. He turns instinctively towards home and finds an old woman standing in his path. It is the boy’s mother. Sorrow and strife, aging her disproportionate to time, she is haggard and broken.
“Do you see what you have done?” She asks looking out over the ruined encampment.
“This is not my doing. He killed my son. My actions were just.”
“He was wrong, reckless but still an infant.”
“They mocked and tortured him because he was different. Because he was a giant.”
” He didn’t understand…”
“No.” Answers the giant, her words and presence recalling his pain. “There will never be an understanding. Slay me here if you can for I will never grow tired of fighting,” he pushes past her frail form.
“I’ve tried to warn you. Help you see reason. Somehow make you listen. You are the same as them now. Stop and begin again. But since you refuse, I will stop you myself.” With great effort she scoops the air around her, reaching to the earth, pulling from the heavens and fashions a ball with her hands.
“Witch,” the giant mutters. “I don’t believe in your magic.”
She hurls it at him with a curse. “Sleep!”
The giant, scoffing, turns away.
“Sleep!” The witch follows him. “For a millennium or more, until the gods deign to wake you! And remember if you ever arise, there will be little time for redemption, for the years will catch you in a hurry. Sleep!” She casts out again.
He stumbles forward at her final thrust. The word echoes in his head as he follows the path. Sleep.
“Nonsense.” He tells himself. “Crazy old hag.” But with each step, his eyelids grow heavier, movement weighted, progress slower, until he is not moving at all.
He rouses from dreams, reaching for his sword, bolting upright and hits his head on the ceiling, two feet too low for his height. Swinging around, his arm catches the vases and candle holders on the mantel. They shatter as they hit the floor. Backing up, he bangs the ceiling fan which pulls from its screws and is left dangling by wires.
“Stop moving!” She yells but holds her hands out, open and calming. “Please. You can go, if you like, but if you want to wait out the storm, sit.”
“How did I get here?”
“Here – inside of a tree – I have not the foggiest. But here inside, I dragged you. I couldn’t…It didn’t feel right to leave you outside.” She explains.
“You?! You dragged me?”
“Well, it took an hour and forty nine minutes.”
He examines her face closely, attempting to discern the truth. She meets his gaze, summoning all the bravado she can muster. The giant sits and she exhales.
“Witch,” he intones. “Thank you. I ask the further boon of information…and a drink, if there are any spirits to be had.”
“Again, not a witch and you’ll have to make do with water.” She crosses cautiously to the cupboard, looks a moment at the glasses and decides to give him the entire pitcher.
“If you are not a witch, why are you alone here? Where is your protector? What is to stop me from killing you where you stand?”
Turning off the water and she bites her lower lip, considering. “Right, that’s a good point,” she mutters. “You’re very sharp for a mythical figure. I don’t generally broadcast my witchness to guests. Most do not approve.”
“Ah, I understand,” he answers. “As I am in your debt, I will have no quarrel with you, Witch,” he looks outside. “I imagine the wars have long ended.”
“Yes,” she states. “No wars going on anywhere in the vicinity.”
“You may point me then, in the direction of my people. I will trust them with my history.”
“Oh, your family. I’m so sorry,” she says concerned.
“No,” he waves away her pity. “They perished before the war. I understand I have been asleep a long time. But my people..?”
“Do you mean giants?” She asks.
“I’m still sorry. If you had asked me before today, I would have told you that giants were pretend, imaginary.”
He looks long into the fire. “The hag was right. I thought if I could tell them my tale, but there will be no redemption now.”
“Did you deserve it?” She cuts straight to the heart.
“Yes,” he responds simply.
“Was she really a hag?” She asks with a small grin.
He laughs out loud, surprised. “Witch, I am more in your debt with each passing moment. I thought never to laugh again. And no, she was not. Merely a sad woman, who lost her son.”
“A powerful sad woman,” she adds.
“Yes,” he answers. “I was warned. I did not believe.”
“Giant,” she gasps. “Your hair is turning white.”
“Time,” he explains. “Catching me. I will not be your guest for long.”
She is outraged. “Well, that’s a horribly unfair curse.”
The giant laughs again.
“You laugh and speak just as a giant ought. Deep in your chest. Rumbling.”
“You are not a witch,” he accuses. “But you are hiding. Why?”
“I’m not hiding. Just alone. I am alone no matter where I am. And sleepy. We have much in common,” she strives for a matter of fact tone.
“Were you cursed?” He asks.
“No,” she laughs.
“Then you could go. Listen. Begin again,” he says softly.
And with those words the giant was redeemed.