She was always on about something, Otezia was. “Stars are the glinting eyes of giants peering down on the world,” she’d declare. Or what of the fairy visitors she claimed to host? Only when no one else was nearby, naturally. Reasonable folk learned to pay her no mind. And when the lakes formed to the north and south of High Hill and Otezia raised her thoughts on their shape, no one had the time for it.
“Footprints,” she said, lifting up her own bare and muddied feet as evidence. “I’ve compared. The lake to the north is of a right foot, and to the south is of a left. Does no one find it interesting that the lakes appeared after the rains?”
“Of course lakes appeared after the rains,” she was told. “That is what happens when so much water falls on the land. It must gather somewhere.”
“Never gathered there before,” Otezia countered, but no ears opened to her arguments.
“If you’re so keen on saying it were a giant trod by in the night while we slept,” it was said, “then why don’t you find out where those footprints lead?” This was rewarded with much laughter.
Otezia, however, did not laugh. She had that particular gleam in her eye that suggested she might do something brash. She sometimes did brash things.
When Otezia went missing soon after, most assumed she’d gone to pout. When time passed, pity swelled for the poor foolish girl. Her parents were consoled, though they’d resigned themselves to such news of their odd daughter many years before, and took the attention with grace. Eventually, few spoke of Otezia at all. That is, until old man Fairweather’s shed was found in splinters one morning; all animals in his pens gone without sign of a single predator.
“Wonder what Otezia would have to say about this,” chuckled one, and another, but not everyone.
“I heard thunder last night,” said someone. “Could’ve been a storm. Tornado, maybe.”
Tornado, it was decided. That made sense after all. But a week later when the thunder rumbled on a dry and starry evening, and the citizens of High Hill fell silent around their supper tables, few were thinking tornado. The Saspo family was thinking tornado, thankfully, and made it to the cellar before their farm house went to pieces. Their animals, in all of their pens and fields, were gone in the morning.
“Ol’ Otezia would have such a tale for us,” chuckled one, and no other.
They say it’s the eyes that make a believer, and one fine afternoon when an enormous leg swung past from somewhere in the sky, and then another, the people of High Hill decided that giants are real as trees. Otezia’s name wasn’t mentioned for a while after that as each villager became more expert on the subject than the next. The lakes were measured again with new eyes and renamed Right Foot Lake and Left Foot Lake, respectively. Songs were sung. Old man Fairweather and the Saspo family were named local heroes for what they survived.
Then one day, while the villagers of High Hill worked their fields, the sun disappeared behind a shadow that stretched right up to the heavens. They watched in horror as a large hand reached into their pens and plucked up every last one of their cattle. Terrible sounds filtered down from above. Finally, after having its fill, the giant trod off to the southeast. There were no songs that night.
Otezia’s homecoming turned out to be as much a surprise to her as it was to the folk of High Hill. Her bright clothing was grayed by dust and dirt, and at first no one recognized her. No longer did she skip along but walked with purpose, carrying a long stick with an elaborate metal fixture atop that glowed from a fire within. When first one, then another realized the identity of this mysterious traveler from the south and raised a cheer, Otezia’s mouth fell open. This was far from the reception she expected.
“Giants!” they cried. “They’ve destroyed our homes. They’ve taken our cattle!”
“Have they eaten any villagers yet?” she asked. She was answered by horrified stares. “Good,” she said. “We have work to do, before they get a taste for us. Quickly, gather straw, twine and white, pink or brown cloth.”
The villagers did as she instructed, and together they built the likeness of a field filled with cows, pigs and sheep. And they waited. And waited. Otezia never left her small tent among the mock animals, though the others returned to their routines before too long. The villagers brought her food, and some sat with her for a while. Finally, a distant rumbling announced the approach of a giant.
The villagers watched from their homes as an enormous foot paused beside Otezia’s field. A hand appeared from the sky and scooped up several of the straw cows, and Otezia darted out from her tent, leaping onto the hand as it ascended, her walking stick held high.
“Ow!” they heard an enormous voice roar. And then, “where?” The giant’s other foot came to rest beside the first, and the toes, each the size of a house, wiggled against their sandals as the giant rolled its weight back on its heels. “Thank you, little Otezia, I will,” the giant said at last.
The hand returned, Otezia riding in its palm. The fingers unfurled in the street and Otezia stepped down as if hopping off a wagon. She turned to watch, and the folk of High Hill watched with her, as the giant’s other hand pressed a boulder the size of a barn into the soil between its feet. With one foot it pounded the boulder down, shaking the entire town. Several paces later, nearly at the horizon, the giant kicked down another boulder.
“What did you say to it?” asked the folk of High Hill.
“I told him where to find his family,” answered Otezia. “And I told him that all of the animals in the plains are tasteless and mealy, but in the mountains of the south sea, sumptuous beasts roam big as houses. The towns south of here are all doing the same. The giants are looking for a new home, see, and they’re wandering our lands until they find it. Several have already begun fashioning a home in the mountains to the south, and they said there was room enough to share. I’ve been spreading the word. I suggested he mark his path so the others know where to find him.”
“How did you keep him from eating you?”
Otezia smiled as if she’d been waiting for the question. She held up her odd walking stick. “Giants don’t like to be burned any better than you or I. I find it helps them listen.”
There was laughter again in High Hill then, and this time, even Otezia joined in.
Written by W. C. McClure www.wcmcclure.com. This short story may be shared (and please do); just please be sure to share it in its entirety, unaltered (and including this fine print), with credit given to W. C. McClure. Comments are welcome at www.farsideofdreams.com. Oh, and if you want to show your support, tell your friends – and pick up a copy of “The Statues of Azminan” by W. C. McClure. Thanks!