042 - Standing Still
Another 100 themes story. I don't exactly know where the influences for this come from, but at the beginning it was loosely based around Jack and the Beanstalk. We had to teach this a couple of years ago and it's always seemed like a really unfair story to me. I mean, Jack is a thief and a murderer. He breaks into the Giant's castle; he hears threats made about men, but doesn't have any evidence; he steals from him three times, and then when the Giant follows him to retrieve his stolen goods, Jack kills him. What about the Giant's wife, who hides Jack? What happens to her after her husband is dead?
Very unfair :(
Anyway, here's an almost entirely-unrelated story about giants.
042 – Standing Still
The day the mountain woke up, I was sitting on the top of it. Perhaps mountain is a grand word to describe it, but it was the tallest hill for miles around. Climbing it took an hour or more, but the view was spectacular; you could see our village, the next village over, the town fifteen miles away, the forest, lake, fields… everything.
I climbed the mountain most days, and it amused me to watch out-of-towners puffing and panting their way up. Even my friends had trouble with it sometimes, and none of them could climb it as well as me. It was important work, too. Someone had to be the lookout. That’s what grandpa Jack always told me.
Suddenly, the rock under me flicked to one side and I was thrown off it. I fell into the grass, skinning my knee. The pain was an instant heat on my skin. My hat had gone one way, I’d gone another, and the boulder that I’d been sat on was still again.
I moved closer, watching carefully. Then, pretty stupidly in hindsight, I gave the boulder a good hard kick.
It hurt, of course. That’s what happens when you kick rocks. But the entire mountain started to quiver and shake, and it was all I could do to stop myself falling over again. Was it an earthquake? Was the world ending? The shaking got harder, and then the entire mountain was moving forwards at incredible speed.
An enormous hand attached to an even bigger arm, both looking like they were made of stone, soared up and over. I curled up in a ball and waited for the end, but then I was moving, and I opened one eye to see that the hand had picked me up.
I looked out from the hand, its chubby fingers gently cupping me, to see that the arm was attached to the mountain, and without thinking I looked down. The ground was so far beneath me that the people looked like ants, and I grabbed hold of the enormous thumb to keep from losing my balance.
On the side of the mountain I could see a cave that I often hid in; the cave was opening and closing, and above it two more caves were opening. No, not caves; eyes. The mouth, for that was all it could be, opened and closed a few more times and then the eyes, perfect gemstones, focused on me.
I felt tiny.
“Ouch,” the mountain said. “That hurt.” The voice echoed around the hilltops, booming, filling every part of me. The mountain’s breath buffeted me, smelling of old caves and dirt.
I gaped. I stared. My mind was blank. The mountain spoke again. “Not a very good hiding place, perhaps. We thought we could just stand still; you know, cover ourselves in grass and rocks. We might not be found for ages.”
“You’re a…” I began, then tailed off.
“Still, I reckon it’s worked. I’ve given him the slip.” The giant figure yawned, sending chunks of dirt and grass showering down onto the village below. “Standing still that long is hard work.”
“How long have you been hiding here?”
The giant’s head turned towards the sun and he shaded his eyes with his hand. “Perhaps… a hundred years. Long enough that the malicious man chasing me is dead and gone.
The giant took a few wobbly steps, carefully stepping over houses and roads, still holding me in its hand. The force of each shuddering footstep bounced me up and down, and shook more dirt off of the giant’s disguise. I could see that he was fat, blue skinned, with lines and whirls in a lighter blue all over him like tattoos. His hair, which for centuries we had been mistaking for a meadow, was dark green. Mountain goats had, at least, kept it cropped short for him. I realised he looked young, perhaps a child.
“Who was chasing you?”
“An evil man. He killed my grandfather, stole from us, lived in our house for a few years and everything. All completely unprovoked.”
I clung on to his thumb as each step bounced me closer to the edge of his hand. “Now what are you going to do?”
The giant grinned. “Wake up my brothers and sisters. I was the last one to hide myself, so I know where they all are.” His face turned serious again. “It was the only way, you know. Jack was going to kill us all. But now, he’s dead, and we’re all alive…”
With a rising sense of horror, I watched as the giant threw back his head and bellowed. The sound, louder than a jet engine, was surely heard up and down the entire country. Windows shattered below us with the force of it. Then it was over, though the echoes carried on for some seconds afterwards.
Then I saw movement. Far off in the distance, the forest was shaking. Then it sat up, the soil and trees falling off its back from where the giant had been crouched. Much closer, the edges of the lake came together and there was a swallowing sound. When the mouth opened again, the lake water was gone and another giant was clambering to its feet. I looked around to see five, ten, fifteen giants within eyeshot, all stretching or yawning or scratching themselves.
“You see,” the giant holding me said, “Jack’s dead now, and this is giant country…”