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Vs. The Giant

Matthew F. Amati was born in Chicago but was asked to leave shortly afterwards. He lives by a canal, plays the banjo, and mutters a lot. His stories have appeared previously in Daily Science Fiction, as well as in Flash Fiction Online, Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores and elsewhere. His diffidently-maintained blog may be found at mattamati.com.

The Giant squats, like an unlovely boulder, in the barley-field by the village.
The villagers have tried everything to get rid of him. They have run at the Giant in a mob, stuck hay-forks and scythe-points into his calves. They have set his rude tunic on fire. They have rigged a trebuchet and hurled rocks at his midriff.
The Giant yawns. He brushes the pinpricks aside. His tunic is too damp to burn properly. He doesn't flinch, even when a boulder bonks him on the bridge of his craggy nose.
The Giant chows down on a fistful of goats. He snatches the beer barge from the harbor and gobbles the barrels like grapes.
The villagers are frantic. This monstrous pest will consume their goods. His gaseous eructations have forced the evacuation of the lower village.
They send word round the kingdom that they need help. And help arrives, or claims it's arrived. On a donkey, wearing a sandwich board scrawled with broad Northern runes, here comes Jakk.
"Giant killer?" the Mayor asks.
"Giant solver," Jakk corrects him. "Giants are endangered, you know. Vanishing rare. And anyhow, a rotting Giant corpse would kill you with stink."
The Mayor is mad with curiosity. How do you solve a Giant?
Jakk unpacks his Giant-solving kit. The Mayor looks for tools that will attack a Giant, frighten a Giant, or otherwise discourage a Giant and get him to leave.
There are no such items in Jakk's kit.
Kit contains:
One leather-bound book. All pages blank.
One quill pen.
One peculiar hat. The hat is white and peaked, emblazoned with a blood-red G.
This is how you settle a Giant's hash?
"It's all I need," Jakk assures the Mayor.
First order of business: Jakk orders built (at villagers' expense) a wooden scaffold that reaches to the Giant's ear.
"Do we pour poison in the ear?" the Mayor asks, but Jakk reminds him that killing the Giant is off the table.
"You go up there," Jakk says, "and you just tell that Giant exactly what's on your mind. No need to shout, he'll hear you just fine."
The Mayor ascends. He returns. A look of astonishment lights up his face.
"The Giant! I told him my darkest secrets! I told him all that weighed on my heart!" The Mayor sinks to his knees. "And he offered such wisdom! Such words as to calm my turbulent soul!"
"Here," says Jakk. He holds out the book. "You'd better write that stuff down."
"The people have to know about this!" the Mayor cries. "They could learn a lot from that big wise lunk."
"Lemme give you some advice." Jakk leans close. "Pass a law that says you, and you alone, get to climb up there. The Giant will swat anyone else away. Then let all the villagers unburden themselves to you. And you can pass it along Upstairs."
The Mayor thinks this over. He nods. Jakk hands him the Hat.
With his Hat and his Book (soon bulging with the cryptic words of the Giant) the Mayor holds court at his fine house in the village. And the people line up, and whisper their secrets, and the Mayor dutifully humps up the ladder to fetch wisdom from the monster's whale-belly lips..
Daily contributions to the Giant's gullet: livestock, barrels of beer, barrows of grapes: all amounts fixed by the Mayor.
The mayor takes his cut of the donations. His house grows larger and finer.
Jakk takes his own cut. He builds a mighty fine house for himself next to the Mayor's.
It goes like this for a while. Then, an army from a neighboring village appears on the rise above the fields.
The villagers take up their weapons. But no need. The Giant, roused from his squat, lumbers over and pounds the invading army into meat paste.
Cheers. Accolades. Parades. Our Giant is a mighty Giant.
The goat donation increases.
One day, Jakk has news for the Mayor. "Time I was leaving."
The Mayor nods. "Our Giant problem is solved. You have transformed our Giant from a menace to a source of protection and comfort. Well-done, Mr. Jakk."
Jakk hems. He haws. He looks for the right way to break the news.
"Well, actually, Mr. Mayor, Sir, the Giant will be going with me."
The Mayor's eyes bulge.
"You see, the Giant is actually my colleague. I sent him on ahead of me."
The Mayor's face brightens with comprehension, then darkens with anger.
"A trick! All along, it was a trick!" His face turns crimson. "Rogue! Swindler! We will have a trial. If you're lucky, there won't be a hanging first."
Jakk whispers something to the Mayor. The Mayor's eyes get wide as moons.
"Go, Mr. Jakk. May the wind be at your feet."
The next morning, Jakk and the Giant are gone. There's a depression in the dirt where late the Giant sat.
The people mill about, muttering. Where is their Giant?
The Mayor emerges from his palatial residence.
He wears the Hat.
He holds the Book.
"People of my village," he announces. "Trust your hearts, not your eyes. The Giant is still among us. He has turned invisible. But he still hears your words. He still offers you his wisdom."
The Mayor spreads his arms wide. "You may still speak to the Giant through me. I am the Giant's vessel, his mouthpiece, his confidant."
Nowadays, in every village, you'll find a stout figure in a white hat occupying the finest house in town. The people pour out their problems, seek the wisdom of their unseen Giant, pay their Mayor accordingly.
Giants, once rare, are everywhere. They can't be seen, but you feel their weight like the sky on your shoulders.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, August 23rd, 2022

Author Comments

Well, something has to explain all the people running around these days in giant-solving hats.

- Matthew F. Amati
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