From the author: To journey with a giant is to observe the slow bones of the world, to note its curvature and the raw edges and hints of the earth’s ending. It is to fly; not quite. Soon, all the things May had known were behind her. All the landscapes that had made her replaced with the unfamiliar. This is the way it is for most of us, even if we never leave the regions where we were born. But to journey with a giant: the changes are stark. A giant makes the world obvious.
May had almost convinced herself it was like any other market where she had helped her mother. Until her mother wrote: FOR SALE, SUNDRY ARTICLES AND ONE GIRL CHILD (PRICE NEGOTIABLE). May’s family had fallen on particularly hard times; and a child could fetch good money.
The day wore on, and while some of those sundry articles sold, no-one showed the slightest interest in May. She felt a rising, though tenuous, relief until, just as the day was ending and they were the last stall open, the giant appeared.
A giant in daylight is almost comical; a giant at night, horrifying. However, a giant in the last low beams of the sun is neither menacing nor ridiculous: it just is.
‘Is this the girl?’ the giant asked.
Her mother squinted up and up. ‘Are you of a mind to grind her bones into your bread?’
The giant frowned. ‘I eat neither children, nor bread. Both disagree with my digestion. I require a servant, nothing more.’
May found a fractional consolation in that, and her mother and the giant negotiated a price that seemed satisfactory to neither of them but was eventually agreed upon, because the giant had no choice, and her mother had discovered that there was little demand for girls, no matter how hard-working.
Money exchanged hands.
Her mother furiously kissed her goodbye, and May began to cry. She couldn’t help it. Tears burst from her all at once.
‘There now,’ said the giant, reaching down to pick her up and place her carefully on its shoulder, like one might do with a hesitant cockatiel. ‘You may cry but briefly, there is only so much comfort that tears can provide.’
May nodded, and sniffed, and not long after she had stopped crying.
To journey with a giant is to observe the slow bones of the world, to note its curvature and the raw edges and hints of the earth’s ending. It is to fly; not quite.
Soon, all the things May had known were behind her. All the landscapes that had made her replaced with the unfamiliar. This is the way it is for most of us, even if we never leave the regions where we were born. But to journey with a giant: the changes are stark. A giant makes the world obvious.
The shape of the earth and the air itself became strange. And still the giant walked.
So, May curled herself on the giant’s shoulder and, binding one arm in long hair far finer than she had expected it to be, she slept.
When she woke, it was to the breaking of the giant’s stride. A sudden stillness.
‘Where are we?’ May asked.
‘We are here.’
She looked at the mountain ahead, craned her neck to study it and realised that she couldn’t contain it in a single glance. The mountain broke through the clouds above her, and kept rising.
‘This is my tower. My modest estate extends beyond it. I am, as giants go, quite poor. Of course, everything is relative.’
The mountain that was a tower (and of course it was, she could see windows in its sloping walls) grew closer with a few steps.
The giant opened a door in the side of the tower that seemed large, even for a giant. ‘This is your home,’ the giant said. ‘From now until we decide otherwise.’
Rain fell in the grand hall.
The tower was big enough to contain weather, its ceiling high enough that she could almost imagine it accommodating stars.
The giant passed her an umbrella, then set her on the ground.
‘This the biggest room. In the rooms and floors above us, things are less capacious. Do you know what capacious means?’
May nodded. ‘Do not think me ill-educated,’ she said, ‘just because I was a child sold at the markets.’
The giant made a low sound in its throat, then brushed at its bristly chin. ‘Of course, I apologise. I am not familiar with educational standards as they are applied to children sold at markets.’
May was hardly listening. She stood and stared at all that space.
‘How am I to clean all of this?’ May asked, and the giant laughed, and it was an unexpectedly clear, high sound.
‘I do not wish you to clean the tower. The tower cleans itself, when it can be bothered. You are to be the cataloguer of its rooms, of which there are many. That is what I want of you.’
She felt a moment of relief, then slight horror: this room alone looked like a lifetime’s work.
‘I expect you to be thorough,’ the giant said. ‘But I understand the limits of a human life. You will work all days except Sundays. Though you must come at my summons, even on that day of rest.
‘You are given free passage of all the halls and spaces of this tower, except one, and you will know that place when (or if) you find it.
‘If these rules seem at all arbitrary, well, that is the way of such things. At least, that is how I remember it. There were many giants once. Now there are not so many,’ the giant said.
‘How do you know?’
‘I have not seen any of my kind for a very long time. And giants know what a long time is. I have seen the bones of the earth shift. I’ve seen cities rise and fall. There may be others, but we have long been an uncommunicative folk. It is our way. Here at the end, I have taken to the habits of your people. I have taken to the shorter views of things. The comforts of moments. It is why I need a servant. I will look after you, you will want for nothing. And if it doesn’t suit you, you are free to leave. There is the Pale City to the east of here, where you will be able to arrange transport home. But if you choose to stay, I ask only that you are dutiful. That you work hard.’
‘I have always worked hard,’ the girl said.
‘Yes, your mother said that. But, of course, parents cannot be trusted. They only see the best in their children or the worst.’
The girl did not know whether to be angry or sad at this. ‘It’s true,’ she said.
‘We will see,’ the giant said. ‘That is all that we can do. As tomorrow is a Sunday, you may rest. There is a small chapel in the eastern wing of this floor. Should you require it.’ The giant jabbed a thumb in its direction. ‘Your room is built into the wall just beyond it. The hall’s lights are dimming, but there is still time for you to make your way there. The path with the white stones is the one that you need to follow. Soon this place will be familiar to you. But I do not expect such understanding immediately. There is always a time of transition. The world is neither smooth nor swift.’ The giant yawned. ‘I am weary. I need sleep.’ The giant rubbed its head. ‘The days own a heaviness that once they did not.’
‘Girl,’ the giant said, just as she had taken a few steps. ‘Girl, I do not know your name.’
She turned to the giant. ‘May, my name is May. And, if I might be so bold, what is yours?’
‘Giants do not have names. Sometimes I am one thing: sometimes I am another. Giant is enough.’
May’s room was larger than her family’s house. Bookshelves lined one wall, a kitchen ran along the other, both were well-stocked.
May studied them, counted the herbs in little bottles – there were fifty – she counted the books with red covers – there were eighty-nine. She was tired, though not as tired as Giant. She could hear the distant echo of its snores. A giant’s tiredness was prodigious; they threw themselves into sleep with all the energy of a young child.
May had lost that facility for sleep that night. So, she lay on her back and stared at the ceiling and thought about the days ahead. Sleep found her at last. Sleep is rarely anything but a very thorough creature, even in the towers of giants.
To work for a giant is to find a purest labour, and a kind of hurt.
May’s first job was to catalogue the topmost floors, because they were the smallest, and, also, because they had never been given adequate attention.
‘I am too big for those spaces, they were something of a folly, and one I regret now. I have packed for you,’ the giant said, it sat upon a granite throne, and handed her a bag. ‘I forget how fast or slow you travel. You will meet many people on your work for me here, and they are under my jurisdiction. However, the truth is I have little to do with their day to day affairs. I offer them shelter, but how they choose to use it, under the limited laws of this place – remember that room, keep that in your mind – is up to them. They are my people, and I am their giant.’
The girl was curious as to what a giant might pack for her, so she quickly looked through it. There was food, sensible clothes for hiking, strong, but comfortable boots. The giant may not remember distances or speed in human terms, but it understood the need for reliable and useful things, and it was an excellent judge of size.
Into her hands Giant pressed a folded slip of paper into which was stamped the giant’s seal. ‘This will give you free passage through the spaces of this tower. Should you meet trouble, this should end it, though of course I cannot guarantee your complete safety – nothing in this world is safe, not food nor drink nor sky nor earth nor the vagaries of the heart: all of them are dangerous.
Finally, the giant laid the slightest edge of a fingertip upon her brow: a touch as light as a breeze.
‘This is a map of my tower. You will always find your way. No room will confound you, except the room that is forbidden you. This map will neither guide you there nor out of it.’
May nodded, though truly that room did not interest her. Not then. Not then. The interest came later. And, besides, her head had just become full of things. All that knowledge borne instant and apparent within her. The map had been unfolded and it could never be folded again.
She hefted her bag onto her shoulder, it was so cleverly packed – the giant had insisted on doing that for her – that it felt lighter than it was. The map that had been brushed into her skull made the tower familiar and foreign – so much knowledge and so little context – both ways tugged at her until her head ached.
She tripped often, like you do when you wear glasses for the first time.
But, as in all other things, she was resilient. Twice she vomited. Once she walked into a tree so hard it knocked the wind from her, and then the world made sense again.
‘You will be alright now,’ Giant said, it had followed her.
‘You could have warned me.’
Giant nodded. ‘But it would have made it no easier. Some things must be experienced, and now the tower is in you, and you are in the tower. For giants the process is slower, a madness grips us for days: all that knowledge a lance inside our skulls. Think yourself lucky.’
May nodded. ‘I know where I need to go now. I can go alone.’
‘Then be careful. Be wary. Be thorough. And delight in the world, though that is by no means a requisite of your servitude. ‘
May had to go up. She found the smaller stairwell next to a thick grove of bamboo and by a small house that she knew (or did she, was what she contained in her head truly knowledge?) had been lived in continuously for a hundred years.
Philip sat by an oven, in which bread was baking, his mouth tight around a small pipe. He smiled at her, smoke leaked from his lips.
The smell of baking bread made her belly growl.
‘Oh ho, ho!’ Philip said. ‘I’ve bread enough to share.’
They ate in silence. Bread, butter, honey, and jam.
‘You are May,’ the man said, after they finished their meal.
She was not at all surprised that Philip knew her name, and she knew his.
‘You are part of the tower now,’ he said. ‘You are the giant’s servant and, as such, shall be recognised and honoured wherever you go, and sometimes feared and sometimes hated. This is the way of the tower. It is united and fractious.’
The girl sighed. ‘I would prefer united.’
Philip laughed as he cleared the table of plates and condiments. ‘The giant has servants, not slaves. We are given our heads and our hearts to run this tower. And heads and hearts are rarely in agreement. Still, the tower is at peace. There is little if any real conflict. And the giant is happy; well as happy as giants can ever be.’
‘And what is the source of the giant’s unhappiness?’
‘Life. As it is with all of us. Though life is the source of all our joys too. Now, rest a while.’
The clouds moving overhead looked painted on then she realised they were. You could see the brushstrokes. The clouds weren’t moving, so much as the ceiling was. She dipped her feet in the river that ran by her, soaking away her aches. A large fish lifted its blunt nose out of the water.
‘Hi, fish,’ she said.
‘Hello May,’ the fish answered, in the voice of the giant, though much quieter, and May took some delight in this.
‘Isn’t the sky gorgeous?’
The fish managed a fishy sort of smile. ‘If you say it is, then it is. When we were young,’ the fish said. ‘We were given to great works. A furious industry. A barrage of makings and breakings. But things slow.’
Then it dipped its head back under the water, and May was left to wonder just where the giant began and the tower ended.
Birds would visit her and whisper wisdoms and weirdness in the voice of the giant. Butterflies would fill the air and take the shape of arrows pointing out the direction she needed to head, as though she didn’t already know it. It was all very distracting. But it made her feel less lonely.
She spent the first night on a platform on the stairs midway between the fourth and the fifth floors – there was a small shack there, little more than a few planks leant against the wall. Painted stars twinkled to her right.
She unfolded her swag and slept.
There was a smallish mountain in the middle of the fifth floor. Bespoke. Someone had made it to very towerish specifications. Its peak was white-capped with what she knew/didn’t was snow. A path ran across the mountain towards the next stairwell. By that path was a small village: nothing more than a few houses, a dozen head of cattle and some smoke.
Jane waited for May at the edge of the village. Jane was tall – and she would grow taller – and she was definitely waiting for May because she called out her name when she was near enough to hear it.
May waved at her, but the girl did not wave back. In fact, she frowned.
‘I don’t think you should be here,’ Jane said when May was nearer her.
‘If not here, then where?’ May asked, knowing that here was exactly where she should be.
‘We’ve never required a catalogue.’
‘You are that old then,’ May said, ‘that you should know such a thing?’
The girl shook her head. ‘I’m a student of history. Such details fascinate me.’
May reached out her hand.
Jane looked at her hand, but did not shake it.
‘I’m of a mind to carry you to the edge of the tower by the eastern windows and drop you off. And I could, quite easily.’
May smiled steadily. ‘I have no doubt that you could. But you do realise that Giant wants this cataloguing to go ahead. If you remove me you will only have to face this problem yet again and there are, I believe, bigger and more robust girls ready to be so employed.’
Jane considered this – then shook May’s hand slowly and deliberately. ‘I admire your logic. Should you wish it, my family has dinner cooking, and we’d be delighted to receive you.’
And May realised that she had never been in trouble – not really.
So are friendships born.
Cataloguing a tower is a curious sort of work. Giant had given her a pen and paper, and she set about methodically describing the bits of the tower that weren’t already known to her – if they were known, then they were known by the giant, too, and Giant had argued against double handling of data. Which meant that a lot was already accounted for, but things always changed. And there were variances.
On that topmost floor, small for a giant, but not for a person, was a hundred square metres of lawn – that had originally been a hundred square metres of soil – a small river and eight hundred windows that circled the entire space – nine of which were cracked, three of which had been broken entirely. There were forty-five species of bird that she could recognise, and another three that she couldn’t.
In total, it took her a year to finish her catalogue of that, the smallest floor.
In the western wall of that floor, was a small door that lead out to a broad balcony. There was little out there, beyond cold and wind and a view down to the land of giants and, if you peered from the easternmost edge, you could see the Pale City, running up the mountain nearest the tower. It was hardly pale at all, smudged in smoke and dirt and all the darknesses that cities produce.
May would eat her lunch on the balcony until it was too cold. From this height and distance, she could neither tell if the mountains around them were the towers of other giants or just mountains.
One day she saw a giant wander across the horizon holding what looked like a fishing rod. A day later it wandered that way again, a brace of extremely large fish over its shoulder. They may have been whales. Even from this distance she could make out the huge grin that stretched across its face. The two fish-whales were still.
That was the extent of her giant sightings. Her own giant, she saw much more frequently of course.
Giant would ring a bell to summon her. And May would finish her task at hand, and begin the long descent down to the giant’s hall.
There was never any urgency in the summoning, but May did not ignore it.
She spent little time in her comfortable house; she had begun to see the tower itself as her home.
To be a giant is to stand out. All failures are pronounced, all gestures, no matter how small, exaggerated.
When Giant summoned her, May would sit on a small, cushioned chair before Giant’s great granite throne, and read from her notes.
On the twentieth floor there was an aviary, approximately twenty feet by forty feet high. Here, beneath a stone in the western quadrant was a bowl made of gold. There were seventy similar sized stones on the–
Occasionally, Giant would stop her.
‘Ah, yes, I had forgotten that golden bowl,’ it might say. ‘Did you make a sketch?’
And, because she was thorough, May would have, and Giant would study it.
‘The aviary still exists. Good! Those birds do not speak to me, they flew in through the windows, demanded housing, bred ridiculously. They are noisy and vain: and I like them very much.’
‘Like you, I did not choose this. But it is what I am, and I do my best to honour that. A life, regardless of its length is still a life, and I do not believe that we get a second chance. A second chance is an insult. To live long or short is still to live.
‘I have been a giant for a very long time. Giants are born and made.’
Sometimes Giant would join her for lunch on one of the top balconies. Giant would knit. It drew skeins of wool from the clouds. This knitting was one of the most magical things it ever did.
The girl’s mother had been something of a witch, her magic simple and dull – as all useful things are – unless she needed it to be showy, which was less magic and more theatre. But this knitting was truly something else.
When Giant was done, it would roll the scarf or the jumper or the castle it had made into a ball and hurl it back up into the sky.
‘Clouds do not last,’ Giant said. ‘Nothing does.’
Giant’s castle was perhaps modest on the scale of giants, but it was a daunting immensity for a child. But she did as girls and boys have done since the dawn of boys and girls. She adjusted.
And it wasn’t all so grim.
There was a small garden in a sheltered sunny spot. And when she had free time, which she often did for her employer was a giant not an ogre, she would spend time there, working the soil or sitting on the tiny bench that had been made by one of the giant’s earlier employees.
It wasn’t a bad life. Nor was it particularly satisfying, but most lives are like that at least some of the time.
And she adjusted. And in time she found the satisfaction of it.
May would write to her mother once a month.
And her mother wrote back. Times had turned again, her family was in rude health and wealth, and May’s mother often spoke of her regrets at selling her. May did her best to reassure she her that she was happy, that the giant was a good employer, and that she enjoyed her work. It had worked out as best it could.
One morning Giant rang the bell, more urgently than usual, May hurried to the hall.
Her mother was waiting there.
‘You’ve grown,’ she said.
May smiled and hugged her. ‘Well, it has been three years.’
May showed her the tower. But could see that her mother was distracted. Finally, she asked her why.
Her mother cried. ‘I’m so sorry for what I did.’
May had had a long time to forgive her. ‘It was what needed to be done,’ she said. ‘Things could have turned out much worse.’
‘Yes,’ her mother said. ‘And in my mind, they did, and still, I sold you. I’ll never forgive myself.’
In some stories the mother would be nothing but trouble; she would have schemed or stolen May away from the tower. Mother–daughter stories always seem so fraught, always demanding of a villain, and it is usually the mother. But this is no fairy tale. Her sorrow was genuine. Her interest in her daughter true.
She stayed for a few days, and then Giant took her home.
It was the last time that May saw her. Though they continued to correspond right until her mother’s death. A life can be salted with regrets until it ruins that life entirely. But that was not May’s life.
On the nineteenth floor there were seventy-eight wolves; it wasn’t the only floor with wolves, but it was the one with the largest population. Nine bears roamed that floor too. May kept her distance. They weren’t the sort of bears that would speak. Only some fish and a few birds did that. They were the sort of bears that did bear things, and ate what bears ate.
One morning she woke and a bear and her cub were watching her. May lay perfectly still. She wasn’t afraid, but she knew that absence of fear didn’t mean she wasn’t in trouble. The bears stayed where they were, and she stayed where she was.
Her breath was quiet. The bears snuffled.
After a length of time that she could not be certain of – time grew tenuous in the presence of such creatures – the bears turned and walked away.
The bell rang.
May rolled up her blanket and her mat, and began the descent. Ten bears, she thought, ten bears.
Giant and Jane were waiting for her.
‘There are ten bears on the nineteenth floor,’ she said.
Jane just looked annoyed.
‘I have a new job for you, one that will take you away from your cataloguing, I’m sorry.’
May folded her arms across her chest.
‘It will only be a couple of days,’ Jane said.
‘I want you to accompany Jane into the city to the East.’
‘The Pale City,’ May said.
‘That is its name, yes,’ Giant said. ‘There are supplies to be bought. I require a few items.’
‘Wouldn’t it be faster if you went?’
‘Giants aren’t welcome there. There would be a commotion at the gates, things would get out of hand. Besides I am too big for its markets. It is safer if I send you two. I have an agent in the city, and I have alerted him to your arrival. He will be waiting at the gates.’
Giant handed them both two stout sticks. ‘These will protect you. Though the lands here are relatively safe. And there will other protections.’
May nodded. She was slightly annoyed to be leaving her work. The tower was big enough to occupy her attention.
They left that day.
After a few hours they reached a trail that became a road. They passed farm houses and fields. Jane was good company. Neither of them talked that much.
That night they lay beneath the stars. It was a summer evening, but in the mountains that didn’t mean a lot. Still the air was not uncomfortably cold, and both were used to sleeping in the open, even if it was the trompe l’oeil openness of Giant’s tower. May had forgotten how many stars there were. They burst the dam of night, flooded the darkness with their intricacy. She resisted the impulse to count all of them.
The night grew colder. May slept next to Jane and they held each other and talked. The day had been silent. The night was given to chatter. There was so much gossip. But after a while, they just lay there.
‘Are you happy?’ Jane said.
May thought about it. It was years since she had thought about it really, which probably meant that she was.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Are you?’
‘Yes,’ Jane said.
And they kissed, once.
May fell asleep; thinking about that kiss.
They reached the city the next day. The giant’s agent waited for them. He was a nervous sort of man, but thorough.
The city itself was crowded. May was glad to have the agent’s advice. Items were procured, and with them a small cart and a horse.
Jane and May were on the road again the day after. The city behind them.
Just as they reached a turning in the road, a man confronted them.
May gripped the stave that Giant had given her. And the man laughed.
‘I am not here to hurt you,’ he said. ‘Only to take the things in your cart.’
‘We can’t let you do that,’ Jane said.
She swung her stave speculatively.
‘Tall girl,’ the man said. ‘I am very good at taking what I want.’
He whistled and two men stepped from behind the cart.
‘It would be better if you left now,’ May said.
‘It would be better if you just walked away from the cart,’ the man said.
He strode towards them confidently.
May struck out with her stave and he caught it easily and pulled it from her grip.
He smiled at her. Then frowned. A bird had settled on his shoulder.
‘Put down the staff,’ the bird said. ‘Or you will lose an eye. And that will be but the first of your troubles.’
The man batted at the bird, it flew easily away. A dozen black birds had settled on the cart.
‘Run, little men,’ they said.
Twenty more birds – May was good at counting birds – perched on branches around them.
And the thieves ran.
May picked up her stave.
‘These are dangerous roads,’ Jane said.
May nodded. ‘But I didn’t feel scared.’
‘Neither did I.’
They slept beneath the stars again. And this time they did more than kiss. And May was happy.
The seventeenth floor was bare except for a warehouse. It contained three thousand and eleven china cups, each of which had been painted. Thirty were of black birds, five hundred and two were of giants but not Giant, the rest were of various animals and trees; there was even a cup with a painting of May. She looked very serious.
Jane sometimes came with her. Irritatingly she would point out things that May had missed, though May had only not gotten to them yet.
They had kept the staves from their journey to the city. And as the years passed they became increasingly useful as walking sticks.
The work of cataloguing was a long and slow endeavour.
On the tenth floor. Near what was obviously a false wall, Jane found a door.
‘What is this?’ She opened it and peered in.
May knew what it was. ‘That way is forbidden,’ she said, though she looked through the doorway too. Beyond was a long, narrow tunnel, and another door.
‘How do you know?’
‘Giant told me.’
‘Shall we?’ Jane said.
The door beyond called her. May thought of the life that Giant had given her: the work and the home and the love. She looked at that door a long time.
‘No,’ she said, at last.
Jane nodded. She shut the door.
‘You were wise not to go that way,’ Giant said.
‘Everyone deserves secrets,’ May said. She had told Giant that she had found the forbidden place.
‘Yes, and you have never gone looking.’
‘I didn’t have time.’
‘There is always time.’
‘You’ve cared for me. I’ve never been harmed, you’ve saved my life.’
‘I saved your life, when it was threatened by a position I put you in.’
‘Do you want me to go through that door?’
Giant laughed. ‘Not yet. And maybe never, though there may come a time when it is necessary.’
One day the bells rang and May descended from the house she shared with Jane. Jane had offered to come with her, but May had waved the offer away.
‘I’m not so old yet that I need your arm to take me down the stars. Besides you’re as old as me.’
Jane smiled. ‘I’ll be here when you get back.’
May kissed her on the cheek.
‘I would expect nothing less.’
She walked down the stairs, leaning on her stave. She had managed to catalogue almost twenty floors. There were eight left, each larger than the last. She doubted that she would ever finish them.
Most days she stayed at home.
When she reached the hall, Giant was waiting for her.
‘You could have come and visited me, you know,’ May said. ‘I’m not as young as I used to be.’
Then she realised that it had been years since she had last seen Giant. My, oh my, where had that time gone?
Giant smiled. It was a gentle, weary smile.
‘I am dying, May,’ Giant said. ‘I wanted to say goodbye.’
May looked at the giant. It appeared as ageless as ever.
‘The end has come upon me quickly. You have been a good servant. I only hope that I have treated you with kindness.’ Giant closed its eyes, then opened them again. ‘Another giant may come, or may not. But the tower will remain as it always has.’
‘You were always kind,’ May said.
Giant smiled, closed it’s eyes, and opened them. And then it told her about the forbidden room. May listened though she did not want to.
When Giant was done, it closed its eyes again, and this time it did not open them.
Giants do not rot. They do not decay. They become stone. Giant sat upon its throne, motionless and vast. Giant is probably there still. Giant is long, long gone.
No other giant came to the tower, not then.
May continued her work. She catalogued and counted and wondered. And if she did it more slowly it was not for any lack of enthusiasm. However, age is a slowing thing.
May lived with Jane until they were old and then one day Jane said, ‘I am very unwell.’
May looked at her face and kissed her cheek, then looked at her again, very thoroughly.
‘You don’t look unwell.’
‘I can feel it in me,’ Jane said. ‘I think I’ve felt it for some time, but I didn’t want to worry you.’
May felt a coldness build within her. A dread that had always been there, but which she had always managed to ignore.
Jane touched her face. ‘Don’t be afraid. I will be with you always.’
‘But you will not.’
‘Yes,’ Jane said.
She died in her sleep, and May woke to her corpse. To wake to the cold body of your love is a hard thing, but the world has its hardness as well as its delights and it is not for me to pretend otherwise. It is how it is.
There is always one that leaves and one that is left.
May cradled her in her arms, then she did as all people do (in one way or another), she buried her love in the earth. And she cried her tears and felt all the rages and sadnesses that come at endings.
The way to the forbidden room was long and she did not think she could make it. But she wanted to try. One thing ends and another begins until you choose to begin nothing. And May was not such a person. Not then, and she knew that Jane would have it no other way.
She climbed the tower slowly. She was not the girl that she had once been, but there was strength in her yet.
‘Welcome,’ said the room. ‘Do you know what I am?’
‘You’re the maker of giants.’
‘I am one of them, yes,’ the room said. ‘Is that what you wish? To be made into a giant?’
‘Do you need to ask?’
‘In these situations, yes. It is something of a tradition.’
‘It’s what I wish,’ she said.
She felt then a deep tiredness and lay herself down and slept.
She woke in the small room and it was as Giant had told her. The room was smaller than her. The hall beyond too tiny, and she could still feel herself growing.
The movement hurt.
To be reborn a giant is to know pain.
She forced herself forwards. There was only one way, or there was no way. But the walls pushed in, tighter and tighter. She sighed. She knew that she had done her best. She pushed one last time against the walls
and they ruptured, and May fell free.
She lay panting beyond the broken walls beneath a painted sky. And there, exhausted, she slept again.
When she woke, she was a giant in a tower and the tower sang to her and it was a song as sad as life and as happy as life too. And she smiled her giant’s smile.
‘Giant,’ the sky said, ‘do you remember us?’
‘Giant,’ the earth said, ‘do you remember us?’
‘Giant,’ all those who lived in the tower said, ‘do you remember us?’
‘Of course I do,’ the giant said.
This story originally appeared in Dimension 6.