From the moment Brona reached her home, she had slept.
Well, she had tried to sleep.
After the incident with the Giant, Brona hardly had the energy to take off her shoes. But she managed, as well as managed to hobble up the staircase to her bedroom on the third floor and collapse onto her bed. Brona didn’t remember putting a blanket on herself, but she figured Grendt must have covered her at some point in her sleep when she’d regained the energy to have her corporealize.
Laying on the flower embroidered sheets, Brona’s mind flashed with invasive images; the ingredients she’d wanted to collect, the blinding brightness of the sunlight which she was very unused to seeing, the scuffed apple tree which sat very close to the pond, and a brown colour matching the leather of the Giant’s shoes that appeared suddenly jolting her from her rest. Brona looked frantically out the window to see if the Giant had returned and found her house. Or worse, —returned and had not noticed her house. All that revealed itself through the windows was a faded light, and the timid early chirping of crickets.
While trying to fall back asleep, Brona couldn’t help the directions her mind spun her. She sought to focus on the calming experiences earlier in the day, like being pampered in Callum’s home with cookies and a warm bath, but intrusive feelings always steered her mind back to the giant man in the orchard. He was too much person to ignore, and recollections of him demanded attention. It was clear Brona wasn’t going to find rest until she indulged her subconscious and let herself think about the Giant.
There were his shoes, the first part of him Brona noticed, which announced themselves with booming sounds and ground shaking pronouncement. As aristocratic as they appeared, their conduct was far from subdued. They behaved rather viciously, crushing everything beneath them to selfishly stand the Giant. Or were they indifferent? Brona conceded. She could imagine the amount of forethought that would have to go into considering everything on the ground when one took a single step, she couldn’t hold the Giant to such a degree of self-awareness.
Then there were his legs which grew from the base of his shoes and came together in a narrow pair of male hips. Without his legs, the shoes wouldn’t have had the locomotion to step on her, which is why Brona attributed the Giant’s legs to her life-threatening experience just as much as she did his shoes. The hips seemed innocent enough though.
His heaving chest was a part of the Giant Brona remembered mainly through sound. The hollow cavities of his lungs filling with air and swelling his chest when the sharp intake of air cut through the soft hums of swaying grasses. She recalled the formation of words originating from a tightening in his gut that travelled up his throat only to be released as an animalistic growl. It cooled Brona’s veins hearing Language come from the Giant. Language was such an ordinary part of her everyday life. When the conduit of speech was inhuman, it was stupefying to realize how quickly something so common could sound completely foreign.
Finally, reaching his head, detracting interest from all the other features of his face, was the menacing element of his mouth. The thin lips comprising the outside of his mouth barely masked the cruel potential which lay within. There were two rows of not overly straight teeth with longer incisors in the middle of the top set which presented clearly when he spoke. Not so frightening on an ordinary scale, but when the visible teeth rivalled the size of a person’s head, Brona shuddered to think of the scale of the teeth further inside that were meant for crushing. Delving further inside would also mean meeting the Giant’s throat, which would only be one swallow away from a lifetime entrapment in his stomach.
Brona had to stop her thoughts there.
As far as she could rationalize, it was too much power for one person to exist on such a scale. If guided appropriately, a lot of good could come of Giants, but otherwise, a lot of bad could happen, even if just by mistake.
There was a growing tightness twisting in the centre of Brona’s chest when she realized that large man lived somewhere nearby. She remembered a coping mechanism her uncle had told her to try when bad thoughts overwhelmed her: find three good things. Brona took a deep breath and attempted to steady her breathing into an even rhythm.
One, she got to see a Giant. That in itself, although she was dangerously close, was something hardly anyone in the growing world was able to experience. If she could somehow find him again, the Giant could make for an interesting study on Ouroborics through different species.
Secondly, in the midst of panic when the Giant was moving, Brona was able to see some of her mother’s real potential. Grendt was normally a very reserved person, but she truly came alive, for a lack of better words, amid chaos. Brona felt a slight guilt that it was her own stamina which limited her Blood Projection’s abilities, but if she could grow stronger in the future, she would like to be able to see Grendt’s full power in action.
And the third nicety of the day was easily the Giant’s eyes. They were very pronounced, and they widened, not narrowed, when he focused on something. They looked like a pair of sculpted granite orbs that belonged in a museum to be admired, not something to be parsimoniously held by a man. Brona blushed. She thought it would be nice to be seen by those eyes one day.
After conducting her thought experiment, Brona didn’t find she was any less nervous. In fact, she couldn’t stop her mind from coming to worse and more worse conclusions. “So, uncle is full of shit…” muttered Brona turning onto her side. Her breathing evened, eyelids heavied, and the world around her grew darker until she found herself drifting into a deep sleep.
Brona woke to a cacophony of crickets orchestrating outside her window. The sky was now black and the Lunar Stone was fully blocking the sun’s light, meaning Brona had woken up at the wrong time. She had managed to sleep without interruption, although feelings of panic and thoughts of split toe bluchers crushing her home still populated her mind space.
Altering a sleep schedule usually had negative consequences, but Brona already felt that her anxiousness had up ticked her heart rate to an ‘awake time’ pace. She wasn’t going to fall back asleep. Brona pushed off her blanket and touched her bare feet to the floor.
Grendt was reading in the armchair downstairs and inspecting a vial by a fire she had started. Even though it was well into mid Spring, the nights still held a bitter chill to them.
“It’s three in the morning, Brona. Go back to bed,” said Grendt not lifting her eyes from the book in her hand. Brona held onto the railing as she descended the stairs. Maybe she still needed to sleep after all, walking was proving to be more difficult than she remembered. Brona limped to the kitchen table and sat down.
“I’m having bad dreams,” said Brona. “I keep seeing the Giant. Well, his shoes anyways.” Brona began hitting her head rhythmically against the wooden table.
Grendt sighed a knowing sigh and walked over to Brona. She rubbed circles into her back. It really didn’t feel good, Grendt was not a gentle person, but the reassurance was calming.
“What about the Giant is bothering you?” asked Grendt.
“He’s living somewhere behind us. How come we’ve never seen him before? Did he just move here? What if he steps on our house?”
“You got to see a Giant though, that’s pretty special isn’t it?” Grendt forced some fake smile that irritated Brona.
“Say what you’re thinking,” demanded Brona.
Grendt answered reservedly, “Giants are powerful… Dangerous.” Her eyes looked distant for a moment. “Living beside one isn’t great…A casual stroll through Late Sun for him could mean casualties for us. We’ll have to be more alert from now on.” Grendt bit her lip, “But I wouldn’t want to judge him before I got to know him. I’ve made that mistake with people before.”
Brona nodded, she thought the same internally, but her visceral response was a pathetic shaking fear. Giants were cool, obviously, but while she was searching for a way to destroy the Task Curse, she didn’t want the added stress of having to worry about being stepped on. Seeing Brona’s face pale, Grendt continued to push her bony fingers into her back in attempted comfort.
“I mean, who knows how long he’s been living here. No problems yet, right?” Grendt half-smiled.
“That we know of,” said Brona.
The glass vial Grendt was inspecting earlier rolled and hit against a spoon on the table. “If you’re not gonna go back to bed, then I have some news to tell you. Whether good or bad is up to you.” Brona raised her head from the table hoping it wasn’t another Task Letter. Grendt handed the vial to Brona.
‘Brian’ read the vial full of blood.
“Your uncle has found you another babysitter,” said Grendt, eyes still following the bottle. Brona’s heart hitched.
Blood Projections were a difficult trade in Ouroborics. To drink a deceased Distorter’s blood meant one could project the perfect replica of who that person once was; their memories, their appearance, and their abilities. But in doing so meant that the Projection would be bound to the Distorter for life, and if the Distorter and Projection don’t get along, the next thousand years were going to feel long.
Grendt produced a letter written in her brother’s handwriting.
This is Brian. It wasn’t easy to find this guy’s Revenis vial, but I think losing a finger was more than worth it. I think you’ll be able to learn a lot from him. Dude had a unique life.
Water my succulents.
Brona looked to the dead succulents by the window. She would water them tomorrow.
Turning the vial upside down and back right, the preservation stone which prevented the blood from spoiling hit against the glass on every turn. Grendt stopped Brona’s hand after Brona turned the vial for the umpteenth time.
“So? Do you want him?” asked Grendt.
Brona mulled over the thought of having another permanent person in her life. “Well, uncle lost a finger getting him for me, so I feel I have to.”
Grendt shook her head and placed a hand on Brona’s shoulder. “Only if you want to.”
“What do you think, Grendt?”
Grendt looked over to her book, which Brona realized was actually her old notebook. It was one of her possessions that were mailed to Brona upon her passing. Grendt looked back to Brona. “I think you will be stronger with Brian,” said Grendt. “Tadhg is right, Brian’s life was unlike any other. You’ll become a stronger Distorter with his council.”
Accepting Brian would mean that Brona would have two Distorters at her beck and call. And from Grendt’s description, another powerful Distorter at that. Brona took a moment to think about her goals. She wanted to grow up to be a strong Distorter, like Grendt used to be, and a Distorter only became that strong through practice and intimate teaching.
Brona tried to decode the concerned look on Grendt’s face. “If you think Brian will be good, I trust you, Grendt,” said Brona. Grendt nodded, but she looked as worried about the vial of blood as she did about the Giant in the backyard. Why didn’t she say what she was thinking?