Published on 2013/06/23

Giant's Hill

Lela Marie De La Garza

“Hey-let’s climb it!”

Harold and Caroline looked at each other, then at Bill. “No. No…” They spoke at the same time, with practically the same breath.

“Why not?” Bill persisted. “It’s early afternoon. We’ve got plenty of time.”

The twins looked at each other again. “Nobody climbs Giant’s Hill,” Harold said.

“Nobody,” Caroline echoed.

“But why?” Bill looked over at the hill, shining green and gold in the afternoon sun. It seemed harmless, an easy climb.

Harold sighed. “A giant lives up there. And he doesn’t like people.”

Caroline shook her head. “They don’t call it Giant’s Hill for nothing.”

Bill blinked. He put a hand behind his neck and squeezed. “Are you guy serious?”

They nodded solemnly, heads bobbing in unison. “Remember when old McGinty found all those trees in his pasture? The giant got mad and tore them up and threw them down.”

“That was a tornado!” Bill wasn’t actually certain about this, but it hadn’t been a giant. He knew it hadn’t been a giant. “A tornado,” he repeated. “Or something…anyway, you can’t possibly think a giant lives up there!”

They were nodding again. “We know he does.”

Heather had listened to all this without speaking. She really didn’t want to climb that hill. It didn’t look like a harmless, easy climb to her. But she knew Bill well enough to know that he’d insist on climbing the hill now just to disprove the giant. “Maybe there’s some other reason for us not to go up.” She looked hopefully at the twins. “Is there?”

They were totally honest. They did not understand subtleties. “No,” Harold answered. “Just the giant.”

“Just the giant,” Caroline softly underlined her brother’s words.

Bill couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “I can’t believe what I’m hearing,” he said aloud. He walked a few feet away, thinking, trying to make sense out of something that didn’t make sense at all. Okay. Look at Harold and Caroline: undersized, both of them; pasty, wizened faces, coarse, straw-coloured hair—the picture of backward country bumpkins. True, they lived on a farm. Perhaps they weren’t what you’d call sophisticated. But backward? Absolutely not. He went to school with them. Caroline was at the top of her class in every subject and never opened a book, not as far as Bill knew. She wasn’t sixteen, and she would graduate next year, and she had a full scholarship to any university she chose to honor with her attendance. Her twin brother was in pretty much the same position. He was taking advanced physics, advanced algebra, advanced calculus, advanced advanced computer science—and he was already years ahead of every teacher he had.

Was this some kind of “genius joke”? Bill thought not. Harold and Caroline might have brains enough for ten people, but they didn’t have one sense of humor between them. No, for some reason they really thought a giant lived on that hill. And this, by everything Bill knew, was impossible. If they had shrugged it off. Given any other reason for not making the climb, Bill would have let it go. Now he was bound and determined to do it—even if he had to go alone.

Turning to the others, he said quietly “I’m going up. Heather, you can climb with me or stay down here. It won’t take me long. But I want to see the top of Giant’s Hill. And he started off.

Heather’s entire body seemed to knot with apprehension. She didn’t want anything to do with this hill. Not that she believed a giant lived up there—but she believed something was very wrong about it. Something Harold and Caroline couldn’t or wouldn’t talk about. She lacked Bill’s assurance, and she didn’t underestimate the twins. But blindly, a creature of habit, she followed Bill. So did Harold and Caroline. They were fatalists. This was their destiny. They knew what Bill refused to believe—and somehow they felt responsible.

The four young people climbed Giant’s Hill in almost total silence. It wasn’t a hard climb, nor a long one. In a surprisingly short time, they reached its crest. The oddities began to manifest themselves. For one thing, the area up here was much bigger than it looked from the ground. It seemed to stretch for miles. And it was flat—much flatter than the top of a hill should be. Heavy mist hung here and there, and that was strange, because it shouldn’t have been high enough for mist. Bill almost asked Harold about it, but didn’t. Still silent, the four of them wandered aimlessly around. Bill was beginning to wish he hadn’t insisted on coming. It was dull up here. There was nothing to see but a few trees. Then they came to a valley. “The giant’s footprint,” Harold muttered.

“Harry get real!” Bill was bored. He was also sick of hearing about that giant.

“Look!” Caroline insisted. “There’s his toe, and yonder’s his heel.”

Bill examined it more closely. Yes, you could make this space out to be a toe, and the other a heel—if you tried. But he wasn’t going to play that game. He did not, would not, could not believe in this giant.

An unlikely sound caught Bill’s ear. “Listen!” It sounded like…a train? He could hear the clack of wheels on rails, the high shrill whistle. But what a train be doing up here?

Then he looked at the twins. Their pale faces had turned white. “It’s the giant,” Caroline whispered, through trembling lips. “He’s asleep. That’s him snoring.”

“Will you stop with the giant!? I’m going to find out what that is.” Harold laid a hand on Bill’s sleeve, but Bill irritably shook it off and started in the direction of the sound.

“Oh Bill, I wouldn’t…” But since he so obviously was, Heather sighed, shook her head, and, out of loyalty and curiosity, followed him. Out of neither one, so did Harold and Caroline. They were not curious—they knew. Their attitude was a shared one of doomed acceptance.

It might be a swarm of bees, Bill thought. Though that was very unlikely. It might be the wind blowing in an odd way through the trees. There’s no such thing as a giant, Bill insisted to himself. I’d bet my life on it. He almost did.

“I don’t believe…” And suddenly Bill did believe. And the words “I don’t believe” were seldom, if ever, part of his vocabulary again. The fog swirled and lifted, and Bill saw, lying almost at his feet, a sleeping giant. He drew back in horror as the others gasped. Harold and Caroline grabbed Heather just in time to muffle the scream she wasn’t able to help.

Yes, Bill believed. This wasn’t a large person. Or some kind of strange animal. This was a giant—right out of the Brothers Grimm. His head was as big as a small house, surrounded by the tangled forest of his hair. His body might have gone on forever—his legs were invisible, still shrouded by mist. His arms were outstretched tree trunks with gnarled branches for fingers. His nose, a pointed tower, twitched. “Look out!” Harold warned. “He smells us! Run!”

But just then, the giant sneezed, knocking them to the ground. It was a light sneeze; a harder one would have blown them a mile away. Which might have been better…

The giant blinked once; the giant blinked twice; he opened his enormous eyes. “If he sees us we’re done for!” Caroline whispered. “We’ve got to hide!” But where? They looked around. The only trees were too far away. There was no hole to climb into, no rock to get behind. There was only one possible hiding place in this dreadful world. They dove for it.

With a roar, the giant leaped to his feet. He did indeed smell them—and he set about looking for them. He covered every inch of that hill, uprooting trees, overturning boulders. Tears streamed down Heather’s gentle face; she stuffed a hand into her mouth to keep back any betraying sound. Harold and Caroline sat in grim silence, waiting for discovery and death. Bill wanted to apologize to them, tell them how sorry he was for getting them into this mess. But what good would it have done? They were all long past the point of apology or blame.

The giant’s brain may have been larger than human size, but his intelligence was not. He never did find them. After what seemed like hours—but was probably no more than 20 minutes—he gave up, lay down, and went back to sleep. They waited until they heard the steady buzz and whistle of his snoring before they crept out of his bushy mane of hair. They moved quietly and carefully—and they were very, very fast.

Going down the hill proved to be much quicker than the climb up had been. The slope was gentle enough to allow them to simply sit and scoot. Heather lost her balance three-quarters of the way down and rolled to the bottom. When Bill reached her, she was still lying there, sobbing. He picked her up, and holding her securely with one arm, began to walk away from the looming nightmare of a hill.

“Listen Heather,” he said firmly, “this never happened. Pay attention now!” He shook her gently. “We never climbed that hill. We never saw—what we didn’t see. Understand? What did I say? Repeat it back to me. Come on Heather!”

And under his urging, Heather was finally able to gasp “It…never happened. We…didn’t do…it.” Maybe it wasn’t the best possible technique, but it was the best way Bill knew how to handle the situation. And the only thing he could think of to save Heather’s sanity.

Harold and Caroline watched them go. Denial wasn’t for them. They were used to accepting the truths of the world they lived in—all the truths.

“They’ll be all right won’t they?” Caroline asked.

“Them? They’ll be fine. They’re already half-convinced it never happened at all. By tomorrow, they’ll think it was a dream. And a week from now they’ll have forgotten the dream.” He chuckled. “I bet it’ll be a long time, though, before they climb any more hills. And they’ll never climb this one again.”

“We won’t either. Will we Harold?” Caroline’s voice held a note of pleading, almost of fear.

Harold wanted to reassure his sister, but he couldn’t bring himself to lie. Life was too full of too many strange things. He raised his head and looked at Giant’s Hill, black against the setting sun. “I hope not,” he sighed, almost to himself. “I surely hope not…”

Lela Marie De La Garza has had work published in “Behind Closed Doors”, “Pound of Flash”, “ChickLit”, “Daily Romance”, and “Creepy Gnome”. She was born in Denver, CO. in 1943 while her father was serving in WWII. She currently resides in San Antonio, TX. with two and a half cats and a visiting raccoon.