Echo

In the summertime they used to bring the giantfolk down to the bay on big, wheezy flatbeds. The highway was always cluttered with them. I remember the blue tarps flashing in the midday sun as the processions rolled along, nose to back, at posted speeds. You could see the forms of their bodies beneath the tarps, lying together in defined pairs, but nothing more than that. Dad would always drive alongside them for a time so I could maybe see one, and laughed when I pointed and yelled when the wind showed me a snippet of foot or hand.

We were on our annual summer fishing trip. I was ten and three quarters and school was looming just around the bend. We fished to the beat of the waves and the dry news radio broadcasts. I fell asleep more than once to the voices on the trip up and back, and they always reminded me of the brail-like bumpiness of my father’s dashboard and the smell of treated plastic.

Further down the bay, past the library reefs, if I listened hard enough I could hear the shackles rattling as the giants were unloaded and herded onto secluded beaches—ones only accessible through a system of caves—to work crushing ocean-rock.

“Don’t ever go that far,” said my father. His glasses had slid down his nose, and he had his head tilted forward, looking at me with the tops of his eyes. “They’re dangerous.”

But the morning that Dad slept in was the morning I had heard on the radio that one of them was out, had broken his chains and run off.

And I had to see.

I took the car and headed for the hinterland. It was clumsy and wide, driving the thing, but I managed. The city was only a mile away, and the giant must have been hungry. I could see the smoke from the road and turned off it, headed into the damp fields following the footprint-contusions in the earth. I got out on the edge, where the grass met the concrete, and I started to run. Blue and red lights bounced from window to window, an aura of panic in the air. Devastation was everywhere. Whole buildings had been smashed through, streets and sidewalks caked with rubble, glass leisurely trickling down. Some sirens chirped two streets over. I turned.

I saw the body. It was lying a half a block in length with shallow breathing, tongue idly trying to force in more air. Guns were trained on it. A policeman noticed me and hurriedly shooed me away.

They had the scene cordoned off for about a week. My father was furious. He had run the distance, found the car empty. He let me go back to the place once he had cooled off, and also once the policemen had opened up traffic again. Up above, on a squat little brick building, the giant had begun to carve something. I didn’t know what it said but I knew it wasn’t finished. Men were already up on ladders, though, starting to clot the brick and stone. Repairs were going on all around me in the city: sawing, sweeping, twisting, scraping, and pouring.

Next summer I’d come, the land wouldn’t even remember the giant. It was as if the casualties had been shuffled in behind me while I wasn’t looking, some great con of the world.

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John M Shade is a recent graduate of the University of Houston's creative writing program. He loves video games and swimming and is content spinning his strange tales in the Texas heat.