The Giant of Chaldor
by Arthur Powers
There was once a tribe of little, frightened people, making their way, and mostly losing it, across a great empty plain toward the Mountains of Mome. Their leader was the Giant of Chaldor.
He had appeared to them one day, seemingly out of nowhere. He was vast and strong and handsome, twenty times the height of the tallest of the little people. A small white bird perched on his shoulder.
He looked down at them gently, his eyes full of affection. “Follow me,” he said, and he walked off slowly, careful not to go too fast for them.
They hesitated a moment, but then they hurried after him, running and hopping along, stumbling, going this way and that, squeaking among themselves in high voices.
“I don’t know why he has to go so fast,” they said, running five steps backward.
“Why won’t he wait?” they twittered angrily, scurrying seven steps forward.
The giant walked on, painfully slowly, happily watching them, now and then reaching down to pick up one of them who had fallen. Gradually the foothills came in sight.
But suddenly the giant saw dust in the distance behind them. Dust, he knew, from the hooves of the savage horsemen of Yom, wild beings sent to kill his little people.
“Hurry,” he said. “The horsemen are coming.”
But the little people looked and – being close to the ground – saw no dust. “What is he talking about?” they squeaked to one another.
The giant saw the dust clouds coming closer.
“Hurry!” he said again, more urgently. “The horsemen are coming.”
He pushed them, cajoled them forward. “What’s he talking about?” they repeated. “I don’t see anything. Do you?”
Then, later. “Look, it’s only a little dust. Why does he think it’s anything else? There are no horsemen on this plain.”
But he kept on pushing, cajoling, until they came at last to the slopes of the foothills and then to the Pass of Wandar, a deep cleft in the first cliffs. And the giant looked back and saw the dust clouds approaching.
“We’ve reached the mountains!” the people squeaked, and they jumped up and down.
“No. You haven’t reached the mountains,” the giant answered. “Beyond this pass are many hills and cliffs and crevices before you reach the mountains.”
“How negative he is,” they whispered to one another.
“But I will send my bird,” he said, “and he will show you the way.” Then, drawing a huge bag of grain from his pocket, he said, “Here, take this and divide it among you, and feed it to the bird as you go – he needs sustenance.”
“What about you?” one of the little people squealed.
“I’ll stay here,” the giant said.
They grumbled about that, and about the weight of the grain, but finally they divided it among themselves and were ready to go on. And all the time the dust clouds were growing closer.
“You’re sure you won’t come with us?” they asked the giant.
“I’ll stay here,” he repeated.
“Well, have it your way,” they said, and they started off.
They entered the pass, hopping and squeaking, and rounded its first bend. The giant turned back toward the dust clouds and stood at the entry of the pass. As he did so, the horsemen came riding out of the dust – not men, but fiendish beings mounted on fire-breathing steeds. For a moment the horsemen, startled, reined back their mounts. Then, regrouping, they charged on, their mouths screaming curdling terror.
The giant held out his arms wide, across the mouth of the pass. The horsemen yelled in rage, drew their bows, and showered him with arrows. Three hours he stood, and then he fell. But where his body lay, they could not move it, or go around it or over it, and so they were blocked from going through the pass.
Meanwhile the white bird flew on, slowly, so the little people could follow. And the people came through the pass to the region of hills and cliffs and crevices. They began to grumble, “These aren’t the mountains.”
At first they fed the bird, and the bird guided them on, over hills and through canyons. But then some of them forgot to feed the bird, and others said it wasn’t worth their trouble.
“Where are the mountains?” they asked, and they began to split up and look different ways. And one man, standing at the bottom of a canyon, whispered, “I don’t think there are any mountains.”
A few people still fed the bird, but he had to range more and more widely for food. Always he returned, flying to the scattered people – who wandered now in small groups and alone, cut off from one another by the hills and cliffs and crevices. The bird found each one of them, each group, and sang to them, cajoling them toward the mountains. Then he would fly away to find the others, to find food, but always to return.
And one of the little women, tired, sat down on a rock and cried. And she remembered the giant.
“Why couldn’t the Giant have done something for us?” she asked.
Arthur Powers received a Fellowship in Fiction from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, three annual awards for short fiction from the Catholic Press Association, and 2nd place in the 2008 Tom Howard Fiction Contest. His short stories have appeared in, among others, Critic, Dappled Things, Heartlands Today, Liguorian, Prime Number, Roanoke Review, St. Anthony Messenger, and Worcester Review. In 2011, two of his short stories were nominated for Pushcart Prizes.