by Yelena Tower
Once upon a time there was a giant. She lived in a cave and humans called her "bad." In fact, she would have ventured to say that there was no such thing as good or bad; she was a mix of both, like all of us.
She was named Evbo. Her skin was tough, halfway to leather. When she wore no clothes, human men and women became like bats, winging their way to her to draw blood and suck. They pulled her hairs and twisted her fingers; Evbo let them without fuss, knowing how strongly they were drawn, how irresistible she was. In exchange, and without their full knowledge, she took from them information about the plants and animals, fields and rivers, mountains and valleys. When she did not want her blood drawn, she wore a leather cloak made from a giant bull that swept the ground as she walked.
Evbo went off into the mountains one day, looking to be alone. She trod the mossy path, picked up boulders where they had fallen, carried them a while, and deposited them on their home soil. They nestled back into their hollows and breathed their thanks.
The day was hot and wet; moisture drenched the leaves under a clear blue sky. Each step was a grinding of the pestle. Even the buzzing of insects had a lazy twang in the humid air. Evbo relaxed in her leather cloak, drew it from her shoulders, and walked. Mosquitoes murmured in imperceptibly high voices. The giant spread out her arms and let them land. Their bites were like the gentlest needles, yet with their touch she pieced together who had come before: a bear, a rat-tailed fox, three humans leafed in rags.
The track wound up and around, twisting in pain as it shouldered aside the thistles and weeds that might hinder a walker's path. It moved from time to time, and a gentle shaking was set up, which subsided after a moment as the earth settled into place. Evbo laid her ear against the damp red soil. She caught only a light mental wandering and concluded that it was safe to continue.
The resettling left cracks in the earth that filled with water and trickled downhill. With the imperceptible onset of dusk, the birds brightened their song and lit the way as Evbo sought the northern fork. Silent fingers of cloud breathed onto the horizon. She saw them white, then yellow, then orange, then pink. At length they darkened to purple and stained the sky like veins. The sun fell beneath the valley. She could have called it back, but it might not have listened, so she did not. The slap of unanswered prayers was hearty; it still stung in Evbo's heart. She had told no one why she made this journey.
A few hours after sunset she reached a reflecting pool. Each fish knew her massive form and greeted her singing. Evbo chose a jeweled koi for her supper. It expired in a summit of ecstasy as she chewed. Other fish swam in diamond patterns around the pool, chanting softly in harmonies that rose a short way and fell again to blanket the earth. Evbo settled onto a bed of reeds to sleep.
Lulled by the fish, empowered by the attention they lavished upon her, she dove into a deep meadow where insects sang and humans could not follow. So the mountain did possess hidden wonders. Something was there, a presence she could not define. It sent feelers down into her throat and her mouth and her breasts and her belly, not to harm her she hoped, but to explore, to check that this was who it thought she was. She opened herself as usual to understand the presence but found she could not open at all. The meadow grew dark and ominous; Evbo could not help but struggle. Stop!
The wide mouth pursed and winced and spat. She awoke trembling, flecked with cold night sweat.
That day she stayed by the pool, hoping to conquer whatever it was during the next night's rest. Her stomach rumbled with hunger. When Evbo stroked the surface of the water, no fish could be seen. She felt a faint, stubborn resistance through the rocks lining the pool. All day the fish stayed out of sight, producing nothing but a sullen droning sound. None came when she called to them for dinner.
That night was worse than the first; it broke over the mountain like glass and shuddered with thousands of panting feet. Evbo burst out of the meadow in disarray, scrambling on all fours, drenched in sweat and disgust and fear. She could not stand the presence that awaited her there. Never touch me again. With ill-feigned calm she greeted the rich gold morning and the cloudless approach of day. Still the fish shied away from her, so she ate nothing but nuts that she gathered herself. She did not know why, as she had half made up her mind to leave without knowing, but something prodded her to stay. In hopeless effort she laid the cloak out in the sun and wrapped herself in its cowhide warmth, waiting for sunset.
The third night began with the same sickly-sweet presence she had felt before. The presence warmed her body but cooled her verve. Surely this time she could handle its touch. When Evbo opened to it, her efforts were sluggish; helpless, she was pinned to the meadow with shards of grass. A bower grew sullenly over her leather cloak and her hair and her skin. This bower wanted nothing to do with her, and Evbo could not communicate with it. She wept in rage and pity. Grass blades pierced her cheeks where the tears ran, and her sweat mixed with blood and soaked the earth beneath her. With a furious shout she prayed, cursing, yelling words aloud that made no sense to her when she heard them, but she could not stop screaming. Were these prayers also to be unanswered?
The question crossed her mind more than once. With the strength of her own body and that of the bull she wore, she twisted among the blades binding her. Rage gave way to fear, and fear subsided as a certain sorrow arose in Evbo’s heart. In desperation she addressed whatever was there: I am nothing; I can do nothing. What I came for, I cannot find.
As she spoke, she was free, standing tall and wild on the meadow. That presence was still there, but it listened to her now. Evbo knelt in panicked relief. She spoke quietly, calmingly. She gave it her blessing and offered it a chance to know her with her consent, for she would not struggle, but welcome with open arms the thing that had bound her fast.
The presence considered this; it emanated pleasure and desire. She nodded, smiled wordlessly. You are a god, are you not. Though it did not speak, she knew the answer. Evbo took the thing and stretched it over her knee, inviting it to make its home with her. A time of reconciliation followed in which both Evbo and her lover grew like briars and twined together, rode the meadow in all its faces, then untwined lazily and slept. Fish in the reflecting pool sang into their dreams.
She awoke with a new presence in her, and took it with her down the mountain.