Bonus 10: The Big Lonely

The Big Lonely
by
Matt Zurbo

 

Chapter 1

Martia didn’t want to fight dragons. She didn’t want to conquer the Swampy Marshes, Demon Lands, or take on Vikings. She worked hard enough making baskets and ploughing fields. Most of her village thought the same.
   “Just leave us out of that macho stuff!”
   She did, though, desperately want to have a child. Unfortunately, she could not, which was why, when her husband died, nobody in her village would remarry her.
   That’s pretty low, she thought. I have other qualities.
   Then, one day, clearing shrubs, Martia found a giant egg!

   Times are tough. The black plague, taxes, all those holy inquisitions… she thought. If I poach this giant egg for the villages, they might like me.
   But in her heart of hearts Martia knew exactly what she had to do… and sat on it!

   The egg was huge! Even on its side it was five feet tall! Martia felt a bit silly sitting up there, embarrassed, but she was determined!
   She really wanted that baby!
   Sure enough, Roberto from the village found Martia sitting on her egg. He called the other farmers.
   “Hey, you gotta see this!”
   “Don’t be mean!” Martia warned him.
   “Everybody! Look at Martia!”
   “I said; Don’t be mean!” insisted Martia.
   But she was stuck up on an egg and could do nothing about it.
   “Look! Look!” laughed Roberto, as the villagers came running.
   “Ohh! I’ll get you for this one day!” Martia growled.
   “Boil it!” shouted one villager.
   “Fry it with bacon!” drooled another.
   “I found it and I’m keeping it!” protested Martia.
   “Crazy old lady!” everybody told her.

Martia sat on her egg for three days and nights, though cold, wind, and even
snow! Not a single villager helped her! Not once!
   “I wont forget it…” she grumbled.
   On the forth day she rolled the egg to her shack and put it next to the fire.
   Roberto lived next door.
   “Dinner time!” he thundered.
   “Don’t you dare even think it!” Martia shook her fist, and sat back on the egg where it was warmer.

Chapter 2

Weeks past like this. Then, one night, there was a CRACK! Then another! Then several more…. Followed by crying!
   The egg had hatched! Martia was scared all of a sudden. What if it was a troll egg? How awful! Or a dinosaur one? The baby would eat her! What if it was a dragon egg? They were magical, anything could happen.
   “Goog,” the creature said. “Goog, goog, goo…”
   There, in front of her, was a crying, cooing baby giant.
   Martia squealed with joy! A baby! A BIG, BIG baby! She was sure she had enough love in her for one of those!
   “I’ll call you Goog,” she swooned. “If any stupid villager tries to run you out of town I’ll punch them in the eye!” And fetched a few of her cows to breast feed it.

Chapter 3

Martia had to do a LOT of punching in the eye over the next few years.
   “Send it to the slave markets!” insisted Roberto.
   “Sell it to a sorcerer!” someone else demanded.
   “It’s cursed!” they wailed.
   “It eats too much!” they hollered.
   “It did poo all over my garden!” complained the Mayor. “I mean – FOOMP! All over it!”
   Luckily for Goog, Martia was determined, could feed him with the rotten fruit from the orchids, and was a real good eye puncher!
   “He’s special,” she would thumb her nose at them.
   “Mama, Mama!” Goog would boom.
   His voice travelled and shook things and scared most everybody.
   And the kids, well, they just teased Goog… without mercy! They pretended to melt when he burped, they threw rocks, but, mostly, every chance they got they just laughed in his face and pointed.
   Only a scrawny blind girl called Jedda had any time for Goog. She thought he was hilarious! Which was just as well. Jedda liked making jokes about everything.
   “Hey Goog, it sounds like we’re being invaded by a bag of tin cans!” she said, loud enough for all to hear, as knights approached them.
   “Phew! Sweat in a box!” she waved her hands in front of her nose. “I bet they get real itchy round the, y’know…” she scratched her behind. “Lot’s o’ fungus and stuff.”
   “We’re here to see if the giant can fight,” said the main knight.
   “What happens when you fart in there?” Jedda asked.
   “Now see here…”
   “I bet your breath stinks.”
   The knights took Goog to a field where they’d built a straw dragon on a wagon. Jetta followed the whole way.
   “And what if you have an upset tummy? You know what I mean? Or a weak bladder? Do those suits came with a trap door?”
   The knights ignored her. They pointed at the straw beast and cried; “KILL!”
   Then looked around.
   Goog had wondered off chasing butterflies. Goog loved butterflies! They seemed so light and stupid. He was fascinated.
   “Little wobbly things…” he crooned.
   “He says that every time,” noted Jetta.
   “Is he a bit… slow?” one of the knights protested.
   Jetta growled.
   “Me just like little things,” Goog said, dunking his head into the creek to look for rainbow yabbies. They had amazing little claws, looked pretty, and moved faster than lightening.
   “Ohhh…” he crooned, accidentally sucking half the creek dry.
   The knights watched as Goog then lay on his back in the field, and Jedda rested her head on top of him.
   “Describe the clouds to me,” she sighed.
   “There be big one, shape like King,” Goog said, in his dumb voice. Him and Jedda giggled. It always fooled out-of-towners.  
   The knights watched a puffy image of their ruler, as the cloud grew and grew, making it’s belly fatter and fatter, until it looked like a melting whale. They even took off their helmets to better watch it.
   “It does look a bit like the King…” one of them confessed.
   Finally, the main knight cracked.
   “THAT’S IT!” he roared. “FIGHT ME, LARGE SIR!”
   Goog looked at the warrior.
   “Little tinny-tin,” he boomed. “You funny!” And hugged him.
   “Enough!” the knight grumbled. “This giant is useless! USELESS!”
   So Martia punched him in the eye, and they rode out of there.
   “Thanks for that my friend,” Goog said to Jedda. ”Those people were a pain. I hate fighting.”
   “Knight problems? Too easy!” the blind girl assured him.

Chapter 4

As Goog grew older he became really tall and skinny and fell in love with the blacksmith’s daughter. Huts became too small. He and Martia built him a barn to sleep in, with the chooks, pigs and horses.
   Roberto helped, too. Sure, he hated Goog, but he had a crush on Martia!
At night, Goog and the barn animals would huddle together, listening to the wolves howl, and strange noises from the Dead Bog, and look for sky gods in the night lights that shone off distant, icy mountains. He would whisper his secrets to them so loud, Jedda next door could hear. So could the whole town!

   “I really, really like the blacksmith’s daughter! I want to throw her to the sun,” Goog would say.
   Jedda would listen and fret. She liked Goog. It was confusing.
   “YOU STAY AWAY FROM MY DAUGHTER!” the blacksmith would rage.
   “I’d catch her again,” Goog would whisper even quitter, to the chooks.
   Jedda tried to imagine the trust involved. To hurtle up, through the clouds, hoping Goog’s aim was true, and his catch was better.
   “She’s so perty,” Goog would coo.
   “Gah!” the blacksmith’s daughter would shriek with embarrassment, and all the village kids would laugh.
   “I’m sick of him making drumsticks out of our tall trees, and accidentally stomping on everything,” raged the Mayor.
   “Winning school races with one step!” sooked the kids.
   “No WAY could he defend us from monsters or dragons!” complained the blacksmith.
   “Or even the Midnight Bats!”
   “All he does is EAT!”
   “And POO on my lawn!”
   “Away from my daughter…!”
   “Don’t make me punch you in the eye!” Martia would thunder.
   But it was too late. Everybody was scared of the Midnight Bats! They came every season, fifteen feet tall, fighting, eating, fighting more, destroying stuff, causing fires. If Goog was no good against them, he’d be no good against anything.
   “Remember that one time we tried to teach him to fight!” protested a villager.
   “He tripped and destroyed the church steeple!” groaned the priest.
   “USELESS!”
   “I’M SCARED!”
   “MY DAUGHTER!”
   “POO!”
   “GET HIM…!”
   Everybody in the village started lighting fire torches, even Roberto!    
   Fortunately, Jedda was blind, the dark didn’t bother her. She ran to Goog’s barn.
   “Get out of here!” she gasped.
   “Is that you, Jedda? Hey, I think when I whisper, the village people can here me.”
   “Gah! Goog! They’re coming for you!”
   “Why?” said Goog. “My mother likes me.”
   “C’m’on!” Jedda yelled. “Your mother’s good, but she can’t punch every eye in the county!”
   And, as she felt the approaching flames, the blind girl grabbed the giant by the hand and led him into the midnight wilderness.

Chapter 5

Goog hated ploughing the Tabletop fields. They were full of rocks, it would break his back, it was boring. The landowners there were used to using battle-scarred elephants, and acted like they owned him. Every time there were butterflies, or pretty birds, or amazing weather was rolling in, Goog would stop to marvel and be whipped and shouted at.
   The storms were the worst. Goog would just stand there, head lost in them.
   “Get down you big dope!” Jedda would moan. “If nothing else, the lightening will fry you like bacon!”
   “But I like sticking my head in clouds,” he would say, top half lost in fog.
   Jedda knew Goog was looking for his relatives, the sky giants, or aliens, or even the fabled hole in the sky. Anything that might save him from hardship.
   Then the landowners would threaten him with barking dogs.
   Grrr! Woof, woof! Grrr!
   “Get back to work! You’re ruining the quota!”
   “Maybe I SHOULD learn to fight dragons…” Goog would mumble.

   “Nah, you’re too nice. They’d eat you alive!” Jedda would sigh. “Especially if you were fried bacon.”
   Finally, after a hard day of ploughing, a plague of ladybugs drifted in on the breeze. They were so beautiful even fairies came out early to fly amongst them.
   “Look…” whispered Goog with awe and wonder.
   He ignored the landowners’ dogs and whips, wondering off, looking for greener pastures.
   “Just as well, it will soon be Midnight Bat season here,” said Jedda. “They’d probably try and make you fight them.”
   “I miss Mum,” Goog said to no-one. “She would have punched them in the eye for me.

Chapter 6

Working in a travelling freak show was terrible, but Goog was starving. And, besides, it was fun watching Jedda work for once.
   “Come tall, come fat, come skinny! Come those of you who are itty-biddy!” she yelled to the barbarians of Yor Town. “Be you mighty, be you weenie, be you ugly or pretty!”
   “See?” she whispered to Goog. “I’m a poet and I didn’t know it!”
   “Just get them to come to our Caravan of Curiosities,” insisted the bearded lady, who was a very fine person.  
   “Roll up, roll down, roll into town!” barked Jedda. “Roll over here, rollover and give us your money!”
   Goog laughed.
   “This is serious!” insisted the bearded lady.
   “They’re barbarians! I bet they can’t even understand me…” said Jedda.
   ”Then speak in a way they will understand! Anything! We need customers!”
   “Oog, grunt! You come our show! Ugg!” laughed Jetta.
Then her and Goog did a silly little dance where they bumped into each other, but Goog fell down, then Goog farted into his cupped hands and released them in front of a passing barbarian.

   They all watched as he drew his sword and tried to fight his way through the syrupy smell as though it was an enemy. The other barbarians laughed and paid for tickets with food and brass objects, and sat down for a performance.
   “Ladies and gentlemen!” called Jedda. “Or, killers and murderers! Watch, as before your bloodshot eyes, you see a puppet show like no other…”
   “I hate doing this,” Goog whispered, as he prepared to do the act.
   “But darling, it’s vital!” insisted the bearded lady. “If we just grunt and drool, we’re freaks. If we give them a show, well, then we’re something wonderful!”
   So Goog leaned over their wooden caravan, with bits of rope running from his fingers to the bearded lady’s arms and legs, and they pretended she was a puppet of wood he was making jerk and twist and walk for them.

   “May I introduce to you dirty louts the story of the puppet that learnt to fly…” Jedda cried, then, with fake rain and tin thunder and lanterns for suns and moons, she told a beautiful story of a bearded lady who went out into the world to find out who she was, only to discover wonder and awe everywhere, learning to fly, and taking on volcanoes.
   The story was Goog’s idea. It was easy for him to lift the bearded lady into the air, and he loved flying so much! He loved volcanoes! Goog knew violent puppet shows were popular, but he just wanted everybody to get along. He found the idea of a play about wonder and flight inspiring. 
   Unfortunately, barbarians were… barbaric. They enjoyed not getting along. At all. Not even little bit. In fact, they hated it!
   “Why lady have beard!?” they protested.
   “Me no like!”
   “Why big child not fight!?”
   “ME fight big child!”
   “No, me fight big child!”
   Jedda knew she had to do something.
   “I can smell all those layers of animal skin!” she scoffed. “I can hear your silly horn helmets knocking! Goog, are we performing to a group of mouldy bores?”
   “Ha! This one no see, but tuff!” said a barbarian.
   “Me fight beardy lady anyways,” said another.
   “Fight, fight, fight…!” chanted the barbarians, who’s idea of a fight was a good, quick, simple murder.
   “Why are we playing to barbarians?” muttered Jedda, running in blind girl circles. “Why not just book a gig with piranhas!?”
   “It was Goog’s idea! He didn’t want to judge them!” squealed the bearded lady, who was actually a very good fighter.
   She kicked a few away, but more and more advanced forward.
   Finally, Goog had had enough!
   “LEAVE US ALONE!” he shouted, bowling everybody over.
   He’d never felt anything like this before. He was hot, he was flustered.
   This was anger!
   “IM SICK OF YOU!” he stomped towards them. “I’M SICK OF THE KNIGHTS!” he stomped more. “I’M SICK OF THE LANDOWNERS!”
   Stomp! Stomp! STOMP!
   Goog’s rage shook the greedy vultures that forever followed barbarians, it sent the mountain trolls back into their caves, and woke sleeping legends. The barbarians scrambled along the ground to get away from him… and get to their catapults and longbows.
   “I miss my creek! I want to hold he blacksmith daughter’s hand!” said Goog. “I miss my mother…”
   “Mother…?” said the barbarians. “Charge!”
   “Quick, let’s run!” whispered the bearded lady. “They’re onto him!”

Chapter 7

“There are good people out there,” the bearded lady said. “Everywhere!”
   It had taken a day or running, with giant steps, to get away from the barbarians. Goog put down Jedda, the bearded lady, and her donkey.
   “If you say so,” he said to her.
   “I do. Even in your village. Good people!” she insisted as she parted. “It’s just that friendly giants are unusual, you make some folks go a bit loopy…”
   “If people are so friendly, why are you all alone just because you have a beard?” Jedda yelled after her.
   “In my village we all have beards! Even cats and babies!” she called over her shoulder. “I left because I wanted adventure…”

Chapter 8

Goog and Jedda roamed aimlessly for the next two months. The weather was rough, they slept where they could, worked hard, avoided knights and barbarians, and only had one encounter with a giant squid. Though, one night, Jedda was sure she heard a mermaid singing.
   Between work, for food they stole the odd apple tree.
   Finally, haggard, tired, Goog said; “I hate adventure.”
   “A bit overrated,” agreed Jedda. “Hey, that creek up ahead looks familiar…”
   Goog ran and put his head in it.
   BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!
   “It’s OUR creek!” he hollered, and thundered towards their village.
   BOOM, BOOM, BOOM…!
   “Wait! Wait!” Jedda cried. “They chased you out with fire, remember!?”

   Goog didn’t care. He missed his mother. He missed the paddocks. The simplicity. He missed everything! Dusk was falling. He charged the village edge, bracing for conflict, but the place was empty.
   “They’re here! They’re here!” a villager cried from a distance, as Jedda finally caught up.
   “Get ready to attack!” yelled another.
   “On my count…” called the mayor.
   “Are you ready…” Goog asked Jedda.
   But there was no-one there.
   “Listen. Those voices are coming from the fields,” the blind girl said, “It’s not us they’re talking about…”
   Goog put his hand to his ear. The sound of big leather wings filled the air. They had arrived just in time for the start of the Midnight Bat season.

Chapter 9

“Gahhhh! A Giant!” the town crier cried when Goog arrived at the edge of the fields. The whole village was there, carrying flame torches. They jumped and squealed and went to run but realised the Midnight bats were still waiting on the forest edge, upside down in 200 foot trees, fire coal red mouths chattering.  
   “Wait!” hollered Roberto. The giant’s its skin was covered in the grime of travel, but it was Martia’s boy.
   “It’s the useless one, Goog,” he moaned.
   “No,” said the mayor. “Look at him! His journey’s have aged him. WE’RE SAVED, I TELL YOU!”
   “You HAVE to help!” they pleaded. “Good rains have lead to a boom in their numbers!”
   “With you back, we can attack with confidence!”
   “Hoorah!” cried the villagers.
   Goog watched the Midnight Bats. There must have been 50 of them. Huge, ugly, chittering, chittering, chittering! He looked at the villagers, all scared and angry.
   “I’ll help,” he said.
   “Let’s charge!” cried Roberto.
   “But my way. You all stay here,” Goog insisted, and stepped over the rows of fruit and vegetables to confront the enemy.
   “Alone?” said the mayor.
   “He doesn’t even have a weapon!” gulped Roberto.
   “Hi,” Goog said to the alpha bat. It was as big as him, easy. “Can you speak human?”
   “A bit,” the bat grumbled and breathed fire.
   “I sure would like to hug you right now,” Goog said to it. “I know what it’s like to be judged by my appearance…”
   And the villagers all stood and watched in puzzlement as Goog and the Midnight Bats talked and laughed for hours.

Chapter 10

Finally, Goog came back to the mob of villagers.
   “He’s a monster like them! I bet he’s sold us out!” cried Roberto.
   “Who can play a guitar?” Goog said.
   “A guitar?” they protested.
   “The bats like dancing! Who would have thought it!?” Goog smiled like gravy.
   “Dancing?” said the blacksmith.
   “Listen, they’re hungry. If there has been good rain, like you say, they can eat the rotten fruit. There must be tonnes of it.”
   And someone brought out a Medieval guitar, and Jedda laughed and played the flute, the Midnight Bats danced through the air and ate the rotten fruit and all the village’s rats and everybody had a great time!
   Goog saw the blacksmith’s daughter in the crowd, smiling.
   “Jedda, look!” he squeaked with excitement. She was prettier than ever.
   Then he noticed the hansom boy who’s hand she was holding.
   “Oh,” he said, to himself. But he was a giant. Every expression was enormous.
   There was an awkward silence that filled the clearing.
   Before anyone could laugh or tease or do anything, Jedda marched up and whispered in Goog’s ear…
   “If you ever hold anybody’s hand except mine, I’ll punch you in the eye!”
   Goog felt embarrassed, guilty, like a fool! Jedda had been with him the whole time and he hadn’t even noticed she had a crush on him.
   In the midst of all the revelry a woman approached.
   “Goog…?” she said, nervously.
   “Mum!?” he giant cried, and ran towards her.
   BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!
   When Goog reached Martia, he gave her a hug that was both frightening and wonderful.  
   “I heard everything and came running,” she wept.
   It was a lovely moment.

Chapter 11

Goog hung around for a while, during which time he stopped a dragon attack by telling it fart jokes, and hugged a rampaging ogre, who really just wanted someone to talk to. Some Vikings did try to invade, but Goog blew off their helmets which calmed them down a lot!
   “Besides, if we fight, my mother will punch you all in the eye…” he insisted.
   Mostly, though, he did chores and lay in the field, listening to bees buzz about his ears and flowers, while wondering if he should hold Jedda’s hand or not. Once he did, he knew it would be forever. That made it a big, big decision!
   “You know, you’re okay,” Roberto insisted.
   Goog wasn’t sure whether or not to forgive him, or the villagers. They could be flighty. What if he was no good as saving them, would they still like him?
   Goog watched Jedda as she hung upside down in the tree, blowing into a flute, pulling faces. Even the way she played music was funny.
   Behind him four or five beans fell from the sky. They landed in soft soil and grew into stems that wove into each other an increased into the size of tree trunks, rising up, up, into the clouds above them.
   Once they were big enough a family of giants climbed down, including a pretty girl, about his age and height.
   “Ho!” the father said.
   Goog turned, startled. All he could think was; This must be what humans look like to each other.
   ‘We’ve heard of you,” the father continued. “Our world and this don’t often pass. You don’t have long if you want to come back with us.”

   “Wow, that was to the point!” Jedda said to herself, listening from her tree.
   Goog looked at the family, at the girl. He looked at the village, Jetta. He thought of Martia…
   “Thank you, but the village needs me,” he said. “And I’d miss my mother. Besides, there are lots of small things here. I find them amazing.”
   And when the giants climbed back up their stalk, Goog saw Jedda smiling…

Years later, they had a little baby girl. It was tiny, even by human standards, which Goog thought was just perfect!

      

 

The End

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