Part 1: Jarvin & The Giant / by charles desrochers

     Along the cold night’s floor, where dust blows high and so strong that vermin fly through the air and the world is washed red with the glow from the moon’s light dancing across the particles lay a desolate land both flat and endless. These were once fields that stretched as far as the imagination, bringing food and fuel to the billions of townships spread throughout the super continent, many of which hid amongst the reads that they so tenderly nourished and harvest throughout the year. The Fall would bring festivals and flyers, families celebrating in their relief that they had produced bounties aplenty for themselves and the great cities that lay far far away. Over time though, the reeds grew less and less while the cities multiplied. The families no longer celebrated for their could barely feed themselves with what was left of their crop and soon the earth was so starved and the air so dry that nothing would grow. Most fled to the cities and of them the majority did not survive the long trip and those who stayed were slowly withered by the heat and swallowed by the dust, leaving this land, once gorgeous in its lushness and vivid colors, desolate and abandoned.

     A cloud sits at the edges of either coast. Dreamers look upon it and wonder the terrors that hide amongst the dust, waiting for their chance to break free and run through the cities to steal away the bad children. They’d be taken to tents or caves where man hasn't been in generations and string them up to dried for eating later on. This is at least what the parents tell their young ones so that they behave. It's a story, an old wive's tale as far as anyone can tell but no one can remember a time before the stories. The books tell of the riches of the old world but not of the horrors. Maybe they were real? Knowing this the men and woman lay in bed, watching the windows, waiting for dark shapes to cross their curtains and punish them for the many transgressions they’ve committed.  If anything they were more frightened than the children. In the grander scheme what does a stolen piece of candy or a shove into the mud matter in comparison to cheating on your wife, stealing a house through broken mortgages or conning your neighbors? On the best of days they forget about the dust, but this is only for moments, until they look to the city's border at the plumes awaiting them, holding secrets. 

     It’s in this desolation and wind swept nothingness that we find a party, a caravan of brave souls, carrying word and goods from east to west. No one eve sees them; their payments are automatic and their cargo is preloaded onto trailers and carts. For one night only they will be on the edge of town, as quiet as death, and in the morning all that will be left are the supplies that they were to deliver and empty carts. The merchants that benefit from this arrangement don’t question it. They don’t wonder how it is that such a journey can be made without gasoline or power from the sun. In their eyes the system works, so there’s no need to question it.

     Once in a long while a brave soul- and probably a child because only a child would be so bold and curious to question such a mundane happening as the comings and goings of commerce- will look out at the wasteland when the sun hangs low in the sky and begins to kiss the earth. They won’t see it at first but eventually a dot will appear on the horizon. Moments and minutes will pass and the shape of a man will appear. Just as the arms and legs come into their own, like 4 dark grains of rice hanging on one another from the center, the sun sets and the day turns to night.

     By morning the goods will be gone and the caravan will be some hundreds of miles away. It doesn’t move by machine or sail, instead it inches along by the graces of a giant who pulls at the front of the metal snake. Labored step by labored step it digs its sharp legs to the ground and steady like hydraulics moves forward. He (or she) is a colossus, pulling a great rope over its shoulder for days and through nights when needed. It towers over all else in the landscape and its skin as dark as eyes shut tight.  It’s features are drowned in the blackness so that nothing but his silhouette can be made out, save for the poncho it wears at the request by mothers of the tribe, assuming that if it had genitalia then presumably decency would be required. 

     The land is quiet but for the wind blowing by the giant’s ears. It blows and howls past the metal cages, flapping the tarps and curtains of the carts while rusty wheels grind and squeak. The giant’s footsteps are quiet, like a knife stabbing at the sand. Its body will hurt and he will groan, letting out a low boom like a barge rubbing against the dock but that’s when Jarvin will pop his head up to attention from a day dream and look to his friend. In but a moment he’ll throw a large canteen onto his back and climb up the giant’s shoulders and present the fresh water. The colossus doesn’t do this because he is forced to, there are no shackles and no leash on his neck. It’s by his good graces that this trip is made.

     Jarvin asks, “How feels you, friend?”

    The giant ignores, it’s a stubborn and proud creature after all. Jarvin clanked his fist against the canteen to grab his attention once more but the giant moans and shakes his head. Sometimes he’ll be gracious enough to accept the water but he knows he's been stopping more than in the past. These two have been together since Jarvin was a boy and he knows that one day just as his own body has grown old week and slow that so will the giant's. That will be the end of the caravan. He only hopes that when the giant finally gives up that they will be near the coast. Jarvin dreads that day when the giant returns to the wasteland he came from though, not because it signifies his own end of relevancy or livelihood but because in all the years that they’ve ping ponged east to west and back again this giant has been his dearest friend.

            Jarvin splashes the giant with some water but he continues on his walk. Jarvin takes a sip of the water himself and relishes it.

            “Mmmm, refreshing!” he shouts into the giant’s ear. With another swig he gargles and spits it at the giant to goad him to turn his head finally.

            “See?” taunts Jarvin.

     The giant takes his great hand and swings it to Jarvin as he tosses the canteen to its paw. His foot slips on the monstrous shoulder but while he may be old he can still climb and scamper the giant like in the old days. He tumbles and catches the poncho to swing over to the opposite shoulder to see the giant sloshing back the gallons of water into the void that is presumably its mouth. Thud after thud of the giant’s throat gulping down the water bellow across the desert while Jarvin stands by his friend. When done he returns the canteen to Jarvin, who takes a drink from the little remains and the two face one another. The giant can’t talk, or at least he never has, but he and Jarvin know how to speak. The giant seems to understand what Jarvin says and Jarvin reads his body. The two even joke with one another, as the giant knows how awkward his body is in enormity and is quick to use it to exaggerate. For some of the finer points though Jarvin will look to his eyes, a deep and near luminous purple.

            “Tired?” asks Jarvin as the giant shakes his head and holds it proud. But Jarvin knows better. The giant’s eyes are weary and he’s wet to the touch, leaving Jarvin’s hands black with the giant’s sweat.

            “Well, I am. Let’s break, you and I.”

            The giant’s head nods as he picks Jarvin off of his shoulder, lowering him gently to the ground before collapsing to the ground himself with a sound of thunder when his rear hit.

            Jarvin chuckles at the giant. “I’ll check on the rest. Eat! We are not what we once were and I'd rather be fat and happy than trim, weak and vein,” he says.

            With a great finger extended the giant pokes Jarvin in his belly.

            “Ha! Well maybe I could spare a meal or two,” laughs Jarvin before the Giant lets out a cackle of his own.

            The giant wasn’t always so jovial, remembers Jarvin. There was a time when he was small and scared, afraid of even the slightest sounds that come from the desert.

           

            It was a day long ago when Jarvin was a young lad. The tribe had stopped to camp inside the great caves to wait out a sand storm and repair their motorcades engines. Huddled in the darkness of the cave were the hundred or so tribesmen around their fires trying to stay warm and trade gossip. Jarvin had a natural sense of wonder back then. He refused to believe that nothing had survived the endless summers that burnt the land. He knew that somewhere among the hills and hiding in holes were creatures that only his imagination could conjure. Sitting next to his father, who then was the chief at the front of the motorcade, he'd hold his eyes open until they hurt, refusing to blink, until shapes took form over the horizon and he'd create stories in his mind of serpents battling giant spiders and cities that only exist when the sun hits them on at dusk or dawn or only exist with closed eyes.

            He wandered away from the fires and decided to explore the caves that were said to stretch underground for miles. He looked to the darkness and felt something hiding away, something near and watching. He ran to one of the old maiden’s carts and stole a ball of yarn and tied it to a nearby rock so that he may find his way back. 

            Into the cave he wandered until the spool of string ran out. He turned off his torch and all traces of light vanished. He had taken so many corners and stretched the yarn so tight to it’s length that not even the sound of the camp could follow but he looked ahead and had the same feeling of being stalked as when he started his trek. So, in the morning he stole more thread and ventured further. Then he did the same for the next morning and the morning after that until he was forgoing all sleep to see how far the caves burrowed into the world until one day he stopped.

            Jarvin reached a wall and rather than turning back and choosing another path he studied it, feeling that presence from before. He dropped his yarn and stood before it, running his hands along the cold and sharp rocks. They were wet and near freezing but as black as anything he had ever seen. It was like standing in the threshold of reality, where god had decided to end the day when he built the earth, thinking, “I’m getting distracted, I still have so much to do.”

            Then, as his hand went along the crag the rocks turned from hard and cold to soft and warm. He pushed in and the rocks gave with him. He wondered if it were some sort of dirt or moss as he attempted to shake it loose but it didn’t budge, he thought he could hear the ground move behind it in a moan. The noise was so unnatural and sad that he stopped being so aggression to budge it. He returned to tracing it with his hand until he reached a rounded top to it where it met the rocks. Then, as he gently pet the blackness two purple orbs revealed themselves and floated to his level. Jarvin thought to himself that he had finally found the wonders he had always been looking for and he took  a snack from his pocket and presented it. He couldn’t see the hand extend but his hand disappeared as it grabbed the snack and he saw it float up bit by bit disappear into it’s mouth.

            The storm persisted so Jarvin returned every night with more food and more water. The two would play games a hide and seek of sorts. It would close his eyes and disappear into the cave while Jarvin tried to find him. They would have gotten lost if it weren’t for the younger giant making noises to keep Jarvin close. Jarvin was the youngest of the caravan and never had the chance to play with other children, so the creature quickly became his closest friend and when it came time to leave the caves and continue on their journey out of the wasteland Jarvin brought the giant to his father. At first the tribe was hesitant towards the beast, thinking it be wild and untamed but father saw how he was with Jarvin and took the chance. On that day he was Jarvin’s height but over the years he grew and grew. When the engines finally stopped he took it upon himself to tie the rope at the front of the train and pull, where he’d be with Jarvin as the two grew older.

 

            Jarvin made his way down the train to rub oil onto the wheels as the tribe poked their heads out of the carts.

            “Jarvin, how long can we expect to be stopped?” asked one of the men. Jarvin looked at his friend at the front, sitting in a pool of his black sweat.

            “Thus far, we’ve made good time. We’ll be stopping for the night, Canter,” said Jarvin.

            “There’s still 6 hours until sundown! Why not make this a quick break and continue until dusk?” asked Canter.

            Jarvin looked again to the giant to see him running a hose and gulping at all of the water he could before moving to his trough. The woman charged with feeding him always assumed he would viciously dive into the mess but he kept his manners and only ate one handful at a time. He looked to the woman and made sure they could see his eyes.

            “Mmmmm,” he moaned.

            “My god, is he randy?” asked one of the women new to the duty.

            “Don’t be silly,” said one of the veteran woman. “That’s how she thanks us, showing us she likes it.”

            “How do we know it’s a girl,” asked the new woman, who came from the back of the train and married towards the front.

            “We don’t but if the men are going to call it a man then I choose to call her a her,” said the old woman before she looked towards the giant. “You’re very welcome, dearie.”

            Once Jarvin was done with his oil duties he moved back to the giant who sat in the shade of the second cart, the lone double decker where Jarvin and his family lived with their more closer relatives in the tribe.

            “We’ll be stopping for the night,” Jarvin shouted to his friend, who opened his eyes and shook his head in protest.  His eyes squinted as if Jarvin was challenging his fortitude and determination.

            “Well if you’d like to keep pulling the cart for the rest of the day then be my guest. I just mean to say that you’ve been puling so fast and hard that we’re far ahead of schedule and can spare the afternoon.”

            The giant’s eyes turned to acute triangles pointed at Jarvin, he didn’t know if he should accept the compliment or not.

            “I know I need a break at least, these old eyes don’t catch as many markings as they used to. Lest you’d like to wander the desert with no direction or notion of where we are then a break is in order so that I may navigate us correctly.” Jarvin said to the giant with a long pause before the giant nodded his head and leaned back against the cart to rest. 

            The night was warm for the season. In one year the troupe will make eight trips back and forth, four complete in total and this was the sixth of the year. This is when the nights turn cold and long. The stars had come out to light the sky and the moon lit the dust in the air to give the land a pale glow. On colder nights the place feels haunted with only the noises of the campfire and wind. The giant even stays quiet on nights like these, sometimes closing his eyes and disappearing into the darkness. Jarvin wondered if the giant knew something he didn’t, that there was something to be scared of that hid in the day and lurked in the nightime. He had theories of why the giant was so dark, perhaps that in the caves it was the best camouflage against predators, but he had never seen such beasts, only the giant. The creatures he imagined when he was younger never showed themselves and when he reached the horizons where he’d see the mighty battle would be more dirt and no such life. On nights like this though, when it was warm enough to sleep in the open Jarvin stared at the stars with his children and humored them as they told him stories they had learned in the day's classes.