The Giant in the High-Rise – a story by Wayne-Daniel Berard

The Giant in the High-Rise

The building stretched twenty, maybe twenty-five stories into the thin, cold sky. Frost patterns that were the few clouds pressed upon the pane of the day stilled the atmosphere over sea and city, equally unmoved. Winter.

Anak stood, extremely tall but with a bit of a shoulder slouch, in the very center of the high-rise, in the very center of town. Under ordinary conditions, great, knotted arms would have by now plowed through partitions and security doors; knees thick with hair like hedge bracken would have lifted and crashed dully, clumsily through plate glass vistas, while bare feet, callused and hard as wrecking-balls, would be putting an end to all foundations.

But these were not ordinary conditions, and Anak was no ordinary giant. He was a magical giant. In fact, he was Time.

Being magical, the giant in the high-rise could pass his oh-so solid body right through stages and conditions of matter, like Casper playing for laughs. But he didn’t laugh. Like almost all giants, in fairy tale or midrash or saga, Anak was quite slow-witted, quite unaware.

Like those of his cousin Atlas, so easily out-foxed by Hercules (himself no Mensa member), Anak’s long, challah arms reached high over his thick head. Always. Hands, forearms, elbows and upper arms passed without disturbance through floor & ceiling, ceiling & floor above and beyond his sight, into that neighborhood of the high-rise which he dimly called “Yet.” Up on the roof, a homeless person had been camping out, unbeknownst to all but the custodian, a righteous man. He was gone now, but had left a transistor radio, a pack of playing cards, a few odds and ends. Far, far below, in the basement, in that nether region Anak knew as “Ago,” the righteous custodian kept a hot plate in the storage quarters, although the rules forbad it. Around it, unmatched luggage, an assortment of moldering wedding gifts, soccer balls and kites whose owners had long since moved away, old TV’s, and exercise machines fulfilling their purpose in guilty half-forgetfulness — all these splayed around Anak’s huge, unshod feet and toes. And dust.

The giant’s vision was limited to one floor at eye-level, which he ingeniously called “It.” It was a typical set of apartments, with rugs and kitchenettes, furniture and lives in various stages of emergence from the sterility of rent, gradually warming themselves, ripening toward departure and property. This was all Anak could see; this was It, and for all he knew, all there was. Glimpses out of high windows, themselves often reflections in other high windows and they in others, sometimes showed slices of sea on one side of the building, of mountains on the other, like slivers of moon caught in the many lenses of a telescope, caught and lessened.

Anak would look on, ponder in his own ponderous fashion, and live. Often, from the ceilings and roof above, music would seem to drift down as from an unseen, yet glorious heaven. He would hear it and love it, and wonder where it came from, unable to see anything but the story directly before his eyes. He thought perhaps the music to be intimations of his own future; a precursor of good luck or love . . . Out of his sight, his own great hands, flopping about on their wrists, would pick up the playing cards on the roof, aimlessly shuffle them, pick one, do a bit of a trick or begin a game of solitaire. Black queen on red king — my God, how had he known that? How had he known that this one would yet fall for that one and she for him, although she was dark and somber and he sanguine and incisive? Had he dreamt it? Why could he sometimes finish others’ thoughts, suddenly see who would next cross a room and say this or that, or sigh and say nothing? Pick a card, any card . . .

From the deep reaches below, smells and sounds and sensations would also rise to Anak’s level of perception. He didn’t know it, but his own feet were right then playing with a soccer ball stored away in the basement. Back and forth from foot to foot, toe to instep to heel, the ball would dance. Abruptly, the giant would be back in his own childhood, filled with nostalgia, overwhelmed by the nearness of that which he thought had died long ago.

And the scents of meals cooking on the custodian’s hot plate, the smell of a splatter of hot grease smothering in the dust of the cellar — what was stirring down there? Had he missed something in the deep recesses? Something burning but delicious was calling him, almost driving him mad, but he could not see it. Was some issue he had not yet resolved on the burner now? Did giants have mid-life?

Through reflections of reflections in the skyline, Anak could just make out the curved lids of pot-bellied mountains between his city and the Great City. Where the air had once dipped deepest in the sky-forks between them, a good, new road had been cut through, and sky, for the first time since Creation, could there touch level ground. Or concrete, at least. It was snowing on the mountaintops.

The dull giant that was Time turned his limited attention once more to his narrow field of vision, the rooms and furniture and windows. Never had he moved from this position, arms way above him, feet far below — didn’t know he was in anything called ‘a position,’ didn’t understand that his own life, all of one piece, rose and fell across the entire high-rise at every moment, one moment.

Soon he would sleep. In his dream, he would stride, slowly, deliberately, in one long constant step, crossing and bounding the entire good road between the mountains, one foot still here, the other already there, the snow sticking to his thick eyebrows. Down below, thousands upon thousands of tiny Anaks — old ones, young ones, married and single, affluent, struggling and homeless, the just born and dying, joyous, uncaring, and enraged — all were scurrying, heatedly, ceaselessly back and forth beneath his arched legs on that same road, up and down it, between the Great City and the always unmoved sea.

Wayne-Daniel Berard teaches English and Humanities at Nichols College in Dudley, MA. Wayne-Daniel is a Peace Chaplain, an interfaith clergy person, and a member of B’nai Or of Boston. He has published widely in both poetry and prose, and is the co-founding editor of Soul-Lit, an online journal of spiritual poetry. His latest chapbook is Christine Day, Love Poems. He lives in Mansfield, MA with his wife, The Lovely Christine

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