The children are too small. They crawl under our fingernails. They get tangled in the hairs on my arms. They fall into the crevasse of Garganta’s cleavage, making her undress to find them taking refuge in her bellybutton, thankfully an innie.
“Hey there,” Garganta says. The children cover their ears with tiny hands. Her voice is too loud for them, too thundery even at a whisper.
There are two of them—a boy and a girl. The boy is fragile, even for a human. His arms and legs are covered in blue spots from when Garganta first held him last night. The girl is tougher. She bites our hands whenever we pick her up and burps loudly when she gets bored. She’s not so bad.
Once Garganta has fished them out of her navel, she hands the children to me and pulls her shirt back over her head. I set the pair on the cliff, where they are safe from being stepped on.
We found them yesterday, while dining on a village south of our mountains. Garganta had just emptied out the barns, wolfing down the cows and ponies. I went for the houses, using a technique I like to call The Stinkbox, in which I peel off the roof, pull down my pants, and let one loose. The house empties in seconds, and I pluck the household from the ground, pop them into my mouth, and spit out the clothes.
After we’d cleared out the village and were thinking about dessert, we heard a tiny noise, like bats flying into our ears.
“What’s that?” Garganta asked, bending over to get her ear closer to the ground.
I followed her to the ruins of one of the houses we’d destroyed. All that was left was a lone wall, a coat rack, and a bed. With her little finger, Garganta flipped the bed over. Underneath were the two children, crying.
“There, there,” Garganta said, scooping them up. “Now, now.”
“Hear, hear,” I said, thinking we had found dessert.
She looked them over as they rolled down the creeks of her palms. The girl ran off the edge, but Garganta caught her with her other hand before she splattered onto the ground.
“We’re keeping them,” she said, slowly curling up her fist, making sure to leave some air holes. With her free hand she passed me the bed.
“OK,” I said, and we walked back to the mountains.
When Garganta got pregnant, she craved strange foods. For a few days she wanted only elephant. I found a zoo in the provinces and brought some back—two African, one Indian—using the front of my shirt as a basket. (I took a giraffe for myself, but it was too bony.) A month after the elephants she wanted whale, and I went out to the ocean, baited an anchor with three sea lions, and caught her some orcas.
In those early weeks her belly started out as little more than a hill. Then it swelled to the size of a mosque, then a stadium, then a mountain. By nine months it looked like she had swallowed the moon.
If it was a boy, we agreed to name him Groot Jr., after me. If it was a girl, we’d name her Garganta II. If it was a Cyclops (Cyclopeanism runs in my family), we’d name it Peekaboo, or Winky.
But the baby was born dead. Afterwards, Garganta held it for a while, trying to wake it. When she gave up, she handed it to me.
It was a girl, and it wasn’t a Cyclops, so it would have been Garganta II.
I took her to the plains on the north side of the mountains. Garganta stayed back, sewing another blanket out of theater curtains. With the baby slung over my shoulder, I dug a little valley with my hands and laid her down.
Her toes were tiny, as thin as tree trunks. I had to bend her legs so they wouldn’t poke out of the ground.
When I was finished, I filled in the hole and walked back home. I felt as small as a house.
The children are making little yelping noises. Garganta snatches the boy from the cliff and holds him up to her ear.
“I think they’re hungry,” she says.
I run over to a cabin on the east side of the mountains, grab a cow from the barnyard, and set it down in front of the kids. They start petting it.
“Is that how humans eat?” I ask my wife.
“I think it needs to be deadened first.”
So I grasp the cow between my thumb and forefinger, snap its back, and set it down again. The children start crying.
“Wait,” Garganta says, furrowing her brow. “They like it dipped in fire. I think I heard that somewhere.”
Garganta picks two cedars from the base of the mountain and rubs them together. When they light, I hold the cow pieces over them until they gurgle, then slap them back down by the children.
“Come now,” Garganta says sweetly, and the little boy takes a bite. Soon both of the children are chewing on the cow. Garganta smiles at me, and I smile too.
That night we tuck them into their little bed, the one we found them in. It takes a few tries before Garganta can grip the square of blanket, but she manages.
So they don’t escape, I grab one of the old water towers we use as a goblet and turn it upside down over the bed.
“Make sure they can breathe,” Garganta says. I pluck another tree and pop some air holes too high for the children to climb out of.
Garganta peeks in to make sure they are settled. Satisfied, we lie down in the valley and go to sleep.
At sunrise, Garganta wakes me up, and we set out to find the children breakfast.
“We should just eat them,” I half joke. Garganta doesn’t laugh. They are growing on her.
We find a flock of geese down on the pond. I sneeze, and the flock flies up into Garganta’s cupped hands. She gives them a few good shakes and we walk home, where she spills the geese into a pile around the water tower.
When we pull off the tower to feed the children their feathery breakfast, they make a break for it, tripping over the geese and running to the edge of the cliff.
“EEE! EEE!” they chirp.
Before they can get away, I gently brush the girl back towards the bed. She plummets into the pile of birds, unharmed.
But Garganta, worried that the boy is going to fall and hurt himself, swats him away from the edge of the cliff with the back of her hand. He squeaks and rattles against the upturned water tower.
The boy spends the rest of the morning lying down while his sister prods him, trying to make him get up. When Garganta sees he is hurt, she holds him on the tip of her finger, singing an old giant lullaby, the one about the giants on the moon. Her voice is rich and deep—deeper than mine—and she hits all the right low notes.
As she finishes the last verse (the one about sleeping in the craters) she points to the girl, then me, and flicks her wrist to shoo us away. It is the same gesture she used to hurt the boy. Of course, I don’t say this.
So I turn to the girl, who I start calling Groot Jr. in my head even though she is not a boy. I lay out my hand, and she steps on, looking back at her brother.
First I take her to the pond where I played as a kid, back where we got the geese. As softly as I can, I lower her on my palm down into the water so she can swim. When I move my hand a little too deep, she goes under. I raise her back up and blow on her to get the water off. She is crying again.
“It’s OK,” I tell her. I wonder if she can understand me, or if my voice is too low and loud in the same way hers is too high.
Then I take her to the dunes, to build sandcastles. We find a flat spot in the middle and I spit to give the sand some stick. While she makes her own little tower—stopping occasionally to wipe her nose on her arm—I make a castle, too, carving a wall with my hands and sculpting a moat with my big toe. But before I can finish the turrets, Groot Jr. wants to step inside.
“Who goes there?” I say, sticking my hand in front of the entrance, like a drawbridge. She makes a tiny sound that I take for a password, and I lower my hand across the moat.
She barely limps past the drawbridge before the castle collapses around her. Before she can drown in the sand, I fish her out, sifting with my fingers until I find her where the keep had been.
While she rubs the sand out of her eyes, I try thinking smaller. I take off my sock, stretch it like a little human hammock, and lay her inside. Then, as gently as I can, I rock her back and forth.
The girl doesn’t seem to mind the foot smell. She smiles, I think, and I can almost make out her microscopic teeth.
On the walk home I set Groot Jr. on my shoulder to see if I can understand the small sounds she makes. As we cross the plain, I think I hear a little laughing noise, but it is hard to tell.
When we get back, the boy looks less appetizing. His skin has lost all color except for his leg, which has swelled purple and blue. Garganta encourages him to sip on one of her tears, which jiggle all around him where the geese had been. I set the girl down a ways from the boy, on a little promontory. I let her sleep in the sock and cover her up with the water tower since its unlikely the boy will run away.
“Nighty night, Groot Jr.” I tell the girl. Garganta shoots me an upset look.
With Groot Jr. tucked in, I get ready for bed, folding my shirt and pants into a pillow. Garganta made all of my clothes, from sails and circus tents mostly.
“How much longer do you think we can keep them?” I ask as I yank off my other sock.
“Till they’ve grown,” Garganta says.
“That will take a while,” I tell her, looking at the water tower. I know they will never be as big as we are. They’ll never even be as big as Garganta II.
“I have a while,” Garganta says.
I lie down in the valley, under our blanket of curtains. Garganta stays up with the boy.
“Go to bed,” she tells me, but I keep awake, looking up at her as she lays the child on her fingertip to hear the twitchings of his miniature heart. This must be how the children see us, towering above them, our hands enormous, our heads far off even though our voices hurt their ears.
The boy doesn’t make it through the night. Before Groot Jr. wakes up, I take his little body out to the plains and dig another hole with my fingernail, this one even smaller than the last one.
When I get back, Garganta is punching a mountain. Her fist, wrapped up in the curtain blanket, takes out huge chunks of stone, which ring off the cliffs and roll into the valley. I wrap my hands around the water tower, trying to block out the sound of the rubble so Groot Jr. can get some sleep.
The human diet has made us soft. We’ve eaten so many people that I think it is getting to us. Sometimes I dream I am so small I could be held by a human and live off their hair or blood rather than eating the whole thing at once.
When we met, Garganta and I used to devour entire metropolitan areas, picking our teeth with telephone poles and foraging the suburbs for dessert. We used to stand on each other’s shoulders to get high from the thin air, then go off dropkicking houses and tipping barns. Now I look up at the moon, or down at the dirt, and I feel like an eyelash or a fleck of spit.
We need a new diet, one of bears, wolves, and mountain lions, until we are so strong and hairy that we can’t feel anything but our own size.
The next morning Garganta has changed her mind. We plan to take Groot Jr. to the village on the side of the mountains where I got the cow. Garganta is the one that decides this, and even though I’m taking a liking to Groot Jr., I agree. We are too big for her. We hurt her without even trying.
I ask Garganta if she wants to carry the girl, but she shakes her head. So I pull off the water tower, stretch my sock back out, and lift the girl up. She laughs at first, but keeps peeking over the edge, looking for the boy.
“All right then,” I tell Garganta, and we leave the mountains.
The cabin is not far—a short walk from the slopes. Occasionally I look down at the little girl on my sock as she dangles safely above the boulders and pointy trees that line the east side of the mountains. We could protect her from anything of size—dragons, ogres, those pointy trees—but we are helpless against tiny things.
When we get to the cabin, we find the family outside. The father is baling nearly imperceptible threads of hay. The mother is washing clothes in a freckle-sized basket. When they finally see us, they flee in terror, running into the cabin.
“Shush,” Garganta says, and I lay the sock on the grass so Groot Jr. can step off.
After a minute, they realize their home hasn’t been destroyed and peek through the windows, curious. When they see Groot Jr., the little man and little woman come back out. The woman runs over and picks up the girl. The little man stabs me in the toe with his pitchfork, then goes back to the others, perplexed he has not yet been eaten.
“Bye, Jr.,” I tell the girl. This time Garganta doesn’t scowl.
Groot Jr. waves. My wife and I wave back, then turn to the mountains.
As we walk farther and farther away from the cabin, I wonder if we look human sized to Groot Jr., the size of people who could take care of her. We stop to turn every few steps, and the girl is still way down there, waving. We wave back again and keep walking until she is too small for us to see.