A giant walks around in a forest. It’s nice and all, but for years he’s been walking alone. He goes to his special tree and sits in it and searches the app-store for one that can help him meet people to walk around with. He heard something on the wind about Skout once, weeks ago, so now he reads some reviews of it. It seems fine. He downloads it and takes a picture of himself in his special tree and sets up a profile. His interests include walking, sitting, special trees, forests, swimming, and eating leaves that have fallen on the ground. He can’t speak Korean, only Giant, some Animal. He wishes he could speak more languages, and broaden his network, but it’s hard to get in good practice when you’re constantly alone.
The giant spends the evening searching for potential partners. A lot of the people on Skout look fake. The men appear only to want to have sex. The girls want to practice their English or Japanese. No one is a giant and no one wants to practice Giant and all of the animals seem really intimidating. They all have really nice, photo-shopped profile pictures.
The giant wants to be brave, though, and so contacts a Korean woman and a fox. An hour passes and then he hears back. It’s the Korean woman asking where he’s from. The giant says the forest in the south and compliments her on her great Giant. She says thanks and that she lived in the country awhile. She’s not so interested in going back, now that she’s settled in the city. Can they be long-distance friends? The giant likes the sound of that, and asks if she likes sitting. He doesn’t receive a single message back from her the rest of the night.
In the morning, the fox sends a message to him, but the Animal is too complicated and the giant can’t understand what the fox is asking. He tries to keep up and the fox laughs. This hurts the giant’s feelings and he leaves the chat.
The following week, after no new messages, the giant gets seriously down. But then he walks by some magpies, who are chattering, and he decides after all not to give up hope. He fixes up his special tree. He fixes up himself. He tells himself he is worthwhile. He is. Someone is coming. They are. The magpies have confirmed it. Someone will want to walk with him. When his phone beeps at him two days later, his heart nearly bursts.
“Are you in the south forest, then?” a giant asks him.
“Yes!” he says.
“Do you like riddles?”
“Yes!” he says. “OMG!”
“How does an ant become huge?”
“I know this one!” the giant says. “He meets his friends!”
“LOL,” the other giant replies. “No, the ant becomes a soldier. A GI. A GIANT.”
The giants spend the whole night talking like this, in riddles and ground-shaking laughs.
In fact, this other giant lives in the west forest, though in the southern part of the west forest. She is hesitant to travel to the south forest, because to do that would mean crossing through a town. The giant understands this completely and even agrees. He assures his new friend that he is fine with just chatting how they are. He bumps into trees as he walks and texts her. He laughs so hard while in his special tree that he loses his balance and falls out of the tree. He takes a picture of his bruise and sends it to her. She teases him. Months pass.
The next time the giant hears the magpies chattering, he feels a profound, unexpected sadness, which he can’t fully understand until he tells his friend about it. She says she feels the same sense of isolation whenever she sees the moon clearly. “It’s just so lovely,” she says. “It attacks my heart.”
“I understand what you mean when you say that,” the giant says. And he thinks, he has never had the opportunity to say that genuinely to someone else.
“What if I come to you, and risk it?” he says. Before she can answer, he says, “It’s not a question. I’m coming to you. This is something I want.” Before she responds, he adds, “I’m turning off my phone, so there’s no chance I change my mind. I’ll be there by evening, I hope. See you <3.” As he promised, he turns off his phone and gets to packing. He has a cloth bag full of leaves that have fallen from the trees. He puts some nuts in the bag, as well. Then he sets off.
There are old parts of the forest he’s seen, but not for years. This stream crackles differently than he remembers. These pines are much larger now. The giant walks past a meadow that smells like dust and dragonflies and comes upon a cleared field full of ash and stumps. The giant doesn’t remember there being a fire. He wonders what would happen if his special tree ever burned down. He would understand the nature of things, he tells himself. He realizes he has been walking so much, but in the same circles, on the same paths, and feels inspirited on this, his journey. He hears and ignores an argument on the wind.
The southwest town begins with roads, then farms, then homes, then larger homes, then buildings. It has taken longer than expected to arrive, and now the sun is setting. There is traffic, as the people begin leaving work. The giant walks and walks, then feels hungry and snacks on some of his leaves.
“Hey!” a man down the street yells. “Hey!”
“No one,” the giant says, without thinking.
The man runs up to him and flicks the giant’s bag. “You’re eating leaves on my street?” he says. “What do you think this is? Who do you think you are?” The giant can’t understand the Korean being flung at him and only clutches his bag closer to his hip. “You’re going to say nothing?” the man goes on. “Am I going to have to do something to teach you a lesson about respect? You should know to watch yourself in my town, when the sun goes down.” The giant puts his hands in the air. People are walking by and watching the scene unfold. They turn their heads to watch as they continue down the street. The man appears angry and serious and steps closer to the giant, who doesn’t want to hit him. He will, if he has to. He really doesn’t want to. He cocks his good arm back and closes his eyes.
“Hey,” the man says then, in Giant, “I’m just kidding. Don’t worry. Where are you going?”
“What?” the giant says.
“I have a truck. Do you need a ride somewhere?”
“We have a generally accepting town, but at night you never know.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I grew up in the country,” the man says, and then it’s him driving, with the giant splayed out in the truck-bed, wind on his face and leaves rustling in the bag. The man brings him all the way to the edge of town, to the trailhead at the base of the big mountain. Beyond the mountain is the forest the giant needs to reach.
Before leaving, the man says, “Are you strong, by the way?”
“I don’t know,” the giant says. “Why?”
“When I was a kid, my dad used to toss me up into the air and catch me before I hit the ground,” the man says. “What do you think of that?”
“I think it sounds nice,” the giant says.
“Well, we fly higher and higher as we get older,” the man says. “Have to. Got to.” And he gazes at the horizon.
And then drives away.
On the mountain, the giant turns on his phone, and receives a bunch of messages all at once from his friend. They start out as warnings and pleas and then, eventually, they become resigned. She says she’s nervous. She worries about a lot of things. Then she gives the giant a riddle. “How does one disappear?” it goes. The giant knows this riddle.
“Add a G,” he writes to her.
Two hours later, he has reached her region, and is searching for the special tree she has begun describing for him. It is low and wide, with old roots that in some places pop up out of the ground. He does not see her when he spots the tree. He gets close and calls out for her and texts her, but she is gone. She is nowhere. The giant sits and rests his head against the trunk of the tree. He has not stopped believing.
Looking up, he can see the moon. And then he can see a shooting star. A spider whispering to another spider. And then, in the branches of this tree, he can see a cowering, scared thing hiding from him. “Hello?” he says. And it’s his friend. She is saying, “No. No, I’m sorry.”
“Come down,” he says. “Let’s walk around.”
“I made it all the way here,” he says. “It was fine. We don’t have to be afraid.”
“We can decide what to do for ourselves.”
“You, please,” he says. “You. I’m on an adventure.”
A minute passes and she sighs. And comes forward. And swoops and slides on her arms, until she is hanging from a branch directly in front of the giant. She is hanging, all exposed, all of herself, simply there. And she is strong and beautiful and legless. She is legless. And she is saying again that she cannot walk with him. She longs to. Can he understand that? She asks him how one can disappear. She says the answer is not “g,” but “get attacked by hungry farmers who are scared of what might happen to them during the long winter.” It’s not even malice. It’s hunger. It’s disregard.
And the giant smiles. And in the silence that follows walks forward and grips her around her waist and hugs her. And doesn’t let go, refuses to, just waits until she lets go of the branch she’s hanging from. And the giant finds out how strong he is. And how easily he can carry her, this new, close-up person. All of the different positions he can hold her in, as they walk. A hundred different positions. Innumerable ones. They walk all night and then all day and then all night again, until they are exhausted. And then they sleep together in her special tree, which seems so old, but is still so strong. And the whole time that they are together, since he first saw her quaking in that tree, they are quiet, because that’s what their bond grew from, this silence. It is familiar and feels ancient and now they share it. It is impossibly big.
Tim Raymond has work in or forthcoming in *Passages North*, *The Fairy Tale Review*, and others. He grew up in Wyoming and lives in Seoul now.