by Ryan Rice
The story of a young girl growing up with her mysterious protector.
My friends and I found the best creeks for tubing and spent our days catching polliwogs in the ponds. We loved taking them home and watching them turn into frogs, like magic, before our eyes. The area, aided by the trove of “treasures” we found, let our imaginations run wild. It wasn’t uncommon to find arrow heads, used by great hunters, or cannon balls, shot from cannons long ago, near our home. Often, we would ride our bikes through the fields and would find brightly colored shards of glass littering the ground. We imagined that they were bits of broken windows from the castles we saw in the clouds. Sometimes we even conjured up fairies to play hide and seek with and more often than not the fairies would lead us to more treasures to be found.
At night I slept upstairs in a shared room with my little sister. As the older sister, I was entitled to sleep at the top of our wooden bunk bed. Our room was decorated with small, yellow curtains that didn’t cover the window entirely. For me, falling asleep while staring out the sliver of uncovered window was a nightly occurrence. To my young mind, life was as good as it could get and I was happy.
One night in early April, when I was eight or nine, I’m not entirely sure; I fell asleep in my customary position, staring out my window. The night had started out unusually warm so I pushed aside the pile of blankets that my mother had given me and laid, staring out my window. As the night drew on the air began to chill and I must have turned toward my wall and thrown a blanket over myself. I’m not sure how long I laid there but I remember being jolted wake from a deep sleep. When I opened my eyes I was staring intently at the wall, adrenaline rushing through my little body. It wasn’t a sound that had awoken me; it was the feeling of being watched. A cold sensation caressed by back and I knew that someone was watching me through my bedroom window. My first instinct was to turn and look out to see who was there but something stopped me.
It wasn’t a voice, per say, that I heard, but I had the distinct impression that ‘I should stay very still’. Needles of anticipation began to prick at my spine and I could feel eyes moving over my body. I wanted to turn, to scream, to hide under my covers but I couldn’t. Something stopped me; as if an invisible hand was holding me, gentle but firm. No matter what I did I couldn’t bring myself to move and look. Panic began to rise within me and I scream in my mind, ‘Who is looking at me!?’.
As if in answer, my mind opened and I saw a man stooping down to look in my window. The man I saw was extremely tall, tall enough that if he were standing up straight his head would reach higher than the roof of my house. The sight startled me but as quickly as the fear had come, it left. The impression that came into my mind was that ‘a “giant” was checking on me’ and that ‘I would be okay; I just needed to stay still’. Comforted, I remained still.
Questions began to swirl in my brain and with all my might I wanted to turn, to see the giant that was watching over me. I began to try to lift my head but as if he could read my mind, the impression came to me saying that if I looked I would be scared and that he didn’t want to scare me. The best thing was for me to stay still.
The feeling of being watched slowly faded and though I didn’t hear a sound, I knew that the giant had left. That was the first time that the giant came to visit me. As time moved on I began to recognize, more easily, the comforting feeling of him watching me. He began to come nightly and his presence began to feel so common place that during the day, often right before bed, I would catch myself looking for my giant. I never did see him but I know that he was real and that he watched over me.
I remember one specific occasion where I felt the unmistakable protection of my giant. I was walking through a corn field, on my way home from school, when I came upon a group of older boys sitting in on the ground. They were laughing and hollowing out the cob of several ears of corn. They had lighters in their hands and there seemed to be foul smelling smoke in the air. Naively, I walked past them, oblivious to their activities. As I passed, one of the boys grabbed my arm. His eyes were blood shot and glassy as he looked at me, half smiling. His face looked slack and his movements were sluggish. I remember him looking at me, fingers tight against my arm, eyes running down my body, then looking past me; somewhere high above my shoulder. His mouth seemed to open a little and his eyes grew wide. His grip on my arm loosened and he stumbled backward. I looked at him for a moment then continued on my way. Against all logic, I wasn’t afraid; I could feel my giant’s presence and knew that he was protecting me.
As I grew up I put off childish things and life became too busy for my giant. I moved on and rarely, if ever, thought of him, until one day when I was again at my childhood home. I was visiting with my parents, now old and gray, and they told me a story I’d never heard before:
In April of 1969 my father had stopped at the grocery store on his way home from work. My mother had asked him to pick up a few things that she needed and he was diligently carrying out her instructions. After he had completed his transaction and had placed his items in the car he moved through the parking lot to put the shopping cart away. As he walked, something shiny and silver caught his eye. He walked over to the object, bent down and picked it up. It was a key. From the shape of it, he guessed that it was a house key. He turned it over in his hand and saw that someone had written a date on the key in permanent marker. The date read April 12, 1969.
Just a few days from today, he thought. Maybe someone is moving into a new house.
He threw the key into his pocket.
Someone is going to be upset when they discover that this is missing. He laughed at that and put the cart away.
A few days later, he came home late from work and began fumbling with the lock on the door. Our door step didn’t have a light on it back then so, reluctantly, he reached his hand into his pocket, searching for his key. He grabbed at them, wrapping his hands around the cold metal and pulled them out. As his mess of keys came out, a single key fell to the ground, making a tinkling sound as it landed. He cursed, the metallic sound grating on his last nerve and fumbled around in the dark. Hands groping in the darkness, soft curses falling from his lips, his hands felt the smooth surface of the key against the rough texture of the cement underfoot. He grabbed at the key and plunged it into the lock on the door. With no surprise, it unlocked and he stomped inside.
When he pulled the key free of the door and the light splashed across its small, silver surface he paused, looking at it. All of his keys were gold.
Where had this silver one come from?
The thought hung in his mind.
And how did it get off my key chain?
Perplexed, he turned the key over in his hand. The date, marked in black ink shone back at him: April 12, 1969. His heart stopped and he stood, frozen in the doorway. He’d forgotten all about the key he found in the grocery store parking lot.
“Honey,” he called, not taking his eyes off the key, “what’s the date today?”
“The twelfth” came the reply.
His blood went cold.
That night, after everyone had gone to bed he pulled out his service revolver, the one he told mother he’d gotten rid of years before. It had been sitting in a shoe box on a shelf in the garage, my father, unable to part with it. He sat in a chair in the living room, facing the front door, staring out the window at the open world waiting to consume everything he had worked so hard to build, coke in one hand and gun in the other. The ice in his drink cracked and popped every so often, making him jump but the sounds soon died. He couldn’t bring himself to take a drink, despite how late it got, worrying if that would be the moment the world would come crashing down on him.
At 4:00 AM a car slowly lumbered down the street with its lights off, the brakes squealing as it passed slowly in front of his house. Don’t stop, he silently prayed, don’t stop. The car came to a stop across the street, the engine abruptly dying off.
“No.” The word came out as a whisper.
Faintly, he saw two people inside, waiting. He wasn’t sure how he knew it, but beyond a shadow of a doubt, he knew that they were there for him. He sat motionless, hoping that by some chance, if he didn’t move a finger, they would leave. He could wake up and this would all have been a bad dream. The driver’s door opened and someone started to get out.
He gripped the gun in his hand tightly and moved to get out of his chair but stopped. Something seemed to whisper to him to be still. He looked around the dark room, as if to find the source of the thought but the room was empty. He shook his head and moved to stand up again but the thought came stronger to him.
‘Be still,’ it said.
He froze, looking out the window. He could sense something outside, something in front of the house.
‘I will protect you,’ it seemed to say. He didn’t move, wanting to believe that whatever was out there would protect him.
The person that was getting out of the car stopped half way out, their leg protruding from the door. Something metallic reflected briefly in the light of a nearby streetlight then disappeared back into the car. The leg hesitated half out, then shrank back inside. The car door closed without a sound and the engine whirred back to life. My dad sat and watched as the car drove off down the street with its lights off.
He released the breath that he hadn’t realized he was holding and felt his hands shaking. He set the gun and the coke down on the coffee table and moved to the front door. He put his hand on it then stopped.
No, he thought, slowly releasing the handle.
He walked slowly back to his chair and sat down, eyes staring out the window.
“Thank you.” he said quietly.
He stayed up all night that night, half expecting the car to return, but it never did. The next morning, before he went to work, he went to the hardware store and replaced thick locks on all the doors. He’d even bought extra locks for the windows and chains for the gate out back.
Although neither I nor my father saw the giant outside our house, his presence was strong. It was strong enough to wake me from a deep sleep, strong enough to stop my father from leaving his chair that night and strong enough to keep whoever was in that car from getting out. I believe my childhood giant was real and I know he did indeed protect me.