She, Possibly It
copyright 2018 Taedis
(Giant Robot, Rated G)
Once upon a when he knew things.
He knew he was a soldier alike in all ways to the dozens of others he had tracked and battled, met and ended, differing only in the person who issued his orders and the color of the flag she saluted when she had to.
He knew it had been a pause short of five somethings since he laid the last enemy soldier to the ground; exactly five somethings since he received his last order. He never knew the name of the woman whose orders echoed in his ears. After five somethings he doubted he ever would.
He suspected he knew that she had won. He suspected that he knew that he had been forgotten.
Knowing was hard. Balancing too many knows in one head gave him migraines. Made it hard to think. After five somethings he'd slippery sloped his knows to a minimum, only dealing with the real in Gatling bursts of consciousness.
Mostly he dreamed and avoided the real.
Dreaming was better than knowing.
In dreams he didn't need to know if somethings were years or weeks; months or millennia. It was all time. He misunderstood as much about time as time understood him. He and time had agreed to leave each other alone over lunch.
Or maybe that was a dream.
In the real he used to obsess about beginnings. Others and his own. He wanted to know what he was and where he had come from.
He'd been manufactured. Possibly. In someone's image. Maybe. To fight their wars. Probably.
None of that mattered in dreams and after five somethings he'd given up on playing any am-I-man-or-am-I-butterfly thoughts. Maybe he was the corpse of a storm giant animated by dark elven runes writ large in Asgardian blood. Or a skyscraping robot complete with atomic turbine heart.
Did it matter which one he was? Probably not. Either way the thing that gave him life and motor force was poison to the people who'd built or animated him.
The real was different every time he left the dream. Everything is liquid when you only see in blinks.
The ground has tides that are only visible when you can see the cycle of erosion and encroachment through the lens of this strange time. He watched the ebb and flow of grass and flower wither and bloom down the somethings. He watched placidly over the body of the last soldier he had ended.
Sometimes he thought about the corpse drowned beside him. Tried to remember what it had been like to fight her. Tried to remember what she had been like. Sometimes he remembered her bones were calcified necromancy. Other times they were nuclear steel folded over upon itself like a katana forged in a sun.
He never remembered her face.
The hills were very close to engulfing him as well. Blink by blink they lapped their way up his hips, past his shoulders, until only parts of his head bobbed along the surface, his eyes level with the waves like a shark looking for survivors in the Atlantic.
This time when he blinked real he was not alone.
He wondered if he had grown. Or maybe they'd started making people smaller than they did in the somethings since he'd last seen one. Not that people were ever that large, but the one standing in front of his eye was less than half the size he remembered; barely a quarter the size of his ice glass eye.
He looked at the three crows tattooed in a circle around its face and wondered if war fallout had led to pygmy mutations or if the gods had cursed the people for bringing the dead into their conflict.
He wanted to warn it that magic or dark radiation would harm it if it didn't leave, but he couldn't. The hill had flooded over his mouth and he had forgotten how to speak or had never been taught.
It hadn't occurred to him that it might be a child until he was almost dreaming again.
It was still there the next time he realed. Only bigger and possibly she.
Gender was also hard. Someone told him he was male. He let them do the knowing and just took their word for it.
She, possibly it, had changed as had the hill.
The hill had receded; she, possibly it, had grown. Not by the same amount; she, possibly it, was only person sized now and the hill had drained down almost to his shoulders. His mouth was no longer covered in loom. He could feel the sun on his neck. She, possibly it, still stood in front of him only now she, possibly it, was level with his chin.
The three crows were covered in dirt. A shovel rested against his cheek. If he had teeth (and he wasn't entirely sure he did) it would have made an adequate toothpick.
It was only his hill that had receded. Not the hills that had covered his fallen enemy or the ones that had grown up over nothing. He wondered if she, possibly it, had drained his hill. He wondered why she, possibly it, would do that. It couldn't be easy draining a hill with a toothpick when you were person sized.
He smiled his thanks at his helper.
She, possibly it, scampered away from his open mouth down the hill a ways. She, possibly it, spoke things up to him he didn't understand. He'd forgotten the words or the words had changed.
But there was a kindness in her, possibly its, voice. Something warm beneath the fear. That was enough.
Maybe if he stopped realing for a pause she, possibly it, wouldn't be scared anymore.
And so he dreamed.
“Wake up, giant.”
The order rang through his ear in a voice he'd never heard before, but whatever science or sorcery motivated him recognized the authority in the stranger's words and so he blinked real.
She, possibly it, had changed. As had the hill.
He was surprised to see the flood hill had subsided even further. His armored torso was exposed to the quicksilver sky. His arms and most of his hands were also free. Only the very tips of his fingers were dipped in the ground; ten steel sequoias with fingerprints for roots.
He only waded in the dirt.
She, possibly it, was standing on the hill that had drowned the face of the last enemy.
She, possibly it, was almost as small as she, possibly it, had been the first time he had seen her. The three crows that danced in a circle around her face had been replaced by five dragonflies that hovered around the water that leaked from her, possibly it's, eyes.
“You have to wake up. Please. You have to.”
She, possibly it, spoke the words into a ring on her, possibly it's, left hand. The words were the same nonsense he'd heard before until they reached the ring and they became something he understood.
“If you can hear me, do something.”
The order was valid if vague. He was compelled to obey, but had to take a moment to decide the how.
He uprooted his fingers from the liquid earth and lifted them up in the angel air. She, possibly it couldn't help but see this even with her leaking pinprick eyes.
Gravity was variable on her, possibly its, hill. She, possibly it, rose and fell several times before finally staying on the ground.
Or possibly she was jumping.
Knowing was hard.
“The woman at the museum said this was a part of you. It makes you do whatever I say. Is that true?”
He wondered what a museum was and what it tasted like. He understood the rest enough to nod.
“Can you talk?”
He hand't decided if he could or remembered if he's forgot so he shrugged.
“Grandma found you up here on the hill when she was little like me, but she didn't have this. She wanted to get you free. She wanted to get you to take her on adventures and see the world and save towns and meet strange people.”
He tilted his head to the left at the thought that this was a different she, possibly it.
“But the hill was so big. And you just slept there doing nothing. And she got too old for adventures, but she kept on digging. I tried to help, but she was so old and mama says I'm the runt of the litter so I wasn't much help. But I read the books and I found the lady in the museum and I woke you up.
He thought it was a question, but he didn't understand it.
“Do you want to go on adventures with me? I'm not big, but I know things and I got maps if you can
She stumped him at “want.”
“Can't you answer?”
“But I could order you to do all that stuff?”
“Get out of the hill.”
It had been such a long time since he last moved his joints had frozen in the cold liquid ground. He had to flex several times before he could step out of the hill.
“Put your hand out and let me step on it.”
She, possibly it, fit easily into the palm of his hand.
“Now go kill my mother, she's over there.” She, possibly it, pointed to a village on the other side of the enemy grave hill.
He'd barely taken a step when she, possibly it started jumping in his palm.
“STOP! NO! Cancel order. Don't do it.”
“Were you really gonna kill mom?”
“Why would you do that?”
“I know I ordered you, but you're not supposed to do bad things like that. You're only supposed to hurt people if they're trying to hurt you. And only enough to make them stop. It's called civilization.”
“It's cause of this, isn't it?” She, possibly it, held up the medallion. “You have to do everything I tell you even the bad things.”
She, possibly it, held the medallion above her, possibly its, head and closed her pinprick eyes shut.
It was delicate work maneuvering steel pillars between the whisper thin gap between the top of her, possibly its, head and where the medallion dangled.
The crushing was easy.
“Do you have to do what I say now?”
“Put your finger up your nose.”
He didn't feel the compulsion, only curiosity about this nose he apparently had. He tried to look at it, but only ended up crossing his eyes.
“What are you gonna do now?”
“You could come with me and learn stuff and have adventures. If you want.”
“Only we can't hurt people. I know I can't order you around anymore, but somebody's gotta teach you to be good. I could do that if you'd like. You could keep me safe and I can be your teacher. Would you like that?”
He hadn't been real this long in five somethings, but he didn't feel the need to dream. The thought worried him. He didn't know he could be worried, but he was. He worried that if he dreamed again that she, possibly it, would not be there when he next realed.
He would miss her if she was gone.
“Come with me.”
He didn't know.
But maybe he would learn.
They found the giant statue gone and Dragonfly Five's bed empty. No one who spoke any sense connected the two events, but the simple folk liked to point out the pile of loom and rock that used to be the hill. They pointed to the one piece of ground left undisturbed when everything else was left in ruin. They pointed to the grave at what had been the foot of the hill and the three ravens circling the stone that marked it.
(This story originally appeared in the GentleApril story contest. If you're interested in other size writers please be sure to follow the link.)