Chapter 1: David the Giant
Hiding from the world and fighting the urge to simply get up and go outside, David sat quietly alone in the darkness of his self-imposed prison. The grey light of the television washed over him.
The final minutes of playoff game had the San Antonio Spurs locked in a titanic battle with the Golden State Warriors. The lead was changing frequently, and the crowd was on its feet yelling and cheering for their team at the top of their lungs. The game’s announcers excitedly called out the play-by-play action, struggling to suppress their own urge to yell.
With less than a minute to go, down by three points, the veteran point guard for the Spurs, Tony Parker brought the ball down court trying to set up a play that would win the game, or at least force overtime. Crossing the three point scoring line it became apparent that his coach wanted a shot taken that would also draw a foul and set up a chance to win the game outright.
Four laser-like passes in six seconds and the ball ended up in Tim Duncan’s hands as he stood underneath the bucket. With a quick pump fake and very short layup the ball dropped through the netting. Almost as if scripted by the Spurs’ coach, and with barely a handful of seconds left in regulation time, Draymond Green, the Golden State power forward slapped at the rising ball but missed, instead hitting Tim Duncan’s arm. At the sound of the referee’s whistle, the loud and boisterous crowd went crazy, forcing the game’s announcers to shout if they wanted to continue calling the game for the viewers at home.
Each time David heard the words ‘big man’ used on TV he could not help but laugh, something he did less and less as each day passed. He turned his gaze away from the television and to this left. The flickering light from the screen danced on the walls of his room surrounding him with shadows and light. Looking at the horizon of his confined space as it rapidly switched back and forth between light and dark, he imagined himself at sea receiving semaphore signals from another ship. Just outside those claustrophobic walls existed the ability to stretch, to feel the cool night air, to see the stars; but his brother had said soon and convinced him that the dangers out there were very real.
He stared at the basketball on the floor and the huge poster next to it. Gifts from his smart-ass brother, Ethan. It was a life-sized image of Paul Sturgess, the seven-foot, eight-inch, NBA D-leaguer from England, the tallest man currently in pro basketball. At that height, Paul was able to dunk the basketball while keeping his feet firmly on the floor of the court. Hanging from the rafters next to Paul was Heidi Klum, but even her flawless beauty barely dressed in three tiny but strategically placed pieces of bright yellow fabric were unable to reinflate David’s quickly falling emotions.
The huge cardboard picture of Paul was nailed to one of the twelve foot tall posts used to hold up the roof over the small garage that had been converted to be David’s dungeon. A dog’s distant bark in an otherwise silent night momentarily distracted him.
Above the top of Paul’s head were half a dozen marks drawn on the wooden post; each with a date scribbled next it. David’s mood plummeted as his eyes rose to each successive black line drawn across the face of the wood.
The highest one, noted more than two months earlier, had ‘8 7’ neatly written in black. David thought to himself, if those announcers wanted to see a really ‘big man’, here he was. But he knew that the NBA would not be searching him out. There would be no local news crew coming to interview him. And if a reporter and cameraman did come, they wouldn’t be alone. He knew the dangers beyond the walls were real, and he knew his brother was working hard to get him safely out of that old garage.
David, trapped somewhere between celebrity and criminal, was in hiding. All the ‘big men’, and for that matter, ‘big women’, had either been rounded up by the government or were now underground, just as he was. Every newly discovered giant instantly made headlines.
Finding giants was a new national pastime, and increasingly put pressure on Ethan to be creative in getting his brother both the food and clothes he needed without being discovered. When found, not all giants went peacefully. Each new capture instantly became the top story of the day. Too many of the giants found ended up dead – in David’s eyes executed by paranoid citizens, both public and private, much in the manner of lynch mobs from the old West.
Never in the history of the world had there been hundreds of giants reported at the same time. A dozen autopsies of those that put up a fight and lost uniformly revealed the same genetic mutation. The news reporters had a field day with this information and sparked widespread speculation as to the cause. Everything was considered and widely debated, from the possibility of a tainted GMO food supply, to a sick and twisted terrorist plot to destroy the United States. A few fundamental preachers even claimed it was due to the re-emergence of the ancient, biblical Nephilim and proof the end of the world was near.
David was going stir crazy hiding like this, but Ethan had stressed he remain patient as he came up with a plan to safely smuggle his little brother out of Los Angeles and away from so many prying eyes. If it had not been for his big brother, David knew he would already have been captured by the authorities, or worse, dead.
Looking back, it was unsettling to now be more than two feet taller than he had been just two years earlier. When he started to grow and stood seven feet tall it had been fun. Seven-foot tall people were unique, but not big enough to be considered a freak of nature. People could not help but notice men that tall. That handful of extra inches did not qualify a person as a freak.
What was amazing was that all of David grew proportionately. His broad shoulders were now broad giant shoulders. Previously, a well-muscled and athletic six-footer, David’s muscles had also grown and now he was well muscled and ripped eight-footer. He had always been in shape but never in as good of shape as he had become. His body’s metabolism had kicked into hyperdrive to support its supernatural growth and had burned up every stored calorie it had been holding on to. Again, it was Ethan to the rescue as he experimented with David’s diet until he came up with enough calories every day that kept David from going crazy with hunger.
Even the second foot of new height was fun at first, but that had quickly worn off almost eighteen months earlier. Being eight feet tall had been an exciting time for him. He had been interviewed by all three local television stations and regularly was receiving marriage proposals from women he did not know. His height had landed him a tryout from the Lakers, but he had not grown up playing basketball and the coach had proposed having him play with one of their semi-pro development teams for a year to learn the game and work on his skills. He even had a private lunch with a major sports agent discussing her possibly representing him if he wanted to make a run at the NBA. Life back then was good, but unknown to him at that time, would soon change. Clothes and shoes were impossible to come by and David could no longer fit inside the largest of vehicles.
Continuing to grow beyond eight feet tall was the tipping point for David and his brother. By then the public’s fascination with the sudden appearance of so many giants across the Midwest and West Coast had turned to fear. Each of the last six months one or more giants had been killed during a sudden and violent confrontation with the public. The media managed to stir the pot when they pointed out that giants were credited for killing more people in the last twelve months than rabid dogs or poisonous snakes and spiders combined. Likening them to animals began the public’s shift in perception of them. More than once the term ‘non-human’ was used to describe them and harkened back to the time when the same was said about other minorities.
It took the shooting death of Jason Carls to send David into hiding. Jason’s huge metabolism, requiring massive amounts of food, had ultimately driven him from his own hiding place, a deserted warehouse in St. Louis near the Mississippi River. Alone, he had managed to forage his meals until his hunger started to drive him crazy. Without the benefit of a big brother like Ethan to keep his hunger appeased, Jason had broken into a suburban home looking for food. The homeowner called 911 to report he had a giant in his house ransacking the kitchen. The first responders shot and killed Jason within two minutes of being at the site of the break-in; seemingly not enough time for them to try to peacefully arrest him. The wrongful death suit his family brought against the police was dismissed. To the giants both in government custody and in hiding, and their families, the judge had set the stage for vigilantes to operate without fear of legal action. It was then that both David and Ethan knew that he could no longer move about freely in public. The remaining free giants became invisible.
Day by day the public discussion about what to do with the four hundred known giants was played out in the media across the country. The decision to ‘round up’ all of the giants horrified Ethan. Everything about it was wrong to him. Having lost their parents a few years earlier in a car accident, Ethan was not ready to simply hand his brother over to authorities. Rumors were rampant that the ones they already had in custody were being tested in a secret lab in the Pacific Northwest. He was not about to allow his gentle, baby brother to be a huge guinea pig and subjected to whatever cruel torture they passed off as research in the name of science and public safety.
Both their deceased parents had been real estate agents that owned rent houses in the hills north of Los Angeles. One of these small houses in a quiet neighborhood had recently been vacated. Before moving in, Ethan and some of his buddies had crudely remodeled the garage as David’s new bedroom. He lied to them explaining that he had agreed to certain modifications the new tenant requested be done to the garage. As soon as it was ready Ethan waited for nightfall to move David in the back of an enclosed four-horse trailer he borrowed.
He had failed to realize that horses relieve themselves while in trailers and by the time he opened the rear door of the trailer David smelled like a dirty stall in a barn. Far too large for the small house’s 1950’s-era tub, Ethan and David discussed a water hose and the backyard, but Ethan was nervous taking a chance of David being seen and having a nosy neighbor call the authorities. Standing in the dark surveying their house’s backyard, Ethan heard a pump turn on and water moving through pipes. It was coming from the house next door. Part of the decision to move to this house was learning that their only immediate neighbors, the people next door, were out of the country for a year and the house would not be occupied while they were gone.
A pump meant a pool. He quietly told his brother, “Wait here,” while he ran inside and emerged with a bottle of dish soap and pile of beach towels.
As soon as he returned he grabbed David’s arm and pulled on it indicating he was to follow him.
“Man, you stink,” Ethan wasn’t smiling as he said it.