Jeffrey Greene was born in Michigan, raised in central Florida, and now lives in
Bethesda, Maryland. He has had short stories published in North American Review, Zahir Speculative
Fiction, Oasis, Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, Reactor, Potomac Review, and this
It happened quickly, seemingly from one week to the next, though I’m sure it must have taken longer, but well before the news media had caught up with the phenomenon, the giants were simply here, dressed in international Tourist Casual. Averaging twelve to fifteen feet tall, like magnified versions of ourselves, with the usual skin
and hair colors, they were rumored to hail from a tiny eastern bloc country previously unknown to most of us, and clearly reveling in an economic prosperity that we ourselves had once enjoyed. They came not as invaders but as well-heeled visitors, bearing credit cards the size and weight of a paperback book, carrying an almost dream-like credit limit and expiration dates measured in decades. These Megacards not only opened all doors to the giants, but soon enough refitted them to accommodate the newcomers’ astonishing height and breadth. I don’t think any of us, aside from the very wealthy, had ever truly understood the raw power of money until we saw it wielded by a
handsome, well-dressed young couple five feet taller than the tallest person in the world—the world we thought we knew—gazing down at us with their bland, courteous smiles as we labored to bag their purchases in the enormous shopping bags hastily manufactured for their convenience. The giants have a mania for collecting the
myriad artifacts of our consumer society, especially portable electronic devices, most of them too small for their huge hands to operate, but highly valued as quaint and amusing bric-a-brac. Our manufacturers, sensing a bonanza, are racing to scale up the sizes of cell phones, cars, clothes, houses, food packaging, etc., and some
are even planning to open massive new stores with high shelves and counters catering exclusively to the giants, who seem sincerely pleased by our eagerness to accommodate them. That their free-spending ways have modestly helped our ailing economy is undeniable, but also beyond dispute is the uneasiness their presence inspires in all of us, the little people. It could hardly be otherwise.
Besides their intimidating size, the most significant advantage the giants enjoy over us is their fluency in our language. It bruises our self-esteem, already beaten down to a nub by the mere proximity of one or two of these cheerful titans, when we hear them conversing in their own surprisingly musical language in their bone-shakingly deep voices, the tongue-twisting, laryngeal complexity of which makes it seem impossible for us to pronounce even a single word, much less become fluent in it. And then, growing aware of our presence as we might notice a kitten mewing at our feet, the giants break off their conversation and politely address us in perfect English, Spanish, or French, asking how they can be of assistance. Yes, they are very civilized, very polite, and ever so careful where they put their feet, but how can we not have doubts about their true intentions? Are they conducting a stealth invasion, as a number of pundits and military men have suggested, their strategy to buy us out and replace us, rather than waste energy and manpower on a shooting war? It is all too easy to believe these patently ridiculous rumors, filled as so many of us are with fear and resentment, and still making the painful adjustment to our second-class status, both as an economic power and in our self-conceived and cherishly held position as the unchallenged emperors of the animal kingdom. The giants, their apologists argue, have taken extraordinary pains to reassure us of their benign intentions. Their standing army, we are told, is Swiss-sized and mostly ceremonial. They have set a new standard for courtesy, shaming us into improving our own manners, which admittedly have been in a long decline. They are scrupulously fair in their dealings with us, and have a well-earned reputation as stupendous tippers. Their most pressing need has been for specially designed living quarters, and most giants have been forced to live in circus-sized tents on the sites of their future homes and apartments, yet few if any complaints have been reported. They often appear at charity functions, posing for pictures as they bestow boat-sized checks made out for extravagantly generous sums, and giving rides to disabled children on their great shoulders.
And yet, despite their impeccable manners and studied diplomacy, there is a tacit understanding between the giants and ourselves that might be expressed as the ancient primacy of size. The elephant is the king of the jungle simply and solely because it is far and away the jungle’s biggest animal. In addition to possessing all of our brainpower, the benefits of a first-class education and seemingly unlimited economic resources, the average giant is more than twice our height and weighs between fifteen hundred and two thousand pounds. True, we are lighter on our feet, quicker and certainly more graceful, but when standing next to even the most petite female giant, it is very difficult not to feel the way the early mammals must have felt as they stole eggs and scurried to avoid being crushed by the dinosaurs. The biggest football player, the tallest basketball center, look like children beside them, which leaves most of us feeling more like small pets than children. We have to shout to be heard, and they must keep their voices near to a whisper when speaking to us, or risk shattering our eardrums. Even when sitting, they effortlessly dominate us. Everyone remembers the time a leading talk show host had a giant on his program who had recently appeared as Goliath in a big-budget Biblical epic and was already making a name for himself as a character actor, and how charming, funny, and self-deprecating he was, and how small, foolish, and mean the host seemed in his feeble attempts to belittle him with giant jokes.
If it is human nature to envy the tallest person in the room, then giant envy is rampant in the land. Of course, not everyone wants to be twelve feet tall, and it’s quite possible that more people envy them their buying power than their size. The nutritional needs and the cost of clothing and housing such a huge body are more expensive than most people realize, and it is fortunate for the giants that they are living in boom times, at least in their own country. At present, there are about seventeen thousand giants presently in the U.S., the majority on tourist visas but a growing number living here as resident aliens, which makes sightings unusual if not rare, depending on the city. However, if many more come, I think public opinion may begin to solidify against them, in spite of their largesse. The general feeling seems to be that we welcome the giants and their Megacards as visitors, but that the size difference between us is too dramatic for compatible co-existence. This growing antipathy to the newcomers, rather predictably dubbed giantism, is a hot topic on political talk shows, but even the liberal thinkers who decry it seem uneasy about wholeheartedly embracing full citizenship for giants. Useless to point out that the Constitution allows no restrictions based on size when considering an application for citizenship. These feelings run much deeper than any prejudice over race or religion, and it will not surprise me if Congress soon passes a law denying citizenship or even permanent residence to any person above a certain height. But the giants have lawyers, too, very good ones, I’m told, and it is doubtful that such an unjust law would survive a court challenge.
An eminent geneticist recently conducted tests on a giant volunteer and published his surprising results in the journal Nature, and loathe as I am to admit it, they gave me a certain cold comfort. The giants, it seems, are a long-isolated sub-group of Homo sapiens sapiens, which he prefers to call Homo sapiens giganticus. “At the present time,” he writes, “the only physical barrier to inter-breeding is size disparity, but the day will certainly come when our tallest person marries their shortest giant, resulting in the first of the new hybrids, whose average height will be between seven and nine feet tall.” Eventually, he predicts, sapiens, because they vastly outnumber giganticus, will eventually absorb and dilute the tallness gene in these hybrids, resulting over many generations in a slightly greater average height for the entire human species. But the giants, as they presently exist, will be no more. Those unborn tall ones, looking back on the digital archives of this era, while probably remarking on how stunted we looked, will also be able to marvel at the advent of the giants in our midst, inevitably resorting to that hoary phrase from Genesis 6: “There were giants in the earth in those days.”