Barrier

Posted on December 30, 2016 in GT Fiction by

A guard is assigned to an extremely dangerous prisoner. Warning: for mature readers only.

The guard didn’t bother to look closely at Elaine’s ID card as she pulled up to the gate. It was dusk, the last orangish-gold rays of sunlight filtering over the horizon, and she was probably tired and ready to get off her shift. Besides, Elaine was a familiar face, with her dirty-blonde hair and freckles scattered over her upturned nose. The guard waved her through and she found a parking spot right away. Not a lot of people worked this shift, which always made parking easy.

Elaine took a moment to gather up her things, placing her worn paperback novel into her purse. Technically, she wasn’t supposed to be reading on the job, but most nights were so uneventful and boring that she figured that she could break a few rules.

She slid out of the car, startled at how frigid it was outside. Considering that the base was high up in the mountains, she shouldn’t have been surprised. Still, as her breath steamed up around her mouth in white clouds, she shivered and pulled her coat closer to her body. A few more minutes and she’d be inside, where it was warm.

The building where she worked was the largest on the base, built into the side of a mountain. Through the iridescent sparkle of Barrier 2, she could see the structure, impossibly huge and utterly featureless. It looked like something that the federal government would build, dark gray concrete with only a handful of tiny windows. A passerby, someone who wasn’t aware of its purpose, would just view it as a colossal waste of tax dollars. In reality, it was a critical facility, especially considering what was contained within it.

When Elaine reached the guard shack outside of Barrier 2, she took out her ID again. The proximity of the force field made her skin tingle subtly. The physicists had once explained what it was to her but since she didn’t understand most of what they said, she still referred to it as “the force field.” She looked over at the barrier, which shimmered with all kinds of colors, ice-blues and pale-pinks and deep-greens, and then back at the guard.

Today it was Lucy Walters, a short, sturdy woman who reminded Elaine of a Tolkien dwarf. She was extremely friendly, though, and she talked Elaine’s ear off after a cursory glance at the ID card.

“Did you know that today is National Carrot Cake Day?” Lucy asked. She had a pronounced Minnesota accent, although she always argued that she didn’t.

The cold was beginning to get to Elaine and she shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. “Nope, I had no idea.”

“It sure is. Did I ever tell you about my low-cal carrot cake recipe? It doesn’t taste as good as the original recipe, but it’s not too bad. I’ve been trying to get my husband Carl to eat it, but gosh, he’s so picky. ‘Carl,’ I said to him, ‘You really could stand to lose a few pounds.’”

“How’s the prisoner been?” Elaine tried to change subject. The other woman’s round face visibly darkened and her brow beetled.

“Oh, you know. The same. He doesn’t do much, besides just sit there. It’s hard to believe that a fellow like that could do all of that horrible stuff.”

Elaine nodded. That was certainly true. She hadn’t expected Lucy to answer differently, but at least it had ended the conversation. She finally made it through Barrier 2 and hurried into the immense building, her teeth chattering.

The inside of the facility was as dismal as the outside, with long beige corridors and cheap tile floors. But at least it was warm. Elaine headed to the locker room and changed into her guard uniform, her flesh chafing under the stiff tan fabric. She pulled her blonde hair back, inspected herself in the small locker mirror. Okay, so she wasn’t a super model. Or even a model. But she wasn’t bad looking, was she? Maybe if she started wearing some foundation and a little lipstick, she’d look less worn-out.

Elaine closed the locker with a bang, shoving those thoughts away at the same time. She took a moment to look at her romance novel, something that she had picked up at the small grocery store in town. There was a tanned cowboy on the cover, the sort of man who was almost unbelievably handsome. A ten-gallon hat was pulled down roguishly over his face, but what she could see of it was ruggedly attractive, with a well-defined jaw and a white-toothed smile. Elaine tried to imagine what he’d sound like, whether he would have a Texas drawl.

“Why, I’d love to take you out for a ride, Miss Kolbeck,” he said in her fantasy, reaching down for her hand.

Then Elaine noticed the time, panicked, and scurried out of the locker room. Fortunately, the security room was nearby and she made it with a few seconds to spare. Mya Harnett, the other security guard, glanced up as she slid into her chair. She was a slender brunette who looked like she might snap her own bones by accident, her dark eyes wide-set like a pug’s.

“You’re late,” Mya declared, a smug little grin on her face.

“I’m not late. It’s 5:00 PM right now.”

Mya’s self-satisfied smile didn’t waver as she pushed up her sleeve and pointed at her thin wrist. It was 5:06 PM, according to her coworker’s watch.

“Your watch is fast,” Elaine replied, putting her book out of sight.

“It’s not fast, and I’m going to have to let Dr. Nichols know that you were late again.” Mya pretended to sound concerned, but Elaine noticed the mean-spirited glee in her voice. “You know, if you keep this up, you won’t have a job.”

Elaine didn’t bother to fight with Mya. Arguing with her would only make it worse, and besides, Dr. Nichols was too busy with the prisoner to listen to her coworker’s constant complaints. So Elaine went through her nightly routine, checking all of the cameras and pretending that she didn’t dislike Mya. The worst part was that she didn’t even know when the animosity between the two of them had started. It just always seemed to be there.

She studied the screens in front of her, where the prison cell was displayed from various angles. It was a vast cell, as large as several football stadiums, and crouched in one corner was the prisoner. At first glance, he looked like a normal man dressed in a short-sleeved gray prison outfit, his head bent so that his face was out of view. But considering the size of the cell, the prisoner had to be colossal, more on the scale of Godzilla than a human being.

It was difficult to believe that one person had caused such carnage. It would have been understandable if he had been a general or a dictator with thousands of soldiers at his command, but the idea of a single man wiping out entire cities was difficult to accept. Elaine had seen the news footage of his rampages; in fact, she had followed them with an almost unhealthy obsession. She still had some of the bloodiest footage on her tablet and she’d watch it with a guilty fascination.

“He’s still unresponsive,” Mya told her. “He pretty much sits around there all day. Personally, I think they should just kill him.”

Elaine continued to study the screens. “I think they’ve tried.”

***

Most of the personnel at the prison were women; Dr. Nichols believed that the giant would probably act less aggressive toward females than other males. Once, Elaine had overheard her talking about primate territorial behavior and she wondered what that had to do with anything. But the psychologist was the one with all of the fancy degrees, and so Elaine assumed that she was correct.

Dr. Nichols was an energetic and overwhelming woman, always gesturing and waving her hands whenever she spoke. From the security room, Elaine watched her hands jerk and quiver as she tried to speak to the giant for the thousandth time. The questions were the same each night, as was the prisoner’s silence.

“I’m Alexandra Nichols. Can you tell me your name?” the psychologist asked from behind the shimmering barrier that surrounded the cell. Not surprisingly, the giant didn’t answer. Elaine’s gaze shifted from the silver-haired woman to the gargantuan prisoner, who completely dwarfed everything around him. Although he was hunched over, she could still see the broadness of his shoulders, the thick cords of muscles in his arms. He would have been a powerful man, even if he hadn’t been the size of a skyscraper.

“Are you comfortable? I’ve noticed that you haven’t eaten much,” Dr. Nichols continued. Actually, the giant hadn’t eaten anything. They brought him truckloads of food, enough to feed hundreds of people, and he never touched any of it. Perhaps he didn’t need to eat anymore. Or perhaps his diet had changed. Elaine remembered seeing a gruesome video in which he had ripped open a subway car and ate the screaming people inside, devouring them like gummy bears.

“We could get you something else to eat, if you prefer,” the psychologist said. Right, like panicked commuters. Despite herself, Elaine smirked. When Mya glanced over at her, she quickly adjusted her expression to one of carefully-cultivated indifference. On the screens, the giant didn’t even bother to acknowledge Dr. Nichols. Shaggy reddish-brown hair, the color of rust or dried blood, hung down in front of his face and so Elaine couldn’t even see if he was looking at the woman.

Dr. Nichols’ hands fluttered. “I just want to let you know that we are more than willing to work with you.”

The giant said nothing.

“You’d think that she’d figure out that he’s not going to talk to her,” Mya commented. Elaine didn’t answer; her eyes were on the giant.

***

During her break, Elaine went down to the lunch room to get something from the vending machine. She spent a minute trying to choose between the trail mix and the pretzels, and then decided that she wasn’t hungry. Since she still had some time, she wandered down the hallway until she reached the impressive steel doors with the warning “AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY” on them. Since she was considered authorized personnel, she swiped her ID card and stepped inside.

The air inside was refrigerator-cool and made her skin prickle slightly; she suspected that was due to the iridescent barrier that filled most of the space. There weren’t many people around, a few techs and guards. Dr. Nichols had probably gone home for the night, discouraged once more. Elaine fit right in with the other guards, and no one said anything as she walked along the perimeter of the gargantuan cell.

She stopped when she was directly across from the giant. Even though she had seen him this close several times before, it was still incredible to see someone that big. It was difficult for her mind to accept that what she was looking at was a living, sentient being. Even when he stirred slightly, she continued to have some trouble reconciling what her eyes were seeing and what her brain expected to see.

Just think, a few months ago, he had been striding from city to city, leaving nothing more than smoldering ruins in his wake. One brave (and very foolish) news crew had followed him in a helicopter when he had left Los Angeles, his muscular body painted with grime and blood. He had looked so inhumanly monstrous in that video, his mouth stretched in a demonic grin. Elaine had shivered as she had paused the video, wanting and needing to see every inch of him.

Now she stared at him with the same intensity, her heart hammering so hard that she almost missed the slight tingle in her head. The sensation was almost like the electric current of the barrier, but much more subtle. Sort of like a microscopic person was crawling around inside of her skull, caressing her brain with his minute hands.

Ever so slowly, the giant raised his head and gazed directly at her.

His enormous eyes were a deep, rich brown and she saw the barrier reflected in them. The knowledge that he was staring at her, that he had noticed her existence, was terrifying yet exhilarating. Elaine’s heart sped up and when she tried to swallow, her mouth was suddenly too dry. All she could do was gape stupidly as the corners of his lips turned upwards.

The giant smiled at her.

Elaine had had men smile at her before. True, they had been guys at the bar that she sometimes visited, and most of them were so drunk that they were practically falling off the barstools. But the giant’s smile was so warm and inviting and vaguely familiar. Like the cowboy on the cover of her novel, she realized. She shuddered pleasantly.

“Hey, Elaine!” One of the techs called out and the giant’s smile vanished instantly, his head and shoulders drooping back down. The weird mental itching ceased as well, leaving her vaguely confused. Slowly, Elaine waved to the tech, all the while wondering if she had imagined the whole thing.

***

When Elaine got home from work, her Jack Russell terrier came bounding up to her, practically jumping up and down.

“Oh, hi, Fred,” she said, stroking the dog’s back and thinking about the giant. During the rest of her shift, she had replayed the scene in her mind, trying to decide whether he had purposely smiled at her. So what if he had? People smiled, even if they were five hundred feet tall. Except the giant had never displayed any sort of emotion before. He never grinned or frowned or grimaced. Instead, he usually just sat there, a blank expression on his titanic face.

“It probably didn’t mean anything,” Elaine told the dog, who continued to wag his stumpy tail. “Right?”

Fred’s tongue lolled out of his mouth.

She fed him and then went into her bedroom. The dog tried to follow but she shooed him away, closing the door and locking it. As Fred whimpered pitifully, Elaine turned on her tablet and sprawled out on the bed. Most nights, she would pretend to be interested in things like the weather or reading her email, but tonight, she didn’t even bother. She found the folder on her desktop, opened it, and began to scroll through the files.

Most of the more violent and controversial videos had been removed from the various news sites, although Elaine had saved many of them before that happened. She chose one of the clips that she had watched dozens of times before, feeling simultaneously excited and disgusted at what she was about to do. Propping the tablet up on her pillows, she pressed play, watching with rapt fascination. Where had this taken place? San Francisco? Annapolis? It was too dark to see much except for the police officers, zigzagging and screaming to one another. In the distance, an immense and ominous shape loomed, its head lowered, glaring down at them.

Elaine closed her eyes, pretending that she was there. For a moment, she could feel the warm wind against her skin and as she watched, the police officers crouched behind their vehicles. They looked like cornered animals, their pale faces lit by the flashing red and blue and white lights. Even if she hadn’t watched the video, she would have known that they were doomed. The giant took one step, his massive foot landing atop one of the police cruisers and crushing it as though it were made of flimsy tinfoil instead of steel. Anyone unfortunate enough to be in that vehicle was now an unrecognizable mass of bloody jelly, their body permanently melded with the flattened remains of the cruiser.

As the huge foot sank deep into the asphalt, Elaine slid her hand down into her pants, instinctively finding her clitoris. She listened intently to the sounds of mayhem, the dying screams and the reverberating booms. Her mind was fractured at that point; one part of her understood the awfulness of what she was doing, while the other part didn’t care. All that she felt was a blissful pleasure, and she came just as the video ended.

***

The next day Elaine was ten minutes early for work, so Mya couldn’t say anything. They ignored one another for the most part, trying to make themselves look busy. Elaine was in the middle of reorganizing several folders on her computer when she heard a whispery voice: “I saw what you did.”

Elaine glanced over at Mya, who was sifting through a stack of papers. “What did you say?”

“I didn’t say anything.” The other guard frowned, annoyed.

She must have been hearing things. At least, that was her excuse until she heard the voice again, too distinct to be a figment of her imagination: “I saw you watching that video of me. You enjoyed it, didn’t you? What I did to that city.”

The chair almost tipped over as Elaine leapt up, her body trembling. Mya didn’t ask if she was okay, just threw a disapproving look in her direction. She made a soft grunt as Elaine pushed by her on the way to the bathroom. Normally, she would be irritated with Mya, but her thoughts were focused entirely on what she had heard. Was she going crazy? As she stumbled down the empty hallway toward the bathroom, she imagined a concerned psychiatrist seated at his desk, his hands clasped together as he informed her that she had schizophrenia.

“But you don’t,” the voice said, and Elaine looked around wildly, trying to find the speaker. As she searched in vain, the voice continued, “You’re not insane at all, and I can prove it.”

Elaine didn’t move, not at first. The hallway took on a dreamlike quality, the harsh fluorescent lights becoming soft and muted. Almost on their own accord, her legs moved, carrying her down the corridor toward the steel doors and the “AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY” sign. Elaine watched her hand rise up and swipe her access card, the doors unlocking. She blinked, her mind still foggy, as she stepped over the threshold into the vast room.

It was only when she saw the prisoner that she snapped out of the bizarre trance. She shivered in the frosty air, feeling horribly and inexplicably violated. Maybe it was the stress, she thought. That could definitely be it. If she took a long vacation, someplace nice but not too expensive, that may do the trick…

Through the barrier, the giant was staring at her, the shimmering, pastel lights reflected off of his cheekbones and forehead. Elaine felt her palms start to sweat, and she unconsciously wiped them on her uniform trousers. The sight of the gargantuan prisoner filled her with so many conflicting emotions. Fear, but also desire, and excitement. Nervously she licked her lips, tasting the cheap, cherry-flavored lip gloss.

“Pick a number between one and five,” the voice told her. This was ridiculous, she thought. She needed to get back to her desk before someone asked why she was here. Her eyes still on the colossus, she started to back away, toward the doors. For some reason, a number appeared in her head: three.

The giant shifted slightly, which was incredible to see, given his massive size. His right hand moved, and Elaine’s eyes widened as he held up one huge finger, the digit as long as a canoe. Then a second finger, and finally a third. Three, just like she had thought.

“Y-you,” Elaine quavered, and the voice in her head whispered, “Yes.”

***

When she was back at her desk, Elaine halfheartedly watched the monitors, her mind on the giant. Had he really communicated with her? If so, it had to be some sort of telepathy. But was telepathy even possible? Elaine thought about all of the late-night shows about psychics, and how she had laughed at them. It had seemed utterly impossible, but then again, so was the idea of a skyscraper-sized person.

For several hours, she hadn’t heard anything else from him. Then, when she was about to go on her lunch break, the voice invaded her mind once more:

“You think about what I did a lot, don’t you?”

Elaine snuck a glance at Mya, who was busily scribbling something on a pad of paper. It was evident that she couldn’t hear the voice, and she continued to write, head bent, as Elaine swallowed hard.

“No, I don’t,” she thought, which was an outrageous lie. Eerie laughter bubbled up in Elaine’s brain as he chuckled at her, and she felt her cheeks burn like two hot coals.

“Oh? Is that right? I bet when you go home, you’ll sit on your bed and watch those videos again. You’ll tell yourself that it’s harmless, won’t you? But you’ll think about them, and about me,” the voice replied.

Elaine’s cheeks were still flushed crimson, and she pretended to study her fingernails, hoping that nosy Mya wouldn’t look at her. She had bitten the nails down to the quick, and they looked stubby and ragged.

“What are you?” She thought, and when there was no answer, she figured that he had severed the telepathic connection.

“I was a person, once,” he said at last. “But not anymore.”

“Why did you contact me, and not someone like Dr. Nichols?” Her hands started to shake, and so she curled them up into tight fists.

“I know a kindred spirit when I see one.”

Mya’s shrill voice interrupted the telepathic conversation. “Elaine, have you seen last week’s activity report? You should really clean up your desk, by the way.”

Stupid bitch, Elaine thought furiously, and the giant apparently heard it, because he laughed again.

“You hate her, don’t you?” He asked, almost gently. Slowly, she unclenched her hands, her fingers now as red as her face. Elaine didn’t respond, but he already knew what she was going to say. His telepathic voice was seductive, soothing, as he said, “I can help you.”

***

Elaine often fantasized before she drifted off to sleep, lingering on all kinds of scenarios as she laid there with Fred at her feet. Most of the time, the fantasies were spin-offs of the novels that she was reading, and so they involved rugged cowboys or moody vampire pretty boys fawning over her. But ever since she heard the captive’s telepathic voice, she imagined him instead. He would hold her in his palm, or on his shoulder, and she would watch as the world was slowly crushed beneath his tread.

Because that was the other aspect of these new daydreams: the giant was always free.

***

He began to tell her more things, usually at random intervals, carefully feeding her bits of information. Elaine listened avidly to everything that he said, watching him through the monitors. Even with his neutral expression he was so handsome, his powerful shoulders slouched as he sat there in a semi-comatose state.

“What a big freak,” Mya commented one night, popping a piece of gum into her mouth. As Elaine glared at the other guard, the captive’s voice crept into her head: “Wouldn’t it be better if she were gone?”

“Yes,” Elaine silently agreed.

“Then bring her to me.”

***

“What’s taking so long?” Mya demanded, her hands on her hips. She pursued her lips as Elaine unlocked the prison doors, her eyes gleaming with suspicion. When Elaine had lied to her, saying that Dr. Nichols needed them, she hadn’t said much. The psychologist was around tonight, so the lie wasn’t completely implausible.

“Sorry about that,” Elaine said, smiling insincerely. She allowed Mya to step through first, then followed her. Their breaths fogged in the air as they approached the mammoth cell, where the giant huddled in the corner as usual. He was so still that Elaine could hardly tell that he was alive; only the slight rise and fall of his chest indicated that he wasn’t dead. There were enormous containers of food piled up, untouched as usual.

“So where’s Dr. Nichols?” The other woman glanced around the room, searching for the psychologist.

“She’s coming.” They were right near the barrier, so close that Elaine could feel the tingle of electricity. The control panel was nearby as well, and as Mya stood there, loudly snapping her gum and watching the giant, Elaine’s punched in the access code. Barrier 1 flashed brilliantly, the colors darkening and swirling together; then, a human-sized doorway emerged. No one had used it for weeks, and Mya seemed confused as to why Elaine had opened it.

“Why did—,” Mya started, her sentence interrupted when Elaine shoved her roughly through the opening. She stumbled, the wad of gum falling from her mouth, and Elaine saw the rage and confusion on her face just before she closed the doorway. A second later, Mya sprang forward, pounding at the barrier with both fists.

“What the hell, Elaine? Let me out!” She shrieked, baring her teeth like some crazed animal. “I swear to Christ, I’m gonna make sure that you’re fired!”

But Elaine wasn’t watching Mya anymore. She looked on silently as the giant suddenly became animated, his head swiveling around. Mya didn’t even notice that he was inspecting her, his dark eyes focusing in her direction. Shouting, she continued to bang at the force field, stopping only when the colossal shadow bathed her in blackness.

Mya made a frightened whimpering sound as the giant stood up, towering high above everything like a mountain of flesh. Her anger had dissolved into terror, and she pressed herself against the barrier, scratching desperately.

“Elaine! Let me out! Let me out, Elaine!” Mya howled, her face so close to Elaine’s that they could have touched one another if the barrier wasn’t there. Never had she imagined that her coworker could look so terrified, her eyes bulging from the sockets. Elaine didn’t respond, not even when the gargantuan hand swooped down. Titanic fingers pinched Mya’s body with a surprising delicacy, lifting her up. She squealed horribly as the colossus cocked his head and examined her. Far below, Elaine shuddered, morbidly fascinated at the drama unfolding before her.

Mya’s cries abruptly ended when the giant began to squeeze her, the mammoth fingers constricting and mashing her flesh. He continued to study her as if he were a scientist, calmly observing a test subject’s pain threshold. There was a wet, awful crack, followed by another, and another, like twigs being broken in succession. Then Mya exploded in a shower of dark red, the giant crushing her with ease.

Elaine watched the whole thing, not bothering to blink until her eyes burned. That dreamlike quality was overtaking reality again, and she peered through a haze as the titan knelt down in front of the barrier. He placed one huge hand on the force field, and she found herself gazing up in awe at a palm that could have held her car, along with several others. The skin glistened, crimson with Mya’s blood, and Elaine stared at the huge lines and creases.

“Take down the barrier,” the giant told her telepathically, and her eyes hesitantly met his. There was warmth in there, kindness. It was difficult to reconcile the gentleness in his eyes with the shredded tissue and flecks of bone that now streaked his hand. She started to key in the access code, then stopped. What the hell was she doing? The giant would tear her into ragged bits if she freed him.

He was looking down at her expectedly, and when she froze with her hand on the access panel, he smiled. “I know that you’re frightened and that you don’t trust me, and I don’t blame you. But everyone just saw what you did, and when the other guards get here, you’ll be arrested as an accomplice to murder.”

Coldness washed over Elaine, and her skin prickled painfully. The prisoner was right…she had had a part in Mya’s death. She saw herself standing on trial, the accusatory eyes of the jury boring into her. Then she imagined herself in a prison somewhere, living out the rest of her days surrounded by concrete walls. Nothing but a dull, dreary existence, the remainder of her life spent waiting to die.

“But if you let me out, I’ll save you.” The giant sounded so charming, even in her head. “Like I said, we’re alike, you and I. Don’t you want to see me conquer the world?”

Elaine’s head began to pound, the stress of the situation crashing down upon her all at once. She stood there, wishing that she could go home and take an aspirin. If only she could curl up and sleep for awhile, everything would be better. Behind her, she could hear panicked shouts as the others figured out what happened, and she understood that it was all over.

Tearing her eyes away from the giant, she finished entering the access code.

Barrier 1 disappeared, and a split second later, the ear-splitting alarm began to wail. The sound ripped her from her stupor, and she stared down at the control panel, shocked that she had actually done it. The giant was free…well, except for Barrier 2. The second force field was still in place, although that wouldn’t help her now. She was trapped in here with the monster.

Something colossal moved overhead, and when Elaine glanced up, she saw the giant’s leg as it swung by, the dark gray fabric of the pants clinging to the powerful musculature beneath. He almost stepped on her; she felt the floor heave violently beneath her as his foot landed. It was astonishing to see him in motion, to observe the way that the mammoth tendons in his foot shifted as his weight settled. Elaine probably would have continued to gawk if he hadn’t reached down and grabbed her in his fist.

The giant’s grip wasn’t gentle, and she gasped as the fingers dug into her belly and thighs, mashing her breasts uncomfortably against her chest. Even worse was the sensation of being lifted upwards, her stomach churning violently in protest. Elaine body tensed, every muscle becoming completely rigid as she saw how high off the ground she was. The technicians and guards scuttled around madly, as small as cockroaches. And like insects, they were flattened underfoot, unable to scurry away quickly enough to avoid the giant’s footfalls.

He left behind a trail of pulverized bodies, so thoroughly crushed that the victims could only be identified by their dental records. Some of the guards tried to fire, but even their largest weapons were useless. The giant was squashing them one at a time, hunting them down like animals and grinding them out beneath the balls of his feet, when something caught his attention. Elaine saw the gargantuan head turn, and she followed his gaze to where Dr. Nichols stood.

The psychologist was gaping up at the giant, watching him with stunned disbelief. She must have been in shock, because she didn’t make a sound until he reached down and curled his fingers around her body. He lifted her up, and it was only then that she wailed, a thin, reedy sound issuing forth from her throat. Her turquoise and silver jewelry rattled noisily as she began to struggle in the giant’s fist.

He said something, but his voice was too low and thunderous for Elaine to comprehend. She heard his telepathic voice a few seconds later, and she now understood what he had said: “So you thought that you could keep me imprisoned, did you?”

Dr. Nichols stopped screeching when he brought her up to the soft fullness of his lips, tilting her squirming body as if he meant to kiss her. But his lips peeled away from his teeth, and as Elaine looked on, he bit down on the psychologist. Gigantic incisors the size of guillotine blades punctured through her clothes, sinking deep into her flesh. The sound of living tissue ripping was terrible; the woman’s howls of agony were worse.

Elaine blinked slowly, captivated by the gruesome sight.

Popping Dr. Nichols’ bleeding body into his mouth, the titan chewed her up, her bones crunching loudly. The immense man looked pleased, as if he were eating a delicious treat. He even licked at the blood seeping from one corner of his mouth, his broad tongue sweeping out. Elaine was jostled roughly as he raised her upwards, toward his lips. He’s going to eat me, she thought, and she wiggled between his mammoth fingers, frightened.

But he didn’t shove her into his mouth, to her relief. Elaine was close enough that she could feel his breaths, which were hot and smelled coppery, like blood. Through her peripheral vision, she saw the index finger of his other hand, and a moment later, it gently brushed against her hair. She was keenly aware of the power behind the huge digit. If he so chose, he could have smashed in her fragile skull like an egg.

As he traced the curvature of her face with his finger, Elaine experienced a pleasure that was more intense than she would have thought possible. It filled her entire body, made her nerves tingle, and as she gazed into the colossus’ dark brown eyes, she wanted nothing more than to be with him. His mind swept over hers, and he showed her his plans, what he would do to the world. Nations would fall, and he alone would rule, a terrifying god-emperor.

“That would be wonderful,” Elaine told him as he continued to tenderly stroke her face. She remained lost in his dark fantasies until he strode forward, gradually picking up speed until he was sprinting across the floor. In his hand, Elaine held on for dear life, watching everything pass by in a blur. Ahead of them was the wall, and the giant pivoted his torso, crashing into it shoulder-first. The wall crumbled upon impact, and suddenly they were outside, cold air blasting Elaine’s exposed skin.

She shivered as he lowered her to the ground. Ahead of them, the last barrier shimmered in the darkness, the only thing still keeping the giant here. Elaine didn’t need their telepathic connection to know what he wanted. Still, she hesitated, gazing up at the immense man as he stood back up. He gave her another winsome smile, like the cowboy on the cover of her novel.

All around her, sirens blared and shrieked. It was so unreal, as if she were at home, watching some sort of action movie. Elaine walked toward the guard shack and the barrier access panel, hearing the thunderous thumps behind her. They were firing at the giant, throwing everything that they had at him. But how could they possibly hope to stop him? It was laughably pathetic.

“Elaine!” A familiar voice made her pause, and when she glanced over, Lucy was standing near Barrier 2, her gun drawn. The other woman’s face looked like cottage cheese; only her round cheeks had any sort of color.

“Put your hands behind your head,” Lucy ordered, the gun shaking slightly in her hands. Elaine stood motionless, her arms still down at her sides.

“I said, put your hands behind—,” the guard started to scream. Then she spotted the giant marching toward her, smoke rising from the ruined tatters of his prison uniform. Yet both Lucy and Elaine could see that he was otherwise unscathed, the flesh unharmed beneath the burnt cloth. The ground trembled as he approached, his towering legs filling their vision.

In one last desperate attempt, Lucy shot at the titan. He didn’t seem to even notice her attempts, snatching her up in his massive fist. Inside the remains of his pants, a huge bulge appeared, evidence of his arousal. Cupping the tiny woman against his growing erection, he growled and pressed down. Lucy didn’t stand a chance, not against such tremendous pressure. She smashed messily, her blood smearing all over the monstrous bulge.

Elaine turned away at that point, heading toward the access panel. Her breath steamed in puffy clouds as she tapped in the code. The giant’s fantasies and her own were intertwined, and one minute, she saw him seated atop a throne made from the ruins of cities. The next, she saw herself, loved and cherished and pampered. Everything would be wonderful, everything would be—

And then the fantasies faded abruptly, and she was alone in her head. The dreamlike quality left, and she found herself standing near the access panel, feeling horribly unnerved. Too late, she understood exactly what the giant had been doing.

He had been crawling around her head, infiltrating her brain like some godawful parasite. Using her own desires against her. The thought made her stomach cramp, and she felt a wave of nausea threaten to overtake her.

“Y-you tricked me,” Elaine whispered hoarsely. “Y-you used me. Like a p-puppet.”

The giant glanced down at her, his gargantuan eyes shining brightly. The smile on his face was amused and yet strangely sad.

“Yes,” he said.

Choking back a sob, she backed away. The same thought raced around her head, circling relentlessly. What had she done? Jesus Christ, what had she done? Somehow, she had to stop him. She couldn’t allow him to escape back out into the world.

But it was too late. Panicking, Elaine watched as the last barrier went down.