A giantess receives a gift from one of her servants. Set in the same world as “Assistant.” Warning: for mature readers only.
Elijah selected a cobalt pastel stick from the tin box, and as soon as his fingers curled around it, he felt the familiar sensation of comfort settle down upon him. This was how he soothed his soul and forgot about all of the horror that he had witnessed. For a brief time, a half an hour or an hour or however long it took him to sketch, the scenes of death and suffering vanished. There was only the crisp, white paper before him, and so he lost himself in it.
Most of his drawings were of the same thing: a woman, perpetually youthful, her expression cultivated to be neutral. Today he was sketching her in a blue dress, the flowing lines revealing her curvaceous body. Gnawing at his lip, he leaned closer, studying the figure who was gradually taking shape on the paper.
He had fallen in love with her when he was nineteen years old, back when he was still young and the world seemed like a vast and unknowable place. How anyone failed to adore her was a mystery to Elijah. She was the most beautiful woman that he could imagine, a dark-haired goddess with imperious eyes and a smile that could unnerve even the most courageous of men. But it had been more than her physical beauty that had captivated him; it was her terrifying, unrestrained power that had haunted his dreams. She was an awe-inspiring force, like the ocean during a wild storm, leaving nothing but ruin behind her.
And he loved her for that.
No one ever visited him in the Archive, so he was surprised when he heard the distinctive clomping of boots. Elijah put down the pastel stick and hastily rolled up his drawing, his head rotating in time to see the Guards.
“The Tyrant wants to see you, Archivist,” the tallest of the Guards informed him, and Elijah blinked, shocked. For forty-one years he had worked for the self-appointed ruler of the world, and he had only caught brief glimpses of her. The nearest he had been to her when he was nineteen, and he had watched her striding across the bay near his house. She had been so immense, so magnificent, her legs churning up the grayish water as she headed toward some destination. And so he had picked up his sketchbook and drawn her, trying to capture her sheer size and effortless grace.
“Of course,” he mumbled to the Guards, and he followed them through the labyrinthian hallways of the Tyrant’s palace. It was opulent, like everything else that she owned, and most people would have been amazed by the breathtaking architecture, the masterpieces hanging along the corridor. But all that Elijah could think about was her, and his heart thudded against his ribcage.
They brought him to the main chamber, which was almost incomprehensibly huge. His eyes immediately focused on the throne in the center of the room, as large as a skyscraper. Seated upon it was the giantess, more beautiful than he could ever hope to depict on paper. She was dressed in a ivory gown, gossamer and glittering with jewels sewn into the fabric. This was the Tyrant, the unquestioned lord of humanity. If she had another name, no one knew it.
The giantess’ face was illuminated by candles on either side of her throne, each as wide as a grain silo and surrounded by a metal cage. To Elijah’s dismay, there were prisoners clinging to the bars, trying to avoid the searing heat of the fire behind them. Shuddering, he avoided their gazes. He looked up at the Tyrant instead. Her attention was on two people at her sandaled feet, a young man and woman. They were both terrified, standing in the shadow of the being who had enslaved the world.
When the Tyrant spoke, her booming voice caused Elijah’s entire body to tremble. “You’ve been accused of stealing from me, Accountant. Are these charges true?”
The man’s face paled, his mouth dropping open. “I-I would never steal from you! I swear!”
“So you’re saying that you’re innocent?”
Frantically, the man nodded, his head jerking up and down like a puppet with broken strings. The giantess cupped her chin in one hand, peering down at the tiny people with cool, gray eyes. Elijah studied the gentle curves of her jaw, the plushness of her lips. She was so lovely, a creature that transcended humanity.
“I don’t believe you,” the Tyrant said, and before the man could argue, she reached down and plucked up the young woman in one hand. She seemed to know better than to fight, and her body went limp between the pillars of the giantess’ fingers. “So this is your wife, isn’t it?”
“Y-yes,” the man answered. “I’m telling the truth! P-please don’t hurt Becky!”
“Enough.” The Tyrant flipped the tiny woman over in her hand, her features inscrutable as usual. Running her thumb over the woman’s quivering back, she said, “Remember, you brought this upon yourself.”
The giantess’ fingernails, darkly crimson and as hard as steel, gleamed in the light. As everyone watched in mute horror, she sank those nails deep into the woman’s flesh. A howl of agony rose up, echoing in the cavernous throne room. An almost beatific smile appeared on the Tyrant’s face, her eyes widening in pleasure.
“Please, no!” The man was almost crazed with panic as his wife screamed and screamed. “I didn’t steal from you!”
The Tyrant’s smile broadened. Ignoring the man’s desperate wails, she began to flay the woman alive, ripping off her clothing and flesh with the same nonchalance as peeling an orange. The huge nails tore away entire sections of skin, revealing the glistening, scarlet muscles and the yellowish fat beneath. Anguished shrieks rose up; whether it was the woman, howling in agony as she was transformed into a bloody mass, or her husband, begging for her life, Elijah wasn’t certain. The sounds rose, a chorus from Hell. Then the giantess gazed down at the tiny man pleading near the foot of her throne.
“I’ve changed my mind. I believe you,” she told him, opening her bloodstained hand. The flayed woman dropped several stories to the floor below, and although Elijah averted his eyes, he still heard the dull crunch. He snuck one look at the corpse, appalled to see that the woman’s humanity had literally been stripped away, and in its place was a red and ruined thing. Sobbing, the man crouched beside his wife’s motionless body, but the Tyrant had already lost interest in them. The giantess’ eyes fell upon Elijah, and he shook beneath her cold scrutiny. Something rustled in his hand; to his surprise, he realized that he had carried the portrait with him. But it was too late to do anything about it now.
“Are you the Archivist?” Her voice was even more intimidating now that it was being directed toward him.
“Yes, my goddess,” Elijah mumbled, looking up into those enormous eyes.
“You will address me properly.”
“Yes, Tyrant.” He wished that his hands weren’t shaking so hard; the rolled-up paper trembled along with them. Except for the man’s weeping, it was the loudest sound in the room.
The giantess continued to stare down at him, her expression unreadable. “How long have you served me?”
“Forty-one years, Tyrant.” As he said this, he remembered the day that he had left his family, how his parents had stared at him with heartbroken expressions. His mother had tried to persuade him not to go, had tried to warn him. And oh, how he had argued with them. Elijah had stormed out the door, and he hadn’t spoken to his family since then. As much as he hated to admit it, he could hardly remember them, and their faces were blurred in his memory.
“That certainly is a long time,” the Tyrant said. “It’s a shame that I have to dismiss you.”
The words struck Elijah like arrows, and he wondered if it was some sort of mean-spirited joke. Except the giantess seemed completely serious, her dark lips set in a straight line.
“B-but y-you can’t,” he protested weakly.
“Oh, I can, and I will.” Her gray eyes were so cold, not at all like how he drew them in his sketches. These were ancient, pitiless eyes, the eyes of a monster who would raze cities for its pleasure.
Elijah bowed his hand, wringing the rolled-up portrait in his hands. He couldn’t fight this, couldn’t fight Her. She was the only power here, and he was, and almost had been, nothing. To his shame, warm tears trickled down over his cheeks.
“What is that in your hand?” The Tyrant suddenly demanded, and Elijah glanced up.
“It-it’s nothing,” he lied.
“Show me. Now.”
And so he unrolled the paper, revealing the drawing. The pastels had smeared slightly, but the subject was still recognizable. The giantess leaned forward in her throne, her eyes narrowing. Elijah almost let out a sigh of relief when the smile appeared on her face.
“Is that me?” She asked, and he responded with a meek nod.
“You adore me, don’t you?” One of her hands made a beckoning gesture. “Come closer.”
His footsteps echoed as he approached the gargantuan throne, clutching the drawing to his chest. He didn’t notice the flayed woman to his right, her blood pooling around her body while her husband stared in catatonic shock. All of his attention was on the lovely, terrifying being looming before him.
The Tyrant continued to smile at him, and his tears changed from tears of sorrow to those of ecstatic joy. He relived that moment of wonder when he was nineteen, when he saw the giantess in all of her glory, and his old man’s body became forgotten.
“Yes, I adore you,” he whispered, and as the last word passed his lips, her sandaled foot raised over him. Somewhere deep in his brain, his instincts shouted at him to flee, but he didn’t move fast enough. Elijah caught a horrifying glimpse of the Tyrant’s scuffed sole before it landed atop him, pressing him down into the floor. The pain was instantaneous and all-consuming, his bones creaking beneath the giantess’ astronomical weight.
“How pathetic you are,” she sneered, and he began to flail, his limbs beating feebly against the tiles. Elijah’s head was forced to the side, and he saw his sketch flutter free, landing near his face. He didn’t understand what he had done wrong, so he had no idea how to plead with her. All that he could was cry out in anguish as she began to step down.
Each second became worse and worse, the agony occupying his entire existence. Sharp, sickening cracks erupted around him, and dimly, he understood that it was his bones breaking. The crushing pressure came down on his face, and his jaws ground together, so hard that his teeth exploded outward in a bloody mess. They bounced and tumbled across the floor, coming to a stop near the crinkled piece of paper.
Blood leaked out from his mouth, his pulverized limbs, and when his body cavity ruptured, it poured out across the floor and soaked the drawing. Elijah was vaguely aware that the slimy coils spilling out from beneath the Tyrant’s foot were his intestines. Already his vision was fading, tendrils of darkness encircling his sight. He was dying, he knew that, but what he didn’t know was why he had to, other than the fact that it pleased her.
“The saddest part is that there will be more like you,” the Tyrant told him in a cool, detached voice. “There always are.”
His lungs could no longer draw in air, and a soft, wet noise escaped from between his mangled lips. The last thing that Elijah saw was the portrait, the image disappearing beneath the bright red tide of his blood.