Vicarious

Posted on December 30, 2016 in GTS Fiction by

A woman shares her strange abilities with others. Warning: for mature readers only.

I knew that something was wrong as soon as I saw Zoey’s face.

She was studying her phone, pulling and twisting her lower lip. It was one of those nervous habits that she had had since college, and she only did it when she was really upset. Like when her grandfather had died, or when her boyfriend had dumped her. So whatever she saw on her phone was most likely terrible.

“What is it?” I asked, and when she finally glanced up, I noticed how pale my friend had become. Every one of her freckles stood out starkly against her skin, and behind her glasses, her eyes were wide with fear. As she pushed the phone across the diner table, I caught a glimpse of a news website on the screen.

“Another one showed up. I think they said it was Chicago this time,” Zoey replied, still wringing her lip between her fingers. I didn’t say anything as I picked up the phone. The first thing that I saw were the photos, dozens and dozens of them. Some of them were candid shots, taken with cell phones; others were obviously done by professional news photographers. They all showed the same thing, though: nightmarish scenes of carnage and destruction. Skyscrapers leaned and tilted crazily, and a few had even toppled, filling the streets with rubble and grayish-white dust. There were cars and trucks upside-down, like huge, dead beetles, or completely flattened, as if they had been run through a compactor.

As I scrolled down through the page, I saw the photos of survivors, their faces and clothes caked with ash and dirt and blood. They wandered through the streets, stunned and horrified, probably searching for missing family members or friends. I could only imagine their confusion, their despair. No one gets up in the morning and expects that their city will be razed to the ground.

I finally glanced at the headline. “GIANTESS ATTACKS CHICAGO, THOUSANDS DEAD,” it screamed. Zoey had been right. Over the past few months, there had been seven other incidents, giant people appearing from out of nowhere and annihilating everyone and everything in their path. The authorities had been investigating, but so far, they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) say what these giants and giantesses were. Aliens? Beings from another dimension? Normal people who spontaneously mutated?

The answer was none of the above, but I didn’t want to share that bit of knowledge. No, that was my little secret.

I had seen enough, and so I gave the phone back to Zoey. She was picking listlessly at her caesar salad, her cheeks still drained of color.

“This is horrible, Joan,” Zoey whimpered. “They just keep coming out of nowhere. What if one of them shows up here next?”

I smiled as reassuringly as I could, reaching out to take her hand. “Don’t worry. I’m sure that won’t happen.”

She had no idea that I was telling her the truth, of course.

***

When I arrived home, I grabbed my laptop and began to read more about the disaster in Chicago. The giantess was described as a young blonde woman, and like the others, she had appeared without warning in the middle of a busy intersection. Survivors stated that she had acted like a bloodthirsty maniac, crushing cars and people indiscriminately. Even when the police had opened fire, she had continued stomping until the asphalt was stained a deep crimson.

I tried to remember what the young woman had looked like. Yes, she had been blonde, that was correct. Blonde and slender and beautiful, but with a fury that attracted me to her. I had followed her rage all the way to the pub where she had been bartending, sensing it the way that sharks could detect blood in water. I had ordered a beer, but I didn’t drink it, instead watching her discreetly from one of the tables. She had certainly been angry, all right. I had always been able to pick up on darker emotions, rage and sadness and fear; it was one of my many gifts, and as I had sat there, I had felt the waves of hatred radiating outward.

Fucking asshole, she had thought, shoving a rum and Coke at one of the customers. I had continued listening to her thoughts, eavesdropping. The young woman had been perfect for what I had in mind, and when she had finally closed up the pub and drove to her dingy apartment, I had followed her. I had waited until she had swigged some tequila straight from the bottle before I had appeared before her. My target hadn’t seemed particularly surprised to see me, just mildly annoyed.

“Who the hell are you?” Her voice had been slurred, and she had blinked drunkenly at me. The alcohol had dulled some of her anger, but it had still been lurking there, terrible and dangerous.

I had laughed and spread my arms wide. “I’m your guardian angel.”

“Uh-huh.” She had taken another sip of tequila, her green eyes never leaving me. “You don’t look like an angel.”

“But I am, and I’m here to make everything better.”

The young woman had snorted dismissively. “Right. How are you going to do that?”

“I’ll show you,” I had told her, and so I had. My instructions had been brief: drive as far away from here as you can, and do whatever you want. When she had grown, she had no longer been just another bartender, living in a hellhole of an apartment and silently holding back that lust for violence. She had been transformed into an immense giantess, capable of destroying entire cities and inspiring terror amongst millions.

And now, as I laid there on my bed, glancing through footage of the devastation, I imagined myself as her. When I closed my eyes, I could almost see myself there, as tall as a twenty-story skyscraper. The buildings around me would rock and creak and on their foundations as I strolled by, each step catastrophic to the tiny people far below. Vehicles, people, street lights…anything small enough to fit beneath my feet would be pulverized beyond recognition. If I concentrated, I could feel the small bodies pulping beneath my soles, the pavement cracking and crunching loudly. It was exhilarating to imagine myself so huge and powerful, and my hand explored my body as I relived the destruction and mayhem.

That sense of power was better than anything that a lover could provide, and ripples of pleasure coursed through my lower belly. Become like them, that old voice whispered to me. Make yourself into a goddess.

But as usual, I pushed it aside.

***

I can’t say when my powers first manifested, because I honestly don’t remember. They had always been there, and as I grew older, they became a terrible secret that I hid from my family. But even if I didn’t use them, my powers were constantly on my mind, tempting me. Wouldn’t it be nice to shrink Mrs. Alten, my grouchy third grade teacher? What if I could make myself grow into a giantess and take what I wanted, a new bicycle and everything else in the toy store?

It would have been so easy to simply give into those desires.

The closest that I came was when I was a teenager, staying at my grandparents’ lake house for the week. It had been a particularly hot night in late August, and I had wandered outside by myself. For awhile, I had stood there in the pitch blackness of the forest, listening to the multitudes of crickets as they chirped to one another. My grandparents had been asleep for a few hours, and the closest neighbor was a few miles away. Why not try your abilities out? An internal voice had whispered. Come on, there’s no one here. What harm would it be?

So under the cover of darkness, I had used my powers on myself, feeling both elation and guilt as my body had expanded. Each inch that I had gained was thrilling, and I had watched as the big oaks and maples seemed to shrink away. I had stopped when I had reached twenty feet, although I had wanted to grow even larger.  That internal voice had shouted at me to continue. But if I hadn’t stopped at that point, I never would have. I would have grown larger than the lake house, than a skyscraper, than a mountain. It had been a terrifying realization.

I think that I would have been more frightened if I hadn’t been so fascinated by what I had become. Okay, I hadn’t been Godzilla-sized, but I had still been huge enough to push over small trees. I remember knocking them over with ease, delighted by the cracking noises that they had made as they had crashed to the ground. I had felt so strong and powerful, and I had gloried in it until I had heard something. Faint footsteps, barely discernible above the crickets. I had shrank back down and dove behind a bush as quickly as possible, watching as my grandfather inspected the fallen trees.

I’m still not sure if he had spotted me; if he had (and if he actually suspected that I was somehow responsible), he never mentioned it to me. So for fifteen years, I had been able to keep my little secret to myself.

Until I met Max.

***

“You look kind of stressed, Zoey,” I commented as we took our places in front of the yoga mats. The instructor hadn’t shown up yet, so we were just standing there with the rest of the group. Almost sheepishly, Zoey stopped tugging at her lower lip.

“Well, yeah. I mean, all these attacks are sort of bothering me.” She started to yank at a stray strand of dark brown hair, curling it around her index finger.

“I wouldn’t worry so much,” I replied, and I almost said that there probably wouldn’t be another rampage. Except that I would have been lying, and I couldn’t muster up the courage to deceive my friend like that. For the past few days, I had been craving more action, more wanton destruction. No matter how many times I tried to divert my thoughts, they always returned to the subject of creating another colossus. I suddenly understood how an ex-smoker must feel, aching for the sensation of a cigarette in their mouth.

The power was pulsating through me, making my skin tingle. I shivered and glanced at Zoey, standing there in her blue shirt and yoga pants. She was my best friend in the world, but at that moment, I wanted so badly to hurt her. No, not just hurt her. I wanted to do something awful to her, for reasons that were too primal to explain with words.

A horrible idea crept into my brain. I could shrink her right there, down to the size of a jelly bean. She’d scream and scream, but I’d just laugh as I leaned down, pinching her delicate body between my fingers. How soft she’d be, not hard and chitinous like an insect. I’d dangle her over my open mouth, relishing her terror, and then I’d drop her between my lips. Maybe I’d chew her up, crushing her into bloody pulp between my molars. No, wait. I’d swallow her like a pill, so that she was sent to the acidic depths of my stomach. Her last feeble movements would be nothing more than twitches inside me, and then she would be gone. Forever.

“Joan?” Zoey’s voice interrupted my awful fantasy. Her eyebrows were knitted together in an expression of obvious concern.

“I’m okay. It’s just been a long day,” I told her, my gaze on the other members of the yoga class. What if I grew right now? What would their reactions be like? I was willing to bet that they’d be surprised and confused. Oh, and absolutely horrified. They would cower in the darkness of my colossal shadow, panicking as I burst through the ceiling and rained pieces of drywall and splintered wood down upon them. I would scoop them up eagerly, feeling their squirming bodies in my hands, and then I would constrict my fingers, tighter and tighter…

“I see,” Zoey said quietly, and I looked down at my yoga mat, my cheeks burning. Even as I took deep, calming breaths, adrenaline pounded through me. Just imagining those terrible things filled me with such excitement. I couldn’t wait much longer, I decided.

I needed to make another monster soon.

***

Max had been the first, and I had met him at an airport during a business trip. As had I flipped halfheartedly through a novel, he had sat down near me, and I had taken a moment to look him over. He had been incredibly handsome, with wavy black hair and gray eyes that reminded me of river stones. His business suit had been impeccably tailored, showing off the powerful, masculine curves of his body.

“I’m Max,” he had said with a charming smile.

“Joan.” I had shaken his hand.

“Like Joan of Arc?”

“Yeah, like that,” I had replied, admiring his good looks. We had started to chat, mostly about where we had gone to college, the weather, that sort of thing. Then, perhaps because I was so exhausted from my travel, I had asked him something that I never would have asked anyone else.

“So what would you do if you were given godlike power?” The words had slipped from my mouth.

“I don’t know. Probably try to help people, I guess,” Max had answered, and at the same time, I heard the dark and hellish thoughts churning wildly through his brain: I’d fuck everyone up. Leaning closer, I had studied all of these horrible fantasies, feeling excitement growing deep within me.

He had been so perfect, and it was at that moment that I had made my decision. I had given him some of my power, allowing it to flow into his body. There had been a visible change, and I could see the way that his eyes had lit up with elation. He had swaggered out of the airport, and an hour later, he was all over the news, two hundred feet tall and destroying everything around him. As those around me had watched the airport televisions in shocked disbelief, I had shivered in pleasure.

***

And now it was time to choose another one.

I wandered through the streets, casting my telepathic net out. What about the skater leaning against a fence, his face hardened into a contemptuous sneer? Or the middle-aged woman in the designer clothing, screaming at someone on her cell phone? It was so difficult to choose.

Then I found her.

She was standing outside of a shoe store, obviously an employee on her break. A cigarette hung between her long fingers, and she silently observed everyone as they walked along the sidewalk. Her thoughts were delightfully wicked: if only I could stomp on them, I bet they’d scream. When I crossed the street, her eyes narrowed, watching me warily through the curls of cigarette smoke.

“Hey,” I said, and she didn’t answer at first, just kept studying me. She was slightly older than I was, her long hair dyed auburn.

“What do you want?” She sounded irritated.

“To offer you something.”

Both of her dark eyebrows shot up. “I’m not interested in buying anything.”

“It’s free,” I said, and before she could tell me to go to hell, I continued, “What if I could make you powerful? Like in your fantasies?”

Her surprise was comical, and the cigarette nearly tumbled from her fingers. “How do you know about that?”

“I just know. Now, how about it? Would you like to become a giantess to these insects?” I leaned a little closer, and she blinked rapidly, too amazed to move.

“I-I-I…this is fucking crazy,” she choked out, although I could see a gleam in her eye. Deep down, she wanted this, craved this. In her hand, the cigarette shook wildly, and this time, she did drop it.

“I want you to go far from here,” I told her. “Wreck whatever you want, do whatever you want. But not here. Understand?”

Her tongue darted from her mouth, slowly licking her pink-painted lips. “Yes.”

***

Feeling strangely satisfied, I met Zoey at the diner for lunch. She was talking about the new guy that she had met at work, but I wasn’t paying attention. My thoughts were on the woman from the shoe store, and what she was going to do with her newfound power. I could hardly wait to see her in action, to live through her like I had with everyone else.

Zoey froze in mid-sentence, and she glanced around quickly. “Did you feel that?”

“Feel what?” I asked, and then I felt it, a powerful tremor that shook the entire diner and knocked over our glasses of water. Before I had a chance to say anything else, there was another quake, and this one was even stronger. No, it couldn’t be…but it was. Through the diner window, I saw an immense foot slam down, the pavement buckling outward around it.

“Oh God,” Zoey whispered, and we both watched as the other foot crashed onto a line of parked cars. The vehicles collapsed with a spectacular spray of glass and metal, and the foot sank deep into the ground as if it were wet clay instead of asphalt. Shrieks rose up, but they were drowned out by booming, feminine laughter. In the diner, everyone was panicking, some people diving beneath the tables, others petrified in place. I was the only one marching toward the door.

“Joan, what are you doing!? We need to hide!” Zoey screeched, grabbing at my upper arm. I ignored her, shoving open the door and stepping out onto the sidewalk. Pandemonium had broken out, terrified people running in all directions, and when I turned my head, I saw the source of the chaos.

The giantess, the one that I had recently created, was towering above the skyline. I had never seen one of the titans up close, and I gawked at her for a long time. Every part of her was enormous, her nude body more like a living, breathing skyscraper than an actual human being. As I continued to watch in amazement, she plunged her hand into the side of a building, smashing through the exterior as if it had been made of tissue paper. When she withdrew her hand, tiny people and furniture were also dragged out with it. But she didn’t notice the office workers plummeting to their deaths; she was too busy inspecting those unfortunate souls who were trapped in her fist.

Almost tenderly, she pressed them against her right breast, and I could hear their muffled cries. Biting her lower lip, she began to caress herself, her hand moving in wide, languid circles. As I fought my way through the frenzied mob, the giantess moaned loudly. Nearby windows vibrated and rattled, and I covered my ears, cringing.

The giantess grinned, and then cupped her breast, squeezing it hard. Those who were imprisoned in her hand were pulverized, their bodies breaking beneath her unbelievable strength. When she removed her hand, a gruesome five-fingered print was painted in dark red across her breast.

That was it. I strode toward her, my anger nearly blinding me. Thunderous crashes rumbled above me as she dug through the building again, trying to find more victims. A huge chunk of masonry fell to the ground, crushing a mailbox and nearly crushing me. The giantess pulled a wailing man from the gaping hole in the skyscraper, pinching him by the back of his black suit. His keening cries ended when she dropped him into her mouth and then swallowed with a quick gulp.

Suddenly, the giantess froze, like a dog sensing a rabbit, and her head slowly turned to look at me. Of course she sensed me. My power was coursing out in almost tangible waves.

“You weren’t supposed to grow here!” I screamed at her, rage strangling my voice. “You’re ruining everything!”

She scowled down at me from an impossible distance. “Fuck you, you little bitch.”

To my shock, she raised her foot, hovering it high above me. Her face disappeared behind her enormous sole, and I found myself staring up at a huge expanse of pinkish-brown flesh. Apparently, she had stomped on several people, because I saw what remained of their bodies, blood and pulped organs smeared in all directions. The mammoth foot lowered down toward me, and I knew that she intended to add me to her list of victims. I raised both hands, as if I could hope to ward off something so massive.

And then the power exploded in me.

I had never grown so big, or so fast before. It was incredibly disorienting, the world becoming a crazy blur of colors. By the time that I recovered, I saw that the city had changed. Everyday objects such as trees, buildings, and the vehicles parked on the side of the road were all scaled down, as if I had wandered into a monster movie set. Except that these weren’t reproductions. Everything was so breathtakingly real, and as I stood there, glancing around, I saw all of the minute details. There were leaves on the trees in the neighboring park, so tiny that I could barely make them out except as various shades of green, and splotches of engine oil discoloring the street.

I took a minute to take in the shrunken world around me. No, the world wasn’t shrunken…I was immense. It was incredible to believe, and apparently, the other giantess was astonished as well. She stood there, dark blood dripping from her breast, staring at me with wonder.

Then she threw herself at me, her hands outstretched, trying to claw out my eyes.

I wasn’t prepared for the attack, and she plowed into me, knocking me into the side of a skyscraper. It was like being pushed into an incredibly flimsy box, and I felt the exterior crumble away beneath me. But I didn’t have time to reflect upon the sensations further because the other woman was punching and slapping at me. I gazed into her furious eyes, and then my own anger melted away. Grinning, I pushed her away, hard.

I stepped away from the damaged skyscraper, concentrating my power inwards. Bigger…I wanted to be much bigger. And so I grew again, but this time, I luxuriated in the thrill of becoming more powerful. The skyscrapers became smaller and smaller, and the streets seemed to narrow into thin bands. Cold air prickled my skin as I rose higher into the atmosphere, passing through cottony wisps of clouds. Down below, the once-towering giantess looked like a tiny, two-legged cockroach.

She shouted something; I think it may have been “I’m sorry!” although I couldn’t hear her voice that well. To be honest, I didn’t care what she said. I merely smiled down at her, my hands on my hips.

“Better start running,” I sneered, and this time, she cowered at the sound of my voice. I’m sure that the speck-sized people in the city below were deafened by my words, and that sent a delicious shudder down the length of my spine. My creations had been terrifying, but I was the sort of thing that brought humanity to its knees.

The giantess took off, dashing down the street and flattening anything in her way. I watched her sprint away, barreling through buildings and sending deadly showers of debris all over the mite-like people. When I finally decided to pursue her, I didn’t run, but instead walked at a leisurely pace. I was easily a few several miles tall, and each time that my foot came down, it sent cataclysmic shockwaves in all directions. Tiny buildings, most of them no longer than my thumb, collapsed and spilled into one another with each deadly footstep. I left behind a trail of footprints that looked more like meteor craters, and I knew that there weren’t any survivors in them. Anyone who had the bad luck to be underneath my foot when it fell was now reduced to mere organic components.

My attention shifted from my feet to the fleeing giantess. She had made it to the river, and was now racing through the water, capsizing the boats floating there. Once or twice, she stopped and looked at me approaching, her tiny face blanching. I smiled and waved to her, and she ran faster, destroying the docks along the river. I simply strolled over the little tannish strip of water. Four more steps later, and I was able to block the giantess’ escape route with one foot.

She tried to run the other way, but she skidded and toppled over. Minute tendrils of smoke rose up, and I thought that I saw a brief flash of yellowish-orange as something caught on fire. My little creation stared up in me in abject fear, her mouth trembling violently.

“Please, I wasn’t going to actually step on you!” She screamed. At least, I think that’s what she said.

“Well, I plan on stepping on you.” My reply clearly horrified her. A stream of pleas burst from her lips, but they abruptly stopped when I lowered my foot into her body. I felt her wiggling beneath my sole, and it was at that moment that I realized how wrong I had been all of these years. I had lived my fantasies through others, but to experience them myself was a million times more exciting than I would have imagined. I glanced down, saw the world at my feet…literally. Nothing on Earth was more powerful than I was, not humanity, not even this puny giantess who was slowly being smothered underfoot.

My smile became more serene as I applied more of my weight, crushing my creation. She let out a high-pitched howl of agony, and then her body burst violently beneath my foot. To the microscopic people still alive, her death must have been awe-inspiring, thousands of gallons of warm blood jetting outward and roaring down the streets in a red tidal wave.

I ground out the remnants of her body, smearing them in a gory swath that was hundreds of feet long. Those who were eventually tasked with rebuilding the city would be finding gigantic bones and huge clumps of rotting flesh for several weeks.

Still smiling, I glanced over at what remained of my hometown. Entire districts had been reduced to rubble and strangely, I realized that I didn’t care. I watched the black smoke and clouds of dust rising up over the destruction for awhile, and then several tiny specks buzzed by my ear, almost too small to be seen. Fighter jets, no doubt dispatched to take out the giantess, were now circling me like gnats. They couldn’t hurt me, although I knew that they were certainly trying. I concentrated, and then my power enveloped them. The jets seemed to disappear into thin air, but in reality, I shrank them down so that they were no bigger than grains of sand. When I started to walk again, they were most likely smashed into pieces against my body or blown away by the violent winds that my movements generated.

I sauntered forward, gradually dwindling down to a more manageable size. I still loomed above most of the buildings, but at least I could see people now.

A small crowd had formed, and they stared at me with awe and curiosity and terror. I was only vaguely aware that I was naked, that I hadn’t bothered to make my clothing grow as well. Perhaps I’d do that in the future; for now, I didn’t care if onlookers saw me when I was nude. Let them see me as I truly am, I decided.

I stopped near the crowd and crouched down. Several members of the crowd bolted when they saw how close I was, but some of the braver people stayed where they were. As I studied them, I saw how pitiful they looked, with their soiled clothing and traumatized expressions.

“Don’t worry,” I said to them. “She’s gone.”

One balding man with a filthy, ash-stained polo shirt rushed forward, sobbing. “Th-thank you! You saved—,”

I reached out and flicked him, the tip of my index finger burrowing deep into his torso. It was only a light flick, but his tiny body still catapulted through the air, splattering into the side of a delivery truck.

“Enough.” My voice was coolly detached. “Believe me, I’m a thousand times worse than she could ever be.”

There were frightened murmurs from the crowd.

“Now, you can serve me, or…” I lifted my hand above several people, engulfing them in the ominous blackness of my shadow, and then brought it down with a resounding boom. They squished easily beneath my palm, blood and glistening viscera squirting out from between my fingers. “…You can die as well.”

I raised my hand back up, globs of meat and scraps of clothing plopping to the ground. To my delight, most of the crowd took my threat seriously. Some even knelt, their hands clasped tightly together. I grinned, knowing that I didn’t have to hide my powers anymore. No, I fully embraced my abilities, and what I was.

I wouldn’t have to live vicariously through anyone ever again.