Asil didn’t mind the rain. It had been like this for two weeks, and while some complained, he was always reminded of his grandfather’s claim that in the time before the Giants, rain came but once every five years. So it comforted him, and whenever his friends would curse the occasional downpours, he shrugged it off.
He was never actually sure that there was a relationship between the Giants and the sporadic, lasting showers. The more he thought about it, he realized nobody ever told him what the Giants really did, if anything at all. Looking up at them, they were simple relics. They didn’t seem to do anything, Asil wondered. But he was sure they had a purpose at some point; when all of this was barren land. Maybe. Whatever the purpose was, it had long been forgotten.
The Giants had come, his grandfather would say, during the time of great unrest. His family had fled the chaos in the North and joined the nomadic tribes as they searched for refuge. He was just a boy when they had finished constructing the last one, and by then his family, like many others of the tribe, decided to settle in the Valley of the Giants.
He said that before they came, the Valley was a small cluster of oases, used by tribes for hundreds—if not thousands of years. Nomads would pass through, gather water, supplies, and keep moving. But that all changed when the Giants appeared. The oases tripled in size and the land became greener. More wildlife appeared. Birds, bugs, creatures of all sorts. Then the rain came. It was a while before tribes noticed the relationship between the Giants and the changing of the Valley. Because they were always moving, the perception of the area was often dismissed. As more and more permanent settlements appeared, the Giants became legend. They became the keepers of the land.
Besides his grandfather’s tales, Asil had heard other origin stories about the Giants. Some argued that they were old weapons from the people in the North, others believed they were communicative instruments to relay messages across the desert. Asil reckoned they looked like needles. He sometimes agreed with the weapon theory because they did have a menacing demeanor. They towered over the sand at an excessive scale, and were covered with weathered, rusty white stone. A few had been engulfed by the oasis and had vegetation sprouting through their seams; one had even become the home to a flock of birds native to the Valley. However, nobody interacted with them. They were not very welcoming.
It was when he noticed the birds leaving and returning to that one particular Giant that the idea of entering them came to Asil. It was common knowledge that they were impossible to penetrate. Their alabaster shell had no doors, and the only visible openings were fifty feet above. Those that did manage to get up to the openings encountered a dead end and came back down, abandoning any further exploration. It was clear these creatures were not meant to be inhabited, they would all say. The majority of attempts were made by rebellious teens, and would involve treacherous climbs with dubious equipment. Some of the kids fell, which led the elders to put up a series of solid fences around the base. They obviously weren’t interested in what was inside. Or perhaps they were hiding something.
But Asil could not get the thought out of his head. For a year now, he obsessed over them. He drew sketches, fabricated theories of what could be on the interior, and finally drafted up a plan of attack. He would go underground.
The ground was often taken for granted in the Valley. It supplied everything that the inhabitants needed without any required work. Fields of vegetation would provide food in the summer, die in the winter, and be replenished by the following spring. Water reservoirs would be constantly fresh, and have an endless supply of water. Grandfather would say this was always the case, hence his family’s decision to settle there. The curious thing, Asil considered, was that nobody questioned how it was possible; nobody wondered. In school he was taught that in other parts of the continent the land has to be worked, but in other parts—like in the Valley—the land is perfectly positioned vis-a-vis the sun and migratory patterns, that the land just works. Because there was no evidence of the contrary, that explanation became canon. Nevertheless, Asil was determined to infiltrate the mysterious ground and unearth its secrets.
That morning, he stepped out into the rain, and equipped with a series of make-shift digging equipment, ventured towards the Giants. At the fence, he dug a small ditch and crawled through. Within minutes he stood face to face with the Giant.
He picked the one with the bird nest because he figured it had the most potential. If birds were interested in it, there must be something in there, he said to himself. Walking up to the base, he felt insignificant. The Giant loomed over him with commanding force. Like the ancient statues of the Gods, it had an ominous presence; objects to be respected and left alone. With a deep breath, he began his sacrilegious excavation.
Asil dug for about an hour before he felt it. He had struck something solid at the base. Bizarre. It was only about five feet down. He did not expect to be hitting anything solid yet. His heart pounded as he shoveled around the solid mass. It was connected to the exterior wall, but as he kept unearthing it, he found that it was not a flat plane; it was curved, convex. He kept going.
Three hours passed and the weather was finally letting up. Digging was easier now, but Asil was exhausted. He would return tomorrow, he thought, and as he made a final, resigned stab with his shovel, he hit something that stopped his heart. A handle, unmistakably. Filled with adrenaline, he uncovered it like an archeologist with his father’s broom which he had cut down as part of his excavation kit.
It was the first feature of human scale he had ever seen on a Giant. Even the exterior panels, he thought, were too massive to have been built by humans. But this, this was definitely made for humans. It was a round wheel, attached to what he now realized was some kind of hatch.
There was text on the hatch, glyphs completely unknown to him. A warning? Instructions? It didn’t matter at this point. Without hesitation he began pulling at the handle, twisting, contorting, with all his might and his newly acquired adrenaline boost.
Air instantly spilled out the seams of the hatch; the freshest he’d ever breathed. It was humid, yet crisp. He immediately knew what to do. Asil pulled open the door, took a deep breath, and jumped inside.