The official results for Size Riot’s GentleApril20 contest have just been announced! Winning the contest overall was Scidram with his touching story, “Passing Through.”
Reading each and every story was a rewarding experience. I’ve paid good money, many times, for stories that were of lesser quality than the GentleApril20 submissions, provided for free. Voting is over, but the stories are still available and all are well-worth checking out. I hope that every competitor feels proud!
My submission, “Heaven’s Light,” tied for first place in the “Which stories might you use to introduce an outsider to Size Fantasy?” category. (NOTE: Accordingly, please feel free to share this with outsiders 😉 ) Heaven’s Light also tied for sixth place in the “Which stories approached ‘rescue’ in an unexpected way?” category.
You can read Heaven’s Light below:
Harold left his family’s home in Glennallen, Alaska, and drove down the two-lane road toward Anchorage. It was late in the year, and a light snow fall dusted the frozen ground. It was four o’clock in the afternoon and the sun was setting rapidly. There was no wind, and the air was still and frigid.
It was Friday and he was heading back to college after spending time visiting his parents. The only weekend obligation was a dinner date on Saturday. It would take four hours of travel until he could lay in his small bed in the college dorm room.
Many miles later, Harold pulled his car over for a pit stop not far from the base of Gunsight Mountain. He was about to hop back into his vehicle when a glint of light caught his eye from deep in the woods. He decided to investigate. Walking toward it, he saw that the glow originated from a small cave surrounded by black spruce trees.
“Help me.” A feminine voice said from within. Harold jumped back and shouted “Jesus!”
Visions of fictional ladies threatened by backcountry thugs from countless low-budget horror films filled his brain. “Are you okay ma’am?”
“Save me.” The voice said.
“I’ll call the State Troopers. It won’t take them long to get here.” He replied.
“I can’t wait. Please rescue me.”
“Okay… I’m coming!” He replied and ran forward. More images filled his mind, taken from many nights watching cheap rentals. His imagination filled him with dread as he ran into the cave to help the mysterious voice. ” Is a masked murderer inside threatening the poor woman? Or is this a trap by which she lures me to my death?” he thought then chastised himself “Dammit Harold, stop thinking about slasher films!”
It was cold inside. Colder inside than it was outside. Colder than Harold had ever felt. Colder than he had ever experienced during all his years spent in southcentral Alaska. Harold wanted to leave and feel warm again. But he couldn’t go, not without helping first.
What he saw inside shocked him. An immensely tall woman occupied the space. She was enormous, blonde, and beautiful. Shimmering armor fit the outline of a curvy woman who stood well over ten feet tall. She reminded him of the Valkyrie from the stories his father would tell, fables from ancient Scandinavia. Chains snaked their way around her form.
Then her appearance changed. This time she was a Yup’ik woman, an Alaskan Native like his mother. She had jet black hair and a broad face, the same as many of the ladies from his mother’s hometown of Bethel. Her armor was replaced with an atkuuk, a fur parka. She wore mukluks, soft knee-high boots made of seal fur. She was gorgeous, and somehow Harold knew she was a shaman. Despite her change, the chains remained in place.
Suddenly, she was Norse and Yup’ik. Both at the same time.
“Wha.. wha..” He stammered and left his mouth agape. Unmoving, he was locked steadfast due to confusion. “What are you?”
“Release me.” she said. Shackles were fitted around her wrists and ankles. Chains from the shackles stretched forward to a huge cast-iron pin stuck in the ground in front of her. “Pull the pin. Let me go.” she told him. Harold, powered by adrenaline, pulled the foot-long cast-iron pin up out of the frozen ground with all of his strength. The pin then slid out of the steel loops, and he tossed it aside.
Her lips formed a gentle smile. Harold turned and walked out of the cave. She followed behind. He turned to look at her. “How tall is she?” he thought and strained his neck to look up. “I must be crazy. There’s no way she could have fit inside!”
“W—who are you?”
“You know me. Your parents told you about me.”
“I… I don’t understand.”
“You will in time. Additionally, you shall be granted boons for your courage.”
“Boons? You mean a reward?”
“Yes. A kiss…”
“You’re not really my type.”
She continued. “… a laugh, a hug, a fire, and tears.”
“Not sure I want that.”
“You do. Now go.”
“Go? Wait, so no reward?”
“You will receive the promised gifts, but not today. They will come later. For tonight, it is enough that you consider the question you must ask.”
“How did you know what I was considering? I.. I’m not even sure if I should ask that question. A lot could happen. It’s a big deal, I don’t know if…”
“You know. Now go.” Then she touched his cheek. She began to glow, so bright that it hurt Harold’s eyes. At first he squinted, but soon he was forced to completely close his eyes. When he re-opened them, he was back in the driver’s seat of his rusty Honda Civic. The car sat in that pullover under the shadow of Gunsight Mountain. He blinked. “What a crazy dream!” he thought and looked at the dashboard. “8 o’clock, I should get going.” Above the nearby mountain top, the Aurora Borealis twisted and shimmered up in the sky. Harold’s father called them Heaven’s Light and claimed that the light was a reflection of the armor worn by Valkyrie.
The next day, Harold felt a little lighter. The complications, the problems that his question might create still existed, but those worries were overwhelmed by a certain optimism. So, he asked the question inside Sullivan’s Steakhouse. Afterward, Harold kissed his brand-new fiancee, a handsome muscular man named Lawrence. In the back of his head, he heard the giantess’ voice again. “A kiss…”
Years passed and Harold had forgotten about the titaness in the cave. Lawrence was working as a sous chef at a French restaurant downtown. Harold had a busy day full of minor chores. However, he took a short break to call his adopted son. The son had recently moved away from home and found work in an Illinois city on the eastern bank of the Mississippi river. The young man laughed as he told Harold about his recent encounter with an attractive young lady, and how he had missed what should have been obvious signs that the lady fancied him.
He heard a whisper. “… a laugh…” And all of a sudden, Harold remembered the promise. Many more laughs would be heard. They would be accompanied by times of closeness, and times of distance between Harold and his son.
More time passed. Harold was driving home from his new job as a system administrator for the Gonzaba Medical Group. They had recently moved to San Antonio, Texas. Work that day had been monotonous. He put his vehicle in park and killed the engine. He stepped out and strode toward the house’s front door.
A young lady, a high school graduate who had just opened a college acceptance letter, ran out of the door. Charging at full speed, the future college student threw herself at her father and wrapped her arms around his neck. Harold heard the voice once again. “… a hug…”
Over the years, Harold would struggle with his oldest daughter. She was stubborn and resisted his advice. Many fights were had between them. Lawrence said the two fought so much because they were so alike. That was little comfort, but Harold recognized its truth. Regardless, Harold never forgot that hug she gave him. The memory of that embrace comforted him during their disagreements. Of course, they hugged many times, but that hug in Texas, before she left for the first semester at university, would forever be remembered.
Days and nights continued, turning into weeks and months and years. Then Harold and Lawrence got a powerful fright. They were in the Alaskan Bush visiting Harold’s cousins. Their youngest daughter, a redhead, was out walking the family dog. A black bear reared up out of the woods and their feisty daughter stood between the bear and the dog. She shouted and waved her hands above her, and the bear retreated back into the wild. When he was told this story, Harold heard the giantess whisper “… a fire…” and he thought of his daughter’s fiery spirit.
Many decades passed.
Now, Harold lies in a hospital bed. He cannot feel his toes; both legs have been numb for weeks. A nurse attempts to feed him some apple sauce. Harold rarely eats and whatever he swallows he cannot taste. Most days are spent in a haze; more hours spent asleep than awake.
Yet, Harold is not resentful about his fate. He feels happy when his thoughts turn to the past.
Lawrence is holding his right hand. Their son and daughters sit beside the bed. Harold sees the man he kissed, the son who laughed, the oldest daughter who hugged him, and the youngest daughter with the fire inside.
Friends come and go. A young female coworker thanks Lawrence for his guidance and support during a time in which she struggled. She leaves with tear-streaked cheeks. Lawrence wishes her well. Couples, young and old, pass through and speak their last to him.
The giantess does not need to say tears. Harold already knows. He understands that the sorrow on people’s faces are testimony to a life well-lived.
The giant woman, in traditional Yup’ik clothing, appears at the end of his bed. Somehow, she fits inside that tight room, hunched over among the others. The nurse does not see her. Neither does the doctor when he checks on Harold. The physician speaks to Lawrence, whispering in his ear. Harold knows what the doctor said even though the words are too soft to hear. The doctor told Lawrence that Harold would not see the next morning.
Harold asks the giantess. “Was it all because of you?”
She gestures at the people surrounding him. “No, this was your doing. All you had to do was release your worry, and take a chance.” His family does not hear her. No one, except Harold, notices her presence.
“Our marriage wasn’t always easy. The condemnation from others, the constant discrimination…” Harold says. “The ignorant comments made to our family…”
“That wasn’t the hardest part.” The giantess tells him.
“No… no, it wasn’t…” Harold recalls lies told to his husband. Memories of arguments fill his thoughts. Those disagreements seemed pointless immediately after he said them out loud. Yet, pride compelled him to fight over those petty matters for hours. He thought of mistakes made for which he was slow, so slow, to make amends. He feels shame at the pain he caused those he loved.
Harold turns his gaze toward Lawrence. “I did not deserve him.”
“Yes, you did.” The giantess says and smiles.
“I love him, love them all.” Harold says out loud.
“What is Dad saying?” The redhead asks. She is in charge of the Stanford University psychology program, after having ran a private practice for many years.
“I don’t know.” Harold and Lawrence’s son replies. The son’s wife stands behind him.
The oldest daughter clasps Harold’s left hand. Her girlfriend waits outside in the hallway.
Harold reaches a hand up and gently runs it through his husband’s hair. That hair, which used to be blonde and thick, is pale white and thin. Harold whispers into Lawrence’s ear.
“He says that he loves all of you.” Lawrence tells their children.
Harold smiles and slowly nods his head.
“You have done well Harold.” The giantess lays her hand upon his chest. Pain leaves his body. “It is time to rest.”
His eyelids close. A few heartbeats follow. Then his breath falls silent. A flat line appears on the monitor. Family members crowd around as their tears fall upon him.
Outside, in the last few moments of darkness, Harold’s spirit rides through the sky. He is carried by the giantess upon her winged horse. A masked shaman beats a drum to call him home. Ancestors await the arrival of a brave soul. Heaven’s Light shines brightly before yielding to the morning sun.
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