a priest, the president, and a scientist. The scientist is my boss. He gives the team a meaningful look and we all try to appear busy. But I am busy, actually, measuring the height of the giant we found entombed in the earth.
Well, we didn’t actually find him. Some kids playing along a thawing riverbed did. One wrong step and a whole shelf of frozen sediment came free, revealing the curved back with vertebrae visibly pressing through. His skin, the color and texture of worn leather, still has frost crystals clinging to it in some places. Between his immense fingers, behind his vast earlobe.
When the team arrived in Northern Greenland fourteen hours after he was discovered, it was like seeing a giant grub. The kind you dig up when you’re turning over the garden in spring. Curled in on themselves, slow and unable to prevent annihilation by spade edge.
Or maybe it would be more accurate to compare him to a hibernating rodent. I say hibernating because he (and it is definitely a he, we’ve all noticed) has been asleep since we found him. All around him, thirty-eight feet underground, he was surrounded by a nest of leaves. Strange since Greenland only has five naturally occurring species of trees or shrubs, but the other team is working on that. Earl, whose cubicle is a few grids away from mine, muttered on his way by that some of the foliage had a prehistoric look to it. I wouldn’t be surprised. But thirty-eight feet isn’t much in geohistory, so who knows what we’re in for.
The priest is watching the sleeping giant reverently, his hands clasped at his pelvis. The president keeps wandering too far forward and my boss has to herd him back, prattling away with statistics and hypotheses. Carefully, I tuck my foot into the dip of the giant’s clavicle – his chest decompressed with a snore – and keep measuring. It’s hard work traversing the body, mostly because my PPE keeps slipping on the dewy skin.
The priest insists this is one of the Nephilim, giants who used to walk the earth and sinned by desiring us. I’m not sure how that worked out…anatomically. Any of us can sit in the palm of this guy’s hand. Wincing, I tread up his throat and hope I’m not disturbing his rest. Who knows how long he’s best resting, and for what. There are days I want to sleep until it all goes away. By really taking my time with this whole measuring thing, I’m only delaying the inevitable. At some point they’ll start trying to wake him up (when we’re all safely behind several layers of mechanical barriers) and he’ll have to face whatever he’s been hiding from.
My boss thinks we’ve discovered an alien slumbering until the day humanity finally destroys itself. Despite several doctorates – or maybe because of them – Robert is convinced we’re on a one-way trip to ruin. I don’t really disagree with him, but I have too many questions to settle on one possibility. Is the sleep he’s sleeping like our sleep? Is he dreaming right now, and if so, of what? When he wakes up will he feel refreshed, or – well, probably he’ll just feel terrified to be in an open room with no windows and the remnants of ice that’s who knows how old melting around the edges of his body.
Mostly, though, as I kneel at his parted lips and catch the gleam of bone in the darkness; his teeth the size of my head, I wonder what the Nephilim would have found in us to fall in love with. I glance at the priest’s cowed expression and the president’s knit brows and my boss’ too-wide eyes and question whether after everything we do to him, he’ll have the will to go on.