Originally written for Aborigen’s quarterly Size Riot contest: CruelJanuary 2019. If it seems like the briefest flash of all my flash fictions so far, that’s because it is, as a result of being rushed out on the night of the contest’s end. A remake may emerge, in time.
It may seem, to you, a dreadful cruelty to destroy a man’s house while he’s away. Would it be better, then, if he were home to die under its ruins? If powers beyond persuasion have slated it for demolition, better for the man to pick through the rubble unflattened.
And flattening is in the future for anybody inside the house, yet unfinished, standing on Geryon’s Bluff, taller than the three hilltops clumped around it, whiter than a mountain’s snowy cap. You might stand at the bluff’s bottom, staring up its steep southern face so that your neck is in parallel with the ground, and look up at the proud pale promontory being erected atop and think, “Well, unless a twister comes down on it, that house is too big to flatten.”
So you haven’t met Vala. Don’t worry, you will.
She’ll come from the east, so her shadow stretches even longer than it normally does, long enough to cover a suburb, if you’re unlucky enough to live in one—she hates them, and can you blame her?—and you might feel her before you see her, if you aren’t facing the right way. You could maybe find a hiding spot with a good view, if you’re only in shockwave range. If you can see her, though, once her head breaks the horizon, then the clouds, then through the sun casting her shadow, she can absolutely see you. She must have stolen her eyes from the world’s biggest falcon. And if you run at that point, she’ll enjoy it, but you won’t do yourself any favors.
Fortunately, being by Geryon’s Bluff would spare you her attention. A tiger won’t normally turn her nose up at a fat frog, but when an even fatter buffalo is lying with its back to her…
The buffalo is a tall, white masterpiece of a house, and the tiger has pounced on three special buffalo before this one. Vala stepped on the first one with one of her boots thicker and heavier than concrete. The house was so beautiful it made its builder cry, and it made him cry even harder when it was destroyed. Ordinarily that would have disappointed her, the owner not being inside to feel the roof meet him, but hearing him cry and curse her was its own reward. Such beautiful things little people make, she thought, but as meaningless as they are themselves, since I can erase them so easily.
The second house was larger, and must have taken longer to build from the strong, dark wood he’d chosen and hauled from the forest himself. The arches of each window must have been carefully considered, for the light of the sun passed through each one at even intervals of the day. Until one day a shadow fell over the whole thing, both stories of it, and a great, sun-reddened foot fell on it and crushed it down the center. Vala took her boots off for that one, to feel it like a walk on the beach. And the man screamed and cried and cursed her, and Vala laughed so hard the few remaining supports fell down.
The third house reconciled all the lessons the builder had learned in the first two projects and improved upon them so vastly as to make them seem neglected hovels by comparison. This one had stone meeting wood in beautiful matrimony for three stories, and not a single meeting was other than joyful to witness. And Vala met it with both feet at once, and then her fists, and then she chomped on some of the remaining chunks for looking too whole. The builder and friends—it was big enough for many to live in—had been nearby, and she had scared them away with a flick of dark hair and a snarl of bright teeth, but the builder hadn’t screamed like his friends had. Odd.
In any case, she’s at the Bluff now, and scaling its rugged face. She’s pulling herself up by its natural peaks, to admire the new one before she removes it. No builder in sight.
Odd. It isn’t even done.
Maybe that’s better. It’s almost done, and won’t that make this all the more frustrating.
“He should have learned,” she says, the last thing she says before she starts.
The last thing at all. The house feels dreamily insubstantial as she stomps through its base, and through the pit a man dug under his new house, spending more time on it than the façade of house itself, more than halfway deep into the towering rocks.
Ever see a giant disappear before?
The man did learn something, obviously. How to enjoy destruction as much as creation. And over what’s left of Vala, now that she’s barely conscious after gravity did something terrible to her legs, there will be poured a new foundation.
And a new house will be built.
Vala’s Approach illustrated by Hollewdz