Marble Woman

“Iselin sees Viola” by Husk

Another successful Size Riot, a sustaining breeze from GentleApril20 wafting into our turbulent times. Enjoy the story.


 

Imagine Viola’s shock: A fortnight spent waiting for Iselin’s knock at the door, her hand to clasp, her pack to ease from tired shoulders, her shoulders to rub and lay a smiling head upon; and not a word, call, or message until a monument of Iselin to rival a Great Pyramid arose overnight, casting its shadow a suburb’s length on one side.

“What… God, what is…?” Viola couldn’t find words for the people around her. She knew this woman, intimately, but not why her graven image now dominated the neighborhood or where it had come from. She slid between the jostling elbows of the crowd to get as close as possible to the thing..

The colossus was whiter than a Roman bust, carved in the image of naked Iselin kneeling with her hands upon her legs, leaning back onto her heels. Its face was the picture of stern solemnity, eyes fixed in judgement upon an unsatisfactory horizon. Viola’s neck strained to see it, then her flesh prickled and crawled at the sight of it. Every detail in its place, every feature from ear to ankle as carefully studied as if the sculptor had been looking over Viola’s shoulder in bed. A jungle’s humidity rose around the White Iselin, where a base or a plinth should have been instead of the shattered concrete of the old mall’s parking lot, and with it the reek of sweat and house paint.

Imagine Viola’s shock. The stern face obscuring the sun suddenly regarded the crowd.

You see,” it said. Iselin said. Viola grew nauseous and staggered but found no one to bump into, as the crowd was thinning and scattering at the sound of the giant voice, seemingly bigger and more unbelievable than the woman it came from, and at the rumble of the earth that now rippled like waves under immense legs.

You see! Me! You see me,” Iselin continued, quietened down to the volume of perhaps the fifth seal breaking rather than the seventh, “where you all couldn’t before. They saw us like this on Asphodel, but I disappeared on the way home. Melted into atoms, so small. So here I am! I saved you. I saved them. The service is its own reward, no thanks required.

Viola, still sick, ran over unsolid ground to Iselin’s knees as a few voices in the crowd decried her foolishness. She had never seen sweet Iselin at the full scale she would attain after becoming an Atlas Soldier, and had hoped she would never have to once Iselin returned from Asphodel, so far off she couldn’t find it in the night sky like Venus. She had dreamed of calling all their friends and family over to give their soldier a hero’s welcome.

Viola’s hero loomed over her like a falling mountain.

“Come home, sweetie!” Viola cried. She hated how shrill and miniscule her voice sounded, swallowed up by the empty space and the God-sized presence of the beautiful living statue. Maybe she would sound to Iselin like a gnat, even though she now tore off her shirt to wave over her head like a white flag

We never did that on Asphodel, or anywhere,” Iselin said. “Never! Surrender? Never! Hah! We would have been killed by our own. No surrender, no white flags.

Viola held her breath, and a scream, as hands that could hold the sky sank their fingers into the concrete around her and lifted up a handful as easily as you would gather up snow to ball up and hurl.

“Iselin! Stop! Izzy, please!”

Izzy. They would not call me Izzy on Asphodel. I was A-5, Atlas-5, always Atlas-5. I buried my name on Asphodel. Under great footsteps. Under the people beneath them. We made love on Asphodel.

“Come home, I’ll get you clean! Let me take care of you!”

The giant laughed. Her breath was so, so hot.

How could you? How?

Yet she did begin to shrink. Viola was dropped to the ground with terrifying speed—she finally threw up on the ruined earth around her—as the air filled with shimmering heat and steam and chips of paint raining down. White paint flying like snow. People covered their faces. Viola wished they had done that when they saw her Iselin beautiful and naked in the sun.

Take me home,” Iselin moaned, “take me home, take me home, home, you can’t take care of me…”

As soon as the giant soldier was dwindled enough that her face could be seen without straining one’s neck, Viola ran to her again and started tugging her great leg, then huge fingers once they dangled low enough for her to reach.

“Everyone go home!” Viola said to the crowd as she began leading her woman away. “Go away, she didn’t hurt anyone!”

“I did. Oh, I did, I did.”

They walked for half an hour, more of Iselin dripping away as they went. Once Viola was able to hold her hand, she began talking to Iselin, if only to allay the fear bubbling in her own breast at the way her lover’s eyes seemed unable to focus on her.

“Everyone’s going to be so happy to see you Izzy, once I tell them you’re really back, they’ll be so happy, we were going to throw you a welcome home party so you knew you’re really home and you’re not going back, I’m so happy I’m so happy I really really missed you—”

“I never left,” said Iselin, two heads taller than Viola. “I’m still there. None of us left.”

At the sight of their house, Iselin shrank two heads in height. On the threshold, another three.

Funny, she always had been the shorter one, Viola recalled, before she left for training. But not this short. She resembled an oversized Iselin doll at this height.

“Home,” the doll said.

“I’m running you a bath right now. Come with me, we’ll get you clean first. Come on, baby, follow me.”

She swept the little woman into her arms rather than waiting. Viola cradled her love to her pounding heart as the bathtub filled up. The house felt too small even for this miniature giant.

“They said you should be home a while ago,” Viola whispered into Iselin’s little ear in between kisses. “Where were you?”

“Wandering,” came the answer in a thin rasp. “I could not wait to leave the spaceport even knowing you were coming. I had to be away. People saw my uniform and thanked me. They didn’t know for what. My service. Who did I serve?”

Viola had to put her down. Because the water was warm and ready for her little one. Because Viola was starting to shake from crying and didn’t want to upset her.

“Why did they let you come home like this?” she said, squinting through stinging, blurry eyes to soap up a washcloth. “D-don’t they have to evaluate you?”

“I was fine before I left,” Iselin said. Viola studied at a less godlike scale the gray eyes, broken nose, the dusky (without paint) complexion, the steel muscle tone, the innumerable new scars from face to foot, the splotchy birthmark above the navel.

“But,” she continued, “it’s almost a year getting back here, faster than light. Body froze. Mind didn’t seem to. I had all that time to think about what we did and what they told us to forget. So, so much.”

Viola cooed and whispered to her sweetheart as she soaped and scrubbed her body. She slid out of her sweaty pants and into the tub with her.

“Why did you sit out there all morning? In paint?”

“I had to. I took off my uniform when I left the port because I hated hearing ‘thank you.’ So I wandered all over and no one recognized me for days, weeks. No one, without the uniform. I was small, not big, no one saw me. I didn’t eat, had no money on me, no one saw me. I heard on a screen somewhere that the State was going to have a ceremony and a parade, for us, the Atlas Soldiers. Then we’d be seen. I didn’t want to be seen like that. I heard they were going to build us a monument. Because we won. Won what? I didn’t want that. Their monument is going to lie, whatever it is. A giant holding up the sky, or the earth. A lie. We only broke things. On Asphodel. Back here. We didn’t care about winning. Only breaking. As long as they were afraid, we won. I went to a paint factory and outgrew it and covered myself in white, because that’s what monuments look like. I was an honest monument. I would have sat all year long in sun and acid rain as long as you all saw me. Sat like patience.”

“Oh Jesus. Izzy.”

“He wasn’t on Asphodel. I should’ve been more honest.”

Iselin grew. The water steamed and the tub dented and spilled onto the floor and Iselin grew until the room barely contained her and Viola was hardly bigger than the foot pressing against her.

“If I had been,” the giant said, “I would have smeared my hands and feet with blood. I would have kneeled on houses. I… I…”

She exhaled, and shrank as if deflating. Viola covered her scalding lips with kisses.

“I love you,” she whispered into Iselin’s ear.

Iselin kissed her back once and brought her into a mighty embrace.

“I am a murderer,” she whispered into Viola’s ear. “You mustn’t love me.”

“Don’t say that!”

“We made love on Asphodel. Huge bodies, fucking on the battlefield because there was none left of the enemy to fuck. Their cannons were like water pistols. Our fists were the Hammers of the State. We were God. We should have died with them. Vi, let me go.”

No one else ever called her that, and Viola did not let go. She clung to Iselin’s steely body as she tried to make it from the bathroom to the front door.

“Get off! Off!”

“No, goddammit!”

“I will outgrow you, this house, this fucking neighborhood. Like they taught me to do.”

No!”

“I can still hear them screaming in my ear, sending the orders straight up my spine and into my blood. I can still hear the enemy under me. My feet are wet with them! Let me go!”

Iselin fell backward. Viola sat her full weight on the growing woman’s chest. She stopped growing.

The house was, for a full two minutes, as quiet as if they were both absent.

“I’m going to make you chicken with linguini alfredo,” Viola said. “You’re going to shrink down to 5’5, your normal height, and eat it, because it’s your favorite, and I’m going to watch you eat it. Then I’m going to dress you in the jeans and shirt you always wore on the weekends and we’re going to drive to the city. I’m going to drive you somewhere I’ll be allowed to visit at least once a week while doctors talks to you about what’s in your head and get that Atlas shit out of your insides like they were supposed to before you got home.”

She climbed off of Iselin and dragged the silent, staring woman to the kitchen table. Viola’s sweat hissed on the stove when she turned it on.

“And if you did really terrible things and knew what you were doing, I’ll help you get punished. If that’s what you want. Maybe no one will. Or maybe you’ll be tried and I’ll never see you again. But if you think that’s fair, I’ll help you.”

Viola wiped her eyes. The stove hissed again.

“But I’m not leaving you till then.”

She turned and saw Iselin watching her. A lean statue’s face gazing from a plinth.

“They talked about us liberating Asphodel,” Iselin said. “Did you ever hear that word?”

Viola went to the fridge to find food and to hide her face.

One thought on “Marble Woman

  1. This was my anonymous feedback: Brutal. I’m not even sure anyone got rescued here. I’ve never really known anyone with combat PTSD, but I have counseled people who think they’re irrevocably broken, and you did well to portray the struggle on both sides. An excellent take on “giant soldier turns on their own society.” A giant rampage SHOULD be horrific, and the costs should be equal to the horror.

    Your story earned my votes for Memorable Characters and Emotionally Tense/Dramatic. You’ve described a deep and complex relationship in a short space, and my heart bleeds for them both.

    Liked by 1 person

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