A Stranger in a Small Town

Submitted for Contest #96 in response to: Start your story with the arrival of a strange visitor in a small town.... view prompt

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Jun 05, 2021

Fantasy Horror Romance

The buzzing of the bees greeted Rosanna as she left the dusty road and turned into the meadow. The busy little workers were already up and about, gathering pollen from the multitude of wild flowers that dotted the field. Her green dress collected a spattering of early morning dew as she passed through the long grass. The heady fragrance of the lavender and the lilies made her feel giddy and euphoric … that, and being far away from home where her father could not tell her what to do or criticize her for what she didn’t do. Her fingers grasped the handle of her basket as her eyes ranged across the field seeking the herbs her mother needed. She wondered if she could invent some excuse for staying out a bit later. Not too late though, or her father would send men to make sure his only child has not gotten herself into trouble, as she had to admit she was wont to do.


Rosanna sighed. Would she never be free to live and love as she wanted? Would she be stuck in her small town forever and never see the world?


Pondering such heavy thoughts, she passed unseeing through the meadow and almost stumbled into a large shape lying in the centre, half hidden by the grass. Shading her eyes, she stared open-mouthed at the sight before her. A man the size of a fleet of wagons reclined spread-eagled before her. Around him, the flowers and grasses lay crushed and broken. Yet Rosanna could see no other such disturbance in the field, save for her own passage. Had the giant fallen out of the sky?


Rosanna closed her eyes and pinched herself. She took several deep breaths. But when she opened them, the giant was still there, larger than life. Most people would have run screaming away upon discovering such a fright, but Rosanna was not one to shirk a challenge. She decided she had better ask this giant what his business was in her township. Was he friend or foe, and would her father need to alert the guard? It only vaguely occurred to her that she might be placing herself in danger.


She approached the giant with soft but steady steps. Stopping short of his reclining head - which was level with the top of her own head - she tapped him on the side of his arm. Her touch seemed to have no effect though, for the giant’s eyes remained closed. She watched as his chest rose and fell and decided he wasn’t dead. She tapped harder, finally giving him a mighty swat with her basket.


“Hey, you!” she yelled into his barrel-sized ear.


The giant opened his eyes and turned his head. Rosanna found herself mesmerized by the biggest pair of bright blue orbs she had ever seen.


“Oh my!” she breathed.


The giant’s fair skinned face was freckled and slightly reddened, and she wondered how long he had been lying out in the sun.


“Hello?” she said, more hesitantly.


The big man blinked. He rubbed his eyes.


Trying to sound authoritative like her father, Rosanna barked at him. “What are you doing here, stranger? Are there any more like you coming? Have you come to invade our town?”


On second thought, that didn’t seem likely to her since he wore no armour nor carried any weapons that she could see. In fact, he was clothed in a very ordinary red-checked shirt and brown trousers.


Dragging the words out in case he didn’t understand her, she asked, “Are you all right? Are you hurt?”


She mimed patting herself all over and the giant smiled.


“My, what big white teeth you have!” Rosanna said, stepping back a bit. But for some reason, she didn’t turn and run. She wasn’t feeling at all frightened by this excessively large stranger. In fact, she found herself smiling back at him. “You’re not from around here, are you?”


He gazed back at her and shook his head.


“Nope!” his voice boomed at her.


Rosanna covered her ears. “Ow, can you keep it down, mister?”


“Sorry!” He lowered the volume to a whisper. Rosanna thought his voice was rather like melting butter when he spoke softly.


She shook herself. “Anyway, I figured you weren’t one of us,” she continued. “We don’t get many fifteen-foot people around here.”


The giant raised himself up and leaned on his elbow. “And I don’t meet many beautiful ladies who only come up to my kneecap, either.” He hesitated. “Are you real, darlin’, or did I hit my head and you’re just a gorgeous hallucination?”


Rosanna tried to hide her blushes. With her long dark curls, shapely curves and her heart-shaped face, she was used to getting plenty of compliments from men. But somehow this stranger made her feel all tongue-tied and awkward. He was a good-looking giant with his lop-sided grin, tousled blonde hair, and from what she could see gazing down the length of him, a trim muscular body. He looked to be in his early twenties, like her.


“I was wondering the same thing about you,” she said with a grin. “So where did you come from? How did you get here? Are you lost?”


“Reckon I am,” he said, gazing around at the meadow and the trees. “This doesn’t look anything like home.” His brow wrinkled. “I don’t know how I got here. All I remember is going to bed last night – and then I woke up here, with a sweet little angel poking me.”


 “Oh, my!” Rosanna exclaimed. "You are in a pickle."


“So what or where is this place? Is everyone as small as you?”


Rosanna drew herself up to her full height – which still only brought her head about level with his hip. “Where I come from, we’re all this size. It’s you who’s the odd man out here, mister.”


“Mister?” the giant frowned. “That’s my father. My name is David … David Deakes, at your service.” He sat up and performed a gallant half-bow. “And what is your name, pretty lady?”


“Rosanna Velasquez,” she said. “Pleased to meet you, David!” She shook his little finger when he held out his hand to her. She gestured over her shoulder. “I live back there in Hightown. My father is the mayor.”


David studied the high mountains and the tall sturdy trees surrounding them. “It’s so quiet and peaceful here. Where I come from, it’s always noisy - and busy - day and night.”


“Oh, I wouldn’t like that much. Though it does sound more exciting than here. Nothing ever happens in my town.” Rosanna squatted down on the ground and smiled up at her new friend. “Until now, that is. So tell me all about where you come from."


And so he told her about his home and life, and she told him about hers. In the course of the conversation, they found that they had a lot in common. The day passed quickly as they chatted, knitting a firm friendship based on the threads of mutual interests and shared beliefs. It was pleasing that David treated her like an equal, seeking her judgement on many subjects and respecting her opinion.


By the end of the afternoon, Rosanna felt like she had known David Deakes forever. Despite the differences in their heights, they were alike in so many ways. She felt herself drawn to this stranger in a way she had never been to her own people.


************************************************************************* 


The light was beginning to fade as Rosanna choked off a laugh over something David said. “Oh no!” she cried, scrambling to her feet. “I didn’t realize it was so late!” She grabbed her basket. “My mother and father will be frantic. And I have no herbs to show for my long absence.” She pursed her lips. “Oh never mind, I can deal with them – but what shall I do about you? Where will you spend the night?”


David shrugged his broad shoulders. “I’ll be all right here. I’ve slept outside before. Don’t worry about me.”


Rosanna glanced up at the sky where dark clouds were assembling like bad omens. “But it’s going to rain. You might catch your death if you get soaked.” She paced back and forth. “Not all the townspeople will be as welcoming as I was. They’ll be terrified of you. But maybe if I introduce you to my family first and explain that you mean us no harm …”


David bent down and gently brushed her cheek with his finger. “Are you so sure of that? You’ve only just met me, Rosie.”


Rosanna blushed at the shortened, more intimate version of her name. Nobody except her family called her that. But she found she didn’t mind it on David’s lips. “I’ll have you know I am a very good judge of character!” she exclaimed to cover her embarrassment. “Once I’ve won my father over, he can convince everyone else to trust you. And then we can provide you with some sort of shelter for the night. There are plenty of big old barns around that should do the trick.”


She didn’t mention that convincing her father would be a tougher job than she made it out to be. The mayor could be quite strict when it came to anything involving his family, especially towards young male strangers.


But it turned out to be easier than she thought to get the townspeople to accept a giant stranger in their midst. A fortuitous mine collapse mine and David's intervention in removing the huge boulders that blocked the entrance, saving many lives, showed the people of Hightown just how useful - and benevolent - a giant in their midst could be.


Months passed and the townspeople accepted David into their community. Rosanna and David's love grew and blossomed. They married and moved into a converted barn.


Everything was wonderful ... for the first year.


Then David grew restless. He stopped smiling and laughing as much as he used to and even snapped at Rosanna from time to time.


“David darling,” she sat him down one day and said. “We’ve been so happy. What’s changed? Have I done something to upset you?”


“No, no, you're perfect,” David cried, cradling her like a child in his arms. “It’s me, I'm the one at fault.” He balled one hand into a fist. “You deserve someone who can be a real husband, a better man, to you, my sweet Rose. I’m not fulfilling my marriage obligations. I can’t love you as you deserved to be loved. I’m terrified that I might hurt you by accident when I touch you.”


“I know you love me, David.” Rosanna kept her voice steady, though she wanted to cry. “But marriage is about more than sex, it’s about supporting one another, and fun, and companionship. We have all that."


David sighed. “There's another thing. I can’t stop thinking about my old home, my mom and dad. If I could only just see them again, to know that they're all right …”


She stared up into his big blue eyes. “Honey, if you need to go out into the world to find your family and a way to become smaller, then you have to do it.” She stroked his arm. “I want you to be happy. So go do what you need to do. I’ll be right here waiting for you.”


Rosanna was rewarded with a beaming smile that she hadn’t seen on her husband's face for some time. Though her heart broke at the thought of losing him, she knew she had done the right thing for their marriage. So, with her blessing, David packed some possessions and left Hightown to fulfill his dreams.


He wrote her often, but she mainly learned of him through the newspapers. The headlines screamed “Giant saves burning homes”, “Giant saves sinking ship”, “Giant rescues children from a bus on a collapsing bridge” and so on. David became a global phenomenon and hero. But she just wanted him home as her beloved husband and best friend.


************************************************************

Then one day, David came home.


It was a gorgeous sunny day. Rosanna was hanging out the washing when her eyes were drawn to movement in the laneway leading up to their home. She watched as a blonde bearded man came striding towards her. He was leaner and more haggard, but she would know him anywhere.


“David!” she cried and dropped the wet shirt she was pinning up. She dashed to his side and threw her arms around his neck. Then she realized what she had done and stepped back in amazement.


“David, you’re not ... you’re not big anymore!”


And sure enough, she didn’t have to crane her neck to see her husband’s dear face or be content to hug his knees. Somehow, he had become her size. It was a miracle.


David took her hands. “I told you I’d find a way.”


He began kissing her fiercely, almost roughly.


But Rosanna was full of questions. She slipped from his arms. “But David, how was it done? Did it hurt? And what about your old home - did you find it?”


David's shoulders drooped. “No, I couldn’t find any trace of it. The ... man who resized me had no idea how to send me back there.” He clenched his fists. “Or even where ‘there’ was.”


“But how did this man 'resize' you?” Rosanna wondered.


David pulled her to him again. “Magic, Rosie. He was a shaman and he made me this potion that made me like I was being folded in half. But, when I recovered, I was half as big.”


Rosanna's stomach churned. “What did you have to pay him for this miracle, David?” For surely such a feat would not be cheap.


David bent to kiss her neck. His reply was muffled. “Nothing much. It was well worth it.” He lifted his head and put his hands around her waist. “Now we can truly be together as husband and wife, and I won’t be a freak anymore.”


“David!” Rosanna protested. “Everyone loved you when you were a giant. Nobody thought you were a freak ... just different.” She hastened to add. "A good different."


Her husband bared his teeth. “But you all thought it. I never fitted in – those people only needed me to build things and save them when they were in trouble.”


He grabbed her again and pushed her up against the side of the house. He pulled a knife from his pocket and began to slice the clothes from her body.


“David, stop, what are you doing?” Rosanna cried, struggling to push him away. “You’re hurting me!” What had happened to the kind, gentle man she married? Was it the rigours and disappointments of his travels that had exhausted him so that he wasn’t himself? “Darling, you need to rest and eat! Come inside and I’ll make you some dinner. You must be starving.”


David’s eyes flashed. His breath came thick and fast, and his body dripped with sweat. To Rosanna, he appeared more animal than human. “I’ve been dreaming of this moment for over two years and I’ll not be denied now,” he growled. He drew back his lips, but there was no humour in his expression.


When she continued to fight him, David raised his hand and slapped her hard.


Rosanna held her cheek and whimpered. She was beyond shocked, at a loss to understand.


A menacing red glow appeared in David’s former bright blue eyes. He brought the knife up to her chest. “You give me what I want or you'll be sorry, bitch.”


Terrified, Rosanna shoved him away with all her might and raced across the yard. From what she thought `was a safe distance, she yelled, “David, what happened to you? You were the sweetest man I ever met. Now you’re … you’re a monster.”


David moved so fast he gave her no time to run.


Grunting and howling, he pinned her to the ground with his body. Rosanna felt a sharp pain as he placed the knife against her throat.


With tears pouring down her cheeks, Rosanna begged for her life. “David, please, I love you. You love me. Don’t hurt me! Please, David!”


Her desperate cries seemed to break whatever spell David was under.


He froze. The red glow and the bloodlust faded. The blue eyes flickered back into life. David shook himself like a wet dog.


“Oh no, Rosie my love!” he cried and stroked her cheek, wincing at the bruise there. “What have I done?” He covered her face with his tears and kisses.


Rosanna put her arms around David and hugged him tight. Thank God! Her beloved husband was back.


But then David groaned and she saw the madness building in him again. He was battling mightily to keep his monstrous side in check. The demonic red gleam began to flash on and off in his eyes, and the veins in his neck bulged and pulsed. His teeth grew long and pointed.


Hope turned to despair. Rosanna wracked her brain for a way to help her husband.


A sudden epiphany struck her. “Darling, what did you pay that wizard to help you? It wasn’t money, was it?”


“He tricked me, Rosie,” David gasped. “He said the price would be nothing much at all.”


Rosanna clutched his collar. David's eyes were beginning to fill with blood. “Think! Can we lift this curse? What did you give him? ”


“I gave him my humanity!” he sobbed, as he raised the knife high above her. “I’m so sorry, my love.”


The blade glittered in the sunlight. Rosanna screamed and covered her head with her arms.


David plunged the knife straight into his own heart.


As he died, he whispered “I tried to be a better man.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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