The Poison Pie Publishing House presents:

The Ornithological Collection of Uwetsiageyv
(link to main page of novel)


October 3, 2016
The Dwarf’s Prayer
Uwetsiageyv stayed up late that night, though she had a flight of untold duration before her. She did not know the spacing between islands in the Land of the Giants, but imagined it could be proportionally greater than on the other side of the portal.

In the middle of the night, she heard the dwarf mumbling. She had moved off from the fire to stargaze. Returning, she found the embers unattended. She followed the sound of his voice until she came upon him in the darkness with his eyes closed. He was squatting and chanting, though the language that he used was not familiar to Uwetsiageyv.

She remained silent some distance from him, listening to the chant. Periodically, he rested his hands against the earth, though it seemed not for balance.

As the dwarf continued to murmur, the nature of his words and gestures gradually became clear to Uwetsiageyv. He was engaged in prayer. She wondered briefly what the subject of the prayer could be. Resting upon a corpse, he could be praying only for the repose of the soul of this fallen giant.

Uwetsiageyv slipped away, unsure of whether the dwarf had ever been aware of her presence. The prayer confused her; it muddled her conception of the antagonistic relationship between dwarves and giants. She tried to convince herself that there was a bellicose motive in the prayer, perhaps he sought to commune with her spirit in the underworld and retrieve the secret to her demise, so that he might wield it with great power against those giants yet living. It seemed a preposterous suspicion, unworthy even of the dwarf.

Tired, she slept for an hour or two before the dawn woke her. The fire had expired. The dwarf lay sleeping peacefully on his side, his hands folded beneath his cheek.

Uwetsiageyv left the island alone. She did not, however, experience any sadness in the parting, for she understood well that the dwarf was an expert tracker. It seemed unlikely that she would have to wait long before she saw him again.

Chapter 28. Quiscalus quiscula

October 4, 2016
Arrival at a Rusty Gate
The skies above the Land of Giants were no less blue than others through which Uwetsiageyv had flown. She felt keenly the solitary nature of her flight, for this was the first time she had flown since parting ways with the scarlet tanager. She already missed the company of her friend.

Still, flight provided its own exhilaration and Uwetsiageyv concentrated on allowing the positive aspects of her journey to preoccupy her mind. When her thoughts wandered, she surveyed the sea far beneath her, as the sky was free of clouds, hoping to catch a glimpse of a leviathan. In the land of giants, such a creature must reach truly astonishing dimensions.

However, she saw no sign of the marine beast. She had apparently either lost her knack for summoning them on a lark or they were simply scarce in this region of the world.

Only one curiosity occurred during her flight. She heard a rumble, like that of thunder, except that there were no storm clouds present. Perhaps, she thought, the sound originated with a giant. It seemed an unlikely conjecture given that she had felt the reverberations of the sound waves travel through the air and yet there was no giant in sight.

Time passed. Clouds moved in and the air grew chill. Uwetsiageyv soared above the clouds, oblivious to any islands covered beneath her. She thought to outlast the clouds, but they seemed intent on staying. Eventually, after a couple days, she descended, just in time to spy an island that she had almost inadvertently passed.

She emerged from the lowest layer of clouds practically on top of the island. Her unimpeded view of it left no doubt that this island too was formed of the petrified body of a fallen giant. This man lay prostrate and spread-eagle, as if he had fallen face-down in a drunken stupor and, drowning in a pool no deeper than the length of his admittedly oversized fingers, had never risen again. The only evidence missing to confirm this suspicion was a giant-sized bottle dropped somewhere in the vicinity. A thick forest grew upon the back, all four limbs and the head of the giant.

Uwetsiageyv landed on a sand-covered point at the end of the thumb of his right hand. The sea was ill at ease and waves crashed against the beach. Far at sea a bolt of lightning lit the sky, already gone dim despite the early hour.

Behind her, Uwetsiageyv heard the chaotic calls of chaa from a flock hidden in the trees. The sharp staccato bursts were punctuated by the drawn-out creaking of a rusty gate.

“Grackles,” Uwetsiageyv said to herself as she hurried to take shelter with them from the coming storm.

October 5, 2016
The Lost Message
The rumble of the thunder in the skies above the Land of the Giants seemed to last longer than ordinary thunder. The flashes of lightning seemed more intense. A heavy rain pounded the canopy of leaves and gusts of wind repeatedly tore leaf from limb and threatened even to snap branches and overturn trees.

Further inland, Uwetsiageyv cowered in a gully, listening warily to the groaning of wood. Several dozen grackles huddled in precarious, leeward crevices as the storm continued to rage.

Never before had Uwetsiageyv been frightened of a storm. She had often stood at the window and watched the lightning electrify the sky. When the threat of tornadoes arose and they were ushered into the dank basement of the orphanage, she never experienced any fear.

However, on the Island of Common Grackles, Uwetsiageyv shuddered as the gully began to fill with water. Each clap of thunder caused her to jump. She almost caught herself shrieking in reply to one particularly outrageous peal then, having considered the idea, actually did emit a shriek at a subsequent, less dramatic crash.

“Things seem more real in the Land of the Giants,” she said to the grackles. Of course, due to the roar of the wind and steady clamor of the rain, her words were unable to reach the birds, who heard only faint strains of an unintelligible human voice added to the cacophony.

Uwetsiageyv could tell that the grackles did not understand her and this fact disturbed her more than she let on. She had every right to be understood in a place as grand as the Land of the Giants! While back in the ordinary world she may have allowed her true self to remain hidden, here, where everything was indisputably real, she felt obligated to make her best effort at expressing her undisguised intentions. Therefore, she shouted at the top of her voice, “Things seem more real in the Land of the Giants.”

A clap of thunder provided the exclamation mark to her declaration. Uwetsiageyv jumped and lost her balance, falling backward on her wings in the pool that had formed around her.

Righting herself, she noticed that apparently her message had reached the grackles for they were now chatting and creaking, though their voices were muffled by the combined effect of the wind, rain and clashing of branches and leaves.

Much to her disappointment, Uwetsiageyv could not understand what the grackles were saying. The birds, who had lived a long time in the Land of the Giants, must surely have understood its secrets. At this very moment, in response to her statement, they were likely conveying to her some deep and sacred mystery. She stood, leaned forward and strained her ears to catch the meaning of their song, but an especially brutal gust of wind knocked her back down.

She hurt her side in the fall. A bruise would appear above her left hip by the following morning. She refrained from emerging from the gully again for the duration of the storm. Well past midnight, the accumulated water lifted a fallen log that had been acting as a dam at one side of the ditch. She managed to brace herself and dislodge the log. The gully emptied with a rush until the water within it was only a few inches deep. There, Uwetsiageyv crouched and rode out the storm.

October 6, 2016
The Creaking Secret
On the following morning, Uwetsiageyv asked the grackles to repeat themselves, but they acted as if they had no idea what she was talking about. Uwetsiageyv could not dismiss the anxiety that she had let slip by a monumental opportunity.

Intent not to allow this sentiment to spoil her visit to the island, she began her survey with the thought that she might find some other sign that would reveal the secret that the grackles now would not. She thought back to the totem in the shrine of the Island of Tufted Titmice. Perhaps, hidden somewhere on this island she would find something like that. As soon as she imagined the possibility, it seemed almost a likelihood. So she set off in high spirits.

She quickly forgave the grackles their reticence and invited them to accompany her, which they did in a sizeable flock. She traversed the length of the giant. She played a game, mounting each hillock along the ridge of his spine. In the depression of the small of his back, she found a damp, grotto covered on every surface by a thick, velvety layer of moss of a green too vivid to be believed. She took off her shoes and tiptoed through the grotto so as not to damage the moss. The giant beneath her seemed to appreciate her concern for its well-being, for the stone of which he was made trembled ever so slightly beneath her feet.

She continued her investigation down one leg. The grackles hovered above her as she traversed the length of the thigh, then crossed the crevice at the back of the knee, taking to the air for a few wing beats. She strolled across the crest of the curve of his calf then came to the narrow ridge where his tendon crossed above his ankle to end at the promontory of his heel surrounded by the sea.

There on the heel, Uwetsiageyv found no obvious shrine. The grackles sang like a thousand crazy, creaking gates. The crow girl understood by this that the shrine was not perceptible to her, but existed all the same. The grackles certainly recognized it and celebrated accordingly. Perhaps, it was an invisible shrine. Or, perhaps, it was a shrine that had not fully consented to being reduced to a lower order projection and thus continued to exist in some additional dimensionality of the universe, which made it hard to resolve for beings not accustomed to such things. Or, perhaps, the entire gigantic stone corpse was itself the shrine and the grackles, enjoying Uwetsiageyv’s company, had waited until the island had been explored in its entirety before sharing their secret with her.

October 7, 2016
A Preface to the First Edition
“When I am sitting in my library and a purple dusk fills the windows of the reading room, I will open your book,” said Uwetsiageyv to the grackles crowding around her, “and I will read about this moment in time, the day Uwetsiageyv the crow girl visited your island and you celebrated with her.” She shifted her eyes from bird to bird. Judging by the placid manner in which they remained in their perches, none seemed particularly nonplussed by the thought.

Uwetsiageyv continued. “When I am reading this book, the story will be told from the perspective of someone else—a narrator who is neither crow girl nor grackle. Whoever they are, they focus on details that we have ignored. As a result, the story seems, at first, vaguely unfamiliar to me. The more I read of it, the more the tale becomes totally unrecognizable to me. By the middle of the second chapter, I am unable to identify myself in the story or the story as part of my past.

“I will close the book to quell a growing sense of disorientation, but my curiosity will get the better part of me. In a few minutes I will open it again. As I do so, I catch each printed letter on the page changing shape. It will occur to me that they were trying to play a trick on me, but I have caught them in the act. The little black letters take the form of letter-sized grackles. They fly about each other on the page, changing places. The transformation takes only a few seconds, but when the affair has ended and the birds have resumed their lives as letters, the story has completely changed. There is still somewhere inside the book a crow girl and each letter remains a grackle. The words when assembled remain your work, but I will read the book again as if I had never read it before and I marvel that the life I led should appear so unfamiliar to me and at the same time so blessed.”

Uwetsiageyv concluded her description of the book of grackles. In the earliest editions of the book, her words are included as a preface.

October 8, 2016
The Summons
Early on the morning of what would be her last day on the Island of Common Grackles, Uwetsiageyv once again detected a faint rumble emanating from the sky. She initially thought that another storm was coming and that her stay on the island might be extended until the skies cleared. However, as the day drew on, no clouds appeared. All the same, from time to time, if she remained very still, when the breeze stopped and the sough of the trees was silenced, she felt the reverberations of a low voice on the air. The frequency and volume were only sometimes within the range of her hearing. She could not make out any words.

When questioned on the matter, the grackles sang their own song, drowning out any distant rumbling.

“Quiet!” she urged them, but the birds did not obey. Uwetsiageyv was forced to wander to other spots on the island to regain the solitude in which she could detect the voice.

“It’s most certainly a giant,” she said to herself.

Uwetsiageyv had read from a book in the library that the low frequency songs of whales could be detected up to one thousand miles away. It did not take any great leap of the imagination to ascribe the same distant vocalizations to similarly sized giants, though their voices traveled through air rather than the waters of the sea.

She closed her eyes and concentrated on attenuating her ears to the sound. It did little good. The voice was too faint, the words, if there were any, impossible to discern. Several times she decided that some combination of her ears and imagination was playing tricks on her and that she was inventing meaning out of the ordinary sounds of the wind and surf against the shore of the island.

A peculiar conversation transpired.

“It’s not real,” she said to herself.

“I would prefer it to be real. I would not be averse to a Land of the Giants in which the song of giants hung on the wind.”

“Oh, stop making stuff up. You just miss Scarlet’s company.”

“I think I just heard it call my name!”

“Are you serious? Do you honestly think a giant a thousand miles away just sang ‘Uwetsiageyv’? How could it possibly know you are here?”

“Maybe not a thousand miles away. Maybe just one hundred miles. Maybe ten. Maybe on the next island over...”

So, on the following morning, Uwetsiageyv bid adieu to the grackles and flew off in search of the giant who, she imagined, continued to call to her.

Chapter 29. Carduelis pinus

October 10, 2016
The Sutra of Flight
Aloft, Uwetsiageyv flew as she had become accustomed to flying, that is with determination but without a precise destination. With the wind whistling about her, there was no possibility that she would detect the subliminal call of the giant. Nevertheless, she attempted to do exactly that several times while on the wing, only to give up almost as quickly as she started.

Although she had never found any flaw in the manner in which she coasted on the currents, she now sought to improve her technique in nuanced ways, attempting to minimize microscopic sources of friction, adjusting the angle of her feet and hands in minor ways in hopes of diminishing the resulting whisper of air against them, if only by a fraction of a decibel.

One can think of her actions in the tradition of monastic meditations, in which the pure of mind and body attempt to gain control over bodily rhythms ordinarily governed by the subconscious. Uwetsiageyv sought to fly perfectly, though she intentionally did not describe her goal in such terms for she had some time ago ceased to think of perfection as a virtue. She wanted rather to be one with the current and to be carried by the wind without generating the slightest sound of resistance.

The Land of Giants seemed willing to accommodate her wishes for no island appeared to beckon her from the sky. Instead, she was allowed to practice this technique without disturbance or temptation for the better part of a week.

While she may have made some progress in reducing the friction associated with her flight, she made no progress toward her goal of being able to hear the giant’s low frequency message while flying. Consequently, she had no idea if she was traveling in the right direction.

Rest assured, Gentle Reader, that her failure in this regard did not discourage her. As is true in many monastic traditions, the merit of the meditative training lies as much in the process as it does in any state achieved as a result. In the same way that a monk can accept that there is no ignorance and there is no extinction of ignorance, so too would the path upon which Uwetsiageyv was set, were she to hold to it, lead to the realization that there was no giant’s voice and every voice was that of the giant. Consequently, all directions led equally toward and away from the destination she so desired.

With these grand words, let us not deceive ourselves that Uwetsiageyv abruptly moved toward a state of enlightenment. Rather, we begin to observe how, in the Land of Giants, the fact that everything seemed more real was as much a threat to reality as it was an invitation to denizens formerly confined to the realm of the imagination.

Regardless, this flight ended along a theme similar to the others. Uwetsiageyv spotted an island beneath her. A large flock of small songbirds moved in a shifting, airborne, pointillist mass. The clamor of their in-flight calls drew Uwetsiageyv into their midst.

October 11, 2016
The Watch Winders
The island took the shape of a fallen giant, this one splayed out partially on its side, one leg extended before it and one behind, as if caught in the act of striding from the world of the living into whatever form the giant-sized afterlife might take. The expression upon the giant’s face had been worn away and covered with a forest of stately Virginia pine. As a result, it was impossible to determine whether the giant had met its fate with joy or trepidation. In any case, the giant seemed not at all perturbed by the flock of birds that danced about it as if they were a swarm of flies eager to contribute to the natural decomposition that follows death.

Uwetsiageyv, our heroine, descended into the middle of the flying flock. They did not flee from her as they would a predator. Rather they seemed to recognize her as a harmless but over-sized distant relation. From the interior of the noisy flock, she inspected the birds as she coordinated her flight with their synchronous movements. Small, tannish-gray birds, the males bore a hint of yellow along the edge of the wings, which the females, slightly larger, lacked.

The communal song contained a great many disparate notes from husky trills to wheezy slurs. Interspersed among these calls were a characteristic zreeeeeeet! known only to pine siskins. Uwetsiageyv tilted to the right as the flock eventually descended to the island and delivered her to the margin between the woodland and the high edge of the beach along the giant’s back.

With her feet firmly planted on the ground and the crash of the surf behind her, Uwetsiageyv introduced herself to the pine siskins. In response, they all introduced themselves simultaneously, preventing her from catching any of their individual names. She smiled in an ambiguous way, for it seemed unlikely, given the proclivity of the natives for chatter, that she would find a quiet spot on the island from which she could hear the voice of the giant. Still, she did not banish all joy. Far from it, she recognized that, as likely as not, this was her sole opportunity to explore the Island of Pine Siskins. She was eager to acquire their books for her library.

“What do you know?” she asked the pine siskins.

They told her everything at once. The thousand voices seemed simultaneously dissonant yet acknowledged a common rhythm. In this underlying cohesion, Uwetsiageyv was astonished to discover the voice of the giant.

October 12, 2016
Fourier Series
In the rise and fall of each voice within a discordant chorus, it seems unlikely that there should unwittingly appear an underlying pattern, which gives rise to a message not of any individual’s making. Certainly, those who are mathematically inclined will not take issue with the possibility. There are well studied examples in which a series of high frequency signals can be combined to approximate a low frequency, or in fact, given an infinite series, any arbitrary signal at all. Of course, Uwetsiageyv, though her charms were many, could not claim an affinity for mathematics among them. Still, she inherently sensed the unlikelihood that such a phenomenon should arise without conscious direction.

She wondered just who could manipulate a flock of birds in this manner. From her vantage point on the edge of the beach, the pine siskins, now darting among the branches, high and low, seemed in complete control of their movements.

Regardless of the evidence to the contrary, Uwetsiageyv remained convinced that she had heard a voice emerge from the chaos. With the interference of the surf behind her she could not hear it now, but, according to her memory, she had perceived it clearly.

It had said, “Uwetsiageyv, come to me, my child. I have been waiting a long time.” Some of the words might have been garbled or overwhelmed by a stray note from the flock, but without too much invention on her own part, Uwetsiageyv had been able to reconstruct these two sentences. Perhaps there had been more but, if so, the words had eluded her.

Entering the forest, Uwetsiageyv climbed up the back of the giant. She was thirsty and she sought a stream from which she could drink and beside which she could relax and listen to the music of the water mingle with birdsong.

Not for the last time did Uwetsiageyv mistake an island for paradise. She had sensed a warmth in the words of the giant. She was, through-out her long life, considered by all who knew her, superficially or otherwise, to be an optimist.

October 13, 2016
On Patience
Uwetsiageyv surveyed the Island of Pine Siskins from head to toe. She found no clues that alerted her to the cause of this giant’s nor any other giant’s demise. When she finished her tour, she contemplated leaving immediately. An impatience to find the source of the voice stirred within her.

With admirable resolve, Uwetsiageyv fought off the restless urge. She understood that to dismiss this island so quickly was a mistake; she knew so little of it. She could envision herself, far in the future, sitting by the window of her library turning the pages of a book of pine siskins only to discover, midway through, that the next page and all the following pages were blank because she had not been thorough in her research.

This vision steeled her determination and focused her attention on the pine siskins, though they seemed in many ways dull in appearance and unremarkable in habits. Surely, her inability to recognize their merit stemmed from her preoccupation with the voice of the giant. She pushed all thoughts of her greater search from her mind and focused on the moment.

Uwetsiageyv allowed the reverberations of each zreeeeeeet! to wind through her being. We should not be too surprised that soon she was rewarded. Many occasions exist where all that is required is a modest emptying of oneself in order to appreciate the richness of the moment. That it seems preposterous for such an event to happen almost upon demand is strictly a result of the infrequency with which we ourselves participate in the act, or so I have been led to believe.

The voice of the giant, however, did not apparently share in our sentimental yearning for communion with the universe as a whole nor even just the local surroundings. As if sensing that Uwetsiageyv had become distracted, the voice called again, “Uwetsiageyv, come to me, my child.” She heard it in the sough of the wind in the upper branches of the pines. She read the message in amorphous letters that formed between the cinnamon-colored scales of bark in which the trunks were garbed.

Uwetsiageyv intently observed the pine siskins for their response to this interruption but, as best as she could tell, they paid no heed to it whatsoever. Seemingly oblivious, they carried on with their non-stop bantering.

Only Uwetsiageyv seemed aware of the voice. Or, perhaps more accurately, only Uwetsiageyv felt the need to respond to the voice.

October 14, 2016
The Ventriloquist
Uwetsiageyv bid the pine siskins farewell. From above, the forested giant shrunk another increment as each beat of her wings carried her higher into the sky. She had lingered on the island, leaving later in the morning than usual. The sun was already well above the horizon. As she headed west, it lit her from behind.

Once she reached an altitude where she found a current that could buoy her almost effortlessly, she began to practice her monastic flying. She imagined the sun itself was the eye of a cosmological being, who squinted its other eye shut to better observe things on the distant Earth. Despite its great distance it scrutinized her movements seeking flaws in her technique. She worked toward utter stillness until the prospect of utter stillness bored her. Then she imagined Scarlet flying beside her and was heartened.

A part of her was flying with Scarlet, perhaps at this very moment. She tried to forget her current environments and place herself beside the scarlet tanager. Perhaps, the tanager was weaving through the air with unnecessary flourishes, as she tended to do. Uwetsiageyv wove beside her, braiding the eddies that formed in their twin wakes.

She drew beside Scarlet. Although no strong wind buffeted them, when the tanager opened her mouth to speak, no sound reached Uwetsiageyv. She watched her friend’s lips move noiselessly. Despite the fact that part of Uwetsiageyv had accompanied the tanager, it seemed a barrier separated them that Uwetsiageyv had not yet learned to pierce.

“What are you trying to tell me?” she asked. From the expression on Scarlet’s face, it was clear that the crow girl’s words had not penetrated the barrier either.

Uwetsiageyv focused on Scarlet’s mouth, which kept repeating the same pattern. Eventually by reading the lips, the crow girl was able to decipher the words she could not hear. The message was simple.

“Uwetsiageyv, come to me, my child. I have been waiting a long time.”

Upon realizing the words, the crow girl spun away from the tanager, severing whatever connection had momentarily existed between them. She felt a surge of relief that no words had been spoken, since she adamantly wished not to allow the purpose of the giant to commandeer the will of the tanager.

Chapter 30. Hirundo rustica

October 17, 2016
Giuseppina d’Alia Pitre
The call of the giant was not incessant during the crow girl’s flight. Always repeating the same simple message, the voice came and went as it pleased. Thus Uwetsiageyv thought nothing of its absence as she spotted the next patch of land. In fact, all of her attention quickly became focused on this island because, although it took the form of a fallen giant as had the other islands, this one was different.

The main island was long and narrow. A giant neatly lay upon his back. At one end, his feet pointed in the air. Sharp cliffs dropped along the soles of his feet to the pounding of the ocean below. The contours of the island followed his legs up to his belly, where his hands rested, folded serenely. The island widened at his broad chest then rose to his neck, which ended cleanly.

A second island was located a mile or so distant and was disturbingly head-sized, at least for a giant. It seemed the head had rolled off and settled face down for there were no features on the smaller island, only the smooth canopy of leaves.

Uwetsiageyv surveyed all of this from above. It reminded her a little of the Island of the Tufted Titmice, which she had thought of as an exclamation mark. Here, however, the exclamation was decidedly gory. It was as if this giant had laid down willingly for his execution. Not even the dwarf could suggest that this creature had succumbed to existential ennui.

Uwetsiageyv circled down to the larger island. She landed on the toes at the top of the stone cliff of the giant’s feet. An ordinary man, six feet tall, might have feet one foot long. This giant, three miles tall, kept the same proportions. The cliff dropped nearly half a mile to the stone bed beneath it, though almost a third of this distance lay below water. From this aerie, Uwetsiageyv gazed out to the sea. Folding her wings, she turned and examined the island laid out before her.

She observed the natives, who traveled above the trees in bursts of straight flight, executing quick, tight turns, before diving to disappear in the cover of the foliage. With cobalt blue feathers above and tawny below, the combination of color and behavior immediately identified them as barn swallows.

Many cultures have legends explaining how the barn swallow ended up with its deeply forked tail. Once, Uwetsiageyv had read a library book, published more than one hundred years earlier, containing collected legends of the swallow. She had forgotten all the stories and remembered only the dedication to the book, which we quote in full below.

To Giuseppina d’Alia Pitre

This little book, dear, was to have been dedicated to your mother, when she, alas, was snatched from us in the terrible disaster of Messina, while she was transcribing for me notes and material concerning the Swallow.

Now that your dear mother and father live in you, I offer this book in your name, sweet Giuseppina, as an augury of bright days for you—our happiness and our care.

May the good-omened little bird of gladness and of joy be to you a messenger of perennial spring, and may your life be always strewn with the roses, gladdened with the golden dreams, crowned with the happiness invoked for it by

Your Grandfather. †

Uwetsiageyv had never forgotten these words because she felt a kinship with Giuseppina, who had, only through the grace of her grandparents, escaped life as an orphan.

Giuseppe Pitre, The Swallow Book: The Story of the Swallow told in Legends, Fables, Folk Songs, Proverbs, Omens and Riddles of Many Lands, translated by Ada Walker Camehl, American Book Company, New York, 1912.

October 18, 2016
The Silent Sycamore
Sycamore trees covered the Island of Barn Swallows, just as they had the Island of Carolina Chickadees. On trees of all ages, the bark exfoliated in irregular patterns. On particularly old trees, the wood revealed beneath shown ghostly white. It seemed as if thousands of skeletal fingers held the green canopy aloft.

Through the gaps in these trees flew the barn swallows. Uwetsiageyv was sufficiently acquainted with the ways of the natural world not to be deceived into thinking of the swallow exclusively in terms of a good-omened little bird bringing gladness and of joy. She had seen males fight during the breeding season. She had seen mothers wildly protecting their nestlings against the attacks of another male, seeking to replace them with young of his own. It was possible, Uwetsiageyv admitted, to be a source of both joy and agony. It was perhaps unavoidable.

Uwetsiageyv had resolved, for her own part, to err on the side of joy.

She glided down from the cliff onto the forested legs of the giant, wherein she found the ground scattered with the seedpods of sycamores. Those from the current season maintained their spherical form, having yet to disperse the seeds compacted within.

The remains of seedpods from the previous year also lay upon the ground—hollow spiked balls tethered to the end of a brittle stem. They were unsightly forms, reminiscent only of death. The swallows paid them no mind at all. Uwetsiageyv raised her gaze to concentrate on the living form of the trees.

In her search through the forest, she discovered a sycamore larger than any she had ever seen. Its trunk spanned ten feet in diameter. It seemed a tree of too ancient wisdom to ignore. Uwetsiageyv cleared a spot at its base and sat, resting with her pliant wings against it.

The wind passed through the enormous mass of branches that rose more than one hundred feet above her. She waited for the tree to speak and, if not the tree, the voice of the giant.

However, no voice came. It appeared that this island, formed of a giant who had met a violent end, did not offer a welcome harbor to the voice which had been drawing Uwetsiageyv forward. The longer she waited the more surprised she was by its continued absence.

“Life is unpredictable,” Uwetsiageyv finally said to the pair of barn swallows perched on a low branch of a nearby, smaller tree.

The barn swallows agreed, though their movements, typical of their kind, could have been construed to mean something more along the lines of, “Predictable and unpredictable at the same time.”

October 19, 2016
A Sundering
Beneath the bony fingers of the ancient sycamore, the absence of the giant’s voice grew increasingly conspicuous to Uwetsiageyv. “I miss it,” she said to herself, though she could scarcely believe the words. She had only been introduced to the voice shortly before; that it could have grown on her so quickly seemed unlikely.

The barn swallows laughed at her with a diverse array of twitters, warbles and mechanical whirrs! In this manner, they conveyed to the crow girl that she had already associated the giant’s voice with the completion of the prophecy and what she in fact missed was the prophecy, the influence of which they did not allow to enter the hallowed lands of their fallen giant island.

Upon internal reflection, Uwetsiageyv supposed that the barn swallows were right. “The stupid prophecy!” she told herself, knowing that her disparagement and yearning stemmed from the same impulse.

In any case, while the sensation prevailed, Uwetsiageyv made the most of it. Free of the binding of the prophecy, she contemplated remaining among the barn swallows forever.

“Am I welcome?” she asked them.

Some among the assembled flock nodded their glittering cobalt crowns while others shook them in dissent. It seemed an unanimous decision was not to be rendered; nor had Uwetsiageyv been able to tally the votes before the gestures passed and the birds resumed their normal, agile flight. When she called for a revote, her plea was completely ignored. She had her answer, it seemed and, like many answers, she could not make heads or tails of it.

In truth, it was only a momentary urge of capriciousness that had prompted her to voice the question. She could no longer remain on the Island of Barn Swallows than she could on any other.

“I could tear myself in two again,” she suggested to the swallows, who flying overhead, continued to ignore her. “I could leave part of myself here and follow all destinies at once.”

These poor birds insisted upon remaining oblivious to her fantastical offer either because they found it to be in poor taste or, more probably, because they knew that, whether she liked it or not, a part of her was already permanently anchored to this island and to this moment. Any thought of free will that she supposed in the matter was strictly illusory.

October 20, 2016
A Lonely Place
As if under the force of a compulsion, Uwetsiageyv flew the short distance to the second island, formed by the giant’s severed head. Like the body, this roundish lump of an island was covered in sycamores, which rose up almost to the shoreline. Uwetsiageyv circled several times until she found a gap in the canopy through which she could slip in order to alight upon the ground.

In the shadows of the head, Uwetsiageyv found herself alone. The barn swallows had not followed her here and they seemed not to visit this place of their own accord.

The voice of the giant that had been calling her could no more penetrate the silence that emanated from the head than that of the body. Uwetsiageyv stepped gingerly over the detritus of the forest floor, in order to disturb the silence, intensified by the absence of birdsong, as little as possible.

She ascended the gentle slope until she found, at the high point, a small shady glade, at the center of which a small pool was located. She knelt beside it on a mat of green moss and smelled the water, which showed no signs of impurity. She had not followed her typical habit to drink upon arrival at the larger island. She did so now.

She hoped the water collected by this head would somehow reveal the secrets of the giant’s demise but the water was free of any fungi or microbes that might have induced such visions.

As she sat in solitude, Uwetsiageyv wondered, without anxiety, how her journey in the Land of Giants would end. With the prophecy held at bay, it seemed again to her that an infinite number of outcomes remained possible. She would move forward, seemingly eliminating each possibility, one at a time, until there was only one left. That would be the prophecy, she supposed. That would be her life.

When the giant had been decapitated, his last thought had not been one of terror at his impending death. He had lived a long time and, though he expected nothing more than oblivion after the blade fell, he did not shrink from it. Dead, he had no way of communicating the calm he felt to Uwetsiageyv who crawled like a louse upon his scalp. However, the sycamores that drew nourishment from the soil of his remains had been given ample opportunity to absorb his message. They had no excuse for withholding it from Uwetsiageyv. They chose to do so only because they had become accustomed to neglect and they had utterly forgotten the joy of sharing good news.

October 21, 2016
A Moment of Panic
Uwetsiageyv chose not to return to the larger body of land before departing the Island of Barn Swallows. A madness, lurking within her, tempted her to remain, but it possessed no sentience, only impulse. She tore herself away from the Earth with a great heaving of her wings. She erupted through the canopy, tearing leaf from limb, and rocketed into the sky.

From their vantage point, the barn swallows observed her as she grew smaller in the afternoon sky. They perched stoically in their roosts; they did not pretend to understand the ways of the crow. Soon their thoughts returned to their island, the sycamores, the rhythm of the surf lapping against the shore. The swallows urged that portion of Uwetsiageyv, which had been abandoned on the island, to find a shadow in which it could be comfortable.

Astride the currents, Uwetsiageyv soared again. Because she had, contrary to her custom, left so late in the day, darkness fell almost before the island was lost to sight behind her. Westward she traveled by starlight.

She waited eagerly for the voice of the giant to reappear in her ears, guiding her forward. Although she disavowed the prophecy, she found herself drawn to the giant’s voice, as if it were addictive.

Even before she heard the voice again, Uwetsiageyv repeated the words aloud, to herself, “Uwetsiageyv, come to me, my child.” She cried to the wind, “I am coming! I am coming! Wait for me!”

Chapter 31. Progne subis

October 24, 2016
The Gardener
Once Uwetsiageyv had safely left the vicinity of the executed giant, she entered territory where the voice of the giant was once again free to travel. Receiving the signal again cheered the crow girl. The words had not changed, seemingly unaware of any lapse in their reception. After its absence, the voice seemed louder and clearer, reassuring Uwetsiageyv that she drew closer to the source.

She flew through the day and night, but made sure to stay beneath the cloud cover for she was now on high alert and did not want to accidentally pass even a single island. She was rewarded for her vigilance; by the light of a fat, crescent moon, filtered by the intervening swath of cloud, she detected a spot of unblemished black, which did not reflect the light on the crests of waves.

By this time, she expected to find a petrified giant. Perhaps because it was dark, she had to draw very close to the island before she could identify the shape. Even then it seemed to require some exercise of her imagination to assign to the island the form of a giant. Eventually she imagined a woman kneeling at her garden. Resting against her heels, she leaned forward until she was more or less wedge shaped. Her arms extended down, as if one hand was buried in the soil. The other hand seemed to hold a tuber of some sort, recently removed from the earth. Of course, ascribing this much detail to the patch of stone covered in the canopy of leaves was surely a trick of the moonlight.

Uwetsiageyv landed on the shore at the knees of the giant. Although she desperately wanted to continue her search for the origin of the voice, she remained on the beach until the sun rose on schedule, waking with it the natives, who emerged from their cavities to find the crow girl at their doorstep. From the number of footsteps she had left in the sand, it was clear to them not only that their guest had been waiting some hours for them to rise but also that she had arrived in a state not entirely free of agitation.

Late risers among the men, alerted by the calls of their kin to the presence of a stranger, greeted her from the edge of their cavities with a morning song, composed of boisterous, throaty chirps and creaky rattles. Some women already observing the crow girl from the tree line responded with a chorus of chortles.

In the light of a pink dawn, Uwetsiageyv was heard to exclaim, “From the island of one swallow to another! Purple martins! How lucky!”

October 25, 2016
Uwetsiageyv soon found evidence that the island was populated by more than just birds. Hollow gourds had been strung from the branches of trees with twine to serve as roosts for purple martins. The arrangement of the gourds, as well as the cleanly cut, circular entrances, left little doubt that they were the work of a careful hand. All seemed to have been occupied for some time but Uwetsiageyv still held out hope that the one who had hung the gourds remained on the island.

“Hello?” called Uwetsiageyv into the interior of the forest.

The glossy blue males performed aerial acrobatics around her, as if to communicate, “What are you looking for? We are right here!”

“Hello?” she called again.

The brown females choo-ed disapprovingly.

Uwetsiageyv headed into the forest. She found on the ground the fallen fruit of the hickory tree. Looking around her, many such trees still bore these nuts on the branch, along with the occasional gourd. From some gourds, mothers peered at the crow girl as she navigated between them.

She climbed along the thigh of the giant, which rose to the hip then fell in the shape of a saddle along the waist, before rising again to the shoulder. At the peak of the shoulder, Uwetsiageyv found the source of a mountain stream. She stopped beside the pool and cleared a space of hickory nuts before sitting down. Drinking from the pool rejuvenated her.

“Hello?” she called again to the one who crafted gourds into nests. She imagined a caretaker of the island, one who looked after the purple martins as if they were her own children.

Of course, Uwetsiageyv imagined the caretaker to be more or less human sized, despite the fact that she dwelt in the Land of Giants. She could not imagine the bulky fingers of a giant manipulating the twine into the knots which secured the gourds from tree branches.

She chose to wait at this lofty vantage point for a while. Perhaps the caretaker would visit the pool, perhaps to fill a bucket with potable water. After some time, the crow girl was instead visited by the familiar voice of the giant, carried on the ocean winds.

“Uwetsiageyv, come to me, my child. I have been waiting a long time.”

“What is your name?” she asked the wind, expecting only the same words in reply.

“Kawoladesgv,” said the giant, after a pause.

Uwetsiageyv leapt to her feet. “Kawoladesgv!” she repeated, knowing immediately that something was amiss for what sort of giant would so brazenly share her true name with a stranger?

October 26, 2016
An Upper Bound
The purple martins seemed not at all disturbed by the sound of the giant’s voice. The agile maneuvers of their flight as they pursued insects on the wing were affected not one iota. The skies above, too, seemed unconcerned with the unfolding of events beneath them for they neither suddenly darkened with the onset of a storm nor produced a spectacular eclipse.

“Kawoladesgv,” Uwetsiageyv repeated, spinning in slow circles trying in vain to find the source of the voice.

“It means...” began the giant.

“You don’t have to tell me,” laughed Uwetsiageyv. “I know what it means. Where are you? I can’t see you.”

“I’m yet at some distance,” said the giant. There was a soothing, feminine quality to her voice. She spoke gently as if to a child.

Standing at the peak of the shoulder of the island, Uwetsiageyv scanned the horizon in all three-hundred-sixty degrees. She found no giant emerging from the vast sea surrounding the island. “Are you invisible?”

“My voice is invisible,” she replied, “as are all voices, but I am not.”

“Where are you then?”

“On the next island,” said the giant hopefully, “or maybe the one after that. Do you know where you’re going?”

The question gave Uwetsiageyv pause. “No,” she admitted. “I have no idea. I’m sort of making things up as I go along.”

“It’s okay,” the giant assured her. “No one expects any more from you.”

The purple martins became bored with the conversation. They began the performance of an aerial ballet to win back Uwetsiageyv’s attention from the giant. So lovely and intricate were the patterns of their flight that, despite the great many questions Uwetsiageyv wanted to put to the giant, she nevertheless found herself distracted.

The dance evolved into an opera, which deviated from the ordinary formula in that no one died in the tale. The description of tragedy was left to other islands. When the performance ended, a silence returned, marred only by the whispered rhythm of the surf far below.

“Kawoladesgv?” asked Uwetsiageyv to check if the giant still listened.


“Why can I hear you so clearly?”

“A giant’s voice is capable of traveling great distances.”

“Like a whale?”

“Not quite that far,” the giant admitted.

This reply gave Uwetsiageyv some hope for it not only implied a finite physical distance between them but also seemed to impose a limitation on the power of giants, which up to this point had seemed more or less boundless.

October 27, 2016
Why She Came
Uwetsiageyv left the peak of the shoulder and headed down the ridge along the neck of the island. The voice of Kawoladesgv followed her.

“Did you know the giant that became this island?” asked the crow girl.

“I know them all.”

“What was her name?”

“I cannot tell you without her permission. Since she became stone, she is reluctant to speak. It will be exceedingly difficult for me to convince her to give her consent.”

As Uwetsiageyv walked, she passed a gourd hanging from the branch of a hickory. From the entrance of the home, a young, inquisitive face emerged. The crow girl pointed toward the fledgling and asked, “Did you hang these gourds on her body for the purple martins to make nests of?”

“No,” replied the giant on a timely gust. “Another thoughtful traveler must be responsible for this work.”

Reaching the base of the head, Uwetsiageyv paused in a patch of sunlight that broke through a gap in the canopy. “You seem like a nice giant.”

A breeze blew but it did not carry the reply of the giant on it.

“I have something weighing on my conscience that I must confess to you.”

Again the giant provided only an inviting silence.

“I brought a dwarf into the Land of Giants.:

“A dwarf?” The words were carried on an uneven current of air, as if they had caught on the giant’s tongue.

“To make peace,” Uwetsiageyv quickly explained.

“If you suffer from an infection,” asked Kawoladesgv, “do you make peace with the bacteria?”

Uwetsiageyv frowned at the unfavorable response. She was once again irritated that she had ever crossed paths with the wretched prophecy. These were not the terms upon which she wished to engage the giant.

“This is not why you came,” said Kawoladesgv in a comforting tone.

“No,” Uwetsiageyv cheerfully agreed, jumping at the opportunity, offered by the giant, to perceive her role in a different light. “I came to make a library.”

October 28, 2016
An Impatient Listener
After a while, Kawoladesgv tired of the conversation, presumably because she lived a solitary life and was thus unaccustomed to extended discussions. However, many of us can likely recall from our own experience the lonely spinster or widower who will unyieldingly talk to any hapless stranger that crosses their path. So, perhaps, there was some other, unknown explanation for Kawoladesgv’s reticence. Regardless, Uwetsiageyv soon discovered that any additional questions she put to the giant were answered with a familiar refrain, “Uwetsiageyv, come to me, my child. I have been waiting a long time.”

She took this as a sign that the giant was ready for her to move on, but Uwetsiageyv was not finished with her survey of the purple martins. She scaled the head of the giant. The birds darted above her. When she reached the high point, a ridge of ear, just behind the temple, she found it well forested. She had no view of the surrounding sea.

In the arboreal shadow, she listened to the song of the swallows. Closing her eyes, she heard, in addition to the common chirps and rattles, a call of hee-hee interspersed with zwrack and zweet. Occasionally, a female would release the pent-up tension in the music with a slowly exhaled choo.

“My friends,” she said to them as they sang for her, “as much as I would like to tarry here, I must go.”

The purple martins, ordinarily creatures of migration, understood the impulse to travel. They did not plead with Uwetsiageyv to remain with them.

She spent a final night with them on the side of the head. She rose with the purple martins just before sunrise, when they performed a jubilant work, which they called “the dawn song”.

“Wish me luck!” the crow girl called to them. “I hope to find a real, live giant waiting for me on the next island.”

The purple martins did as she bid them, though they were not entirely convinced that she understood just what she was asking for.

Chapter 32. Megaceryle alcyon

October 31, 2016
The Water Bearer
Uwetsiageyv flew in tandem with Kawoladesgv but it was not like flying with the scarlet tanager. The giant’s voice lacked frivolity. On the contrary, she kept pace with Uwetsiageyv in a tireless and methodical manner. Periodically, the voice intoned its familiar phrase.

“Uwetsiageyv, come to me, my child. I have been waiting a long time.”

They continued flying west. There seemed no end to the Sea of Birds, even in the Land of Giants. Uwetsiageyv still held out a belief that she would reach a distant continent where everything, including the birds, was giant sized. She particularly wanted to find a giant’s acorn. She imagined its diameter larger than she was tall. Would she be able to push it along? It would have fallen from an oak ten miles tall if not taller.

“Is there a forest in the Land of the Giants with enormous trees?” she asked Kawoladesgv.

“Uwetsiageyv, come to me, my child.”

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” said the crow girl not quite able to entirely contain her irritation. She had not thought such words of kindness could grow to be burdensome. With a ruffle of her wings, she dispelled the unhappy thought.

A number of days and nights passed. Uwetsiageyv lost count. When an island did materialize beneath them, the crow girl was shocked to discover that the giant petrified as an island was an adolescent boy, not yet fully come of age. He crouched on one knee. He had balanced an urn on his back and had leaned forward to slowly empty it of its contents. He faced the sky. From above then the urn was cast as a high mountain near the edge of the island, at the peak of which, a waterfall poured from a cave, cascading down onto the giant boy’s chest and belly, before winding down the contour of a thigh out to the sea.

Uwetsiageyv knew of the Zodiac. She knew the mythological origin of Aquarius, the water bearer. She remembered that Jupiter, the king of gods, had observed the boy from afar tending his father’s sheep. Desiring him, Jupiter whisked him up to Mount Olympus, where he forever after served as cupbearer to the gods. Uwetsiageyv even remembered the name of the boy.

“Is his name Ganymede?”

“No,” said Kawoladesgv.

“Who is he then?”

“I already told you such secrets are not mine to share.”

“I shall call him Ganymede, for he is indeed a handsome lad.”

“I do not think he will find fault with the nickname you have bestowed upon him.”

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