by Tessa Kjeldsdottir
Hugo’s belly pangs rumbled down the darkening mountainside above Heffinger Hollow. He was sorely tempted to nibble on a half-cooked morsel or two of the spunky spelunkers that frequented Carbuncle Caverns. This particular group of spelunkers had surprised the village by sneaking in to the Carbuncle and setting out to explore without a guide. They’d zigged when they should have zagged on that seventh leg of the descent, and had fallen deep into the bowels of the lowest cavern of Carbuncle.
This had proved deadly for them, but put their corpses within easy reach of Hugo.
But a bit of history, first…
Several millennia ago, the Hollow’s ancestors had agreed to a quarterly human sacrifice, demanded by the Weather Gods in exchange for good hunting, abundant harvests, a healthy populace, and the like. Then, a handful of centuries ago, Hugo had been dropped on them by an angry Goddess, who’d demanded he do something useful and make amends though service. No one dared ask what he’d done, opting instead to accept him as a member of the community, and the new middle man in the quarterly sacrifice.
The villagers were grateful that Hugo had turned out to be fairly reasonable (for a giant), as well as a terrific strategist for a modern-day tourism plan that now kept him fed, and the close-knit community of Heffinger safe from the prying eyes of the media and those pesky, intrepid folklorists. No tourist had ever registered complaint over the occasional roll of light thunder through clear skies; stormy weather always passed quickly. Dining, shopping, and spelunking plans were never canceled due to inclement weather.
And if Hugo and the Hollow had found a creative way to appease the Gods, feed the giant, keep the tourists and spelunkers coming and their local economy healthy, then that was best for everyone. After all, the villagers needed to change with the times.
But on this particular day…
On this particular day that was neither the beginning, nor the end of the quarter, Hugo was very hungry. His stomach was rumbling, and his unhappy belches began to fill the pristine sky with noxious green clouds.
UPS delivery to remote Heffinger Hollow was dodgy at its best, and Hugo had been late in getting out his bi-monthly order for HealthyMealz Krunchy Snackz ® (registered trademark). Not one to overlook an opportunity, Hugo had reached his long arm into the lowest cavern of the Carbuncle, fished out the dead bodies with his hairy fingers, and spitted the spelunkers. Waste not, want not, he reasoned.
Now the people of the Hollow looked up at the mountain with a little bit of terror as lightning ripped across the sky. The Weather Gods were clearly not pleased. Was this to be the end of their peaceful and prosperous life?
Hugo quickly owned up to his mistake. He swore to the Weather Gods and Goddesses that he would do better next time, and never again be caught without a proper snack to see him through to his next meal. For that reason, and to demonstrate his sincerity and commitment, he had made himself wait, stomach rumbling and popping, as he rotated the sizzling spelunkers over his camp fire with the one hand, and shook the tiny canister of Hot Seasons Cheddar Sprinkles ™ (trademark, patent pending) with the other.
Forgiving himself, he felt he deserved an extra portion of the cheese seasoning since he hadn’t had a snack since the day before yesterday; the athletic spelunkers tended toward being quite lean, and more than a little dry. And for pre-seasoning food prep, he’d rubbed the bodies with lanolin from a couple of very large sheep he’d plucked off the mountainside, promptly replacing the dazed creatures back with their herd.
It was a brilliant bit of ethical and sustainable sourcing.
Hugo leaned backward into a nearby waterfall and drank deeply of its tumbling waters to soothe his stomach as he waited.
The Gods, intrigued by his culinary imagination, were appeased. No more lightning. Gone was the green cloud and noxious fumes, and a beautiful full moon rose over the mountain and into every corner of the Hollow to promise continued prosperity. The Heffinger Hollow folk raised their noses and marveled at the rich scent carried on the now-clean winds, and considered that a quick and immediate visit to the giant might be in order. They packed up their kegs of Heffinger Dark Brew and made it a party.
And of course, they all lived happily ever after, and considered a new supply chain for Hugo’s meals, as well as a different delivery service for snacks. And if Hugo had not finished nibbling spelunkers then, he is surely nibbling them still.
Snip Snap Snu, and now my tale is through.
Tessa Kjeldsdottir is a Midwest dabbler in fiction, folk and fairy tales, and poetry. Her work can be found in the occasional chapbook/anthology, but mostly on her flash blog and sketchbook, Valley of The Trolls.blog under the pseudonym Liz Husebye Hartmann.