Wasn’t that a lovely dinner? Yes, it was, I assure you. I met Mustafa in Hurghada, when I was consulting for their Mini-Egypt tourist attraction. There was one evening when my group was permitted to explore the winding streets with rather a liberal fellow for that region, a young man from Gaza—no less!—who’d gotten in good with some of the local bosses. I tell you, there is nothing like crushing hardship to bring out the entrepreneur in some people. Nothing like it.
As it happened, Fadi (our guide, you understand) led us through some quite circuitous… No, that’s not the word I’m looking for, what is it… Ah, tortuous back alleys and side streets. I don’t mind telling you, there were a couple slim moments we began to fear for our lives, though actually the whole town is safe as houses, I wish to assure you. Please bear that in mind when you visit Mini-Egypt Park, won’t you? So there we were, marching around in our thongs and… oh, you call those flip-flops here, don’t you? Quite right. Well, trudging along in our sandals, more or less, wondering whether we’re ever going to see a main street again, when we turn the corner and, hey presto, there’s what looks to be for all the world a wizened gentleman turning kebabs over a small flame. I do wish I could have wrangled the name of that particular breed of wood from him, but he swears it’s his family’s culinary secret.
Oh, dear, I’ve rather spoilt the ending, haven’t I? Yes, well, this was Mustafa, who cleaned up rather nicely, I should say, grilling marinated chunks of livestock over his aromatic flame. We were all bally bemused at that point, turning about this way and that, losing track of the sky, not knowing which way was north anymore. Should we have retained a tight grip on our bearings, I daresay we wouldn’t have been so amenable to Fadi’s exhortation to sample the man’s wares. Things being what they were, though, and what with the enticing aroma from his mean little hibachi, we soon found ourselves gnawing at first with trepidation, and then with real gusto, at these skewered hanks. Several of us attempted to offer Mustafa a real job, don’t you know, at a proper establishment, and would you believe the little blighter insisted he was happy where he was?
Happy! In this claustrophobic back alley! Good night!
Long story short, I finagled Mustafa into my own household—the details are unimportant—and it is he you must thank for tonight’s repast. Yes, he did rather run away with the steak with brie and mushrooms, didn’t he? Made it entirely his own. Sugoi-sugoi! A real brick, Mustafa. He’s holding up well after what happened in Hartford. He was a little shaky for some weeks, but he’s turned it around.
I didn’t? Have I not told any of you what happened in Connecticut? Why, I can’t conceive of how this could have slipped my mind. It was simply extraordinary, all the more that it managed to elude responsible journalistic coverage. I tell you, ever since−
Oh, yes, very well. It’s not unrelated to the Mini-Egypt Park, as a mad hatter of fact, as Mayor Bronin had a bee in his bonnet about the engineering of a vast and complex mini-golf range, something a little more casual than Elizabeth Park, a little more formal than Colt Park, linking (no pun intended) the Mark Twain House to the Harriet Beecher Stowe House. Rather an ambitious gambit, I daresay, but Bronin was well chuffed, flushed as it were with his recent victory, and desired with every fiber of his being to really make an impact upon the local tourism economy. I didn’t see as how that was particularly ailing, but nobody asked me, did they. Every man with a job to do.
There we were at nothing less than 1 Constitution Plaza, gathered about the long tables with the region’s moguls and dignitaries and so on and so forth, blathering on about grandiose schemes and whatnot, when night descended. Yes, just like that. One moment, the sun is shining (never trust the sun in winter, mind), the sky is clear, and then, hey presto, an impenetrable evening has fallen.
Yes, those are appropriate reactions. We ran the gamut of them ourselves: shock, confusion, disbelief, and those of us who promptly sought explanations. I was in the latter camp, obviously, and we strode to the tall windows behind us, as others complained at the light fixtures or ran to check the hallway. Well, obviously the lights weren’t in question, for they glowed in the darkness: it was the sky that went out. We at the windows peered up into the sky, which at ten-thirty in the ante meridian should have prominently featured ol’ Sol.
There rose a tremendous shape, instead, as though some ambitious squadron of engineers had constructed an extra building to stretch the parking ramp that much further south, or to heighten and broaden Hartford HealthCare to more arrogant proportions. But this was no parking ramp, my friends, nor was it a medical complex. No, right off the bat we picked out the outline of a woman.
No, she wasn’t standing on the… well, yes, obviously she was standing on the ground, but what you fail to apprehend is that she was of such dimensions as blotted out the sun, yes. There was that sparkly aura about her, that scintillating outline normally reserved for the moon when it passes before the sun, but this ran up her shoulders and over her head. All about her was daylight, and all within this periphery was plunging black.
How did I know she..? Well, it should have been quite obvious, were you there. One immediately factors (a cold read, I believe you Yanks call it) such features as the slope of the shoulders, the tilt of the head, the general build of ribs and the subtleties of personal carriage, what. I rather fancy it was how her hips rested as she crouched there, one thigh raised in a preparatory step, and how her spine bent to right itself while stretching forward, as though she were bracing herself to spring upon the XL Center, some blocks behind us, if not the highway itself.
She was quite that large, I assure you. Even crouched, she loomed over our entire environment and blocked, as I say, the sun itself.
No, none of us had any idea from where she’d emerged. She was simply not there one moment, as we consulted the outrageous fancies of construction magnates, and then she was, blocking out the morning light but good. The windows being what they were—permanently affixed, without hinges or tracks—we couldn’t bally well open them to call up to her and inquire after her business. I shouldn’t think we’d have desired to, come to that, what with her imperious massiveness. Indeed, many of our party were inclined to retreat to the far end of the room, if not filter out into the hallway in a trickling stream of manly terror.
But not me, I assure you. I stood there, solid as I sit here before you, and I trained my little peering orbs to behold what might be beheld. “What do you make of this,” I asked McGuire, to my left. “What do you suppose she wants?”
He challenged my assumption that she was human at all. “The size of it, man,” he gasped, gesturing as though I hadn’t noticed. “And besides, it’s wearing a mask.”
Blimey. It took me a bit of effort, but strain I did and, sure enough, the tremendous woman’s visage was in fact enshrouded in great wodges of black cloth. My mind reeled to calculate the resources and textile prowess to produce such a garment. What? Yes, she did give us enough time to examine her: she only crouched there, powerful and taut, her massive head very slowly turning as though to take in the environment. No, I don’t suppose she was aware of us, not particularly. Surely she must have anticipated in city such as Hartford there would be a hundred thousand of us… but, again, there was no way for us to conceive what thoughts must have been sparking in that massive cranium.
Still, I was incredulous at my companion. “What’s the mask got to do with anything, McGuire? Look at those gently sloping shoulders, the tilt of her head, the altogether pleasing roundness of the corpore in general. Tremendous, I’ll grant you, enormous, titanic, but nonetheless this couldn’t be anything but a woman.”
“It’s wearing a mask,” he said doggedly.
We went back and forth a few more times before the titanic woman’s elongated thighs slowly pulsed and bulged with an elemental power beyond casual comprehension. Whatever fabric it was she’d rallied incalculable resources to compose, it was sorely put to bear when hundreds of gallons of oxygen and thousands of gallons of red blood engorged that gross muscle composition, and that gargantuan body began to ascend through the lower atmosphere with no less the majesty, if somewhat greater rapidity, than did any hot-air balloon. Up and up she went, slowly (owing, I should imagine, to her tremendous size and therefore the relative perspective of angle, distance, velocity, so on and so forth) but relentlessly. Those magnificent thighs, tightly bound in elastic black fabric, oh, how they gathered and bulged! At her proportions I was able even to observe the concatenate orchestration of her physiology: the subtle shift of her patellas, the raging erection of her chiseled calves, the give-and-take of muscle groups nudging each other out of the way, one bunch doing its job, then getting eased aside as another cluster kicked in.
Hypnotic, I tell you. Utterly hypnotic. Even now, as I look about the room at our fairer company, I must aver I view you in a bracingly new light, yet I cannot conceive of the circumstances in which even a pale shadow of this experience might be replicated. No, were we even to slather you in latex paint and establish an array of powerful, small cameras about your person, filming your action in piercing detail and replaying this in slow motion, no. It would but hint at the memory of a passed-down tale from the descendants of witnesses, contrasted with the spectacle to which we were privy that morning.
Why should this be? It’s with no little humility that I confess to you, oh my friends, that I’m beggared to but guess. Were I to unlock my sternum, dislodge my heart and stitch it brazenly to my sleeve, then I suppose I might hazard to conjecture that… It’s bally difficult to elucidate! Yes, even with this qualification and waiver, as I beg you the latitude for my fevered creative expression, yet do I harbor some limiting reservation to state plainly what only shyly insinuates itself into my soul. And yet for you, my privileged company, I shall blithely discard all propriety to the grayish-green vesper—eh, Liam? Eh?—and spread, as one does, my cards upon the proverbial table.
Christopher, you’ll recall that ill-fated spree of ours in the veldt of the Central African Republic? (Don’t give me that look, Miss Portillo! I’m quite sure several members of your tony jacket might liefer be capering about the Andes yet, had anyone condescended to proffer them the choice!) As I was saying, there we were, crouched in the tall grasses, our .243 Winchesters at the ready, when a preternatural silence descended upon us. I shouldn’t say it was an actual silence, no: there was still the rustle of the dung beetle beside your canteen, still the cry of the secretary bird. But it was as though some manner of noise-baffler had been instigated, you know the way a counter-frequency will nullify a wavelength? It’s not that it ceases to exist, but more that it feels as though the air is thicker, that space has expanded about one, or that the curtain has been cast aside and a previously unanticipated and unimagined actor has stepped forth, one whose mere bearing is imbued with an awful truth.
So it was for us there. I recall it quite clearly—and if you recall it otherwise, good Christopher, I should ask you to still your tongue for the bye. My index finger rested beside my trigger, and I felt the wind against my neck peter out and die. The entire right side of my body… well, it was as though a tremendous electromagnet somehow activated all the trace iron in my blood and being, or as though gravity began to push rather than draw, and it pushed from a location between our prone forms, Christopher. I looked up, and then I noticed you looked up, and I was struck by the queerness of your expression, which spake to me no less than that you were experiencing something not unlike my own revelation.
And it was in this shared moment that we detected, in the periphery of our vision, an uninvited guest. Nothing less than a ruddy lion! Standing there as though he owned… yes, well.
Somehow the magnificent beast had stolen between us, gazing off to the fore as though curious as to what it was we were searching for. I looked at you, Christopher, and you looked at me, and of a mind our fingertips slid down to our triggers, yet we knew in that instant we couldn’t have enough time to roll back and draw a bead. Perhaps I might, falling to my left with my rifle across my chest—and I’m rather a cracker-jack shot, I think many of you may attest—but you, poor lad, were at quite the disadvantage.
Long story short, one of our guides got it into his daft kopf to scare the beast off with a smack upon the rump, whereupon it spun around in a flash and disengaged his face with one clean swipe of ebon claws. This gave us all the time in the world to spring up, crouch, and dispatch the blighter at our leisure.
But the thrust of my digression was this: there was that moment, that supernatural pause as the lion stood there between us. I don’t wish to suggest a synchronization of inter-special thought, merely to indicate what it was to lie in the presence of one of God’s creatures, one of the primary predators in the animal kingdom. This was no mere tabby, of course, nor even a mastiff. The largeness of this beast, the power of its limbs, the testament to its cunning and brutality as it prolonged its survival, nay, throve in the veldt… yet even these are not enough to impart the tremendous significance that reverberated, not unlike precisely coordinated wavelengths, to counter and cancel the tediousness of my existence.
Words fail me. I’m beggared to relate the truly awesome impression of that moment. But this was entirely revisited as I stood before that all-too-frail plate glass and stared up into the crotch and chest of that black-garbed woman who was the largest living being to cross terra firma. Revisited… and amplified. By Christ’s keys, amplified to a truly fearsome degree. The presence of her… the… the overwhelming fact of her, battering against our incomprehension as we struggled to… just to accept the enormity of what we knew could not be so…
Beg pardon, I just needed a snoot of… If you haven’t tried the El Maestro Sierra Fino, I highly recommend it.
But this wasn’t all. Forgive me for dwelling overlong on a point, but what I’d intended to round upon after endeavoring to thoroughly impress upon you all how… you do? Also, gehen wir.
I think I’d mentioned that some of us began filtering out of the room, rather like sediment from a river I suppose, while others were in states of hysterics, frighted, nearly insensible. McGuire and I hastily recruited el-Mofti, mafy ay’mushkila, and we three corralled the stragglers to… oh, I haven’t said why we should do so. It seemed that our penumbral giantess was on the move.
That torso, larger than an office complex, simply rose into the sky, and those staggeringly long and powerful legs pushed it up, then extended. Her arms, ungodly long, spread to the sides, and there was no question in my mind, in this moment, that should she so choose, she could have lunged at us (and by “us” I mean “1 Constitution Plaza”) and shattered us to dust with a capricious embrace.
Without waiting to be sundered in the titaness’s bosom, we three shouted and shoved the rest of the planning committee out of the room and toward the staircases. Some preferred to wait for the elevators, but in an emergency your priority is to hustle along to your liberation in all haste and in defiance of the reluctant. As it happened, the building was entirely spared of any indignity in the realm of being mashed between pendulous breasts or flattened beneath overwhelming buttocks, whatever one may wish to imagine (and, loath though I am to admit it, I’ve been compelled inexorably to dwell upon the possibilities).
The giantess simply floated over our building.
If that sounds impossible, lords and ladies, I assure you it would not have helped to witness the spectacle firsthand. Even as I was there, in person, mano a mano with the mysterious, monstrous maternal monolith, to see this colossus transport in such a way was to chase one’s very sanity into a corner of a small room and taunt it with a firebrand until, rabid and feral, it turned upon you.
No, Miss Portillo, I do not wish to go on record as suggesting that this massive being literally floated away as some ostentatious dirigible. What you must understand is the profound control and grace with which those otherwise ungainly and immense limbs hauled her away. To see her body arch above the plaza like a surrogate sky, then to watch those huge knees unfold, all the aforementioned muscle groups conspiring with the greatest coordinated elegance to carry her across the territory… why, it was as though she were frozen in place and the earth itself lurched to wheel past her! Within a minute, this goddess-in-black had not only hoisted herself above our not-inconsiderable building, but her hips had sailed west beyond my ability to track them. Her legs rose from… no, that’s incorrect. These vast trunks descended from the heavens and balanced with ineffable delicacy upon the ground.
Oh yes, that’s the other point I wish to impress: as large as this giantess was, as heavy as she must have been, she left no mark upon the ground!
How could this be? I’ll be deuced if I’ve a shade of an inkling. Surely, what we understand of physics should dictate that not only should the loam up-heave and churn beneath her great toes, but there must be the accompanying boom of thunder where’er she may roam, no? A foot here, CRASH! A step there, Ka-BOOM! Yet as surely as I’m about to drain my glass…
…I swear unto you, in the apex of solemnity, she moved with the most complete and absolute silence. I goggled at McGuire and he at me, and poor el-Mofti looked as though he were succumbing to a swoon. We two seized his beefy biceps and dragged him away like so much cargo, don’t you know. Nearly everyone made it out of the building, fleeing for the very car park most recently overshadowed by the giantess’s right breast. I brought up the rear as we scrambled for our vehicles and glanced over the building: for my concern I was treated to 15 seconds of the most mammoth, spherical pair of…
Ah, beg pardon, ladies. The male of the species being what visual creatures we are, I’m afraid the greater constitute of my impressions center upon—oh, that Sierra Fino, yes?—that is to say, what struck me as the most pertinent were also the most prurient. Yes, laugh though you will, my friends, but every aspect of this fuliginous goddess subjugated my attention and commanded my imagination. I’m afraid I must rather lean upon our intimacy as sophisticated and established companions, begging for the nonce your latitude for my lassitude.
The fact remains that, were she of more catholic proportions, I daresay, she’d be right toothsome. A lovely lithe and lissome lass, eh wot.
Well, on she went, at any rate, crawling onward to the west with the ponderous ease of any celestial body, tending to her inscrutable ends. Yet I wasn’t quit of the mystery: I hurled myself into the Bentley, kicked her into life and tore down the avenue, hellbent for leather I can assure you! For one brief moment it seemed as though she had disappeared, but for the overcast sky about us. I had forgotten the clarity of the cerulean morning, see: had I recalled the source of the darkening atmosphere I might have anticipated what came next.
Nothing less than the woman’s foot plummeted to the earth, scant yards before my speeding vehicle. While I’ve the luxury of reflection now I will note briefly that her bulky foot seemed to be bound in some manner of close-fitting boot, all in plunging black as with the rest of her ensemble. I will also note that her darling paw was larger by half than any of our double-decker buses back home, larger than your fire trucks or cement mixers, what have you. It simply broke through the noontime atmosphere with steady and confident determination, closing the space between her heel and my tarmac too narrowly for my Bentley to skate by. I jerked the wheel, stomped the brakes, and went into a spin that nonetheless dragged me closer and closer to that fearsome feminine foot.
Obviously my number was not up, or my evening’s entertainment would denote a séance rather than a soirée. As it transpired, I merely dented the passenger door against her calx.
She noticed it not. I should say, she seemed oblivious to nearly everything about her, but for the buildings she crawled over and the streets upon which she rested her stilts. And all throughout, there was nothing to meet my ears but the workaday roar of huddled masses. No teeth-rattling collision with her shapely sole against the upper crust of the planet: not a whisper, not a peep! How could this be? I ask you.
And on she went! Far off to my south, her left leg hoisted from State St. and descended upon where it becomes Central Row; before me, her precious (if ponderous) paw lofted easily from the ground without a trace, and it tore through the downtown air to settle upon Temple St., just before their lovely City Steam Brewery. Truly a delight. Have you been? Oh, you really must. I’m particular to a pint of their Uncle Dunkel, but that’s my Deutscher Magen…
I say! Hold your horses, lords and ladies! I’m merely imparting some useful travel advice, should you ever− …oh, very well.
Well, what else is there to say? I tailed the beauteous maiden as far as was practicable: for all her cumbrous ambulation, she more than compensated with the protracted reach of her limbs. Jockeying as I did through noontime traffic in downtown Hartford, I was unable to keep pace with the statuesque… I want to call her a ninja, if that’s not too flamboyant. But the facts remain that she stepped with the most profound lightness, at times upon vehicles which themselves were left unscathed, and she did not utter, create, or elicit the slightest noise in her journey. To say nothing of her jet togs, what.
Words fail me. I can see I’m not impressing you with the sovereign surreality of watching so massive a creature pull itself along over our landscape, leaving in its wake no more evidence of its passing than that of a dense fog. So I suppose this is where my tale ends, my esteemed and bosom companions: we learned nothing more about her, she eluded all journalistic coverage, and not a whit has been heard of her since. I won’t tire you further with my addled conjecture of parallel dimensions or mass hallucination. No, I’ve to arise early tomorrow morn, for we’re on expedition to Kandahar in response to reports of sightings of… oh, toss it all.