A Summer Valley

“Let me tell you a secret,” Aloise whispered.

“Do you know, once upon a time there was a season called Winter,” she blinked her eyes, trying to form a scene in her head.

“It was cold, and shiny flakes fall from the sky. Yes, bright and beautiful, like the crystals they sell in the Desert. My great grandma had seen it, but the world got warmer and warmer, and it was gone. I wish I can see it too, just like I wish you can reply to me.” She was talking to a rock in a shape of a giant skull.

The rock has three big holes, two that looked like eye-sockets, one seemed to be a screaming mouth. There was no light in the two stone eyes. Aloise put her little hands on the huge rock she sat by and set her face upon the back of her hands. She closed her eyes and felt the roughness of the rock and the warmth the sun has baked into it.

Maybe the warmth did not come from the sun. Aloise smiled at this thought.

Aloise was a sweet child with the beauty of summer. Brown hair, tanned skin, slim stature. She seemed like a little ant, vulnerable and invisible when sitting by that curiously shaped rock beside her.

“How I wish you can talk to me. I have no friends.”

She sat by this rock all day long, day after day. This may seem a little odd at first, but not to Aloise, because she knew another secret.

Her great grandma was her hero, and the secret came from her. On her deathbed, she gave Aloise a blue scarf, beautiful as the broken ice on a glacier she once described to her. She told Aloise a secret with her last breath, and Aloise never forgot the gleaming look in her eyes.

“I knew an Ice Giant when I was your age.” Her great grandma did not finish the story. The light dimmed in her eyes as she is about to say the Giant’s name.

But there were Giants. Aloise knew.

She found her own Stone Giant. She sat by his head, talked to him, trying to wake him up. But he did not speak, not even once. She had seen her great grandma die, yet she is too young to understand it.
Sometimes Aloise did leave her Giant, but she had nowhere to be and no one to spend time with. She had no friends.

Aloise’s home was in a curious place — a steep Valley, where people were all farmers. Two great kingdoms were on the two sides of the Valley. One was called Clouds; it was a world of endless black rain. The other was called Desert; it was precisely a desert where nothing lives in the wild. The two kingdoms were very very rich.

The world did not know what seasons were. There was only summer.

“I am so lonely,” Aloise whispered again while stared blankly at the patterns in the stone.

Human beings were adapted to the peculiar climate of the kingdom they live in, and the cultures were drastically different. She lived in the middle, fit into none. Still, Aloise tried to make friends, but the weather of the highlands caused her great pain. She could only talk to children on the border, and they all seemed to be along. No one talked a lot to Aloise; no one appeared to want to talk to anyone. Both the Cloudlings and the Desertlings seemed to not care about having friends.

It wasn’t like this back in her great grandma’s time. Maybe the world has changed, Aloise thought vaguely.

Aloise was truly lonely indeed. Her only comfort is talking to her Giant and looking at the beautiful scenery of her Valley. But the Giant never said a word, and her Valley was changing.

It was changing rapidly.

Aloise paid no attention to it at first. She realized that the mouth of her Giant was used as a storage room. No wonder he couldn’t talk, she thought to herself. I should clean it up. And under all the messiness Aloise found a notebook belonged to her great grandma.

The book was blank, with only a few lines of writing.

“Giants were spirits of the land. The love people gave to the earth kept them alive—Hibernis.”

That was the main writing on the page. Under it was a tiny footnote.

“They murdered them, and I killed him.”

It was written by her great grandma, Aloise knew.
So Hibernis was the Ice Giant. He died, just like her Stone Giant. They left the world, just like winter has left.

But why? Why couldn't she wake her Giant? She loved her Valley, and she loved the crops grown out of it, she loved everything that was living. But why couldn't she?

She did not know.

Aloise signed. It started raining outside.

Not the colourless, tasteless rain that she is familiar with. The rain was black, like the sky, and it gave out an uncomfortable smell. This has happened more and more often, Aloise suddenly realized. The cloud above the Valley and the rivers than ran through it became grayer every day. She didn’t like it. Every drop of the black rain ate away a little of her Giant’s body.

Then she remembered the Head of the Valley once held a meeting. He was unhappy about the Valley-dwellers kept on farming. It was maybe because the two kingdoms on the Highland were very wealthy, and farming did not earn them much.

From the children she talked to, Aloise not only knew they were rich, she also knew why. Cloudlings told Aloise that Clouds is full of factories, they made everything the world needed, and the black rain was from the black smoke and the black river. They did not stay long, but put on their mask and left. One particular kind girl explained to Aloise that the masks were necessary for them to breath. The air in Clouds could burn the lungs into ashes, but still, no Cloudlings thought their climate was odd.

Aloise also talked to Desertlings. They sell everything that can be dug up from the ground. Gems, fuel, anything. They were expensive, as the children told Aloise. They sold them to Clouds, and Clouds made things out of it. Desertlings were not worried about the source of their wealth drying up. They did not think about it at all. Their whole kingdom was built in a gigantic hole, dug up by men. They processed the valuables they dug up in the wild fields.

Desert also produced electricity with a mysterious way Aloise did not understand. Stations were built in the wild fields as well. One boy told her that back in the days something happened to one of them. No more wildlife existed after that. No Desertlings seemed to notice it, or if they did, they did not care.

Aloise recalled the Head talking about starting to do the same thing in the Valley and make them rich too. Aloise did not understand it at the time, but now she thought it must have been a bad idea. She would not trade her beautiful summer flowers and butterflies for a so-called better life that she had never known.

“Maybe they could do it in another way, not causing black rain to fall or flowers to die.” Aloise murmured to herself.

“I should go out and see what was happening in the Valley.”

She hesitated a little, but still grabbed her umbrella and went toward the Village. She did not forget, of course, to say goodbye to her Giant.

Aloise was shocked and horrified by what she saw. The lake in the middle of the Valley was one of the most beautiful places that Aloise knew. It was clear blue, with birds floating on it. But it disappeared.

What took its place was a den of colourful, sticky liquid. On the side of the pool stood the tallest building she had ever seen. It was an enormous, pale monster, with seven chimneys. The foul breath of the terrifying beast went out of its seven noses and into the air. A gray cloud formed above its head. People walked in and out of its mouth, in between doors made from steel bars, which troublingly resembled teeth. Aloise recognized some of them. They used to work in the fields next to her house.

She did not greet them but ran forth. She saw more smoke-breathing monsters. She also saw monsters half-buried in big holes in the ground, digging.

So the Valley-dwellers took both things from both sides. Aloise started to tear up a little, but she did not know why.

She found out why soon afterward. The sky was covered with clouds same coloured like the clouds from Clouds, and no sunlight is let through. Under the gloomy sky was an army of foul-smelling factory monsters. They have already taken up the northern half of the Valley, and they are craving for the other.

Aloise couldn't think anymore. She did not want flowers or birds or butterflies or clear lake to be taken from her. She was not ready for it. She did not want her Valley to become a place no longer beautiful, no longer could people live happily and healthily. Most of all, she couldn't imagine what will happen to her Giant. Is he going to be cut into pieces and be used to build more factories? No!

She couldn’t let it happen.

Aloise used all her strength to run back to her Giant. The black rain stopped.

“I am going to call you Hibernis...That’s the only Giant name I know.”She spread her arms and hugged the hard rock. It was still warm.

“I don’t want my Valley to be like this...It’s so...so...so…”Her words were cut off by a sob.

“I wish it is how it was before. I want to winter back, and autumn, and spring. I hope I can see the world my great grandma used to see...But I can’t…” Aloise pressed her cheek against the rock skull.

“Hibernis, what can I do?”

Strangely her tears stopped. She sensed something.
The rock was warmer than before.

She sat up, and saw the hollow stone eyes gleaming under the summer sun.


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