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The Slumbering Giant

     There was once a giant stone face that looked over a sleepy valley. The face sat halfway up a steep mountain wall bordering the valley on the north. Two enormous boulders had somehow wedged themselves into the mountainside beside each other. A thick line of evergreens stood above them, and in the round curves beneath the boulders, scrappy shrubs poked out like so many eyelashes. And just below the giant’s closed eyes was a long ridge that curved up slightly at its ends like the faintest of smiles.

    Of course, it wasn’t really a giant. At least, not when its only company was birds, squirrels, and other four-legged animals. No, the stone didn’t have a face until there were people to see it and to give it a name. “It” soon became a “he” and quickly became known as the Slumbering Giant. There was something about the look on the giant’s face and its sheer enormity that suggested safety for the people who came to witness this natural marvel. So they stayed and formed a village.

     The giant’s face was friendly then, grinning and green, even well into the summer. And while he had quickly become a symbol of peace and rest for those who gazed upon him, there were a handful who feared what he might say to the people who lived there, if the giant were ever to wake. Despite these minor misgivings, word spread, and soon the Slumbering Giant became the imagined protector and patron saint to an entire township.

    But, like any town, not even a giant could protect it from the subtle enemies of disease, neglect, and poverty. The haphazardly constructed shacks at the edges of the town soon fell into disrepair and collapsed, constricting its borders and causing the town itself to tremble ever so slightly from the trauma.

     One of the men at the north end of town—just below the Slumbering Giant—had come from a mining village on the other side of the mountain. He had brought with him a pickaxe and, at a loss for how to provide for his seven ravenous children, began hammering away at the base of the steep stone wall. By the next full moon, the mountain had begrudgingly divulged its veins of deep red iron ore. 

      Some in the town swore that the line of trees above the giant’s sleeping eyes had furrowed then, as if the Slumbering Giant was having an unpleasant dream. But now that profit was in the air, fewer and fewer of the townspeople looked up to the skies, let alone the mountain.