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ronald andrés moore


For Scott.

First draft.

I stood in quiet prayer in front of the colossus. I was not a religious man. I was barely a good man. I worked in food service most of my life and had become a bit of a slob before the war. Though I was born a big boy, I had become overweight, sluggish and apathetic as a man. I lived alone and didn’t have much to offer a woman. 

When the military came to our Province to build a large robot to fight the alien invaders, I volunteered to work on the construction of the machine but was chosen to be a janitor. It was dishonorable. What would my mother think of me then? I did my job though and I worked hard. The large robot was erected quite quickly. The skeleton of the thing was made of reinforced steel and in the center of the chest was some sort of control console for an operator to turn it on.

It looked like the giant skeleton of a demon of some sort, hunched over and exhausted. It would have had a samurai helmet but that part had not been finished. An attack had befallen our village and after the black ooze had settled and the bunker had been destroyed. I was the only survivor, having run into the woods alone.

For weeks, it was just me and the big guy. The first week, I slept in the woods. The tentacle creatures killed each other and the spores settled and there was nothing left of the enemy. The village was gone and only the sound of nature called out. During the second week, I slept at the foot of the giant. He was like a giant Buddha statue like those in my village as a child. There was a comfort there.

Since the military had come to the village, I had tried to work out and had slimmed down some, but I was still much too large to crawl inside the machine. Instead, I fashioned rope ladders and crawled inside the broken glass chest of the Frame, where the controls were.

There, I was troubled by many dreams, where I fought off many pixies and imps, who wanted to crawl into my skin. After many nights, I stopped fighting in the dream.

I woke up with a thought that was not my own. I looked out over the broken window of the Frame to see a wolf seated at the foot of the giant machine. I threw food at it, but it didn’t move. It did nothing but wait. Even when I yelled, it did nothing but sit quietly.

I climbed down the rope ladder, one step at a time, expecting the thing to start pacing or howling at me, but it did nothing. When I approached it, it walked toward the wood, where I had hidden. There was nothing left for me to do, so I followed and with each step, it moved a step faster.

I walked faster then it trotted, so I jogged. Then it ran and I followed.

As I looked around, I was running with a pack of wolves through the wood. I was much too large and after a few moments, I had to stop. I could hear nothing but my heart in my ears. I was not a runner. The wolf pack returned to me and encouraged me to continue alongside them. I had no choice. I had to. What kind of experience was this? So I followed, I pushed myself to run with them until we reached a small stream, where they surrounded me. Their fear pushed against me. I ran my hands along their lean backs. I looked out along the stream where a large white wolf stood.

He called out with a howl and breathlessly, exhausted, I called out too.

“What is your name?” The white wolf asked me.

“Shi-“ I paused in amazement. I was talking to a wolf. “Shigeru.”

“Did you call me here, Shigeru?” The wolf asked quietly.

I looked around, worried. I had no idea that there had been any calling to a wolf. But I recalled the conversations of some monks that said they prayed for the large body of the robot to be inhabited by a Yokai.

“Are you Yokai?” I asked.

“No.” The wolf laughed. “I am much more powerful than the Yokai, who have crawled over you in your dreams.”

“You are Okami.” I said, though I didn’t know how I would know it. I was not religious.

“I am.”

“Shigeru, your world is in great danger.”

I nodded.

“What would you give to protect this world, Shigeru?”

I thought hard. I was not liked. Even if I could get to another province, I would find that I was still me. I was still fat and unattractive.  “I am no one, great Okami. If my heart was worthy, I would give my life to see it protected.” I thought of carrots and beets and ginger and how they grew. Perhaps it was not for me to save mankind, but I could save Earth to grow.

“You have great honor.” Okami spoke quietly.

“Will you give your life as protector?”

Suddenly my heart felt a great fear, even though my life had amounted to nothing, I didn’t want to die.

I waited. There was silence. The wolves around me did not move. “Yes.” I answered. “I will give my life.”

The wolves immediately howled and started biting my arms and legs. They tore at me with their claws and I cried in pain, falling on the ground, where I bled. But I did not fight them. In that moment Okami approached my bleeding body and began licking my wounds. I could feel that the bone in one leg was broken and even fingers had been torn off. I laid broken. Okami licked and as he did, he disappeared. When I woke up, the wolves were gone and felt great strength rippling throughout me. I returned to the Frame and as I put my hand on its leg, the thing lit up.

There I stood in quiet prayer and supplication to Okami who lived within me as the Frame began to take life. The weeds grew up around the skeletal frame and the howling of wolves throughout the woods called to me. Bark grew quickly from the steel, wrapping around it like skin. I climbed up the rope and weeds and flowers ran alongside me.

The magic of the Earth and the old Gods shined in the morning light. As I sat down inside the console, I watched the glass chamber seal up as the lights turned on and a smile grew across my face. I could see as the head of the machine could see.  It was as much me as I was it. Man, God and machine had become one.

I could hear a familiar voice calling to me, that of Futsunushi as it was waking up. Others were pulling together as well.

“Shigeru-Nokami, online.”