The Gargantua of Barkhamstead, CT

He more than surpassed the usual records for size in the old Guinness book all before he even turned a year old. By thirteen, at 152 feet tall, 205 tons heavy, and a shoe size of 880, he was already larger than the Statue of Liberty by just that much, and while true, there were bigger human-like statues in the world, there were at that time no bigger humans anywhere. As a grown adult, all measurements and comparisons became all but an exercise in futility. While Anselm of Canterbury’s famous philosophical nugget was meant for no more than to illuminate the splendor of God to the unbelievers of old, someone nonetheless must have imagined as an intellectual curiosity the largest possible human being, one that could not be possibly any bigger if anyone could even try. That intellectual curiosity would emerge in Barkhamstead, CT.

He more than surpassed the usual records for size in the old Guinness book all before he even turned a year old.

He was by all accounts a healthy newborn baby, and in that sense his first few days in the world were perhaps the one time in his life in which his mother loved him the most, completely and unconditionally. Nor was this mother alone in those early days; though the saying it takes a village to raise a child is of course usually meant metaphorically, this child needed the literal entire town of Barkhamstead to preserve his life, and to their credit the town was more than willing to rise to the occasion. By the time of his first birthday he could no longer fit in the family house, so several well-meaning folks in the neighborhood who were carpenters by trade built for him a larger shed out in their backyard where he could be shielded from the elements. These carpenters, it should be said, were all doing this work while both marveling at the simple novelty of the large baby boy, and also wary that perhaps in a year or two this shed would need to be torn down and built even bigger (indeed, after his eighteenth birthday, he would never set foot in an enclosed space again).

The first brick in the pyramid of his needs seen to, it was yet another daily grand adventure for the town to feed and clothe the large boy. Several thousands of pounds of meat and vegetables a day were ordered and delivered from local farmsteads in what could be called the first farm-to-jowl operation. The boy grew in years and grew on in size, and in the end the farmers stopped sending the animals to the slaughterhouse first and simply sent them still alive to him. Local springs and public reservoirs alike diverted several thousands of gallons of water supply to keep the boy hydrated, and a separate sanitation facility was built just outside the environs of the town to properly deal with his liquid and solid waste alone. Special textiles had to be sewn out of sheets of cloth often spanning a quarter of a mile, reinforced by several layers of the stuff, and stitched together by a thin and pliable steel alloy. Any time the boy tore a seam, found a hole in a sock, or wore out a knee on his pants, it took them at least a month to darn back together; if it was necessary, it took several more months to make replacement garments for him.

His schooling, once he grew old enough to start it, was a challenge as much as anything else. Special tutors were summoned to the boy’s house to blast through loudspeakers various lessons on English grammar, basic arithmetic, and world history. As the boy grew older, the tutors and their loudspeakers needed to be flown in by helicopter to reach him at his own eye-level. While the enormous costs of all these services were offset a bit by local and state government subsidies and ordinances, a good portion of them were still covered by his parents out-of-pocket. They had planned several trips around the world in their youth, and had to give all of them up around the third year of their son’s life.

Of course, a boy old enough to go to school is a boy old enough to start playing outside and making friends, and while this was also an ordeal for all involved, it was not impossible at first. He attracted the attention of some boys and girls his age who, like many in the town, were in awe of the sheer biological marvel of his size. His voice, even at a whisper, bellowed throughout the town loud enough for any of the children down below to hear him, and his ears were big enough to pick up any of the young ones’ words in reply, even at a whisper. But the fun soon ended for the large boy. Due to his girth and power, it was dangerous to get into quarrels with his playmates, as young children otherwise do, as any argument started with him would be by default won by him every time, with potentially harmful and even fatal consequences for the other children.

Mere running about soon became out of the question as well, as it was at first the cause of undue cracks in the ground, upended trees, and later on in his life full-fledged earthquakes. This of course also ruled out any possibility that he could engage in sports of any kind. Due to safety concerns for the town, any temper tantrums had to be highly regulated. For the good of everyone around him, whenever he felt angry he was required to shake his fists at the sky above him. While this was certainly better than any alternatives, it was not a perfect expedient for the problem, as the townspeople noted a rather gustier day in general when the boy was in one of his moods, and there was even the one occasion where he almost struck an airplane in the middle of takeoff.

Several thousands of pounds of meat and vegetables a day were ordered and delivered from local farmsteads in what could be called the first farm-to-jowl operation.

Eighteen years is quite a bit of time and physical and emotional effort to ask an entire town to give to one large boy, as you can imagine. On his eighteenth birthday, then, the large boy became a large man, and with this milestone in his life now reached the town of Barkhamstead absolved itself of its immense responsibilities to him. The giant now had to take giant steps out into the world and make a life for himself.

But what was the big man to do with himself? There were not many opportunities for traditional employment available to him, as he could not even fit in the buildings of most workplaces, let alone perform the minuscule labor the jobs required. From Barkhamstead he took a quick stroll to the edge of the Hudson Bay and fixed himself a snack of blue whale, the largest animal and thus the most meat he could attain for himself at the moment, and got to thinking. Maybe a life of living off the sweat of his brow, a life off the fat of the land, was not in his future. Maybe instead, he had a future as an artist?

He only had himself at that moment, and the clothes on his back, and the chewy bones of the whole blue whale he had in his mouth after he sucked clean all the meat and blubber and baleen he could. He remembered a few popular songs in his youth, and decided perhaps that might be a good place to start. After all, if one wants to sing, all one needs is himself and a song.

The next thing he knew, he heard the faint tremor of a young man singing a beautiful operatic aria, somewhere far away, perhaps around the Pacific Ocean. He listened to the song all the way to the end, applauded the young man silently in his own head (to clap physically, of course, was to bring with that act an undue risk of massive damage all around him), and took the words and melody to heart. Then, once he acquired the whole thing, he sang it out loud, to himself, to anyone and no-one who might be around him.

Those who heard him had to admit at first that he had a beautiful singing voice. The problem was, once he finished his first song, he sang it again, and sang it again. When he tired of that song, he learned another, and sang it over and over again. Those within earshot of him, which is to say those within several thousands of miles of him, had no choice but to listen to each song, each musical whim, each little mistake and hiccup, and all without a volume dial, let alone one that switches the whole thing on or off. The more the little people of the world heard the giant’s singing, the more they resented it. Why do we have to keep hearing his voice? Can’t someone a little smaller than him get a chance for once? It did not take much time for laws to be passed on a national level that unconditionally banned him from singing forever, for the good of society. Just in the nick of time, the little people of the world saved opera as we know it.

What else, then? Perhaps an author, a spinner of tales and thrills? He had a good story or two in his head, but by that time of course no one was willing to build for him enough massive notepads of paper for him to write, even if there was the world’s largest no. 2 pencil in Malaysia that was his for the taking. Perhaps he could employ an amanuensis for dictation, then? It was a splendid idea. The ideas were all there, all he had to do was shout to a little person down below, and they would take care of the particulars. Words, after all, don’t have a size, so even if his voice was too loud for most, they could be written on small paper in small script, and given to small people to read just as good.

The solution, like most things in the unfortunate giant’s life, soon became another problem. Truth be told, he was, first of all, not as good of an author as he appeared to be in his own mind, which was perhaps no major calamity in itself. But once again, his thunderous voice was to be this latest endeavor’s undoing. The little people of the world within earshot of him could hear the composition of the large man’s not-great works at every stage. Every draft of every chapter, every revision, every suggestion to improve the story that they could tell would not work anyway, every obvious and embarrassing self-insertion of the author into his inept characters and plots. It took several years for the giant to flesh out and finally publish his first novel, and once it arrived on the shelves of bookstore it met with a rather… disappointing reception. After all statistics and adjustments were made, it was discovered that not a single copy of novel was sold. No, not a soul in the world bothered to read the giant’s book, and why would they? Even if it wasn’t unreadable, they were already privy to every detail of the book. Once again, while the little people of the world failed to come out in droves to partake of his story, they did so indeed to the grand halls of government, to put laws on the books silencing him forever, for the good of society.

It did not take much time for laws to be passed on a national level that unconditionally banned him from singing forever, for the good of society. Just in the nick of time, the little people of the world saved opera as we know it.

It seemed there was nothing the giant could physically do, and if he pushed it much more the little people of the world would probably show him there was nothing he could audibly say either. He was simply on the world to exist, to consume the planet’s resources to stay alive as well as anyone else on the planet would. But just as Barkhamstead banished him from the city confines on account of being too big for them, so too did most of the other major and minor cities of the world. What was he to do? If this went on much further, he thought one day, he may be forced to jump off the earth and try his luck among the planets and the stars.

Soon it even became difficult to have emotions. One does not stop growing, you see, simply after their eighteenth birthday, and so neither did the giant stop growing. Unfortunately, as he grew he found that what small motions he utilized to express his emotions safely around other little people of the world, for the sake of their safety, were now too dangerous to use as well.

One day, in a fit of anger, he did as he normally did when angry and snapped his fingers. That act apparently sent a small wave of force that overturned several cars on a highway a few miles from where he was standing. Each of the five injured drivers took him to court for damages. Standing trial several miles outside a courthouse as a loudspeaker blasted a live sound recording of the trial to where he could hear it, all while replying to his questions in his bellowing voice loud enough for the court to hear, they eventually found him guilty of undue negligence and forced him to pay hefty penalties to compensate the drivers.

The stress of the trial made him less careful, more erratic. He really should have known better, but in another spell of anger he stamped his foot. This caused an earthquake in the town that killed fifty-six people and injured five hundred more. This made it a criminal case. He was once again quickly found guilty, but while one would usually expect the sentencing easier than the trial in most cases, in this one it was the opposite that was true. How, the courts wondered, do we enforce this verdict? What value do we put on the undue harm his mere existence has cause the little people of the world? And beside that point, how do we expect him to pay any monetary damages? What job could he possibly do that would allow him income to repay society for his crimes? What then, do we imprison him? How do we build a prison big enough to lock him up? Where would we get the food and water needed to keep him alive during his incarceration? What then, do we execute him? Never mind if we deliberate the ethics of such an act, but how would we even do that? Even if we could build a sword or axe big enough for his neck, there are no people alive as large as he is to bring it down on the also-enormous chopping block we would need for such a beheading. How many thousands of gallons of poison do we manufacture within how large a syringe do we also manufacture to administer lethal injection? How many tons of coal do we dig from the earth to power enough electricity to surge through the largest chair in the world directly to his brain? Do we dare use our nuclear capabilities on him?

During this trial, he accidentally wiped sweat off his brow, which caused a flash flood in a neighboring town that killed 80 people, injured another 500, and completely displaced everyone who was lucky or unlucky enough to survive. Another case was filed against him for this. We would be here all night if we summarized every criminal case of negligence against the giant. It should also be noted that although each case has found him guilty, not a single one to date has actually sentenced him yet, and even now, who knows how many years since passed, those trials are still in session and those lawyers, old feeble men and women themselves now, are still debating them.

He was simply on the world to exist, to consume the planet’s resources to stay alive as well as anyone else on the planet would.

Amid his many trials he was one day approached by a man in uniform. How would you like to see the world, the man asked him. The giant shrugged, he could walk anywhere in the world he wanted to go in a relatively short time. The question was, did people around the world want him walking to them? That’s just what I mean, the uniformed man replied. What if we tell you to walk to a country we’re at war with? The giant winced at this, knowing where it was going to go from there. He walked away from the man, but due to his large ears he could still hear what he was saying as he left. Sure, just go to some country we tell you, and just do your thing. You don’t even really have to fight them technically, you just have to live next to them. You know, eat all their farm animals, empty entire supermarkets day by day, soak up all their water reservoirs, pollute their lands with your piss and shit, eat and shit them out of house and home and country. Between you and our nuclear arsenal, we’d be the strongest country in the world! 

He thought it would be for the best if he exiled himself as far away from as many little people of the world as he possibly could. He reached the far northern tundra of North America and decided to stay there. Most of the indigenous people around there, in response to his arrival, decided to pack up and leave themselves, grumbling to him at this point we’re well used to being told by white men we can’t live where we’ve been living for hundreds of years, what’s another large white man to us?

He munched on another tiny blue whale to stop the grumbling in his stomach, he swallowed another glacier to quench his throat. He sat on a mound of snow, ate and made water, breathed in and breathed out. If he did nothing much physically, there was a storm of various wild emotions swirling about in his heart, and one stood out among them. Why? Why keep on? Why keep sitting here, doing nothing? Why keep myself alive if it causes so many people so much pain? His wide ears could hear every grumbling of every little person in the world, and all of them were unanimous: there was nothing the large man could do to benefit them, and myriad opportunities of things he could do to harm them.

A local chaplain, wandering around the tundra wondering where all the indigenous people he had meant to convert had gone off to, noticed the giant weeping, causing more glaciers with his tears for every one he swallowed for water. What’s the matter, my large son, the chaplain inquired, like how they do, and he told him everything.

Oh, no no no, my large son. You must not ever think this way, he told the giant then. Life is a gift from God almighty, and it’s the greatest gift of all. To throw away your own life is the only sin God can’t forgive, that great sin of despair, you see, the sin of telling God once and for all that your broken heart and soul is beyond the aid of His infinite mercy and grace. You see, my large son, God has a purpose for everyone, every living thing lives and breathes and praises the name of the Lord on High. He even has a purpose for you! There is something special inside the hearts of everyone on the earth, something you have, something you can do, something you can give to the world, that not a single other person can! You just have to find it for yourself.

The chaplain was satisfied with his advice and went on his way. While it otherwise did the giant absolutely no good, of course, it gave him the only reason why he ultimately never did decide to kill himself.

Instead, he rose from the snowy mound of the tundra and wandered the earth, stumbling across any town he could, beseeching them in vain if there was anyone there willing to give him a chance, let him find out what was special in his heart, what he could give to the world that no one else could. Every time, the little people of the world locked their doors and shuttered their windows.

He reached his old hometown of Barkhamstead, CT before he finally had no energy in him to walk anymore. He lied down on his side and wept. When he raised the call once again to give him a chance, let him find what’s special in his heart, he was at first glad to see a group of men approach him, but discouraged to find out they were merely constructing a conduit of pipes to channel his tear water to other outlets so as not to flood their town.

The last person he called out to was his mother, and she did not answer. With his large ears, he could hear her carrying on with her life, talking to others in the town, talking to her husband, doing the best she could to ignore the pleas of her large son.

It was not until the last few moments of his life that the giant even realized he was starving to death. Just before he took his last breath, the last thought he let dance around in his mind was I’m starving? Well then, I’m a little smaller than I was for the little people of the world. I’m glad I could at least do that for them…

It was not until the last few moments of his life that the giant even realized he was starving to death.

The giant died at 34 and a half years old, at an astronomical, impossible to calculate weight, lying supine near the outskirts of Barkhamstead. He died, of course, as all men big or small do, but this is not the end of the story.

First of all, it’s a well-known fact that when people die, their bodies expel all the waste in their colon, and this man, though he was the largest who ever lived, was no exception. A putrid cesspool surrounded the dead giant and made stepping out from indoors in Barkhamstead nearly impossible. Also due to this, not a single sanitation crew in the world dared to approach the mountain corpse of the big man and begin the work of disposing it properly. In what would have been an abnormally large Tibetan-style sky burial, the birds of prey of Barkhamstead would have simply spent weeks upon weeks picking clean the decaying body of the giant until they left behind an enormous bleached skeleton, which someone could then possibly repurpose into a public work of art. The layer of filth around the body discouraged even the hawks and vultures from their duty.

Time went on, and the giant’s body simmered into an unbearable stew of decaying flesh and simmering soupy fecal matter. The powerful stench even started to seep into the less-than-a-millimeter spaces between the shuttered windows and the windowpanes. The townspeople had enough. For whatever reason, they decided the best course of action was to blow up the corpse with stockpiles of dynamite. The force of the blast would hopefully disintegrate the rest of corpse into microscopic pieces of dust mid-explosion, they thought. Just a single unpleasant boom and the little people of the world would never have to trouble themselves with the giant ever again, they thought.

They thought wrong.

The blast instead sent the entire corpse toward the town. A milkshake of pink and red half-rotten innards, chunks of tubes and shards of white bone fragments, shanks of black necrotic skin as big as quilts, all were sent hurtling and splattering onto the people of Barkhamstead, their houses, their parks, their cars, their roads, their dogs chained to a fence in the backyard. Everyone in Barkhamstead choked on the stench of the rotting corpse parts, the bile and stomach acid still left over in his guts, and of course the last remnants of his befoulment.

Barkhamstead was now completely unlivable. Those who did not pass away from the sheer toxicity of the melange of the giants rotting body and shit were evacuated by the government. As luck had it, there was another town called Barkhamstead in Ohio, and thinking that would be as good a place as any they all relocated back to Barkhamstead.

The site of Ground Zero became a national emergency and a major public health hazard. Sanitation specialists came in with flamethrowers and hazmat suits and burned everything to the ground, every building in the former town of Barkhamstead and every dangling rotten piece and stagnant puddle of the giant’s exploded corpse alike. The flames made smoke that filled the air and blackened the sky above them, and unfortunately for them it was a bit of a blustery day that day. The poisonous fumes from the fires of Barkhamstead intermingled with the giant’s corpse blew to hundreds of towns nearby within a radius of a hundred miles. Anyone unlucky enough to not leave any of those towns did not see the sun rise for a week, and once the black clouds finally blew away those same unlucky people all came down with various chronic health issues, all of which are far to numerous to summarize in their entirety here.

Some experts say that it will take perhaps a hundred more years or so before the site of the former town of Barkhamstead will even be safe to approach, let alone erect memorials to all the brave men and women who risked their lives cleaning the place and evacuating the others. The Ground Zero site nonetheless became a rallying point for those in power all over the world who insisted that people were slowly and irrevocably destroying the planet. The crater of filth galvanized people all over the world into enacting significant environmental reforms, ensuring that they would all still be around a hundred years later to set up those memorials for the former folks of Barkhamstead, and hopefully for several hundreds and thousands of more years after that. The crater of filth, by utterly destroying a large swath of land for all time, ultimately saved the rest of the land for all the little people of the earth. Never again, they vowed then. We only have one planet, folks. We already saw the devastation one large man can wreak upon the world, in life as well as death, consuming and despoiling everything in its path, a burden to every living thing around it for his entire life, and even to this day long after his death. If just one large man is capable of such devastation, what can we expect from seven billion people altogether? No, we will take care of the one home we have. We will never forget the lessons of the foul giant, nor we ever allow the likes of him to happen again.

So you see, the old chaplain was right. God really did have a purpose for the Gargantua of Barkhamstead, CT.

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