He didn't used to be like this, you know. He used to be normal, he thinks—sometimes it's hard to remember, because he was so young. He's always been a giant, yes, which is a little unusual in its right, especially because he was raised in a human village. The woman who took him in was kind, but her husband was not. Not when his adopted child grew into a monster.

Oh, he never caused any trouble. Not more than any normal child might cause. But every time he ate more food than he was allowed, every time he accidentally broke a fishing rod or a canning jar because he forgot his strength, every time he came home bleeding and sniffling from the village square because the other children had asked him to play and this time he decided to give them one more chance and trust that their intentions were good, there was punishment. His father was the town doctor, and owned a lot of sharp instruments that he never learned the name of, even later, and he always knew he was about to be in trouble because his mother would give him a sorrowful look and back out of the room.

But life was not necessarily bad for him. Not at first. His mother was a good woman, though she couldn't protect him; she sang to him and told him stories and let him talk and talk to her all day long, words he couldn't say to his father or to anyone in the village because there was a certain look in their eye when he spoke, a cold and unforgiving look like the stare of a stranger to a man with a bounty new in town. Fathers put hands on their daughters' shoulders when he walked by; mothers ushered their sons inside when he waved to them. So he only spoke to his mother, really. And he spoke all the time, for hours, and sometimes she would tell him to slow down so he could breathe, but she laughed when she did. He would laugh with her, and the oddness of it never bothered her. He loved her so much it almost hurt.

The problem came when his father was around, listening. He talked and talked to his mother while she made dinner, not noticing the tension in her shoulders because his father was just in the next room hearing every word…he was safe for a while. A long time. But not forever.

Because one day, he sat in front of the fire talking to his mother while she knitted, staring into the flames and chatting away, and he didn't notices the heavy fall of footsteps behind him until it was too late. What happened afterward is hazy and unclear, but he remembers the moment when a rough hand grabbed him by the collar and hauled him away from the fire, and the way his mother almost shrieked but muffled it into her hands, and the way his blood ran cold despite the warmth of the fire as he was dragged away. He remembers the look on his mother's face, and he remembers thinking that this time, he would not get better in a few days. This time, something bad was going to happen, and this time, like always, his mother wouldn't be able to make his father stop.

He doesn't remember waking up. He doesn't remember the pain, as more than a foggy recollection of gasping sobs whenever he tried to move his mouth. He doesn't remember much of the arduous recovery. All he really remembers is the horror on his mother's face, the bitter sobbing, the way she could never quite look at him the same again and really smile.

He knows that it was hard to do anything other than lie prone and stare at the ceiling, and that his mother fed him and that it wasn't easy to do. He recalls the whispered urgency in her voice to stay away from the village the first time he was able to leave the house again, the way she told him to keep to the forest with fear in her eyes.

He remembers the first time he broke that rule. He remembers the scream. He remembers the rock that hit his shoulder. He remembers that they called him a monster. He remembers how his mother hugged him and told him, sadly, with pain in her voice, that he needed to listen next time, and he remembers telling her that he would, that he would never talk to anyone again, and he remembers how she cried more than he did.

He has a memory of triumph. The day he left the village and went away to become strong, how his mother cried and his father didn't get out of bed at dawn when he went away. He wanted to become a Marine, but they wouldn't have him; they told him his skill set did not match their requirements, and he was confused. No one had ever lied to him before. He told them they were lying, because he thought that they should know, and there was a long, awkward silence, and then he went away and didn't go back.

But he trained. He had to become strong, because he'd told his mother he would. He trained every day in a field behind the apartment he had rented that was too small and that the owner had given to him cheap because he seemed honest (he had eventually worked that out to mean that the man was afraid of him). And one day, a lot of people in black attacked the town and killed the mayor, and he tried to fight back because someone had to. But the man in charge of them all had simply taken a punch to the gut with absolutely no effect and had looked at him strangely with an odd glint in his eye, and the next week some other people in black had come for him and offered him a job. He had taken it, because there was nothing else for him to do and nowhere else for him to go.

It had taken years to become strong enough, but he eventually made it to the very top. Before he joined, they had asked him if he would be able to live only on the island with no one else knowing his name or who he was, and he thought of his mother and how he would never be able to go e tookback to her, and he had agreed.

It was good to be strong, good to have somewhere to belong, good to associate with people who, while they might not like him, did not fear or hate him and did not find him to be a disgusting abomination. It was nice to have a place in the world. But he noticed, at some point, that his place was contaminated with rumors; lies and half-truths and spiteful speculation whispered behind hands into eager ears, and some of it, a lot of it was about him.

He felt sick. He felt used. He felt vengeful. And it had to stop.

One of the office girls had recently fought with her husband. He had heard her telling a friend during her coffee break, mournful and embittered and close to tears. At the time he felt sorry for her, and had wanted to offer a kind word. But it was all he had to go on, because he knew her name and her husband's name and she was pretty and young and people would find her interesting to talk about, he knew, because he never missed anything; he was observant.

People talked. He told them, and they talked. About the girl and her husband, and not about him, not anymore. The girl was distraught. She and her husband divorced because of it, and he felt like a monster, but at least no one else was whispering the very same thing behind his back.

But he had a job to do, and he always did it without hesitation. He was the one who never cut corners and never sat back and watched; he was first in line, always, because he had to have his place. Talking was part of his place; it was what he did best, and sometimes it got him into trouble, but it helped him too. He gossiped and spread rumors without thought for the consequences, whenever he possibly could.

Because if no one could love him, at least no one could find time to hate him, either.