Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) - Sylvain Neuvel


It was my eleventh birthday. I’d gotten a new bike from my father: white and pink, with tassels on the handles. I really wanted to ride it, but my parents didn’t want me to leave while my friends were there. They weren’t really my friends though. I was never really good at making friends. I liked reading; I liked walking in the woods; I liked being alone. And I always felt a little out of place with other kids my age. So when birthdays came by, my parents usually invited the neighbors’ kids over. There were a lot of them, some whose names I barely knew. They were all very nice, and they all brought gifts. So I stayed. I blew out the candles. I opened the presents. I smiled a lot. I can’t remember most of the gifts because all I could think about was getting out and trying that bicycle. It was about dinnertime by the time everyone left and I couldn’t wait another minute. It would soon be dark; once it was, my father wouldn’t let me leave the house until morning.

I snuck out the back door and pedaled as fast as I could into the woods at the end of the street. It must have been ten minutes before I started slowing down. Perhaps it was getting a little too dark for comfort and I was thinking about going back. Maybe I was just tired. I stopped for a minute, listening to the wind throwing the branches around. Fall had arrived. The forest had turned into a motley landscape and given new depth to the hillsides. The air suddenly got cold and wet, as if it were about to rain. The sun was going down and the sky behind the trees was as pink as those tassels.

I heard a crack behind me. It could have been a hare. Something drew my eye to the bottom of the hill. I left my bicycle on the trail and started slowly making my way down, moving branches out of my way. It was hard to see, as the leaves hadn’t fallen yet, but there was this eerie turquoise glow seeping through the branches. I couldn’t pinpoint where it came from. It wasn’t the river; I could hear that in the distance, and the light was much closer. It seemed to be coming from everything.

I got to the bottom of the hill. Then the ground disappeared from under my feet.

I don’t remember much after that. I was out for several hours and the sun was coming up when I came to. My father was standing about fifty feet above me. His lips were moving, but I couldn’t hear a sound.

The hole I was in was perfectly square, about the size of our house. The walls were dark and straight with bright, beautiful turquoise light shining out of intricate carvings. There was light coming out of just about everything around me. I moved my hands around a bit. I was lying on a bed of dirt, rocks, and broken branches. Underneath the debris, the surface was slightly curved, smooth to the touch, and cold, like some type of metal.

I hadn’t noticed them before, but there were firemen above, yellow jackets buzzing around the hole. A rope fell a few feet from my head. Soon, I was strapped onto a stretcher and hoisted into daylight.

My father didn’t want to talk about it afterward. When I asked what I had fallen into, he just found new clever ways of explaining what a hole was. It was about a week later that someone rang the doorbell. I called for my father to go, but I got no answer. I ran down the stairs and opened the door. It was one of the firemen that had gotten me out of the hole. He’d taken some pictures and thought I’d like to see them. He was right. There I was, this tiny little thing at the bottom of the hole, lying on my back in the palm of a giant metal hand.

FILE NO. 003


Location: University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

—How big was the hand?

—6.9 meters, about twenty-three feet; though it seemed much larger for an eleven-year-old.

—What did you do after the incident?

—Nothing. We didn’t talk about it much after that. I went to school every day like any kid my age. No one in my family had ever been to college, so they insisted I keep going to