“Tell me, very quietly, what you see,” said Caleb.

Trace could only stutter, incoherent at the sight.

“I know it’s scary, whatever it is. But Sister and I are counting on you. You’re our eyes. She can’t climb that tree with that leg of hers, and I’m too big.”

The boy was hyperventilating in a panic now, wobbling in the pine tree’s crown.

“You can do it, Trace,” Caleb said. He quietly positioned himself to try to catch Trace if he toppled from the boughs. “Tell me what you see.”

“Breathe, Trace!” Sister cried. “You got this, brother!”

“It’s…it’s huge,” Trace gasped. “Taller than the trees. I see arms, legs, but they’re like…they’re huge.” He stopped for a moment, blinded by wonderment despite his terror. “Woah. It’s a giant, like in the old stories, a mechanical giant.”

“And what’s it doing?” Caleb said.

Trace looked back across the valley and his panic returned. “It’s looking for us. Pulling apart trees, moving rocks…”

The crashing and grinding noises in the distance were taking on another tenor, moving into a series of staccato beats, each louder than the last. It was as if tremendous fists were beating the bruised earth, trying to shake the last life out of it.

“IT’S COMING!” shrieked Trace. “IT HEARD US!”

“Get down!” Caleb shouted. “Get down from there!” He unlimbered his assault rifle, clicking the safety off and racking the action, hoping that the sear would hold.

Trees up and down the valley were splintering in the path of the colossus, and Trace was frozen in the pine crown, watching saucer-eyed as taller and older trunks were shattered.

Sister, though, reacted with steely-eyed determination. She was already at the trunk before Caleb had finished speaking, kicking off her mechanical blade and hauling herself up the branches with just her arms and one living leg.

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