I wrote the first part of this story on the plane from Sydney to Perth. When I landed, I sent it to David Harmon, a writer and director and nonsense idiot I’ve collaborated with for over a decade on dozens of things - most recently the Dragon Friends podcast - and told him that the next time he was on a plane, he should write part two. The next week he flew from Sydney to Melbourne and sent me this excellent new chapter.
So, that’s how I’ve decided this story is going to work. It’s going to be written by multiple writers, the only caveat being that you have to be on a plane and in the air while writing it.
You can (and if you haven’t you probably should) read part one here. Both parts have been copy edited by the wonderful and generous and terrifying Renee Ngan.
Folly’s Drop Part Two
By David Harmon
It landed on one of the vacant lots towards the centre of the property, uncomfortably close to Lockwood House itself. A muted, gentle thud announced its arrival in the middle of the night - the kind of noise that would typically make one sit up but not actually get out of bed.
In the past six months there had been precious few major drops - a fact that had only seemed to whip Marvin’s tenants into a greater fervour. A big deal had been made in the papers three weeks ago when a simple pewter cup the size of a man’s head had landed on the Dorchester claim, but otherwise Folly’s Drop had yielded nothing more exciting than a slow growing stream of gently crumbling masonry and plaster.
A thud was worth investigating. Wrapped in a nightshirt and one of his father’s old greatcoats, Marvin quickly found the bone lying in a small pile of detritus by the house’s eastern gardens. It was easy to spot in the moonlight, four feet long and uncomfortably humanoid - like it came from a person’s forearm, only bigger. Picked or bleached clean, it glinted in the dark.
So giants then. Marvin allowed himself a dollop of smug satisfaction to percolate within the automatic wonder of the find. For months he’d been engaged in a protracted letter campaign in the paper with a pair of skeptics from the University who insisted whoever constructed The Folly (as it was now called) were regular-sized men. Worse, they’d insinuated Marvin was trying to gild the lily of his venture with his assertions that the castle must have been the work of some kind of mythical builders. It seemed an unfairly arbitrary distinction: castles in the sky, fine, but giants in the sky were a bridge too far. It had gotten under Marvin’s skin, as if he had the time to sit around sewing fake nightgowns and smelting oversized cups. He grinned as he pulled off his greatcoat and wrapped up the bone safely under one arm. Those well-read gentlemen would find it hard to argue with this. Padding through the garden, Marvin made his way back into the house to properly investigate his find.
Lighting a pair of newly purchased oil lamps, Marvin unwrapped the coat slowly, taking care not to damage the bone. He needn’t have worried - far from ancient, the bone was sturdy, robust even. As he dusted the bone with a rag, he was struck for the second time just how brightly it shone in the light, like it had been carefully picked clean and polished for display. Running his fingers across it, he was surprised by the sensation; the surface was grooved and scratched all along, with a texture not unlike scrimshaw. Bringing one of his lamps in closer he peered at the bone, nestled in the dark folds of the coat. When he looked closely he could see hundreds of tiny gouges all along the bone in random patterns, as if it had been worked with a pair of tiny knives - or teeth.
Scrrtch. The sleeve of the greatcoat shifted suddenly on the table and he gave a little yelp, pulling back from the table. There was something moving about inside, all tangled up in the heavy leather. As Marvin watched, a dusty black ball the size of a fist peeked out from behind a lapel and tumbled gently onto the table. With a click its segmented form unfurled and raised itself up onto a turret of delicate legs as it gave a deep hum and vibrated, segments of carapace flexing and unflexing in a rather unsettling pattern. As the plates around the creature’s fore separated, he caught a glimpse of what looked like nested circles of tiny, flickering teeth. Marvin took another step back for good measure. As he did, the motion attracted the thing’s attention and it rippled angrily, making him freeze in place.
He could now see it was a kind of scarab - unlike any creature he’d ever seen before. The light had attracted it - woken it maybe - and it didn’t seem to be paying him any attention as long as he kept still. For now it was carefully circling the lamp, the flexing carapace taking on the rhythm of the flickering flame. Everyone now and then it would hum again and then scuttle to a new point on the table, moving distressingly quickly on its tiny legs. Staying as still as possible, Marvin found his arm reaching slowly for a twin pronged sausage fork lying on the side of the table nearest him.
As his arm stretched out, past the short sleeves of his nightshirt, Marvin swallowed, trying not to think about the meticulously stripped bone on his table, or what that kind of process might feel like on his pale, naked forearms. His fingers touched the fork’s wooden handle and as he pulled at it, the tines bumped a serving platter, causing a minor spasm in the insect which froze, and then rotated towards him. As he watched in horror, the carapace distended and for a second time he saw the neatly lined rows of flexing teeth hiding just under its chitinous shell. Shutting his eyes, Marvin snatched the fork up and stabbed down, hard.
There was a crunch, a squeal and, seconds later, a sharp smell like vinegar. Marvin opened an eye and saw the thing neatly skewered to the table, legs still flapping uselessly beneath it as a white, tarry fluid wept from its ruined shell.
With trembling fingers, Marvin very gingerly shook out the coat, and found it empty. Keeping his eyes firmly on the dying scarab, he folded the coat and put it on a shelf as he backed away from the table, feeling for the door to his bedroom as he retreated. As he passed the window, his eyes broke contact for a second and flickered up quickly to look at the shadow of the Folly floating placidly high above his home and land. It looked a good deal more decrepit than he remembered, crumbly even. As he watched, the structure seemed to sigh, as a fresh stream of plaster tumbled gently down into a field below.
In a few hours’ time the prospectors of Folly’s Drop would return, each hoping for a major break to open up right above them, depositing a cache of unknown riches directly onto their claims. The secrets of the giants of the Folly would be revealed - how they lived, and why they died. For the first time, Marvin wondered if he might be in a lot of trouble if that actually happened.