by Sara Finnerty
Sadie was as big as a tree. She was as tall as the tallest tree, and at her hips as wide as the widest. Her skin was many rusty colors all at once, and her hair was the kind of red that made you feel like you might be dreaming. When she blinked, sometimes an eyelash would fall, big as a feather, swaying with the air, onto the ground.
When she was young and able to fit through the doorways of school buildings, kids craned their necks up to look at her and called out, “How’s the air up there?”
From high above she wasn’t sure if they were making fun of her. But she figured they probably were.
Soon she was too big for doorways anyway.
The Sierra Nevada Giant Sequoias are the largest living things on this planet earth. They are not the tallest, but they are the largest. They have the most volume. They take up the most space.
Sadie grew. She was too big for anyone to see her eyes, her face. As she grew, so did her hair. It grew in straight lines and snaked curls and calm, windy waves. It grew and stuck to her body. It grew and made cracks in her skin. Her arms, thin compared to her massive body, reached out for someone who could heed her.
The root system of the Sequoia is unusually shallow, but they compensate for their shallow roots by extending them outwards, in excess of thirty feet, and tangling and braiding their roots together with the underground arms of neighboring Giant Sequoia. In this way, they anchor each other for thousands of years.
Sadie slept in a meadow big enough to contain her. She touched her nose and felt it getting longer and fatter. She cried sticky tears into the grass. Her tears stuck to her face. Her tears stuck to her body.
Sometimes Sadie sat and lowered her head to look at the people that passed by. She wondered if any of them would talk to her. She said, “Hello.”
Her hair swept onto the ground and tripped everything it touched. Sometimes she didn’t mean to hurt anyone, but sometimes she did.
Sometimes she wanted to hurt them.
The Giant Sequoia’s bark can be up to five feet thick. The thickness of its bark is one reason why the Sequoia is essentially fireproof, this and its tendency to retain moisture.
Boys jabbed holes in Sadie’s ankles. She was a giant.
“I am a giant.”
Sadie wanted to cut herself into pieces, smaller.
The whole world was big enough for millions of Sadies, but she felt too big for the world.
“You are a fat giant.”
A chorus of boys yelled up, slow, enunciating each word, all together and as loud as they could, to make sure she could hear.
She said, “I am a fat giant who will never die.”
They said, “You are ugly. Too ugly to look at.”
The Sequoia is resistant to most things that kill other trees. An insect, for example, cannot kill a Giant Sequoia.
Sadie walked away from the boys, from the people that passed by. She walked into the city and found buildings as tall as her. She looked into their mirrors. It was the first time she saw herself.
“I am quite beautiful,” she thought, looking at herself reflected back in the windows.
“Yes, you are,” the buildings said. “But we can’t help you.”
Sadie touched them. Some of their windows broke.
“We are not immortal,” they said.
Sadie walked back to her meadow, the only place she knew. She wanted to be alone.
But a crowd of people followed her from the city and set her on fire. They made a thousand person circle around her. The people set the meadow on fire.
And then the people set Sadie on fire.
Sadie stood as still as she could, to make them think she was dead, until eventually the people left.
When she opened her eyes she found that she was not in pain. She was on her knees. She got up, she could still stand. She could still walk.
I followed Sadie in secret for years. No one saw me. And I was too small for Sadie to know I was there.
I was one of the thousand to set Sadie on fire, even though I loved her. I didn’t want to burn her. But it was easier to hate her than to love her.
And then I saw her stand. Burned. I went to her, climbed her, and hid in her hair. I used her tears to stick myself to her.
Sadie walked away from the meadow. Her shoulders were hunched. She was too sad to cry.
Sadie reached her arms up and tried to touch the clouds. They were too far away.
“I am not big enough, but I am too big.”
She wanted to touch the moon. She wanted to be in outer space, where she could find someone bigger than her. So big that they would pluck her from the earth like a toothpick, someone so big that she would splinter off in their teeth.
Sadie found the ocean. It was much bigger than she was. She rested herself on it and circled over on her back. She floated. I thought I might get stuck underneath her, underwater, and drown, but I didn’t. I slid to her armpit and watched the water go by. I felt Sadie’s sadness through her thick, thick skin.
Sadie backstroked the whole ocean. Birds landed on her stomach and perched on her face. She liked the feel of the ocean on her back and she liked feeling small.
But soon she hit land.
I could assume things about Sadie, because loving something leads you to believe that you know things you could never know for sure.
When Sadie hit land, she stood, tentatively, slowly. Her hair was slick. Her fingers were tucked into her hands. Sadie was on a beach. People stared up, horrified at her size. She stood there and let the water drip from her skin and puddle around her until she stood in a lake. Sadie stepped out. She heard girls screeching. Sadie quietly said to herself, “I’m a monster.”
As Sadie walked away, I whispered into her skin that she was beautiful. She was a color that didn’t exist. She was the biggest thing.
When western settlers first reported the existence of the Giant Sequoias, no one back east believed that these trees could really be true. But they are.
Sadie went up a mountain and down a valley in just a few great strides. When she was tired she curled into open meadows and slept. She didn’t cry as much, so there was nothing to stick me to her anymore. I was beginning to fall off. I spent my days clutching at her thick skin and her strong hair, not wanting to let go.
“Sadie!” I screamed. “Don’t let me go!”
I don’t know why she didn’t hear me.
The mountains got taller, and it took her longer to climb them.
“I’m going to climb until I am tall enough to always touch the clouds.”
Sadie reached up. Almost.
I was the one crying now. My tears stuck to her. I had never had sticky tears before.
It wasn’t enough to keep me from falling. Just when I thought I didn’t have the strength to hold onto her anymore, Sadie stopped walking. She stood, still. I wound my hands into her hair. I dug my heels into her. Her head moved, from side to side. Slow. She stopped breathing.
I turned to see a whole mountainside of Sadies.
Sadie lowered her arms to touch her torso.
She pressed her fingertips against her body. A giant finger pushed against my stomach. She buried me in her skin. My torso sunk into hers. I am sure she never even knew I was there.
“They are as big as me.”
Sadie walked forward until she felt arms stretch, reach for her. We flooded in.
SARA FINNERTY is originally from Queens, New York and currently lives in Atwater Village, CA. She’s been previously published in Flecks, Next Words, Sprawl, and Stella’s Literary Bistro.