The Many-Eyed Giant by Jennie B. Ziegler

On the first day I sit in an emptied seat. In the corners. On the couch, wishing it were plastic-lined. I am not welcome here, but they did not see me slip in the doorway, through the window, across a threshold they thought protected, they thought friendly and full. I nudge room for myself. They are strained at the sight of me. I was not invited in.

I place my stethoscope into their ears and press the resonator to their skin. I listen to their lungs and over-loud hearts. Bewildered hickory nut eyes. I fill their stomachs to ward off hunger until it begins to cramp. They look at me in bright shock as I eat their tears.

They are angry with me. I replaced all the lightbulbs in the house. They lost the warm yellow glow of sitcom evenings. The new bulbs are the white daylight kind. But I need them to see. They squint away from me, and so I wait. Patient.

In my way, I am not unkind.

They know they cannot tell me to leave. I stare at them from across the dinner table and rearrange the cutlery. Their hands grab for forks but find spoons. They do not like my direct eye contact. I make them nervous and forgetful. They lose their wallets and keys to outside doors. Death is never a good host and I am relieved for it to be gone, for me to be allowed in, instead. I watch their mouths move and widen as if the universe would pour down their throats, spill into blown-glass lungs. I surprise them at their elbows, behind their ears, when they turn, molasses slow, through the halls. I do not fit here, yet. Yet.

The Eyes in the walls blink at me. There are many but not unusually so. I look for a place for me at some point. A final home. By the banister. In the bedroom. Within the chimney. Perhaps the eaves.

Don’t bother, they say. This is different, they tell me.

We stand together in rooms.

They think I will eventually bring peace. I do not. My left hand is anger and they hold tight to it.

I tell them life will be different, with me now here. My eyes meet the others in the walls. Like wallpaper of peacock feathers. The Eyes know this. It will be like this forever, they insist. They like to seal their sentences at times like these. I shrug. This is both true and untrue. It will be different, I repeat back, a returning wave, a double-blink.

I stand in the doorway of their bedroom as they sleep, my eyes light in the dark. I keep watch, waiting waiting waiting for them to awaken. To not notice me—not at first. I feel raw want for that peeling moment their eyes shift, inevitably, sensing something different. Something that shouldn’t be. I eat their will like rust.

My skin hurts, they moan. I sweep sand across it, onto their tongues. It is my gift, to bury them, wrapping them in Quaker lace, in sea grape leaves.

I finally unpack my suitcase, overstuffed with tissue-paper wrapped treasures, like bones and soup cans and teeth. They tell me they are going out. My direct stare hurts them. I know this. But there is no other way to look at them. Not yet. They seem defiant, determined. I relent, I say okay. I shrug on my coat, which holds many things, including them.

They are small in the world. They are small in the new light. Transparent. I did not notice this in the house. But now I see through them like onionskin. They ask me why others do not see me. I attempt to comfort them. I tell them that I am theirs and theirs alone. They do not feel this helps. Their arms become heavy, moss-wrapped oaks.

They feel like wolves. They feel like starlight.

The others can soon see it, see me, but not fully. Never fully.

But sometimes one does, wearing a coat like ours.

I lie to them often. For I am unkind, in my way.

We go home and they light a candle. The world was so loud, they whisper. We take off our coat. It was meant to keep us warm. The flame flickers, the wax begins to bleed. How dare it, I hear them think. How dare it, I hear them pray. The eyes in the walls glisten. Life remains everywhere, unburied.

On the third day, I begin to blend my bones with theirs. My jaws unhinge, and they walk in. My feet slip into the earth. My fingers become doorknobs. I do not leave them. I could not. I think this will comfort them.

I think it does.

Jennie B. Ziegler completed her M.F.A. in Nonfiction Writing at the University of Arizona. Her work has been previously nominated for a Pushcart and has been published in The Normal School, Essay Daily, Appalachian Review, Luna Luna Magazine, Atlas and Alice, and Consilience, among other outlets. Her scholarship can be found in FolkloreThursday as well as Community-Based Transformational Learning, published by Bloomsbury. She has forthcoming work in The Washington Square Review and currently serves as the nonfiction advisor for The Talon Review. She often focuses on the body, folklore, geology, botany, space, and regional identity in her essays. Find her at @InTheFourteenth and more of her work at