I lie in bed staring at the thick letters written on the big yellow square, trying to figure it out. I obviously understand the words, but I have no idea who wrote them or where the pleasant message came from. I honestly don’t remember if it was there when I went to sleep.
Standing up on my soft mattress takes a few attempts because my feet sink into it wherever I step. The poster attached to the wall in front of me is nearly three-fourths my height. “Good morning to you too,” I say cheerfully before muttering, “whoever you are.”
No one replies.
At the bed’s opposite edge, I look over a low wooden rim. Another yellow square lies on the blue floor, much farther away than I expect, and I have to squint to read the writing.
Be careful climbing down.
A ledge juts out about midway down the wall. Swinging my legs over the edge, I lower myself but come up short and hang there, clutching the rim. I could’ve sworn I was tall enough.
Stretching one leg and foot like a ballerina, I’m able to clasp my toes around the ledge. The cold metal on my skin startles me, and one of my hands slips loose. As I dangle, my other foot finds purchase, so I let go.
I carefully crouch on the ledge and then let myself hang again. This time, my feet don’t reach the bottom, even when stretched, so I take a deep breath and release myself. The fall lasts a split second, my knees instinctively bending as I land on the springy floor.
My clothes shift on impact, so I pull the silky smooth sleeve back onto my right shoulder. The nightdress hangs over my knees and is cinched at my waist by a fine golden rope as thick as the white threads at the garment’s seams.
Before I can ponder the oddly sized stitching, I notice another yellow square under the ledge.
Turn around, but don’t be alarmed.
The message itself is alarming, but curiosity overtakes me. Nothing—especially not the note—could have prepared me for what I see.
I’m in an enormous enclosure, the white ceiling far above my head like an overcast sky. An impossibly large blue tarp covers a warehouse-like structure rising on my right. It abuts the building where I slept, the lower level extending further forward than the upper. If everything wasn’t so massive, I’d swear I’m looking at a bed and nightstand, my mattress presumably a pillow stuffed inside the bottom drawer.
Before the room’s occupant returns, I run, the fibers of the floor like thistle tickling my feet. In the distance is an open doorway, tall enough for a person at least fifteen times my size, and I see another yellow square at its bottom. I’m being led somewhere, hopefully to a beanstalk to escape this giant world.
Doors are always open.
Unsettling as it is, I should be grateful that the primary resident is giving me free rein. I suppose it’s better than being trapped in the room… or in the drawer.
Beyond the doorway, the carpet changes to a hardwood floor, with planks like lanes of an athletic track. I choose one and crane my neck to examine the sheer immensity of the place. An open door on my left leads into another bedroom, and the sound of a waterfall reverberates beyond the mostly closed door ahead of me. A bathroom, I presume, and not where I should go at my size.
But what is my size? Am I normal in an oversized house, or tiny in a normal house? I reach behind me to feel my shoulder blades. There aren’t any wings, so I’m not a fairy. Am I a leprechaun? Or a Lilliputian, perhaps? How can I name these mythical creatures but not know which I am?
Or who I am?
To my right, the floor ends at a precipice. I inch closer to the edge, and on the first of several smaller cliffs, a yellow square crosses the horizon.
There’s an easier way down.
Other than being scooped up and carried—a thought which makes me shudder—what options are there? Farther down the hall is a set of parallel white columns connecting to a railing high above me. On the fifth is posted yet another yellow note with the same handwriting, and I look slightly upward to read it.
You must be this tall to ride.
Standing against the pillar, I’m saddened to discover I’m slightly shorter than the note’s accompanying line. I’ll forgive my unseen guide for the slight measurement error as long as I can still ride whatever I’m supposed to.
Between the next two columns sits an open red bucket—a drinking cup? Tied to holes in it, four white ropes rise upward and twist together before winding around a pulley secured to the railing. Hoping this dumbwaiter contraption is safe, I vault myself inside.
I reach for a dangling length of rope outside the cup and heave it downward. My carriage lifts off and swings into the free space beyond the balcony. Once it’s steadily suspended in midair, I move one hand under the other to lower myself to the floor below.
There’s a prolonged shrill creak followed by loud thumps above me. Too afraid to look, I quicken my descent to get as far away as possible.
“I see you’re out of bed,” bellows a deep masculine voice from the heavens.
The creature’s footsteps grow closer but not quicker. I glance up then over the side, estimating I’m halfway down. There’s nothing I can do; he’s going to spot me.
A shadow eclipses me as he comes down the stairs. His legs, draped in gray, are wider than most tree trunks. A white shirt covers his paunch, slimmer than I’d expect for a fairytale giant. He passes in profile, too far away—or too huge for my field of vision—to see facial features other than dark hair with gray streaks circling the back of his otherwise bald head. He approaches me, and I find myself face to nose with him.
Offering his hand, he asks, “May I give you a lift, Lil?”
His tone of voice doesn’t sound patronizing, so the name must be a term of affection. Does he think that I’m his… pet? I stare at his cupped palm, large enough for me to sit inside, and my immediate response is to shake my head in complete terror.
Crevices form outside the blue eyes behind his glasses. “I understand.”
He turns and lumbers away, disappearing around a corner. I wish I had seen his entire face. Maybe I’d recognize him or feel less panicky, but it’s difficult to stay calm around someone so much larger.
My arms ache when the cup reaches the floor, and my breathing is heavy. The rope is still taut, precisely measured to reach the floor. I climb out, and my feet land on another yellow square.
Enjoy the baseboard gallery.
Instead of artwork, I see a giant-sized sofa and matching recliner facing a television larger than a movie screen. I stay close to the wall, minimizing the chance of being accidentally trampled, but I’m startled when I pass two figures twice my size.
They’re not real. It’s a photograph of a young dark-haired man in a black tuxedo and a beautiful blonde in an elegant wedding gown.
Their faces are too high to identify, so I step toward light shimmering in my periphery. A mirror, where I see my ill-fitting tunic is dust-stained, and my light hair is unkempt.
Rotated on its long side, the next intricate frame provides a closer view of the same happy couple. Though the crow’s feet and other signs of age aren’t there, his inviting blue eyes are exactly the giant’s. Also younger and less world-weary, her face—my face—stares back at me like a reflection.
Could I be the woman in the photographs with him? Why did our sizes match then, but now we’re different? The note posted on the frame doesn’t answer my questions.
Our special day, Lil.
“What is all this?” I shout, doubting my small voice can reach his distant ears.
A sudden earthquake knocks me down. On my hands and knees, I watch his bare feet step around the corner. He crouches, and I scamper away.
“Don’t be afraid,” he says calmly, sitting cross-legged before then sticking a square to the floor between us.
Is anything helping today?
Turning back toward the frames, I shrug.
Something clanks on the floor behind me. Near the square lies a pair of thick golden hoops, one of them with a large, jagged crystal where bursts of color emerge. Etchings along the other band’s inner circumference read Frederick and Lillian, followed by a date.
“When was that?” I ask.
Smiling wistfully, he answers, “Thirty years ago.”
He leans forward, ever so slightly, but the motion intimidates me and I cower. “Why don’t I know you? Why can’t I remember?”
“Memory loss. As you got smaller, your brain capacity—”
“So I used to be… your size?”
He nods. “Everyone said we fit perfectly.”
I rub my throbbing temples trying to process the information. How could I have gone from near his height to the miniscule height I am now? “That’s impossible. People don’t… shrink.”
“I wish that were so.” He lays the back of his hand on the floor in front of me. “Please let me hold you.”
If he’s my husband of thirty years, I must’ve been in his arms before, though maybe not like he means now. But if he’s left notes anticipating and guiding my every move, he obviously cares about me.
“Trust me,” he pleads. “I’d never hurt you, Lil.”
I anxiously crawl aboard the cushioned seat he forms for me and signal him with a tentative thumbs-up. He holds his hand as still as he can, but even the littlest twitch shakes me. Clutching my knees to my chest, I pray something jogs my memory, but sitting in his enormous hand is so strange that nothing about him seems to stick.
His skin is more leathery than I’d expect. His appearance differs from the photographs. His baritone voice may be deeper to my smaller ears. Wanting to remember something—anything—about him, I lie back and take a deep breath.
It’s not his sound, sight, or touch that suddenly floods me with memories. It’s his smell—a mixture of his natural bodily fragrance and the menthol of shaving cream. I recall sitting beside him, nuzzling his chin. Kissing his neck. His hands on my face.
Tears trickle down my cheek as I look up and grin. “Freddie? Is that you?”
A large droplet of water splashes at my feet, and I taste its saltiness. Freddie’s crying too. I get on my knees and reach for him, wanting to console him. He delicately lifts me to his face, where I stroke his chin. It’s noticeably smooth, without a hint of stubble, and his scent is intoxicating.
With a catch in my throat, I ask, “What happened?”
Instead of answering, he sobs. I watch him wince when a joint or two cracks as he stands, but his support for me never wavers. I settle into his contours—a perfect fit—as he brings me to the kitchen and gently sets me down on a bed of paper inside a pink shoebox.
There are hundreds of notes, in a rainbow of colors, haphazardly stacked and stuck together. Their adhesive isn’t very strong, but I’m too weak to pull any apart, so he reads them to me.
Osteoporosis, hormone replacement therapy, and previously undiagnosed genetic disorders explain the cause, but I’d rather not dwell on that.
I roll my eyes at Barbie’s got nothing on you, doll. I don’t want to know what I looked like in her clothes, as I prefer the silk handkerchief tunic he fashioned for me.
Precious gifts come in small packages makes me blush. Freddie always knew the right words to melt my heart.
I giggle at Size doesn’t matter.
Wanna ride in my shirt pocket? becomes an enticing invitation.
Every note has a story, and I listen intently as he chronicles our marriage, carrying me from the shoebox to the sink for a shower, to the table where we share breakfast, and to the counter to confirm I’m four and a quarter inches tall today, down an eighth inch from yesterday. Even with the bad news, I cherish being close to him.
Our day ends in his favorite chair. I lie on his chest while he reclines, watching video of our wedding on the distant television, and then on his much closer smartphone of our final vacation, a second honeymoon to Niagara Falls when I was about three feet tall. Our life together flies by before my eyes, and I’m grateful that every day he does whatever he can to help me remember.
My eyelids grow heavy as he caresses my splayed hair, the warmth radiating from his soothing heartbeats underneath me. I don’t question how many nights have ended this way, because I want to savor the memory before I wake tomorrow a little bit smaller. I fear I’ll forget everything—including Freddie—in the morning.
But it’s still tonight, and as I drift to sleep, I hear his gentle whisper.
“I’ll always love you, Lil. Good night.”
Quarantine Shrink - Day Three
A Small Christmas Party
A Small Surprise for Iva
Great work on this story! From a composition perspective, you do a fine job unpacking both the story and the scene to maximize dramatic impact. From an i-like-stories-about-giant-people perspective, that opening device of "am I normal in an oversized house, or tiny in a normal house" was inspired, and you only followed through from there. Really great work.