I walk slowly across the apartment. My footsteps sound so heavy, it surprises me. It tells me I haven’t been paying attention to myself, like when I nearly broke my arm against the counter, swinging around too fast, expecting too much room. Sometimes this place feels very cramped, and yeah, I know it’s a one-bedroom with a galley kitchen. Not a great part of town, I couldn’t afford anything better, not if I wanted to eat well.
That’s another thing, all the options. All the self-driven behavior. No schedule, no timing, no watching to see what everyone else is doing. I saw a show once, a documentary, about soldiers that stay until retirement. They stay in the Army for 20 years, think they’re going to retire, but then they have a surprisingly high rate of suicide because of exactly this: no more schedule. They ate breakfast at the same time every day, they worked out every morning, they had their outfits picked and their schedules laid out for them, and then they were released into the public with no guidance, no support. It was too much for them. I get that. I’m not ex-military, but I used to have to watch people’s behavior and pay attention to times of day before I went out.
I had to fill my new fridge with food. The dumpster divers and freegans didn’t think anything of me, but everyone else looked at me like I was a freak. I had to walk around the building to the front and go in to stand in aisles and aisles of food. Surrounded by boxes that hardly meant anything to me. Kid’s faces, brand names, colors, cartoon characters… I had to practice my breathing exercises right there in the aisle, then walk over to the produce section where I was more at home. Fresh lettuce, what a treat! A non-poisonous potato!
When I noticed the woman in the leather jacket giving me the hairy eyeball, I looked down at what I was doing: tearing off little pinches of dino kale and stacking them up in my basket. I don’t know what threw me off worse, staring down at a woman who would’ve been gigantic any other day, or realizing that four pinches of kale wasn’t going to feed me for two days.
That’s when the vertigo kicked in. I gave her a weak smile and leaned against the organic lemons. Maybe my blood sugar was low. I was still adjusting to my new height, my new size. I couldn’t believe how much I needed to eat. I mean, yeah, now I could get fresh stuff, I could get first dibs on food, but I needed so fucking much of it!
I heard boots clomping on linoleum behind me, shrieked, and hid behind the kiwis. It was just some stupid teenager, listening to headphones, not picking up her feet as she walked. She wasn’t going to stomp me, I wasn’t in any danger. Old habits. The only thing that was familiar was how she didn’t even notice me. Is that a strange thing to take comfort in?
I don’t know how I got so large. I was foraging with my pack, we were hauling half a carrot back to the warren, pretty pleased with ourselves. We heard the rumbling of a garbage truck, a sound we all knew, except garbage picks up Tuesday morning and this was Friday afternoon. We looked up and a truck went by, but it had huge tanks and vents pointing diagonally to it in four directions, just spewing some white-yellow dust. Clumps shot out far, or clouds of it belched out and covered the ground nearby. Not knowing what it was, we abandoned the carrot and fled for the warren.
Well, I struggled with the carrot. The other guys ran back and got deep underground, so when they enlarged, their bodies were crushed. They just blew up in the tunnel, their bodies broke and collapsed, and when I dug them all out, they’d killed the rest of the warren that hadn’t grown up, hadn’t been exposed. Just smashed under large bodies. I held them in my hand, tiny little people, family, friends. Hardly recognizable, so frighteningly small.
My center of gravity was off and I lurched, banged my head against a tree. Didn’t pass out, just held my hands to my wound, and that’s how the cops found me two hours later. I didn’t know where to go: my pack was dead, my warren was destroyed. They collected me into their car and drove me to the facility, where doctors gave me a briefing and asked me some questions. They released me two days later, after a battery of physicals and blood draws, started me on my stipend and handed me employment literature. Part of their reassimilation project for us “Tinies.”
Fucking “Tinies.” I hate that word.
So now I’m working data entry for a bank with a bad reputation. You’ve read about them in the news, you know who I mean. I’m doing data entry for a branch that’s about to shutter, everyone’s grim and doesn’t care about their work. My agency’s trying to connect me with a publisher for my next gig but they’re an hour away and obviously I don’t drive. My stipend ends in four months and I have to be self-sufficient by then. I taught myself to cook, though the ratios are all different now, the cook times and temperatures, the seasoning. I need so much more heat just to cook a potato, and it takes forever! Why does anyone eat potatoes?
I think I’ll be okay on the job front. It’s not easy to make friends but I’ve done it, and I know they only like me because I’m exotic. We go out for drinks, and I only have one beer and only if I have a full stomach, because they also think it’s funny to humiliate me. I guess that’s how the giants play with each other. But I answer all their questions, and after they’ve had a few drinks I tell them they’ve asked me enough. One girl seemed interested in me, and she showed me a nice night out, like the giants do: we went to a great restaurant, her treat, and I covered the movie afterward. It was just… when we went back to her place… um… giants and “Tinies” don’t make love the same way. Or, that is, I’ve made love to two giantesses, in my checkered past, and the tricks I learned did not translate well. But that gave her something to gossip about at work the next day, so, good for her.
I like sleeping on the bed. Beds are nice. Once I found a pair of women’s panties on the side of the road. I let the rain wash them out and then I dragged them back to the warren, and that was pretty soft to sleep on but the bed’s nicer. I hate stretching out, though, it feels like I’m going to fall off or… explode, I guess. I’m still not used to how far my body goes. I reach for things and knock them over, my hand races right into them instead of stopping where I think it should. And it’s difficult adjusting to all the night sounds, hearing everything I’ve grown up with and no longer thinking of it as a threat.
So I guess I’ve got my little life here, in an apartment in a building like a honeycomb, but filled with people it’s not customary to talk to. I can’t believe how lonely it is in a building full of people. I don’t like watching TV. I have one, but there’s a show that makes fun of “Tinies” and they get the facts all wrong, or else it’s news and I do not understand how the giants treat each other like they do. All I can do is pick out a nice candy to savor, a new one, intact; read a book the way they were designed to be read, which is a special pleasure all by itself; and lie curled up in the center of my bed, hoping to dream of large women.