Best Friends Forever
As Stan stopped in the middle of the quiet street as he was walking to school, a single tear fell from his eye.
It was an advert on the side of a bus stop, the advert was quite like the many he has seen for the past 8 years since the so-called “Great Re-Adjusting”, but something about it stirred great horror and dread in him all the same.
It was the standard insole advert, a young professional woman busy working in whatever clichéd high-profile office job that she was working at, but her face looked so content as she was crushing her little “footboy” as they called them, with her soft pedicured toes and suddenly the rest of the day did not look so daunting for the young woman.
Stan had seen thousands of such adverts in his time, all of them either petrifying him or merely reducing him to impotent anger. Stan was one of the lucky ones, he stayed big.
Stan was 6 foot tall, 16 years old and was just about finishing school in Essex, England. Stan was one of the fortunate 10% of the Earth’s population that did not shrink on that horrifying day.
Stan could still remember that day vividly. Every detail permanently etched into his psyche forever. Eight years ago. Friday 13th January 2017. The true Friday the 13th horror show finally coming to life to inflict misery for the vast majority of the world. Stan remembered that his best friend in the whole wide world Kyle Ramzinski was coming over to his house after school for a sleepover. Just him and Kyle. Stan did not despise his other classmates, not then at least, but ever since they met when they were 5 year olds on the first day at Primary School, Stan and Kyle had an unbreakable bond. They did everything together, had the same classes, played the same games, watched the same TV shows and all the fun times when they went to the local theme park or just playing on the street together. The night they had planned was going to be amazing. A gorgeous meal from the KFC for dinner, Stan’s Mum had also bought him Final Fantasy XV and he could not wait to start it with Kyle. The whole night was going to be fantastic. But then it happened.
One moment Stan was taking the short walk home from school with Kyle, laughing and joking as Stan’s older sister Shelley was staying just close enough to them to keep an eye on them And then the other Kyle disappeared. It all happened in a blink of an eye. The event happened everywhere on Earth at the same precise second. 15:23:08 in UK time. Suddenly the streets were empty. Then Stan realised he couldn’t find Shelley either. Then he heard the car’s crashing into one another. Glass shattered everywhere, luckily Stan was well enough away from the road not to be hit but just before he would have ran off in fear at the carnage of the shattering cars, he heard it.
“Stan…” The voice sounded far away. The voice was so faint, even now Stan could not remember how he could have possibly have heard it, but Stan could still hear it even now.
“Kyle?” Stan could vividly remember seeing the tiny toy sized boy in front of him. Stan remembered just how scared and confused the pale, red-headed Kyle was at his diminutive size. But Stan just gave one look at the ever so cute face in front of him and he immediately picked him up and despite being 8 years old, he promised that he had nothing to worry about and that he would take care of Kyle forever.
Stan remembered seeing his Mum running rapidly down the road alongside her friend Linda at that point. The GP’s office where they worked was only down the road and luckily Stan spotted Shelley at that point and he swiftly picked her up. Stan remembered the great big hug that his Mum gave him, tears flowing from her face from the relief that at least one of her children had not been affected by the sudden shrinking. Stan also remembered how tiny Kyle and Shelley looked compared to his Mum; her chest alone was bigger than the two shrunken children and both he and his Mum had to be careful not to crush them with their bodies and fortunately they were dazed but fine from the hug. No doubt their faces looked as huge as moon’s to the tiny children on Stan’s hand, but they handled the shock as well as anyone possibly could of becoming shrunk.
Stan remembered after the hug noticing that there were plenty of tinies on the ground of all ages, races and creeds. Sharon and Linda got as many as they could and indeed very quickly a few more normal sized people came out of their homes and chipped in and helped get the shrunken people out of harm’s way and at least into protection from the elements. No doubt the history books will say that the tinies were immediately subjugated by everyone, but that was simply not the case. Loved ones were panicking to find their tiny brothers, fathers, mothers, sisters and friends. They were still human in their eyes then.
The afternoon was bad enough, the night was worse. Stan remembered seeing his father cocooned on the spider’s web as they got in from the cold. Stan remembered his Mum pulling him out of the web and crushing the spider with one angry stomp on her shoe. Stan had never seen his Mum so angry in all of his life. Stan could still see his Mum attempting CPR and breathing in his tiny mouth but he was gone. Stan remembered her mumbling in shock something about the venom keeping the victim alive, but Stan’s Dad never woke up again.
And Shelley…Stan remembered as his Mum laid Shelley down on her palm and her trying to comfort her little daughter, telling her that things were going to be alright, and then that fucking bird swooped in out of nowhere and took Shelley away. Stan shuddered as he remembered the blood curdling screams coming from Shelley’s mouth as she was soaring in the air. Stan’s Mum dashing impotently out to the garden to save her daughter but the bird flew higher and higher and further away and then Shelley’s leg snapped clean off of her body and Stan saw Shelley’s body fall rapidly in the air. They had no chance, despite their manic running Shelley splattered on the ground. The body unidentifiable except for a vile mixture of blood and guts. Stan just remembered staring at Shelley’s body dumbfounded as his Mum collapsed onto the ground in complete anguish. But he also remembered Kyle shaking in fear and Stan keeping his hand closed to keep his friend safe.
By the night all Stan had left was his Mum and Kyle. Stan’s Mum was in shock as was Kyle for that matter. Kyle was shaking and crying and all Stan could do was rub his back as tenderly as he could as he said the immortal words.
“I will always look after you Kyle.” Kyle calmed down after that and Stan could just remember Kyle hugging Stan’s thumb affectionately as Stan kept rubbing his back. That was the first day of the great shrinking, and one of the last days the shrunken people were treated with any form of compassion.
No evidence was found of what caused the shrinking. Some hypothesised it was a terrorist attack but the effects were too random to be a weapon. Aliens were similarly dismissed as they have not visited the Earth 8 years onwards. Maybe it was nature trying to keep humanity from destroying the environment, as Stan occasionally thought about it was maybe the Earth fighting back against humanity. But no matter what theory people believed, it all led to one conclusion. The vast majority of the human population had shrunk permanently forever.
Stan knew he was highly fortunate as he retained both his height and his liberty. Kyle’s entire family shrunk on that day and were stolen immediately by some opportunistic asshole. Stan knew for a fact that after the law changed legally allowing the selling of tinies, Kyle’s entire family had been sold. Stan also they have never been seen since, despite his Mum’s best efforts of finding them, they had disappeared off of the face of the Earth. There was an unspoken assumption between Stan and Kyle that Kyle’s parents and baby brother were most likely dead by now. If the “Great Re-Adjusting” had happened on a weekend, Stan knew he probably would have never have found Kyle and Kyle would have been sold into slavery alongside his family.
Any initial sympathy for the shrunken people’s plight had been eradicated by greed, cruelty and blatant villainy. Public opinion swiftly changed from empathy for the shrunken people’s plight to thinking how it could benefit those unaffected. Properties and bank accounts were seized, governments collapsed and swiftly reorganised as tiny leaders were violently ousted and replaced by the lucky few still big. Within weeks laws were drafted and approved regarding the societal status of shrunken people and it wasn’t pretty. The law soon stated that shrunken people were no longer regarded as human beings and was therefore subject to be bought or found and then used in whichever way their masters cared to use them as. And this ranged from becoming a fashion accessory, servants to attend to minor details that regular size people struggle with or simply being reduced to becoming a sex slave and other such incredulous and horrifying degradations that Stan tried his best not to think about. Shrunken people were allowed to be abused at will, very quickly the remaining media highlighted that the tinies existed for their pleasure now. Wave upon wave of TV shows, films and advertising showed that torturing and even sexually abusing shrunken people were now considered okay, this was because according to the media they were no longer human beings so who cares right? The newest craze was to dip the shrunken people into chocolate sauce and lick their bodies over and over where the expendable or misbehaving shrunken people ended up eaten as well at the end. The very notion made Stan sick to his stomach. According to the media and to the few religious hardliners still around, they were the chosen few to stay big; they now had a right to subjugate the shrunken people to their will. The very notion of being chosen just sent Stan into a blind rage every time he heard that horrible argument. It was a scientific fluke they stayed big. There was no bias and there was no chosen people spared from the shrinking. Every nation, every race, every religion and every gender was affected as 90% of the globe on a somewhat even basis was reduced to being half a foot tall. Stan’s father and his sister shrunk on that horrible day; in fact it was an extreme rarity of hearing about whole families staying big. Stan knew how lucky he was to stay at his normal height; there was no divine right, no deliberate “choice”, it all just came down to pure dumb luck.
Stan looked again and though the entire advert disgusted Stan beyond any words he could articulate, what really broke his heart was the small guy’s sweet beautiful face. The sad anguished face, simultaneously in agony and humiliation, of the crushed shrunken man made Stan sick to his stomach, but what added to the horror was that the little guy’s face was still overawed from the horrors he had witnessed. There had been many a tale of tinies who were once rebellious and bold against their masters becoming “broken” and became strangely accepting of their fate of being used and tortured until their bodies broke down or their masters murdered them outright. This young man still looked like he had at least some fight left in him, likely that was why he was chosen to be in the advert to begin with. The shrunken guy still had an incredibly smooth youthful face, probably still even just a teenager, being crushed mercilessly by a cruel cold-hearted bitch. And Stan knew that the picture was not Photo-shopped. That boy had been crushed, mangled, tortured and who knows what else during that photoshoot alone. Stan did not care to think what his owners did to him during their leisure time, or who they rented them out too. Stan knew that his mother’s friend turned lover Linda rented tinies out to people, but she always insisted it was done in a therapeutic manner where cruelty was not allowed, she insisted she had standards. Stan could only pray that was true.
Stan’s eyes focused down on the advert’s caption, which was: “Just Do It!” The woman was a bog standard model, she was in her twenties, blond, tall legs, skinny, but what caught Stan’s eye was how calm the model looked, so at peace with her life, so innocent. All the while she was crushing a poor defenceless boy merely to relax. It was not the fact that 90% of the world lost 90% of their height that was the tragedy. It was the fact that they had lost their humanity to the uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the evil. For the poor tinies there were simply no more barriers to cross, Hell had already arrived for them.
Stan then thought about Kyle. Even now he was still his best friend and he was never ashamed to admit that. Even after all the years. All the memories, the bad and the good, all the times Stan and Kyle played, laughed and even cried together. Kyle was a human being. It did not matter if he was now 6.6 inches in height. Kyle was an individual and Stan loved him very much. Tinies were no longer allowed to be educated, at least not in stated-owned institutions, so Stan always showed and did his homework in front of Kyle and he always read to him, as books were now far too big to be read by the shrunken people. Everything about Kyle’s life was a tragedy. His entire family shrunk, sold and disappeared, and Kyle’s own life was restricted to just being by Stan’s side, in constant need of his protection against the vile evil that has consumed society since the “Great Re-Adjusting.” Stan was proud of Kyle as Kyle was far more intelligent than he, even with his reduced education, and he handled every indignity and slight from his horrifying circumstances with great dignity. Stan loved Kyle with all of his heart and wished he had a hundredth part his courage and character.
At that thought Stan’s breathing became jagged, he looked again at the horrible picture of the crushed shrunken man on the advert and suddenly all he could see was Kyle’s face. Kyle had never been mistreated in all of his life, but Stan just wanted to hear Kyle’s sweet voice again and he could then get on with his day. There wasn’t that many people around the street, there was a few other schoolchildren walking but they kept a fairly large distance from him. There were never that many people walking the streets anymore as the population of Great Britain that was immune to the tragedy and therefore retained full citizenship was just shy of 4.9 million, well below the 10% world average of non-shrinking percentages. Stan felt comfortable enough to do this. He took a deep breath. Stan got his phone out and began calling the one phone he could stomach calling right now. Fortunately it was answered quickly.
“Stan what is it dear?” His Mum answered vaguely bored, vaguely worried. Stan’s Mum, Sharon Smith was now a millionaire businesswoman who had a seemingly never ending barrage of phone calls and meetings every day. But Stan did not care if he was eating into her valuable time. He needed to do this.
“Mum, is Kyle okay?” Stan asked frantically.
“Yes of course dear, he is safely in my handbag; I just got to work. Better safe than sorry, don’t want him falling out and injuring himself.” The voice changed, it softened, and it became more maternal. Stan knew that whilst his Mum conformed to certain societal norms and prejudices, She had never murdered or even tortured a shrunken person, and that she treated Kyle well enough and looked after him on school days, as Stan did not want any of the cruel bastards at his school to ever have an opportunity to lay their filthy fingers on his sweet Kyle. Stan knew in his heart that his Mum would never do anything to Kyle as he loved him with all of his heart.
“Do you want me to put him on the line?” Sharon asked kindly.
“Yes please that would be great.” Stan said appreciatively. Stan waited the few moments for his mother to get Kyle out of the safety of her handbag. Though the principle disgusted him, Kyle was registered as the property of Sharon Smith, though Sharon promised to transfer the deeds of protection to Stan when he became 18. But with the harsh laws against thieves of registered shrunken people; Sharon was safe allowing Kyle to be out of the bag. Kyle was protected from scumbags as well as from birds and other animals that all had remained unshrunk due to a variety of custom made repellents.
“What’s wrong Stan, are you okay?” Kyle asked immediately with concern in his voice. Stan smiled as he was always touched at how kind and warm hearted Kyle truly was. Stan was very proud of Kyle. Even with Kyle living his own Hell of being absolutely tiny and not having the opportunity to live a truly free existence, Kyle still cared about other people’s problems. Kyle was a remarkable human being. Kyle’s voice sounded very faint over the phone. The voice was quiet due to just how small he was and the phone companies refused to create phones to accommodate tinies, as they were no longer considered human beings in their mind.
“Yes, yes I’m fine. I just really needed to hear your voice, that’s all.” Stan said with a little smile on his face, he was thankful no one was around to hear just how desperate he sounded right now.
“Dude me and your Mum left home a half hour ago. We said goodbye then and it was nowhere near as soppy as this conversation.” Kyle said with half of a laugh. Stan softly laughed. He knew he was being irrational but he simply did not care. The world was filled with horrors and though he was powerless to do much else about it, all Stan could do was protect his friend from the fate that so many of his kind suffered.
“Yeah, yeah I know. I just…I just wanted to speak to you.” Stan had no idea where this conversation was going, no doubt his Mum would need the phone back ASAP but he just needed the comfort of Kyle’s voice.
“Okay Stan you really need to get to school, I know you are just standing at a random spot, disturbed by something you saw. Just relax and we can talk about it when we get back home tonight okay?” Stan smiled at Kyle’s reasoning. Kyle can read him like a book. Stan just needed to get through another boring day at school and then he could be with Kyle again.
“Okay man. Have a good day Kyle. I love you.” Stan said as softly as he could muster.
“I love you too Stan.” Kyle said and at that point Stan just smiled knowing that his little friend was safe. Safe and away from the monsters that would exploit or abuse him without a moment’s thought.
“Is that alright Stan?” Sharon asked her son kindly as she held the phone from Kyle and back to her face. Stan knew the procedure, the shrunken people were too small to even hold a phone, but Stan got what he needed and that was the main thing.
“Yeah, thanks for that. I really need that. You have a nice day.” Stan said softly.
“I love you.” Sharon said happily. Stan smiled at that. Stan simply could not see his mother as a ruthless businesswoman; she was so sweet and nurturing and would do anything Stan wanted to in a heartbeat without any fuss whatsoever.
“I love you too Mum.” Stan said softly and at that they both had hung up, ready for the day ahead.
Stan looked at the vile advert again and not wanting to immediately be in a foul mood after speaking to his dear Kyle, he put his head down and began walking to school again. Just less than 8 more hours and he would be back in his rightful place of looking after his dear friend.
Stan began walking again and to pass the time he flicked through old photos on his phone. Wave upon wave of pictures of Stan holding Kyle for selfies, a few very affectionate ones of both boys kissing one another as Kyle stood on Stan’s hand. Stan began laughing at just how all-consuming his lips looked as he kissed Kyle. Stan flicked past some more and then he saw one when they were 7 years old. Both boys’ dressed as cowboys. Kyle having his hand on Stan’s shoulder, both boys at similar heights. As lovely as that picture was Stan did not have the heart to look at it very long. Kyle along with so many others were robbed of everything, a reminder of their past lives was too cruel a blow to think about so Stan got back to more recent pictures of Kyle smiling as he was standing on Stan’s palm.
The world was a cruel place. But Stan took heart as there were still a few decent “normal” sized people about that did not abuse or mistreat the tiny people they found scared and confused on that horrible day. There were shrunken people rights groups about, but they were sadly few and far between. Stan liked to think that he was a decent guardian to his dear friend Kyle. Stan would never dream of mistreating Kyle like all the media had shown and normalised in the past few years. Stan just looked at Kyle’s trusting face on that picture and Stan smiled warmly. Stan loved Kyle and Kyle loved him back, but it was Kyle’s complete trust in him that was the key. Kyle had complete faith that Stan would always do the right thing. Stan smiled at the thought and he vowed in his heart that he would never betray Kyle’s trust. Despite the way the world was going, Stan would always be there for Kyle to love and cherish him. Best Friends Forever.