Small Chapter 1: Izzellah
The smoke passed from her lips and formed a ring.
“How do you do that?”
Izzellah snorted out the last remains of tobacco and nicotine from her nostrils, refusing to acknowledge the sharp cherub voice of her younger sister.
“You shouldn’t smoke y’know?” she informed. “Mom says it’s bad for you.”
“Mom can go fuck herself.” Izzellah growled. “Hell it would probably do her some good.” She let out a sinister chuckle at the thought. She leaned against the eggshell plaster of her family’s two story white colonial home and took one last, heavy, satisfying drag.
“What have I told you about talking to me?” she asked blowing one last smoke ring in her sister’s direction.
“Not to.” She coughed. “But-”
“But nothing. Fuck off!” Izzellah ordered.
“Izzellah! Sabrina! Breakfast now!” They both heard in a shrill and commanding latina accent.
“Mom says breakfast is ready.” Sabrina smirked.
“SHIT.” Izzellah waved her hand back and forth clearing out the smoke. She bolted from the balcony, clearing her bed in one leap before rushing into her bathroom. The sound of rushing water and a Sonicare Pro scraping against thirty two pearly whites soon followed.
“Out!” she gargled with a mouth full of fluoride.
“What have I said about smoking in my home!” Gloria Ivory shouted over the sizzle of frying bacon.
“What’s your problem!?” Izzellah snapped back. “It’s not even bad for you anymore!”
“That’s not a reason Izzellah!” she shoved some sort of baked breakfast wrap in her upstart daughter’s hand. “I’ve taught you better than to believe everything you read on the internet!”
“Why do you have to be such a bit-” Izzellah felt the sting before she knew what happened. Her teeth bit down hard on her tongue and a mouthful of bacon wrapped in fried dough and cheese.
“Izzellah. Ignacia. Ivory. Don’t you dare speak to me like that!” Gloria warned. “I don’t care what you’ve read or seen on T.V. I won’t have you smoking in my house no matter how many tiny ma-” A loud beeping game from Gloria’s pocket.
“Dammit!” she pulled out her cellphone and read an alarming text. “I have to go.” She fished into her purse and retrieved a small ringlet with a single pair of keys on it.
“Take your sister to school. You’re responsible for her today.”
“What?!” both daughters exclaimed.
“Wait, does that mean?” Izzellah beamed.
“Get her to school on time. Pick her up at 3:30.”
“”I don’t want to sit in her boring dance class.” Sabrina whined.
“It will give you a chance to study.” Gloria stated. “Do you think I don’t know about that C you got on your history test?”
Sabrina pouted as Izzellah tried to hold back a smile. She was still mad at her mom but the keys made her feel slightly better.
“And Izzellah.” Gloria stopped halfway out the front door. “This conversation isn’t over. When I get home we are going to have a long talk about your attitude.”
In the basement was a 1969 Ford Mustang. It use to belong to Izzellah’s father Ignacio Ivory.
Nobody talks about Ignacio Ivory.
Despite circumstances the car remained. It’s cherry red finish faded, it was covered in an inch of dust, and the undercarriage was playing host to a nest of spiders. The back window was cracked and wouldn’t roll down, the leather interior was frayed and showed the fabric underneath, and a dozen other small problems that needed tending. Despite all that the car still ran. Izzellah wiped a finger across the frame leaving a streak. The poor thing had been neglected so long she wondered why her mom even bothered to pay the registration. It didn’t matter. One day this car would be hers. She could remember sitting in the front seat pretending to drive. Her legs too short for her feet to reach the pedals. Sitting on her father’s lap as he boosted her up to see over the steering wheel. Scaring her mom and a napping infant Sabrina as she accidentally released the parking brake and the car rolled down the driveway of their old home. Fuck that. The car was already hers. It was always hers.
“It’s filthy.” Sabrina observed.
“Shut up and get in.” Izzellah ordered.
The drive was quiet. To her credit Sabrina was doing good on her order to not talk to Izzellah ever. Izzellah for her part had nothing to say either. The girls never really did get along. At one time Izzellah enjoyed spending time playing with her baby sister and dressing her up. That time passed as soon as Sabrina started talking.
They reached her school and Izzellah saw something that immediately soured her mood. Colorful balloons and confetti rained down onto the Mustang from above. Sabrina grinned widely as she peered through the cracked window at the school outside.
“Carnival day!” she shouted.
Izzellah groaned. She couldn’t remember any school she went to ever having a carnival day. It was typical for Sabrina though. That little brat always had it so easy.
“Get out!” she ordered but Sabrina was already off demanding a balloon animal from a clown on stilts and...was that a fucking elephant!?
“Damn kids.” Izzellah bitched as she peeled out the parking lot.
Izzellah sat in the Mustang as it idled in the parking lot of Winton Heights high school. She took a deep breath. It was time to start the act again. A knock at her car door startled her.
“Hey, I didn’t see you out front.” she heard from a voice that made her grimace. It was her “boyfriend”. Darren Winton. Yes the “Winton” in Winton Heights, Winton. His family owned almost every building in the suburb and a few choice properties in the city. He was rich, a jock, and not much else. Still it looked extremely good that she was dating him.
“What is this heap?” He asked.
“It’s a classic.” Izzellah informed.
“It’s a piece of junk, and definitely not good enough for my girl.” He smiled his famous smile. The one where he raised his eyebrow and his teeth glinted. How many girls had he gotten into bed with that alone. It didn’t work on Izzellah.
“I’m not your girl, asshole.” She closed her car door and walked past him without as much as a glance. “And what would you know about what’s good enough for me.”
“So you’re still upset then?”
“Upset? No. I don’t even care.” She didn’t care.
“It was just one kiss.”
“You call fucking Shelby Walker just one kiss?” She really didn’t.
“Y-you knew about that?” he flinched.
“The whole school knows!” she shouted. “The whole town knows! I’m pretty sure a few people in the next state know, you jackass!” She’d known he was sleeping with Shelby Walker before he did. He was making passing glances at her for months. “She was basically bragging about it online. She posted a picture of your dick!”
“Fuck.” he whispered to himself.
“Yeah, fuck.” She said. “Cause you fucking blew it asshole.” Truth was she couldn’t care less who Darren was fucking or when. She knew from the start who Darren Winton was. He was young, rich, athletic. He looked good and worse than that, he knew it. He was not a one woman man. The problem was everyone else knew and everyone else cared. Which meant that she had to care. Which meant he was in the doghouse, because she couldn’t just let his cheating slide and risk losing any social standing.
She opened the front doors of Winton and was immediately assaulted by her “entourage” of ‘friends”.
“Back off Darren.” peeped a short ginger with a wide brim glasses and a flattering pixie cut. “She doesn’t want to talk to you.”
“But-” Darren started.
“But nothing.” the ginger pixie stopped. “Or do you want to be benched for the next two weeks?”
Darren shut up. This was not a threat. It was a legitimate question. Brenda Hawthorne was not only the “best friend” of Izzellah Ivory, she was the daughter of coach Abraham Hawthorne, and the only thing coach Abe loved more than football was his daughters. Daren backed off.
“Thank you, Brenda. You are a treasure.” She almost meant that. Brenda was her oldest friend if only of convenance. She was useful to have around for her book smarts alone. Her family connection was just icing and she was fiercely loyal.
‘You’re too good for him ma’am.” she chirped.
Izzellah sighed and pressed a palm to her forehead. “I’ve told you not to call me that. It’s weird. You’re a year older than me.”
“Sorry, ma’a…..Izzy.” Izzellah cringed. “...sorry.”
“Shelby’s a slut.” spat another girl. She was tall, lean, and all definitions of the work perky. “She’ll sleep with anything with abs…..Want me to kick her ass?”
“No.” Izzellah almost ignored her. Rebecca Swan was also the definition of a bully. She was a loose cannon with multiple suspensions and only avoided full expulsion because of the blatant favoritism her head cheerleader position afforded her. Two years of failed campaigning for Izzellah to join the cheer squad and somehow they had organically became “besties”. She was useful to have around for intimidation and the fact that anyone even slightly associated with her ranked as popular in the cruel binary of high school politics. She was keen to a level of subtext and social cues that Izzellah could only imitate.
Izzellah had a headache. This was already too much. She put on a fake smile and hugged her two “friends”. Their trio was a tool. A tool she had fashioned freshman year to make her scholastic career as efficient as possible and ultimately serve one goal. Get the fuck out of Winton Heights.
Early classes passed without issue. School from a purely academic standpoint was easy and if you could be successful in this world purely on academics Izzellah would’ve have happily been a wallflower. Life doesn’t work that way. You have to jump through hoops and make connections to get true freedom. That was hard, and some days she wondered if it was even worth it. She exited the final class before lunch and met up with her two “friends?” at their usual table. It was next to a window overlooking the football field. All three girls shared a mutual enjoyment of watching moving bodies. Particularly the football team who regularly used lunchbreak to scrimmage. Even now Darren was making good on a reception and towing the ball downfield as fast as his tight buttocks could move him.
“Pretty hot huh?” Rebecca observed.
“Yes.” Izzellah agreed. Darren was hot. This was a fact.
“I’ve seen better.” Brenda seethed.
“No you haven’t.” came a dry laugh. “No one has.”
“Fuck.” Izzellah spat between a bite of slightly sour mac’n cheese.
“Go away. Shelby.” Brenda barked like a good guard dog. “No one wants you here.”
“Let her sit.” Izzellah took another bite. “Nothing she can say could possibly bother me.”
“So you wanna know how it feels to have Darren cum-”
“Shelby!” Brenda shouted.
“Chill out Dixie Dyke.” Shelby struck hitting a sore spot.
“How dare you!” Brenda started. What followed was a skirmish of unflattering slurs and scandalous revelations from both parties. It would be shocking if such verbal brawls weren’t a weekly occurrence.
“I just lost my appetite.” Izzellah stood up leaving the two vapid teens to their joust. Why Brenda even bothered fighting these pointless battles was beyond her. She felt no ill will towards Shelby for fucking Darren. The girl was smart. Posting that dick pick gave Izzellah no choice but to break up with him, leaving him as prime social real estate for her to purchase. Well until he inevitably cheated on her too. She would have to get him back then.
She breathed in a deep exasperating lungful a the tainted air you can only get from a room filled with near a hundred sweaty teens and unique aroma of questionable cafeteria food. She headed towards the trash receptacle regretting that she had elected to opt out of her mom’s homemade and far more nutritionally viable lunches. That’s when it happened.
She wasn’t paying attention. Her head was too mired in solving the ever changing daily equation that is school. She looked down and saw the very same mac’n cheese she was about to dispose of plastered across her top, along with the contents of her unknown assailant. They had decided on the chili. That was a mistake.
Eyes were on her and on the stocky built auburn outcast Jessica McArthur. She was far beneath her on the social ladder despite being cute and friendly. There was only one reason for this. She was fat. That was enough. Normally Izzellah would brush something like this aside without a second thought then recommend her a stellar dieting plan. Jessica had practically done her a favor as she hated the top she was wearing. It was a baby blue halter with the word “Princess” embroidered on it with off color gemstones. A gift from an uncle. This was actually a very convenient excuse to toss it but, people were watching. Tarnishing the outfit of someone with her position was a crime punishable by crucifixion. Izzellah was a shark and Jessica a seal and often as it was in nature the predator must feed.
“Watch where you’re going fatass!” Izzellah gritted. She wasn’t actually that fat.
“S-sorry Izzy.” She stammered already completely cowed. That wasn’t enough.
“Are your eyelids too fat to see where you’re going or is your brain to damaged from inbreeding to know how to walk properly.” She probably weighed less than Rebecca but Rebecca was tall and the little fat she did have landed in places people liked to look. Jessica wasn’t as lucky, her fat made it’s home on her stomach and arms hiding any muscle she assuredly gained living on a farm. Yes, there is farmland on the outskirts of Winton Heights suburbia. Izzellah’s mom in her overzealous lust for privacy insisted on buying the only home right across the street from it.
“Clean it up!”
“W-what?” Jessica gawked with the blank stare of someone completely lost.
“Are you fucking deaf too? Or are you so much an oaf that you expect me walk around like this?”
Jessica went about wiping the mess from Izzellah’s shirt with an oversized sleeve of what must have been a hand knitted red sweater. The poor dear. This was too much.
“Don’t touch me!” Izzellah exclaimed in mock disgust.
“Sorry Izzellah! I-I’ll get a n-napkin.”
“Don’t bother.” Izzellah pushed the girl aside. “You’d somehow fuck that up too.” She pulled off the top inadvertently giving the onlookers a free peek at her bra. A true value if ever there was one. She transitioned to her longsleeve undershirt and left Jessica to her mess.
“Brutal!” Shelby chuckled. Rebecca wore a satisfied smile. She especially delighted in the occasional social dismantling.
“It let the lemmings know their place.” She would say.
“Was that entirely necessary ma’am...I mean Izz-...I mean Ms. Ivory?” Brenda asked being the only one in the little group that possessed and active conscience.
“Yes. It was.” Izzellah murmured as she choked down the bile that was building in the back of her mouth. There was a price for her popularity.
The mustang pulled into Sabrina’s school. Winton Heights Elementary. Things were winding down from what seemed to be an eventful day of carefree carnival antics. Izzellah couldn’t hide her scowl if she wanted to. Lunch was very trying on top of the chore school interaction already presented. She was eager to head to dance class. She fished a cigarette from her pack as Sabrina came barreling down the walkway much faster than expected on the back of a hot pink mini scooter.
“I won the school raffle!” she shrieked with a cheshire grin as she did laps around the American muscle car. She overestimated her speed coming off a bump and collided with the side of the car. The collision decapitated the left mirror.
Izzellah saw red and it wasn’t just the car’s paintjob.
“Ouch.” Sabrina groaned as she picked herself up off the street just in time to earn the sting of a slap to match the sting of a freshly scraped knee.
“Get in the fucking car!” Izzellah snapped not ignoring the stream of blood trailing from her knee or the stream of tears from her eyes. The irate older sibling marched towards the school’s infirmary as her sister was left to sulk.
Dance. This was Izzellah’s one true respite in life. Somehow moving her body to music made all the trials of day to day living disappear. She originally hated dancing. It was forced on her by her mother as a way to keep her busy and diversify her skillset. That woman was always thinking of ways to improve her daughter’s value. Sabrina was herself being groomed towards music. Somedays it seemed more like they were investments than children. Still she grew into it, and now it was one of her few true joys. She actually loved her mother for forcing this on her.
“And Adagio.” She heard. The music slowed as the beats changed. She lifted her leg pointing her toe toward her knee so that she was only on her right foot and began to slowly twirl. This was the early part of the exercise working on control and flexibility. “Great form Ms. Ivory.”
Izzellah smiled for perhaps the first time that day. She appreciated the praise. She looked at her instructor a tan woman of perhaps thirty. She had a crop of blond hair done in a bun, sparkling blue eyes and a true models figure. This was Abigail Winton, Darren Winton’s older, smarter, far more talented, and beautiful sister. She was also quite possibly the only person Izzellah truly respected. For her, she would put on a show.
It was free practice today which meant she could improvise. She started in first position then transitioned to third. The music changed from a modern pop song to Walter Murphy’s A Fifth of Beethoven. She Izzellah smiled for the second time that day. Her movements were abstract. She always performed best with freedom. She pirouette in place that lead into Pirouette a la seconde, a series of spins that gave her the best dizzy feeling. She then transitioned into a Pas de basque before leaping into the air legs extended front and back. She landed on one knee before quickly rising into a flurry of double tours. A brief pause. Then a run into a leaping 540 Battement en Rond. Then finally a her fouettes. She would often go until she lost all sense of direction. She stopped only as the music died down, her face beaming as sweat cascaded down her brow. She was panting as she locked eyes with Sabrina. Her sister stared at her mesmerized by the performance. Izzellah turned with red cheeks. She would have to apologize…..eventually.
“Extraordinaire!” Abigail applauded. “Simply magnificent!” She hugged and lifted her student in an embrace. Izzellah’s cheeks turned from red to deep crimson as her face pressed into her teacher’s soft chest. “We must find you a partner. Perhaps Rapheal or that sweetheart Georgie?”
“I..ummm.” Izzellah paused. The red on her face refused to go away. “I can’t.”
“You must, my sweet!” Abigail insisted. “You are my best student. I must have you for the summer tour. Can you imagine Paris, London, Beijing, New York! Four cities, four months! Surely your mother can let you go.”
“I-I’ll think about it.” Izzellah couldn’t make eye contact. Abigail expected a lot from her. Sometimes she didn’t know if she could live up to it. Her phone rang. The chime of the default tone echoed through the practice hall. It was a text from her mother. “Come home now. URGENT.
The room was quiet. There was nothing to say as the Ivory family processed the phenomenon known as the Shrink Effect. Nanomachines that circulated throughout the body. Distributed over three years ago as part of new controversial legislation passed through congress called The Greater Human Health Initiative. They were supposed to fight illness, prevent cancer, heal broken bones. For the most part they did just that, but thanks to a critical flaw some select machines fall victim to a unknown routine compelling them to burn and convert all mass into energy significantly reducing a person in size to three inches, sometimes even less.
“Are you sure this is even a thing?” Izzellah asked. “It sounds like bullshit to me.”
“I think it sounds cool!” Sabrina exclaimed. “Walking around all tiny sounds like an adventure!”
“I assure you it is not “bullshit”. I helped operate on a victim this morning.” she pulled out a small silver disk with a red button in the center. “Ninety percent of the population has these machines in their bodies. Everyone in this home has been exposed. This will test to see if you’ve been saturated with enough of them to be effected.” Gloria was all business in reciting this life changing information.
“What is it?” Sabrina asked.
“White noise generator. It will induce vomiting and nausea and might give you a migraine it can even lead to unconsciousness. Unless you have enough machines in your system to fight the effects and….” Gloria paused.
“Shrink.” Izzellah finished.
Gloria pressed a button on the center of the disk and it started spinning in place. Nothing happened for a few tense moments. They all just sat around the kitchen table in silence waiting for something, anything to happen, but nothing.
“Does this mean we’re all effec-” Sabrina was cut off by a sudden punch to the gut as a geyser of the partially digested lunch erupted from her mouth.
“Thank god.” Gloria whispered before lurching over in pain as she tried and failed to hold back her own urge to vomit. She managed to stagger over to the sink her need for tidiness overriding even her own natural bodily functions.
Izzellah sat in silence as her family laid about the kitchen in noticeable agony. She felt nothing. As the disk continued to spin for minutes and her family endured the torment of its white noise she felt nothing. As her sister passed out in her chair and her mother continued to dry heave into the kitchen sink. She felt nothing. This could go on for hours. It wasn’t fair. None of it. She decided to show mercy. Being the only one with full control of her body she elected to push the button on the disk again. It came to a stop. Her mother rose from the sink her face a ragged mess from the white noise, and yet it was nothing compared to what she would endure.
“I’m sorry, Izzellah.”
“Yeah, me too.”