Smack, smack, smack... POP!
Golden blonde hair strands are blown gently to the side while Elizabeth Miller plays loudly with her gum. A quality about her that deeply aggravated her brother, Aaron, to no end. However, he’d long since given up on finding a way to make Liz stop. Instead, he chooses to focus on the road for the time being, knowing he only had about ten minutes to get her to class. They’d left a little later than usual, which wasn’t as much of an issue for Aaron as it was to his sister.
Elizabeth hated being late. So, needless to say, she wasn’t in the best of moods this morning. As usual, Lizzy tries her best to not pay her brother any mind, lazily scrolling through her phone with little care for the world around her. The girl’s eyes are lowered, a bored expression painted across her face as she checks her Snapchat for the third time this morning. A comfortable silence develops, permeating the atmosphere inside the aging car. One Aaron makes a point to obnoxiously disrupt, as older brothers often tend to do. The vehicle automatically switches gears as Aaron squeezes the gas pedal harder beneath his foot. The engine hums loudly as they hit the onramp to the expressway, quickly merging into the morning traffic. A sea of cars soon greets them as the sun starts to peek over the highway, signifying another day of monotony for the majority driving to their nine to five office jobs.
Aaron glances towards his sister, eyeing the phone as she presses her right side nonchalantly against the plastic lip that rests just below the glass. With the grace of an orangutan, he leans into a conversation, his voice quickly taking on a snarky cadence, “So Liz, are you sexting that hottie again? Josh, was it? Oooo, or maybe it’s Allen this week!” He remarks, snickering with a bit more bite than he intended. Unsurprisingly, his sister is far from amused.
Liz leans back in her seat, simply rolling her eyes at the complete absurdity of the comment.“Grow up, Aaron. You’re such a fucking creep.” She gives her gum a few more loud smacks before typing out a text, the clacking of the virtual keyboard filling the car with the gentle sounds of the iPhone’s keypad.
He can see the visible irritation in her face and gestures. Shoulders scrunched up, eyes narrowed. Perfect, he muses to himself. Naturally, being the older of the two, he wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to screw with his little sister. Being provided with all the ammunition he needs, Aaron pounces, going in for the kill.
“Come on Izzy, you know, and I know you're totally into them.” He smirks, “You can’t tell me you aren’t getting some of that!” Aaron speeds up slightly, passing the car in front of them before returning to the previous lane, their conversation not skipping a beat.
He can feel the daggers she’s giving him from across the car. It's obvious without even looking that he’s struck a nerve. Bringing out that old nickname never fails to get under her skin. A tried and true method in the older brother’s expansive toolbelt of tricks.
“Don’t!” Is all the frustrated college student can muster in response, doing nothing to dissuade the relentless nature of Aaron’s teasing.
“What? I’m just calling it as I see it! A popular girl like you probably has someone on the side.” They ride in silence for a few moments, but Aaron simply can’t help himself.
“How big is Allens dick, huh?” He smirks, feigning a child-like innocence.
“You’re completely disgusting-” Elizabeth responds with venom, “-and you know exactly what! I hate that name! You-you-” The grip around her phone clenches, and her face grows bright red with pent-up frustration. Truthfully, Aaron found it adorable when she got like this. So dramatic, it was both cute and comical.
“UGH!” Liz explodes, a lack of sleep and much-needed caffeine finally pushing her over the edge. “You dumb virgin loser!” Flying into a rage, she points a well-manicured nail towards her brother, “You work at a GameStop, for fucks sake, just shut up already. It’s way too early, Aaron!”
Ouch, Aaron feels a knot form deep within in his gut. Gentle teasing had rapidly escalated into a genuine argument. He’s taken back at the suddenness of the attack, her petty jab striking a low blow on the mental state of the burnt-out aspiring musician. But Liz is far from done. She’d already set her phone down, resting precariously on her lap. Her undivided attention was now on the conversation at hand.
“You really think I want to hear my brother talk about my sex life? You’re pathetic, Aaron, actual fucking dirt. No, actually, forget that. I bet you wish you were dirt under some girl's feet. You’re that kind of sick!”
He’s helpless to stop the overwhelming sense of shame from bombarding him. He had only been teasing his little sister a bit, but maybe he’d gone too far this time? He makes an attempt to diffuse the situation, opening his mouth only to get hit with a wave of nausea. Aaron feels almost lightheaded, and as a result, the car starts to swerve dangerously as he clutches his head in unexpected pain.
“Whoa! What the fuck!” Liz shrieks as they pull off to the side, “Are you okay? Aaron? Aaron!”
The car screeches to a dramatic halt. He swivels his head to the side, looking towards his panicking sister. He wanted to let her know everything was okay, but something felt… wrong. Why was everything so blurry? And secondly, had she gotten... taller? He does his best to focus on his sister’s face. Despite the lapse of vision, every one of her features feels so much more noticeable. Even the light freckles that adorned her cheeks stood out so much more right now. They seemed more empathized, more prominent than before. This wasn’t right, but he can’t place precisely why….
“Oh my god!” Are the last words to reach his ears before everything goes dark, a pounding pain still shooting through his temples. All the while, the oddest sense of vertigo overwhelms him completely, knocking him out cold.
Seeing Aaron go down, Elizabeth panics, her hand reaching for her phone. She fumbles, arms trembling as she scrambles to enter three familiar digits. Nine one one.
“Hello? Yes, I need help, please! I-I-I think somethings wrong with my brother!”
The Shrinking Blight, that’s what the media had taken to calling it. The actual name is something Aaron didn’t even bother learning to pronounce. Too scientific, too technical. And truthfully, proper nomenclature wasn’t ever high on his priority list. Apparently, he had something astonishingly rare, a condition that seemed medically implausible, to put it lightly. For reasons unexplained, it had recently gained attention from academia worldwide. The current theory was genetics-based, typically only occurring once the brain matures to a certain point, usually in a person’s early twenties. Though, several outliers existed.
The doctors mentioned something about the glands in his brain, the very same that control growth had been significantly altered from that of an average person. In fact, his were attached firmly to the emotional centers of his brain. Something had crossed those wires, or perhaps they’d gotten intersected at birth if leading research could be believed. Nevertheless, the cruel twist is the blight choosing then of all times to manifest. The docs couldn’t be sure, but it seemed as if embarrassment had been the chief cause, spurring an early onset of the blight. He’d been warned that those very feelings had a strong propensity to make the condition act up anew. At any moment, with no more than a passing thought, it could all happen again.
When he left the hospital that day, they’d given him a choice. Stay for study, or return back home with his sister and mom. The latter option was one the doctors had strongly advised against. Plenty of documented examples existed of people with this ailment meeting a brutal end underfoot. Shrunk to buglike sizes and entirely unheard. Regardless of that reality, Aaron wasn’t too keen on being a guinea pig, so he chose the latter. Albeit, hesitantly, he had decided to spend what days he had left relaxing at home with his mom and sister. The young man was determined to beat the odds regardless of what was thrown at him. If he could learn to control his emotions, nothing would be keeping him from living to a ripe old age.
Elizabeth, for her part in it, felt awful. Being the catalyst for such a horrific condition had left her heartbroken. At first, anyway. As all people do, however, she quickly moved on with her life. Guilt fades with time, and not long after the incident on the highway, both had returned to their typical ways. Although, two siblings living is a well-known recipe for disaster. A disaster that the Millers, in particular, were not exempt from. In Aaron and Elizabeth’s case, an eventual conflict was almost unavoidable.
Aaron laid across the sofa, chuckling softly as a joke landed. A brightly colored cartoon plays out on screen. Meanwhile, Liz sits nearby, legs crossed and taking faint glimpses out the window behind her. She waits with a measure of impatience for some friends. They’d be going to the bars tonight, not all that unusual for the group. However, being the frilly girl she is, Lizzy is more than dressed for the occasion. She had some nice makeup on in addition to her regular bar attire. Light foundation, some around the outer edges of her cheeks, complete with just a touch of eyeliner to accentuate it all. She wasn’t dressed up to the nines or anything, but she looked damn good, and she knew it. Despite all the previously mentioned makeup, she hadn’t put it on too thick either, just a touch here and there, enough to really highlight the light splotchings of freckles right under her eyes.
The phone vibrates from her back pocket, prompting her to begrudgingly pull it from her absurdly tight denim shorts. The fabric squeezes Liz’s trapped phone tightly against her body, only giving way after she puts a touch more force into it. The price of looking good in shorts, she reflects idly as she taps through the lock screen and onto messenger.