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Author's Chapter Notes:

When her mother Martha goes shoe shopping, Natalie gets a close-up experience of all the footwear.

Natalie had suffered from the shrinking disease ever since she was young. Her condition affected her at the most unpredictable times, reducing her to such tiny sizes that she often went unnoticed by her peers for hours at a time, scurrying under their feet like a bug and trying to get their attention, or to get somewhere safe from them.

That was just how the young woman found herself this Sunday morning. Her condition had triggered right after breakfast, and now she stood a thousandth of her normal size, lost on the living room floor and slowly making her way to the kitchen where she could hear her mother Martha doing the dishes.

Nat had been walking for several minutes and still hadn't reached the kitchen when she felt and heard the familiar rumbling booms of a normal person's lumbering steps. Seconds later, Martha appeared in front of her, a middle-aged colossus walking right towards her.

Martha was short, even for a Latina, though she made up for it by being large in other ways. Natalie had grown used to looking down on her mother ever since she turned fourteen, but her shrinking disease ensured she was still used to looking up at her too. Still, Martha's sky-scraping heights were no less impressive today than they had been the last hundred times.

It never failed to take Natalie's breath away when she saw a normal person after shrinking once again. All them became walking mountains to her, capable of shaking the world with their mere footsteps, and Martha was no exception. Had she been this size from birth she would have no doubt thought the woman a goddess. Even knowing she it was only her mother, Nat was still awed seeing her come closer in her tight blue jeans and flowery blouse, and especially when that caramel sole filled her view.

Nat shut her eyes moments before the familiar heft of her mother's foot slammed onto her and left her sprawled out underneath. Her groan was swallowed up by the wrinkly flesh, and barely reached her ears before she was ferried away on a little patch of skin near the base of Martha's big toe. Step after step numbed her body as Martha walked to her room. Natalie was almost passed out when she found herself smothered onto another surface, one no less familiar than the cold tiles she'd been dashed again all this time: the insole of Martha's flats.

Worn though it was, the leather surface was a huge improvement over the bare floor, easing some of the pressure. She couldn't say she was glad to be here and not in Martha's hand or still out on the floor, but she could make do with it, at least. At this point, the grimy imprint of her mother's foot felt almost like a second home to her. The smell was nostalgic, almost comforting, as was the warmth already seeping into the surface and into herself. As recently as two years ago she would have fought it, and tried to make her mother notice her, but she was older now and knew from experience that she was far beneath the older woman's notice.

Hours of numbness awaited Natalie while her mother saw to the chores, sweeping, mopping, scrubbing, and washing. Sometimes she was stuck to Martha's foot, sometimes to her insole, but always to one of the two. When Martha slipped off her shoes, Natalie still lay plastered to the insole, and it took minutes of struggling before she came unglued. Covered in a thin coat of grime, she crawled out of the toe box and into the light.

They were out on the veranda now, she saw. Her mother sat cross-legged on one of the cushioned chairs, a book in one hand and a cold beverage in the other, utterly oblivious to the little bug beneath her. Some small distance away, her bare foot rested on the ground, motionless save for the occasional tap of her toes. As soon a she could stand, Nat got up and jogged towards it, leaping over little cracks on the floorboards and circling around pebbles until she reached her mother's toes. There she jumped on the big toe, a hundred-foot-tall colossus, and clambered up Martha's skin to reach the toenail. Martha might have noticed her then if she glanced down—her daughter's lighter skin and sky-blue dress, specially made to change size with her when she shrank, would have stood out sharply against the deep maroon of her toenail—but her thoughts could not be further from Natalie.

The tiny woman considered climbing up to get her mother's attention, but she dismissed the idea. It wasn't as if that would get her any closer to her normal size, and at this point it probably wasn't worth the effort. She'd learned it was sometimes better to accept her shrinking and try to eke out a bit of comfort in the margins of everyone else's daily lives, and she figured this was one such time. She lay down on her mother's toenail, closed her eyes, and breathed deeply, basking in the morning sunlight that still reached her from under the awning.

It was a quiet time for her, and whatever happened, she took it all in stride. Even the little movements of Martha's toes that were never quite enough to throw her off. The smell of her mother's foot was still a bit sharp, but it softened after a while, and the sun-kissed scent that replaced it was relaxing in a way. She might have fallen asleep, if she hadn't heard her name called just then. “Natalie, is that you?” Her eyes fluttered open in time to see those massive fingers descending towards her. Their fingertips fell on the toenail, then came together to pinch her minute body. Her mother's flesh nearly engulfed her as she was lifted far into the sky, to gaze into a shimmering brown eye whose pupil she could drown in “Really, Natalie? Shrinking again already? Honey, we just went through this five days ago.” Martha shook her head in disappointment, as if Natalie had any control over her shrinking. In all her time researching the topic, Natalie had never heard anything credible saying it was possible, but her mother had cleaved to that belief as if proven fact ever since one of her friends made an offhand comment about it years ago.

More than that, Martha believed that every situation Nat got herself into happened of her will, as if the young woman chose to be stepped on or to end up in her shoes. Finding her daughter napping peacefully on her toenail certainly wouldn't help erase that impression, but then, it was likely that nothing ever would.

Martha sighed. “Well, it is the weekend, so I suppose it's fine. You can stay there if you want.” She bent over and dropped Natalie back on top of her foot. The tiny woman rolled and bounced down the gentle slope until she was caught between a pair of toes. Looking down at her daughter, Martha slowly wiggled her toes, watching how the tiny woman was pushed up and down along her skin. “Actually, I was hoping you could help me pick out some new shoes today... you can still help me at that size, can't you?” She curled her toes around Natalie, and their flesh engulfed her daughter, claiming Nat for her own. She didn't bother waiting for an answer before putting down her book and drink and slipping her shoes back on, leaving Nat in the dark once more.

It was tight in there, tight enough for Martha's toes to keep a firm grip on her without even trying. Nat could hardly move, and everything but her head was entombed between those walls of flesh. Martha went straight to the car, and in a couple minutes they were on their way to the shoe store.

Natalie wouldn't get another whiff of fresh air until some time later, when Martha sat and took off her flats. The older woman splayed her toes to let Natalie fall from them, but the thin layer of sweat and toe grime still held her daughter in place until Martha wiggled her toes together, finally rubbing Nat off her skin.

“Are you wake, Natalie?” Martha watched her tiny daughter struggle to stand, numb all over from being squeezed for hours between her toes. “Good! I have some shoes here to try on and I want you to tell me what you think of them.” She started out with a pair of leather sandals with four criss-crossing straps. Once she had them on, Martha stood with her feet flanking her tiny daughter. The soles of those sandals alone were close to ten times taller than Natalie, who gazed up at the gargantuan constructs and her mother's equally-massive feet, feeling humbled by their immense size, and the speed and power with which they moved. “What do you think? Do I look sexy?” she asked, moving her feet in all manner of ways so Natalie could see them from every angle. Natalie didn't say anything, and Martha wouldn't have heard her if she did, but then, she didn't really care. She just wanted to show off for someone, and that someone being tiny little Nat only made it more fun. “Tell me how it looks from below. Knowing you you'll probably want to see it from that angle very often.” Martha chuckled as she raised her foot over her little daughter, immersing the girl in the shadow of her foot. Natalie braced herself for impact, just in case. Her eyes dutifully followed that sandal as it swayed teasingly from side to side. Finally the sole started falling towards her, but Martha pulled back her foot before she could step on her Natalie, and instead the tip of her sandal came down safely a centimeter in front of the little woman.

“Now that I think about it, you should have a look at them from inside too. I mean, you might be riding in them sometime, so you might as well see how comfortable they are,” Martha said. It wasn't phrased like an order, but Natalie knew to take it for one and went to climb on the sandal. If she didn't, her mom would probably just pick her up and drop her on it anyways.

Martha's toes wiggled slowly as her tiny daughter climbed up the sandal's sole. From Martha's perspective it seemed very smooth, but at Nat's meager size there were enough imperfections on it to make for a manageable climb, if not an easy one as the powerful impact of her mother's wiggling toes overhead made it harder than it had to be. Still, she soon pulled herself up onto the insole, where she was met with yet another toe wiggle that spoke of Martha's amusement at seeing how adorably puny her daughter looked down at her feet.

“So, how is it? Soft enough for you?” Natalie ran her hands over the leathery surface. It was definitely softer than her mother's flats, if only because it hadn't been worn by use yet. “Maybe you need a closer look to decide. Here, let me help you.” Raising her toes and tilting back her foot, Martha sent Natalie rolling down the slope of her insole until she was wedged under the ball of her mother's foot. She set her foot back down then, smothering little Nat underneath. Softer insole or not, the pressure was no less numbing, and Nat lay helplessly under Martha until her mother took off the sandals and ran her sole over the carpeted floor, scraping off the tiny woman.

Natalie had barely recovered when her mother presented her with the next set of footwear, a pair of white ankle strap heels that hardly covered an inch of her skin. “Look, Nat! Now your mom's a real giant!” Martha laughed, towering proudly over the little bug. The shoes added some six inches to her height, further exacerbating the sheer difference in size between mother and daughter. She set her foot down so Natalie stood under the arch, gawking at the 500-foot-tall heel. “Can you imagine climbing these babies? Maybe I should get these so you'll stop getting into my shoes while I'm not looking. Oh, who am I kidding! I'm sure you'll find a way to climb them regardless. But for now, let me give you a lift.” She grabbed her daughter and dropped her on her big toenail, from where Natalie gawked at the top of her mother's foot stretching almost vertically overhead. The tiny woman clung to that toenail as her mom turned her foot from side to side, then followed it out of that heel and into a pair of fuzzy pink sandals.

She followed mom's foot into pumps and stilettos and running shoes, gawked at her massive wedge heels and flip-flops and loafers, until Martha had gone through the whole stack of footwear she had brought with her. Martha left her daughter lying on the floor between her bare feet while she decided on which shoes to buy, casually rocking Natalie's world with every thoughtful tap of her foot. Finally she made her decision and dropped her toes on Natalie, trapping the tiny woman with a curl of her toes to carry her back into her flats.

It was another few hours before Nat was taken out of her prison on the bottom of her mother's second toe. “There you are,” said Martha, peeling her daughter off with a long, maroon nail. “Did you have fun? It's not every day you get to go out at that size. Maybe I should change that, though; that was way more fun than I thought it would be! Are you wondering which shoes I bought? Let me show you!” Martha carried Natalie down, down, down, and dropped the tiny woman on a vaguely familiar surface. It took her a moment to realize she was on the skyscraper-sized white heels from earlier. “Ta-da! Since you like shoes so much, I figured, the more shoe the better, right? And, since you were so well behaved at the store, I figure you can hang out on these as much as you like today—a little reward for my little girl!” Her mother's caramel sole appeared over Nat, giant toes touching down on the insole and sliding forward until they had gained possession of the tiny woman again. After putting on both shoes, Martha stood and took a few steps, admiring how good they looked on her. She couldn't feel her Natalie down there, but she was sure her little bug of a daughter was ecstatic to be smothered under her. What better treat for such an incorrigible foot lover than Martha's own gorgeous soles? She still didn't get her daughter's interest in them, but she supposed it was harmless enough, and if it made her happy, why not help her indulge in it? As long as she could have a little fun with it too, of course.

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