“No way, just no way, that’s a deal breaker. C’mon Felicia, you have to meet me half way on this.” Rebecca folded her arms and tried to look tough.
“I think I’ve more than met you half way.” Felicia pointed her pen at the contract that she was writing up, a long typed list of terms and check boxes, messily covered in handwritten revisions and additions. “Look at this list, I’m getting walked on all over here.”
“But why can’t I just keep my name? I like my name, you could even shorten it to Becky. Becky is cute.”
Felicia and Rebecca sat at Felicia’s dinner table, a small Formica square in the corner of her cramped studio apartment. Both women were pretty but not eye catching, mid-twenties. Between Felicia’s thick eye-glasses and Rebecca’s stylishly ragged t-shirt they put off a cute mildly hipster vibe, two young women trying to make it in New York.
“I told you,” Felicia laughed, “I never liked Rebecca (and don’t get me started on Becky). And a new name is a rite of passage, it symbolizes the new you and will help us let go of the past.”
Rebecca pursed her lips and crinkled her brow for a few seconds. “Fine, add it to the contract. You’re being a real jerk, you know that?”
Felicia checked the box next to a line of text that read ‘The Owner hereby has the right to change the legal and used name of the Pet, without requiring the Pet’s authorization’.
“Oh you’ll thank me later. I’m thinking about BeeBee, what do you think, has a nice ring to it? Oh don’t give me that look, I can’t take it, you’re just too cute when you’re mad. I can’t even imagine how adorable you’ll look at 3”. Ok, what’s next? Ah, massage duties, perfect.”
It had just been a week earlier that Rebecca had her whole life ahead of her. She worked as a coffee shop barista, it didn’t pay great but the hours were flexible enough for acting auditions, and she was getting pretty good at getting tips. Her best friend Felicia was a bike messenger and the two young women were having a great time being young and broke in a city that felt built just for them.
Then Rebecca was diagnosed with the shrink virus and her life got all fucked up.
She’d heard of it of course, everyone’d heard of it. When people had started shrinking 10 years earlier it seemed like a brave new world, but after awhile it stopped seeming like a big deal. Every year maybe 20 or 30 thousand people across the world would contract the virus. You only saw them on TV or magazines, Rebecca didn’t know anybody who had shrunk. Of course everyone had seen the pornos, but even those seemed normal after a few years.
The laws were pretty severe. The cause of the shrink virus was so complex (radiation from the reduced ozone layer reacting with plastic contaminants that were metabolized by new food additives and about 300 other factors. iPhones were involved in some way, I forget how) that the victims could conceivably sue pretty much every major company and government on earth, so most countries cut this off by simply declaring that shrunk individuals were no longer people and had no legal rights. Apparently enough of your DNA was altered during shrinking that medically speaking you weren’t actually the same person.
Possession became the law, once you had a shrinker in hand and got it registered they were your legal property. Doesn’t matter if it was your best friend’s mom, if you found her first the bitch was all yours. Rebecca had laughed when Bieber shrunk down and was found by one of his fangirls. Shame about lil’ Lohan though.
Sure there were laws about mistreatment just as there were for any other animal, but none of those laws said anything about being treated as a human being. Rebecca knew, she’d read them in great detail in the last few days.
She knew she had only one real option, and that was to choose her own guardian, to not roll the dice on whoever happened to be nearby when the virus struck.
Her family was immediately crossed off the list. Her mom was a non-starter, that woman was crazy. Same went for her brother, he’d probably dress her like a cat girl and stick her on his bookshelf with the rest of his half naked anime figurines. She thought long and hard about whether to go to Zak with the offer, they’d only been dating for 2 months but things were going well. Of course that would be the day that she’d found a sext on his phone from his ex.
So she chose Felicia. Felicia was her friend, Felicia would take care of her. Sure, Felicia was the only person she knew that was more broke than Rebecca herself and taking care of a shrink was expensive (clothes, special food for their altered metabolism, custom housing, it went on and on), but at least she’d be able to keep up with all the AMC shows. Rebecca wasn’t missing the last season of Mad Men for anything, not even this.
She was a little disappointed when Felicia responded to her offer of guardianship by laughing. For like a minute.
“Ok, that’s a deal,” Felicia said and scribbled a new line on the contract. “’The Owner agrees that punishment of the Pet will not include physical violence, to include spankings and asphyxiation.’ Jeeze, I wouldn’t even consider doing that Rebecca, hitting someone so small? No way.”
“Well I just want it in writing, if I thought you’d do that I wouldn’t be here.”
“I mean, when I need to punish you I’ll probably just have you lick my feet clean or something, I’m not a sicko.”
“Moving on! Ok, this is an easy one, ‘The Pet agrees to wear a collar without objection’, that’s a check.”
“Uh uh, that’s NOT a check, I’m not wearing a collar like some dog. When did you get all kinky?”
“You are too wearing it Rebecca, the collar isn’t supposed to be sexy, it’s to keep you safe. There’s a tracking chip in the collars they issue when you get registered, that way nobody can steal you. And that does happen by the way, I’ve been reading articles and there’s all kinds of sickos out there, so this is a definite check.”
“Nnnnrrrrrggggg!….ok, check the stupid collar box…I’m sorry I assumed it was a sex thing,” Rebecca said. “Still don’t like it,” she grumbled as Felicia looked farther down the list and laughed.
It took awhile for Rebecca to convince Felicia that she was serious, and even longer to convince her that it wasn’t the craziest idea that she’d ever had.
“Well why not?” Rebecca said. She and Felicia were at a divey bar they liked, Rebecca figured this would go better after Felicia’d had a drink. Or 5. “I won’t take up much space and we already hang out way too much. It won’t even be that different, your butt will just look bigger.”
“Oh, now I am starting to like this idea if it means paying you back for comments like that.” Felicia took a sip of her gin & tonic. “And it will too be different, taking care of a shrink is expensive, and I can barely take care of myself. I’m not going to be able to pay to get you job training or security for when you go outside or any of the 1000 things I’m not thinking of that you’ll need to keep living your life.”
Rebecca took a long sip of her beer followed by a shot of the house’s cheapest tequila. “Oooooh yes, that’s the burn that momma loves.” She faced Felicia. “I know all that, that’s not what I’m saying stupid. What I’m saying is….Burp…..what I’m saying is….what if I was your pet?”
“Ok, check that one, the one about clothes,” Rebecca said and pointed to the line under Felicia’s pen. “I expect to be dressed in real clothes, not a bunch of stupid cheap doll outfits or just left naked all day like on that Bieber website. I want underwear and bras and something sewn for my size. And it has to be cute!”
“Oh cool, I’m glad to hear I’m suddenly made of money,” Felicia said and cocked her head to the side. “I looked at a retailer this morning, real clothes in that size cost a lot of dough. I’m already going broke paying for your food, all those special metabolism ingredients cost more than my food does. You’re already bleeding me dry you soon-to be little lady”
“Oh I am not, and you’re gonna get the money from my estate sale…after I pay off my credit debt.”
“Whoooooeeee, and with that $35 I’ll buy me a golden Cadillac. Ok, look, I thought you might make a fuss about this one so I have an offer for you. You can either have nice real clothes, which I can’t afford, or you can have that miniature apartment enclosure with plumbing that I agreed to, which I also by the way CANNOT AFFORD.”
Rebecca scrunched her face into a frown and looked like she was deciding whether to suck on a lemon or swallow it whole.
“But I love that little apartment, it has a teeny tiny toilet.”
“Yeah, a teeny tiny toilet that empties into a tray that I’ll get to clean out. You can just go on a pile of tissues, then all I have to do is fold them up and toss them in the trash can. And you know, I saw this really cute little polka dot pencil skirt on Etsy today, it would look so good on you.”
“Ooooh, I don’t know, I….I want the clothes! But…where am I going to live?”
“I thought you’d ask that.” Felicia skittered to the kitchen and dragged back a terrarium, about 4 feet by 2 feet. Inside it was a miniature bed and even a little couch on top of a floor that looked like the green felt that covered a pool table. One of the corners had a small enclosure with 4 walls and a roof, and through the doorway Rebecca could see that it was half stuffed with tissues. “My sister tricked it out, she has a lot of ideas on how to make it comfy.”
Rebecca did not look as thrilled as Felicia hoped.
Back at the bar Rebecca pressed her offer. The bartender brought them both another round.
“Look, I’m not under any illusions here. My life is over. Only millionaires get to still go to school and concerts and yacht fights…and…and other millionaire stuff. I’m not going to shrink down and then go out and get my dream job. But I don’t want to be some pervert’s toy or spend every day watching my mom make jam. She never even eats the jam, she just keeps making it. I don’t know where the jam goes.”
“Ok, ok,” Felicia said and lowered the bottle from Rebecca’s lips. “That’s enough of that for now. But did you say ‘pet’?”
“Well what the hell else would you call it? I’d live in your house but not contribute, I’d need your help for everything, I’ll probably get so lonely that I’ll wag my tail whenever you come home…if I had a tail. I don’t think shrinkies grow tails.”
Rebecca looked like she might have another point to make, but instead opted to run to the bathroom at full speed. When she came back she looked a little more stable, but didn’t change her mind.
“But look,” Rebecca said after another 20 minutes of making her case that she’d be a quality pet (an argument which involved several lovely sketches on a cocktail napkin). “I’m not just diving in blind and hoping for the best, I’ve done my research. Before someone shrinks they have a little bit of wiggle room. There are contracts that people sign, I downloaded one. I’m not going to have any legal rights, but if we both sign a contract now agreeing to certain…rules…then you’re obligated to them even after I’m a legal non-entity. I’m gonna be the best goddamn pet you ever saw, but I’m doing it on my terms. Damnitt cock hell damn.”
And so it was that after stumbling back to Felicia’s apartment
drunk (and making out just a little, but that’s neither here nor there) the two friends were found the next day sitting at Felicia’s formica table reviewing a shrinker/guardian contract template, haggling over each item of Rebecca’s coming life.
Rebecca looked Felicia in the eye. “Well we’re definitely not checking the tattoo box until you agree to be reasonable and promise me that I’ll be allowed SOME cleavage rides. I’m not an idiot.”