In the middle of it all is Steve. Immobile and only too aware of his situation. He is held firm by the compressed material of the tampon, which has been stitched into it's proper shape, and squeezed into a cardboard tube. Well two tubes actually, one inside the other.
The tubes are in a paper wrapper. The wrapper is one of many inside a cardboard box. The box, a deep blue in colour with a stylised picture of a purple flower, and the brand logo printed on it is itself just one of many inside a much larger cardboard packing crate, and that crate is on a rack in a warehouse.
Right now, there's little point in describing things from Steve's point of view. It's dark, and quiet, and nothing much changes.
So the unpeeling of the layers will be done from the outside in, and it's mainly from there that we need to watch.
First of all, the crate.
After a week or so sitting in the warehouse, the crate was lifted on a forklift, and carried out to a lorry. The sound and movement woke Steve, and he shouted and fought against his constraints, but his most strenuous efforts were utterly futile.
the lorry was filled with many similar crates, and made it's way across country to a distribution centre, where Steve's crate spent a few days before continuing, in another lorry to the warehouse area of a large supermarket.
From there, a worker cut the plastic ties that bound the cardboard crate, and cut through the brown adhesive tape that sealed its' top. The tampon boxes were taken out, and stacked, a little untidily, on shelves, along with boxes of other brands of sanitary towel and tampon (and incontinence pads)
Inside his tube, Steve could hear muffled music, mostly chart hits, and some classic songs from over the years, and although the darkness was still absolute, he knew that his situation was slowly changing.
After a few days, in the middle of the night, he was once again shaken into awareness as the box was lifted, and placed on a pallet. the pallet, laden with toiletries was pushed into the main shopping area on a handcart, and Steve, although he had no way of knowing it, was now placed on a shelf, in the feminine hygeine aisle of the supermarket.
Morning came, and the store opened. More music now, and a growing clamour of voices. The beeps of tills. The occasional alarm noise as people passed through the entrance with inadvertantly retained security tags. The shouts and cries of children. Announcements over the public address. This is a colleague announcement. Cleaner to isle four please. All checkout operators to the tills please. All muffled, and still pitch black. Steve felt the box he was in move, as a shopper pushed it to one side to pick up a box of her preferred brand. More nudges and jerks and then...
a sense of being lifted, before being dropped unceremoniously into a shopping trolley.
So who was she? This woman, who was unknowingly purchasing a tiny person along with her groceries? She could be tall or short. Black or white. Beautiful or plain. Or plain ugly. She could have hair of any colour. She could be fat or thin. Steve might never get to see her, wrapped as he was in layers of cardboard, cotton and paper, so in a sense, it didn't matter who she was. She was a Woman. She was both old and young enough to menstruate. She needed tampons. Perhaps Steve would have liked to have been picked up by a stunningly attractive willowy blonde, but of course, he had absolutely no say in the matter.
So I'll leave you, the reader, to provide, in your own minds eye, a picture of the woman, who was by now pushing her trolley along another aisle, and picking up the rest of the things she'd gone out to buy. His deep blue box was now buried deep in the trolley beneath a weeks grocery shop.
Her name though, was Gina.
Once more, Steve made a superhuman effort to be noticed. Screaming and shouting, and trying to rock and move, but with no better luck than before. The box was placed on a conveyor belt. Its' barcode was scanned, and he was placed into a carrier bag. the bag, with many others, was taken out to a car, and Steve was driven to an ordinary house, on a suburban street, and was carried inside, fighting against the implacable constriction all the while. Perhaps she might just have heard him, with the voice of a gnat, while in the car, or carrying the bags into the kitchen, but luck was not on Steve's side.
His box was eventually taken out of the bag, and he was carried upstairs, along with soap, toilet rolls, and bottles of shampoo and shower gel. A bathroom cabinet was opened, and Steve's box was placed inside. The door to the cabinet was closed, and stillness returned. Muffled footsteps retreated, and somewhere, a door clicked shut.