When she looked into her palm, she could hardly recognize the thing standing in the middle of it as her husband. The thing was small, insignificant, barely quarter of an inch tall. It was naked and, as far as she could tell, screaming. She couldn’t be sure as even in the silence of the living room she could hardly register the sounds made by the thing. Those barely audible, high-pitched, singular snippets might as well have been him crying out to her. Or a background noise, she could no longer tell.
The thing had two legs, a torso, a head and two arms which it was lifting towards her face. “What does he want now?” she thought. Help? Compassion? Putting him out of his misery? Hers?
Even though she focused her entire attention to the spot in the middle of her palm, where he was standing, she found it hard to see her husband standing there. When he first started to diminish, he was still her husband. When the pressure of his new stature began to overwhelm him, he was still her husband. When they fought, more often and louder, he was still her husband. When she had to kneel to look him in the eyes and he slapped her in a moment of anger, he was still her husband. Even when he eventually had to move into a dollhouse, he retained his status in her eyes.
But this? This wasn’t her husband. Not that minuscule thing lost against the plain of her left palm. Not this pitiful being she had to squint her eyes to see clearly. Whatever flame she harboured towards him was gone, burned out, diminished just like he was – there were only ashes of things that were and a deafening silence of a future without him. One day, sooner more than later, she would wake up to find him gone, vanished from existence.
Was he scared of the inevitable? Was he uncomfortable being held like that, lifting his head all the way up to meet the vast forest of her long, auburn hair dancing above him and the twin blue moons of her indifferent eyes? The cavern of her thin lips which would no longer speak to him? When he looked up, could he still see her as his wife or as something entirely different, just as she saw him now? There was a time she would wonder about such things but that has already passed.
She sighed. She needed a smoke; she quit shortly after getting married and picked the habit again shortly after his shrinking started. He didn’t like when she smoked but with each passing day he could do less and less about it.
She closed her fist, slowly, glimpsing the tiny thing panic as the massive pillars of flesh engulfed him in darkness and she slowly stepped out to the balcony. She sat on a cheap, plastic chair adjacent to an equally cheap plastic table and she pulled a cigarette from a pack lying on it with her one free hand. Then she reached for a lighter. And then she remembered of the tiny thing still in her other hand. If she kept him closed in there she risked suffocating him but if she put him on the table a smallest gust of wind could take him away. And so she moved her left hand to the ashtray, upturned it and opened it so that her tiny husband dropped into the mess of ash and extinguished cigarette butts.
As she smoked, taking slow and deep puffs, her attention immediately turned to the little thing struggling in the ashtray. She wondered what it looked like from his perspective, what apocalyptic landscape could the inside of an ashtray represent. The deep layer of ashes covering everything in sight, the massive remains of cigarettes more akin to fallen buildings from his perspective. A city after a nearby volcano erupted, a cheap Pompeii knock-off made out of paper and cellulose.
She saw him lift a fist to his mouth, his body jerking; he was clearly choking on the ashes filling the air around him, struggling, suffering. But she no longer cared. She brought the cigarette closer, flicking the burning ash mere feet from where he was standing, at least to him. He started to run immediately, run from the heat, from the occasional spark bouncing off the place of impact. Shrinking did little to his instincts, she thought. He ran away from fire as any living being would. She decided to play with him a bit, flicking small amounts of ash into his surroundings, watching him scutter away, even getting her face closer and exhaling the smoke into the ashtray (making sure she doesn’t bring it close enough to choke on the ashes herself), making him lose his way in the thick, suffocating mist. When he tried hiding in between the old filters scattered around, she would use her pinky to move those away, revealing him and forcing him to run again. A suggestion of a smile crept into the corner of her mouth as she watched him run from one end of the container to the next, more and more caked in ash and soot, more and more grey and blending with his surroundings. She was a goddess of the volcano and he, a pathetic mortal creature, was utterly at her mercy.
Her sadistic streak burned out almost as quickly as her cigarette did. And so, she brought the latter closer. For a moment she thought of extinguishing it on top of him, of snuffing his existence together with it. But then she realized he didn’t deserve a burning death like this. She would let him pass on naturally, or as naturally as it could be. He’d disappear, left behind and forgotten amidst the ashes. Or maybe he’d survive in this glass volcano crater and live until she would have to inevitably empty the ashtray. Or maybe a magpie would profit from her absence to look for something edible around the balcony and find him there. She could care less at this point.
She extinguished the cigarette near him, near enough for him to feel the heat on his minuscule body but without granting him a coup de grace. She stood up and gave him one final glance, one last look of indifference as she stepped inside and locked the door behind her.