I was really looking forward to that Sunday. After a long week of bouncing from stressing at work to doing chores at home, I couldn’t wait to have a day when I simply had nothing to do. So when I woke up in the early morning, I smiled, knowing this was the day. No spreadsheets to fill, no bedsheets to wash. No vacuuming nor cleaning either. For once, I was free. I stretched and got out from bed, taking my sweet time doing both. Then I headed to the kitchen and brewed some coffee, shivering a bit when I felt just how cold the floor tiles were under my bare feet. I drank it at my apartment’s balcony as I watched the sun slowly rise over the city. Most people were still asleep and there was no circulation in the streets below, so I could enjoy this quiet, serene moment. I finished my coffee and headed back to the kitchen. As I passed the table in the living room, my attention fell briefly on a cardboard box standing on it. This was now my little pet’s domicile, so to say, the container in which he slept or in which I put him whenever I needed him to, well, stay put. I hoped I didn’t wake him up as I moved around. Oh well, I was going to check on him later anyway. I moved to the kitchen and put the empty cup into the sink as I started my day off, taking a shower and dressing into grey yoga pants and a sleeveless purple top. I was already thinking of what to do next during the day as I combed my long, blonde hair. I decided to take it slow, maybe read a book or watch something as I’m lying on the couch, wasting the day away. I felt like I’ve earned it. Maybe, I thought, I should catch up with my pet. He must’ve been so lonely this entire week while I was too busy to tend to him in any other way than bringing him food. Maybe I could find him something to do, like paint my nails while he’s still big enough to hold the brush (even if these days he could barely do so). A quick glance over my nails. I was thinking blue. Oh, but first I would have to prepare some breakfast for him. Me, I’ve grown used to not having breakfasts anymore but he didn’t and still required one to function through the day. Oh well. It’s not like he could eat much, not at his ever-diminishing state anyway.
Yes, I suppose I owe you some explanations. Such as who I am and who might this curious pet of mine be. I’ll start with myself – my name’s Joan and, sadly, I’m pushing my thirties. You already know my hair colour so you’ve probably guessed my eyes are blue. Not much of a surprise, I know. My noticeable features? A mole on my right cheek, for one. And my height; at five-foot-nine I could be considered tall. As for my pet, his name is… Well. It’s hard to remember anymore. These days his name is Pip. Or ‘little one’. But I prefer Pip. It’s short, just like him, so it fits him well. He didn’t like it when I started calling him that and, I’m sure, he doesn’t like it still but at least he no longer protests. Pip and I used to be equals, friends even, until he was unfortunate enough to come down with a virus that made him shrink. Day after day he grew shorter, and shorter, until he was so short he could no longer function on his own. I offered my help and he’s lived at my place since then, still dwindling, until he could no longer be called short but small instead. I still remember the headache of registering myself as his legal caretaker but in the end, it was worth it. What’s filling some paperwork and running from one office to the next compared with having a lifetime companion? Sadly, Pip couldn’t share my enthusiasm. Poor thing took his steady downsizing rather bad. He didn’t like being measured, only to see he’s gotten smaller than the day before. He didn’t like being naked all the time (as if it was my fault he was eventually too small to wear clothes). He didn’t like me forbidding him from walking on the floor (again, not my fault, you’re too small for that) or picking him up and moving my curious fingers around him. Even the meals I prepared for him was a problem. It took him a while to understand what ‘this is a vegetarian household’ meant. In short (ha) he didn’t enjoy the situation he found himself in. Me, on the contrary, liked having him around like this. My only concern was him ending up too small to have any fun with. He was already pretty small since his most recent shrink spurt which left him at a diminutive two inches in height, but I could manage with that. Any smaller and I’d have to squint to even see him. Or buy a microphone to even hear him. Although, I have to admit, there was something endearing in him being roughly the size of my little finger. Well, a bit shorter to be honest - I have big hands. Point is, I liked him like this and hoped he wouldn’t get any smaller. ‘Oh, Pip’ I even told him once, ‘Don’t shrink again, please. I like you this size.’ Sadly, he had nothing to say to that.
I left the bathroom and headed towards the table in the living room. I looked inside the carboard box and, much to my surprise, couldn’t see Pip in there. He wasn’t on the pile of folded napkins, which served as his bed, nor near the bottlecap I filled with water the night before. Nor sitting in any corner of the box, as he used to do. I even run my fingers through the napkins, thinking he might be hiding underneath them, but he was nowhere to be found. Where could he be, I wondered. He couldn’t have climbed out, as the walls were several times taller than him and too smooth to hold on to. My earlier concern manifested itself again. What if he had another shrink spurt overnight? I looked in closely, searching for any human-shaped speck scurrying around the box, hoping that, if he did get smaller, then he’d still be visible under a naked eye. But the only specks I found were that of dust and pieces of uneaten food. I did notice something curious, however – a hole in the wall, roughly half an inch wide, so small I almost missed it. It became clear to me Pip tore it in the carboard to escape his confinement. But the size of the hole perplexed me. Did he get tired in the process and that’s why it was so small? Could he crawl through such a narrow space if he was two inches tall? Or maybe he did suffer another spurt? I shook my head and stood up straight, scanning the table in search for him. He couldn’t have run too far. Or maybe he could’ve, as he was nowhere to be seen on the table either. He wasn’t hiding under a block of post-it notes or behind a stapler or near any other object strew around my table. My gaze followed to one more thing that was standing on the table, a small lamp and a cable running from it to the floor. Of course, I thought. If he made it out of the box then this was the obvious way towards the floor. And then my heart sank. If he was on the same floor I walked just a moment ago… I lifted my foot and looked over its sole. Nothing, thank god. Same with the other foot. I wouldn’t want to start the day off by crushing my pet underfoot (talk about a mood killer). But the question remained – where the hell was he?
I got on all fours to better search for him around the floor, looking for any sign of motion but not noticing any. To be fair, it would be hard to notice someone so small running around. And I had no experience in finding tiny people on the run as I’d never let Pip roam the place freely, so my task was even more difficult. And frustrating. Maybe I could track him, I thought and looked down to the carpet covering the floor. I always liked this carpet. It was soft and in a nice shade of burgundy. I brought my head all the way down, looking for footprints he might’ve left behind but again, no such luck. Perhaps his feet were too small to bend the fibres or perhaps he was now so small he had to run through them, not on them. It was impossible to tell at the time. Standing up, I took one more glance around the place, waging my options. Or should I say leads, as I felt almost like a detective at that moment. It was clear he was trying to escape, but why? I took good care of him after all. Was he miserable at his box? Well, he should’ve understood by now it was for his own good. I couldn’t figure out his reasons to run away and I settled on just asking him about them once I’ll have found him. There was still the pesky detail of figuring out where he went. Not on the balcony, of this I was sure, as I lived on the third floor and trying to escape that way would be lethal. I doubted he was still in the living room, hiding, and frankly I hoped that wasn’t the case – I didn’t want to ruin my morning by having to move all the furniture and look into every gap in search of him. In the end, I resorted to asking myself just one simple question – if I were a tiny man who wanted to escape an apartment, where would I go? Ah. Of course. I shook my head again and headed towards the front door.
Sure enough, I found him there, although I didn’t realize it was him at first. When I made it to the entrance and scanned the floor I noticed something moving down there. Something roughly the size of my fingernail, something naked. Pip. He was running towards the front door and if he made it, he could’ve easily crawled underneath it, now that he was so utterly minuscule. I sighed, watching him. Even though I could tell he was running as fast as he could, he still appeared to be moving slow, his tiny legs capable of giving him only so much velocity. Thanks to that, I had a moment to ponder my next move. If he was so unhappy under my care, why not just let him go? He could go wherever he please and do as he liked. And be torn apart by ants or spiders in the lawn or stepped on by another human being. Could I really allow him to die like this with a clear conscience? I was his caretaker, after all. Or, I could just stop him, block his path with my foot and pluck him from the floor, then drop him in a wineglass or a tic-tac box, something he wouldn’t have an easy time getting out of. And then what? One more shrink spurt and he’d be gone, microscopic, fall prey to the bacteria or dust mites. Another gruesome death. It seemed as if there was no good choice there. He didn’t want to be with me, I didn’t want him to suffer out there. And then a thought occurred to me: if I was responsible for his life then I was responsible for ending it as well. Clearly, our little relationship was at an end. It seemed better to cut it there and then, than to prolong the inevitable. I took a step forward, then another and then one more. My right foot fell upon his tiny frame, covering him entirely. I thought I’d feel nothing, figurately and literally, especially when the latter was concerned. He was so tiny, so fragile now, yet I still felt him struggle, trying to wiggle his way out, still adamant on running away from me. Even in such a diminished, humiliating state, his primary concern was to live and for a moment I thought of letting him go. But in the end, I didn’t. No, I thought, and pressed my foot down. He was gone in an instant, his body pulverized under my weight, his life cut short by such a simple act from my part. I lifted my foot and looked at his tiny, mangled body in a pool of blood forming against my sole. I couldn’t help but think how pathetic it looked and how pathetic Pip’s death ultimately was. Then I wiped his remains against the floor and went about my day. I’d have to report this to the police, of course. I was already thinking of what to say when it comes to that. Yes, officer, I found him like this. No, I didn’t realize he made it all the way to the floor. No, I didn’t feel him when I stepped on him. Yes, you’re right, such things happen. Yes, I know I’m entitled to compensation.