I’m not even gonna explain… I don’t know what I’m doing here. There’s this thing that happened, and sometimes a story has to be told. I have no clue as to where it will go, and that’s a complete lie. I generally tend to see stories from beginning to end, like dominoes falling in both directions, and meeting in the middle. In medias res, here I come.
Marina jogged past the throng of kids playing and chattering away in English and Spanish, the unmistakeable cadence and sibilation of Mexican-ness as familiar to her as the smell of Cuban coffee. How she missed those dark morning (or afternoon, if she felt brave) punches to her brain. How she missed Florida. She pounded the ground harder, gaining speed and leaving all noise behind as she entered the park’s woods, and a narrow dirt path littered with years of dead leaves and twigs.
Saturday sunlight peeked past the canopy of trees, and in the distance, gleamed in flashes off the tall surface of the Biodome where they lived separately from her kind. When it had all been new, her parents had taken her to the Wall a few times, the exterior of the dome closest to ground level that exposed an outermost layer of tiny citizenry as though it was a show for which you pay money and wait two hours in line to see. And that’s what they had done. She had been fascinated by the small buildings, the narrow streets, the incredibly small people that no one her age had ever met in person; and she had been frightened by the stern guards that kept the dome boundaries and contents safe.
Now, as she ran, she constantly sent her gaze to find broken spaces between leaves, to catch glimpses of the dome as she moved past tree after tree, so she almost missed the small shape that staggered from behind an exposed tree root, and dropped to the ground with only enough space to allow her to come to a brisk halt.
“What the hell!” she cried out as her body protested the sudden stop. Her chest was heaving, and she slowed down her breathing as she bent down to look at the little shape. She dropped her palms onto her thighs, and moved her head lower yet, not believing her eyes. Finally, she dropped to the ground on her hands and knees, followed by her head, which she pressed to one side of the path as though she was trying to hear its heartbeat. But she only wanted to get a very good look at the tiny woman, no more than two inches in height, who was lying still and beginning to open her eyes.
“Hello, little girl,” she said, suddenly flooded by wonderment to finally meet one of them in person. This one appeared to feel something entirely different as she scrambled away from her in a clear panic, and surrendered to shrieking. “Hey, hey, calm down. I know what to do. Let’s get you back home, alright? Where you belong. How did you get out here anyway?” Marina had lowered her voice as much as it was humanly possible, but it was clear that the gusts of her breath and the pounding of her words were too much for the tiny person. She had covered her ears with her hands, and was now shaking her head violently from side to side.
Marina sighed, and regretted it immediately when the wind from her lips hit the little woman, and bent her backwards. She pivoted in the dirt, and Marina could see a drop of fresh blood emerging from her tiny neck. “You are hurt!” and she covered her mouth right away, to try to protect the woman from the force of her words. She kept her hand in place when she said, “look, I can help. I want to help. Why don’t you-“
“Help?” said the tiny woman, twisting in place and sitting up again and drying her eyes. Her mouth was so infinitesimal Martina wondered how it was possible she could hear her. “Help! Help! Brother! Help!” Her words had an odd accent to them Marina could not identify, as skilled as she was spotting nationalities after only exchanging a few words when meeting people. But this accent? Unknown.
“Yes, I help. C’mon, let’s go find a guard, and get you back to the Wall, OK?” But much to her surprise, and to what was beginning to feel an uncomfortable position to her neck, the little woman kicked her heels and moved away from her like a little crab. She sat and waved her hands at her. That’s a negative in any language, friend. She gave the little woman a quizzical look. “I’m bound by law to take you back. If I don’t, and they find you, I can be arrested, and worse. I’m sorry. I have to-“
“Brother! Brother! Help brother!” And the little woman produced a tiny square that must have been a photograph, because she mustered enough courage to get up, and waver close to her face, wielding the square like a weapon, or an argument. Marina strained to catch the picture’s contents, but it was impossible. Whatever or whoever it was, was far too small for detection.
“OK, help ‘brother’”. How do you propose we do that?” At that, the woman balked, and appeared doubtful. Not for long. She started making odd beckoning signals to Marina. “Come here,” she said with her little hand curling. “I’m right here, you dum-dum… hmm. I wonder if you mean… my hand? OK. I think I get what you are saying. Sure, climb in, lady. What’s your name?” And Marina slowly inched her hand toward the woman, who stood there, waiting. As soon as her pinky finger was within reach of the woman, she did something exceedingly puzzling. She dove toward it, and when she landed on it, she straddled it, and then hugged it. Marina was about to protest when she felt it. The invasion. The mental connection that was both horrifying and more intimate than anything she had ever experienced.
Brother… lost… escaped… trouble… chips in our necks… The information was relentless, and it felt like an explosion inside her head. When it was over, she was shaking, and crying. She felt compelled to crush the little woman on the spot for such a violation, but at the same time such an act would have been unthinkable for her. She was also deeply grateful. She didn’t know why.
“Do you understand now, unwieldy person?”
“What did you- don’t be rude. My name is Marina.”
“I’m sorry, Marina. My name is Ciara. All our words for ‘big’ are insults or curses in my language. I’ll have to learn new ones, and add them to my understanding.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Ciara. What did you do to me, to my mind?”
“I formed a link, so I could talk to you, and you could understand me no matter what language I speak. I also explained to you why it’s crucial you don’t take me back, and instead take me with you. We have to find my brother.”
Marina thought of Ciara’s love for her brother. She thought of what she now knew was her brother’s face. She took a deep, shuddering breath, and whispered to Ciara as she flipped her hand and offered her palm to her, “let’s go find your brother.”