She pushed a button on the remote, and “Band of Brothers” started playing on the TV, the volume low as to render it as white noise, but the rugged male voices of men that had seen hell still played drums with the bones in his ears, and he wondered if they ever felt the way he felt now, dropped into a new world, where he had to fight for his life every second of every day. He desperately wanted to stare at the screen and get lost in the story again, but she stared at him, and he knew she wouldn’t let him get away, not even in his mind.
“What’s your name?”
“Toy, my Owner.”
“That’s what I’ve taught you. What’s the name your parents gave you?”
He forgot all about the soldiers grunting on the screen, and the wavering glow that bounced from the tv and off the living room walls, taller than many buildings, as white as he remembered cloudy skies before the sun broke through the veil, but now paint and plaster and beams, and probably a standard number of roaches hunting for food. For him, if they ever got the chance. He felt like prey often, and the look in her eyes increased the sensation.
“I—you said never to say—”
“It’s okay. I want to know now.”
“I thought you knew… I thought you looked at my driver’s license before you shredded it, Owner.”
“I did, but I didn’t read it. What’s your name?”
“My name was John, Owner.”
He looked at her now, really looked at her, past the fear, the rage, the grief. Had she really not looked him up? Was she testing him? Did she really not know who he had been before she shrank him and stashed him in her purse?
“Your eyes look like seeds. Shiny seeds. What grows from them?”
She said strange things like that all the time. Things that made him sound like fruit or a vegetable or the product of a natural force. She’d called him Raindrop for a whole month when he still cried himself to sleep. Now he was just Toy, or Sextoy after dark. When she talked like that, he tried to follow along.
“Only a desire to understand. I hope to understand. I’m confused by your questions now. Please, forgive me, Owner.”
“There’s nothing to forgive, Toy. I just… I feel almost normal right now, and I see you. I see you as a man, and I see your whole life behind me. I see what you might have been, what everyone might miss now that you’re here, and not… there. John what?”
“My name was John Gillingham, Owner.”
“And your middle name?”
“Michael…” She looked down, and the expression in her eyes could only be described as dreamy. It felt out of place. If anything, she was solid. A firm nightmare, a reality he could never escape no matter how hard he pinched himself. On the TV screen, an infantry suffered a trotted path up a hill.
Aye, aye, Christ almighty
Who the hell am I?
I’m toy, a bug, a fly.
She broke the noise in his head with another question.
“Did you like to read?”
“What did you read?”
“Comics. Dirty stories. Biographies. Anything, really.”
“Do you miss that?”
He was afraid to answer. She’d taught him it was unsafe to answer truthfully as to the nature of what he missed. He was only allowed to admit he missed her, and what he admitted was filtered into her acceptance as reality. Months ago she had made it clear that manifestations of missing his old life were punished severely. Every time he exploded and cried out his permanent stage three of grief, she shoved him down her panties and left him there for days. The same panties. Now she seemed to read his mind.
“It’s okay. Just tell me the truth. I’ll know if you’re lying.” She always did.
“I do. I miss my books. I miss my comics.”
She said nothing to that, and stared at him in silence, in that way of hers. He knew better than to say anything, forcing himself to remember interrogation techniques, and the unnerving silence she employed often to force him to blurt out the nervous truth. He licked his parched lips and waited.
“I want you to read what you want to read,” she said, unfathomably, her words an invariable 192-proof shock to his system that turned his world upside down. He’d fail a sobriety test now, having drunk nothing. She’d disconnected him from his life so completely when she shrank him, only using him for sex and conversation, he felt this normalcy in conversation a heady trap. Once again, she read his mind.
“There is no punishment at the other side of this. I will give you things to read.”
“I shrank your comics.”
He felt himself drop in a faint, and he was on his knees when he asked her a question.
“I waited. I broke into your house. I poked around. I shrank a lot of things. That huge movie poster of that movie you love. Your book collection. Some of your clothes. Your favorite mementos….”
“I didn’t hurt her, silly Toy. She wasn’t there when I broke into your surveillance feed, disabled your alarm system, and shrunk your back-door lock. I had enough time to poke around and find your things. I shrank all your books and magazines. Some of the new ones had been delivered, and I’ve made note of each and every one of them. All that future reading material has been subscribed to, and will be delivered here now, and when I receive it, I’ll shrink it so you can read it comfortably in the dollhouse.”
He felt weak. His heart was pounding at the thought that this beautiful monster had been in his house, and had made decisions about his possessions without his knowledge or permission. Things he could no longer lift, books the size of sports courts, garments of monstrous proportions, priceless personal belongings, now tiny enough to decorate the home she’d forced upon him. When had she done this? Had he been unconscious in her panties? Unaware as he had been in the beginning, buried in her punding need, thrust in the darkness of her tight jeans? When did this happen? One more time, she knew what he was thinking.
“I did it all in one day, Toy. The same day I shrank you I visited your house and took what I wanted. I hurt no one because no one got in my way. You were asleep in the gusset of my panties, lost in the shock of your changed size, only two inches tall as I stalked your old home, shrinking this plaid shirt, sniffing those boxer shorts, pouring every book I found into my purse after shrinking it, hoping they were all yours, wishing you were not a dumb fuck, but an intellectual type.”
“What if I’d been a dumb fuck?”
The sudden glint in her eyes was frightening, though he couldn’t understand it. On the TV screen, parachuters dotted France in the dark as the sky lit with firepower as loud as the beating of his heart. He was smart, but she didn’t know that. She’d only used his body. And what if she ever got bored? What if the day came and his small size was no longer enough? What if she changed her mind?
“You may still prove to be a dumb fuck, Toy. If that’s the case, I’ll drape you over my wooden floor, and stain it with your shape.”
She sighed, the blast of that warm air laden with impatience. She moved on, leaving him—and his questions—behind, like a missed train.
“Did you vote?”
“For whom did you vote?”
“I don’t… want to say.”
She waited, counting the seconds in her head before she turned him from man to sex toy if he refused to acquiesce. If he refused to act like a man, little as he was, she would treat him as a sex toy, and gladly. He felt her change and ventured a quick answer.
“Sanders. I voted for Bernie.”
She exploded in laughter then, a grenade of mirth that deafened him and the D-day explosions going off on the screen, an invasion of his mind as political as war, and he had no ammunition against it. He spoke up, too loud in his ears, nothing but a squeak in hers.
“I voted. Did you vote? Did you do your part?”
“Shh, little Toy. So silly, so small. You’ll never vote again.”
“Don’t say that to me! You’re hurting me with your words!”
She stopped laughing then and settled into watching him again. He watched a wave move down her throat, and he wondered if she swallowed regret, words, or a smart-ass retort.
“I know I’ve done something unthinkable to you, shrinking you, and keeping you for myself, removing you from your life, never to be returned again. I want you to know I know what I’ve done. I’m aware of the suffering I’ve caused.”
She looked like the Sphynx then, expressionless, and he heard the words but could not tell if she was apologizing, or bragging. On her coffee table, he nodded noncommittally. A corner of her mouth lifted Germanically, and she went on.
“I love you. I really do. Do you know that?”
His hesitation was negligent.
“Yes. I do.”