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July 15, 2024

From a Different Perspective

By Dan Mulhollen

I am, at the moment, two inches tall. I am not happy about this. I have no idea how this happened. If I knew that, at least that would give me someone or something to focus my anger. As is, I'm two inches tall and terribly pissed off.

I know I'm in my driveway. The car is there, not that it's any good to me now. Nor of any good are all the power tools in the basement. Hell, the saber saw blade is bigger than I am. Maybe I should try going inside where I might be able to push the buttons on my cell phone. But who would I call?

I can't explain it, except perhaps because of my diminished size, but I am hearing things I've never heard before. Buzzing noises, almost like whispers. If I focus, I can also make out words.

"Hello?" I ask, my mood still angry, but my voice meeker than I've ever heard it.

"Hello?" another voice replies. A moment later, a large centipede crawls out of the masonry. It looks at me. "Hello?" it asks.

It is twice my size, yet not threatening looking, unlike the times I've come across it an its relatives in the basement.

"Are you going to eat me?" it asks, fear in its voice.

"Not if you don't try to eat me," I reply. "I just need help." Now I have no idea why I asked a centipede for help. These prehistoric-looking things have always given me the willies. Yet seeing it like this, I can't stop wondering if it really needs all those legs.

"Help?" the centipede asked, sounding a little confused. "Bees," it said, suddenly. "Bees help bees. The Queen Bee is wise. Talk to the Queen."

"Where is the hive?" I asked.

"The tree with the sweet purple fruit," it said, then scurrying off.

I thought about the plum tree way in back. It actually belonged to the property on the next street from mine, but hung far enough over the fence for me to occasionally swipe a plum. Not that the space behind the garage was someplace I spent much time. Most of the time, the grass was past my hips -- and that was when I was regular height.

In my reduced condition, the walk in back took noticeably longer. Ants scurried about reminding me of mice. Flies reminded me of pigeons, but nastier. And then, as I slipped between the chain-link fence, I came upon a terrible smell. The shape was slightly serpentine and an unhealthy combination of blacks and browns.

Damned dog, I thought, realizing what I was looking at.

Walking through the lawn was pleasant enough, recently trimmed blades of grass, a dandelion reminding me of a beach umbrella. I passed an earthworm, peeking its head out of the ground. "Good day," I said, feeling unusually neighborly.

"It's good day, today," it replied, morosely. "Tomorrow you either step on me or use me to catch fish."

"I'm sorry," I said, embarrassed.

"You try living on the bottom of the food chain a while." It shook its head and then disappeared into the soil.

At this stage, I wasn't quite sure where I was in the food chain. I was glad I did not own a cat, which I was sure would devour me while smacking its lips, a confused look on its face.

Now I was at the garage and the grass got high. I began seeing things that had previously escaped me. Spiders staking out their territory. Moths with such striking colors most people would confuse them for butterflies. And then there was this slug who seemed as amused as a slug could be, cheerful in its silence.

But nature is violent, as I realized as I passed two spiders fighting to the death. Just at that moment, a female robin swooped down and grabbed that depressed earthworm as it poked its head up.

"I should have known something like this would happen," the earthworm said, putting up a half-hearted struggle.

"Hey," the robin said, defensively. "I have three hungry mouths to feed." A few more tugs, and the worm was lunch.

I felt a little sad. For humans, death is something that comes at odd intervals; an elderly uncle or some unfortunate neighborhood kid. Yet in one's back yard it is a constant thing. A shrew is killed by a lawn mower without the operator even noticing. Yet life continues and a cluster of maggots seems to spontaneously bloom on yet another dog dropping.

As I approached the plum tree, two worker bees, guards apparently, buzzed down and stopped me.

"State your business," they said, almost in unison -- the slight difference in time giving their voices a lilting, shifting quality.

"I'm here to see the Queen," I said, "I've been told she might be able to help me."

One of the bees flew upward, toward the hive. The other kept a close watch on me.

Suddenly a dozen or so bees started swarming around me; each in its own circle. "I am the Queen," they said, almost melodically, their voices forming a softly modulating chorus. "Tell me why you wish to speak to me."

"I've been told you can help me," I said, feeling more than a little intimidated.

"Why," they asked, "should bees help humans? Can you help us?"

"How?" I asked.

Their voices became an odd sort of buzz, as if a thousand voices were speaking at once.

"There are," they continued, "several ancient containers in that large building containing substances both foul and irritating to my kind. Give me your word that you will eliminate those and I will help you, as much as I can."

I knew of several cans stored near the back of the garage that were probably what the bees found so offensive, one of kerosene and the other containing turpentine. I hadn't thought about either in years.

"I agree," I said, hopefully. Now I realized that there was really no way I could be held to my word. I also realized I did not want an entire hive of bees angry at me.

"Thank you," they replied.

The swarming suddenly stopped, the bees all hovering in position, seeming to be examining me.

"Why is it," they asked, "that your form is so rare in the hive's memory? We see others of your kind, younger members of your hive out pushing snow or bundling leaves."

"I pay neighborhood kids to do those jobs," I said, feeling a little self-conscious.

"Even on a fine day," they continued, "you remain indoors, isolated from nature. What do you do in there?"

"I have things I do," I said, not expecting bees to understand television or the Internet.

They seemed to be laughing. "It is your isolating yourself from nature that has made you small." They sounded confident in their assessment.

"How do I change this? How do I return to my normal height?"

"Your kind divides its day into increments you call hours. Beginning tomorrow, spend one of these hours outside. Do this every day and you will start to notice yourself growing, what you do is unimportant. Continue this and you will regain your usual height."

There was more buzzing.

"But do not stop," they warned, "even after regaining your full size. Your nature is out of balance and even when the superficial matter of height is restored, it will still take years for you to regain that balance."

"Thank you," I said, walking away, feeling humbled. I thought about the title to the house, knowing my name was on it. Yet I owned more than the house, the garage and back yard were mine as well. The house I knew, the yard was this expanse of green that I really knew very little about.

The next morning, I was outside exploring the yard, as I was every morning for the next week. During this time, I made a number of interesting discoveries. Finding a pouch of coins from the 1920s was one of the better ones. Coming face-to-face was a irate opossum was the worst.

But every morning, I lay down next to a wooden ruler I'd set on the bathroom floor. After a week, I had grown a quarter inch. During the following days my growth was more pronounced, Two and one-half inches. Three inches. Four inches. Five inches. Within a month I was now standing over a foot tall, and the talk of the insects and birds was becoming harder to make out.

It took nearly another month for me to fully recover. Shortly before that was over, I did clean out the garage, removing the chemicals so offensive to the bees.

I am doing more than the bees suggested. Last week I bought a small, but comfortable tent and often sleep outside. I rarely watch television anymore and the Internet is simply a tool, no longer a lifestyle.

Now the whole experience is almost like a long, very strange dream. Yes, I did spend several weeks only two inches in height. Yes, I did talk to creatures considered too primitive for speech. And yes, they did correctly assess the situation and give me the right solution.

It may seem like a dream, but sometimes it takes a dream for one to wake up.

Article © Dan Mulhollen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-06-21
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