I was left unnoticed, to contemplate a quiet day. I realised – to my surprise and discomfort – that I was a tiny bit smaller than I had been the previous day. My skin was marginally less taut. What did this portend? Would I continue to deflate in this way until I returned to my previous state, but perhaps with my skin a little baggier than when I was in pristine condition? Might these people attempt to reinflate me? Would that be more or less hazardous than when I was first inflated? What effect would this have on my understanding of the world around me? But, as I reminded myself, I had no control over what happened, so I might as well adopt a Stoic approach…..and wonder where that idea came from? The odd thing was – I couldn’t actually feel any air coming out of me. I decided it must seep out so gradually that it was unnoticeable. Indeed, I spent some time during this mostly silent, calm day trying to see whether I could feel anything. But after a while I confirmed that I felt nothing. Over several hours I could tell I was minimally smaller – but the diminution was imperceptible as it occurred. I wasn’t sure whether the long hours of daylight when nothing happened, other than a few noises of electrical gadgets muttering and what appeared to be the normal creaking coming from the walls and floor, was better than a day like the previous one, perhaps too full of activity. Since I had no idea how long I might remain in my present state, including how long my currently heightened sense of perception might last, was it better that I should experience as much activity as possible…or would a few quiet days like this ensure that my existence lasted longer? But if at some point my ability to perceive anything vanished – possibly through my skin being burst or just because eventually I returned to something like my original state – would it really matter? In such a state I expected that I would be unable to have any memory of what had happened to me. Indeed, I would presumably be as inert as I was before that first dawning of consciousness when I was still unexpanded. Besides, as I kept reminding myself, there was nothing I could do about it. And whether my loss of perception and return to a state of unconsciousness was rapid or took place through a slow decline, the end was the same – and neither route seemed significantly more appealing than the other. And I would have no choice about that either! As the sky outside began to darken, the door opened and people – both big and small – returned. None of them appeared to notice me. Indeed, they went about similar activities which they had the previous evening, ignoring me completely. I was getting accustomed to this, when a loud, sharp, shrill electric noise shrieked from by the door. A minute or so later, another person arrived, along with a much smaller creature covered in black hair of some sort. It walked on four legs, whereas all the people walked on two. Moreover, it was extremely smelly, unlike them. It appeared not to speak, but emitted whining and snuffling sounds. It moved quite rapidly round the room on its short legs. At one stage it came up to me, thrust a black, leathery, wet and rather smelly nose against my skin, snuffled a bit and then retreated, leaving a damp and ponging patch of wetness on my skin. Some of the people called out and it went over to them. Did it understand the conversation which they were having between each other? Did it understand some things, but not others? Or did it just get some sense of the tone of the voices – which was all I could achieve? Fortunately, the wetness dried after a few minutes and the smell seemed to dissipate too. I supposed I should be thankful for small mercies that it was just a stinking nose rather than something sharper that had been thrust against me. And it seemed that the creature had lost any interest in me, as it didn’t come near me all the rest of the time it was in the room.
That did not bother me in the slightest! Indeed, given the choice, I’d be perfectly happy if a creature like that never came anywhere near me again. The night that followed was similar to the last. I could still myself subsiding at an almost infinitesimal pace. The people did largely what they had done the previous night and not long after the smelly creature had departed through the front door, they all went off to other parts of the apartment, made various noises – some of which appeared to include running water – and then were mostly silent, expect for some loud snorting noises from somewhere towards the rear of the apartment. It was only at dawn when something different – and vastly more alarming – occurred. Somehow a furry creature a little large than me had insinuated itself into the apartment. I was unaware how it had done this, as the door had not been opened. I thought I heard the sound of a window or perhaps another door being opened at the back. It felt as though it had opened to the outside, as my skin was sufficiently sensitive to detect a slight flow of cooler, fresher air from outside. The furry creature made its way slowly round the room, appearing very much as though it owned the place. Yet it was less than a tenth the size of the people who I’d seen previously. Indeed, a couple of the bigger people and one of the smaller ones picked the furry creature up and spoke to it. Others ran their hands along its back and over the top of its head. It made a light, rumbling sound. Otherwise it was silent or made a long controlled squeal. So far it seemed an innocuous beast. Certainly it didn’t smell like the one that had accosted me the previous evening. Nor did it thrust a damp, stinking nose against my skin. But when it deigned to notice me, I could tell at once that its yellow-green eyes seemed to glow with malevolent pleasure. It raised one of its arms and tapped at me. The end of the arm – the paw – felt quite firm, but soft. However, at the edges I could detect several very sharp things. If one caught on my skin, I had little doubt that I would burst. For the time being, the creature seemed content to just tap me gently and watch me move ever so slightly – albeit involuntarily – in response. But after a while, it appeared to grow tired of this and from the edges of its paw, the sharp things emerged, not very long, but thin, curved, slightly shiny and extremely sharp. It tapped at me again with its paw – this time with these claws digging slightly into my skin, pressing it inwards, but – to my profound relief – making no incision. I was utterly convinced that was its purpose. However, it retracted its paw and raised it again, as if to strike harder a second time. At that moment, one of the smaller people seemed to grab hold of it, raise it up into the air and carry it away from me. I shuddered and lay as still as I could manage. I had been convinced my final moments were upon me. But now I had a reprieve – though for how long, I couldn’t say. Presumably the furry creature might be back at any moment….and I might not be so fortunate a second time. Indeed, it seemed almost inconceivable that one of those needle-like claws wouldn’t puncture me if the creature got near me again. But I felt again that slight current of cooler air from outside and hoped that the furry beast had been despatched back to whatever place of cruelty and infamy it inhabited. I relaxed – conscious that unless someone undertook the hazardous task of undoing my knot and refilling me with this precious breath, continuing relaxation was my fate. And I still had no firm feeling as to whether my skin would stand a further inflation. At any rate, that day passed much as the previous ones. I realised that I was deflating extremely slowly, but I was unable to tell whether I was unable to understand as much, whether I might have forgotten things I knew previously, or perhaps whether my ability to comprehend things that occurred in future might now be less.
I've written all my life. I took early retirement from a career in the UK Civil Service (Commissioner & Board Member of HM Customs & Excise) in 2006, to complete "Through Fire" which I started in 1976. I have written follow-up novels to it, but also a long series of detective stories, mostly set in Customs & Excise. I also write poems and occasional short stories. I live just outside London, have been married for 50 years to Vanessa & have 2 daughters & 2 grandsons.