“Where was I?” Chuck asked himself. “Right, I was getting near the end. I took care of Bessy, and that helped me pull myself together again a bit. I would milk her and pat her, and I started talking again for the first time in I don’t know how many weeks. Then, I noticed that my double and the woman were getting some gear together, mostly just big white boxes. I wasn’t sure what was in them, but I could tell they were preparing for something important. She walked up to the cage just after my double carried some bags out of the room. She looked down at me, and I looked up at her. I cowered. I hated feeling small. I hated how she somehow made me feel even smaller just by looking at me. She opened the cage and put in a big pile of ground up cow feed on one side and a pile of breakfast cereal for me on the other side.
“She said, ‘Well, Chuck, this is goodbye. One way or another my time here is over today. I imagine someone will find you in a few days, probably no more than a week.’ She put a big cup full of water in the cage along with a thimble. ‘Be careful to ration your food and water, just in case the feds are a bit slow.’ She put the lid back on the cage and turned to leave.
“I shouted at her, ‘Why?! Why did you do this to me? Just tell me why, please!’ I had to know. It had to mean something.
“She paused and turned back to me. She opened the cage and grabbed me around the waist between her giant finger and thumb and lifted me up to her face. I thought she might kill me. Instead, she smiled again and, for the first time in a long while, she replied to me, ‘I’m planning on giving out one more present,’ she said, ‘One they will never forget. And, I couldn’t have done it without you, my darling little one.’ She brought me up to her mouth I tensed myself, thinking I was about to die at last. Instead, her thick wet tongue licked the side of my head. ‘Ew,’ she said and got this disgusted look on her face. Then, she set me back down in the cage and said, ‘You’re a bit too musky for me, little man.’ She put the lid back on and waved one last time. She said, ‘Bye bye!’ And, she left. That was the last time I saw her.
“Days went by, and I kept nervously looking at our piles of food getting smaller as the water drained away little by little. I hardly slept. I kept expecting her to come back and torment me again. After a couple of days like that, I was wishing she would come back just to know someone would be there to protect me… or kill me.
“One night I woke up from being half asleep, and I saw some kind of monster pressed up against the plastic of the cage. I screamed and hid behind Bessie. When I calmed down a bit, I realized that the monster was a mouse, looking for a snack. For the first time, I was thankful that the cage was designed to keep rodents from getting in or out. I didn’t sleep much more after that.
“The food started to get very low, and we were getting down to the last drops of water. I started to think about survival. I was drinking some of Bessie’s milk, but that would dry up eventually. For a moment, I considered what I would do if Bessie went first, but I decided she would outlive me. I could never kill her anyway. I’d rather die myself. She was the only thing keeping me sane at that point.
“Then, one morning, the whole world seemed to shake and the cage rattled like there was an earthquake. A bunch of giant monsters in black rushed into the room, and I was sure I was going to die. I lost it. I cried and screamed and I tried to claw my way out of the cage. The noise died down, and I realized the monsters were men. I was still terrified, though. I cowered in the corner. Then, a little while later, you two found me. I think I was still panicking when we met.
“And, that’s my story,” he said with finality. “Any questions?”
Carol said, “Did Mary mention where she might be going next?”
“I never heard anything about what they were planning,” he said. “I wish I could help you catch her, but that was pretty much all I know about her.” He looked over at Candice and said, “You’re an elf too, aren’t you?”
“Um,” Candice said. “Yes, I am.”
“I heard that the kids who drank her milk went back to normal after a day. I’ll be going back to normal too, right? How long is it going to take? It’s already been days since I had her milk.”
Candice sighed and said, “It could be a while. You see, the kids only had one dose of her milk. You had it repeatedly for weeks. The duration of the effect adds up over time.”
“So…” he said with caution. “Weeks then?”
“It could be… or months,” Candice said, trying to soften the blow without lying. “I really don’t know how long it might be. I don’t know of anyone who has ever been in your situation before. This is new territory for all of us, unfortunately.”
“I see,” he said and hung his head. The nightmare was far from over.
Carol asked, “Do you have any relatives in the area? Anyone you can stay with?”
“Most of my family is either dead or moved away. I’ve got a sister in Illinois. She married a corn farmer there. They have a few kids now. I don’t think I want to be around kids like this. I do have a cousin in DC. I think she does road construction, but I’m not sure. I haven’t spoken to her in a long while.”
Carol said, “Well, we can look after you here until you can find somewhere else to go.”
“Thank you, m’am,” he said. “Now, if we’re done, would you mind putting the wall back, please? I’m getting a little antsy being stared at by giants.”
They put Chuck’s wall back, and left him alone in his doll house to wait out his curse.