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I’ve been staying up a lot lately.
I’d stayed up till three in the morning fanatically working on a model yesterday, too, so my tardiness is a foregone conclusion.
Fortunately, a month of diligently keeping to a schedule has allowed me to wake up on time, even with only four hours of sleep.
I change in four to five seconds, grab my bag, rush out of my room, put an apple in my pocket in lieu of breakfast, and jauntily get to the office… and then I wake up. The time is a little past twelve.
I was thinking I’d fix my life’s cycle by getting up at seven, starting work at nine, getting home in the evening, and going to sleep at one or two at the latest, but it looks like today’s going to be yet another “I’ll do my best tomorrow!” kind of day.
I’ll probably turn nocturnal at this rate.
“I have to get my sleep cycle in order…”
I resign myself to my fate and get up with heavy eyelids, drag myself to work, and somehow manage to start my day.
Work nowadays is rather comfortable, but today has been filled with one consultation after the other.
“Hey, are the fairies occupying the warehouse? They are? A fairy nest was found in that tree you cut down? The fields were full of fairies instead of vegetables? Just what in the world is happening?” - I worked through my workload laboriously.
When I return home completely exhausted, I am wrapped in the smell of warm stew.
In the middle of having my first bite, I wake up again. It’s two now.
“What in the world!?”
Regretfully… Regretfully, I appear to have fallen asleep again!
I immediately jump out of bed to avoid falling asleep again a third time.
Obviously, this is the first time I’ve ever slept in this badly.
There’s nobody home. I guess this house’s only other inhabitant, Grandfather, left for the office long before.
Going to the office even if he has no work is an unwritten rule.
“Ahhhh, what to say; I’ve messed up, truly.”
I’m definitely going to get a sarcastic comment or two from Grandfather, someone who would go to the office even if he runs late. Sigh.
Since it probably won’t make a difference whether I hurry or not, I take my time dressing up.
My eyes light upon what is on my desk as I brush my loo~ng hair that I’ve had neither time nor reason to trim short.
I can’t keep myself from sniggering in satisfaction.
There is a line of miniature furniture models on my desk.
Matchbox shelves; soup bowls made of halved walnut shells; a desk and chair made of dried twigs; a bed, complete with miniature sheets and pillow; a rug cut out of soft blotting paper; a coathanger fashioned out of safety pins; a thimble with handles for a cooking pot, and a cooktop with interlinked gears for hobs are some of the more notable items in this tour-de-force of fully functional furniture.
That’s right, I’ve been making miniature furniture models.
It all started a week prior when I decided to make some chairs for the fairies to use when they came to play.
As I aimed to replicate the items at home as closely as possible, I first wanted to make a desk and cups… then instead of just simple reproductions, I got too greedy and decided to recreate my entire room. There is now a diorama of my room sitting on my desk.
It’s only two of them, but I’ve even set up walls. If I made all four, I’d probably also build a model of the entire house, so I just created an open structure with a single corner.
“Ahh, right, right, there’s one thing I forgot.”
My most recent work, completed just last night.
That famous artwork, the Mona Lisa… Or rather, a Mona Lisa stamp ensconced in a mini-frame, to be mounted in the same spot as it is in my own room.
My grandmother painted the original in her youth, so its miniature version invariably does not accurately replicate it.
I’ll endure with just this, for now.
It all looks great, even if I say so myself.
I’ve always been good at detailed work, and I even handled things like party decorations back when I was a student at school.
Take this miniature chair, for example.
It looks exactly like the chair I’m sitting on right now, and if I positioned the perspective just right, I could probably even make it look like there were two chairs of the same size.
It’s that thing, you know? That effect where I put the big chair far away and hold up the miniature in my palm…
“Ahh, this part looks good…”
I hold the miniature up to the sunlight streaming through the window and touch up some problematic areas with a precision knife for a short while.
“That should do it.”
With the now-improved stool put back in its place, it feels like the diorama’s quality has improved significantly.
I want to see the fairies use this furniture as soon as possible.
I hear the sound of breaking cutlery as I think this.
That was from the kitchen. I investigate, only to find two plates kept on the plate rack to dry, fallen, and shattered pitifully on the floor.
The window is closed, so there’s no way the wind could have done it. In front of my eyes, a small carrot on the kitchen table rolls past me.
I don’t remember carrots being capable of locomotion.
“Hey, just a minute now!”
There’s only one race that could make a mess like this.
“That fairy over there, where do you think you’re going?”
It ignores my question and continues to trundle away.
I reach out and pick the carrot up.
“What are you doing with this carrot?”
Our eyes meet when I turn the carrot around. Two tawny mice are hanging onto the carrot.
“EEek! We’ve been found!”
The carrot slips from my fingers and vanishes under the other side of the table.
“… They stole it.”
I reach the office at three in the afternoon.
“Ah, so you’re trying out ’executive-style attendance’1, are you?”
Predictably, I get told off by my grandfather, the head of the Mediator’s office at our village of Camphorwood.
“I thought I’d be here before noon… but I found some mice instead.”
“They stole some produce.”
Grandfather looks doubtful for a second but wiggles his eyebrows in assent and looks back at the document in his hands.
“… So they’re back, huh?”
“The mice did it before, too?”
“They sneak inside every now and then.”
“I thought it was the fairies at first.”
“But the fairies don’t steal human food, do they.”
“That aside, look at this,” he says as he holds something up.
It turns out to be an envelope, not a document, as I expect it to be. I accept it and give it a once-over.
Lately, strange items have been showing up at the village market in large numbers. I believe the fairies are up to some mischief; do you suppose these things could be dangerous? I’ve attached one of the articles for your reference.
“Oh, a letter. How unusual!”
“I found it lying at the front door this morning. And this is that attached article that the letter was referring to.”
Grandfather plonks a pair of rubber boots on his desk.
“They look human-sized…”
“Try putting them on.”
The boots are pushed over to me unceremoniously.
“… Boots that bring about unimaginable wonders.”
To be asked to wear such a thing… I’m a little flummoxed.
I do things like putting my hand inside the boots and turning them over, but nothing unusual happens.
I guess I won’t understand what these boots do unless I actually wear them.
After wavering a little, I suck it up and put my feet in, and…
“Feels like a normal pair of boots to me.”
I clop about the room in this pair of oversized boots.
Their peculiarity is made apparent in an instant.
The sound of water echoes as I take each step. When I lift a foot up to check, the floor underneath is quite dry. Despite this, I hear water sloshing about when I walk.
“When did these boots fill up with water?”
I pull out one leg and find the inside of the boot filled with water.
“Things like this have been popping up all over the village lately.”
“I wonder how these boots work…”
Grandfather carries on with an air that screams, “Such things are a common occurrence in our solar system”, but I cannot hide my surprise.
“They seem to work by absorbing moisture present in the atmosphere.”
“But they look no different from a pair of ordinary rain boots…”
I just can’t understand how such a mechanism could fit into these things.
“You, go see what’s going on,” says Grandfather as I continue examining the wonder-boots.
“I don’t see the harm in leaving things as they are, but it’s just as well, seeing as people are sending us letters. Think of it as training and go listen to what people are saying at the village.”
I quietly walk up to Grandfather’s desk with my hands clasped in front and eyes downcast.
“You’re expecting little old me to talk to an unspecified number of people?”
“All you’ve been doing so far is making round trips from home to the office. How about you take responsibility, make yourself useful to the townsfolk by talking to them for a bit, and actually do your job as a mediator?”
“I’m bad at talking to those I don’t know.”
“Doing the rounds like this is a newbie’s job.”
I’m somewhat perplexed at these strange company dynamics; I wanted to be in the planning department, but I’ve been shifted into sales instead."
“Quite a master-stroke, wouldn’t you say?”
It seems I cannot expect my creativity to be received warmly in these parts.
“… All right, I suppose I shall reluctantly set off.”
And so things end.
After crossing a pasture that resembled a grassy carpet and wading through a sea of aggressively affectionate sheep, I come to a wall composed of haphazardly stacked slate (As solid as it appears).
This stone wall flanks the path, and if you were to walk along it for about five minutes, you would reach a densely populated part of the village.
It’s probably about time for people to start making dinner.
Smoke is rising out of chimneys here and there.
Most of the people who live around here are self-employed. People like me, who have a salaried job, are the minority.
It’s been years since the monetary system broke down. To preserve the lifestyles of the people who still engage in cultural activities, a ration ticketing system has been introduced, but… I can’t help but feel a little self-conscious at the fact that I get to eat without having sweated for it.
I’m bad at human interaction at the best of times… but work is work.
Resolving myself, I proceed to the first house’s door.
“Um, excuse me!”
I perform the ritual of entering an unfamiliar house where unfamiliar people live as part of the first case item of my investigation.
The door opens, and a stolid-looking lady appears.
“I’m sorry to disturb you at such a busy time. I’m from the Mediator’s office…”
“The office, you say… Are you sure you’re from the Mediator’s office?”
“Well, uhm… I’m here with the proper approval, so…”
“Approval from who exactly?”
“From my grandfather.”
“What, and that’s supposed to mean something to me? You’re looking mighty suspicious.”
“All right then, I apologize for inconveniencing you.”
“Hold on a minute now! What do you want?”
I’ve stuck with it long enough.
As I escape to the street, I glance back at the doorway. The lady is still there with a confused look on her face.
I move on, driven away by her gaze. I take a breath after a good distance has passed.
Did I really look so evil? She was looking at me as if to say I should have been punished for appearing suspicious.
But certainly, I do understand that my sudden visit was a little strange.
The act of visiting that house put upon me an absurd pressure. As soon as the door opened, my mind went blank, and I couldn’t control what I said.
And since I was already bad at talking to strangers, the pressure just doubled.
“Perhaps I may have fared better with someone I knew…”
It’s been a month since I graduated from school and came home.
I still haven’t made any friends in the village. But it isn’t like I have no acquaintances.
The ration tickets. It’s the last remaining allocation system, created to support the cultural activities of us dwindling and declining old humans.
The caravans that tie the world together, whether by land or sea, are truly a lifeline.
Naturally, they’re popular with the folk of Camphorwood as well.
The absolute necessities, the rarest luxuries, and deliveries from distant friends… The caravan brings with it many such things.
Any street where the caravan stations itself becomes a bazaar. Its arrival livens up the village to an extent comparable to the harvest festival.
In exchange for the various goods in its containers and ration tickets, the caravan would accept the excess produce from the village and set off again down the trade road.
When the caravan wasn’t around, private homes would take their place in selling groceries and household necessities.
Of course, these shops accept ration tickets.
They also exchange goods for labor, so either way is okay. It’s a system full of holes.
There aren’t ever any disputes, after all.
And so, a two-story cottage with white plastered walls comes into view on my left as I travel. This is a distribution center, not a warehouse.
There are others scattered around, but this distribution center enjoys my exclusive patronage. Even though it stores perishable items such as food and medicine, the door is ajar.
Nobody is manning the tills, and a chaotic array of vegetables, everyday goods, and other sundries stretches outside the house’s walls.
There are no people here.
Instead, a crate to drop ration tickets into is set up on a stool out front.
It’s like a vending machine. When I peek inside the crate, I see only ration tickets. How defenseless.
“Excuse me, may I have a moment, please?”
When I call out, a plump woman appears out of a different building at the far end of the property.
“My, oh my, if it isn’t the young lady from the scholarly teacher’s house. Welcome! Here for eggs again? The ones from the morning are losing their freshness already, so take as many as you like. Oh, right, how about a leg of chicken? I’ve already prepared some for dinner, so would you like a cut too?”
This sociable madam is Mrs. Shopkeeper. The Egg lady. That’s what everyone calls her, apparently.
Her husband farms crops, while she farms poultry, so. Many keep chickens in the village, but for those who don’t, this lady is their poultry supplier.
She treats everyone with open arms, is generous, and is loved by everyone.
Eggs are the basis of many sweets. I’ve exchanged words with her on countless occasions when making supply runs. I’m quite grateful for it, and I’m always in her debt for talking to me even though I never say much back. But today, perhaps because I’ve come here on the job, I put on my brightest smile and try to start the conversation myself.
“I’m terribly sorry to have disturbed you at such a busy time. I’ve come as a representative of the Mediator’s office.”
My language center’s still only running at 80% capacity, so please forgive any mistakes.
“Oh my, here on business?”
Happily, it seems she’s caught my drift.
I explain what happened with the letter, and ask her if there weren’t any unusual goings on around lately.
“Oh, that reminds me; my husband had said something similar, didn’t he. I don’t quite understand, but wasn’t it something about some strange items being sold?
“Yes, that’s right. Would you happen to know anything about that?”
“I think I heard something about those items being gathered and stored at the community center…”
Oh, looks like I’ll be able to clear this one in a single stroke.
“The community center, was it? Understood. I sincerely thank you for your cooperation.”
“You must be so busy… Here’s a little something for you.”
She gives me a small jar of konpeito2.
“Th-thank you very much.”
I’m getting presented with candy at this age…
“Oh, by the way, I’ve got a little vegetable garden over there, you know. I’m growing carrots right now. You make sweets, don’t you? How about you try making a carrot cake this time?”
“Ah, yes, I can!”
But carrots are pretty easy to grow, huh. I lovingly planted them in March, and now I’m making my harvest. Just making stew or soup with them is boring, so I’d love for you to make me a cake.”
“Yes, I’ll give it a go.”
“I can’t wait! Take care!”
After she sees me off, I head to the community center.
I’m glad I didn’t have to go door-to-door for this.
It’s best to ask those you know first rather than blindly taking a stab at things.
The work goes swiftly when I mention Grandfather’s name at the community center.
Thrown into a wood crate practically shoved into my hands is a collection of everyday items that seem perfectly normal at first glance. Apparently, these are all the things they’ve found.
“Are these things really the rumored wunder-tools, I wonder?”
I retreat to the office with doubt in my mind and the crate in my arms, only to find that Grandfather is out. I set about documenting the recovered implements.
First, those boots.
“Just… what were they going for?”
Rubber boots that fill with water when you wear them. One would usually wear such boots to keep their feet dry on rainy days.
Frankly, these boots are nonsensical. Only the fairies could make something like this.
The actions of the fairies - Earth’s current version of mankind - are still full of mystery.
The United Nations Mediation Council is an institution that aims to bridge the gap between humans and fairies. But so far, nothing has been bridged, no progress has been made, and the relationship between our races has stabilized.
“And humanity is now in its decline.”
I throw the useless rubber boots inside the crate.
“… No dice.”
I can’t figure these boots out no matter how many times I examine them.
I pick up another tool from the crate.
“Is this… a pastel?”
It is as it looks. There’s nothing strange about it whatsoever. Just a commonplace pastel.
But pastels are meant to be drawn with, so I won’t know what this one really does until I try drawing with it.
I try drawing a line on the margin of a paper sheet.
No sooner than I finish, the line wriggles like a snake, peels itself off the paper, and jumps away.
It writhes about on the table in a manner reminiscent of an earthworm or a centipede, but then, it opens its mouth (?) with a threatening “hissss”, jumps down to the floor, and snakes away.
It jumps up to the wide-open window and makes its escape. A heroic dive from the third floor.
“What an… unfathomable thing….”
… I suppose I’ll have to record everything as it happens.
The next item I produce from within the crate is merely a small bottle.
It is stoppered with a cork and is filled to the brim with a milky liquid.
“A milk bottle?”
But it’s a tad too light to be milk. I think it’s just that the bottle’s inner surface has been painted white.
There’s no other way to figure this thing out than to uncork it.
With a certain amount of determination, I twist and pull the cork out.
The bottle opens with a satisfying glonk, and white smoke billows out.
The smoke is released quite forcefully, and in several seconds, the entire room is filled with a brilliant white fog.
“I can’t see a thing!”
Smoke usually dissipates. But this fairy smoke bucks that trend and has settled into a cotton-candy-like consistency. I touch it.
“Just what is this thing…”
The bottle is empty.
The word “
SPARE” is scribbled on its bottom.
A spare cloud?
I grab the fluffy cloud and expel it through the window.
It seems the cloud has some buoyancy since it rises to the skies once outside. I see; it really is a spare cloud.
Now that I notice it, all these things are built to be human-sized.
Which means they were made to be used by humans.
They are gifts from the fairies to us humans.
With feelings of realization, I write down,
“A spare cloud. To be used when one requires a cloud.”
I dump out the rest of the crate’s contents onto the table.
One embroidered badge sticks out in particular. It’s about the size of a coaster and seems part of a set of twelve. The front is adorned with a smiley face.
I scan the office for the “least wanted” item I can find.
“This will do.”
A decorative totem pole.
It seems to be terribly old, the entirety of its surface is blackened, and even its contours have been worn down to nothingness.
This thing is practically just a normal pole at this point.
I peel the back off the badge and stick it onto the totem pole.
The smiley face lets out a malicious groan.
But perhaps it can’t hear because it doesn’t react to my voice.
It’s expressing its agony…
“How could I forget. JUST HOW COULD I FORGEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEETTTTTTTTT…”
It seems to be recollecting its life.
“My resentment from being cut dooooooowwwwwwnnnnnnnn. MY RESENTMENT FOR BEING WHITTLED DOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWNNNNNNNNN!!!”
Is this badge perhaps…
“I must goooo…..”
The smiley face suddenly blackens and a crack runs down the length of the totem pole, despite me not having touched it.
“Ohh… So it died…”
Perhaps this was a result of senility brought about by its advanced age.
“Right, about this tool’s effectiveness…”
I collect my thoughts and document them thusly.
“Badges. A set of twelve. They allow inanimate objects to speak by proxy.”
I give up on any further research and put down only this much.
I also fill in the details of the other tools.
“Sunny day boots. They fill up with water when worn. One may enjoy the splish-splash of water entering their footwear through these boots.”
“A pastel that draws living lines. Any line drawn by this pastel will come to life.”
I name and document the effects of the various fairy tools in quick succession. The hours pass in the blink of an eye.
“Oh, you’re back?” - Grandfather has returned.
“Mhm. Now, are these the things?”
Grandfather looks at the veritable mountain of junk on the table with mild interest.
“These appear to be all that was found to date.”
“What’s this thing?”
He holds up a pitch-black tin can.
“I can’t open it, so I don’t really know.”
“It just looks like an ordinary can, though…”
“I tried many things but couldn’t make even the slightest dent in it. At the moment, it is just an item of unclear purpose. By the way, what’s a black hole?”
“What did you say?”
Grandfather’s voice stiffens slightly.
“It’s on the label. It may be hard to see because it’s written in black letters on a black label, but if you look closely, you can see it:
BLACK HOLE (One number). But we can’t have any since it can’t be opened.”
“We probably never will, no matter what kind of earthly physical means we use to try. It won’t ever open.”
“Is that so?”
“Can I keep this?”
Grandfather’s voice seems somewhat excited.
“I don’t mind. But you can’t eat any of it since it can’t be opened, you know?”
“I don’t want to eat it; it’s going to be a showpiece… Or rather, a plaything…. No, wait, it’s something to do thought experiments with.”
Grandfather gasps ecstatically while gazing at the can.
“Then, just what is this thing?”
“You don’t know anything about black holes? Astronomy has become a bit of a hobby of mine lately… Though it’s become rather inconsequential nowadays.”
“So there are holes that are black in space?”
“Well, you can put it that way, but… Ah, whatever. Put simply, inside here are the remains of a star,” he says, holding up the can with three fingers.
The remains of a star… I can’t believe such a thing could fit in a can…"
“I don’t know if it’s the real thing inside. I don’t know if it’s a natural one caught in space, or a lab-grown one, or just some kind of joke. Perhaps there was never anything inside from the start. I suppose it depends on how you look at it. But if this thing really is a can with a black hole inside, it would be strange if it did not have any means to block supergravity. Even speaking as an amateur, there’s no mistaking it. This can most certainly has the strength to contain a blackhole. And if that isn’t the case, it’s still interesting as a joke.”
Grandfather is in high spirits.
“You can’t destroy such a solidly built thing from the outside. So it’s impossible to confirm what’s inside. Whether or not there’s anything inside it, we can’t tell unless we can open it. But no, opening it is a bad idea. After all, we’d be releasing a ridiculously strong gravitational field onto the earth if we did.”
“But surely there would be some way to know…”
“Maybe, maybe not. Isn’t it interesting?”
He fiddles with the can on his palm, looking very satisfied.
“I don’t really understand, but if this becomes a scandal, you’d better take responsibility, Grandfather.”
“Sure thing. If this tin can really does have the real thing inside, I’ll take responsibility for everything.
He chuckles while covering his mouth. Perhaps this is one of those “man’s romance” things. I’ll leave that to Grandfather, and get on with my own work, then.
Time passes quickly when you have something to do.
I spend the time till sundown, engaged in the pointless but enjoyable work of examining and documenting the various fairy devices.
The work isn’t complete even a day later.
At any rate, I have only made it through about half of this mountain of devices.
People become lazy when they have nothing to do. Spacing out in the sunlight can free your heart of all the clutter, such as your worries and complaints.
It all just drains away.
Too much work is annoying, but doing constructive work can be nice.
“I’ll be stepping out.”
Grandfather goes on yet another of his aimless wanderings.
All alone in the office, I silently immerse myself in my work.
The fairy devices are all either absurd, of uncertain meaning, or just plain incomprehensible, but after seeing so many of them, I’ve got used to it, and things don’t surprise me anymore.
And in the middle of it all, a measuring spoon with absolutely nothing strange about it has attracted my attention.
Because it measures things, its bottom is rectangular, and its inner surface is lined with graduations. On its handle, the number
322 figures prominently.
The meaning of this number is unclear. It doesn’t do anything when I wave it about, there aren’t any suspicious buttons or switches on it, and it doesn’t do anything strange such as talk, shine, wiggle, disintegrate, reintegrate, or fly.
“Is it truly just a normal spoon?”
It’s something the villagers had gathered up. Perhaps there was a mistake, and an ordinary spoon accidentally got included in this pile as well.
“I…think it’s an ordinary spoon…”
The primary use of a measuring spoon… That would be sweets.
“I suppose I’ll try it out.”
I make some cookies.
“Nothing strange happened.”
I give up, brew myself a cup of tea and retreat to my room with the cookies.
It’s tea time. Well, to be precise, it’s time for morning tea.
“In the end, I never figured out what it did.”
I fiddle around with the spoon as I sip my tea. Suddenly, it leaves my fingers with a flick and is sent whirling to the ceiling.
What I don’t expect is the spoon rebounding off the ceiling and planting itself forcefully into the top of my head.
A sharp, piercing pain…. did not run through me.
Instead, I feel a strange sensation on my cranium.
I timidly feel around with my fingers… the spoon, is sticking out, upright, from my head! (I say it like this due to my agitated mental state.)
I feel a shock as I fiddle with the spoon, which sticks out of my head like a horn.
“It’s sticking inside?!”
Inside my head, from above!
Inside my eternally pouring fountain of intellect!
My blood runs cold, my tongue dries up, and my body shivers.
Because I have lost my reason in my panic, I do not leave it as it is and seek medical help. Instead, I pull it out practically as a reflex.
The spoon comes out, together with an unnerving feeling. Thankfully, there’s absolutely no pain.
But bleeding is inevitable, and if I don’t act soon, I’ll probably die… of a wound that does not exist; I double-check with my fingers and find no blemish.
“How did such a thing…”
I can’t find the wound, no matter how many times I feel for it.
There’s neither any blood nor that other pink brain matter – rated Mature Audiences Only – on my fingertips.
I examine the spoon. There has to be some blood on the part that was inside me, at least.
Instead of blood or brains, I find the spoon heaped with flour.
“Is- Is this…?”
I taste a pinch of it.
“It’s cake flour.”
It may actually not be, but its texture is very similar to it.
Which means, similar to those boots that produce water, this spoon produces wheat.
And that too, from inside people’s heads.
I thrust it into my arm as a test, but it doesn’t go inside. When I press it into my head again, it goes in without any resistance - “It went in again, huh?”
The spoon is filled with cake flour when I pull it back out.
“Infinite… sweet-making material…”
I am a little scared, but I don’t think there’s much danger seeing as this is something the fairies made…
Clearly, this spoon can convert people’s beliefs into sweets.
Just that the sweets won’t be made of ordinary ingredients. But now I can make as much as I want…
Deeply moved, I continue diligently scooping flour from my head with the spoon.
There’s now a pile of cake flour on my desk.
Suddenly, I feel very dizzy, and my vision fades to black.
I grab the back of my chair with both hands and compose myself with a big breath.
Thankfully, my vision clears up immediately. Seems like it was just a light bout of anemia.
For now, I sit down and wipe my sweat away. As I calm down, I think about the weird feeling I have.
Just what is so strange? I don’t really see anything different.
The wall, the desk, my chair, and even the painting on the wall; they all look the same as they always do.
The only difference is that the diorama of my room, the cookies, and the cake flour have disappeared. How did they manage to vanish in a matter of a second?
I still don’t see them when I rub my eyes and look again.
Yeah, nothing’s changed. Except for this huge, and I do mean huge, measuring spoon next to me.
It’s practically my own height –
3, 2, 1, 0 (Wait for it…)
“EEEEEEK! IT’S HUUUUUUGE!”
NEIN! IT’S BEEN SUPERSIZED, AND TO THAT, I SAY, NEIN!
How did that measuring spoon get this big!?
This thing is either a shovel or just a lump of iron!
That’s not the only difference, though.
“The number… It’s changed…”
I’m sure the number read
320 the last time I saw it.
This number… I wonder what it means. It couldn’t be reflecting the spoon’s size; the number decreased from
31, after all.
“I don’t understand… Just what does it all mean…”
Maybe I’ll be able to make sense of it all if I ask Grandfather when he gets back. I run out of the door with the spoon on my back.
The world outside looks a bit too big all of a sudden.
The lumber floor is punctuated at places by giant knots. A white hill towers over me to one side, looking for all the world like a picture of a snowy mountaintop. Almost as if it were a heap of flour.
In another direction is a pile of countless planks that look cooked to perfection.
It looks like a giant pile of cookies, actually.
And a vast plain of wooden flooring stretches out where the hallway ought to have been.
I peer into the distant void, but it’s dim, and I can’t make out any useful detail.
As I keep walking in this expanse, I suddenly come upon the edge.
It is as if the ground has been sawed off abruptly. When I crouch down and peer over the edge, I find a gigantic chair enshrined imposingly in front.
I hightail it back inside my room. And that’s when I notice it hanging on the wall… Grandmother’s painting.
“This isn’t Ms. Mona Lisa!”
It isn’t my grandmother’s picture in the frame; it’s a Mona Lisa stamp!
My mind races, and I realize it.
“This can only mean I’ve been shrunk down!”
The room full of miniature furniture. The mountain of cake flour. The cookie planks. And finally, the giant spoon.
This is the world of my desktop!
Just why? How? And I was even human-sized just a moment ago…
My confusion just keeps increasing. As I walk around in confusion, clawing at the air, reality weighs on my shoulders, and I crouch down in despair.
“Was it this spoon’s fault?”
I can’t think of any other cause.
“What do I do… Would I go back to normal if I destroyed this thing?”
But conversely, I may end up stuck like this forever if I do destroy it, so I shouldn’t be hasty about this.
I stagger back into the miniature house (open display style) and sit on the chair that doesn’t really look as well made when seen on the same scale. I need to think about my next steps.
“I need to talk to somebody first.”
I always ask questions whenever I am troubled or worried about something.
But I can only think of talking to the fairies, considering I am the same size now.
“I wish Grandfather were here…”
Maybe I should go to the office and ask him there…
No, the office would be too far to reach when I’m this size. It’s not a level path, and besides, how would I even get down from the table?
I wouldn’t be able to push the door open with my own strength, either.
Who knows whether I’ll be able to get down the stairs. Ahh, it’s tough being this small…
“I’d rather just live right here.”
I have these giant cookies. I can probably live without worrying about food for the time being.
The mini-house is missing two walls and its ceiling, but rain is still not a problem because there’s a way larger roof up high.
“Welp, as long as I’m safe and sound.”
I take the weight off my back and close my eyes. Calmness washes over me.
“I give up.”
It’s all I can do when faced with such a situation, after all. Getting all flustered isn’t something that behooves a superior intellect. It’s better to keep one’s pride instead.
I hear the sound of Grandfather entering from the front door.
“Ah! Grandfather! Graaaaandfaaaatheeer! Save meeeeee!” - I put all my survival instincts into that cry for help.
“Grampa!! Grampaaa!! Your adorable granddaughter is in big trouble!!”
I hear a thumping gait making its way toward my room.
As the door opens, he calls out: “You there?”
“Over here! I’m ooover heeeere!”
I jump while wildly flapping my arms.
The gigantic figure of Grandfather… That figure’s eyes light upon me.
“Ohh, what’s this now?”
“Save me! I got shrunk!”
Grandfather’s approaching form looks wiser than ever, perhaps helped by how large he looks now.
“It was so sudden, you know? And all sorts of things happened!”
I explain the situation (with desperation maxed out).
“I see, I see.”
“It’s this spoon! This measuring spoon gave me this pocket-edition body! I’m a mini-me now!
Grandfather gives me a look full of affection for small creatures and says, “Looks like you’ve lost your way, haven’t you, little fairy?”
“But- I’m not a fairy; I’m your grandchild!”
Wouldn’t my face look the same even if I’m smaller?
Grandfather draws closer to my face and addresses me politely - “My apologies. My granddaughter seems to have gone out somewhere.”
“But… that granddaughter… I’m the very same person, though…”
“I see, I see. So you’ve come by to play, have you?”
How’s that follow from what I just said?
It feels like my words aren’t getting through to him…
Maybe my voice isn’t carrying to his ears because it’s too soft?
“I’m not here as a guest; I tell you, there’s been an accident!”
I’ve been trying to tell you this while jumping up and down all this time!
“Hahaha, you fairies sure do take your play seriously! Truly, it’s just as you say.”
It isn’t that we are completely unable to communicate, but rather that he seems to only be picking up fragments of what I am saying.
But how is he entirely unable to understand what I mean?
Perhaps I am a tad too flustered at the moment. I should calm down and analyze what I’m saying first.
“So you’ve come alone today, have you?”
Was my voice always this shrill?
“I see you’ve taken a liking to that measuring spoon.”
Ah, right, this thing. I hold the day’s key item to the sky and make my appeal.
I closely examine what leaves my mouth.
“Please peruse this article, sir! It is an exceptionally singular measuring spoon. It has the power to shrink people, though it is still a mystery how it manages to do so. It’s necessary to quickly put together an early disaster prevention plan surrounding this spoon so as to avoid danger to humans due to any eventuality. This is the prime directive of the UN Mediation Council.”
… is the flood of exposition I intended to vomit out, but what actually leaves my mouth is a sentence of just three words: “Grandpa! Grandpa! Lookie here!”
Are my words being simplified?
… Has everything I’ve been saying so far been simplified like this, unbeknownst to me?
“Ah, a measuring spoon? I wonder what this number on top is.” Grandfather picks up the spoon.
“Exercise caution! That spoon can turn what makes one human into flour if it digs into their head!”
Is what I intended to say, but all I say is, “It digs!”
I’ve been relegated to a fairy’s life, unable to explain anything whatsoever.
“Indeed, a spoon can be used as a spade, can’t it?”
“It diiigs! (Translation: Don’t let this thing dig into your head!)”
I didn’t even say anything very complicated, though!
The number that seems to be engraved on… is 1275?”
It concerns me that the number is higher than it was for me, but now isn’t the time for all that.
“That’s a lot!”
But I say it anyway… Looks like this body is governed more by reflex.
Not only have I shrunk, but my speech and appearance have also been degraded. That is probably why even Grandfather cannot see me as anything other than a fairy.
“Here, I’ll give this back to you.”
“I’ll cherish it!”
I can’t lose this spoon until I figure out how it works. I carefully strap it onto my back.
“My granddaughter is probably at the office at the moment. I’ll go and tell her you’re here. I feel a little bad for leaving you alone here, but feel free to help yourself to the cookies over there.
Grandfather keeps up the bright look on his face all the way, and leaves the room.
Ahh… My only lifeline has gone away now.
My body pleasantly waves goodbye to him with both hands, even though I only feel sad and forlorn on the inside.
It’s too easy to confuse me for a fairy since I’m like this.
I have to find one of those elusive fairies, ask them about this spoon, and figure out how to return to normal.
I retrieve several cookies, tear off their wrappers and repackage them with a cloth instead.
That’s going to be my lunch.
Fairies should be able to survive falls from great heights. Fleas and other small insects and grubs are the same; their light bodies allow them to safely fall from places several times higher than their stature. My body should also be quite light. I do think so, but, but… but.
The world I see below the table’s edge resembles an abyss.
Too high! Too scary! I’d die!
Maybe I could use the chair as an intermediate stop to reduce the fall?
“… It’s still high…”
After all, I’d just be halving the depth of a bottomless pit. It’s just not possible.
“But I guess I’ll give it a go?”
Before I can strengthen my resolve, my carefree body arbitrarily jumps off on its own.
Damn this disconnect between my mind and bodyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!
I’ve landed on the chair with nary an injury.
“A fairy? (Translation: It seems my body has become like a fairy’s)”
Next, I bounce onto the bed from the chair.
My current body is about ten centimeters tall… and the drop to the chair was about forty centimeters… So that would mean if I were human-sized, I could easily survive a six or seven-meter drop?
Now that I think of it, the fairies routinely hop and skip about in high places, don’t they?
So does that mean I’d be okay as long as the drop isn’t too large?
I swallow down the burst of overconfidence. I have to find the fairies now.
Right, I’ve come this far, so… I crawl under the shelf and climb down a wicker hamper placed haphazardly under it.
It is full of old toys I had kept around, intending to sort them out later.
“Well, how ‘bout that.”
Khaki shorts and a short-sleeved shirt with lots of pockets. Luckily, I even find a matching pair of boots to go with the set. It’s a doll-sized safari costume.
I would have thrown these remnants of my childhood away, but I kept them around to give to the fairies.
I never thought I’d be the first to use them, though.
“Would be nice to have a helmet?”
Unfortunately, there isn’t.
So instead, I take half an eggshell I’d left in a nearby flowerpot for fertilizer and put it on my head.
I’ve got the spoon and my lunch; I’m all set.
Looks like… today’s fieldwork is going to be a safari.
“Pumped! (translation: I’m looking forward to this!)”
Wait, this is a matter of life and death… why am I enjoying this?
O body of mine, are you listening?
I exit the room through a gap under the door. My steps resound with a lovely plik-plok as I begin my journey, this time through the real wooden floor and out the door of my real room.
It’s sort of… It’s how the fairies sound?
It’s a tale that has been told many times in the past.
But I don’t remember those stories describing anything about how one’s perspective changes as one enters the macro-scale world.
Contrary to those stories, there are many more things to see than I thought.
First, my distance perception has definitely been altered.
I can see nearby things normally, but distant objects are not as clearly visible as they may have been as a human. For example, the ceiling.
It was quite easy to see when I was a human… But it is now mysteriously covered in a fog.
My line of sight isn’t being physically blocked, though.
It feels like the limited cognitive ability of this fairy-sized body is restricting how far ahead I can see. Perhaps I am unable to process distant visual information?
This may be a poor example, but perhaps it is similar to how humans cannot perceive infrared light.
Similarly, fairies can’t see things that humans can. This isn’t restricted to just vision.
There are probably also some concepts, fields, or ideas that fairies can’t understand.
But this is just my theory about the fog.
The way light somehow makes it through the fog where the ceiling should be, reminds me of the background of one of those religious murals.
After a short walk, the walls that menacingly tower over me on both sides (They’re just the hallway’s walls, though) give way to a vast empty space.
It looks quite different, but I believe this is the dining room.
I spot a forest of woody pillars that appear to have the bark stripped off them.
Those… are probably the legs of the desk and its chair.
That would mean I’d reach the exit if I just went through the legs.
But if I had to endure such pains just to leave the house… I wonder how tough things would get in the outside world.
A wave of anxiety washes over me.
And I don’t just need to venture out; I also need to find the fairies.
I did think of waiting for the fairies to come to my room on their own, but they’re terribly unreliable with their visits, so I can’t just sit around idly.
As I lose myself in my thoughts, the front door looms ominously ahead as if it were the gate to Dante’s inferno.
“‘Yuuge! (translation: It just towers over me!)”
Just as I expected, the door looks as if it stretches upwards to untold heights, and its upper half disappears into the fog.
I can’t possibly open the door on my own, but there is a small vent right next to it, which I can easily pass through instead.
I (compelled by my body) do a needless, impatient dash up to the vent and jump inside. Eeeeeeek!
The fairy custom of impulsively running headlong into unfamiliar territory appears set in stone.
But, rational as I am on the inside, I’d rather have erred on the side of caution.
Fortunately, I got out safely this time.
The mundane outside world suddenly feels ten times as dazzling as before.
It’s way too bright. I didn’t think the difference in luminance would be so significant between indoors and outdoors. The way light beams come down from the heavens reminds me of a waterfall.
Does the light only seem to trace a gentle arc because of my fairy eyes?
The organically curving beams of light have an overwhelming presence and seem to branch out to surround me.
And it’s not just the sunlight that’s put on a show for me.
The ground looks like the surface of a rich pancake, even though it is just exposed out in the open.
The lively weeds sparsely dotting the landscape look as verdant as young ears of wheat, and even the pebbles that just happen to have settled here and there have the natural majesty of well-weathered boulders.
This world, seen through these little eyes, is filled with magic and beauty.
I’m suddenly overcome with the urge to just madly dash into the wilderness and lose myself in its chaos.
“Uh-huh, maybe next time!”
Wait, no! There isn’t going to be a next time! I can’t let myself become feral like that; no way!
The conclusion of chasing this dream would be a tragic return to the roots of my humanity.
Ahh, my fairy-like instincts keep corrupting my reason with each new development…
“Finding a spot with a good view would be nice!”
Yup, yup, I have to figure out where the fairies are likely to be.
“And then, lunch?”
There is a small hill near the house. The view should be quite good from its peak.
I turn towards the hill.
… And would have reached it, but… Yup, I’m lost.
The operation is a complete disaster. That’s all, folks. See you next time!
Predictably, both my mind and my body are a tad flustered.
Although I’m still on the plains, it is as if I am in a dense forest, owing to the weeds blocking the sunlight overhead.
And so, I’m lost in the woods. If I were normal-sized, these woods would be a patch of grass.
Ahh, I think I understand why the fairies have such a peculiar view of humans.
But as of now, I am a fairy, not a human.
“What do I do…”
The grass rustles near me as I stand around listlessly, contemplating my situation.
What shows up is a gigantic pillbug.
It’s probably about thirty centimeters long.
But since I’m only ten centimeters high now, I’m probably just a centimeter and a half taller than it.
Now, this would usually be the point when I jump out of my skin, but it looks like my fairy instincts have softened the blow.
The pillbug pays me no mind and instead advances while tapping its feelers on the ground.
As I listen more closely, I realize that this pillbug is actually muttering to itself. What a pillbug, this one.
"Food. Food. Food. Dark place. Damp place. Dark place. Food. Food. Dark place..."
I’m quite surprised that I can understand it.
Is this also one of the hidden powers fairies have?
"Food. Dark place. Food. Dark place."
Pillbugs like dark places, don’t they. Like under planters.
“Um, Excuse me?!”
I can’t strike up a conversation.
It speaks only of its desires, without emotion, and is unconcerned with what is happening around it.
I suppose the pillbug language isn’t made to encourage mutual understanding. It just happens to be making noises on instinct, and my ears are able to extract meaning from those noises.
This pillbug, who is busy dowsing with its feelers, thrusts its head into a patch of damp soil, and begins its meal. It creeps around, chewing on dregs of fallow dirt.
Seeing such a single-minded figure makes one want to disturb them, doesn’t it?
But what a pitiful thing… I can’t stoop to such a level! Absolutely not!
I give it a good kick in the guts.
I mean - no, it wasn’t me! My body just acted on its own! Poor Mr. Pillbug has curled into a ball now.
"Defend. Defend. Defend..."
Perhaps out of fear, it shivers weakly.
I leave the area post-haste.
I suppose I shouldn’t have wandered off thoughtlessly… I’m now lost in an even darker place than before.
“My tummy’s all grumbly.”
Putting aside the fact that I’m lost, I consider whether to tackle my lunch.
The soil around here has a rather strange smell, and it’s making me antsy.
I don’t think I should stay here for long. Ahh, but I’m hungry. Super hungry. I can’t bear it any longer.
And as I think this, I unwrap the bundle with my food inside.
Even just one of these cookies is larger than my face. That’s what you call a bargain. If there’s this much, I’d probably be full with just half a cookie.
As I open wide and take a big bite, a fluffy feeling spreads in my mouth. Cookies made using a pastry bag3 have a wonderfully moist mouthfeel.
Suddenly, my vision turns black.
I see a pitch-black thing with a hard protrusion fixed to a head that seems to be covered by a sack.
From inside that sack comes a tepid rumbling breath that smells of fish… Is… Is this thing a… A beak?
Maybe I wasn’t vigilant due to my focus on the food, or maybe fairy bodies were never built to be wary.
But the fact remains – I’ve been gobbled up by an evil bird that swooped in behind me.
Without warning, I’m lifted up into the air.
The bird looks up with its food (me) in its mouth and begins swallowing with a cluck-cluck-cluck.
I can’t become this bird’s lunch!
I work myself free of the beak’s deadly embrace and make like the wind.
“I ain’t a fairy!! I’m a human!”
“Food! Food! Food! Food!”
Ah, I can understand bird-speak too! But that isn’t something I’m jumping for joy at having discovered, at the moment.
The bird chases after me, crying out for its food.
“Food! Eat! Food! Eat!”
I’m making a frantic escape, but the feet behind me are quicker and catch up to me instantly.
By the time I realize it, it’s too late, and the beak pierces my head.
Because of the fatal head wound, my consciousness gently leaves me.
Ahh, what a thing to have happened!
My life has reached its end.
Humanity has declined.
Since time immemorial, the world has gradually been forced to reveal its secrets by those who seek answers to the mysteries surrounding all creation.
This is a truly magnificent undertaking, but we are, for some reason, very much indifferent to it.
Is there no remedy for this insensitivity?
Most modern individuals must expend the majority of their faculties navigating the intricacies of their daily lives. Likely, matters like scientific retrospection are not held to be of value except by a particular section of exceptionally tasteful individuals.
But we would like for you to consider this.
As the sole intelligent life form on earth, our species exerts unlimited control over five hundred million square kilometers of the surface of our planet, and every resource, every bit of land, is at our disposal. Are we not in a position where we are threatened neither by dreadful beasts nor by the possibility of starvation?
It was our intellect that propelled us to the top of the food chain despite our weak bodies.
With that in mind, it should not be remiss of us to stop and take in the sad demise of this immature fool of a seeker with a wry smile.
After all, this book was written with such diligent, inquisitive, schadenfreude-filled readers such as yourself in mind –
The Japanese have a word for when one is tardy, like a member of the management. ↩︎
Pastry Bag: A waterproof bag into which you put cookie dough. Cookies are made by extruding the dough into the required shape from a hole in the bag, then baking the dough. See here for more details. ↩︎