A woman in her early thirties. Big round cheeks, wide eyes, black hair spilling like a waterfall. She loomed over us, watching us with glee. Her breathing sounded like the crashing of waves. \n\nThis was all her idea, of course.\n\n<<return>>
We improvised a dance out of the music, gaily stepping and shuffling around each other on the soft, bouncy placemat. We weren't keeping up with the tempo at all, due to our meal weighing heavily on our stomachs, but that didn't seem to matter.\n\nAs I danced and looked at Angie in her ill-fitting dress, I suddenly thought of how distant my last memory of a fun night out was. I turned and gave a brief smile to Marcia, who was, as always, watching us, enraptured.\n\nThen, she said ''"Don't you think this dance floor is looking a little empty?"'', followed by a wink.\n\nWe thought she was going to bring out the rest of us, but instead, both her hands walked in on their fingers, and started kicking and hopping beside us. Angie couldn't quite conceal how silly this made her feel. I, conversely, felt oddly comforted.\n\n[[• Keep dancing|EndDance]]
We turned and faced the moon through the glass. It was a full moon, but it only periodically poked through the thick clouds above. It shone down on the roofs of neighbouring houses - houses the size of worlds, each, to us, as distant, aloof and alien as the moon itself.\n\nI looked at Angie. Out of the seven of us that Marcia possesses, she arrived most recently. We see each other every day. She was a department store manager that Marcia met at a friend's place, and I was an old unemployed neighbour of Marcia's. What did we have to say to each other, here on this play-date?\n[[• Talk about her|TalkAngie]]\n[[• Talk about me|TalkMe]]\n[[• Talk about tonight|TalkTonight]]\n<<replace "• Talk about Marcia">>I didn't feel like talking about Marcia.<<endreplace>>\n
<<set $clothestalk = 0; $moontalk = 0>>\n<html>\n<div class="maintitle">\n<div id="t-dining">DINING</div>\n<div id="t-table">TABLE</div>\n</div>\n</html>\nby Leon Arnott, 2013.\n\n* [[Begin]] \n* [[Quit|http://l.j-factor.com/gmhtml5/]]
I can't let the others know. Not yet, anyway. Some of them would be incensed if she 'played favourites', raising one of us above, in any way. It's simply unconscionable. I don't know how, but unless I want to fight down this love for the rest of my days, I'll need to find a way to win them over. Somehow. Some way.\n\n<<replace "......">>We know that Marcia has just finished creating a homunculus of herself - a second Marcia, a me-sized Marcia. To bring herself down to our level, to show that she's ''"just one of us"'', deep down. I guess I could try and love that Marcia, too. But, she wouldn't be my Marcia, my booming capricious goddess, who can encase me in fingers and lift me into the sky.\n\n<<replace "......">>I'll have to figure all this out tomorrow.\n\nFor now, I must [[sleep|Sleep]].<<endreplace>><<endreplace>>
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"How are you adjusting to life here?" I asked, gingerly.\n\n"I think the worst is over," she said, flatly.\n\nI thought this was the end of that line of discussion. But, she shortly asked, "Does it ever stop feeling like a dream?"\n\nI knew exactly what she meant, but she added, "I mean, you know I chanted that a lot - 'This is a dream, this is just a dream' and all that, on my first few days. But I'm looking around, and my brain still can't believe anything it's seeing. Every glance up at the ceiling makes my reality check explode. I look at just the latch on this window, and I start mentally forcing myself to wake up. But I can't... and I never will." She looked into my eyes for the first time that night. "Have you gotten used to it, yet?"\n\nI simply shook my head.\n<<if $moontalk eq 1>>\n\n<<display "EndMoonTalk">>\n<<else>>[[• Talk about me|TalkMe]]\n[[• Talk about tonight|TalkTonight]]\n<<set $moontalk = 1>>\n<<endif>>
My date was with Angie. Short and narrow, with tidy blond hair and a small face. She'd started living with us a week and a half ago. She was seated at the other end of the plastic table, in a hard plastic chair like mine. She looked about as uncomfortable as me.\n\n<<replace '"Er-"'>>''"Now, why don't you [[greet each other|Hello]], hmm?"'' boomed our host in her cheery voice.<<endreplace>>
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She served up a few drops of wine for each of us, in the same familiar dolls' cups we use for most of our drinks. She said it was wine, anyway. We each took a few polite sips.\n\nIt definitely helped slake the sugar of the sultanas. We resumed our dinners. Unfortunately, the richness of our meal was a bit much for our stomachs - we ended up leaving half of our sultana chunks untouched. An eyedropper descended to the table, silently offering refills for our glasses, but we both politely declined.\n\nWhen it became clear that dinner was over, Marcia stood up and declared, ''"Wouldn't it be nice to do some [[dancing|Carried]] together?"''
I quickly said "Hi Angie, so glad you could make it" or something jokey like that across the table. In reply, she quickly flashed a broad grin and said "Oh, I wouldn't miss it for the world."\n\nShe put her hands on the table and lapsed into silence. Fortunately, this seemed to be satisfactory.\n\n''"Now,"'' said our host, leaning over us, ''"shall I take your order?"''\n\n<<mouseoverlink "Meal" "• Spaghetti" "• Sultana">>\n<<mouseoverlink "Meal" "• Soup" "• Sultana">>\n<<mouseoverlink "Meal" "• Salad" "• Sultana">><<endinsert>>
I can't <<insert "deny it.">> I have to <<insert "face it.">>\n\n[[I love Marcia.|Love]]<<endinsert>><<endinsert>>
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Dining Table
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Neither of us really look closely at what Marcia used on our heads every other morning. For a moment I'd see a distant bottle being squirted, on her finger, and then she'd walk over to me in the basin, and then would come the rubbing and rinsing.\n\nShe knows we could probably bathe ourselves if she let us. But I guess she enjoys cleaning her little possessions.\n\n<<return>>
On cue, we both stood up from those hard chairs. Her hands reached out and scooped us up. As always, she picked me up too fast, and I felt my stomach lurch and my vision blur as she carried me through the air. It felt very weird, but then, so did everything else around me.\n\nShe placed us down on the other end of the dining table, on a rubber placemat.\n\n''"Let me put on some music,"'' she said, pulling out her chair loudly and sitting down. She laid down her music player in a corner of the dance floor, and, after some poking and prodding, its tiny speaker began emitting energetic instrumental jazz. Perhaps motivated more by Marcia's enthusiasm than the music itself, we looked at each other, shrugged, and [[went with it|Dancing]].
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Marcia has seven dollhouses - one for each of us. We have the privacy and dignity of our own houses, even without electricity, or appliances, and our water in tubes. And, of course, with a landlady who can lift off our roofs or pull open the walls, and peer in any time she likes.\n\nEven the dollhouses, though, aren't quite the right size for us. The ceiling's a little too high. The doorways and furniture are a little too big. Even our homes, our sanctuaries in a very big world, makes us feel small and child-like.\n\nAs I mulled over tonight, had a cup of water and prepared for bed, I began thinking - briefly, about what [[the "real me"|Escape]] is doing right now, but, more strongly, about what tonight's date has [[taught me.|Taught]]
I wanted to ask her if tonight had, against the odds, been a romantic evening that had brought us closer together. What I actually said was "That was pretty good dancing!"\n\n"Yeah," she said. "It was nice to just unwind and be silly for awhile."\n\n"Even though we kind of had to be talked into this," I added, still careful, for whatever reason, not to break character.\n\nShe went with it. "Yeah, funny how you often have to be pushed into things you end up liking. Hindsight and all that."\n<<if $moontalk eq 1>>\n\n<<display "EndMoonTalk">>\n<<else>>[[• Talk about her|TalkAngie]]\n[[• Talk about me|TalkMe]]\n<<set $moontalk = 1>>\n<<endif>>
At this point, Marcia <<replace "stood up.">>stood up and said ''"Let me get our happy couple some [[drinks|Drink]]."''<<endreplace>>
She carefully placed the sultanas on the table before each of us. They looked like soft, misshapen black loaves more than anything. They smelled richer and more pungent than the basic meals she normally made us, which I guess was why she'd chosen it for this special night.\n\nAngie made a "Mmm" noise of satisfaction, probably just out of politeness. Of course, neither of us had cutlery, so she reached over and, with some difficulty, twisted off a shred of its skin. It didn't give easily, and she had to use both hands. She began chewing, glancing at me expectantly.\n\n<<replace "• Eat sultana">>''"Hang on,"'' said our host, who'd noticed Angie's difficulty eating. We quickly moved out of the way of her hands as she took back the sultanas. She went over to the bench and chopped them into smaller chunks, then came back and laid them on the table. ''"There you go!"''\n\n[[• Eat sultana|Meal2]]<<endreplace>>
There was a cold silence. Then, finally, Angie asked, "Say, what shampoo do you use? Your hair looks great."\n\nAll I could do was laugh. I didn't know if she was intentionally joking or genuinely pretending. As if we knew or cared which shampoo [[got used on us.|Washing]]\n\nMy attention was drawn by Marcia's grin widening a little. Noticing my gaze, she slid her head back behind her arms, concealing her lips. As if that would make her any less visible, her massive presence any smaller.\n\nI then turned back to Angie and moved the conversation.\n[[• Conditioner|Conditioner]]\n[[• Clothes|Clothes]]
I said something like "I like your dress!" It was the same red dress she normally wore. It fitted her poorly, having been tailored for a doll several inches taller than her, and it was no doubt made of harsh material with huge stitching. \n\nMarcia still hadn't gotten around to sewing her something more comfortable. The full-body rags that Marcia sewed for most of us would no doubt fit even worse, but at least the material she typically chose was softer, gentler and warmer.\n\nAngie couldn't think of anything to add to that. <<if $clothestalk>><<display "Aperitif">><<else>>So, I tried changing the subject:\n[[• Weather|Weather]]\n<<endif>>
I love her. I don't know if this is Stockholm syndrome, cabin fever, or the sheer unreality of my world sending me round the bend, but it's real.\n\nI love looking up in my house, and just watching her watch me watch her for hours on end. I love seeing her head eclipsing the ceiling light, surrounded by a halo. I love being cared for and doted on by a giant. I even learned to like being washed and patted dry.\n\nTonight she matched me with Angie, but she doesn't know - I'm sure she doesn't - that my only match is with her. Me, her tiny, [[secret lover|Secret]].
I stared at where the moon had been a moment earlier, and said, "Since we're here, I might as well ask: what do you think of me?"\n\nAngie, looking at the same place, thought to herself, then replied, "OK, out of all of us, you seem to be, I guess, the most content, the most grounded? I haven't seen you get as stir-crazy or emotional as the rest of us."\n\nI turned and smiled politely. "I guess I've just been here awhile longer. Or," I added, "maybe I'm just good at not showing my feelings."\n\nAngie half-shrugged and returned the smile.\n<<if $moontalk eq 1>>\n\n<<display "EndMoonTalk">>\n<<else>>[[• Talk about her|TalkAngie]]\n[[• Talk about tonight|TalkTonight]]\n<<set $moontalk = 1>>\n<<endif>>
Eventually, after Marcia looped the track one more time (''"Encore!"'', she cried at the imaginary band) in which we paired off with her dancing hands, she brought the dance to a close. Our partners bowed (by tipping forward unexpectedly), then flew away.\n\n''"Let's finish up with a nice walk in the moonlight,"'' she boomed. This, as we already knew, meant a walk on her window-sill. She scooped us up and carried us there. She then threw the windows open to let in the scent of night air - but closed them again as soon as Angie politely pointed out that neither of us were dressed for the cold.\n\n''"This time,"'' she said, ''"I'll really leave you well alone to stroll and chat."'' To prove this, she plugged in her music player's earphones and sat on the floor below. We found ourselves alone, save for a wobbling black hill of hair.\n\n[[• Look at the moon|Moon]]
<<replace "• Talk about the future">>\n''"Okay, time to go home now,"'' boomed the hair mound, getting to her feet. ''"Time to [[say goodnight to your partner and thank them for an amazing evening!|Goodnight]]"''<<endreplace>>
We said good night to each other and thanked each other for an amazing evening. Marcia evidently didn't think spending the night together was something you did on a first date.\n\nWe did, however, decide to kiss - which awoke a barely-stifled ''"Aww!"'' from a very large throat.\n\nAnd with that, we were plucked up and sent home to our [[houses|Dollhouse]].
"Awfully poor weather we've been having, isn't it?"\n\nAh, yes - there had been a storm a few days ago that had been tremendously noisy. Marcia had been out in it for an uncomfortable amount of time.\n\n"I'm glad we didn't have to be out there," said Angie. "Can you imagine?" We both wordlessly agreed that being in lethally violent weather would be quite bothersome.\n\n"So glad we don't ever have to worry about that," I said. Marcia's cheeks rose from behind her arms. My attempt at slyly flattering our omnipotent host was a success.\n\n<<display "Aperitif">>
And dream of vast dancing hands and quivering hills of hair until the morning.
I know that somewhere, out there, is the "real me" - my full-sized original, who has a job and family and all that. But me, the thumb-sized version that Marcia secretly created from my other self's hairs and dreams and memories, only belongs here with her.\n\nSure, we all found it hard to forget our old lives our copied memores - to accept that our human selves are out there, living on our behalf. That no one's missing us, that no one's coming to rescue us and return reality to its normal size. But eventually, we come around to living our new, simple existence, with her.\n\nWell, I did, at least.\n\n<<return>>
I said some nonsense like "Do you think I should use conditioner as well as shampoo?" Continuing to pretend we had normal lives.\n\n"Oh, it's fine the way it is," said Angie. Then, someone <<insert "joined in.">>\n\n''"I know my friends swear by it,"'' said the someone, ''"but I don't really see much difference. For the effort of washing twice, I mean."'' So much for pretending she wasn't there. \n\n''"I mean, none of you notice, do you?"'' \nWe didn't know what we were <<insert "supposed to notice.">>\n\n''"Wait, don't answer that, this is your date - just ignore me!"'' she quickly added, a little embarassed.\n\nHaving again been ordered to ignore the enormous woman, I immediately changed the subject:\n[[• Clothes|Clothes]]\n<<set $clothestalk = 1>><<endinsert>><<endinsert>>
I then tried one of the sliced sultana chunks. It tasted incredibly sweet - so much so that the first bite made me wince. Angie seemed to smile at my expression, but only raised her chunk to her mouth with some trepidation. To her credit, she acted like it tasted great.\n\nWe nibbled away at it for a few minutes. [[Marcia]] looked over us and our quiet meal, and eventually said ''"Hey, feel free to talk amongst yourselves!"'' She placed her huge arms on the dining table, a few inches from where she'd placed our own little table, and rested her chin on them. She grinned and whispered, ''[["Just pretend I'm not here."|Talk]]''