Kurt Millican, oozing beads of summer sweat, surveys the freshly-cut lawn. The exhausted insurance agent peels his sticky shirt from his pot belly and uses it to wipe his scorched face. He breathes a dehydrated sigh of relief as he sees his lovely and loving wife, Lisa, approaching with a tall glass of ice water.
"You look a bit...parched." Lisa playfully grins while handing her man the rapidly-warming refreshment.
"Ah, you always know just what I need." Kurt reaches for the glass with a sun-burnt arm. "What would I do without my water girl?"
"I don't know," she quips with a smirk, "and don't call me that." The suburban couple both giggle in the heat, scanning the lush landscape of their backyard.
After gulping the water in what surely must be record time, Kurt begins to inquire about the evening plans. "So what do you --"
Lisa interrupts, grabbing her hubby's arm. "Wait a minute. Do you hear that? Listen."
He lowers his moist eyebrows in confusion. "Hear what, honey? I don't --"
Lisa quickly places her finger on his lips to induce silence. She is not a librarian, but she plays one in this moment.
Kurt amusingly watches his beloved as she tip-toes around the yard, searching for the source of whatever she hears. Her investigation ultimately leads to the patch of grass behind the parked mower. She bends down on all fours.
A voice speaks from above.
"Watch out for the ants, honey." Kurt is now standing over her, trying his darnedest to pick up the sound waves. So far? Nothing. "What is it? I mean, what kind of sound is it?"
Lisa raises her head and looks up at Kurt. Those eyes. Bright, blue and beautiful. They were the first feature he noticed about her, way back in the day. He composed a poem about them while they were dating. Not exactly a literary gem, but still. And these years later, they still mesmerize him.
On this occasion, however, they reflect something other than sentimental affection. They are saturated with confusion. "You mean, you still don't hear it?"
Kurt slowly shakes his head in the negative. "Sweetheart, you know that my hearing ain't the greatest. And I just climbed off that roaring machine there. My ears haven't fully recovered yet."
Lisa reaches up for a helping hand. "That is really weird," she says on the way up. "It sounds like...almost like...tiny voices screaming out for help." The incredulous expression on her analytical partner's sweaty face doesn't go unnoticed. "I know how ridiculous that sounds," she acknowledges. She can all but read Kurt's thought: Do you? She continues. "I wish I could at least figure out where exactly it's coming from."
Perceiving her exasperation, Kurt places a consoling hand on her back. "Well honey, sometimes the great outdoors can be a very mysterious place." A few moments of awkward silence dissipate into the sunshine. "As I'm sure you'll agree, I'm in desperate need of a shower. See you in a bit."
Lisa stares at the ground with a mixture of curiosity and consternation. Kurt proceeds to return the mower to the shed.
Meanwhile, in a land not too far away, a different version of reality has unfolded...
TERROR FROM ABOVE
It's a dark day. The usually-bustling city has come to a dramatic and tragic halt. It is a horrific scene. Devastation everywhere. Destruction all around. Chaos on every corner.
What has happened here? What could have wreaked such nightmarish havoc? For the answer, let us take a few short steps back in time...
EARLIER IN THE DAY
The city park, hosting a birthday party, is packed with happy children and filled with their playful squeals and laughter. Two mothers are discussing the usual: work issues, school concerns, church functions and whatnot. Suddenly, the casual conversation takes a decidedly alarming turn.
"Did you hear that? Is that thunder?"
"I really don't think so. Thunder doesn't continuously roar like that."
"Well, what is it? Where is it coming from?"
"Listen! It's getting louder. It must be getting nearer."
"It sounds like it's coming from behind that hill over there."
In this moment, the air space is horrifyingly violated by monstrous, screaming blades of a metal vortex. The tops of gleaming skyscrapers are chopped off like locks of hair at a barbershop. Terrorized citizens run for their lives. The deafening howl of the rampaging invader drowns out the blood-curdling screams of the people.
In one hellish instant, the radiant sunshine of a glorious day becomes a massive shadow as the growling giant rolls overhead. Day becomes night. Light becomes darkness. Gargantuan wheels tear through the landscape of the once-beautiful city, leaving deep canyons in their wake. Decades of extensive and expensive construction projects undone in a matter of minutes. Gone -- just like that.
YOU ARE HERE
"Welcome" to the itty-bitty city of Miniopolis. It's unfortunate that you couldn't visit on a happier day. This place is very much like the geographical location you call home. The only difference is one of scale.
Theoretically, you could hold the tiny city of Miniopolis in the palm of one hand, with plenty of room to spare. Lisa Millican failed to see it because, though trained as a security professional, her eyes were unable to perceive the scene at such a miniature scale. It's a small world, after all.
As it happens, the itty-bitty city of Miniopolis isn't a stand-alone phenomenon. True, it is the focus of our story. But the reality is that there are many millions of these diminutive civilizations spread across this big blue rock. You will never eye them on any map. Real estate, as we understand it up here, is not really an issue. They don't require much space. It's a small world, after all.
Don't worry about the victimized Miniopolians. Feel compassion, yes. But they will recover. For, you see, they are master builders and master rebuilders. It's a forced mastery - developed from having to live each and every minute under the feet of giants.
Does size matter? Ask the tiny inhabitants of itty-bitty Miniopolis. If you can spot them, that is. Just be careful to not squash them.