Carlin

A mysterious, child-like voice turns out to belong to the most unexpected person.

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1. It's A Small, Small World

 

The muted sound of raindrops and cars passing by was the perfect soundtrack for a quiet evening in, to unwind and get lost in a good book. Friday evenings meant staying out and partying to most people, but sweaty bodies shoved into a dark, compact room with too-loud music just wasn’t my idea of fun.

 

I carefully lifted the steaming mug of hot chocolate and took a sip, the sweet brown liquid coating the insides of my mouth. Taking another sip, I savoured the taste before setting the mug down on the coffee table beside me, exchanging it for my book. Cracking it open the bookmarked page, it took no more than two sentences for me to be enticed into a whole other dimension.

 

“Hello. Are you my mother?”

 

At first, the voice was so soft, so insignificant that I passed it off as a sound coming from outside. Plus, I was far too engrossed in my book to bother about it.

 

“Hello. Are you my mother?”

 

This time the voice, despite being tiny, was projected loud and clear. My ears perked up, and slid my bookmark to the page I was reading. Could it be from outside? No, the cars on the street were already muted with the closed windows, plus the rain that had been going on all day would drown out any other noise coming from the street five stories below. I closed my book and fumbled across the coffee table for my phone. Maybe Deb set it as my notification tone to annoy me. She knows how much I hate creepy things – especially little girl voices – and she probably did this to scare me.

 

“Hello. Are you my mother?”

 

Cold fingers of fear skittered down my back. I hated the sound of it – sharp and rather high pitched, which kind of hurt my ears. My fingers met the cool glass screen of my phone and I grabbed it, checking for any notifications.

 

There were none.

 

“Hello?”

 

I froze. The tone of the voice changed. It was speaking to me. My eyes darted around the room frantically, searching for the source of the sound. I clutched my phone tighter despite my palms, which were cold and clammy from my growing fear. I eyed the row of mini wooden dolls I bought a couple of years back, which had intricate details that were crafted expertly by hand. Sometimes, I liked to imagine how inanimate objects had a life of their own when the world went to sleep. Right now, that thought was more unsettling than whimsical.

 

“Over here!”

 

Maybe I’m hallucinating. It’s been a long week. Am I going crazy? I’m going crazy. No, crazy people don’t think they’re going crazy.

 

I bit my lip, turning to peek behind my armchair. It sounded like it was coming from behind me. My eyes searched the general direction, looking for a sign of life.

 

“Yes, here! Look at the flowerpot!”

 

I zeroed in on the coral pink tulip bud I recently got in an attempt to grow something other than succulents. I wasn’t blessed with green fingers, but since the plants hadn’t died under my care, I thought I’d be a little more daring and try growing my favourite flower – the tulip.

 

I almost dismissed the semi-closed up bud – it had been in this state for days – but noticed that the petals were now more spread apart with two antenna-like things sticking out of the top.

 

I slowly got up from the cosy nest I had made out of my favourite blanket and armchair, goose bumps on my legs raising at the sudden cold. I inched towards the windowsill, where my tulip stood in a pot of dirt. Leaning down, I frowned as I noticed that the tiny antennas were now shaking. I adjusted my grip on my phone, ready to use it as a weapon to smack whatever was inside the tulip.

 

“Took you long enough!” A tiny head popped out of the bud. A shriek pierced the air as my body instinctively jolted back. It was a human head. A very, very small head.

 

I held out my phone like a sword, as if it could protect me from the thing.

 

“What are you?” My voice shook, pitchy with fear.

 

“Carlin!”

 

“What’s a Carlin?”

 

“Excuse you, Carlin’s my name. Now, you probably think I’m a fairy, but I don’t have any of that fancy stuff sprouting out of my back.”

 

Heavens, this thing called itself Carlin and it had an attitude.

 

“Anyway, are you my mother?”

 

“Of course I’m not!” I exclaimed, completely bewildered by the fact that I’d unknowingly housed a tiny human in my tulip.

 

“But you’re supposed to be my mother. I was told that you’ll be my mother.”

 

“What? No! Who told you that?”

 

Carlin sighed as she rolled her eyes. “All I know is that whoever’s home I end up in, the first person I see will be taking care of me. Kind of like a parent. So that means you–” she lifted her hand, which I thought was an antenna, and jabbed a finger at me– “are my mother.”

 

“That's insane,” I said, shaking my head furiously. I’m insane. I’m having a conversation with a tiny human.

 

“Well, you carry on in self-denial, I’m just gonna call you my mother,” Carlin shrugged, her small shoulders rising up and down. “And I’d love to get out of this bud – it’s been a nice home, but it’s getting kind of icky in here.”

 

“O­–kay, climb out then,” I said as I stared at her.

 

“I can’t, I’ll fall into the dirt! And heaven knows what’s inside the pot.”

 

“Oh, gosh.”

 

I slid my phone into the back pocket of my sweatpants and warily stretched my hands towards the bud, cupping my palms so that Carlin would be able to climb into them. Her miniscule arms pushed against a petal as she clambered out of the bud. When she landed in my hands, I was surprised at how heavy she felt despite her size – she looked no larger than my thumb.

 

Carlin began to brush herself of whatever invisible dust was on her when her delicate hands paused mid-air.

 

“Where are my clothes…? Close your eyes! Don’t look!” She yelped, covering her body. I did as told, shifting my gaze away while she suffered a wardrobe malfunction.

 

“I should've known that they'd take all our things before we left…” She growled, my eyebrows shooting up as curiosity poked at my sides. Who did she mean by “they”? Did that mean there more creatures like her?

 

“Fetch me something to wear. And while you’re at it, find me someplace where I can wash myself.”

 

I left those thoughts to swirl around my head, deciding that I would ask her once I got her cleaning up out of the way. “I could try to find something,” I muttered, recalling my mini doll collection as I straightened up headed towards the kitchen. What was I doing following the orders of a demanding little brat?

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