The little men have been missing from Yuvie’s apartment for two weeks now. She knows they used to be there, hiding under the bed, sneaking into the pantry at night. She’d see them as she loaded the dishwasher from the corner of her eye. Yuvie knows it isn’t technically possible for there to be little men in her apartment, just like it isn’t technically possible for someone to be swallowed by a whale, but she knows what she saw.
Yuvie wonders if she offended them. She asks her girlfriend, Anna, if she’s done anything different, and she sets out plates of food in convenient places. This leads to nothing but snacking on their part and the little men don’t come back. They decide to adopt a cat, or at least, Yuvie decides and Anna doesn’t mind. Anna knows that Yuvie needs distractions, that Yuvie is stressed, that her hands grab the hem of her shirt when she’s sitting as if it will blow away, that she trembles sometimes, that she doesn’t go into elevators. She doesn’t know about Yuvie’s father, because so far she hasn’t met the rest of Yuvie’s family. Yuvie intends to keep it that way.
Anna is the best thing in her life, currently, although Yuvie has a hard time accepting she exists. Anna flits through their apartment and her thoughts like a ghost, and Yuvie’s family manifests itself as a throb above her left eye. Yuvie sometimes thinks that she is on a separate plane of existence that contains her, her father, a whale, and a handful of little men. Now that the men are gone, it is just her and the whale.
The little men don’t come back and the apartment begins to press in on her like it used to before they arrived. Sometimes, when she wakes up and goes into the shower she just stands there and doesn’t turn on the water. She washes her hair in the sink instead. At night, when she can’t sleep because the apartment is shuttered by shadows, she gets up and goes looking for the little men. The cat watches her with wide green eyes. When she doesn’t find them, she strokes the cat and looks at her phone. She is grateful she didn’t have a phone in her teenage years, when she stayed glued to the TV in case someone found bones inside a whale. Her mother would sit in the corner knitting, telling her in a tired voice that whales don’t just swallow people whole and that her father had fallen overboard. Yuvie, who had been there that summer evening, and seen the whale erupt from the water, stopped listening after a while, and her mother stopped talking and they would sit and knit and watch TV every night.
It is early one morning that the cat wakes her with something in its mouth. It is a little red cap, stained with blood. Anna is asleep beside her, so Yuvie buries her head in the blanket to muffle her tears. She asks the cat if it killed it, and it gives her a reproachful look. She decides probably not. Someone else killed her little men. She misses them, and the walls seem to be closing in a little more.
It is later that morning, on her walk to work, that her mother calls her and asks her if she’s seen the news. Yuvie hasn’t seen the news, she’s been thinking about the dead little men. She hangs up on her mother and scrolls through her feed.
Skeleton found inside corpse of whale, the news story says. Yuvie stops in the middle of the street and cries. She used to dream about being right, then she would dream of being wrong, and lately she has been dreaming of nothing at all but she cries all the same. Yuvie stands in the middle of the street, and later in her apartment, she cries not for her father but for the whale and for the little men and for the loneliness that has swallowed her whole.