Cut Down to Sizeby Shrinkingman
The good news for Brian was that the shrinking had stopped, and hopefully it would not resume. The bad news was that he hadn't shrunk a few inches or a foot or two. No, it was a lot worse: he had gone from 5 foot 9 inches tall to 2 foot 4.
28 inches tall, and 15 pounds on a good day.
Now he was sharing an apartment with his nine year old, of whom he had custody. Brian was divorced and given his current condition was on sick leave from work; he had money from a thrift savings plan and savings bonds, too, but he didn't know how long that would last.
Living at this size wasn't easy, and fortunately he had some help from his brother, sister is law, and nephew who lived a mile away.
So on this Saturday morning--as was tradition, a time to go out and eat breakfast--Brian woke up and slid off his bed to the floor. He made his way to the bathroom and urinated. He had to stand on a phone book to be able to do that. The bathroom sink was an almost as tall as he was and he had to get on a stepstool to wash his hands.
Matty was just getting up and putting his clothes on. A Red Sox T-shirt, jeans, socks, sneakers. At this point the tip of Brian's head was level with the third-grader's waist (Matty was just shy of four and a half feet tall, and probably weighed about five times as much as his dad.)
Speaking of sneakers, Brian still had some of his old clothes in his bedroom--including some men's size 12 sneaks that were absurdly huge now. Three times as long as his four inch long foot.
Brian had thrown on some toddler sized sweat pants; he had already had his socks and T-shirt on, as he'd worn them to bed.
A knock on the door, and Matty opened it. The doorknob was a bit too high for Brian at this point. There was Brian's 16 year old nephew Mike, who was absurdly tall. The tip of Brian's head didn't even come halfway between Mike's kneecap and waist. Yet if he had been his previous size, he would have been only an inch or two shorter than the fast sprouting lad.
Driving was out of the question for Brian at this point and of course Matty was far too young, but Mike had just gotten his license. He knew, of course, that kids who just learn to drive can be reckless (and occasionally died in horrific car crashes from speeding and inexperience). But he hoped Mike would do well. Brian had kept his car on the road despite his shrinkage, and he would let Mike drive the three of them to the breakfast place.
A 40 year old man the size of a one year old--so ridiculous, he thought to himself. The world was so huge now, as were the people in it. His nephew was now a long and lean mountain rising above him, with tussled brown hair on the summit. He weighed maybe 140 pounds but to Brian it may as well have been a ton.
After saying their niceties, Brian suddenly found himself being picked up.
"Mike! I can walk down the stairs myself..."
"Uncle Brian, you know it's tough--your legs are too short." It was true: each step was nine inches high and his kneecap was 7 or 8 inches up. He'd practically have to crawl down the stairs as a result, so his nephew had picked him up--grabbed him under his armpits with those titanic hands, and easily picked up his 15-pound uncle. Brian's legs kicked a bit, as if trying to escape.
15 pounds. Brian used to have a cat that weighed maybe 11 pounds, and he was barely more than that. Outweighed easily by more than a few dogs.
Off they went into Brian's Kia, where he was placed in a car seat in the back (Matty went into the front passenger seat). If Brian had simply sat down on a regular car seat, he wouldn't be safe, of course.
At Brian's size, he was too small to see out the side window--in fact even with the booster seat he couldn't see much.
He got unbuckled from the booster seat by his nine year old son--who by rights should have been in a child seat himself (the law said he would need one till he was 4'9" and he was 4'5").
Swell--there was a wait. It was a good place for breakfast but tables and the counter filled up fast on a weekend. So people had to wait in a small area next to the front door, and were seated as tables opened up.
"Oh, Matty--how are ya? And I see you got your (snicker) Dad!"
It was one of his son's classmates, another nine year old--a girl who was a few inches taller than Matty. She looked down at him and giggled a bit. After all, how many times does anyone see someone the size of a one year old who is actually 40--complete with beard? And unlike most dwarves, who were a bit chunky, Brian was a bit slimmer by comparison which made him look even more tiny--and he felt horrible about it.
"Hi," he managed in his high pitched voice--he almost sounded like a cartoon character.
"Oh, you're Mr. Hosler--I think we met at the PTO meeting!"
It was Lisa's mom, who had been a few inches shorter than he used to be.
"Yes--Mrs. Willis. Hello." He put his tiny hand in her huge one and shook it. "I was...a bit different back then, but I hope to be better soon."
"Yes--we saw that bit about you on TV, and in the paper. I know it must be horrible but at least you stopped getting smaller." She noticed her daughter trying to hold back her laughter and stared over at her. "Now, Lisa, this poor man doesn't deserve that. It is a disease and nothing to laugh at."
"Harding, table for three?"
Before he knew it, a ten year old boy almost collided with him as he and his parents were heading through the door and into the dining room. The boy hadn't noticed him--but when he looked down to see that he'd bumped into a man and not a toddler, he burst out with a guffaw.
A few weeks back, he would have been a puny 4 foot 8 boy, maybe 85 pounds. Now to Brian he seemed 12 feet tall and seemed to weigh over a ton.
"Excuse me, kid?" Brian's nephew looked down at the ten year old, whose face suddenly changed expression.
"Gee, I'm sorry, mister..."
"Say you're sorry to him, not me," said Mike.
The boy's parents were on their way into the dining room but saw what happened, and stepped in.
"Aw, okay, sorry lil' dude," said the boy to Brian, trying to have a serious expression on his face but a smirk and a smile crept upon it, and he and his parents went into the dining room.
Lisa Willis took some pity upon Brian. She crouched down to talk to him--though that almost make Brian feel worse. He felt like a very little boy who was being talked to by a bigger kid or an adult, and the fact that Lisa had to crouch down to better see him "eye to eye" made him feel even smaller. (For a split second he remembered one of those "Super Nanny" shows on TV: "Get down to your child's level and make them feel less uneasy... then let them know what behavior you expect of them.")
"Mr. Hosler--I know we kids can seem mean sometimes, but try to excuse us--I mean, him. He doesn't know any better."
It was a third grader, twice his height, trying to be the understanding adult--talking to a toddler sized man.
"It's okay. I know you guys get pushed around by bigger kids, or by grownups, and when you guys see a grownup like me being THIS small, well..."
That's when the waitress said Hosler, table for three, was now ready. And into the dining room stepped a 16 year old teen, a nine year old boy, and a 40 year old man.
The oldest of them...was the smallest.
Shrinking had been a relatively new phenomenon, and scientists and doctors could only conclude it was a strange blend of genetics and a virus that triggered reduced size. Only a few people around the world had it, one of the first being a man who shrank from 5'11" to 4'2". Pictures in newspapers showed him posing next to his 12 year old son, the tip of the man's head being level with the boy's chin. In most cases, people lost nearly two feet at the very most.
One interesting case was a man who was 6'11" and didn't like being so tall. He got his wish, getting down to 4'10" and he now has to shop in the boys' clothing department. "I shrank a little too much, but now I don't bump my head getting into my car any more." Though now he has to scrunch his seat up close and even sit on a cushion.
Brian Hosler had the most extreme case yet. The rate varied, sometimes being rather unnoticeable but in one day he found he had lost three inches in the space of about 24 hours. As he got down to 28 inches, it stopped for good. There were constant re-adjustments to be made, especially in the clothing department. Step stools were bought, as were rods similar to venetian blind rods--he would use these to turn a light switch on or off.
He had already been divorced for about a year or so before the shrinking started. Brian insisted on he and Matty living in their own apartment rather than living with relatives. Often, eating at home would consist of easy to prepare frozen dinners. Getting around meant either hitching a ride with a friend or relative or using public transportation. Certainly Matty would not get his license for another 6 or 7 years.
Riding Matty's bike was out of the question for a toddler sized man.
One of the biggest obstacles was his comparative lack of strength and certainly size. Even eating: forks, knives, and spoons seemed huge for a man whose hands were just under three inches long. Anything over three or four pounds was almost impossible for him to lift.
And he had his hands full one night when Matty had some of his friends drop over. They ordered some pizza, watched TV, played games, but then some of them got rowdy and it was tough for Brian to control.
Just some nine or ten year olds, you may think. Try being able to deal with kids that age when you're an adult the size of a ONE year old!
One of the kids decided to get a beer out of his fridge. Brian would have no part of a ten year old drinking booze.
"You put that back right now! You're not old enough!"
The beard on Brian's face made him look adult. The high pitched voice indicated otherwise.
Brian went right up to the boy and reached up to take the beer away. He was waist-high to the lad and even if he reached up all the way his hands couldn't reach up to the middle of his chest.
The boy put the beer on top of the fridge, far out of Brian's reach. Suddenly Brian felt huge hands reach around his scrawny arms and he was lifted up easily. The boy reached around his back and carried him away.
"Bwian must go beddy bye now," laughed the boy.
"Put him down, Kenny, he's my Dad!"
"Well, OK..." Kenny let go and Brian fell down onto the carpet (as they were now in the living room).
He rolled around onto his side; Brian tried to get up and he saw the huge white-stockinged feet of Kenny on one side of him, and his son's equally hefty gray-stockinged feet. Far above him were the two school kids; Kenny was trying to reach down and pick Brian up again but Matty gave him a hip check which sent him sprawling onto the sofa.
One of the other kids grabbed Brian and picked him up, then deposited him next to the fridge. "Bwian's beer is up there, do you want it Bwian? You'll haveta get on a chair-- no, you still wouldn't be big enough. But WE are!"
"Yeah," said Kenny coming in to the room. "We don't let little kids drink our beer!"
Matty ordered his friends to leave. "Come on, guys, this isn't right."
"Yeah, he might grow back to normal and kick our butts!," laughed one boy.
Brian looked down at his puny body and thought, I'm not sure that will happen...
It was early on Sunday morning--the sun was out but not too many people were awake. Matty was still sleeping but Brian had awakened and decided to go for a walk. He got dressed but chose to go out of the apartment barefoot.
He had trouble opening doors (especially the upper latch part) so he had an unconventional way of getting out if he so chose: a pet door. Embarassing as it may have seemed, it was possible for the petite man to duck down slightly and make his way outdoors through it. The door measured 14 inches by 20 inches. Of course every dimension for Brian seemed two and a half times bigger than the actual size; it almost seemed like it were 35 inches by 50 inches.
He made his way down the back stairs (which weren't as steep as the front ones), down to the driveway of the apartment building, and out to the sidewalk. From there he hopped down off the huge curb onto the street, made sure no cars were coming, and crossed the street to a local park. (The street seemed truly wide to him but fortunately, Sunday morning at the time was not a time to expect any cars.)
Then he walked over the grass (hoping his bare feet would not come into contact with broken glass, but the park was in good shape) and looked over at the swing sets the "big" kids used and a basketball court with an impossibly high hoop. He did see someone headed his way, a jogger who had a golden retriever on a leash and he was walking/running with the dog. The man stopped as both decided to take a breather; both walked closer to Brian.
The dog's shoulders were level with Brian's armpits. He estimated the dog had to weigh at least four times what he did. He could have ridden the canine like a horse if he wished.
It was a friendly mutt who wagged its tail as Brian pet the top of its head. Brian and the man chatted about how nice the weather was, and the man said he felt bad about Brian's situation (everyone in town knew about Brian and his dilemma).
As they left, Brian found a quiet spot and sat down. A Sunday morning, about 7 am or so, and here was the reduced man sitting cross legged on the grass, and just thinking about his situation. Why was he the one to go through this? Why we he the one who got cut down to size? In some ways, life was..interesting...at this size, but there were also many embarassments, inconveniences, dangers, and frustrations.
Must he spend the rest of his life the size of a one year old?
He thought of what he told Matty after the other kids had left.
"I'm still your father and you have to obey the rules--and your friends do, too, or they can't come over here anymore."
"I tried to tell them to behave...sorry, Dad."
"I'll tell Kenny's parents what he did, and talk to the other moms and dads, too." (He wondered if the parents would hear his high pitched voice and might hang up, thinking it could be a prank call.)
Brian was lucky Matthew was such a good kid--not only did the boy try to get his kids to stop misbehaving, but Brian was fully aware that if Matthew wanted to, and were mad at his father, he could easily have beaten the crap out of him.
"Matty, this is extremely tough for me. You can't imagine what I have to go through, being this small."
"I'm here to help ya, Dad."
"Thanks, son. I know you're trying. Maybe I can grow back but if not..."--Brian gulped, finding it difficult to get the words out-- "...if I gotta stay small, it will be even tougher with time. I get so frustrated and...scared."
Matty imagined what it must be like to be a 40 year old man who is in danger of being beaten to a pulp by--kids.
"Be strong, Dad...I'll be around to help."
He hugged his father--instead of a father helping to console his small, nine-year-old son, it was a nine-year old trying to reassure his tiny father that all would be fine.
Brian got up from his seated position on the grass and started to head back to his apartment. He had needed a little time to clear his mind. On a quiet Sunday morning, he needed to get some fresh air, hear the birds singing, and sense the city "waking up". As he headed back, he could smell coffee from some houses. At others, Sunday papers he probably would be too weak to lift were thrown on doorsteps.
The little man headed back home, and got back in through the pet door.
As Brian got in through the pet door, he was thinking it was a good thing that the dog he'd met was friendly. It weighed much more than he and had it been a vicious mutt, he could have been mauled.
It was interesting: in some ways the world, now much bigger to him, could still be a good place and he simply was observing it from a lower and smaller vantagepoint. But it some ways life could be more dangerous for a 28 inch tall, 15 pound man. Any of the kids that were at his place could have beaten the crap out of him. Crossing a street meant waiting for the right moment and dashing across it as fast as his miniscule feet could take him, lest a gargantuan car mow him down (which was why it was a good idea to let someone like Matty lead him across--and big Mike could carry him, like a baby).
Everything was grossly distorted now--people's arms, legs, feet and hands seemed impossibly huge. Distances seemed longer (again, having to walk on four-inch-long feet...) Forks, knives, and other objects were tougher to handle and things he could have easily lifted before now were impossible.
As he entered the kitchen he saw Matty was up and dressed and he informed his son he'd gone for a little walk.
"Well, I just felt like it. More natural...feeling the grass underneath me."
"I'll get breakfast for us--waffles OK?"
"Sure, if you want! Thanks."
The difference between the two of them was this: Matty opened up the fridge and got the waffle package out from the top freezer. He walked over to the microwave and put a couple waffles on to a plate then put the plate into the oven and hit the buttons, and so on. For Brian he would have had to drag a chair (if he had to) next to the fridge and strain to reach the waffle package. Get off the chair and go over to the counter where he'd have to use another chair to reach the plate and the microwave, etc., and reach up to get the syrup. Even then, if some objects weren't near the edge, he'd have to do something like climb ON to the counter and attempt to reach them.
He thought of an old Sunday comic, "Rose is Rose", in which both Rose and Jimbo Gumbo imagined they had regressed to being kids again (three feet tall or even smaller) and giddily reaching for coffee, the coffee pot (filling it with water), and so on. These were fantasy segments where one or both characters would imagine themselves that small (and young) again but of course in reality they were still big. Not the case for Brian, who would STAY small throughout.
Brian, who would go over to the kitchen table and sit on a chair-- with a phone book or two to help him better reach over the top, legs dangling down beneath him. One waffle would be plenty for him, IF that. Brian, who got a cup of coffee from his son and had to use both hands (his right curled around the handle and his left supporting the bottom) to help him drink it (and even then, Brian had to ask for a fairly small cup for his baby sized hands).
Brian, who had to look up even to four- or five-year old kids.
His wife Sharon had been divorced from him for over a year and was now living halfway across the country. She expressed pity and concern for him in their occasional phone calls since this had happened (Sharon had left him for someone better looking and more wealthy); usually she wouldn't call him but she did a few times more recently.
"Shouldn't you move in with Ed, Margie, and Mike? They can take care of you and Matty."
It was a helpful suggestion and she did have a good point. Brian did treasure his independence--being able to help bring up Matty and have the two of them in a place of their own, rather than being part of a relative's household. Though there were times when he got frustrated at his powerlessness and thought about doing just that.
When Monday would come, Matty would be off to school and Brian would be alone at home to watch TV or do things on the computer. (Be a good boy Bwian, he laughingly told himself, and daddy Matty will tweat you to some ice cw-eam! Yes, sometimes he felt like he was a little kid. The "little" part was certainly right.
He would occasionally go for a walk and be instantly recognized (for TV and newspapers told of his plight.) He found some women took pity on him and would be sympathetic toward him. He would sit on a park bench next to a young mother (with a toddler--bigger than him--by her side) and she would talk to him about how horrible things must be for him, and Brian would joke that maybe she could adopt him and be his "mommy". Sometimes the woman would even take his tiny hands in her huge ones and hold them to added emphasis and support. It would make him feel better for a moment but he couldn't help feeling like he actually was a toddler himself, and this woman was his mother rather than someone he could hook up with (honey, leave your husband and kids and join me and my son--we could use a lovely lady like you to help us--well, actually those were things he thought; he wouldn't dare say them).
But a few days later Brian felt odd and he could sense something was wrong. He got up on a chair and got a foot long ruler from the top of a bureau, then got down again, stood next to a wall, and made a mark where the top of his head was. He took the ruler and measure up to it. One foot, two feet, and...
...two and a half inches.
A queasy feeling hit him and he slowly crouched down, and grabbed his socked feet with his tiny hands and he looked up at the gargantuan furniture.
_He was shrinking again. 26 and a half inches tall_...
He looked like a small baby down there on the floor, hunched over, shaking his head in disbelief. Yes he had lost an inch and a half which might not sound like much but the very fact that the shrinking was starting again was the final insult. He was trying to keep his wits about him and enjoy life but now it had clearly gotten much worse for him.
He was not the 5'9" single father he had used to be. Bit by bit as he got smaller and everything else, larger, he felt like more and more of his existence were being taken away. All he had accomplished was for nothing.
He had gotten down to 5 feet tall, the height of a twelve year old boy, and was stared at by adults and kids alike (smartalecky 13 year olds would stand next to him, even the shorter ones who were only a couple inches taller than he, and look down at the bearded little guy). One day he got to the same exact height as Matty and he wondered how much longer his parental authority would last. Matty did get a kick out of the fact that much of his clothes could now fit his dad, though Matty's sneakers were a size too big for Brian. Then down to waist high and even smaller, and then just as he was thinking he'd be stuck at 28 inches, it got even worse.
Why was he being punished? What did he do wrong to justify being cut down to size?
He walked into his living room, past the bedroom doorknob that was 8 feet up and the almost 12 foot high light switch. Yes, there was a rod on it to help him turn it off or on, but how long would he be able to reach that?
He climbed up onto the sofa and curled up, seeming even smaller than ever. Brian wondered if he soon could wind up as a pretend-doll for some little girl, a grown man who could be a "baby son" to a six year old "mommy". He reached over for the TV's remote control (one of those huge cable TV models with various buttons for on demand and such) and surfed around the dial till he found a cable news network. (Speaking of TV, he wondered if a crew from Discovery Channel would soon be paying him a return visit, for an update on their special "Shrinking People" which he had appeared on.
There was a news item that interested him: hormones had come out for the shrinking people which could well restore their size. One shrunken man, who had gone down to 4'2", had gained 7 inches of height with this new hormone. They weren't sure how much height one could gain but it was a start.
But I'm heading in the opposite direction, he thought. I'd be happy now just to stop the shrinking.
The key turned in the latch; it was Matty, back from school, and he had brought someone: Kenny.
"Uh, hi Mr. Hosler--I just wanted ta apologize to ya..."
It was the ten year old who tried to drink one of his beers-- yes, even reduced to toddler size, Brian still wanted to have a new brew once in awhile--and had picked him up and belittled him. And dropped him.
"Yeah, dad, he's sorry..."
"Your mom probably yelled at you about it, Kenny," mumbled Brian. "Are you sorry because she made you apologize, or are you just really sorry?"
The boys could barely understand what Brian was saying. His voice had gotten even higher.
Kenny sat down on the sofa, and Brian could feel the weight of the boy on the edge of the cushion (a boy who probably weighed at least six times as much as he--at the age of ten!)
"Yeah dude like, I mean Mr. Hosler, I know what I did was wrong an' stuff."
Brian nodded and sniffled a bit; he was still a bit emotional about what he had found out earlier. He mumbled a thank you to Kenny and then looked up at his son. Bleary eyed, he mumbled, "The shrinking started again. I lost almost two inches."
"Oh my God..."
Brian nodded and climbed down from the couch; he stood next to Matty. Brian's waist was now a couple inches shy of the nine year old's kneecaps.
"I give up, son--I can't really be your dad anymore if I'm this small. We'll have to move in with Uncle Ed and you can be one of his sons and I'll be...your baby brother, I guess."
Matty crouched down to look his tiny father in the eye. Over on the sofa, Kenny was shaking his head in disbelief.
"We can stay here till the end of the month. I had given the landlord first and last month's rent but we can start moving the stuff out eventually and go over to Uncle Ed's."
"Can we--can a doctor help you out?"
"Well, they are working on some kind of medicine that could make me grow a bit, but first they need to stop the shrinking. I don't know how small I could get."
Matty sat down on the sofa and picked up his father as if he were a little baby and sat him on his lap. They almost looked like a ventriloquist and his dummy.
"Dude maybe I should go," said Kenny. "I know it's a bad time..."
He did leave, and Brian could only wonder how long it would be before he'd be as big as a newborn baby.
The new member of the family was 17 inches long and weighed between 5 and 6 pounds. That would be fairly tiny for a baby. Problem was, it wasn't a baby; it was a 40 year old man named Brian Hosler. For he had shrunk further and now was actually slightly smaller than a newborn. And the family he'd joined was that of his brother Ed (Brian's son Matty also moved in).
Brian was about two inches shorter than the kneecap of his 16 year old nephew. Brian's 9 year old son Matty was over three times as tall as his dad, at a statuesque 53 inches of height.
When they ate together, sometimes Brian would stand on top of a chair and lean over to reach the food. Sometimes he would be in a sitting position next to the belly of one of the family members, sitting on his or her lap, though he would slip sometimes so the family member might hold him gently, one hand pressed against his tiny body.
The media, of course, was delighted that he had shrunk some more. It did bring some extra money into the extended family, for the various interviews and photo shoots. Discovery Channel showed that the Hoslers had converted a guest room into a bedroom for Matty and Brian. The third grader slept in a regular twin size bed while on the other side of the room, there was a toddler bed meant for someone twice Brian's height. Brian steadfastly refused to be given a crib to sleep in.
Clothes had become a problem, as even newborn duds seemed a bit big on him. "Babies are a bit chunky compared to him," Ed Hosler told the press. "But we have had some clothes made for him by relatives and some manufacturers."
That meant sweat pants with a ten inch waist and a seven and a half inch inseam, extremely tiny white socks, and shirts that seemed slightly long on him, reaching almost down to his knees, with the "short sleeves" reaching past the elbow. Getting around meant being wheeled in a stroller or being hugged to someone's chest by a baby carrier. Walking was good too, but his legs were so short and feet so small (two and a half inches long) that it took awhile to get places. (Mike saw a news story on the Net about the world's tallest man, who stood 8 and a half feet tall, with 17 inch long feet. It was true--his feet were the same size as Uncle Brian!)
He couldn't reach anything over 22 inches off the ground. He couldn't lift too many things (too heavy). His voice was even more high pitched than ever and sometimes he was tough to understand.
"I can't really go out by myself," he told the Discovery Channel (they had to subtitle what he was saying so viewers could understand). "When I was about 25 inches tall, I tried and I had a tough time."
Did he ever. Just a walk by himself, but he was soon spotted by some kids--maybe 11 to 13 years old. He had shaved off his beard but was still recognizable as the world's smallest man, his body proportions much more like an adult's than those of a baby. A lot thinner, and weaker.
The thirteen year old went right up to him and looked down with a huge grin at him. He was a titanic figure looming over him; legs, arms, and a torso many times Brian's size; a huge mass of hair covered his ample head. He was a huge giant whom Brian immediately feared.
He was five foot one inch tall.
Hands reached under his armpits and hoisted him up so fast Brian thought he might throw up. He got a close up view of the boy's face and felt even more puny than ever. The boy spoke with a voice that hadn't quite matured yet; he was at the age where a boy's voice could be mistaken for a girl's, yet it boomed out at Brian with great force.
"The little man! Hey, saw ya on TV, where'd your beard go!"
"Look at him!," an 11 year old lad exclaimed. "Let's toss him around like a football."
"I'll step on him--no, sit on him!", laughed one twelve year old.
"Hey, cute little sneakers," said the 13 year old. He took the right one off and flung it into the bushes. "Oops! Hey, maybe it'll fit some squirrel!"
"Please put me down..."
The 13 year old took the other sneaker off and also threw it into the distance. Then he tossed Brian over to the twelve year old. "Catch!"
Brian had weighed about 8 or 9 pounds by that point, but the kids could still toss him around with ease. Then when the twelve year old tossed Brian to the eleven year old, the throw was errant-- he collided with the boy's belly and arms and fell down to the ground.
Brian reached around and tried to pull the 11 year old's right sneaker off. It took some strength for his tiny hands to get it off, but he did just that. Of course he could only toss it a few inches away. "Whattaya doing!"
"Not fair that the baby can do that!"
The next thing Brian knew, the 13 year old crouched down and pinned him to the ground with one arm. The others could have tried to help, but one was enough--Brian couldn't get up with the lad holding him down.
By that time his nephew Mike had shown up--he spotted his uncle down on the ground--and he easily pulled the 13 year old off his uncle and scared off the kids.
That was when Brian was 2'1". Now he was 1'5"...
The entire world was grossly magnified to Brian. Heights and distances were four times as big, and weights exponentially increased. He was literally knee high to many adults.
Brian knew he was 17 inches tall but he couldn't help but think of dimensions as being what they were before when he was almost 6 feet tall. Thus, he would look up at a doorknob and estimate it was up 12 feet or so; the lightswitch next to the bathroom was only 17 feet up. His 9 year old son, close to 18 feet tall. The kitchen sink was maybe 12 or 13 feet up; his older brother, close to 24 feet tall.
Some five year old kid? 14 feet tall.
To get something from a cabinet--without help--he'd have to somehow get up on to a chair, which was 5 feet tall, scamper up to the counter, reach up to the cabinet, and somehow pull it down. Coffee cups were OK but glasses were as much as two feet high. The refrigerator was a massive appliance whose door he couldn't open. The handle was too high; he supposed he could stand on a chair but even then it was a rather heavy door.
He was so small he could sleep in the small bathroom cupboard that held towels.
There were long days alone in the house, as Ed and his wife were both at work and Matt and Mike both at school. He had resigned himself to the idea that if the shrinking had stopped for good, he'd have to live as the freakishly small brother Ed had. Maybe years from now, Matty could marry and he could be their little one--move in with them. Hah. Was he still Matty's father?
At less than baby size, not quite. Everyone cared for him, fed him (tiny portions of course). He still took baths in the 24 foot long swimming pool they called a bathtub; someone would usually fill it to about his thigh level (about 7 inches), place him inside and give him a tiny bar of soap, and leave him to bathe, then go and pick him up again.
He probably could take a bath in the kitchen sink but it was beneath his dignity.
The whole thing was he had grown to be a man and had responsibilities at home and at work. When he got too small for the latter, he first went on sick leave and then "retired"; as for the former, how could he be a single father for his son when he was so small? When he had to fear being attacked by little kids--or dogs or cats--bigger than him if he dared go outside for a walk?
The long days at home usually involved TV or the computer. The media had told of his further shrinkage but thankfully was leaving him alone lately.
All he had to ask himself, again, was why? Why did he deserve this fate when he had done nothing wrong? Of course he answered himself: life isn't fair. It isn't fair for the kids born with horrid diseases that cut their lives short, or the family wiped out by a drunken driver, or casualties of war. Thankfully he had a family to help him out but he wanted to have his privacy at times, or at least he wanted to be able to say he was still a man--he still could do good, be a father, or whatever; now was he just a pet? A very small baby? What was he?
The experimental process he had heard about helped out some of the others who had shrunk, giving them a few more inches at least. It did nothing for him--in fact he felt he could be shrinking again. The special 18 inch ruler would confirm that. In a week or two he was down to 12 and a half inches tall. Not much bigger than the shrunken people in "Dr. Cyclops".
And now of course, the world had gotten even more ridiculously vast. Adults were 36 feet tall, his son up to 27 feet. Chairs were too high for him, though various step stools around the house helped. He only weighed a pound or two. The media came calling again and were only too pleased to give his other dimensions: a 7 inch waist, 5 inch inseam, and his feet were 1.7 inches long.
He used to think 28 inches tall was ridiculously tiny. Now he was less than half that.
He stopped thinking in terms of feet and stuck to inches. He knew his son, for example, was about 53 inches tall (actually he had now gained an inch), not 27 feet tall. He was a foot high, and that was that, but it still hurt to think about what used to be.
His brother Ed would pick him up with vast hands and place him in a baby car seat that was way too large, but it was the best they could do. I used to be about the same size as Ed, he thought. And he used to be able to drive a car, one of these massive machines, with ease. He used to be able to look DOWN at kids or pets and reach objects easily. Now he was a bit bigger than the length of one of his nephew's sneakers.
One meal any of them ate could feed him for a week.
Well, as it turned out, 12 and a half inches tall was the end of the shrinking. He would have to get used to it.
There were times when he thought about ending it all--perhaps running out in the street and letting one of the spaceship-sized cars flatten him. But he tried to appreciate life for what it was. His big family was there to help--and come to think of it, he DID have privacy when they were off to school or work (but he COULDN'T have the ability to just go off for a walk...go to a state park, get back to nature...he was too small.
But for every bad thing in the world there were so many good things, and he had a family of giants around to love him, even if he was smaller than most cats.
(END--though there could always be sequels or maybe someone here can do your own take on a story like this!)
9 (Cut Down To Size Even More Pt 1)
The shrinking continued and Brian was down to 8 inches tall. It stopped for awhile and as usual he didn't know if it would pick up again or not. He was so small he could sleep in his 9 year old son's sneaker (in fact he was the same length as Matty's foot), and his nephew Mike's sneaker would be even more spacious (a 16 year old whose sneaker seemed 9 or 10 feet long to Brian!) Of course he wouldn't actually sleep in one of their sneakers--not only the safety concerns of what might happen if they should put the shoe on while he was there, but the sneaks were...aromatic.
His body was about 2 and a half inches wide; hands less than an inch long, feet maybe 1 and a quarter inches, and he weighed less than a pound.
What had drastically changed for Brian besides his size was the loss of control he had--for getting THAT small meant that out of concern for him, family members were really strict about what he could do, where he could go, and so on. He wondered if he were now a pet and perhaps could wind up in a cage. (Maybe some day...)
A typical day would begin with Matty waking up in the other side of their bedroom. Brian was on a makeshift bed on a table--foam covered by fabric with light cloth for sheets and small, cut up towels serving as a blanket. If he had to urinate during the night, a shot glass was provided nearby. Strong string would enable him to get down from the table if necessary, but usually his mode of transportation was in the hands of his son, nephew, brother, or sister in law.
They all had either work or school on weekdays; Brian certainly had nowhere to go but they wanted to make sure he could take a bath and eat breakfast. For the former, he wound up in the bathroom sink with splinters of soap. Either he could wade or swim around and take a bath, or choose to let the faucet serve as a shower. The faucet was about three quarters of an inch above his head--to him, that was about 7 inches. He would use facecloths as towels and someone would hand him his makeshift clothes.
He would sit or kneel on the kitchen table as they had breakfast, with someone cutting him small pieces of eggs, sausage, toast, and so on. A saucer served as a plate. Coffee cups were almost waist high to him so the best they could do was a bottle cap of liquid for him.
Today however he would not be staying home. Matty had plans to take him to school. He didn't want to alarm his adopted parents, though.
"I'll protect you--it'll be fine. I need you for a school project." Great, he'd be performing for a science class or something.
"I'll get ya right after breakfast and put ya in the book bag."
Not if he could help it! Matty put his father back on the table in his room as part of the ruse. As far as his parents were concerned, Brian would be staying home. As his mother and father each prepared to leave, they called Brian in to the kitchen to give him his lunch.
It was Brian's chance to escape. He went over to the lamp and started climbing down the lamp cord. He had just about made it to the floor when he heard footsteps approaching. Gotta hurry! Brian attempted to run over to a bureau where he could hide.
"Be careful, you don't want to miss the bus," said Ed Hosler as he left.
The footsteps belonged to his son. Brian ran fast but the 40 foot tall third-grader easily made it across the floor quickly and the next thing Brian knew two sneakers, each of them almost eight feet long, came right for him. Brian tried to change direction but the left sneaker collided with him; he tried to grab on to something and found he had grasped some of the shoelaces on top. It kept him from being thrown several inches (to him, several feet) away.
Matty looked down and saw the eight inch man trying to hold on to his shoelaces for dear life; but in alarm, Brian had let go and he was catapulted several feet (to him) away. Another pair of sneakers broke his fall, and a huge hand reached out to him.
"Brian! You could get hurt--were you trying to escape?" (Matty had stopped calling him "Dad" when Ed had adopted him.)
"I don't care!," screamed Brian in his impossibly high voice. "You can't force me!"
But the next thing he knew, he was being placed into the top compartment of Matty's backpack, with the zipper open a few inches for air. Matty put the backpack on, instructing his father to crouch down--and he promised he would try to make sure he didn't bump into anyone or anything.
When he got to school, he found himself being placed into Matty's locker. "Science isn't till third period," he had told...Brian. He was quickly taken out of the bag and placed on the bottom of the locker. There would hopefully be enough air, though the air vents of the locker were a good forty feet above him. It was fairly dark but at least he was safe, for now. Outside, pre-pubescent voices could be heard shouting and laughing.
Inside, he saw that mini candy bars and various other objects lay about, and Matty had left him his mp3 player to listen to.
Science period started and he was Matty's project, indeed--most of the kids knew who Matty's dad was (the original dad, at least) but here he was to show off a physics and general science project. How much could an eight inch man lift? How high could he jump; why was his voice so high?
"Eww, I don't wanna catch it," said one boy. "I don't wanna shrink."
"You don't catch it--well, maybe there is a virus involved but it's genetic," said the teacher.
"So....Matty might shrink too?," giggled one girl.
Brian loved his nine-, soon to be ten-, year old son, but this was ridiculous.
10 (Cut Down to Size Even More Pt 2)
Brian could have told the teacher, and everyone else, that he had been taken against his will and apparently against the orders of Matty's "new" parents (who no doubt would not have approved of this, which is why Matt wanted to keep it secret). He kept quiet. His lack of size meant a loss of dignity and control and the best he could do is perhaps tell Ed and Betty what Matt had done. Matt no doubt would be punished.
And what about Brian? He worried about that part. Would Matty take it out on him, since he "told"? For God's sake he was the boy's father, even if he could be abducted the way he was this morning. Matty owed him some respect and loyalty--and he doubted Matty actually would get angry and take it out on him, but...why take chances? Yes, yes biologically Brian _was_ his father but his son, and everyone else, held a huge size advantage on him now.
It would not seem like something Matty could do, but for one moment Brian got it in his head that the sneakers he bumped into earlier in the day could easily come down on him and crush him to death. After all, Brian had ceased being his father. Maybe Matty no longer saw him as human? He was a toy; that's right, a toy that somehow came to life and could entertain him, keep him company. Coming soon, especially if Brian shrank some more: The Daddy In The Cupboard.
Maybe I shouldn't tell Matty's new parents--I could tell Mike instead.
"Now, where are you keeping your father, Matty? I hope it isn't in your locker."
The kids laughed. "Can you put my dad in there too? You'd haveta shrink him first," said one classmate.
The teacher looked concerned. "Mr. Hosler is a real human being, and your father, of course, Matty, and he should be treated well. But he shouldn't be carried around by you and he certainly shouldn't be stuffed in a locker. Tell you what--I only have a half day today, Brian, so I could drop him off at your house on my way home." The teacher knew where the family lived. "Put him through the mail slot or something."
"Naw, I can take him home when I go home."
"Well, let me keep him here for now and I'll tell Mrs. Bridges he's here, in the desk, and she'll make sure he's okay."
The room was unoccupied for the next period and the teacher put Brian in the desk. The teacher went to another room...and that was when Brian noticed he'd left his cellphone in the compartment with him.
It was an Oystr phone, and it was closed. Brian was able to pry it open, though (maybe this bit about people having more muscle power, relatively, if they got smaller happened to be true). He turned it on and dialed Mike.
After a couple rings, he heard Mike's voice come on.
"It's Uncle Brian. Matty took me to school. I'm in some teacher's desk!"
People had a tough time hearing Brian's high pitched voice but the words "Brian" and "school" were pretty obvious. Matty took his dad to school?
"Did Mom and Dad say it was OK?"
"Probably not! Can you get me?"
It was lunch period at Mike's high school so Mike was able to get into his car and drive the one mile or so to Matty's school. He asked the receptionist if he could see his brother Matty.
"Is it important? I can give you a copy of his schedule and you can find where he is..."
HOSLER, MATTHEW d.o.b. 1998/04/02
That was an hour or so ago and Mike figured he'd start there. In the desk...
Some students were filing in for fifth period, awaiting their teacher. They didn't know why a 16 year old was in their room.
Mike reached into the desk and saw his uncle. He picked him up and, consulting the schedule, found that fifth period for Matty was lunch.
"Matty, you shouldn't have grabbed him!"
"You took him to school today--and I'll bet mom and dad didn't say it was OK! We'll, I'm taking him home and then I gotta run back to school. I may have just enough time."
"Please, don't tell mom and dad..."
"If you promise not to do this again..."
Mike drove over to their house and brought his uncle into his room.
"I gotta hustle--thanks for the call but I don't know what we're gonna do about him. Does he think you're a toy or something?"
11 (Cut Down to Size Even More Pt 3)
Matty would be back from school around 3 pm and Mike an hour or so after that. Brian surfed around the TV dial. It was interesting--their DVD recorder's remote was as long as Brian was tall!
For being eight inches tall, barely above Lilliputian size, was like something no human had ever experienced. Being THAT small. Maybe he was that big in his mom's womb, but...
When Brian walked around his house--well, first of all, he had to be careful one of the "giants" didn't step on him--he saw everything grossly magnified, and he was so way down that at times he felt like he were in an old Pixie and Dixie cartoon, where everything was seen at floor level. Or the scene in the Incredible Shrinking Man where the cat attacks him. He wasn't that small yet, but from way down there he could only shake his head at how out of reach everything was.
Being 28 inches tall was bad, 17 inches even worse, and now? If he had the urge to eat, getting any food would be extremely tough--without help from someone else. There was a broom lying in a corner of the kitchen, and it seemed 40 feet tall to him. He could have easily used it in times gone by. He also could drive a car, lift heavy objects, and actually look DOWN on some people instead of UP at everyone.
Feel like a can of soda? He would have to open the fridge (impossible) and climb up the door a bit till he got to a four-and-a-half-foot tall can. (The 2 litre bottles? Bigger than him.) How to get it out -- could he lift it? OK, maybe put a straw in it instead. But to open up the lid with his tiny fingers...his entire hand was less than an inch in length!
He heard the door open and in came Matty, who quicky spotted his dad on the sofa. The Hoslers made it a point to check first before sitting down anywhere, lest the unthinkable happen.
"Hey...uh, sorry about taking you to school but I had to. You were gonna help me get a good grade and I knew the teacher would love it."
"Well...it still wasn't right, because it's dangerous. Uh, first of all, I'm sorry if I tried to run away this morning but I kinda sensed what might happen."
"Yeah, well...I'm glad you came along anyway."
"Now, you know Mike told me on the way back here that you and he made some kind of pact where he wouldn't tell your mom and dad if you promised to not do it again. Because you know I could tell them what happened and you'd get in trouble..."
"Yeah, I didn't wanna have to do it but I couldn't resist."
"What if your Dad had spotted you trying to bring me to school?" It still pained Brian to have to refer to his brother as Matty's dad, but that was pretty much the situation now. "Look....I'm in a tough position here and life is gonna get worse, and this doesn't help. What if one of those kids caused me harm?"
Matty nodded. "You know what tomorrow is."
Brian played dumb. "You get your driver's license? Mike's getting married? A comet's gonna crash into the--oh wait, I know. You will be ten years old!"
"Yeah! And we're goin' to that place where they feed ya and show movies." Yes, it was a restaurant that showed current fare in movies-- like "Horton Hears a Who"--and provided food and cake for birthday parties and such.
"Boy, you're getting up there. Ten! And I'll bet that cake will be bigger than I am!"
"It sure will be, Bri--I mean Dad--"
Brian hopped off the sofa and looked up at his son, who had sat down. "Son, remember you are still my son, even if Uncle Ed is your dad now. This is because I'm too small to be able to handle you." Brian held his arms in a position to make it look like he was holding a baby to his chest. "You were such a little guy and I had no idea you'd get so huge, because I got so small. You're getting up there in the world, young man, and even if I seem to be so weird with all this shrinking going on, I'll still be around to help you out, not that I can do much at this size."
"And I can help you too, Dad!"
"Well, taking your Dad to school--something your parents wouldn't be too hot on--doesn't sound like it's too wise on your part. But hey, you're nine for another day. Tomorrow you hit double digits and suddenly you'll be, a man! Well, at least...an older kid..."
Speaking of older kids, about 45 minutes later Mike showed up and walked over to them. If Matty seemed huge to Brian, he was nothing compared to the 16 year old, whose sneakers alone seemed three feet wide and 11 feet long. His kneecaps were well over twice as tall as Brian was, and he had huge hands which he used to pick Brian up when necessary.
"Well, uncle Brian, have you had a chance to talk with Matty?"
"Sure did, and I hope he understands."
Mike looked over to his cousin/adopted brother. "Ten years old tomorrow, time to stop doing stuff like what happened today. You're usually a pretty good kid, Matt."
"Thanks--oh, you can still call me Matty till midnight. See, now that I'm gonna be ten I'll just be Matt from now on."
"Right, well, you're gonna be a man pretty soon so no more baby stuff, and that includes your name, kiddo. Good idea!"
"Maybe I'll get a growth spurt overnight, too."
Brian doubted it, but added to himself that if anyone needed a growth spurt, it was him.
to be continued
8 inch Brian next to one of Mike's sneakers
New chapter Added 3/29/08
The next day, after breakfast, the big people all went to either work or school, leaving Brian alone in the huge house. He had a lot of nothing to accomplish. Just watch TV, maybe read (an eight inch man reading a newspaper was interesting to see). He could take a walk outside but it was not only frowned upon but nearly impossible.
For Brian lived in a world of giants; he used to be able to turn a doorknob down near his waist. Now, the doorknobs were almost 30 feet up. He supposed he could do like the shrunken people in Dr. Cyclops did-- pile up books and walk up to the doorknob, then turn it, but those people were half again as tall as he was, and they had strength in numbers. Possibly push a stepstool up to it? Yes, but even standing on top he'd still be some six to eight feet (aka six to eight inches) shy of his goal. Besides, the front door had a latch even further up that he would have to turn.
No pet door. Other than possibly escaping (ha! escaping) through a cut screen in a window, how could he get out? The big people were worried about him as it was, so he didn't think he'd even try to leave.
So he headed into his nephew's room where a portable DVD player was set up. Now, the living room had a TV with a 20 inch diagonal screen (15 feet to him) but the portable was a bit more modest. He had ordered through amazon.com a set of Huckleberry Hound cartoons (Pixie and Dixie and Yogi Bear were on it, too) and they sure brought back memories. Now, the box was made of cardboard and seemed a little over five feet in length to him, but he was able to open it and find the DVDs in the gatefold. Using hands barely over an inch long, he struggled to pull them out but managed to do so and he put one in the player and got the remote control.
He saw one of Mike's sneakers nearby. An odd thought hit him; he walked over to it and found that the edge where a Big Person would put his foot in was about waist high to him, and further down it was even slightly higher. He scrambled over the top of the sneaker and got in. The width inside seemed almost three feet to him, and the length inside was about nine feet. He could have lay down in the sneaker and still had three feet of empty space beyond his picayune feet. Instead, he sat down --his head barely reaching over the opening. The sneaker was comfy but while it had a sweaty odor it wasn't all that bad. It was pretty new; also Mike was known to wear them with socks (bare feet would have created a pungent odor).
They were colored black and silver with touches of orange, and the interior was bright orange. This could be like a car to me--well, it seemed as big as one. He imagined a salesman inviting him to test drive it (boy, was his mind starting to go!) How many feet to the gallon does it get, mister? Reasonably priced, too; $19.97 at Wal-Mart and other fine retailers.
He started to laugh and got out of the sneaker. No sneakers could fit his tiny feet (though someone tried some specially made shoes; usually he wore amazingly tiny socks without shoes at this point.
So he sat down on the floor and wrapped one of Mike's white socks around him for warmth and turned on the video. He felt like he were a little kid again--maybe someone like Matty's age. Certainly he felt powerless these days, but just as kids had parents to help out, he had his new adopted family (led by his brother Ed). He had little power or privileges but at least they were there to help.
Anyway, he did feel like a little boy again, watching the cartoons. He wondered if maybe this disease would actually demasculate him-- that is, he would lose testosterone and find he couldn't grow a beard; he would have a youthful look, lose his puberty. As it turned out that was not the case, but he tried to imagine himself a kid in his mind. It helped in watching the cartoons.
A 40 year old man trying to recapture his childhood--at a size when he was no taller than a squirrel.
What he wouldn't give to be tall again--to be able to work, or drive a car, or do all kinds of things he couldn't do now! While Ed and Betty were the heads of his new household, it was being made pretty clear that he was becoming the ward of his new parents: his 10 year old son and 16 year old nephew.
What embarassment! A 40 year old who had to rely on kids to take care of him.
When he had the urge to go swimming, he would ask one of them to run hot or lukewarm water in their tub and they would place him on top of the faucet, and he'd dive off into the water (which usually was over his head) But then at the end he'd have to ask them to fish him out because after all, there was no way an eight inch tall man could get out of the tub.
That was just it: he was at their mercy. Worst of all, he had the sense that Matty, at least was picturing him as being a toy, not his father.
When lunch came, they had prepared him--a package of Lunchables (he didn't eat much, at his size, maybe a cracker, bit of cheese, and bit of ham). Oddly enough, he had been told that as he got smaller he would need to eat more to balance off the energy and it some ways he indeed was eating more (or more often). Only to the big people, it seemed quite small.
He thought of the scene in the Incredible Shrinking Man where tiny Scott Carey went over to a mousetrap and tried to get a speck of cheese out of it. A speck that would seem a tiny morsel to the average sized, but to him it was like a Thanksgiving turkey.
That's what it was like with Brian when it came to food. Conversely, from his perspective, the Big People ate amazingly huge amounts of food and drink. He would stand on a table as Mike ate, and the boy would seemingly drain down gallons upon gallons of soda with one gulp. Many gallons to HIM...
(13)So, Brian was retired at the age of 40. He didn't have any parental responsibility (well, his son had pretty much been adopted by his brother). No bills, no worries (well, SOME worries). Some would envy someone who could "retire" at that age but if doing so involved shrinking to eight inches tall, then they wouldn't want it, that's for sure.
For while a lot of things were taken care of in his new life, a lot of his abilities and freedoms were taken away. Driving a car, traveling (except where the rest of his new family was going), being able to leave his house (too dangerous!) when he wished, and so on. His brother and sister in law took care of him when they could but usually it was up to his son and nephew and they were kids...could he always trust them? (Mike, sometimes...)
---- THE COMMERCIAL
It starts with the image of a waitress placing two plates on a table, one with a sausage and cheese omellete and one with a few pancakes. There's a closeup of the food and the camera pans away to a tiny man walking up to each plate.
"Here you are, sir!"
The man, of course, was Brian. No special effects were needed.
He grabbed a fork the same size he was and plunged it into the omelette, with gooey cheese and huge chunks of sausage. "Wow! The portions here at IHOP really are huge!" Brian turns to the other plate, with pancakes five feet in diameter, stacked high, with a huge dollop of butter sliding down. "I could climb these like a mountain!"
"I'll help you out, Mister," says a pre-pubescent voice. A hand reaches for a container of syrup and pours it over the pancakes. Brian looks up at the eight year old boy who beams down at him. Brian goes over to a cup of coffee and grabs a container of half-and-half, opens it, and pours the several gallons into a cup of coffee that is waist high to him. He does the same with a massive sugar packet.
Brian looks up at the camera. "Even YOU giants would have a tough time finishing your IHOP breakfast!"
The money earned from the commercial helps to pay Brian's new family, including paying for a woman to make specially designed tiny clothes for Brian.
Then, one night, Brian was watching a baseball game on TV with Matty. The lad was wearing a T-shirt, sweatpants, and socks and he held Brian to the center of his chest. Brian tried to squirm away but the child held him tightly. "I'm not a doll, Matty! I'm still your father--well at least I am a person!"
With that, Matty moved his hand away from his chest and turned his wrist. Now Brian was upside down. At the top of his hand, Matty could see his father's legs and socked feet kicking as he tried to get free from the grip. The boy put one of his dad's feet in between his thumb and forefinger, thankfully gently. "These dolls they make are so real these days," the boy laughed. "What happens if I squeeze this leg right here--"
"AAAAAAAOW!" Brian felt a tug and he worried that the boy would break his leg! Matty's hand released his father but he still held him by his leg in those two fingers. Then the boy released his father, who fell down to his lap. Fortunately, Brian had started to squirm away and his body turned; thus he wound up landing on his back rather than his head. He told his son he could have been killed!
"Are you hurting? Maybe we can put a little ice on that." Laughing, Matty grabbed his father again and walked into the kitchen where he opened up the freezer and shoved his father inside. There wasn't much room what with the ice cream and frozen dinners and such, but whatever it was, it was Arctic cold and there was Brian, shivering from it. 45 seconds later, Matty opened up the freezer and took his father out--and actually walked toward the microwave oven!
"I'm just kiddin' Dad, geez."
"Do all the other kids do this crap to their fathers?," Brian, exasperated, exploded.
Of course not. "They're not 8 inches tall, silly."
"Well--yes but--but you shouldn't be doing this at all, damn it! Hey--remember when you defended me when your friends were terrorizing me? Why can't you be that caring?"
"Oh, DAD! I do care. This is just fun." He held his father to his chest to warm him up.
Somehow Brian felt like something was odd; like his clothes were ill-fitting. Could he have been shrinking again and only now just noticed it?
"Matty, let me go for a second..." Brian was set down upon his son's lap and he started running down the boy's left leg, which was at a 45 degree angle off the edge of the couch. He got to the socked foot, some twelve feet off the ground to him, and jumped down to the floor (at his small size it didn't really hurt him). Brian ran down the hallway and went into Matty's room where a ruler was standing against a wall. He put his left hand at the top of his head and saw where it was on the ruler: He was now just under 7 and a half inches tall.
The doctor's visit two days later had him at just over 7 and a quarter. Barely taller than most adult hands were long.
---- In a few weeks, the shrinking had reduced him to just above four inches tall. He could fit on his nephew's palm.
Being in a world where everything was 9 times normal size was bad enough. Now everything had doubled. The day they brought home a dollhouse (custom made) it was almost too much for Brian. Yes, he'd finally be in a place where he would "fit in". Not quite. It was meant for dolls that were maybe six inches tall. Walking around, with the furniture scaled down to six-inch size, he found he could sit on a chair and his feet wouldn't touch the floor. Swell, I'm not just Lilluputian sized--I'm the size of a 8 or 9 year old Lilliputian, at that!
But the idea of living in a dollhouse was too much for him. Of course being relegated to a cage--as they had suggested--would have been worse. Brian didn't have much say in the matter. Well, he tried to talk but his mouse-squeak of a voice was tough for the "giants" to decipher, being so soft in volume and high pitched.
A doll, pet, mouse, what WAS he? Surely they had forgotten that he was their brother/brother-in-law/uncle/father. And when even the allegedly responsible Mike had started to goof around with him it was even more distressing.
Mike would be watching TV and would grab his uncle and place him on top of his upward facing palm. Then he would would move his wrist so that the hand became a trampoline, with Brian bouncing up and down a few feet. He'd jump up from the right hand but found Mike's left would catch it. He'd be bounced around as if he were a ball or a Slinky. Then Mike would put his uncle flat on his hand and roll him around. Protests were heard, barely, from the small living object on his hand.
"Eeeek! eeep me OWINN! I em eek a oy! Eeek ah hurrin' eek!"
If Mike had placed a tape recorder up to his uncle, recorded it, and played it back on slow speed, it would have said: "Mike! Put me DOWN! I am not a toy! Mike you're hurting me!" That was just a guess.
Complain to Ed and Betty? It didn't do any good. They couldn't hear him any better than the kids would.
And one day he had had so much of them that he did the unthinkable: He left.
He could do that now. It was calling walking under the door. At his reduced size, he could just about accomplish that. The gap at the bottom was about a foot and a half to him, so he could crawl under it.
"There's no trace of him--he's gone."
The 82 foot tall (to Brian) ten year old and the 105 foot tall 16 year
old had discovered Brian missing.
"Maybe he got under the door." Matty went over to the back door and looked at the bottom. "What's that, about an inch gap?"
"That's a foot and a half to him. It's enough so he could squeeze under it."
Brian walked past a couple houses and saw one that looked inviting. He went up to the front door and crawled under it. If he had seen what was next to the rear door of the house, he might have thought twice: A pet door.
It was silent inside. He walked along the living room floor, looking around. He thought he saw some kind of object on the sofa and could swear he could hear faint breathing. He walked into the kitchen and wondered if he could find any food there. He did find some: most likely made by Purina.
The cat bowl contained some kind of dry feed, with a bowl of water nearby. He was about to leave when he heard a loud boom from the next room and then footsteps. Suddenly he saw it entering the kitchen and it spotted him right away.
He fled toward the back door in the hope of getting out through the
pet door but saw it was too high up for him to reach, a good 15 feet
up. The back door had weatherstripping and he guessed he could never
squeeze under it. The cat had darted over to him and loomed over him;
he was cornered. Suddenly he saw a cord from a venetian blind
extending down to the floor. He could climb up but where could he go
from there? It was too far from the kitchen counter to swing over
and make an escape.
Brian slowly started to get up, and wondered if making sudden moves would doom him. But he couldn't just stay there! Once he got up on his feet, he started to run UNDER the cat. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the paw descend; the paw had missed him by a split second. The cat did a quick move to reposition itself and in doing so Brian collided with its tail. He landed face down on the linoleum and warily got up; the cat loomed above him and pivoted so that now its face was looming right above him. He tried to flee but before he knew it he was pinned down by a gargantuan leg. His face turned to his left and he could see the claws extending from the paw at the end of that leg.
Suddenly he could hear a door open; for one second, the cat loosened its grip and he wiggled free. A giant was entering the house through the front door. That's just where Brian was heading, and the cat was in hot pursuit. With his tiny feet it would tough to make it there quickly and he saw the giant too late. Suddenly he could see his mammoth legs and sneakered feet coming right at him. He stopped short and crouched down, anticipating the end but his timing was just perfect: the man was about to put his right foot down as he walked but it was in midair as it was above Brian. It missed him by a few inches. At the same time, the cat collided with the giant's legs and gave a small yelp of surprise.
"Oh, sorry kitty," said the man who by then was putting a bag of groceries on the kitchen table. It had taken the man mere seconds to walk the same distance that Brian had taken a minute to run.
The cat was headed back towards him, and that's when he was noticed.
The man had gone over to make sure his door was locked and that's when he saw Brian's fleeting form. He grabbed the cat, picked it up, and threw it into a bedroom, then closed that bedroom door. Warily, the man walked up to Brian and stuck an upturned hand down on the floor. The tiny man crawled aboard.
"Good Lord! You have to be that man we've seen on TV, the shrinking father. It said you lived in town."
Brian was trying to catch his breath. He looked up at the man, who was bearded and in his mid 40s. "Yes--you saved me--after that cat almost got me."
The man had a tough time hearing Brian's high pitched, soft voice but he got the gist of it---SAVE me...that CAT.
"I'm so sorry--this isn't even my cat, it belongs to a neighbor. The previous owner had a pet door, and this cat sometimes gets in. I, I don't mind because I like petting him and I feed him a little food once in awhile.
A clash of emotions hit Brian all at once. He crouched down on the man's hand and started crying. "It doesn't end! My life is worse than ever!"
"My...I can sense this must have been horrible for you. To be chased by that cat..." (Brian could hear the cat from the other room, banging his body up against the door in an effort to be let out). "Here..." The man got a paper napkin from the table and gave it to Brian so he could dry his tears. It was bigger than he was.
"I thought the TV said you had a family--I don't know why you're here."
"I do have a family but they're dangerous."
The man had leaned his ear closer to Brian to hear. "I could take you back to them but you seem to want to be somewhere else. Mind you, you could live here if you'd like but I'd have to put that cat out and lock the pet door! But your family must miss you."
He could live here--surely this man wouldn't be mean like those
"I should call them at least. Tell you what, you can dial and I can talk."
He produced a cellphone and held it next to Brian, who pushed at the 10-digit phone number. "Hello? Yes, this is Bob Walters and I understand you're the Hosler family--who am I speaking with? Matty? Young man, I have found your little father here. He just wants to let you know he's all right--well, mostly all right--" Bob noticed the claw marks and wounds Brian had--Brian was holding the napkin to blot them.
"I am at (he gave the address). Yes, yes, that is just a few houses away. You can pick him up but I'm not so sure he wants to come home. No...I'm not kidding..."
(Ch 15 overall) Brian was not thrilled to be heading back "home" because he knew Matty and even Mike would be rough on him. They probably didn't mean to be, though a) each of them was starting to see him more as a toy than as their father and uncle and b) they didn't fully comprehend the extreme size difference--and how handling Brian in what they thought was a gentle way could still hurt him.
There was concern expressed about the encounter with the cat, and his brother and sister-in-law did some first aid on him. Of course this would not have happened if he'd stayed home, they told him. "I can't take this anymore!," he screamed, and they thought he meant the shrinking. Actually he meant the treatment he was getting though dwindling was a part of it.
And now he was going to prison, or what amounted to it. A cage? Not for Brian. They knew with time he'd shrink some more and be able to escape through the bars. Instead Mike thought of plexiglass, like what is used at hockey rinks to keep pucks from hurting people in the crowd. The idea was to put up a rectangular enclosure that, to Brian, would be walls about 15 feet high with plexiglas about a foot thick. Of course in reality, 15 feet was really ten inches--which is how big each of his feet used to be--while "a foot thick" meant about two thirds of an inch thick.
There would be no way he could escape. Creature comforts would be placed in there including a hut that would serve as a toilet, a very small Walkman or mp3 player, and some rudimentary furniture. Of course Mike and Matty would occasionally reach in and "play" with Brian.
At first, Brian was extremely resistant. He would let his body fall limp and made no effort to move. After all his freedom was now gone, and he did not like being regarded as a toy. But after awhile he loosened up but still was not all that happy.
Three inches tall. The size of Little Bear, Cowboy Boone, and Tommy the Medic in "The Indian in the Cupboard". It was a cute book about some boys around Matty's age who can bring some people to life with a magic cupboard, and that is what size they are. In Brian's real life it was not so cute. In fact he was being controlled and manipulated by them--rebel, and get no dinner. So he had to play along.
They did try to take him to the outside world, under their control. One day Mike decided to give Brian the illusion of being able to drive again--he stuck his uncle into his shirt pocket and went for a spin. The only problem was that the pocket was too low. Instead of seeing the steering wheel and the passing countryside, all he saw was the speedometer and gas tank indicator. So Matty, in the passenger seat, took his father and held him up to the (fortunately closed) window and he saw things pass by at what seemed like a tremendous speed. Being small created that illusion.
Brian got to drive some hot wheels cars--actually Matty did the driving by remote control, and a couple times he almost crashed into a wall. There were a couple times when he did bump into one of Matty's feet but fortunately he wasn't going all that fast and the feet were a softer target.
Boredom was a huge obstacle for him. Sometimes one of the kids would take him to school but usually he just stayed home--in the plexiglass prison. Despite the meager entertainment he was provided he was still bored. When they got home, of course, he was expected to jump up and down in anticipation, like he was a dog or something. My master is home! Now I can eat, and be petted! Of course a dog would be gigantic. He was more like a pet mouse.
One day Matty put a picture inside the prison. It showed Brian at his previous height, giving a nice hug to his then-nine-year old son, Matthew. It was bizarre to see how small Matty was compared to him. Now he was a colossal monster towering above him, over a hundred feet tall. Mike, Ed, and Betty were even more shockingly huge.
He stood next to the 6 foot by 10 foot picture that Matty had stuck to the wall with tape. "I remember when I would take care of you and you were so small," he said to "Matty" in the picture. "Now you are doing the same for me, but it's not the same. You and Mike don't know it but when you handle me, you hurt me."
It seemed ludicrous--a three inch tall man all by himself in a plexiglas prison, talking to a picture of himself at a greater size, and his son.
He sat down cross legged and looked up. "What will happen if I shrink down to nothing or somehow just die?" He answered his own question in his mind: He would be all right. Ed and Betty had adopted him and he had Mike, too. So where did that leave Brian?
He couldn't work, couldn't drive, couldn't have freedom (but..it was for his own good!). He was stuck in a world of monstrous giants through no fault of his own. And now he clearly couldn't be a father any more. How could one be a father when he was smaller than his son's palm?
Of course he would always be Matty's biological Dad and even if he were to shrink beyond recognition, Matty would still be OK because he had a family with whom he could grow up with.
Grow up...UP. Matty would grow another foot and a half taller in the coming years but Brian would continue to shrink. Was there any hope?
He even managed to botch the attempted escape. He wanted his freedom even though it would mean separation from his "family". But now he was back and not happy about being treated like this.
Could he survive in the big bad world at a size like this? Maybe he could have moved in with the gentleman who had rescued him from the cat; he seemed like a nice guy; he would provide shelter and some food and such, and otherwise leave Brian alone.
But they must still love me, Brian thought; they WANT to help. They just don't know it's hurting me.
And he went down to 2 inches, an inch and a half, and finally one inch. By then the world seemed impossibly magnified; people like Mike, Ed, and Betty seemed over 400 feet tall and even ten year old Matty seemed well over 300 feet tall, or twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty.
The plexiglas wall now seemed sixty feet tall.
He had seemingly gone from being a husband and father to baby sized, then to toy status, and now he wondered if he was more like a trained insect. Matty still enjoyed having fun with him though he tried to be careful. One day Matty had some friends over and one of them wanted to put Brian in a 20 ounce bottle of Sprite and have him bob around in the chilly liquid--and freak him out by raising it to his lips and having a drink. But of course that was dangerous. Wasn't that what Mike and Matty were supposed to do, take him out of dangerous situations?
The media for the most part was staying away though there was still interest, as some people were curious what life was like for an insect sized man. But the Hosler family intentionally kept things private.
One day Mike tried to make his point that what they were doing was all for the best. He reached into the plexiglas prison and took his uncle out, then held him up to his face. Mike's right hand was in such a position that Brian was being held between the tips of his index finger and middle finger (the latter was almost serving as a seat for him) with his thumb nearby to make sure he didn't slide out. (As Mike talked, Brian worried he might get dropped and wind up in Mike's cavernous mouth!)
Mike pointed out that while life may seem like a prison for Brian, it was necessary because they were concerned for his well being. "That cat almost killed you. We aren't taking any chances. Uncle Brian, I really wish you could be the same size you were before but that's not going to happen. It's a big scary world for you and people like me and Matty can protect you from it."
"I know that, but you guys are too rough with me. Don't forget how tiny I am and the slightest bit of force is huge to me."
Mike had put his hand over to his ear so he could better hear his uncle. Brian could have climbed right into the ear if he wanted to. He did his best to hear what the high-pitched, soft voiced uncle was trying to stay.
"And I do want my freedom--this is restrictive. I should be able to wander as I please."
Mike put his uncle back in front of his face. "I know but it's dangerous. You could get stepped on. Listen-- I know it's tough for you but please let us take care of everything. We got food for you, place to stay, we entertain you...We love you, Brian, and just want the best for you."
By this time Mike's hand was holding his uncle very close to his face. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Brian take one of his miniscule hands and he lay it flat against Mike's twelve foot long nose, as if to say, "Yes, Mike. Understood."
One day a premonition hit Brian--namely that his end was drawing near. He told the family members one by one and said it could happen at any time. He even told his brother to tell his ex-wife that his end was coming any time now.
"How do you know this?"
"I just do--a voice in my head."
He told Matty that one day soon he may well be dead. "You have to accept that."
"But we're being careful with you Bri--uh, Dad. It won't happen."
"Son, it will. And when it does I want you to remember me as you go through life. Keep me in your heart. Every time you run into bad times, or even good ones, you can just remember me--keep me in mind...maybe I can give you some advice, somehow."
One day Matty was working in his room, using a laptop, when suddenly he heard a noise coming from the plexiglas prison (which was placed in that room). It was incredibly faint but Matty still heard it. He went over and saw his father sprawled on the felt-carpeted floor of the home they'd put him in.
Matty panicked, then found a small index card; he placed it under Brian, rolled him over onto it, and carefully took it into the kitchen, calling out to his cousin Mike as he did so.
"It's dad--I think he may have...well, he's..."
Mike took one look at the tiny figure and shook his head. He let out a huge sigh. "Matty, this may be it. I'll call the doctor but, well, if you remember what he was saying to us..."
The Hoslers knew a recently retired doctor who lived a couple blocks away. He was summonsed to their house; by this time, am Eye-Clops magnifier was positioned above Brian's tiny form. The doctor shook his head after attempting to get vital signs.
"He's unresponsive--kids, I'm afraid that Brian has passed on. He just isn't showing anything. Sorry, guys... I know he loved the both of you and 41--that's how old you said he was?--is too young to die but his time has come." (Brian had turned 41 recently.)
Matty would hear none of it. "Dad--are you trying to shock us? Please, dad, get up... " (he started to cry) "...I know you're still alive but..."
A moment later Ed and Betty came in and saw the doctor and the kids, and it was explained to them that Brian had finally died. "I think he just had a heart attack--the stress and pressure of life at that size was too much for him. Even if I got here just after he had the heart attack, I probably couldn't have helped. Sorry, Ed--I know he was your younger brother and you shared a lot in your life. I'll call Reverend Brinkley, he may be able to provide you with some consolation..."
A wake and funeral were held a couple days later; Brian's ex wife was already in the area on business so she attended as well. His body was laid out on a small platform in the living room, clad in a simple white robe-like garment. Matty and Mike had a hard time keeping the emotions down.
"Dad would want me to be strong--he wouldn't want me to cry."
"No, go ahead--it's natural. And we both loved him so if anyone needs to be cried over, it's him."
"Were we...did we do this? The way we handled him?"
"Oh, no, Matty--I know we may have been a bit rough but I think it was a natural death."
Matty sighed. "Look at this picture." He gave Mike a photo of he and his dad before the shrinking had started; single father Brian was hugging his tiny little (then-) nine year old son.
"He was the big guy, we did fun stuff together--I thought it'd go on forever, you know?"
"Yeah. You ought to put this up in your bedroom, help you remember to think about him. He'd like that."
"Why him? Why did he have to shrink?"
Mike shrugged. "It was bad luck I guess, but at least you had ten years together with him. It must have been horrible for him to go through that but he's out of his pain now, Matty. He's in a better place."
Shortly after succumbing, Brian felt himself wrapped in a blanket of fog (both physically and mentally). It almost felt like a warm whirpool bath--very comfortable. They the fog wore off and he found himself standing next to a lake surrounded by nice hills. It was a gorgeous sunny day and he felt young and hopeful. He looked down and saw he was clad in a T-shirt, shorts, socks, and sneakers. And he felt "full sized" again.
He knew where he was and he knew he'd be there...forever.
Was it right for him to die so young? To leave his family like that? Why was he chosen to go through that pain?
He didn't know but he tried to look at the positive side. He had an everlasting life before him in heaven and sooner or later his relatives would join him there, at least he hoped that would be the case. And here there were no bully kids, hungry cats, or various other indignities, dangers, or pain.
So many things awaited him there in the afterlife.
Meanwhile, Matthew Joseph Hosler thought of his father often and hoped he was doing well up in heaven. He sent a few positive thoughts back down to his son.
And eighteen years later, when Matthew had been married for a year, his wife gave birth to a bouncing baby boy who wound up getting named after the paternal grandfather he'd never get to meet, Brian.
END to be continued