Fraction of an Inch

by shrinkingman/anthrocoon

a sequel of sorts to "Escape Attempt" by deuce_little_o

It was a gorgeous day in early fall and I was out for a walk along the North Shore of Boston, where I live. I stopped for a moment and looked out at the ocean. Suddenly I felt a strange sensation and the next thing I knew, the concrete path I was on was suddenly huge. I heard a little girl's voice far above me: "I see him, Aunt Katrina!," and with that, I saw huge fingers far above me. A piece of paper that looked like a business card suddenly slid below me...most business cards are maybe two inches by three inches. This one was more like 100 feet by 150 feet.

I could see it was actually an AAA card: AAA Southern California
valid thru 2/28/02

Suddenly a face was far above me, that of a 12 year old girl, with an older woman just to her right. Mere words could not express how huge they seemed to me. I guessed I was now about an eighth of an inch tall; every inch seemed like close to 50 feet to me, so the girl seemed about 3,000 feet tall and the woman, 3,500 feet tall. The girl wore sandals that had to be about 400 feet long.

The AAA card now seemed like a magic carpet, as I was lifted up thousands of feet or so. I could see each of them, faces hundreds of feet long, gazing down at me. I was carefully placed on the little girl's hand--with the other hand she took out a paper clip and I felt the clip go around my tiny body, lifting me again. Now I was placed on her fingernail. Soon I began sliding off it, so she grabbed a pill bottle and I wound up falling into it...a good 100 feet deep. The megagiantesses headed off with me in this bizarre prison and I heard their voices far above me:
"He'll be another great playmate for you, Jessica."
"Yeah! Though I think he's almost TOO tiny...I can barely see him."
"Well, he's no bigger or smaller than the others I've shrunk. You could make a whole city with people like him. A city in a little tiny box..."
Now I heard the sound of car doors slamming. Moments earlier, I would have been big enough to drive a car. Now even a matchbox car would be too big for me.

I was taken back to a motel and Jessica tipped over the medicine bottle, then put a dime next to the mouth; I stood on the dime as she lowered me down to the top of a dresser. Three other people were there, all my size.

"I found you some friends," Jessica said. We could all hear her just fine but, at our reduced state, there was no way she or her aunt could hear us. She looked down at us and smiled.

Two other men, one woman. We were all so small that if all four of us lay end to end, the total distance would be half an inch. One of the men said it was no use trying to escape. He'd done so, and Jessica and her aunt had hunted him down.

I was still trying to accept the fact that I was so small. If Jessica sneezed, all four of us would have been blown away by hurricane-force winds. Insects like flies were much bigger than any of us.

"I've got that physics conference at Harvard tomorrow," I heard Katrina say. "But I have a friend here in Boston who can hang around with you. She can take you out to see or do stuff."

Katrina went out briefly and let Jessica watch TV from her motel bed. The four of us were on top of the bureau next to the medicine bottle. She figured we wouldn't be able to escape from such a steep place (well over 2,000 feet up). We could hear the sound of the TV, as Jessica kept switching channels.

"You are the weakest link---"
"...after six innings, it's Mariners 5, Yankees--"
"Up next, it's Dexter's Laboratory, on--"
"...Land of the Giants, weekdays on SCIFI!"

"Have you ever noticed that they always try to pronounce that like it's one syllable?," one fellow shrunken man said to me. "Not Sci Fi, but SCIFI!"

I looked at him in disbelief. "That's rather trivial, isn't it? Shouldn't we be trying to escape?"

"Escape into what?," asked the sole woman. "A world where insects could devour us? Birds? Or..."

The first shrunken man interjected: "OK, newbie, here's the deal. We're a bit too small to be able to escape, and even if we did, how could we get back to our previous size? And by the way, that device she used to shrink us? She may very well make some big bucks selling it to God knows who..."

"Osama bin Laden would love it," said the woman. "That terrorist could just shrink Americans down to nothing with it."

"Yikes. And what becomes of us?," I asked. "We spend the rest of our lives as prisoners of Woman-Mountain and Girl-Mountain?"

"Bedtime!," we heard Jessica call out. She put us into a clear container that used to have computer discs. It was over 100 feet high at the shorter end. A round hole big enough for any of us to get through was about 50 feet up. No way for us to reach it.

The next day, Katrina did indeed go off to her conference, leaving Jessica with a friend she knew in Cambridge. Her friend was a freelance writer so they could spend a Monday seeing Boston and Cambridge. We were placed in a medicine bottle with some airholes, which Jessica put in her purse.

I had introduced myself to the others. "Dane Lovett," I'd said. The others were Jim Hummel, Doug Goudy, and Doug's girlfriend Sandy Schact. They had all been shrunk back in California.

"Hey, the bottle's on its side and if we try we can get through one of those air holes," I said.

"And go where? We're stuck in the purse," said Sandy. The purse was partially open to let air in. Now we heard a zzziiiip noise as Jessica was opening it all the way, and she took our container out.

She playfully tapped the bottom of the container, taps that shook it violently. "Time for some food," she said. With that, she took us out of the container and we found ourselves on a restaurant placemat. 300-foot long utensils were quickly lifted up and she dug into a deep-dish pizza, taking out very small bits of pepperoni and cheese. A one inch portion of it was gently placed by the side of the plate, and we used our hands to eat. The friend of Jessica's aunt was on the other end of the table, oblivious to our presence.

She thought Jessica was just talking to imaginary people. Hey, the kid's 12. We got back to the bottle and were placed inside; suddenly the bottle slipped in Jessica's hands. It bounced off the table and fell thousands of feet to the floor.

Loud thumps could be heard, then a man's voice: "Huh? Oh... must've dropped it." Fingers belonging to a man picked up our bottle and we were soon in his shirt pocket.

We heard Jessica shouting, "hey, that's my bottle! Mister!"--but a waitress suddenly came through the narrow aisle, blocking her. The man didn't hear her; he exited the restaurant and from the sound of it, we could tell he had quickly boarded the subway train at Harvard Square.

Three stops away was Alewife, end of the Red Line. The man exited the train and headed toward his car. We could hear him talk on a cell phone.

"Yeah, I had lunch in Harvard Square after the meeting but I'm headed back now. Yeah, Beverly."

That's my home town, I told the others.

The man had the afternoon off. He sat down at a computer, placing our container on its side on his desktop. He noticed something odd about it.

"Hmm, that's not the pharmacy I got this from... Irvine, California? What the..."

He unscrewed the top and looked in. No pills, just four people who were each an eight of an inch tall.

The man put a quarter next to the container and we walked out onto it; then he lifted the quarter up next to his face. He had a beard which seemed more like a forest to us. Huge amounts of air were exhaled from his nostrils. Titanic eyeglasses, in which our reflections could be seen. He grabbed a magnifying glass and got a closer look.

"My word, this is amazing!," he said in a booming voice. Suddenly his face changed expression. "Hmm, must have picked up someone else's bottle in that restaurant." He looked on the side of the pill bottle and saw Katrina's name and address were on it.

"Oh swell," I said. "We're heading back to California...back to..."

He placed us back on the counter top and we saw him using his phone, calling information. Jim and I decided to run for it. We were unnoticed-- we saw a lamp's power cord so we carefully climbed down it. It was only about 1,500 feet down to the floor.

We listened and heard the man leave a message on Katrina's voice mail. Of course, Katrina was in Cambridge. Well, the man looked back and saw only two of us tinies there (Doug and Sandy). "Hey, where are the other two?," he asked. Doug looked at Sandy as if to say, "We'd tell you but you wouldn't be able to hear us anyway."

Doug and I had trouble getting a good hand hold on the cord. Having hands one-eightieth of an inch long will do that. We fell down and landed on the man's left sneaker (he was a casual dresser, apparently). Since we didn't weigh too much, it didn't hurt too much. We ran toward the edge of the sneaker only to notice that the sneaker was sliding back on the wood floor. The 3,500 foot tall giant was getting ready to stand up. We dashed over to a lace and got under it for protection. The piece of footwear was 550 feet long to us. If we tried to jump off it we risked being squashed by it.

Then the man suddenly sat down again and we heard him talking to Doug and Sandy. "I don't know if you know this, this "Katrina Duquette", but I called her in case she's worried about you. Though I wish I knew what happened to the other two."

"Let's go!," shouted Jim to me. "While he's sitting still."

"Hold on," I said. "I still don't think it's safe."

We heard him talking again to Doug and Sandy. "You almost look like ordinary people who somehow got...shrunk. Man. Must be rough being that small. Everything so magnified and amplified."

Tell me about it, big guy. Jim and I could sense the aroma of his socks even though his sneakers were still on and, well, it was kind of overpowering. Jim and I got out from under the lace and slid off the edge of the sneaker. The bottom edge of the sneaker alone was a good fifty feet tall.

We ran along the edge of the baseboard, maybe a quarter of a mile or so. The terrain changed from wood to tile. A long hallway. We stopped to each catch our breath.

"So we live as insects?," I asked. "Survivor: The Micro-man edition?"

"What else can we do?"

"Well, if Katrina invented a shrinking ray, maybe she can develop a growing ray."

Jim laughed. "Yeah, right. We're tiny toys to her and her niece. Like she cares about us getting back to normal?"

"I know, sounds farfetched. And I have no idea what this guy has planned for us, if anything."

"Maybe I can hitchhike home to California," he laughed. 3,000 miles away...nearly 2 million miles to us. Of course, we could hitchhike in someone's pocket. Or someone could mail us in a letter.

We decided to go back to the man, whom we hoped would be kind. He had started looking (with his magnifying glass) along the baseboard and soon spotted us.

The man, whose name was Rob Putnam, was actually a pretty good guy. He didn't torture us and realized how small and fragile we were. At one point he took a bottle cap, filled it with a small amount of water, and we used it as a swimming pool.

The phone rang. It was Katrina, who had caller her home phone to check her messages. She and Jessica were on their way from their motel to Rob's house.

Oh joy.

The door opened and Rob's 12 year old son, Tommy, entered. "Hey dad-- I was just at the library for awhile." Just your typical 3,000 foot tall (to us) schoolkid.

Rob showed Tommy his amazing discovery (us); we all walked onto a red-colored ruler that was lying flat on the desktop. Tommy was amazed at how tiny we were; I got down next to the markings and they could see I was two sixteenths of an inch tall.

The ruler was marked into inches, half-inches, quarter-inches, and sixteenths of an inch. Each sixteenth of an inch seemed like a yard to us. The ruler almost looked like a football gridiron. At our size, 6 inches or so would have seemed like 100 yards.

Next came a knock on the door--it was Katrina and Jessica. I supposed that after Katrina got the message, she called her friend on her cell phone, they met up somewhere, and she and Jessica took off in a rental car for here.

Rob introduced himself and went over to get us, but as he did we saw his disappear. Then young Tommy disappeared. Actually, we noticed Katrina holding the shrinking device. Guess what she'd done...

Jessica grabbed a piece of paper and herded Rob and Tommy Putnam onto it; then she placed them up on the desktop with us. Both were pretty much in shock. I guessed when Tommy headed back to his house he had no idea he'd soon be smaller than an insect; seeing a girl his age suddenly grow to mountain size-- the thickness of her sandal's soles way over his head--and a sudden, rocket-like ride up some thirty inches to a desktop.

They were now roughly an eighth of an inch tall, just like us.

Jessica pushed Tommy down onto a dime and lifted it up to her face. In mere seconds he saw the gargantuan visage--hair strands he could swing on like vines, lips and a nose that seemed to belong on the faces of Mt. Rushmore, and eyes at least 50 feet wide. He could almost swing from her eyelashes.

"So is it true what they say, girls grow faster than boys these days?," laughed Jessica.

Now there were six of us--me, Doug and Nancy, Jim, and the father and son team of Rob and Tommy. All one 560th our previous height (Tommy was about a tenth of an inch tall). All sitting down in the medicine bottle.

"Sorry we got you into this," I told Rob and Tommy. "Though I guess it was just an accident-- you finding the bottle..." We explained that Katrina had used a newfangled device to shrink us and she and her niece hunted us down every time we tried to get away. Oh, and our new size? That just may be permanent.

Rob was shocked. "I suppose being shrunk to this size for a few minutes might be a neat adventure or something, but...forever?"

I nodded. "Well, supposedly she may be working on a way to enlarge us again. I guess we're guinea pigs in an experiment. Not that we volunteered, and not that we get treated well. She and Jessica just like the idea of having a bunch of us tinies."

"What kind of future do we have?"

Jim spoke up. "Well, maybe if they get some more of us we could have an entire city on a table top." He looked over at Doug and Nancy. "They could ask you to have kids to help us populate it...bring in some more men and woman and have them breed..."

I pictured a city on a tabletop or in some kind of spare room. Churches whose steeples reached a height of one inch or so. Baseball parks, with the bases just under 2 inches apart and outfield fences seven inches from home plate. Shrunken cars on shrunken roads, in danger of suddenly being lifted up by a bratty 3,000 foot tall 12 year old girl.

"Well, I won't stand for that," said Rob. He nudged his son. "C'mon Tommy, let's go," and with that Rob and Tommy ran down to the other end of the bottle (again it was on its side), toward the holes in or near the top. I ran after them, followed by cries of "It's too dangerous! Don't go!"

I met up with Rob and Tommy and we all got through the holes. The bottle was in Jessica's purse. We climbed up toward the top, and somehow I was reminded of the old disaster movie "The Poseidon Adventure", with people on an upside down cruise ship struggling to escape by going up and up. (Not that the purse was upside down.)

Up a container of lipstick. Across a piece of gum. Scraps of paper, and--there was the top of the purse. We all peeked through the zipper. Girl-mountain was now in the passenger seat of a car with Woman-mountain driving. Unaware that three of the tinies were trying to escape.

"My wife's probably wondering what's going on," Rob said. "When we got taken away, she was almost about to get home from work." Rob was probably wondering if he'd ever see his wife again. After a couple days, she'd be reporting her husband and son were missing...

"We've got some scientific and financial help," we heard Katrina say. "People who can market that shrink ray. Now we just need to test the growth ray."

Jessica pouted. "Oh, why do you want to grow them again? They're so happy being small." I couldn't tell if Jessica was being sarcastic or just ignorant.

Suddenly Jessica looked down at her purse--she saw us! Rob and I ducked down but Tommy was still visible. "Look, Auntie, they're trying to get out..." She got a coin out and Tommy climbed on to it.

"It's the one who's my age!" She smiled down at Tommy. "Hey, kiddo." Tommy was sure small, but Jessica could tell it was the 12 year old boy, clad in a T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers (on feet that were one- seventieth of an inch long). "You're cute. Wanna climb through my hair?"

Tommy fainted and fell off the coin a couple hundred feet, bouncing off Jessica's thigh and then down to the floorboard of the car. We couldn't tell but Tommy was probably fairly close to one of Jessica's feet. Rob almost looked like he was going to faint. "No! She might step on him!"

Rob tried to get out of the purse but I held him back. Jessica reached down and saw Tommy next to her left foot. She tenderly put her fingernail next to him and rolled him just under the bottom of it, then brought her hand back up. Indeed it was Tommy, unconscious.

Rob was enraged. "What, you think you can just get another little playmate, now? Give me back my son!," he screamed, forgetting that Jessica couldn't hear him. "He could be dead! You horrible little--"

...Well, actually WE were the ones who were little. Tiny specks of life who were still people, even if the gargantuan women didn't realize that.

I had chased Rob and Tommy to the edge of the bottle, leaving Doug, Sandy, and Jim behind.

Now they came along to where I was, wondering what was going on. Rob was frantic, hoping that his son Tommy was alright. Jessica placed Tommy back in the bottle with us and exited the car with her aunt. We were back at the motel. "I want to try something," said Katrina. "I'm working on a way to enlarge the shrunken we can try it on one of them right now. Maybe that young boy." Jessica took Tommy out of the bottle and placed him on the dresser top and Katrina pointed another device at him. He grew to about 5 inches tall.

Jessica rolled him (he was still unconscious) onto her hand, which was slightly bigger than he was. He lay there limp for a moment but then started to wake up. "I figure it's safe to grow them back gradually," said Katrina, "just in case."

Tommy slipped out of Jessica's hand before she could hold him down with her thumb. He ran over to the bottle and reached down for us, grabbing his dad, and then me...

"Not so fast!," we heard Jessica say. She grabbed him between her thumb and forefinger and started lifting him up; Tommy held on to his dad and me as best he could. Suddenly I heard him yell out, "Stop! Please...why are you doing this?"

To us, Tommy's voice was low and guttural but to Jessica and her aunt it was probably very high pitched, like a mouse's squeak. They both giggled. But then Jessica looked at her aunt with a bit of concern. I'm not a mind reader, but it almost seemed like Tommy's yell had made her realize something:

We were people, not toys or experimental guinea pigs. Tommy may have been 5 inches tall, but he was indeed a real-life kid who was Jessica's age.

Jessica put him down gently on the table top. Tommy looked up at the two giants and spoke up again. "Why are you doing this? None of us wanted to be shrunk. C'mon, make us big again...please."

Here was a 5 inch tall kid, speaking in a voice reminiscent of The Chipmunks, but he connected with Jessica. "Well, my aunt wanted to try this machine and...well, we needed people..."

Katrina said, "We're taking good care of you. You'll be back to normal soon."

The next day, we were separated. Katrina and Jessica got to keep Doug, Nancy, and Jim. They "sold" Rob, Tommy, and myself to a couple who was thinking of financing their growing/shrinking project. So much for convincing Katrina and Jessica that we were people.

Oh, and this couple we were "sold" to? They had a 7 year old son and a 6 year old daughter.

The daughter liked holding 5-inch-tall Tommy in her hand and he took up residence in her dollhouse. Meanwhile, the son was fascinated with Rob and myself. At one point he was playing with us on the floor when his mom called him. He ran off into the kitchen, where he was told he needed to clean his room before dinner.

There we were still on the floor; suddenly the ground shook as a 2,500 foot tall boy ran back into the living room to see us again. But in his enthusiasm, the boy forgot exactly where we were. Gigantic sneakers headed straight for us.

We tried to run but teeny tiny feet could only do so much. A shadow loomed over us and we saw to our horror that the titanic sneaker was over us and coming down. We screamed as the ridged plastic sole came ever closer and millions of tons of weight moved toward us. It was the end! We raised our arms as if to ward it off and it came down right on top of us!

There was no pain. Because there was no contact. As it turned out, the boy's sneaker had various indentations in the sole. One of these was directly over our head; being only an eighth of an inch tall, we were actually too short to be crushed to death.

But if we were one inch away, it would have been all over.

The sneaker slowly rose again and we saw the boy look down; he saw that we were unharmed and took us carefully in his hand.

Katrina (still visting the Boston area, at least till the financing deal was all done) and Jessica came over to the couple's house. "We want to try our growing device to make sure it works OK...that is, in restoring them to their previous size," said Katrina. "Plus, uh, we didn't really get their permission to shrink them..."

"Yeah, we heard the boy mention that the other night," said the man (whose name was Larry Woodwright). "Though we'd like to keep our shrunken people the size they are."

"We can get you some others," said Katrina. The Woodwrights agreed. First they wanted to restore Tommy, as he had already been "grown" a bit. They restored him in stages: he grew to a foot and a half tall, then three feet tall, and then just under 5 feet tall. Next it was Tommy's dad (Rob) and myself who got to grow back to normal, at the same staggered rate.

It felt good being 5'10" again. Rob and Tommy embraced and asked the Woodwrights to use their phone; they called Rob's wife with the good news.

I looked at Katrina. "Well, I am glad to be normal sized again, but I am NOT happy to have been shrunk!"

Katrina apologized. "I'm sorry, but I had trouble finding volunteers." Tell it to my lawyer, lady...

At my urging, Katrina restored Doug, Nancy, and Jim back to their previous heights.

We all made a deal. The Woodwrights bought the rights to the growing and shrinking machines, and they appointed Katrina as technical advisor; the six "tinies" (including me) got a percentage of the profits.

"Well, who will our first customer be?," asked Katrina. "I still think the government will want to have us shrink criminals, but to be honest, the American Civil Liberties Union may have some problems with that. But in the meantime, I wonder if someone out there actually wants to be shrunk?"

I just sent an email to Katrina; as it turns out I had just been talking on the Net with someone who said he'd love to be small. I gave her the email address of this man:


2001 Bob Nelson