Shrunken Freshmen 2by Big Thinker
"We all know why we're here," I said.
"I don't, just for the record," said Jordan.
"Yes, you do," I said. I didn't want to admit it either. It was too awful to imagine.
"Come on, James," said Marshal. "Its been over a year. Let's just leave it all dead. Everything is cool now."
My name is James, and I just started my sophomore year of high school. Freshmen year was over, but the nightmare me and my four friends experienced during it was far from forgotten.
"It's been over a month since Rob disappeared," I said. "Things are not cool."
"We're worried about Rob too," said Ben. "The guy saved all of us, but we have no reason to believe that his disappearance is related to the ones here in town. Or that the those disappearances are related to our... experience."
"The police think it is," I said.
"The police don't know the whole story about what happened to us," said Marshal. "So of course they think they're related."
Okay, I think I need to stop and fill in a few holes here for anybody new. At the beginning of our freshmen year me, Marshal, Ray, Ben, and Jordan were just walking along the side of the road, hanging out, minding our own business. Then, this senior named Ken pulls up next to us in his junker of a pick-up truck and asks us if we want to go get wasted with him. Like idiots we say yes.
The next thing any of us remember is waking up the next day, dressed in togas made from handkerchiefs, and trapped inside of Tupperware containers barely big enough for a sandwich. Ken had shrunk us with the intent of giving us as pets to his four best friends. Which is exactly what he did. Ken chose Ray to be his pet, and the others were given to Ken's three moronic friends, David, Marcus, and Kobe. I however, lucked out, and was given to the only decent one of the five.
Rob actually had a conscience. He knew from the moment he saw us that what Ken had done was wrong, and was immediately determined to make things right. But before he could things spun out of control. Ken's other three friends wanted to know how he had shrunk us, and rather than tell them Ken chose to shrink them as well.
Finally pushed to his limit, when Rob found out he used Ken's own shrinking potion against him. Then, for the next two months us five shrunken freshmen and the four shrunken seniors lived with Rob while he searched for a cure. Eventually Rob was able to find the man on the Internet who'd given Ken the potion, and he gave Rob the antidote.
He restored us all, except Ken. Ken had gone insane after being shrunk and Rob thought it would be too dangerous to return him to normal. We all went home, claiming amnesia about what had happened to us, and eventually Rob went off to college.
That was the last anyone heard of him. Rob dropped off the face of the planet, and so had Ken. As if that wasn't bad enough, on the first day of school five freshmen guys disappeared.
"Its obvious what's going on," said Ray. "We can't just deny it and hope it goes away."
"Oh, really?" said Marshal. "Cause that's just exactly what I plan on doing." He started to get up.
"Sit down," I said. "Ray's right. There's only one explanation for all of this. Somehow, Ken is back."
"If Ken were back he would have come after us," said Jordan. "Why shrink five new guys?"
"Ken chose to shrink us the first time because we were freshmen. Because Rob made that joke about freshmen not being human," Ray said. "Maybe now that we're sophomores he sees us as more human."
"That's crazy," said Marshal.
"So is Ken."
"Even if it is him, if he's not after us again I say it's none of our business." said Jordan.
"You're just scared," I said.
"Like you're not," said Marshal.
"Scared of what?" came a new voice. I looked to the door to see a boy our age, dressed in all dark colors, with dark hair and eyes. It was Toby, the new guy at school who'd been hanging out with us. He wasn't involved in the shrinking incident. He must have just come over to see if I wanted to hang.
"I'm teasing Marshal about being too scared to see the new Freddy versus Jason movie," I quickly covered up.
"Those movies are gory, not scary," said Toby. Everyone was silent for a moment. "I'm not interrupting anything, am I?" Toby asked, sensing the tension.
"Nah," said Ben. "We were just talking about our buddy Rob who disappeared last month."
"Not one of those ninth graders?"
"No," I said. "He graduated last year."
"They have any idea what happened to him?"
"Well, anyway, I was headed to the mall," said Toby. "Any of you wanna go?"
"I will," said Marshal, seeing a way out.
"Me too," said Jordan, following.
"We'll talk more later," I said.
"Whatever," Jordan and Marshal said in unison.
"You can't blame them for how they feel," said Ben, as soon as they were gone.
"I know," I said. "But if Ken's really back we're all in trouble."
“I got to get home and finish writing a research paper,” said Ben. “You two are so lucky you didn’t get Mrs. Emerson for sophomore English.”
“See’ya, dude,” said Ray.
“Bye,” said Ben. “Don’t worry, James. Everything’s gonna be fine.”
“I wish I had your confidence in that,” I said.
“Bye,” he said, exiting.
“So,” said Ray, “what now?”
“I guess there’s nothing we can do,” I said. “We have no way of finding Ken.”
“What would we do if we could find him? Ray asked.
I shrugged. “I know where my dad keeps his gun.”
“Come on, be real. As bad as Ken is he’s not worth murdering,” said Ray.
“You’re right,” I said. “But how are we suppose to fight him if he has the shrinking potion?”
“There’s five of us and only one of him,” said Ray. “He can’t use it on us all.”
“But he could use it on one or two of us,” I said. “And Rob’s the only one who knows how to make the antidote.”
“Maybe if we find Ken we’ll find Rob,” Ray said. “I know its weird to think of Rob as shrunk, but if Ken is back to normal then chances are that’s what happened to him.”
There was a knock on my bedroom door. My mom stepped into the room.
“The others all went home?” she said.
“Yeah,” I said. “They had stuff to do.”
“I have to run over and see your Aunt Helen about something,” Mom said. “You’re dad’s bringing home dinner.”
“But Dad doesn’t get home until after nine,” I said. “I’m hungry now.”
“Can’t me and Ray go down to the burger joint?” I said. Mom’s forehead crinkled and her face showed an expression I’ve gotten use to seeing since I returned from being missing.
“I don’t know about that. Its already almost dark. I don’t think that would be a good idea with the recent disappearances,” she said.
“Come on, Mom,” I said. “The cops have lifted the curfew and the burger joint’s only two blocks away. We’ll be fine.”
“All right,” she said. “But come straight home and lock all the doors.”
Five minutes later Ray and I were walking down the street toward the burger place. It had just started getting dark, and we could see the lights from all the cars in the parking lot. It was a pretty popular hang out spot. Most would go through the drive thru and then eat in the lot, but being minus a car, we headed inside. When we approached the counter we were met by a familiar face.
It was Kobe. Kobe was the senior that Jordan had belonged to. Except for with Rob our relationships with the seniors had never been that great, but I got to admit I felt sorry for Kobe. In the two months we were shrunk his parents managed to spend all of his college fund on private detectives looking for him. He now worked at this place to put himself through the local junior college.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hey,” I responded. “I’ll have a double cheeseburger and an order of fries.”
“Me too,” said Ray. We handed him the money and Kobe went back into the kitchen. Me and Ray sat ourselves at a both near the back.
“You know, its weird,” said Ray. “We always think of ourselves as the victims, but really, when the whole thing was over our lives went back to normal. Kobe on the other hand had all of his plans ruined.”
“You ever hear anything about those other two dipsticks, Marcus and David?”
“Marcus, no. David lives down the street from me. As much as his car’s in the driveway I’m pretty sure he dropped out.”
“You think we ought to ask them if they know anything?” I said. “They’ve got to have put two and two together by now and realize that something’s up.”
“Wouldn’t hurt to ask them,” said Ray. “They could really help us. They knew Ken before he lost it.”
“As if he ever had it,” I said. Kobe walked up to our table with our order.
“Here you go,” he said. “Two cheeseburgers and fries. Anything else?”
Ray looked at me.
“Yeah,” I said, then paused a moment. “We were wondering if you heard anything new about Rob.” Kobe’s already somber expression got even deeper. Kobe was Rob’s best friend.
“No I haven’t,” he said.
“Kobe... there’s no easy way to ask this, but...”
“I don’t know anything about Ken either,” he said. “I not interested in getting involved in all that again.”
“Neither are we,” Ray said. “But its pretty obvious something’s going on.”
“Yeah, well it doesn’t involve me,” said Kobe. “I’m sorry about what happened to you guys last year. But you weren’t the only ones. I went through it too.”
“Yeah, but you never had to experience what it was like to be someone’s pet,” said Ray, with disdain.
“Shhh,” I said. “Keep it down.”
“If you need somebody to help you go see David,” Kobe said. “He’s got plenty of free time these days.” He walked away.
“I guess we’re on our own,” I said.
We started to eat in silence. I finished after a few minutes, but waited for Ray, who ate slower. Suddenly, it seemed as if the temperature in the room changed. It was somehow warmer, but I felt chills rolling through me. My eyes went to the front door of the place.
Framed in it was a girl in her late teens or early twenties. I wasn’t the only one who noticed her. Every male eye in the room was cast upon her. She was about five foot five with long dark hair and silver highlights. She wore tight jeans and a purple tank top that left her midriff exposed. She also had on a leather coat which hung open, and an assortment of bright stone jewelry. She was beautiful.
That was the first thought that came into my head when I looked at her. Not hot, or sexy, or any of the other words I usually think of when I see a good looking girl. Just beautiful.
“Who’s she?” I asked.
“I’ve never seen her before,” said Ray. “And believe me, I’d remember.”
She walked up the counter where Kobe, now smiling, stood.
“What can I get you, Miss?” he asked. The mystery woman gestured with her finger for him to come closer. She then whispered in his ear. I don’t know what she said, but it made him giggle. He wrote down her order and took it to the back. When he returned to the counter the two continued to talk softly, presumably flirting.
When her order was ready he actually asked if he could carry it to her car for her. She nodded yes, and as she turned her eyes met mine. She looked at me for just a moment, before smiling coyly and walking out the door with Kobe. I can’t really explain the smile she gave me, but getting it made me grin.
“Looks like Kobe found a new girlfriend,” said Ray.
“Lucky him,” I said. “Now finish up eating so I can get home.”
Ray finished and we walked back to my place together. He came in and we played Nintendo for about an hour, and then he headed home. My dad called and said he’d be home later than usual and for me to make sure all the doors and windows were locked. An hour later I went to bed.
I dream about being shrunk a lot. I usually don’t remember too much about them, actually. But I remember being tiny and helpless and images of Ken’s face. Sometimes I have dreams about what it would have been like if Rob had reacted the same way as his friends about having a human pet. Tonight I was having an awful nightmare. I was running as fast and as hard as I could. My friends were there with me. We were all running. The giant seniors were chasing us. It was dark in my dream and I was so afraid that one of them would trample me.
I woke up sweating and looked at my alarm clock. I’d only been asleep for about forty-five minutes. I heard a loud clanging sound which I recognized as our broken door bell. It was what had woken me up. I got out of bed and went down stairs.
The house was dark and my parents still weren’t home. Outside the wind was blowing strong, causing the branches on the trees in our yard to sway wildly. It was after eleven so I figured that whoever was at the door must be one of my parents, unable to find their keys. I looked through the blinds on the window near the door. I saw no one.
Slowly I opened the front door and peeked my head outside. I put one foot out the door and felt it knock something over. I looked down and saw a jar, all covered in duck tape so you couldn’t see the inside. I had tipped it over onto the soft welcome mat. I picked it up. I could feel something moving inside...
My heart stopped beating. Slowly, very slowly, I twisted the top off the jar. Before it was completely off I clamped my eyes shut. I was breathing heavy, there being little doubt in my mind of what I was about to see. I opened my eyes quickly, and then slowly cast them down into the jar.
It was Kobe. He was sitting at the bottom of the jar, scrunched up in a little ball with no clothes on. He looked up at me. He was crying.
I then realized that whoever had left him here must have just left. I ran to the sidewalk in front of my house and looked to the left. Nothing. I then turned to the right. Not a single porch light on the entire street was on, but thanks to the one street lamp I saw a single figure. A figure in a black, flowing trench coat, with long black and silver hair.
“Hey!” I called, but it was too late. She turned the corner and was gone.
I looked back down at poor Kobe. It was then I noticed the small card taped to the side of the jar. I pulled it off and opened it. It was written in silver ink, which reflected the moonlight just enough for me to read it out loud to myself.
“Just a little reminder, to mind your own business. Love, Ken and Alundra.”
"Oh God,” was all I could say as I read the words of the note again. I stood there on the sidewalk frozen for a few moments before a familiar SUV pulled onto the street. It was my dad. I ran back into the house and up the stairs as fast as I could. Once in my room I slammed the door shut behind me.
I heard my dad pull into the driveway.
“Oh, crap!” I said, realizing that if he’d seen me run in the house like that he was sure to come up and check on me. I looked out my window and saw him entering the front door, which I’d neglected to close. I decided it would be better for me to go down and face him than have him come up to me. My room was a mess and if he saw it he’d probably end up lecturing me for half an hour, and I needed to try and deal with what was going on as soon as I could. I sat the jar with Kobe in it in a desk drawer and headed back downstairs.
I soon as my dad and I made eye contact I became the recipient of one of his “What are you up to, young man?” looks. My heart was beating really fast and I knew that if he’d seen me I’d never be able to come up with a believable excuse for why I was outside. He and I just looked at each other for what seemed like an eternity.
“What was that door doing left open?” he asked finally. Thank God. He hadn’t seen me outside.
“What?” I said, faking ignorance.
“The front door was left open,” he said. “Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, Dad,” I said. “Everything’s fine.”
“Did you leave the door open?”
“I guess I must have on accident,” I said, my heart slowing down. Hopefully I could get off of this with just a typical “Why weren’t you thinking?” speech.
“Why weren’t you thinking?” he said. Hallelujah.
“It was just an accident. There was no harm done.”
“No harm done? With what happened to you last year and what’s happening right now I’d think you’d have enough sense to know how dangerous that was,” he said, with a mixture of anger and parental concern.
“I said I was sorry. What more do you want?”
“I want you to use your head,” he said.
“Geeze, it won’t happen again,” I said, before storming back upstairs.
I locked the door behind me, hoping that would be the end of things for right now. I looked back over at the drawer I’d put Kobe in. I took me about five minutes to work up the courage to open the drawer again. Kobe was still in the jar. I sat it on the desk and just sat there and stared at the outside of it. I could still hear the tiny sounds of Kobe sobbing.
I knew that eventually Kobe would have to come out of the jar, so I rummaged through my closet and found an old blue bandanna he could use to make a toga like the ones we’d worn the last time. I cut a piece of it to what I thought was the right size; it was hard to tell, I was still shrunken the last time I made one. I went back to the desk and gently sat the jar on its side, and sat the cloth in front of the jars mouth.
“Kobe,” I said gently. “Here’s some thing for you to wear.” His tiny hand came out and grabbed the cut up bandanna. I held the jar steady on the outside while he struggled to fashion the toga in the small space on the inside. After a few minutes he emerged from the jar clothed. For a second he looked up at me, but he quickly had to turn his back. It was the same way I’d treated Rob the year before, only instead of being resentful like I’d been, he just couldn’t bare to accept it.
As he stood there with his back to me it hit me that this was the first time I’d been on this side of things. I’d been in the tiny person’s place, but this was the first time I’d been in the giant’s perspective. I had always been the one being carried around in the palm of someone’s hand and now it was reversed. Without even realizing it my hand started to move toward Kobe. He stood still as a statuette as my fingers curled around his tiny body and brought him up eye level with me.
I couldn’t believe how it felt!
Rob must have picked me up in his hand a thousand times, and as strange as it was for me I never imagined how it might be for him. I could feel Kobe breathing and squirming in my fist, so small and frail. My breath was causing his shoulder length hair to blow like in the wind. He was completely, utterly helpless and totally within my power. If I wanted to I could crush him or throw him against the wall and make him splat like a bug. The edge of a smile began to creep across my face, but stopped abruptly.
I placed Kobe back down on the desk. I realized that all of these things had occurred to me before. Only I wasn’t the one with the power; I wasn’t the one who could do the crushing; I wasn’t the one who could make the bug go splat. I was the one doing the squirming; I was the one whose hair was blowing in the breeze of someone’s breath; I was the one who was totally helpless. I felt sick to my stomach. First chance I’d gotten I’d been swept up in the same power trip that Ken and the other seniors had.
“Great feeling, isn’t it?” came Kobe’s little voice.
“Great feeling. Makes you feel like you’re the most powerful man in the world, or something,” he said. I’d almost forgotten that Kobe too knew what it was like to be both giant and tiny person.
“I guess,” I said.
“Don’t feel bad,” Kobe said, drying his eyes and trying to compose himself. “You deserved to know what its like on the big side of things.”
“I wish Rob was here,” I said.
“Me too, but he’s not.”
“You think they have him?”
“I don’t know.”
“Tomorrow’s Saturday. I’ll get my friends together and we’ll figure out what to do next.”
“Good, we’re going to need help,” Kobe said. “I think we’re dealing with more than we thought.”
“How do you mean?”
“That girl who shrunk me, the one at the diner,” he said.
“Yeah, I know.”
“There was something weird about her; like she had me under a spell or something. She gave me a vile of the shrinking potion and told me to drink it, and I couldn’t stop myself. Ken always said he got the potion from some voodoo guy, but I’m thinking it may go way beyond that.”
“This is scary stuff,” I said.
“Tell me about it.”
“It’s late and I should probably go to bed,” I said. “I’ll be right back.” I went to my bathroom and got a washcloth and brought it back. “Here, you can sleep on this.” I sat it down on the desk.
“Thanks, I guess,” he said.
“On second thought, maybe you should sleep in the drawer,” I said. “Just to be on the safe side. In case one of my parents comes in.” I sat the washcloth in the drawer and held out my palm for Kobe. He approached and climbed on with only a little bit of hesitation. I lowered him into the drawer and pushed it shut half way. “I guess I’ll see you in the morning. Goodnight.”
“Yeah,” he sighed. “Goodnight.” I turned out the light and climbed back into bed. It was two hours before I fell back to sleep.
When I awoke the next morning my alarm clock read 9:04. A little early for me to get up on a Saturday, but I wanted to call my friends as soon as possible. I got out of bed, went to the kitchen, got the cordless phone, and went back to my room. Ray was the first number I dialed.
“Hello?” he said. He sounded groggy so I knew I’d woken him.
“Ray, it’s James,” I said.
“A little early on a Saturday,” he said.
“I couldn’t wait. We’ve got a little problem,” I said, emphasizing “little.”
“Huh?” he said after a pause.
“Actually if more Kobe’s problem. He’s not quite as big a man as he used to be,” I said. “Catch on?”
“Please tell me you’re joking.”
“I wish I was,” I said.
“Yeah, but he’s not alone. You remember that girl who was flirting with Kobe?”
“She’s the one who did it. She’s working with Ken.”
“How did you find all this out?”
“They left Kobe on my front doorstep with a note last night,” I said.
“Is he alright?” Ray asked.
“As good as can be expected.”
“I’ll be over as soon as I can,” he said, and hung-up. One by one I called my other friends and made it clear to them what had happened, without actually saying it in case anyone might be listening. They all started to arrive within about twenty minutes. When they were all there showed them where Kobe was.
I hadn’t yet disturbed him that morning, so I slowly opened the drawer all the way. He was sitting cross-legged looking down. He looked up to see five giant sophomores staring down at him. For a moment all was silent.
“I want to hold him,” Jordan stated simply.
“This isn’t a time to play,” said Ray.
“I want to know what its like to have him in the palm of my hand,” Jordan said, emphasis on “him” and “my.” That made me remember which senior Jordan had been given to when first shrunk: Kobe.
I looked down at Kobe.
“Its alright,” he spoke. “He can.”
Jordan reached down and picked Kobe up with his thumb and forefinger, before cupping him in both hands. For a few moments we all just stood there and watched as Jordan stared down at the tiny creature, that once for a short time had possessed Jordan like some pet or plaything. I was lucky to have been paired up with Rob who always treated me like a person. But I knew that the other seniors had made it clear to my friends that they belonged to them.
“Not so big now, are you?” Jordan asked.
“I’m sorry about how I treated you,” said Kobe. “I was stupid. But I’ve told you all that before. There’s nothing else I can do.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” said Jordan. “How about you be my pet this time?”
“That’s enough, Jordan,” said Ray. “Put him down.” Jordan did as Ray said. I showed them the note attached to the jar.
“So, still believe Ken isn’t back?” I asked.
“Who’s Alundra?” asked Marshal.
“I don’t know. Ken’s new girlfriend I guess,” I said.
“Hard to believe a chick who looks like that would be desperate enough to want him,” said Ray.
“And she’s the one who shrunk Kobe?” said Ben. “Not Ken?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“What does she look like?” asked Marshal.
“Tall, black hair with silver streaks, great body, incredible eyes…” said Ray.
“You get the picture,” I said. “Not to mention Kobe thinks she has some kind of hypnotic powers.”
“Hypnotic powers? Give me a break,” said Marshal.
“Its true,” said Ray. “Me and James felt it too, when she was in the diner last night.”
“Its like she’s one of those… sirens,” I said.
“What?” asked Ben.
“Those women in Greek mythology with the power to mesmerize men with their voices.”
“Only this one doesn’t even need to speak,” said Ray.
“That’s ridiculous,” said Marshal.
“No more ridiculous than a magic potion that can shrink a person to four inches tall,” said Ray.
“Maybe, maybe not,” said Marshal.
“We need to decide what to do next,” said Ray.
“Like what?” said Jordan.
“Like maybe see if Marcus or David know anything,” I said.
“Marcus skipped town two months ago,” Ben said.
“Then let’s go talk to David,” said Ray. “It’s a start anyway.”
“What are you gonna do with the small fry?” asked Jordan.
“I guess take him with us,” I said. “I think I have an old shoe box in the closet.” I went to the closet and dumped out all the old action figures I was storing in it and brought it back. “You can ride in here,” I said to Kobe. I placed him and the washcloth he’d used as a bed in the box.
“You got your car with you, Marshal?” I asked. He was the only one of us with a license yet.
“Yeah,” he said. “ I guess we’re off to visit my old master,” he sneered.
“He might be able to help us,” said Ray.
“Whatever,” he said. “Lets go if we’re going.” The five of us piled into Marshal’s car and headed for David’s house. I sat in the front with the shoebox on my lap. Once there we saw that David’s car was the only one in the driveway.
“It’s like I said,” said Ray. “He hardly ever leaves the house anymore.”
“Well, let’s go knock on the door,” I said. We got out and walked up the front drive.
“What are we going to say to him?” asked Marshal.
“We’ll just tell him what’s happened and see what he says,” said Ray.
“Assuming his brain hasn’t deteriorated too much from doing nothing but eating junk-food and watching Comedy Central twenty-four hours a day,” said Marshal sarcastically.
“Try not to be rude,” said Ray.
“Me? Be rude to David, my beloved master?” said Marshal, his attitude increasing. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“Hey,” said Jordan, who had reached the front steps. “The door’s cracked open.”
“That’s strange,” said Ray. I walked up to the front door and pushed it open.
“Hello?” I called. When there was no response I walked in. I walked through the front hallway and into the living room. There I saw a coffee table covered in junk food wrappers and a large screen TV. There was an X-Box plugged into the TV and someone had left a game on pause.
“Hello?” I called again. Something wasn’t right. “Guys, come in.”
“Is anybody here?” asked Ben.
“I don’t think so,” I said. “Something feels weird about this.”
“Maybe they just left the door open on accident,” said Jordan. I almost laughed when I thought of the speech my dad had given me the night before about the same thing.
“David’s car is here,” said Marshal. “His parents may work on Saturdays, but he and his brothers should be here.”
“His brothers are in Band. They’ve got that big marching competition this weekend,” said Ben.
“Let’s take a look around,” said Ray. “Nothing about this feels right.” I sat the shoebox with Kobe in it down on an end table and lifted the lid.
“I’m going to leave you here while I look around, okay?” I said.
“Okay,” Kobe said.
We spread out to look around the house. I decided to look around upstairs. At the top of the first flight of steps I noticed a small pile of clothes lying on the landing. The house wasn’t the neatest place so at first it didn’t register anything. I went up to the second story of the house and glanced in each bedroom. Nothing. I headed back down the stairs.
When I got back to the pile of clothes something hit me. I kneeled down and gently sorted through the clothes. There was a T-shirt, sweat pants, and boxers, but that was all I found. On that landing there was also a small bookshelf. I looked all around it and saw nothing. I was about to walk away when I got a hunch got down on the floor and looked underneath the shelf. I saw something moving.
Part of me hoped it was just a rat or maybe a really big bug, but another part knew better. I lifted the shelf and sat it on one of the steps. When I turned back I saw what I already knew I would: David. He was balled up in a fetal position near the edge of the wall. Ken and Alundra had gotten to him.
“Guys,” I called. “Come here. Bring Kobe.” Once they gave me the box with Kobe I took him out and sat him on the carpet near David. I also gave him the washrag, which he draped over David.
“David, buddy?” he said. “Its me, Kobe.” It was hard to tell, but I knew David was shaking pretty bad.
“Kobe?” he managed to say. My four friends and I crowded in to hear the two tiny guys.
“Everything’s alright,” Kobe said. “You’re gonna be okay.”
“This girl came to my door,” said David, on the verge of tears. “I-I can’t even remember what she said but I invited her in. And then…”
“She shrank you,” Kobe said.
“I drank the potion… I was scared of what she’d do to me so I tried to run upstairs, but it was too late.”
Marshal leaned in real close to the two shrunken teenagers. Out of all of us Marshal perhaps suffered the most humiliation. David had played with him like an action figure and insisted on changing his name to Jack, like Jack and the Beanstalk. I didn’t know what to expect from Marshal, but the look in his eyes surprised me. It was a look of sympathy. Without saying anything he lifted David, swaddled him in the washrag, and cradled him in his hands. David looked scared when he realized whose hands he was in.
“Its alright,” said Marshal, more gently than I would have thought possible, considering. “You’re safe now.” He gently laid David in the shoebox and I did the same with Kobe.
“Let’s get out of here before somebody shows up,” said Ray. We all exited the house, locking the door behind us. As we walked back to the car Ben was in front of me. I was looking down at the shoebox and bumped into the back of him when he stopped abruptly.
“What’s the hold up?” I asked. He just pointed, his face white as a sheet. I followed his hand, which pointed at the yard across the street.
There, standing arm-in-arm, and smiling two evil-looking grins, stood Ken and Alundra.
I could hardly believe it. There they were just standing there out in the open.
“What do we do?” asked Marshal.
“I one of us should say something to him,” I said. No one moved. “Don’t all rush up at once,” I said sarcastically. I took a deep breath and walked as far as the curb.
My eyes met Ken’s but intentionally avoided Alundra’s. I didn’t speak. What was I suppose to say? Here I was face to face with my mortal enemy and some kind of witch who could make men drink shrinking potion simply by telling them too. Ken finally broke the silence.
“Jimmy,” he said, his sick grin widening.
“My name is James, you freak,” I spat back.
“Ah, are we feeling a little touchy?” he said with a laugh.
“What have you done with Rob?”
His smile faded and his eyes grew wide with anger.
“Don’t worry about him,” he said seriously. “But then again I guess its only natural for a pet to miss it’s owner when he’s away.”
“If you’ve hurt him I’ll...”
“Calm down, Jim,” Ken said. “If we were in the business of hurting people my two former friends, who I’m guessing are in that shoe box, would be a stain on the bottom of my shoe.”
“Why shrink them and not us?” I dared to ask.
“Uh, James,” said Ray. “Let’s not give them any ideas.”
“No,” I said. “I want to know. Answer me.”
“You’ve all outlived your usefulness to us,” said Ken. “There would be no point in shrinking the rest of you. I chose to shrink David and Kobe because I wanted my supposed ex-friends to suffer for betraying me last time. If they hadn’t gotten greedy and stupid me and Rob might have worked things out and it wouldn’t have turned out so bad.”
I knew what he was talking about. Kobe, Marcus, and David had wanted Ken to give them the shrinking formula so they could create more human pets for themselves. Back then it was all a game to them. Ken had shrunk them to keep his secret and then Rob had used the potion on Ken when he found out.
“I have no plans to shrink you freshmen,” said Ken. “We knew if we left Kobe with you you’d come and find David. And if I shrink you then who will take care of Kobe and David? Oh, yeah, and Marcus as soon as I find him. You can expect another delivery on your doorstep once we do.”
“We’re not freshmen,” I said. “We’re sophomores now. And we won’t let you do this.”
“Ooooh, sophomores! I’m soooo scared. Don’t push it,” said Ken. “Like I said, we’re not murderers bur we only need one of you to stay full-sized so we’re not stuck taking care of the others. Mess with us and the rest of your friends worlds might get awfully small, Jimmy.”
“We’re not afraid of you,” I said defiantly.
“Speak for yourself,” Ben said.
“Shut-up,” I said.
Ken laughed wildly.
“It’s not me you should be afraid,” he gestured towards Alundra. “Let me let you in on a little secret. That whole thing about me getting the shrinking potion off the internet from some voodoo guy was total crock. I really got it from her. Then she was the one Rob met online who gave him the antidote. She had hoped Rob would restore me, but when he didn’t she had to come for me personally. She’s got big plans and power you can’t imagine, and I’m gonna be right by her side.”
Alundra cleared her throat and gave Ken an annoyed look, as if he had said too much.
“Ah, don’t be so shy, Alundra. Say hello to the freshmen.”
“Hello,” Alundra said simply. One simple word, but it vibrated through me. Sent chills up my spine. The muscles in my face smiled from the pleasure of the sound before I could even stop. I looked back at my friends; each had a similar reaction.
“See,” said Ken. “See the power she has over you. A word from her and you would hang yourself. But we’ve chosen to be merciful. Don’t push us.”
Alundra stepped forward and again spoke a single word: “Blink.” We all blinked our eyes once and when they opened Ken and Alundra had vanished.
“What have we got ourselves into,” said Ray.
“Maybe we should do what he said,” said Jordan. “If he really doesn’t want us that might be best.”
“If getting shrunk again ourselves is all that can come of this I say we just forget,” said Ben. “We can take care of Kobe and David and just mind our own business.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I almost agree with you, but there’s one thing that makes it worth the risk. His name is Rob and he helped us once. We have to find out what Ken’s done to him.”
“I don’t think Ken has him,” said Ray.
“What makes you think that?”
“When you mentioned Rob Ken got mad. Like he wasn’t prepared for it. He’s was so cocky and in control with everything else he said, but that caught him off guard. If he had done something to Rob then he would have been more prepared to respond.”
“Nice deduction, Sherlock,” Marshal said.
“Plus, he said he doesn’t want to be stuck taking care of Kobe, David, and Marcus, so why wouldn’t he have given Rob to us too?”
“But if Ken’s not responsible what could have happened to Rob?” said Jordan.
“Maybe nothing,” said Ray. “Nothing to do with shrinking anyway. Maybe when Alundra came and freed Ken Rob got scared and ran away.”
“Without warning us?” I said. “He wouldn’t have done that.”
“If they scared him enough he might have,” said David.
“Oh, come on. We’re talking about Rob here.”
“He’s not a god, James,” said Marshal. “I know he helped us out but you make him out to be some kind of super hero when the truth is he’s just a normal guy. A nice guy, but a normal one. We don’t know all what kind of stuff that chick can do. She really might have scared him so much he’s afraid to come out of hiding.”
“Look, whatever. They’re gone now,” I said. “We have to decide our next move.”
“We should try to find out where Marcus is and try to warn him,” said Ray.
“I’ll do it,” said Jordan. “I remember where he lives. I’ll go and ask his parents where he was headed.”
“I’ll go with him,” said Ben. “We should stay in groups as much as we can.”
“Good. The rest of us will go back to my place. Meet us there when you’re done. You guys can sleep over and will try to plan tonight.”
“Okay,” said Jordan. He and Ben walked in the direction of Marcus’s house.
The rest of us piled back into Marshal’s car and I opened the shoe box for the first time since we exited David’s house.
“Hey,” I said to Kobe. David had calmed down but was still curled up in fetal position in the wash cloth. “How’s he doing?”
“Fine, considering,” Kobe said.
“I guess you heard us talking to Ken and that woman, huh?”
“Sorry, I should have let you talk to him,” I said. “Maybe you could have reasoned with him. He was your friend.”
“Yeah, but you heard him. He’s doing this out of spite. Revenge. Nothing can reason with him. Ken was always weird. Now he’s just nuts.”
“We don’t think he has Rob,” I said, thinking that might be of some comfort.
“I’m worried about him,” said Kobe.
“Me too,” came another tiny voice; David’s.
“You feeling better, buddy?” asked Kobe.
“Yeah,” David sighed. “Now that the initial shock’s over. It’s not like it’s the first time I’ve been shrunk.”
“We’ll find Rob wherever his is and when we do he can make the antidote again,” I said.
“We don’t know what’s happening,” said David, on the verge of tears again. “We might as well just get used to our new lives. It’s kind of funny, you know? Kobe’s the world’s first shrunken college freshmen and I’m the world’s first shrunken dropout.”
“Don’t talk that way,” Kobe said. “We’re gonna get back to normal, just like before.”
“What do I care if we do?” said David. “I got nothing going for me. What’s the difference if I spend my life lounging around my parents living room or some terrarium in James’s closet?”
“Don’t talk that way,” Kobe said again.
“You know, you’re lucky your parents lost all your college money looking for Kobe,” said David. “That away you didn’t have to find out what I found out. None of the colleges I applied to wanted to admit me cause I was one of the crazy kids who disappeared and then claimed to have amnesia. Life stinks whether you’re big or small.”
Kobe reached over and slapped David so hard the shoe box shook in my lap!
“I’m not in the mood for your crap, David!” Kobe shouted. “Your right about one thing, life’s really not that different depending on whether or not you’re big or small. You’re were a self-pitying jerk when you were normal and you’re one now. You could have gone to community college like me, but you were too good for that. You wanted to lay around like a slob all day and do nothing with you life. Just cause it doesn’t matter if you become normal again doesn’t matter. I’m still going to no matter what I have to do.”
“Geeze, would you keep them under control,” Marshal said to me. “Granted if they killed one another we could just bury them in the backyard and go back to pretending none of this is happening,” he joked feebly. We pulled into my driveway.
“Where are your parents?” asked Ray.
“Dad’s playing golf and Mom’s at my aunt’s. We should be all alone until at least five.”
We headed up to my room. Once there I put Kobe out on my desk and found some more fabric for David to make a toga out of.
“I guess now we just wait for Ben and Jordan to get back,” said Ray.
“Put a move on or something,” said Marshal. “A comedy or horror movie or anything as long as it doesn’t have to do with shrinking.”
“Don’t worry,” I said. “The only movie I ever had like that was Honey I Shrunk the Kids and I burned it after I got home the last time.” I dug through my movies and put in a South Park Season Two DVD my parents didn’t know I had.. It was weird. Five normal teenagers laughing like idiots at South Park, just that two of them happened to be four inches tall. We watched about three episodes before the doorbell downstairs rang.“That’s probably Ben and Jordan. I’ll go let them in.”
I went back down stair and opened the door. It was Ben and Jordan... and Tobias.
“Hey, James,” said Jordan. “Look who we ran into.”
“Hey, James,” said Tobias. He walked right past me into the kitchen.
“What’s he doing here,” I whisper to Jordan.
“We ran into him and some moron mentioned we were gonna be sleeping over at your place tonight,” said Jordan, referring to Ben. “He wanted to come hang.”
“Keep him down here while I go upstairs and hide Kobe and David,” I said.
“Hey, James,” called Ray, coming down the stairs. “Kobe just thought of something-”
He cut off when he saw Tobias. Partially because he was surprised to see Tobias, and partially because of the look of shock Tobias had when he saw Kobe, who Ray was carrying in his hand.
“CRAP!” I cursed.
“Shhh!” said Jordan. “Neat isn’t it, Tobias? It’s a new kind of action figure. Really life like.”
Tobias said nothing but he wasn’t stupid. Ray clumsily tried to conceal Kobe but it was too late.
“Tobias, this is a long story and we’ll tell you I promise. But first, you’ve got to promise us you won’t tell anyone about this,” I said. Tobias didn’t wait to hear the story. He rushed by us all and out the door into the street.
“We have to stop him,” Jordan said.
“Why?” said Ray. “What’s he gonna do, run to the cops? Maybe they’ll get a warrant to search James’s house for tiny people,” he continued sarcastically. “He’s got no proof. No one will believe him.”
“We’ll find him tomorrow and straighten things out,” I said.
We went back upstairs. Jordan and Ben hadn’t been able to find out where Marcus was, but they did get his yahoo email address. As a group we composed a letter that told Marcus as gently as possible that he had a pair of criminally insane serial-shrinkers on his tail, and that he’d better watch his back. We then continued to watch South Park for the rest of the day. There was nothing else we could do at the moment. The only reason we stayed together was cause I guess we were afraid be alone with Ken and Alundra out there.
They each called their parents and told them that they would be spending the night at my place. About 4:30 my dad pulled into the driveway. I knew automatically the he would head straight to my room to check on me. I hid Kobe and David in the desk drawer.
“Just act nonchalant when my dad comes up,” I said to everybody.
A knock came at my door.
“Remember act casual,” I said, opening the door.
Where my dad should have stood Alundra did.
I jumped about five feet in the air and five feet back when I saw her framed in my doorway! Ken walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist.
“Hey, fellas,” he said. Jordan rushed up and tried to slam the door on them, but Alundra caught eye contact with him and he froze.
“What are you doing here? Where’s my dad?” I demanded.
“Relax, Jimmy,” said Ken. “Alundra just told him to take a little nap.”
“Get out of my house!”
“Be quiet,” Alundra spoke gently. My vocal cords froze.
“There’s been a slight change of plans,” said Ken. “It turns out we will be in need of you.”
Alundra spread open his long coat. On the inside were rows of little pockets specially made to hold vials. Vials of shrinking potion.
“NO!” shouted Marshal.
“NO!” shouted Ben.
Ray tried to rush the door.
“Freeze,” Alundra said. This time the power of her words was directed at all of us and we all were render immobile. One by one Alundra pulled out five vials of the potion from her coat. She made eye contact with each of us one by one, adding to the power she had over us. Then came the word from her mouth that filled me with the most dread.
“Sleep,” Alundra spoke again. Instantly I sank to the floor, unconscious.
I don’t know how long I was asleep exactly. Long enough to shrink. Long enough for Ken and Alundra to gather us up and take us from my house. I awoke in the dark. I was wearing some kind of clothes I was unfamiliar with and was lying on a bed of some coarse fabric. I felt around and my hand touched a wall of cardboard. Where was I?
“Hello,” I spoke. No answer. I was alone.
I thought I heard voices from outside whatever room I was in.
“Hello?” I called, this time louder. On the opposite side of the room two doors opened. Well, not doors really. Cardboard flaps. It was then I realized I was in some kind of box or food container. It made my heart sink because it confirmed I was in fact shrunk.
With the flaps open I saw a stranger. He was wearing an orange jumpsuit, which I could now see I was wearing one identical too. The stranger was a guy about my age, maybe a year or two younger.
“It’s about time you woke up,” he spoke. “Your friends came out of it hours ago.”
”Who are you?” I asked.
“The name’s Bobby,” he said.
“Bobby Douglass?” I asked, realizing who he was.
“That’s me,” he said. “Your friends told us there’s been a lot of stuff about us in the paper since all this started.”
He was one of the new freshmen who had disappeared.
“Come on out,” Bobby said. “Meet the others.”
I followed him out of the box. Once outside I saw that it was large saltine cracker box. Around it were about seven or eight other giant boxes and food containers that formed some kind of a bizarre shantytown. Beneath me the ground was rough wood grain.
“Welcome to ‘Shrunksberg’,” said Bobby. “We’re a small but industrious little community. If you look around you’ll see some examples of our most prime real estate. There’s small cup we use as a latrine and a bowl of water for bathing on the other side of that large Stovetop box. On the other side of the table is the food and water dish.”
I looked around and saw my four friends, Kobe, David, and three guys I assumed were others among the abducted freshmen. They all wore the same orange jumpsuits I had on, except David and Kobe who still wore togas. None of them approached me. They all had these pretty hopeless looks on their faces.
“Looks like Ken’s gotten a better tailor since last time,” I said.
”Yeah,” said Bobby, sounding a little ticked. “Your pals were telling us how this happened to you all once before.”
“Funny, you’d think if you’d been through this before and been changed back you’d have done everything you could to make sure it didn’t happen again,” he said, not holding back any disdain.
“Ken was also shrunk last time,” I said. “We didn’t know that Alundra even existed, so how were we suppose to know she’d come for him and start all this over again?”
“You weren’t suppose to,” said Bobby. “But you could have done the smart thing and squished Ken when you had the chance.”
There was no point in trying to talk to this guy. I saw Ray standing next to a hut made from a Betty Crocker box and walked to him.
“So what’s new?” I asked.
“Besides us being totally screwed? Not much,” he said.
“Did they say anything about Rob?” I asked.
“No,” Ray said. “Bobby and the others have never heard of him.”
I looked around at my surroundings again. This weird village was on a table, probably not more than six by four feet in reality, but huge to us. At each corner of the table sat a white crystal. The table was the only thing in the giant room. It was up against the wall far from the door. The door and wallpaper both looked very old and run down.
“What about Ken and Alundra?” I asked.
“Haven’t seen them. They haven’t been back since any of us woke-up.”
Bobby and the other freshmen approached us.
“Guess we should introduce you to everybody,” he said to me. “Seeing as we’ll all be together for a while.”
“I’m Cody,” a tall (taller than me anyway) blond boy said.
“I’m Max.” Max was slightly shorter with bright red hair.
“I’m Eduardo,” another one offered. Eduardo was a Hispanic guy with long dark hair. They all had pretty long hair, I guess from not being able to cut it, but that didn’t account for their lack of facial hair. Even freshmen should have had a little.
None of them reached out to shake hands when they greeted me. They had clearly been through a lot.
“Weren’t there five of you?” I asked.
“Speak of the devil,” said Bobby.
“Look behind you.” I turned to see the door to the room open and a gigantic Ken looking down at us. I had to fight the urge to run and hide in one of the boxes.
“I hope you’re all playing nice together,” Ken’s booming voice mocked. “I brought your other playmate back.” He then sat the fifth of the new shrunken freshmen down on the table. This time I did back away as his hand descended. But all the other had done that too.
“Why did you bring us here?” I called up at him.
“What’s that, little Jimmy?” he said. “Was that a question?” With speed I could hardly believe his hand shot down and yanked me off the table! He held me in his fist so tight I could barely breathe and brought me up to his face. “Don’t ask questions, bug. Human beings are allowed to ask questions, and you’ve ceased to be human. So keep your tiny little trap shut.” He lowered me back to the table and dropped me a few inches short. He then left the room and my friends ran up to me.
“Are you alright?” asked Kobe.
“I’m fine,” I responded. I looked over at the new freshmen Ken had brought in. The other freshmen were lifting him up and carrying him back to one of the huts. “Is he alright?” I asked Bobby.
“Tommy’s fine,” he said. “Or at least he will be in an hour. The drain takes a lot out of you.”
“The drainage orb. That’s what the guy and woman call it. I guess it’s the reason we’re here,” he said. “It’s this glass orb thing they place you inside. It’s doesn’t hurt but it feels like the strength is being sucked right out of you.”
“What the point of it?”
“We don’t know,” said Bobby. “Just now when he talked to you was the first time either of them has really spoken to us.”
“Have any of you tried to escape?” I asked. Bobby laughed.
“Walk to the edge of the table and reach your hand out,” he instructed. I did as he said. When tried to put my hand outside the border of the table edge I just couldn’t. It was like some invisible force holding my hand back.
“We think it’s those crystals that do it,” said Bobby. “We’ve tried moving them but they’re protected by the same stuff.”
“What about the ground. It’s wood, maybe we could break through it.”
“Too hard and no tools.”
“Bobby?” It was Tommy. Max and Cody had walked him back over to us.
“You should rest,” said Bobby.
“No,” he said. “I have to tell you something. Something I heard when I was in the drainer.”
“Him and her were talking,” Tommy said, using all the strength he could muster.
“Ken and Alundra?” I said.
“Is that their names?” asked Bobby. “We never knew. Go on, Tommy.”
‘They were talking about these new guys,” Tommy continued. “They took them to use as hostages against someone. They said something about a spy who would warn someone called the… the… the ‘beholders’.”
“That mean anything to anyone?” Bobby asked everyone. No one responded. “Is that all, Tommy?”
“Yeah,” said Tommy, exhausted.
“Take him back to his hut.”
“This is good,” said Cody. “Isn’t it? I mean maybe someone’s gonna try and rescue us. Right? It could mean that, right?”
“We don’t need to get out hopes up too quick” said Bobby.
“But it could mean that, right?” said Cody. He was clearly desperate for hope.
“Cody, just shut-up,” Bobby said. Cody turned and helped Tommy back to his hut.
“We’ve been here a really long time,” said Max, to me and my friends. “Cody kind of held on to hope that we might be rescued longer than the rest of us.”
“How long has it been since we were taken?” asked Eduardo.
“About a month and a half,” said Ray.
“What?” said Bobby, shocked. “Is that all?”
“There are no windows in here so we haven’t really been able to keep track of time,” said Max.
“I can’t believe that’s all it’s been,” said Bobby. “It seems like months and months.”
“Yeah, well time sure flies when you’re the size of a rodent,” David said.
“Uh, I have kind of an unusual question. It’s just something I’m kind of wondering,” said Ray. “Why do none of you have any facial hair?”
“What kind of question is that to ask them?” said David.
“They’ve been here for over a month and obviously Ken’s not gonna give them as blade,” said Ray. “And yet their faces are all completely smooth.”
“They’re fourteen,” said Kobe. “They’re not supposed to look like Grizzly Adams.”
“Yeah, but we all had a little before we came here,” said Bobby. “We just figured it wasn’t growing now because of something to do with the shrinking.”
“No,” I said. “We all continued to grow facial hair when we were shrunk.”
“Maybe it has something to do with that drainage thing,” said Marcus.
“That’s what I was thinking,” said Ray. “You guys said it feels like they suck the energy from you. Maybe that really is what’s happening. Maybe Alundra draws power from it.”
“So know she’s some kind of vampire?” said Ben.
“It’s just a theory,” said Ray.
“If that’s true then it might eventually kill us,” said Bobby. “Oh, God. We got to get out of here.”
“I’m not following you,” I said. “How does this theory fit in with them not having facial hair?”
“The same way it fits in with us not being the one’s they chose to shrink in the first place,” said Ray. “When you’re fourteen puberty hits you hard for the first time. Maybe all those hormones make their bodies energies better and that’s what Alundra wants to drain. They can’t grow facial hair because all that pubescent energy is being drained from them.”
“That’s a pretty wild theory,” said Kobe.
“As opposed to what?” asked Ray.
“You think that means they won’t put us in the drainage orb?” I asked.
“You may be about to find out,” said Bobby.
The door to the room had opened and Alundra walked in.
to be continued