Shrunken Freshmenby Big Thinker
My name is Rob and I’m a senior in high school. One night, a few weeks after school started, me and some friends were hanging out in my room. There were five of us: David, Marcus, Kobe, Ken, and me.
We were talking about the usual stuff-- girls, cars, sports, and more girls. So why then did the subject turn to something as ridiculous as shrinking? I guess now I realize it must have been Ken who brought it up.
“Come on,” said Ken. “I’m being serious. If you could shrink someone say down to five inches tall, who would you do it to?”
“What kinda question is that?” asked Kobe.
“A hypothetical one.”
“I think it’s kind of interesting. If you could hold one person in the palm of your hand, who would it be?” said Marcus.
“Why would you want to shrink someone?” asked David.
“I don’t know. For a sense of power I guess,” said Ken.
“Just think about it. An actual person you could hold in your hand. They’d be like a pet,” said Marcus.
“Exactly,” said Ken. “If you could have a human pet who would it be?”
“I’d shrink that jerk Coach Rogers,” said Kobe. “Man, he gets on my nerves.”
“I’d shrink my stupid stepfather,” said Marcus. “But I’d probably end up feeding him to something.” We all laughed.
“Same goes for my little brother,” said David.
“What about you, Rob?” Ken asked. “You’ve been pretty quiet.”
“If I could have a human for a pet?” I said. “I’d pick someone who isn’t human.”
“What do you mean?” asked Kobe.
“A freshman.” I said. It was meant as a joke. Being seniors none of us could stand freshmen.
“A freshman?” said Ken. “Yeah, I like that idea.” The others agreed with him.
I had said it as a joke. Now I wish I had kept my mouth shut.
The guys left and I went to bed. The next day was Sunday and Kobe and me went to a movie together, but other than that I didn’t see any of the guys until Monday. Sunday night I watched the news and learned that five guys from my school had gone missing. I wasn’t too worried about it. I figured the guys had just gone off without telling anyone. I knew plenty of kids who did that. I wondered why it would even end up on the news.
The next day was an uneventful day at school. I went to my boring classes, hit on some girl I liked, and fell asleep in Geometry. At lunch I noticed Ken was nowhere to be found, and the others didn’t know where he was either. This was a little odd sinse Ken had supposedly had perfect attendance sinse grammar school.
After sixth period Marcus passed me in the hall and told me to meet him and the others at Ken’s house after school. He wouldn’t tell me why, just that he had seen Ken and that it was big. After school I got in my Sun Fire and drove out to Ken’s place. He lived about five miles away from town on an old farm his grandpa had left his family. Once there I headed for the old barn where we always hung out. The guys were lounging around on bales of hay waiting on me.
“What’s up?” I asked. Ken just smiled and opened his large duffle bag. We all crowded around to see what he had. He pulled out a stack of square Tupperware containers, each about six inches across and about three and a half inches deep.
“What are those?” I asked.
“You’ll see,” said Ken. “I got one for each of you and one for myself.” He distributed each one of the containers to us. The lid of each one had tiny air holes cut into it and I could see something alive moving around through the opaque plastic.
“What is it?” I asked. “Like a mouse or a gerbil or something?”
“Way better than that,” said Ken. “You open yours first.”
I slowly pulled the lid off the Tupperware, careful in case whatever was in it might try to escape. Nothing could have prepared me for what I found. Lying inside the Tupperware was a four-inch person!
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing was real, but it was! I brought the container closer to my face to get a closer look at the tiny creature, which stared back at me with shock and fear. It looked to be a boy of about fourteen or fifteen with short blonde hair. He was lying on a bed of tissue paper and dressed in what looked like a makeshift toga.
“What is it?” asked David. I was too shocked to answer.
“Open yours and see,” said Ken. The others opened their Tupperware containers and each reacted with the same shock as I had. Kobe nearly dropped his, but Ken stepped forward and stopped him.
“I don’t believe it,” I said.
“Cool, huh?” said Ken.
“That’s for me to know and you to find out,” said Ken. “Just don’t ask me to do it again. I can’t.”
“Can you reverse it?” I asked.
“Nope. Our little men are stuck like this forever.”
“Our little men?”
“Yeah, their gifts.”
“You can’t give people as gifts,” I said.
“They’re not people,” Ken smiled. “They’re freshmen.”
“Oh my God,” I said. “Those kids on the news. These are them?
“Uh-huh. I was kinda hoping word wouldn’t get out about them being missing so quick, but oh well.”
“Whoa,” said David. “This is cool. Touch one.” He then prodded his shrunken freshmen with his finger.
“This is wrong,” I said.
“What’s so wrong about it?” said Ken.
“They’re human beings, not hamsters.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter, cause it’s not reversible,” Ken said.
“We’ve got to tell someone,” I said.
“Go right ahead,” said Ken. “If word gets out about our little friends they’ll just end up on display somewhere, or dissected in some government lab.”
“We should give them back to their parents, then.”
“And what happens if their parents are ticked-off about what we did to their kids,” said Ken. “Because I do mean we. If I go down I’ll take the rest of you with me.”
“There’s no way I’m giving mine back,” said Kobe. “This is too cool for words.”
“What are you gonna do, Rob?” said Ken. “Stick with your friends, or make us all go down?”
What could I do? Ken may have been nuts but he was still my friend and I didn’t want him to get into trouble. Not to mention not get me into trouble. And maybe he was right about the little guys being better off if we didn’t come forward with them.
“Alright,” I said. “I won’t tell. But you guys have got to promise if you keep the little guys that you’ll take care of them and not abuse them. Otherwise all bets are off.”
“I promise,” the four said in unison.
“I don’t believe I’m doing this,” I said to myself. Here I was telling my best friends it was okay if they kept people as pets. Here I was agreeing to do it myself. But I had a choice: morality or loyalty, and I chose to side with my friends. I looked back down at “my” little person. I had seen him somewhere before.
“Who are they?” I asked Ken.
“Heck if know,” said Ken. “I just found’em hanging out together. I lured them off by saying I could get them beer.” It was stunning how casually he said it.
“Can they still talk?”
“Sure. In fact it took me a while to shut them up.”
My little guy was curled up in a fetal position in the corner of the container, his eyes still fixed on me. I put me face close to him and said “Hi.” It was all I could think to say. His little body shuddered, I guess from the feel of my breath, and I backed off a little.
“What’s your name?” I said, as if speaking to a young child. After hearing how I talked about the whole situation he must have realized he had nothing to fear from me. He didn’t talk but he did sit up on his knees and look out over the edge of the container. He stared out at my four giant friends for a moment before his eyes looked down. The height must have startled him because he jerked back violently. I tried to smile at him as friendly as I could so he’d know he was safe with me.
He just sat there with his head between his knees kind of rocking back and forth. I decided it might be a good idea to set him and the Tupperware down; maybe if he were on solid ground it would calm him. I went over to a small woodworking bench and sat the container down. Again he sat up and looked around. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the bench beneath him. The others were still looking at their little guys, each grinning at them like idiots. Kobe was still poking and touching his with his finger, but I didn’t think Kobe would actually hurt him, so I didn’t say anything. I got to admit there was a part of me that wanted to know what it felt like to touch one of them.
“Hey, Ken?” said David. “I got a question. How come these are all guys? Personally I think it would be cool to have a hot chick for a pet. You know, someone to worship me, tell me how hot I am, stuff like that.”
“Didn’t think about it,” said Ken. “Just took the first group I found. Besides, you all said you wanted freshmen for pets, and how many freshmen girls you know who are that hot?”
“Good point,” said David. “This is cool too, though. Like having a living action figure.” David then reached into the container and picked his little guy up between his thumb and forefinger. The shrunken boy began to scream hysterically as David just grinned.
“David, put him down,” I ordered.
“Told’ya they could still talk,” said Ken.
“Everyone, bring them over here to this bench,” I said. “How long was they're cooped up in those Tupperware things?”
“They slept in them overnight.”
“How would you like to be trapped in a plastic box overnight?” I asked.
“Sorry,” he said. “I thought it was pretty clever of me.”
“When was the last time they had anything to eat or drink?”
“I don’t know,” Ken said. “I got them around three o’clock yesterday afternoon.”
“And you haven’t fed them?” I said outraged. “What are you, cruel or just a moron?”
“Chill,” he said. “I go to all this trouble to give you guys these great gifts and all you can do is complain.”
“Go get some food and water for them.”
While Ken was gone the others brought their little guys over to the workbench. They each picked theirs up out of the container and sat them down, which resulted in more screams. I just tipped the Tupperware over until my little guy gently tumbled outd. The five of them huddled together near a large bucket of wood varnish sitting on the workbench. They were clearly very afraid. They were all dressed alike: togas that Ken must have made, or had them make, out of cloth. The toga mine wore was white but the others wore assorted colors.
The one that “belonged” to David was a little taller than the others. He wore a blue toga and had kind of a shock of dirty-blonde hair. Kobe’s was slightly taller too, and thin with dark brown hair, and an orange toga. Marcus’s had a thicker build than the others, like he might have been and athlete or something, with brown hair and a green toga. Last but not least there was the one Ken had chosen for himself. He was a little shorter than the others and looked a little chunky, with red hair and a red toga to match.
Ken came back carrying a plate of food. On it he had a slice of bread, a slice of meatloaf, a couple of strawberries, and a short cup filled with water. He sat it on the bench and I motioned for everyone to back away. The little guys then timidly made their way toward the plate and began eating. My friends just watched them as they ate, smiling and giggling at their new pets. Occasionally one of the little guys would look up at us, but they quickly looked away.
“Are you sure their brains weren’t affected by being shrunk?” I asked Ken.
“They shouldn’t have been,” Ken replied. “At least according to my understanding.” I pulled Ken aside from the others.
“Look at me,” I said. “I don’t know what’s the matter with you but you’ve kidnapped five freshmen and turned them into… into-”
“Very, very small midgets?” he said.
“How can you joke about this?” I said. “I wanna know how you did this.”
“Like I said, that’s for me to know and you to find out,” he said. “You know if I say I won’t tell that I ain’t going to.” Ken was being honest about that. I had known Ken a long time and if he said he wasn’t going to do something he’d die before doing it. I could have beaten him till my arm fell off and it would get me nowhere.
“This is how it is: you can either turn me in for what I did and betray our friendship, risk ruining your own life, and the little one’s themselves, or you can keep your mouth shut and enjoy my gift,” Ken said. Again, what choice did I have? I could have refused to have anything to do with it, but I figured as long as I was involved I could at least look out for the little guys.
“Alright,” I said. “I’ll play your weird little game, but what I said still stands. You guys had better take good care of them.”
“Come on you know us,” Ken said. “Do you think any of us is really that cruel? I shrank them so they could be pets. You think I did all that just so we could hurt them? If I wanted that I wouldn’t have told you about them.”
“Come on, Rob,” he said. “Look how happy your friends are. Just enjoy my gift.” I walked back over to the workbench. It looked as if the little guys had eaten their fill.
“My dad’s gonna be home soon and you know how he hates us hanging out in here,” said Ken. “Besides, we don’t want him coming down here and making any little discoveries, so you guys had better take your pets and leave.” Each of the guys grabbed their pet and placed them back in their containers, but this time only one or two of them screamed. When my little guy was left on the table alone I simply put the Tupperware thing near him and motioned for him to get in. He didn’t want to. He just backed away and shook his head no. The other guys, including Ken, were already out the barn door.
I kneeled down and made my face level with the little guy. “Hey,” I said, gently. “I know you’re scared. I would be too. But there is nothing I can do about your size right now. I know it must be really weird, but you don’t have anything to be afraid of, no one’s going to hurt you.”
He just stared straight at me.
“I promise that until I can find someway to make all of this right that I will take good care of you. And, even though I don’t think they’ll hurt any of your friends, I have a feeling you’re better off with me than with one of the others. So just come with me and I promise you’ll be okay.”
He walked toward the container and I tilted it on its side so he could get in. I didn’t put the lid on.
“By the way,” I said. “My name’s Rob.”
He looked up at me and in a soft squeaky voice said “My names James.” I smiled at him and then took James out to my car and sat him in the passenger’s seat.
“I know you must not like having that lid on the Tupperware thing but I think it’d be safer driving if it was on,” I said. He just sat down and leaned against the wall of the container and I put the lid on it, but not as tight as it went. On the drive home I kept looking back down at the container. I was still finding it hard to believe.
Once home I carried the container upstairs to my room. Luckily my mom and dad were still at work and I didn’t have to risk them seeing me. I live in a three-story house and my room takes up the entire top story. I have my own bathroom and a mini-fridge so I rarely have to go downstairs for anything. That and the fact my parents work late so much I knew that I could keep James hidden without any trouble.
I sat the container down on my king-sized bed and took the lid off. James sat up and looked around. The bed to him must have seemed huge.
“You want to get out?” I asked. He just nodded yes and I tilted the container so he could climb out onto my hunter-green bedspread.
“So…” I said. “You hungry again or something?” He nodded no. “Well, um, you wanna watch TV? I guess to you it’d be more like a movie screen, huh?” I said, pointing to my thirty-six inch television. He just shrugged whatever and looked away, still acting like he didn’t want to meet my gaze. I grabbed the remote off my nightstand and laid down on the other side of the bed from him, about two or three feet away to give him space.
“I don’t know what kind of shows you like,” I said. “There’s a college game on tonight, you wanna watch that?” He just shrugged again. I flipped through my channel guide on the TV and saw that the game didn’t start for an hour, so I turned it to The WB and watched Angel. Normally I’m not a huge fan but Buffy was making a guest appearance that episode so I watched. Occasionally James would look at the TV but for the most part he just sat there. The phone rang and I answered it.
“Hello?” I said.
“Dude, it’s me,” said Ken.
“What do you want?” I sighed.
“Just calling to check how you and your little guy are doing,” he said. “I’m sitting here playing with mine. How’s he doing?” I took the phone and stepped into my bathroom and shut the door.
“He’s fine,” I said. “His name is James.”
“Cool, you named him,” said Ken. “I haven’t decided what to call mine yet.”
“How’s about you just find out his real name?” I said.
“How am I supposed to do that?”
“You could ask around and find out, or you could just ask him himself,” I said.
“Nah, he still won’t talk to me,” Ken said. “He’s just now getting to where he’ll stop screaming so much.”
“What are you doing to him?”
“I’m not hurting him,” he said. “I’m just playing with him. He’s alright.”
“He’d better be.”
“I was just calling to check-up on you,” Ken said. “I’d better let you go and call the others. Later.”
“Later,” I said.
I went back into my room and found James gone. The Tupperware was still there, but he was nowhere to be seen. Frantically, but carefully, I looked around the pillows on my bed and around on the floor. Then I saw him. He was by the headboard of my bed climbing down the side of my comforter. When he knew I had spotted him he froze. Forgetting I had decided not to handle him, I took him in my hand and deposited him back on the bed.
To say that James wasn’t happy about it would have been an understatement. He began yelling and cursing up at me while jumping up and down in fury. I knelt down by the bed.
“Shhh,” I said. “Calm down, little guy.”
“Don’t tell me to calm down!” he screamed in his tiny voice. “You big monster!”
“It’s okay, James,” I said, in my best soothing tone. “I told you you’re safe with me.”
“I don’t wanna be anywhere near you!”
“Where exactly were you gonna go if you had escaped?” I asked. He didn’t answer. “I’d change you back if I could, but I can’t. And right now you need me.”
“I want to go home,” he said.
“I know,” I said with a sigh. “But there are circumstances that won’t allow that right now.”
“I heard you and that creep talking,” James said. “You’re just trying to look out for your own skins.”
“Yeah, I guess we are,” I admitted. “But do you really think you’d be better off? You know how parents are. They’d want to tell someone to try and get help. You have to be kept a secret because if the world found out about you do you know what would happen? You’d probably be treated like a lab rat.” I don’t know who I was trying to convince, him or me.
“I don’t care,” James said. “I don’t want to be anyone’s pet either!”
“I don’t think of you as my pet.”
“Then what am I?”
“I'd like you to be my friend,” I said.
“Never. You and that freak friend of yours have ruined my life.”
“I understand how you feel,” I said. “And if you don’t want to be friends I guess that is cool. But I am the one who’s going to be taking care of you so we’d better try and get along. That’s just the way it is and there’s nothing you can do about it.” This was insane! Here I was telling this kid whom my friend had shrunk to be my pet that he should just deal with it. James just turned his back to me and didn’t say anything.
“I’m going down stairs to fix myself something to eat,” I said. “You can either come with me or I can put you back in the box with the lid on.”
He turned back around and said, “I’ll go with you.” I don’t think he cared too much for the container with the lid on. He started to climb back into it but I stopped him.
“No,” I said. I placed my hand on the bed flat with my palm up. “I want to carry you.” I’m not like the others. I felt no need to handle James like some kind of small animal, or wanted to so I could get a sense of power. But James had to learn to trust me and figured that would be a good start.
“I don’t want you to,” he said.
“I’m not asking you,” I said. His escaped attempt made me realize I was going to have to be firm with him. “Now come on. I promise to be careful and I won’t squeeze tight.” He just stood there. I scooped him up and cupped him in both my hands; he didn’t scream.
I carried him down to the first floor of my house. It was weird holding him. He was squirming around a little and I could feel his tiny body breathing. He kept feeling of my palms and fingers like he couldn’t believe I was real. I sat James down on the center isle in the kitchen and proceeded to grill myself a couple of hotdogs on our George Foreman Grill. I then heated a can of chili in the microwave and grated cheese. I also like onions and diced tomato on mine so I chopped some of that too. All this time James just stood there on the marble countertop, looking around amazed at the gigantic size of my kitchen.
“You like chilidogs?” I asked.
“You don’t have any pet food?” he asked sarcastically.
“Not unless you’re into eating fish flakes,” I responded.
I finished making the chilidogs and put them on a plate. This time I was forced to carry James with one hand so I wrapped my fingers around him and held him in my fist. I tried to hold as loosely as was safe but he squirmed more this time. Once back upstairs I put James and my plate on the bed. I then got a bag of potato chips out of a cabinet I keep them in and a bottled Coke out of my mini-fridge.
I cut off a little piece of one of my chilidogs and gave it to James along with a little cheese, a piece of tomato, a piece of onion, and a chip. Even as small as I cut everything the portions were still pretty big for James. We just sat there eating, watching the basketball game, and not saying anything. Apparently James was a college basketball fan because he paid attention to the TV this time. My attention wavered for two reasons: I wasn’t a fan of either team, and I had bigger (smaller) things on my mind.
“I’m thirsty,” said James. I took the top of my Coke bottle and poured Coke into it. I then held it while James took a long drink out of it.
“Was that enough food to fill you up?” I asked him. He shot me an annoyed look. “Just asking.”
It was nine o’clock when the game went off and I needed to take a shower. I needed somewhere to put James where he couldn’t get away, since I didn’t want to put him in the Tupperware again. I remembered we had an old twenty-gallon aquarium out in the garage and decided that it might work. It was chilly at night so I put on my school letter jacket and placed James in the inside pocket where he’d be warmest.
“Where are we going?” he asked.
“Out to the garage,” I said. “I need to get something.” I went downstairs and saw that my parents still hadn’t come home. They’re both attorneys if you’re wondering.
“Listen to me James,” I said looking into the pocket. “My parents are going to be home any minute now. If they show up while we’re down here you keep your mouth shut,” I said sternly. “I’m not kidding.”
I walked out to the garage and sorted through several boxes before finding the aquarium. I dump out all the gravel and fake plants before heading back inside. As soon as I was in the doorway I heard my mom’s car pull in the drive. I hurried upstairs to my room and locked the door. I then took the aquarium in the bathroom to wash it out and get rid of the fish-smell.
I sat James on the bathroom countertop while I washed the aquarium in the bathtub. When he saw it I noticed a sad look in his eyes, as he realized we’d gone out to the garage to get a prison for him.
“If I’m not your pet how come you’re gonna keep me in that thing?” he asked.
“I’m not gonna keep you in it all the time,” I said. “Just when I can’t watch you. If I knew I could trust you not to run away there’d be no need for it.”
I lined the aquarium with a folded towel and put James inside. I have a walk-in closet adjacent to my bathroom and at one end of it there is a row of shelves that I never used. I took the fish tank and sat it on the middle shelf.
“I’m gonna take a shower,” I said. “I won’t be long.” I then left, confident that the combination of the tank and the high shelf would keep him from getting away.
I probably stayed in the shower for fifteen or twenty minutes. I find showers relaxing and right then I needed it. When I got out I put on my bathrobe and went back into the closet to get James. He was still where I’d left him. I reached in and picked him up, this time without complaint or resistance.
“Rob?” he said as I held him.
“What is it?” I asked. He looked almost embarrassed.
“I have to go to the bathroom.”
“Oh,” I said. Somehow it hadn’t occurred to me that this would come up. An idea came to my mind. I went and got the top off the Coke I’d been drinking. I sat James on the bathroom countertop and told him to use it. I turned the other direction while he took a leak, and when he was done I flushed the waste and washed out the bottle top.
James yawned and I realized how strenuous and tiring this must all be for him. It was only a few minutes till ten and I usually stayed up till at least eleven, but I decided it to hit the hay early. As tired as I could tell James was he didn’t complain.
I cleared off one of my nightstands and sat the aquarium on it. The folded towel I’d lined the floor of the tank with would make a good enough mattress for James. I added a few cotton swabs for pillows and a washrag as a blanket. James told me he had to use the bathroom again before bed so I took him and let him. I then placed him in the tank where he curled up in the rag in one corner.
“If you want me for anything in the night just try and let me know,” I said. That had been the point of putting the tank by my bed. I went back into the bathroom and changed into jogging pants I sleep in before crawling into bed and saying, “Goodnight.” James didn’t say it back, but I didn’t expect him to. I switched off the light and tried to drift off to sleep.
Several times during the night I woke-up and checked on James. The first time I switched the light back on and it woke him up, so after that I checked on him with a small flashlight I keep in my nightstand drawer. When my alarm clock woke me up the next morning I found James was already awake.
“Morning,” I said. He just paced back and forth in the tank.
I got out of bed and grabbed a breakfast bar out of my snack cabinet. I broke off a piece and gave it to James for breakfast. Then I went into the bathroom to get ready for school. When I was done I put the tank back on the shelf in my closet. I wanted to know that even if James got out of the tank he wouldn't be able to get off the high shelf.
“I got to go,” I said.
“You can’t just leave me in this thing,” James said.
“It’s like I told you,” I said. “It’s only when I can’t watch you. If I thought you wouldn’t try and run away I wouldn’t have to leave you here. It’s for your own good; you’re safer this way,” I said, honestly.
“Fine,” he said. “I’m just a pet, anyway, and pets belong in cages.”
“Look, I’m sorry, okay,” I said. “We’ll talk more about later. I’ve got to go.”
“What if I get hungry or something?”
“Unlike you poor unfortunate freshmen who are forced to stay and ingest the cafeteria food, I am a senior with a car and come home for lunch,” I said. “You think you can wait until then?”
“Whatever,” he said, before turning his back to me again.
“Bye,” I said then exited. Downstairs my dad still hadn’t come home from the office, but I found my mom asleep over a pile of legal papers scattered over the dining room table. She must have continued working even after she got home. Normally I wouldn’t have waked her, but she was drooling on what looked like important legal documents.
“Morning, honey,” she said. “How are you?”
“Mom, go get in bed,” I said. “You look terrible.”
“I can’t,” she said. “I’m due in court next week and I have too much work to do.”
“You’re not gonna do your client any good in court if you have a breakdown from exhaustion.”
“You’re right,” she said. “Maybe I’d better grab forty winks.”
“Bye, Mom,” I said.
“Bye, baby,” she said.
Once in my car I headed to pick Kobe up for school. As usual he was standing out in front of his house, as if all was normal. I pulled into the drive and he got in.
“What’s up?” he asked.
“How’s the freshman?”
“He’s fine,” Kobe said. “His name’s Jordan, but I’m gonna call him Jordy.”
“How’d you find out?” I asked.
“Looked it up on the news station’s website.”
“What’d you do after you got home yesterday?”
“Not much. Tried to play with him, but he wasn’t into it,” Kobe said.
“You talk to him any?”
“I tried, but he wouldn’t say hardly anything,” he said. “I wonder why; I’ve tried to be nice to him.”
“Try and see it from his perspective,” I said. “He’s doesn’t know what’s gonna happen to him or what you might do to him. He probably feels suspicious, scared, and not to mention resentful, like James.” “What reason does he have to resent me?” asked Kobe. “I haven’t done anything.” Kobe’s my best friend, but sometimes he can be extremely stupid.
“Where’s he at right now, anyway?” I asked.
“On my dresser in that plastic thing.”
“You should have thought of something better,” I said. “Those Tupperware things are probably like being stuck inside a coffin.”
“Jordy’s got plenty of room, don’t worry about it. I’ll think of something better later,” Kobe said. “What’d you do with yours?”
“I left him in a fish tank.” Somehow that didn’t sound much better.
“Huh, I’ll have to get one of those. It’d be cool. I could get one of those wheel things and he could jog to stay in shape.” Rather than point out how moronic that idea was I chose to remain silent for the rest of the ride.
When we arrived at school we went out separate ways, our lockers being on opposite sides of the campus. As was usual early in the mornings before first period there were only a few people in the halls. Those who had cars waited until it was almost time for the bell to arrive, and those who didn’t (freshmen) hung-out on the front lawn. I passed Ken in the hall, but he didn’t notice me so I ignored him. Finally I arrived at my locker, which is right next to David’s.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hey, how’s it going?” he asked.
“Fine,” I said.
“How’s your new pet doing?”
“He’s fine,” I replied. “And he’s not my pet. How’s yours?”
“See for yourself. He’s right here.” David opened his backpack revealing the Tupperware container he’d been given. You could see the little guy banging and trying to get the lid off through the plastic.
“Are you out of your mind?” I said. “You can’t bring him here.”
“I couldn’t leave him at home. You know how my mom is,” David said. He had a point. David’s mom is a homemaker who busies herself by snooping through her children’s things. “I can’t even keep a dirty magazine hidden from her.”
“What if somebody sees him?” I said, whispering.
“I’m gonna leave him in my locker. Nobody will see.”
“What if he starts to yell and somebody hears him?” I guess I must have given the little guy the idea, because at that moment he started shouting at the top of his little lungs. David silenced him by quickly swatting the container with his hand. Luckily David’s backpack and the container muffled the sound enough that no one noticed. David reached into his backpack and pulled the Tupperware lid off just a crack.
“Be good, Jack,” he said in a low voice.
“Is that his real name, or did you give it to him?”
“His name’s Marshal Gene,” said David. “No way I’m calling him that wimpy name.”
“So you just decided to change it, huh?” I said.
“Jack’s his middle name. I read it in my brother’s middle school yearbook from last year,” he said. “It’s not like I just made something up. Besides, it’s like Jack and the Beanstalk. Get it?”
“Oh, I get,” I said. “And it’s lame.”
“Forget you, man.”
“Look, we shouldn’t be talking about this here,” I said. The bell was about to ring and people were crowding the halls to get to their lockers. “You cannot leave him in there all day. I’m going home for lunch. I’ll take him with me and he can stay there the rest of the day.”
“That’s cool. I’ll leave him in here and you can come get him after fourth period,” David said, before opening the container again. “Now you be a good a boy for Uncle Rob, Jack,” he said.
The bell rang and David put the container in his locker and left. I headed for my first period class, Geometry. As if I didn’t have enough to worry about my teacher Mr. Blake was ticked-off at me to for falling asleep the day before. It was his own fault for being so boring.
I managed to keep myself awake and droned on through the rest of my classes. I was anxious to get Jack out of that stuffy locker and to go home and check on James. At the end of fourth period I was the first out the door. I waited for the halls to clear out before heading to David’s locker. I already knew David’s combination so I opened it and took out the container containing Jack. With nobody else around I opened the container and saw Jack, lying back and looking up at me with a nasty glare. I placed the container in my own backpack and headed for the exit.
At home I saw that Mom must have headed back to the office. I went directly upstairs and into my walk-in closet, where I saw James still remained in the fish tank.
“I brought you a visitor,” I said. I opened Jack’s container and he stood-up. I reached for him and he lifted his arms in anticipation, which I took to mean David must have held him a lot. I sat him down in the tank with James. The two sort of embraced at an arm’s length, both glad to see the other was okay. “I’m gonna go get you two something to eat.”
I made myself a turkey sandwich and cut it into four squares. I then cut one of the squares in half and gave the two pieces to the freshmen, with a couple of chips and two bottle tops full of Coke. I brought the tank back into my room so they could watch TV with me while we ate. All that was on was the normal boring daytime TV, so without thinking I turned it to the news.
I don’t know how I could have been so stupid. On the TV was a middle-aged woman with long dirty-blonde hair. She was crying and the caption on the screen read “Emily Gene; Mother of Missing Teenager.” Jack walked up to the glass wall of the tank and looked out at the TV. It was his mom.
My first impulse was to turn the TV off, but no, I didn’t have the right to. This woman was crying and babbling incoherently into a reporter’s microphone because her son was missing. Because I was helping to keep him captive. In the tank I saw James walk up to Jack and put his hand on his shoulder.
“It’s okay, Marshal,” James said. That was his name, Marshal, not Jack. I had been thinking of him as Jack. I had been thinking of him by the stupid pet name David had given him. This wasn’t right. I had to find someway to undo all of this.
“Marshal…” What could I have said?
“Just leave,” said James. I returned the tank to my closet and left without another word. I had only one thing on my mind. I was going to find Ken and torture the little freak until he told me how to undo all this.
I went to my car and peeled out of the driveway. I knew exactly where I was going. Ken and the other guys all went to this little burger joint close to the school everyday, and I knew I would find them there. When I pulled into the parking lot I found a large number of my classmates, but no Ken.
“Hey, Riley,” I called to a guy I knew.
“What’s up?” he called back.
“You seen Ken anywhere?”
“He and the rest of your buds were here but they left,” Riley said.
“Do you know where they were headed?”
“Nah. They looked like they were having an argument,” said Riley. “I didn’t catch what it was about, but your pals kept asking Ken ‘how he did it’, whatever that means.”
“Which direction they head?”
“Out towards Ken’s farm.”
“Thanks,” I said, and headed in that direction. I had no idea why they were going out to Ken’s farm, but I didn’t like it.
Once at the farm I saw Marcus and David’s cars in the drive, and I assumed Kobe would be with them too. I went up to the house and knocked on the door, but no one answered. Naturally I headed to the barn next. The first thing that told me something was wrong was that the barn door was closed, which it never was. Slowly I opened the door enough to slip in.
Ken, who was doing something at the far workbench, had his back to me. He didn’t notice me so for a moment I stood there and watched him. Then I noticed the three piles of clothes on the ground, and I knew what Ken had done.
“Ken,” I said. Startled, he turned around fast and looked at me, like a deer caught in the headlights.
“Rob,” he said, nervously. “What are you doing here?”
“Where are they?” I demanded.
“Where are who?”
“I’m only going to ask once more and then I’m gonna beat you within an inch of your life,” I said. “Where are they?”
“Right here,” he said, as he stepped aside to reveal Kobe, Marcus, and David inside a pickle jar, dressed in togas like the freshmen.
“I knew you were a nut,” I said. “But I didn’t think you could do this to your friends.”
“I did it for their own good,” he pleaded. “You should have heard them. They wanted to make me give them the shrinking potion so they shrink more people. Marcus had some stupid idea about global domination. You would have done the same thing.”
“I wouldn’t have started all this crap in the first place,” I said. “How did you do this? You said you used a potion. Where’d you get it?”
“Some Haitian voodoo guy I met on the Internet told me how to make it,” Ken said. “But I wasn’t lying when I said it’s not reversible.”
“So your saying that our friends and those freshmen are stuck like this forever?”
“Yeah, they are.”
“You’ve ruined eight lives. Do you even feel a little remorseful about that?” I asked.
“Hey, you guys said it would be cool to have humans for pets, I just gave you what I thought you wanted,” Ken said.
“We were joking around you freak. We didn’t really mean it,” I said. “There’s no one to blame for what you’ve done except you.”
“So what are you gonna do about, huh?” Ken grabbed for a spray bottle on the bench filled with blue liquid, but I ran forward twisted it away from him. I then kicked Ken in the stomach, which sent him to the floor.
“I’m guessing this is the potion,” I said.
“What are you going to do?” he asked, eyeing the bottle with fear.
“You’re pathetic, you know that?” I said. “I am beyond angry at you, Ken. In fact, I’m flat-out pissed. You deserve to pay.” Ken started to scoot back against the wall as I advanced on him with the spray bottle. “And you know the old saying, ‘an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth’.”
“Please, don’t,” he begged. He was actually crying.
“It’s for your own good,” I mocked. Finally, I aimed the bottle straight in his face and pulled the trigger. Ken tried to rub away the blue liquid, and even tried to get up to run, but I shoved him back down. He was bawling the whole time he was transforming. At last Ken disappeared into the pile of his own clothing.
I grabbed another jar from the workbench and a piece of the cloth Ken had made the togas from. I sorted through pile of clothes I knew Ken was trapped under and saw him. He had shrunken to a little bit smaller than the others, and he was still weeping. I wrapped him in the piece of cloth and gathered him into the jar.
I went back over to the bench where my friends were still in the larger pickle jar. They were screaming and shouting for me to let them out, but I decided it wouldn’t hurt them to get a taste of what the freshmen had gone through. I took them, Ken, and the spray bottle full of shrinking potion to my car and left them there.
Then I went into Ken’s house and found his little guy in his room, inside the Tupperware container. Next, I headed to Kobe’s house and used the key they keep hidden to get in. I found the container with Jordy in it and left.
Getting Marcus’ freshman was a little trickier. I knocked on the door and told Marcus’ stepfather Marcus had left something at home and sent me to get it. The old bum was just drunk enough that he let me in without question. I searched Marcus’ messy room for fifteen minutes, and then headed home with the last shrunken freshman.
Once home I put the freshmen in the tank with James and Marshal. My friends I left in the jar and put them on the shelf above the tank. James saw my friends in the jar and looked at me.
“Don’t even ask,” I said to him.
I took the jar with Ken in it and sat it on my desk. Ken had fashioned himself a crude covering from the cloth and sat rocking back and forth on his knees. He looked a lot like James did when I first saw him. I opened the jar and poured Ken out onto the desktop.
“Hey, Ken,” I tried to say gently; I don’t think it came out right. Ken looked up at me and screamed. I went to the closet and got James from the tank. I held James in my hand and said, “I want you to try and talk to him.”
“Okay,” James answered. As soon as I sat James down he ran up and started pounding away on Ken!
I let the kid get his shots in before pulling him off of Ken. I noticed how much smaller Ken was than James. Proportionally Ken looked like a twelve-year-old.
“Look,” I said to James. “You got every right to hate Ken for what he did. But I need you to try and talk to him so we can find out more about how he did this.”
“Alright,” James relented. He walked up slowly behind Ken. “Ken?” he said, with no response. James circled Ken and looked at him from the front. We sat there for an hour trying to get Ken to talk, but he never uttered a word.
Finally I put Ken back in his jar and brought the others in and sat them on the desk, which immediately started a brawl between the five freshmen and my three friends. I separated them and told both sides to behave.
“This is how it is,” I said. “You’re all shrunk, and for now at least it’s permanent.”
“It’s all your fault,” shouted Jordan, Kobe’s former pet.
“Man, you better watch it,” said David. “You punks are still smaller than us and if you don’t watch it you’ll be headed for a beat-down.”
“You watch it,” said Marshal. “Or I might tell your friends about how last night when we were watching TV you cried during Touched by an Angel.” I banged my fist down hard in the center of the desk, which caused all of them to fall down from the shaking.
“Let’s try and be a little more mature about this,” I said. “The fact of the matter is it was Ken who shrunk all of you, and it is him you should all blame. Although, I think the freshmen have the right to be a little ticked off at the way they were treated.”
“I wasn’t treated bad.” It shocked me to realize it had been James who’d made the statement. “Rob’s a good guy,” he said to his friends. “He really wants to help us, so we should listen to him.” I was almost touched.
“So,” said Marcus, “what are we suppose to do now?”
“It depends,” I said. “If we let the secret out about all of you then chances are you’ll end up in some zoo, or being dissected like those frogs in biology.”
“I will go on record as being against that.”
“Even if I just gave you to your parents, with eight of you chances are one of your parents would still let the cat out of the bag,” I said. “But I have an idea.”
“What kind of idea?” asked Jordan.
“Ken’s catatonic right now, so we aren’t going to get anything out of him,” I said. “What I’m suggesting is that you all stay here with me for a little while. Just until we can get more out of Ken, or find the voodoo guy who told him how to do it. Give me one month to try and fix all this and if I can’t, I’ll give you guys to your parents.”
Both sides huddled up to discuss what I had just said. When the huddles broke David and James came forward to give me their decisions.
“We decided okay,” said David. “As far as we’re concerned we’ll stay with you forever.” That didn’t surprise me at all; we were all still at fault for agreeing to keep the freshmen like we had, and they didn’t want to face the consequences.
“We decided that we’ll give you a chance,” said James. “But we want a say in how we get treated.”
So that was it. For the time being anyway I was keeping all nine of the shrunken teenagers until I could find a cure. I bought another tank for the seniors to stay in together, and a smaller one to keep Ken by himself. The freshmen roomed together in the first tank.
I’m still racked with guilt every time I hear something about them on the news or at school. There’s this rumor going around that this serial killer who targets teenage boys killed them all. Frankly it’s a more realistic theory than the truth.
I’d like to say sorry to anyone reading this who expected a happy ending. But I promise this isn’t the end. I meant when I said I’d find a way to change them all back. But just between you and me, having my own group of shrunken teenagers around is pretty cool.