Out of their Element

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littlest-lily
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Out of their Element

Post by littlest-lily » Sat Nov 19, 2022 6:27 pm

Hello! I’m back with another writing project. I've been having so much fun with this~ I did want to mention if you've read my stuff before and are a fellow micro fan - sorry, no micro in this one! I'm in the middle of a particularly busy stage of life and just wanted to relax and write a lot of fluff. But still a lot of focus on characters and slow-burn emotional stuff as usual.

I hope you enjoy!



Part 1: Trial By Fire

Chapter 1
Evie

I feel like I’m sitting at the bottom of the ocean. My head is swimming. There’s a buzzing in my ears and a warmth filling up my body. My eyelids are heavy. Everything is so heavy. I just want to sleep… Maybe if I just…

No. No no no. Something’s wrong. I can’t let myself fall asleep. Come on. I have to force my eyelids open. Come on

With monumental effort I manage to lift up my chin by just an inch or two. All I can muster is the barest of squints. I see light and shadows dancing in my vision until something solid comes into view. There’s someone in front of me… I make out a face. It’s familiar.

There had been a white room, a waiting room I think. A doctor’s office? And he was there. He was standing just behind the counter.

“Hi there! Are you Evie?” He had such a friendly smile. I remember it setting me at ease.

“Yes, that’s me.”

“Cool, I’m Aiden. It's nice to meet you.”

I couldn’t keep my eyes off of him. A shock of dark hair, broad shoulders and strong posture, and yet fine, almost delicate facial features. I wasn’t even sure what his eye color was - light brown? Green? I finally decided on hazel.

His attractiveness started to set off all sorts of alarm bells in my mind. But he seemed so nice too, so warm and relaxed, and he looked about my age. That helped me calm back down.

“Hold on a sec,” he’d said, “Are you in Professor Hickory’s class? Biochem?”

“Oh. Yeah! I thought you looked familiar. You doing this for lab credit then?”

“Yup. The extra cash doesn’t hurt either.”

“I hear ya. So are you participating in the experiment, or..?”

“Kind of - I’m here as a technician. Well, first I’m here to get you checked in. Could you fill this out?”

How long has it been since I was in that white room? It feels like so long ago. But I don’t think it was. I remember completing some forms, chatting with the handsome boy behind the counter. What happened after that?

There's an aching in my shoulders, I'm being held upright by straps that are digging into my skin. I have to keep my eyelids open. I try looking at something else, shift my gaze to the left. There’s a desk not too far from where I am. I focus on a red mug on its surface. I see flashes of broken red ceramic on a kitchen floor, hear the grating sounds of a woman yelling. I quickly push that memory away. It’s not helpful right now.

Wait… There’s someone else there, next to the desk. He’s standing further away, he’s harder to make out in my dizzied state. But then he glances up at me, his dark eyes meeting mine. Suddenly it's like a bucket of ice fills my stomach. I feel inexplicable terror grip my throat at the odd, calm expression on his face.

I'm not sure why, though. He had been friendly too. Not quite as warm as Aiden, and a little distracted. Older, maybe in his late thirties or early forties. What was his name again? I think he’d introduced himself as I stepped into the lab, but I can’t fully remember…

“Evie, I take it?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Step right through here, please. Aiden will help you set up.”

When was this? I think this just happened recently. It was after the white waiting room... Yes, I think it was only minutes ago. I was led into a small chamber of sorts that was bolted to the floor in a corner of the room. Three metal walls like a narrow closet around me, a bench for me to sit on. Aiden helped buckle me into supportive straps attached to the wall as I tried not to blush from his close proximity. Then he closed the door on me, the fourth wall of the chamber, made entirely of glass. There was an odd, medicinal odor in the air. I can still smell it now…

My head slumps forward, too heavy to hold up. I try again, my neck straining at the effort of raising my chin. I can’t lift it high enough to see Aiden’s face anymore. I stare at his torso, at the white lab coat that’s covering it. I catch a glimpse of black fabric peeking through from underneath, where he’d missed doing up one of the buttons. Back in the waiting room the coat hadn’t been buttoned up at all…

“I like your shirt,” I had said as I gave him back his clipboard.

“Oh hey, thanks! Do you play?”

“I used to. I’m more into board games, but I like card games too.”

This scene in my head is interrupted as the fabric in front of me shifts. I’m seeing Aiden’s face again, he’s crouching down in front of the glass so that he can meet my wobbly gaze. I’m suddenly realizing his mouth is moving and I’m hearing his voice, and it’s not in my head this time from the fragments of memory, it’s here in the present, coming out of some kind of speaker in here as the glass is sealing him off from me.

“Evie? Can you hear me?” There’s a gentle look on his face, a wrinkle of concern in his brow.

I try to move my mouth. I have to let him know something’s wrong. But my body can only do so much at once. I manage to whisper something incomprehensible, but as a result I can’t keep my head up and slump forward again. I catch movement in my periphery as the figure in front of me stands back up.

“Sir, she’s still not responding.”

“That’s alright. She may be a little dizzy for the next few minutes, perfectly normal. That’s why we have her on those supports.”

No, these aren’t supports. They’re restraints. I try again and I find more success now, pushing my head up and letting out a quiet, desperate groan. I still can’t form words, though, and everything goes blurry for a second from the effort.

“But… are you sure we shouldn’t–”

The older man’s voice is a little sharper this time. “She’s fine. I have all her vitals pulled up here, everything’s in order. Pay attention to your own screen, Aiden, it should be almost ready.”

The fuzzy figure before me pauses for an extra beat before it shifts to the side, to my dismay. Every muscle in my neck and shoulders is trembling at this point, and I manage to lean back this time instead of forwards, my upper back resting against the metal wall of the chamber. I stare out through the glass, taking in the rest of the room, the mundane furniture littered with foreign machinery.

I can’t see him in front of me but I do hear Aiden’s voice. “We’re fully calibrated. Ready when you are.”

“Good. Solution's nearly loaded. Remember to monitor that gauge until the sensor lights up. Then just keep an eye on her for me... Alright, let's begin.”

Panic rises in me - I have no idea what they're talking about, but somehow I know intrinsically, without a doubt, that something terrible is about to happen. My focus is on my arms and legs now as I try to push against the bindings, but it’s like my muscles are made of molasses. I might as well be trying to lift an eighteen wheeler.

I'm more and more alert as whatever drug was impairing my brain function has been slowly dissipating. Despite barely being able to move, I am all too aware of what happens next.

The odor in the room turns nauseatingly sweet and the air feels thick and warm. I'm hit with a wave of vertigo and I see it happening around me… I'm falling. I'm sitting firmly on the metal bench and yet I'm slowly falling anyway, the ceiling pulling up and my back sliding against the metal wall. My eyes widen in awe as the scene just beyond the glass wall begins transforming. It's as if the glass has become a movie screen and I watch everything shift on it… slowly growing. Impossibly, my entire environment is increasing in size.

Surely I'm seeing things, a hallucination from whatever crazy drugs they've put me on. I can't make sense of it. But even as I stare and try to tell myself that this isn't real, the most convincing piece of evidence comes into view - Aiden's stepping back in front of the glass. Only now he's twice as tall as I am and getting bigger by the second. Something about seeing him makes me realize that it’s not my surroundings that are growing. I’m getting smaller.

His eyes are wide too, his look of awe mirroring mine. But while I'm looking at him with terror, he's looking at me with a growing exhilaration.

“Whoa," he says, leaning in. He's smiling widely. "Look at her go!”

No, no, this isn't anything to smile about. I stare at him desperately, screaming at him with my eyes. Distractingly, I hear the more distant voice - I can’t see him now but the other man at his desk laughs lightly.

"Fascinating, isn't it? Enjoy the show."

This is a nightmare. How can I make them understand I'm not okay? I make another attempt to yank against my constraints and I'm surprised this time that my arms slip right out. I quickly realize this wasn't because I've suddenly regained my strength, but it was bound to happen at any moment as I'm shrinking right out of the bindings. I slump forward and manage to catch myself, my hands hitting against the metal bench hard. It's taking everything in me to hold myself up.

I notice my legs are starting to straighten out with the bench continuing to grow beneath me. My breathing is coming out shorter as panic builds. I look at Aiden again, who's easily towering over me now, his frame dominating my own as I can't be much bigger than his forearm at this point. Tears well up in my eyes from the fear and I push my vocal chords to grate out whatever I can.

"Stop," I whimper, pathetically.

There's no way that he heard that, even if the communication system is two-way - I could barely hear myself. But he can certainly tell from my expression that I'm not sharing in his enthusiasm. Aiden crouches down, leaning one knee on the floor, so that his head can still be level with mine. Except he still isn't low enough - despite him kneeling on the ground I'm forced to look up at him. And he's still growing, growing…

“Aww poor thing, she looks so freaked out," he says, like he's observing a squirrel in a cage. He puts a hand up, gently tapping the glass with his fingertips as he addresses me, "Hey, it’s okay. Everything's looking good, Evie, just hang in there. Should be done in just a minute."

His reassurances are nothing short of infuriating. Why are they doing this? It wasn't supposed to go this way. I can remember it now, this was just supposed to be some stupid extra credit for school. Something about testing oxygen levels in the air in response to different methods of respiration. It specifically stated in the brief that none of this should result in me passing out, that I would be attached to supports merely as an extra precaution. This should have been quick and simple as I hold my breath or purposely hyperventilate for the experiment. That’s all this was supposed to be.

Instead, I’m now surely no taller than the gargantuan hand that’s leaning up against the glass door. I glance down, catching sight of the floor of the chamber despite the edge of the bench stretching further away, and I’m dizzy at the realization of how high up I am. Reflexively I try to scoot backwards, away from the sheer drop of the cliff. I manage to shift a hair. Very slowly some of the strength in my muscles is returning. It does me no good, though.

Bringing my sights back to the giant beyond the glass, I can feel my heart trying to break out of my ribcage. He’s still growing. How small are they planning to make me? Is this going to go on indefinitely? Am I about to–

“Aaaand…” Aiden’s voice makes me jump, the speaker booming from somewhere above me. “There. All done.”

I yelp at the sudden sound of whooshing coming from every direction and my hair whips into my face. I squeeze my eyes shut, trying not to fall over from the sudden wind storm, leaning forward to brace myself on my hands.

And then everything goes very, very still. I don’t sense any more strange smells, in fact the air seems bizarrely sterile now. As is quickly becoming routine, I forcefully tense the muscles in my neck so that I can look upwards. Please, let this be some insane form of virtual reality. A hallucination. A dream. Something. There’s no way the world could have actually gotten this big. There’s no way I’m only a couple of inches tall to the man that's smiling from beyond the glass. It's not possible.

The speaker crackles to life with the far-off voice of the other, older person. “Vitals are normal, solution levels are stable. I’m unlocking the hatch.” A large, metallic thunk breaks the air. Every new sound makes me almost leap out of my skin, although in reality I’m doing little more than twitching.

“I think the halothane’s wearing off,” says Aiden, his too-large hazel eyes looking straight at my face. I stare at his mouth as he talks. Each subtle movement of his is unreal.

“That’s fine. The neuroblockers should also fully wear off in the next ten to fifteen minutes. It’ll be easier to get the measurements done within that time, go ahead and put her on the scale now while I finish the records.”

Every bit of me is trembling. The whole shrinking process took several minutes but at the same time, it all happened so quickly and my change in perspective is completely overwhelming. There’s no time to compose myself, though. My chest tightens as I watch the nearby giant rise up ever higher, impossibly so, reaching his full standing height within a second. He reaches outside of my line of sight for something, but I don’t even process what that is as I fixate on his hand that then extends in my direction.

“I’m coming in, Evie,” he says gently. As if a soothing tone is enough to compensate for the intensity of his presence.

He opens the door.

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Re: Out of their Element

Post by littlest-lily » Mon Nov 21, 2022 5:12 pm

Chapter 2
Evie

The click of the doorknob echoes menacingly. Each sound is magnified to an astounding degree, bouncing off the metal walls of the now tower-like chamber. I make a terrified, weak whining noise as the glass door swings open, and I’m trying again to scooch backwards, bending my legs up but making very little progress. Aiden is a veritable monster now, all thoughts of his handsomeness completely vanished as I take in the hulking form of this colossus approaching me like some gargantuan predator.

He crouches before me again, the movement causing me to feel like everything’s closing in, and although it’s helpful to not have to take in the entire looming form of his body, having his face come so close to my perch is entirely unnerving. His head alone looks as big as a house.

My breath is coming in shallow as every instinct is hating how exposed I am and wanting me to flee. I’m having to remind myself that I’m staring at another person, not some unthinking beast. I need to communicate with him.

Aiden doesn’t look like he’s used to whatever experiment he’s helped run, completely fascinated by the sight of a shrunken girl. He just watches me for a moment, holding himself still as he observes my miniaturized body, his eyes darting over the length of my tiny frame. I try to form words, to call out to him, but even if there weren’t drugs impairing me I think I’d be frozen right now as I observe him in turn. Finally, Aiden seems to catch himself, his expression changing with a blink.

“Sorry, I don’t mean to stare,” he says quietly, though the vibrations of his speech are practically palpable. There’s something weirdly intimate about the rumbling of his voice being so close as I’m now hearing him actually talk, without the use of a speaker. “This is nuts... Although I’m sure it’s even more intense for you, especially since you can’t really move right now.”

A small whimper sounds at the back of my throat and I feel a tickle on my cheek as the tears that had been welling up finally overflow. Aiden’s brow furrows and he bites the edge of his lip. He thankfully is attempting to stay quiet as he continues to try and reassure me.

“Yeah, this is probably really scary, huh? Even if you know it’s coming… I’ll be careful, okay? We’ll take things nice and slow and then we’ll have you back to your normal self before you know it. Just think about all the lab credit you’re getting out of this.”

I’m momentarily distracted. He… he thinks I knew this was going to happen? I'm starting to put some things together. He might have known what this experiment was all about, but meanwhile I had no idea. Is this some horrible misunderstanding? Or have I been deceived? The older man’s voice rings out just then, catching my attention as if the universe is trying to answer my question.

“Aiden? Today, please.”

The closer giant’s expression shifts again as he frowns with annoyance. With a slow breath he regains himself, brow smoothing out as he turns his head to the side to respond, “I'm just… giving her a second.” When he turns back towards me, it’s with a smile and a lighter tone. “Giving myself a second too. This is incredible.”

The other person doesn’t respond. What was his name again? Some things are still fuzzy, but I know it’s with this older man that I was originally in contact with. Is he also just following orders, under the impression that this is an experiment I’ve consented to? Or could it be that he…?

There’s a strange sound, like an elastic stretching, coming from near Aiden, and as I focus on him I put together what he had reached for before entering the chamber - he’s putting on gloves. I realize immediately what this must mean. He’s about to touch me. I almost fall over as I shove against the metal floor, trying to push myself more upright. Even if I appear to be facing a gentle giant, the sheer scale of him is dangerous in and of itself. But I’m reminded yet again by the sluggishness of my body that there’s nothing I can do to stop any of this.

A massive blue hand comes into view, making me flinch as it rises up over the edge of the cliff. It’s over twice as long as I am, a monster in its own right. Aiden lays his hand flat in front of me, leaning it onto the surface of the bench. I stare at the latex covering his palm, trembling at the sudden proximity of this moving mountain of a man.

“I’ll be carrying you over to the scale. Are you able to climb on?”

I’m not sure how he thinks I might be able to get onto his hand if I can barely hold myself upright. Instinctively, I want to get away, but this time when I push back with my arms I really do fall over. For a second I make it to my hands and knees, legs twisted out awkwardly on either side, but then my elbow buckles and I slip forwards, my face crashing right into the side of Aiden’s hand. There’s a pain in my neck as it bends uncomfortably from the way I’ve landed.

The giant winces sympathetically and I watch in horror as his other hand appears, coming in from above. It hovers for a moment, unsure, until his thumb and forefinger open like a mammoth claw machine. “I’m just going to help you on, okay?”

The blue fingers move down to encircle my frame, and my entire body tenses up as they pinch around my torso. I'm half expecting the vice of his fingertips to crush me, bracing myself for the snap of a rib. But to his credit he's staying true to his word and being very careful. I'm dragged forward onto his palm, as big as a rubbery queen-sized mattress, until he sets me down again onto my side. As I struggle to move I only manage to wriggle feebly. Like a worm.

I’m pressed into the floor by the g-force as Aiden then lifts me up. I can’t see over the edge of his hand from my sprawled position, but I can only imagine the height as the blue platform brings me into the sky. I shut my eyes, trying to block out the dizzying visuals zooming by. Though there’s so much I can’t ignore… The echoing sounds of machines whirring and footsteps booming. The smell of the latex pressed against my face. The feeling of my heart racing. The nauseating movements as I’m propelled through the air, swaying with the giant’s gait, followed by the vertigo reminiscent of being on a descending airplane that’s coming in for a landing.

“You still with me, Evie?”

I think Aiden’s trying to be gentle with his voice, but he startles me nonetheless. My eyes fly open again and I can see that the surrounding scenery is no longer whooshing by. I manage to lift my head a tad, just enough to take in the structure that I’m about to be set on. A wide stage, a counter of some kind. There’s a variety of oversized instruments - I clock a beaker, a microscope, tongs, and… the afore-mentioned digital scale. This is where the hand platform comes to a halt.

I try once again to see how much mobility I can muster and manage to get up onto one elbow. Progress. Before I can try anything else, Aiden gives me the head’s up of, “Setting you down now… Easy does it…” just as his gloved hand begins tilting. I slowly slide along the surface of his palm, stretching out one foot to try and stand it against the slick black floor below me. My leg can’t quite hold my weight and I crumble to the ground in a clumsy dismount, back onto my hands and knees.

I try to push air out of my lungs in an attempt to produce sound, frustrated by the fact that my limbs are recovering faster than my mouth. The faint squeak that comes out is just enough to catch the giant’s attention - he was about to straighten back up but instead he leans down a little more, his eyes alight with interest.

I try to speak again and it comes out in a hiss. “Stop… this…”

Aiden is noticing again how panicked I’m looking, and he frowns as he strains to hear me, leaning in even closer. “Sorry, what was that?”

I fight against how scared I am of his gigantic face moving too close for comfort. “Didn’t… agree…” My voice finally comes out stronger this time but it’s at the expense of my throat going numb and I’m suddenly caught in a coughing fit.

The giant’s frown deepens and he’s opening his mouth to respond when the sound of approaching footsteps interrupts.

“Have you taken her weight?” The older scientist passes by behind Aiden, a massive blur of color and movement. He stops at another counter, his question hanging in the air.

I could scream in frustration as the giant face in front of me quickly moves away again. “Working on it right now,” he responds, looking a little nervous about how stern his superior has started acting with him. He looks back in my direction, but it’s not for an attempt to talk - instead he’s focusing on the buttons at the bottom of the scale I’m sitting on. “Make sure to hold still for me, Evie? Umm… wow. Less than 6 grams. Can that be right?"

"Sounds appropriate," the other man responds absently.

I can't process that number right now. It's too insane. Aiden sure seems to get a kick out of it, though, as he shoots me a little grin. "No wonder you felt like nothing in my hand."

I jump at a sudden loud sound, almost losing my balance. Looking around wildly, I realize it was the snapping of a glove as the other giant is donning his own pair. I feel goosebumps on the back of my neck. I’ve had a bad feeling about this mystery man from the moment I came to, and now it seems like it’ll be his turn to interact with me. Sure enough, his figure looms larger as he begins to approach.

Aiden has turned his attention to a nearby tablet now to record his notes, and I finally get a good look at the older man. His hair is darker, shorter. His eyes are dark too. Humorless. Hungry.

That's when I remember his name. We'd exchanged several emails and the signature that was always at the bottom flashes in my mind's eye. Dr. Charles Little. The irony is almost laughable. Almost.

I hardly have any time to take in this new titan as he's already reaching for me, acting much less hesitant than Aiden did. I shy away, a yell getting caught in my burning throat. These new monstrous blue fingers crash right into me and knock me over - I feel my back hit the floor and I'm suddenly pinned under the heavy weight of his hand.

More terrified tears are forming as I struggle to take in a breath. I'm now entirely convinced that I'm not going to survive this nightmare. Dr. Little's being so much less careful than the previous giant. He's not even looking at me right now as he picks something up from a nearby shelf… a caliper. Which at this point just looks like a massive torture instrument.

The measuring tool hurtles towards me, and the scientist shifts his fingers, keeping his index pressing down on my upper chest while using his thumb to straighten out my legs. With his other hand he adjusts the jaws on the caliper, lowering it into position around me. I struggle desperately in my panic, though I can hardly budge.

Please…” This time I manage to actually shout as I feel hard metal against the top of my head. “I didn’t… consent…” The pressure increases against my chest and now I can’t get anything more than a garbled cry out.

Aiden’s still standing nearby, and his eyes flick up from the tablet he’s holding. There’s momentary silence before he decides to say, “Did you catch that, sir?"

"Yes,” Dr. Little responds with an irritated but almost bored tone, “Interesting. She shouldn't be able to speak at all quite yet. Take note of that, I'll need to revisit the neuroblocker concentration.”

"Shouldn’t we be trying to listen to–”

"Take note of the height too. Almost exactly three inches, I'm seeing 7.617 centimeters. At least the accuracy was quite good this time... Still need to make sure everything’s in proportion - can you go get the micrometer, Aiden? I think we left it by the heat lamps."

The younger giant seems to hesitate but ultimately obeys, vanishing from my view. As soon as he’s gone, Dr. Little begins leaning in, doubling over so he can bring his face closer and closer to me. My stomach jumps up to my throat at the sight of his head lowering enough that I can feel the breeze of his breath as he whispers.

"Keep your mouth shut. Alright? Be a good girl and maybe I'll take it easy on you tonight.”

And just like that, it’s like my world has flipped upside down once again. I stop breathing and my blood runs cold. At this point it’s beyond clear that this isn’t some kind of misunderstanding. I stare wide-eyed at the titan who might actually be a nightmarish monster. Our eyes meet and he’s completely immune to the pleading desperation in my gaze. A whisper of a smile crosses his face and he slides his latex-covered finger down the length of my body salaciously.

Then he straightens back up to standing, getting back to business. I can tell my arm and leg muscles are regaining strength by how violently they're shaking with fear. I squirm as Dr. Little readjusts his grip on me, enveloping me into his grasp… and lifting me into the air.

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Re: Out of their Element

Post by littlest-lily » Wed Nov 23, 2022 4:25 pm

Chapter 3
Aiden

I’m not usually one to panic about things. In fact I tend to pride myself on being able to stay calm in stressful situations. But the way this day is going, that’s starting to be put to the test.

I’ve worked with Dr. Little before, just once, a few days ago. He gave me the rundown of the machinery I’d be operating and let me assist in a couple of trial runs. It was amazing, getting to see the shrinking technology in person. At this point I’ve watched a chair, an apple, and even a rat become miniaturized, and quickly I was realizing that this wouldn’t just be me getting simple credits for a college class. I was getting to witness history in the making.

I’d found it pretty insane that I would not only get to be his assistant for some of the human trials, this one apparently being the fourth, but that it would literally just be me and him running the show today. Could something this monumental really be happening on my own university campus? Well, technically across the street from campus, but still. I’m just a grad student. A Geology major at that, I’m not even a physicist or biologist or engineer. I’m not sure how I qualified for this. But I was just excited to be a part of it.

And then… and then everything got weird.

Dr. Little hadn’t come across as a particularly easy-going person on the first day, but he was nice enough and seemed to enjoy my excitement as he showed me how everything worked. But ever since Evie stepped into this room he’s been a little more tense. More concentrated. That makes sense to a certain extent - this is a huge deal. Pun very much intended. But the more time is passing the more my superior is starting to come off as… sketchy.

Up until now, I’ve been distracted from it. Watching a person shrinking down in front of me was nothing short of mind-blowing. I tend to keep it to myself, but I’ve always been fascinated by this kind of thing, and now I got to watch this young woman - this cute classmate of mine, no less - dwindling down like an ice cube melting in a time-lapse.

The only thing dampening my enthusiasm was how scared Evie looked when I approached her. Her long chestnut hair was completely disheveled, her tiny limbs trembling, her shining brown doe-like eyes giving me an almost pleading look as tears ran down her face. Like I was telling her, it would make sense that she’d be so freaked out, no matter how much preparation she went through. I’m sure it really didn’t help that she was still affected by all the anesthetics that were necessary for the shrinking process.

But… I’m starting to realize that there may be more to her fear. Her little voice was hard to make out, but I know what I heard. The suspicions swirling inside of me are becoming impossible to ignore. I scan the counter to my left, finding the micrometer that Dr. Little requested, and as I cross the lab again to hand it to him, I muster the determination to pose the rather horrifying question.

“I have to ask,” I begin hesitantly, gesturing towards the frightened shrunken girl that my boss is currently holding aloft. “Was she not… informed of what was going to happen?”

Dr. Little, who’s been clearing off the counter with his free hand, pauses, giving me a hard look. “Of course she was. What gave you that idea?”

I shift uncomfortably but push forward. “Did you not hear what she said earlier?”

“I think you're the one who might have misheard.” He’s not looking at me anymore, setting things up for the next phase of testing. “Her voice doesn't exactly carry very well. I can assure you she’s well aware of what the experiment entails.”

Evie lets out a tiny whimper. Her voice is weak but she manages to push out a scream as she throws her head back, and to me what she says is as clear as day.

He's lying–!

She’s cut off as Dr. Little shifts his thumb just then, pushing it up against her face and covering her mouth. She looks so small in his fingers, so fragile, and I wince at how casually he just did that. My temper flares.

“Hey,” I snap, dropping any pretense of being deferential, “Come on, don't you think you're being a little rough?”

Noticing my shift in tone, Dr. Little turns towards me with a haughty air. My heart rate speeds up as my eyes are still fixed on my classmate that he’s handling so carelessly. From the way he jerks her around I worry her neck might snap from the whiplash alone.

“I’m starting to think I made a mistake with you,” he snarls. “You know, the only reason I’m even needing an assistant is because I can’t operate the machinery on my own. I’m not paying you to share your opinions on how I conduct my work. She’s fine.

“I… Sir, listen, clearly there’s been a mistake here,” I growl back, feigning diplomacy to try to give him an out, “Some kind of miscommunication. I’m sure it was an accident, but we shouldn’t keep going until it’s cleared up.”

“I can assure you, there’s no mistake. The girl’s still recovering from the drugs and isn’t thinking straight. That’s all.” His eyes narrow and there’s a heaviness to his tone, almost like he’s trying to give me an out this time. “And here I thought we were kindred spirits. I thought you might have appreciated this… particular study.”

He’s gotten agitated. I want to reach for Evie, to try and take her away from this man who’s one step away from actually injuring her, but any struggle that might follow could result in disaster. Even now his grip on her looks too tight. I pause, feeling tense and helpless, and put my open hands up in an attempt to pacify him.

“Okay… okay, just… Take it easy," I say, as calmly as I can.

Dr. Little gives me one last, long glare before returning his attention to his work space. I can tell he's keeping an eye on me, though. My mind’s racing. How do I stop this?

And… did he just say kindred spirits? I suddenly feel exposed, wondering if he’s somehow gotten access to my internet search history. I’m starting to think that maybe there really was a reason I was selected to be his assistant. I've always been interested in things like fairies and shrink rays as far back as I can remember, and I'd fantasized about having my own tiny friend more times than I can count. As I got older, my interests matured right along with me. But regardless of what my personal… tastes may be, this is different. This is real life. This is a real girl who’s in real trouble right now. If he truly thought I’d be okay with him shrinking someone and running tests on them without consent, then he has me read completely wrong.

I try to mentally run through my options. My phone’s in a different room, with most of the rest of my stuff in a locker. There's a landline here for emergencies, but it's on the other side of the counter and very visible. Is there some kind of panic button or something in this room that can call security? Probably not. What about the tablet I’ve been working on, can I use it to contact someone? Might be worth a shot. But even if I call for help, if this guy literally has a hostage in the palm of his hand, how the hell can anyone do anything without risking her getting hurt?

And then suddenly he makes a mistake. He needs both hands to adjust the micrometer and puts Evie down on the counter for a second, dumping her unceremoniously into a heap. I can see her little body shaking as she valiantly tries to get up again, and it gives me the courage I need to surge forward, to take action, to throw my hands around the threat–

“What are you doing?” Dr. Little yells angrily as I grab him around the chest from behind, pinning his arms against his torso. I wrench him sideways, just trying to pull him away from the counter, away from Evie, and I’m attempting to twist myself around and put my body between him and her.

I don’t answer him, not having had time to really come up with a plan, and just try to hold my own as my boss is fighting back now. I'm only slightly taller than he is and it doesn't really offer an advantage, nor do I actually know how to fight. But the struggle doesn't last more than a few seconds… and then a lot more happens in a very short period of time.

He wrenches an arm free and grabs at me - there’s the sound of ripping fabric as buttons pop off my lab coat and he gets a good grip on my clothes, breaking my hold as he throws me off him. I stagger back, and he loses balance from his own shove, tripping and falling and his back rams into a counter. The counter that happens to be housing the power generator for the shrinking machine.

The power generator he had told me to stay far away from.

There’s a loud crash of metal and plastic, a flash of a spark, and just like that, without so much as a yell, Dr. Little’s body convulses, goes stiff, and crumples to the floor. I feel like I watch it in slow motion, my breath getting caught in my chest. The slow motion continues as the power generator, as big as a suitcase and knocked askew, teeters on the edge of the counter before crashing to the ground as well. Then, on the edge of the fallen scientist’s lab coat, a flame begins to bloom.

The sight of smoke snaps me to my senses and I dart for the nearest fire extinguisher. But while my instincts were correct, I’ve never used one of these before. It takes me a second to find the pin, giving the fire an opportunity to flare up and envelop the generator, and as I squeeze the handle, I realize too late that I’ve aimed for the flames and not for the source. The extinguisher empties and I’ve failed to take care of the problem.

I hesitate for a second longer, wondering if I should continue to fight the fire. But the flames are moving fast and have already jumped to two other pieces of machinery, causing them to spark and pop. The blaze is growing as smoke quickly fills the room.

I have to get out of here. And, I realize, I have to get Evie out of here too.

Hurrying over to the counter, I make eye contact with the tiny, terrified girl who’s just watched all of this unfold in massive proportions. She’s frozen in place, paralyzed by the cocktail of fear and anesthetics. Without saying anything I gather her into my hands, trying to be as careful as I can in my haste, and instinctively I hold her up to my chest, cupping her body against me with one hand so that I can keep the other one free. As I look back up towards the exit, Dr. Little’s briefcase somehow catches my attention, right next to us on the counter. I grab it. And bolt towards the door.

The blaze has spread so quickly in the room and I hear yells and alarm bells as I run through the building and smoke fills the air. People are rushing out, some of them panicking - a chemical lab is a terrible place for a fire to break out. I’m starting to cough before I reach the front door, breaching it and joining the group of people that has gathered just outside. I take a deep breath of clear air. My head is spinning as I remember my little passenger, and even as I try to put space between me and the burning building, I take a moment to look down, to tilt my hand back just a bit so that I can check on Evie.

Her miniscule fingers are clutching at the fabric of my half-torn lab coat, her eyes momentarily squinting against the sudden influx of light before they widen again. She looks like she’s wheezing and when she tries to say something she's instead overtaken by a fit of coughs.

“Are you–” I start to say before someone bumps into me, a large crowd continuing to form. My voice would have been drowned out anyway as the sound of sirens fills the street from an approaching fire truck.

I can’t think straight. I can’t process what just happened. There’s too much chaos. I make a desperate decision in my panic. I live just off campus, a few minutes’ walk from here, and mechanically my legs start taking me in that direction. In just a couple of blocks things are quieter, and soon I'm hurrying into my apartment building and running up half a flight of stairs. Thankfully my keys are in my pocket, unlike my wallet and phone which are probably already burnt to a crisp in the lab’s locker.

Letting out a shaky exhale, my throat still itching from the smoke, I shut the door to my place and lean against it for a second. I hear the siren of a police car zooming by outside, and I just stand there, breathing hard.

But the trials aren’t over. I pull my hand away from my chest and my stomach sinks at the sight of Evie’s body lying limp in my palm. She’s unconscious.

“No no no no no no,” I mutter, dropping Dr. Little’s briefcase to the floor and hurrying over to the closest surface, the kitchen counter. I gently set the shrunken girl down on it as I try to take in the state of her. She’s still breathing, her little chest rising and sinking, but clearly the smoke must have affected her more than it did me as her breath comes out hoarse. And her face is too tiny for me to be completely sure… but I swear her lips have started to turn blue.

I hover over her for a moment, tenderly pushing against her shoulder and repeating her name, trying to get her to wake up. I want to call for an ambulance, but I don’t have a phone. I curse myself then for having headed back to my apartment instead of staying with the emergency vehicles. Despite her size, surely they'd be better equipped to help her than I am. Do I go back? Is there time? Would carrying her around just make things worse?

I almost decide to run out into the hall and start yelling for help in the hopes of finding a phone when I suddenly remember something. I leave my classmate on the counter, darting into my bedroom and beelining for the closet. In the back corner I find what I’m looking for. My dad has a lung condition and he keeps a ventilator kit here for whenever he comes to visit. It’s bulky and rather annoying to hold onto, but it may be the stroke of dumb luck that I need.

Fully aware that the clock is ticking, I hurry back to the kitchen, untangling the tubes coming out of the machine. Unlike the fire extinguisher, I’ve used this thing before - never in an emergency situation like this, but I know how to get oxygen flowing. I place the device next to Evie and set the transparent cup of the face mask over her entire body. A few button presses later the machine whirrs to life and I crouch down next to the counter, observing the tiny girl with bated breath.

Her chest continues to rise and fall weakly. As oxygen is pumped onto her, slowly – agonizingly slowly – her breathing starts to smooth out again and her skin gradually regains a healthier color. She’s still out cold but, from what I can tell, she’s stabilizing. I slouch against the counter with relief.

Minutes pass. Once I’m convinced that she’s alright, I have to step away for a second. Give myself a moment to breathe. I stumble over to the sink, running a hand over my forehead. Feeling the rubbery surface of latex against my face, I frown as I remember I’m still wearing gloves. I rip them off and toss them down forcefully before I lean over the sink, arms taught and letting my head hang loose. Desperately trying not to vomit as the magnitude of everything settles onto me. I take a tremulous breath in and let it out with a tense whisper.

Fuck.

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Re: Out of their Element

Post by i am insane » Wed Nov 23, 2022 11:42 pm

I'll admit, I wasn't expecting him to catch on so fast, and for things to accelerate so dramatically. I was expecting the focus to be in the lab for awhile, really. Now they're stuck together, there's no way to fix her, and he's probably not that eager to report all this to the authorities, even if she is.
Power is choice.

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Re: Out of their Element

Post by littlest-lily » Thu Nov 24, 2022 8:42 am

They're certainly in quite the pickle! In earlier ideation I did have the thought of the lab stuff going on for longer, but it honestly wasn't really meshing with the greater story I had in mind, maybe something for a future tale. So I opted for things to go real south real fast instead, to kinda give them that "what the fuck just happened" disorientation.

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Re: Out of their Element

Post by littlest-lily » Sat Nov 26, 2022 4:18 pm

Chapter 4
Evie

I’m back at the bottom of the ocean. Head swimming. Maybe it’s better like this, in the dark and the calm… but despite myself I’m fighting to get my head above water. Fighting to get back to the surface.

I come to consciousness suddenly, violently. My eyes fly open and my body’s shaking, my teeth rattling together. I realize it’s because I’m freezing.

With a surge of adrenaline I bolt upright. The anesthetics have worn off, but I’m still so disoriented and I can’t remember what happened last. It had all been so horrifying. Not fully in control of myself, I’m scrambling backwards, my back quickly hitting a wall, and I frantically look around. I’m in some kind of transparent room with a domed ceiling, and it only takes me a second to know that everything beyond it, though I’ve never seen it before, is much bigger than it’s supposed to be.

The scream that has been desperate to get out of me is rushing to the surface, but even now it can’t quite escape as my throat sears with pain and I start coughing again instead. I startle as I see movement in the distance in response to the noise I’m making.

I hadn’t even noticed him there, he’d been standing so still, his back facing me. But as he turns around I take in the size of him and my body remembers all too well what it was like to be picked up by one of these titans, whipped around, pinned down, threatened—

The scream comes out in bouts, more like a shrill gasping noise that racks my body as I push back uselessly against the plastic wall, going into a panic.

“Whoa, whoa, it’s okay!” To my surprise, the giant’s not moving towards me but is retreating, stepping back while holding his hands up in as non-threatening a gesture as he can. I watch him, still taking in gasping breaths, though I manage to stop shouting. A part of my brain is trying to remind myself that Aiden hadn’t been the threat. Not intentionally at least. Aside from him being over a hundred feet tall, I could have woken up to far worse things.

We have a bit of an awkward stare off in the ensuing quiet. I’m still shivering profusely. He notices and finally takes a mindful breath in before speaking.

“You’re probably really cold. I’m going to take the mask off, alright? I’m not going to touch you.”

I don’t say anything and he responds by slowly stepping forward, causing me to tilt my head back as his towering form approaches. He reaches a hand out, and I absently note that it's no longer in its blue glove, making it look not quite so alien. Still just as monstrously large, though. His arm crosses a vast distance and his fingertips touch down on the top of the plastic dome with a soft but reverberating thump. I cower nervously under the vaguely spider-like shape of his hand above me.

“Please don’t fall off the counter,” he says softly, lifting the dome away.

This helps. Warmer air envelops me and my violent shaking begins to abate, helping me calm down. I can see better without the plastic walls. The sight is sobering, to say the least… The sheer cliff of a refrigerator to my left. The plateaus of a stovetop to my right. A chasm in front of me, with the appropriately titled kitchen island across the gap. The skyscraper of a person.

"Where… is this?" I ask in an effort to make contact with the nearby giant.

Aiden frowns and leans his head forward. "Sorry, I didn’t catch that."

I clear my sore throat and try to up the volume. "Where are we?"

"Oh. We're in my apartment. I wasn’t sure what to do, so… I brought you home. Um…" He looks tense and hesitant. "How much do you remember?"

I'm feeling pretty tense myself. Trying to have a conversation with someone a couple dozen times my height is really disorienting. As if I'm watching a movie in IMAX and the character on the screen suddenly starts addressing me.

"Uhh," I say, trying to focus on what he's asking me and thinking back. "The last thing I can think of is being outside and hearing some sort of siren? It was so loud…"

"Oh okay," Aiden says as he nods, "You didn't miss much then. I think you had taken in smoke and passed out so I tried to give you oxygen. Sorry, for whatever reason the air that comes out of that thing is really cold. How do you feel?"

I let out an incredulous huff. "How do I feel? I… Look at me! What did you do to me?"

I catch his subtle wince in response to this. I had meant a collective “you”, I wasn’t aiming to accuse Aiden directly. But he looks guilt-ridden nonetheless, staring at the floor for a second before his eyes meet mine again.

"Listen, I’m… I'm so sorry. I had no idea, I– I didn’t know…"

"You didn’t know?!"

"I thought that you were fully on board. I had no idea you were being tricked into this. It’s just… it’s all so messed up…"

I believe him, I don't have any reason not to. But an apology isn't very useful to me right now as I stand here at three inches tall. "Well now what?" I implore, "What do we do?"

Aiden's voice is soft. Dejected. "I don’t know, Evie."

Meanwhile I'm on the verge of screaming at him. "What do you mean? You were part of it, right? Is this going to wear off? How were you going to undo this?"

"He never showed me that part. He said he didn't need help with it… conveniently." Aiden leans against the kitchen island, bringing a hand up to his brow as he closes his eyes for a second. "Now I’m starting to see the red flags. I did think it was weird he wasn’t using the on-campus labs. Paying in cash instead of going through the school's credit system. Insisting I don’t discuss anything involving the experiment with you beforehand. There was so much secrecy in general… I just don’t know why he would…"

He trails off, the unspoken question filling the space between us. I think back to my brief but vivid memory of my time in Dr. Little's grasp. I remember the implication that he had plans for me tonight.

"I don’t think it was all just for the sake of science," I say, breaking the quiet. I shudder at the memory of the violating touch. "I… I don’t think he was planning on restoring me."

There's another moment of silence as we both process this realization.

"Oh my god…" My voice is breaking. "Am I stuck like this?"

Maybe it's because I'm on the verge of tears but Aiden's sounding a little desperate as he tries to reassure me, taking a small step towards me. "I’m sure there’s a way. We’re going to figure this out."

"How?? All that stuff burned down right? Dr. Little’s gone?" Suddenly I'm on my feet, still staring upwards at the giant and gesturing manically. "I’m screwed. Because of this stupid science experiment I’m royally fucked. How the hell are you planning to fix this?"

No answer comes. Aiden's demeanor shifts, his eyes unfocusing as they drift to the floor and he starts to shut down. I'm having trouble reading his expression and suddenly feel a spark of anxiety.

What am I doing? Why am I antagonizing the one guy who’s on my side right now?

I have a desperate realization. I'm completely helpless. This smaller size has an infinite amount of implications. Everything I need to survive is so inaccessible. The world is full of dangers - I’ve already experienced that firsthand. Hell, if it wasn't for this gigantic yet gracious man before me I would have been kidnapped or crushed or suffocated or burned to death.

I need him.

My heart is racing as I feel horrified with how I've just been yelling at him. Does that blank look on his face mean that he's getting tired of my shit? I need to put myself in check. Now.

"Aiden…" I call out to him with a tremulous voice. "I’m sorry. I know it’s not your fault.'

With a blink his eyes flick back up to focus on me, and he frowns with confusion. "What? No, you have every right to be upset right now."

He moves closer and slowly crouches down to be eye level with me. I shy away, taking a timid step back. My nerves feel raw, every little thing overwhelming me. But some of my growing fears are assuaged by his expression - he looks so concerned and sympathetic as he continues to speak softly.

"I can’t even imagine what you’re going through. I really am sorry, Evie." He pauses as he contemplates. "I guess… the next step is to take you to a hospital. Or to the police. I'll tell them what I know. We'll find a way to help."

The anxiety comes right back. "Wait," I say reflexively, "I don’t… know about that." Aiden all but cocks his head to the side, puzzled with my immediate reaction. I scramble to find an explanation, stumbling over my words. "Sorry, I just, I’m scared… Just like, the idea of this going public or anything… Maybe I… need a little… time."

He frowns and I fidget nervously at the way he's examining my face, but he doesn't press the matter. "Okay. Sure, that's fine." He goes quite still, looking rather anxious himself. "To be perfectly honest, the idea of contacting the cops kinda freaks me out. Dr. Little, he… he’s dead… because of me…"

I'd almost forgotten about that. It hadn't really seemed real, not to mention I've been so focused on my own problems. I feel a twinge of guilt. Aiden's been so supportive when in reality he's been having a rough day too. "It wasn’t your fault," I say, "It was an accident… And you were just trying to help me."

He lets out a sarcastic laugh. "Right. I’ve done such a great job at that…" Then he sighs and shakes his head. "All of that should be the least of your worries, though. How about we contact your family at least?"

"I um… I don’t really have any, to speak of." I'm starting to feel very self-conscious as I continue shutting down his suggestions.

He looks perplexed again but continues to not pry. "A friend then?"

And now I'm the one gazing towards the floor - or in my case, the counter. "This is my first semester… I just moved here a few weeks ago, I don’t really know anyone yet…"

Realization hits me like a lightning bolt.

"That's why." I stare at my feet a moment longer. Then I look up at Aiden, my eyes wide as I meet his gaze. "That’s why he picked me. He picked someone that… that no one would miss if they disappeared."

We stare at each other, neither one of us knowing what to say. Eventually the giant's figure goes blurry from my own tears and I wipe them away, covering my face, trying to suppress the sobs that are threatening to break out. It's all too much to handle. I'd finally been able to set out on my own for a better life, for a new beginning. But the universe had other plans for me... This change in perspective isn't exactly the fresh start that I had in mind.

“Would you be okay staying with me then?”

I need to stop startling so easily every time he talks. His suggestion takes me by surprise too. I lower my arms as I look back up at him and dare to hope.

“Just for a little bit,” he adds, looking rather embarrassed.

“I-Is that alright?” I ask breathlessly.

Aiden smiles. “I warn you, I have no idea what I’m doing. But you’re more than welcome to stay here while we figure this out.”

I nod, taking a deep breath in. I don't have a choice. “Yes. I’ll take you up on that… Thank you so much.”

“It’s the least I can do.” He starts standing back up again and I manage not to jump at the movement this time - I’m beginning to notice subtle cues from the way his oversized body moves. I have a long, long way to go to getting accustomed to my stature, but it seems I’m slowly making progress.

Aiden looks out towards the rest of his apartment, scanning the area while he contemplates. Meanwhile I continue to observe him, becoming more fascinated as the fear begins to recede. He looks like he should be made of stone and metal, not flesh and blood. It feels so humbling, staring up the length of him like this.

“First things first,” he says, turning back my way, “I don’t know if the kitchen counter’s the safest place for you to hang out. If you’re okay with it, let’s find a better base of operations… Can I, uh, offer you a ride?”

It’s just like before, his hand appearing from over the horizon to lay on the counter in front of me. Except I’m in control of my own body this time. I spend a moment taking in the sight of it and letting my nerves settle while Aiden waits patiently. To the point that I start feeling awkward about how long I stand there staring.

"Sorry," I say, "I just need a second."

"I understand, take your time. I can find a different way maybe… Like get a tray or something and carry you on that?"

"No, it's okay, I can do this," I say, conscious of the warmth in my cheeks as I'm embarrassed to be struggling with something so simple. If I'm going to be stuck like this for any length of time I will probably need to get used to being carried. I force myself to reach out and just touch the damn thing, settling my hands onto his skin.

I'm still feeling really cold from my time under the mask, and the giant's warmth is unexpectedly pleasant. I suddenly feel the urge to huddle against the side of his hand and use it as a space heater. There's also something about touching him like this that just really hammers in the fact that this building of a man is actually alive. So weird.

Having taken this first step I find it easier to follow the momentum, leaning forward to put one knee up on his palm and then the other. All of my limbs are a little shaky as I can't help but feel nervous about the upcoming ride with no harness or safety rails. I'm not particularly afraid of heights, but I think anyone would be afraid of this.

Aiden's been nothing but kind to me, but… God, please don't let him be clumsy.

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Re: Out of their Element

Post by Xinunar » Mon Nov 28, 2022 2:12 am

I am enjoying this. But... three inches isn't micro? That's pretty small.

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Re: Out of their Element

Post by littlest-lily » Mon Nov 28, 2022 12:32 pm

Xinunar wrote:
Mon Nov 28, 2022 2:12 am
I am enjoying this. But... three inches isn't micro? That's pretty small.
Thank you! Yeah I'm not sure what the exact "rules" are with the size terms haha, generally I think of micro as an inch and below. Evie's definitely still quite tiny in any case!

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Re: Out of their Element

Post by littlest-lily » Mon Nov 28, 2022 8:13 pm

Chapter 5
Aiden

This. Is. Crazy.

I hope Evie can’t tell just how freaked out I actually am. I've probably had more adrenaline pumped into me in the last hour than in the entire past year combined. I can't even begin to unpack Dr. Little's death and the part I played in it. Not to mention the predicament of my shrunken classmate who I'm holding in my hand like she's a goddamn hamster. But I know that all pales in comparison to what this poor girl just went through. She looks so lost and afraid and I feel a sense of responsibility to keep it together in her stead.

But then again. The experience of having her willingly climb onto my hand is… something else.

I'm not wearing gloves this time so I can feel the tiny tickle of her fingers as she hesitantly reaches her arms out and touches me. I can sense the weight and temperature of her body as she clambers aboard. I can tell she's trembling as she crawls away from the edges and kneels in the middle of my palm. Despite a part of me feeling incredibly stressed about the whole thing, another part of me is just as enchanted now as I was the first time I picked her up.

I gently lift her off the counter and it's like holding a little bird, she's so light and delicate and… and adorable. I feel a wave of guilt at having any kind of positive emotion from this when Evie still seems so freaked out. I slip my other hand under the first, cupping my fingers around her protectively.

"Is this okay?" I ask, trying to keep my hands as steady as I can. "You good?"

She's looking a bit pale and is clearly trying to not look down. But after a moment of pause she glances up at me, tilting her neck back. "I'm good… Don't drop me please." And she actually manages a weak smile.

Maybe that was some feeble attempt at joking around, but I think it might be best to respond with sincerity right now. "I won't. I've got you. So uh… I'll give you a tour? You've already seen the kitchen. Right past here's the living room..."

Holding Evie up near chest level, I begin slowly making my way around the apartment. The kitchen and living make up one big open area, with a couch and ottoman to one side, a desk near the window, a small bookshelf beside it. Coming off to the right side of the room is a nook containing a washer-dryer unit, with a door to my bedroom on one side and one to the bathroom on the other. My place isn't particularly huge, but for her I’m sure it’s a very different story.

I keep glancing down at the tiny girl in my hands, trying really hard not to stare excessively. Thankfully she’s too busy looking around wide-eyed at everything to seemingly notice. It's all feeling so surreal, like a very bizarre dream. I try to remember seeing her in class, back when she was just average human height.

She always sat by herself towards the back, though that didn't keep her from looking attentive. I'd thought before of sitting next to her, not sure if she was shy or just preferred being on her own. Every once in a while I'd notice someone else talk to her, and she always seemed really friendly despite keeping to herself. But I already had a friend in the class and never got around to approaching her. She'd rarely linger after the lesson either, just pick up her things and march out of the classroom with a confident stride.

It's so difficult to accept that this tiny person I'm holding is the same young woman I'd see in class… All the details just as I remember them but in miniature…

"You might wonder why I even have a desk in the other room since I clearly do all my homework in here," I say as lightheartedly as I can when we get to the bedroom that's littered with papers and textbooks. "Yeah, I don't know either."

That's how I end my very short tour of the place. Evie hasn't said a word during the entire thing and honestly things are feeling pretty awkward. Neither one of us knows how to handle the situation.

I'm having a hard time imagining what the coming days are going to look like. Even though she seemed so hesitant to get outside help - and I can understand why facing all of that might be intimidating - we're going to need to do it eventually if we want to try and restore her, right? Assuming I don’t have a police officer show up at my door first because it was on record that I was in the room that caught fire.

I don't know how long it'll be until we face the outside world. But I figure at the very least we should take the rest of the afternoon to try to settle our nerves and form some kind of plan.

“So... I'm trying to think through how we want to do this,” I say as I step back into the living room, “I don't want to just leave you stranded up somewhere, but I also don’t want to put you on the floor, that doesn’t seem safe. Or sanitary.” I should really give this place a good clean.

Evie says something quietly, too quiet for me to make out. Without thinking, I reflexively lift her up higher to hear her better, causing her to recoil and give me a fearful look. “Sorry,” I wince, pulling her back farther from my face again.

Good going, Aiden. Let’s just continue to traumatize her why don’t we.

“It’s hard to hear you sometimes,” I try to explain.

“N-no, it’s okay,” she says, projecting a little more. “Um, I was just agreeing… on maybe not the floor… But I mean, anywhere’s fine.”

“Okay, well… How about I set you on the ottoman for now? I’m just nervous putting you anywhere too high up.”

“Yeah. Sure.”

I make my way over to the nearby couch and begin to lower myself to the floor, which should be a simple maneuver and yet I feel a wave of anxiety as I do it… I’m so conscious of every little movement I’m making at this point. Once I’m kneeling down I shift both hands up to rest on the gray, rectangular ottoman in question. It’s not very big, maybe one by two feet, but again for Evie I’m sure it’s a very different experience. She crawls back off my hand, the tickling of it making my heart skip a beat, and I actually feel a little sad about how relieved she looks to be off of me and on more stable ground.

She gets to her feet and has to hold her arms out to maintain her balance on the plush fabric, making me second guess myself at the choice of furniture to put her on. Although her trying not to fall over like this is also really cute…

Stop. Staring. I tell myself, looking off to the side for a second. I really need to focus.

“C-can I get you anything?” I finally say, turning back to her. “Some water maybe?”

Evie has given up on trying to walk at this point and just sits on the ottoman cross-legged. “Actually, yeah. That would be great,” she says, remembering to speak up this time.

I head back to the kitchen, feeling admittedly nervous about leaving her by herself even if she’s still within my sights. Without even thinking I grab a glass from one of the cabinets and am about to fill it before it hits me that she can’t use it. Right. Smaller cup.

I start looking through the other cabinets and drawers for something I can use and instead I’m realizing just how many other things are no longer going to work either - forks, knives, plates… And it’s going to go beyond that. If she stays with me past today, where will she sleep? What will she wear? How will she bathe or brush her teeth or go to the bathroom? What about her belongings, wherever she was living before? What about her classes? Or the thousand other concerns I’m not even thinking about right now? My head is already spinning and I haven’t even been able to get her a simple glass of water.

I take a deep, steadying breath. My brain is scattered and keeps trying to take on too much at once. I need to focus on what's right in front of me. Like… this measuring spoon. Yeah, this could work, actually.

I fill the teaspoon with a few drops of water and start heading back when I notice something else right in front of me. I'd forgotten about Dr. Little's bag, laying on the floor by the front door. Hold on. What if there's an antidote or something in here?!

Suddenly a man on a mission, I grab the briefcase and come back into the living room where Evie's waiting patiently right where I left her. She notices the intent look on my face and seems a bit unnerved by it.

"Is everything okay?" she asks as I kneel on the floor and put the bag down.

I carefully set the measuring spoon onto the ottoman as I explain, "I just remembered, I grabbed this on the way out of the lab, it's some of Dr. Little's stuff…"

I zip open the briefcase, laying it out on the ground and taking in the array of stuff inside. Evie's interest is piqued and she forgets about the water, scooting over to the edge of the ottoman to watch.

Trying not to rush, I go through everything in turn. There’s an unsettling amount of syringes, filled with what’s clearly labeled to be a variety of sedatives. There’s a small contraption of some kind, a metal box that looks to be the right size for Evie to fit inside. A carrying case maybe? Though when I pick it up there’s a slight sloshing sound that seems to be coming from its walls - I’m not sure what to make of it and just set it on the ottoman near my little classmate. There are a few tiny outfits that look more like hospital gowns. There’s also a ziplock bag with a huge variety of miniature items, too small and too numerous for me to make sense of right away, and I put these on the ottoman too.

I don’t see anything that is an obvious cure for being shrunk. I really shouldn’t be surprised, especially with all the machinery it took to reduce things down in the first place, but it’s disappointing nonetheless. There is a journal, though, and I pick this up last. Evie’s watching me intently as I take a quick glance through.

“Looks like it’s some of his notes,” I tell her as I flip the pages, “I’ll see if I can find any clues in here…”

“Alright. I’ll look through some of this other stuff.” She’s already struggling to access the ziplock bag, and I’m about to reach over to help when she finally pries it open.

“Is that a toothbrush?” I ask, leaning in to squint at the first thing she pulls out.

“Looks like he was really prepared for… something,” she adds with a grim tone.

“Well, at least some of this might help us in the short run,” I say as I get up to sit on the couch, notebook in hand. “Let me know if you need anything, okay?”

And this is how we spend the next part of the afternoon. At first there’s lingering tension in the air, the both of us still recovering from all of the previous excitement. But as the minutes eventually become hours in the relative quiet, we’re finally beginning to relax somewhat.

These notes were definitely not anything official, and they’re really hard to decipher. Some pages he just used as scratch paper, littering them with equations and nonsensical thoughts. At some point the focus switches to the experiments he ran, just offhanded observations on the large variety of items that he shrank down. I'm thinking most of the items that Evie is going through are the results of said experiments.

I still can’t help occasionally glancing at the shrunken girl before me. I tell myself that I’m just watching over her, making sure she’s safe up on her perch. But I can’t deny the fluttering in my stomach whenever I look over. I just want to observe every detail… Her industrious mannerisms as she parses through the miniatures. The way she has to scoop water into her hands to take a drink from the measuring spoon. The expressions on her little face, overwhelmed but also quite focused on the task at hand. Everything about her is just so tiny and cute and… enticing.

Focus, I tell myself, every time.

At one point, I come across something in the journal that at least looks familiar - a sketch of a schematic with some notes on how it works. I realize it matches the little metal box that had been in the bag too.

“So...” I interrupt the silence as quietly as I can but still manage to make Evie flinch. “Apparently this thing’s supposed to be a miniature bathroom,” I say, pointing at the box that’s still on the ottoman.

She stands to approach the chamber curiously and I lean in as well. There’s a door in the front that she pulls open, cautiously taking a step to peer inside. I don’t quite see what she’s doing as she carefully explores the apparatus, but suddenly there’s a whooshing sound from within. It only lasts a second or two and it's not very loud, to me at least, but it makes her yell and suddenly pull her arm back, taking several fearful steps in reverse.

“You okay?” I ask.

“Y-yes. That’ll take some getting used to,” she answers, staring at her new bathroom. “Still…” she adds with a weak attempt at laughter, “Better than trying to use a normal toilet I guess.”

That’s true. One less item on our very, very long list of things to worry about. The fact that this device even exists is a little disconcerting, though. Hammering in the fact that Evie would not have been restored to her normal stature anytime soon.

I take a second to glance at what she’s been working on, sorting all of these tiny items into sections, lined up neatly in each group. I’m recognizing things from what I’ve been seeing in the notebook - plastic bottles, various fruit, a towel, a basketball, I even notice the chair that I had personally seen shrink down. They’re not all tailored to her size, a strange amalgamation of items at all different scales.

Evie notices where I’m looking and addresses me, “I do think there’s some stuff here that might come in handy, but most of it's so random. I’m guessing this was all of the earlier experiments? Not sure if this is any kind of clue, but it looks like most of it’s made of wood or cloth or plastic.”

“Right, so I do know a little bit on how the machine worked…” I say, at this point looking for any excuse to talk to her and escape the cramped handwriting of Dr. Little’s pen. “It used some sort of solution that he vaporized into a gas. That’s what would alter the size of the subject topically.”

“Topically?” She looks up at me with a furrowed brow. “I figured it was whatever I was breathing in there, but it worked by touch?”

“Yeah, that’s how your clothes got smaller too. It doesn’t affect metal or glass, though, which is what the testing chamber was made of.”

“That explains why I couldn’t wear jewelry or anything metal…”

“Yup,” I say with a nod. It somehow feels productive to tell her the little that I know about the technology behind this. But it’s not. I’m not really doing anything to solve the problem, since it’s not like I actually understand how any of this works.

We return to our tasks - I dog-ear the page about the mini bathroom so that I can refer back to how it works later, and then I go back to squinting at the messy handwriting. Time continues to drag and I’m not finding anything else that's particularly relevant in the notebook.

That is, until I reach the end of it. Then I find way more than I had bargained for.

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Re: Out of their Element

Post by littlest-lily » Wed Nov 30, 2022 3:03 pm

Chapter 6
Aiden

I stare at the next page in the journal, the title at the top immediately catching my attention: "Human Trials." Something about seeing that on paper gives me a horrible sinking sensation in my stomach.

There are a few separate entries, each of them quite lengthy. It looks like Dr. Little wasn’t lying about the fact that Evie was the fourth test subject. There are paragraphs of notes about the other three, detailing not so much measurements and data but qualitative information - how they behaved and reacted. I notice that all of them were women. As I continue to read… I really start to feel sick.

He would take them back to his home for “extended study.” But I’m not even sure he cared so much about actually studying much of anything; the types of experiments he documented didn’t seem to be about scientific research. Things like seeing how they’d react to extreme hot or cold, or being tied up for hours at a time. He doesn’t go into all of the details in his notes, but the further I delve the more it sounds like the experiments were actually more like… punishments. As if he was training them, somehow, like they were animals to domesticate. He’d go on about their beauty and… my brain starts to fill in the gaps. I don't think the fact that Evie's really pretty is a coincidence.

I try not to linger too long on any one sentence, just pushing through as I desperately hope to find some indication of him restoring these girls. But what I find instead is far more horrifying.

The first of them didn’t make it through a “stress test.”

The second ended up jumping off a table while his back was turned.

The third had never stopped shrinking.

My hands are trembling as I keep reading. All of the test trials had gone through some sort of issue where the machinery didn’t work quite right, resulting in each of the subjects not reaching the target size for the test, particularly so for the third. Dr. Little rants about this for a couple of paragraphs, venting his frustration in stilted lines on the page, about the complexities of the shrinking process for humans being too much to juggle on his own in the lab. At the bottom, in capital letters, underlined twice, he wrote “NEED ASSISTANT.”

I worry I might actually throw up. With shaky fingers I shut the book quietly and try to take a deep breath. After more than two hours of sitting here, the sun starting to set outside, I’ve reached the end of the notes with nothing to show for it. I'm shocked at the horrors that I was unknowingly going to be complicit to, and I’m completely losing hope.

It's at this point that I look back towards the ottoman, expecting to see my classmate meticulously working as usual. But instead I see hundreds of miniscule items, fully categorized into rows and groups, a perfectly organized display… but the girl who’s sorted them is off to the side, sitting with her back to me. Head in her hands. Her shoulders shaking with suppressed sobs that are too quiet for me to hear.

It’s been a long, stressful, life-changing kind of day. I think about the other victims of the shrinking process. What could have potentially happened if Dr. Little got his way with Evie today. And then, even though I hardly know this girl, I feel a sudden surge of emotion. A desperate desire to protect her from all harm.

I move instinctively, sliding off of the couch to the floor while trying not to make any sudden or frightening motions. She hears me and her shoulders tense - I think she tries to stop herself from crying as she continues to hide her face. But try as she might, her breathing is still coming in shallow. She just can’t keep her emotions at bay anymore.

“Hey…” I say softly, my chest tight, “You’re not alone, okay? I'm here to help however I can.”

I wish I could tell her how. I wish I could fix this, or at least take her hand or give her a hug or… or something. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt this helpless in my life. I do the only thing I can think of and reach a hand over to gently brush a finger against her back.

For a moment she stiffens at my touch and I worry that I’m making things worse yet again. But then she turns, still keeping her gaze away from mine, and presses up against me, burying her face into my fingers, and she begins to sob in earnest. This sets my heart racing. I’m not sure what else to do so I just let her cry it out, using my thumb now to carefully rub up and down her back.

After a couple of minutes, Evie starts calming down, taking deep, shuddering breaths. She finally looks up at me and musters a smile. “Thanks,” she says, and she’s still so quiet, but my ears are getting better at honing in on her little voice.

“Don’t mention it,” I say, weakly smiling back. “Maybe we should call it a night soon… Are you hungry?”

“Not really. I’m just so tired…” She rubs at her eyes and lets out a sigh. “But I should probably eat something. Any luck with the notebook?"

"Um… not yet," I say, evading the question. Now doesn't seem like the best time to give her the details I've found. “I’ll go grab some food for you. Is cheese and deli meat okay?”

“Sounds good. I’m not picky.”

I go back to the kitchen to make a simple sandwich - ham, cheese, avocado. I pinch a tiny piece of it off for her, though it's probably still bigger than her entire head. I stare at it and don't love how rough it looks, like I just ripped off some leftovers to feed to a dog, so I take a few extra seconds to lay the mini-sandwich on a cutting board and use a knife to trim off the jagged edges. It doesn't exactly look beautiful in the end but it's a bit neater at least. I lay the food on a spoon in lieu of a plate and get some more water for her while I'm at it.

Evie thanks me as I set these down in front of her, and she’s stifling a yawn. She appears less upset now, at least, but definitely super fatigued.

"Yeah, you look tuckered out," I observe with a sympathetic smile. "Want to go ahead and turn in early?"

She's reaching past the lip of the spoon to pull off some bread and nibble at it as she stares off into space. "I don't think my body's going to give me much of a choice. I feel like I could pass out at any minute… again."

"Um, let's try to avoid you fainting this time, please."

I watch her for a moment, a little amused at how she's eating - instead of attempting to bite into the oversized sandwich she's just picking off tiny bits of ham and cheese and bread as separate components, holding a crumb in both hands as she takes small bites. Like a mouse with a millet seed. She has to be actively trying to be this cute, right?

Trying to reel myself in and avoid gawking at her again, I turn my mind to next steps. It’s not even 7pm yet, but clearly we need to get this girl some sleep.

"I'll go change out the bed sheets real quick and I can bring you over there whenever you're ready,” I suggest.

Evie lifts her head and cocks it to the side at me, slowly processing. "...You're offering me your bed."

"Yeah, I can sleep here on the couch. No big deal.”

"Aiden, no, you don't have to do that. That seems a bit ridiculous, don't you think? With me like this?”

"Just because you're little doesn't mean you're not a guest.”

She actually lets out a laugh now and okay, true, the mental image of her in a vastly oversized bed is pretty silly. It does feel good to see her smile, though.

"No, really, it's okay," she insists, "I think part of the reason I'm so tired is because this kind of already feels like a giant mattress… I'll be fine here. Honestly anything bigger would probably be too overwhelming."

"Oh. Yeah okay, I could see that." I ponder for a second and add, “Well, I’ll at least find you something to use as a blanket... I’ll be right back."

That insistent part of me that I keep trying to push away feels a little disappointed that I don't get to pick her up again. But I'm determined to at least do what I can to make her comfortable. I go to my bedroom and look around in the closet for anything that can work. Blankets, pillow cases, shirts - everything's way too big. I start going through my dresser drawers, and for a moment I consider a sock since it's at least a somewhat more appropriate size. But even though they're clean there's something about it that just seems gross.

I come across a well-worn T-shirt that I haven't used in a while since it has a couple of holes in it. It's pretty soft, though… I should probably be getting rid of it anyway, maybe now I can salvage something.

On top of the dresser are some of my office supplies that have congregated, including a pair of scissors, and I set to work cutting into the shirt. I got this from some kind of volunteer event and there's a little logo on it in the shape of a dog… I let that adorn the bottom of this makeshift blanket, making me smile as I imagine her snuggling underneath.

I cut another strip of the fabric to fold a couple of times into a small rectangle to offer as a rudimentary pillow. I'm finding myself wishing I could sew and wonder what other little things I could make for her… assuming she'll be staying here for any length of time, that is.

When I come back to the living room, I worry for a second that Evie really has passed out. She’s slumped onto the side of the spoon, and it looks like she’s hardly made a dent in the sandwich before giving up. She twitches at the sound of my footsteps coming in, sleepily lifting her head back up to watch me, her body tensing at my approach.

I crouch down beside her for the last time that night, setting her makeshift pillow down next to where she's sitting, and she immediately turns to collapse onto it. I smile and get the sweet moment I'd been secretly hoping for, carefully draping the blanket I'd made over her tiny frame. I refrain from trying to tuck her in, though, too afraid of squishing her.

"I'll leave a light on in case you need to get up at night," I mutter, and then I see I'm losing her fast so I quickly add, "If you need anything, let me know with this."

I set down something I'd picked up from my bedroom, a visual countdown timer that I use for studying. It's about as tall as she is and the knob in the center should be small enough for her to maneuver without issue.

"Just turn the timer on and off and it'll beep. I'm a light sleeper, it'll definitely wake me up."

Evie gazes up at me and for a second I worry she's about to start crying again. Am I overwhelming her with too much stuff? I really need to just leave and let her sleep. But she pulls it together and forces a smile my way.

"Thank you."

I nod and start backing off. "No problem. Good night, Evie."

I turn on the desk lamp and turn off the overhead light, walking away as quietly as I can. Just before going into my room, I pause. I stare at the ottoman, the minuscule figure laying on it, already curled up on her side and visibly unconscious. I really don't like leaving her by herself.

An image pops into my brain, unbidden. Her little form curled up on me instead, snoozing away on my chest as I drift off to sleep– And I'm so mortified by the thought that I immediately turn on my heel and march straight into my room.

I spend the rest of the evening on my laptop, trying to find any scrap of information that I can about the scientist responsible for all this. Google gives me nothing. I dig into all of the school records and he never actually had an association with the university, all of that was faked. So was the sponsor company he said he'd worked with. When searching the room reservations for the chemical lab we were at, I'm shocked to find his name but literally no other information. There's no record of me being there, nor Evie, nor any of the other victims for that matter. The secrecy behind this whole thing is far more extensive than I'd realized. I feel like all I'm doing is running into dead ends.

And even when I eventually try to sleep, it doesn't come easily. Images keep flashing in my brain. Evie writhing in Dr. Little's grip. Fire overtaking a corpse. Evie unconscious under an oxygen mask. Notebook pages reeking of terror and death. Evie crying her heart out. Evie trembling with fear in my hand. Evie so, so small… so vulnerable…

So beautiful…

I feel like my head might split in two as a battle rages within it. Hours pass before I finally drift into a dark, uncomfortable, fitful sleep.

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Re: Out of their Element

Post by littlest-lily » Fri Dec 02, 2022 7:44 pm

Chapter 7
Evie

As tired as I was, I still don't get the best night's sleep. Every time I turn over my subconscious senses how unnaturally thick the threads of the ottoman are below me and jolts me awake. Even when my eyes are closed, I can feel the vast empty space all around. The extra light probably doesn’t help, although I think if I was in darkness I’d probably be even more scared.

Nevertheless, bit by bit, my body gets some rest. According to the wall clock that’s hanging in the distance like a numbered moon, it’s about 4am when I give up on getting any more sleep. I get up, use the bathroom - now at least mentally prepared for the aggressive noise that comes out of it - and take a few minutes to sit and think.

I’ve always been pretty convinced that the universe has it out for me. As far back as I can remember, from the moment my dad died when I was four and my mom turned to drugs, it’s been one thing after another. This whole getting shrunk thing might just take the cake. But I’ve always dealt with each challenge the same way. Don't give up. Fight back. Work harder. I really, really wish that the universe could just give me a lucky break, just once in my life. But I’m used to that not being the case.

As I stare out at the wide expanse of the apartment, dizzied by the sight, I give myself five more minutes to be upset about it. To wallow in the hopelessness and fear, and to curse whatever uncaring gods have allowed this to happen.

Then I put the lid back on. Enough with the tears. It’s time to pull myself together.

I make my way along the lines of miniaturized items - I’ve sorted out the things that I think will be particularly helpful in the coming days, but I don’t want to overlook anything. This stuffed narwhal might appear useless, but if Aiden hadn’t given me something to use as a pillow it would have come in handy.

Aiden… I don’t know how to feel about him. I’m not worried about his intentions, at this point he’s clearly proven himself to be kind and well-meaning. But I still can't help being nervous about how things will go. It’s understandable that he’d find this whole thing pretty stressful too. Unlike me, if he wanted to he could just walk away from all this and move on with his life. Honestly, I wouldn’t particularly blame him. I really, really hope that we find a way to reverse the shrinking before that happens.

I trip and fall over, landing on my knees. I’d have hoped to be used to the texture of the floor by now, but this ottoman is just so difficult to walk on. I hate the idea of burdening my giant keeper by requesting a different home base, but I don’t know if I can keep spending all my time here. I might as well make it as quick and easy as possible to relocate… Let's pack it up.

There’s a plastic letter opener among the shrunken items that looks like a dagger - since it isn’t made of metal it’s not as sharp as I’d like, but it can still do the trick. I approach the massive ziplock bag that had originally held all of the reduced items and start cutting into it, making large square sheets from the plastic. I use these to bundle up the miniatures, bringing in the corners of the tarp-like plastic and tying them off with a knot.

The process is slow, especially with how long it takes me to cut out the squares. Hours pass and the sun slowly begins to rise outside. But at least it keeps me busy. Eventually I finish making bundles and start piling them into the miniature bathroom like it’s a moving van. I’m almost done with this and am feeling very out of breath when I hear a disturbance in the distance. My muscles tense as I figure that Aiden’s getting up.

Even though I order myself to not freak out when I see him, I still go stiff at the sound of heavy thumping signaling his footsteps and then flinch at the sight of something so big coming into view so suddenly. But despite my heartbeat picking up speed, I manage to maintain a composed facade this time.

Even from a distance I can see more detail at this size than I normally might. Aiden clearly didn’t sleep great either. And yet despite the bedhead and heightened shadows under his eyes, he still gives me a warm, friendly smile as he enters the room.

“Good morning,” his voice resounds, “Sorry, have you been up a while? Do you need anything?”

"I'm okay, thanks!" I really try to project this time since he's still a few feet away.

He comes closer to sit near me on the couch, and it's as he crouches down that he notices all the shrunken items aren't laid out anymore. His eyes move to the bundle in my hands.

"Huh. Looks like you've been busy," he says, blinking.

“Yeah, I… guess I have been up for a little while.” I’m feeling embarrassed, holding my makeshift luggage a little tighter to my chest as I hesitate to make the request. “I was hoping to ask you, if it's not too much trouble… since you said you don't really use your desk… do you mind if I move up there?”

His eyes now glance down to my feet, still clearly unsteady on the squishy surface of the ottoman, before his gaze flicks back up. “Oh, yeah, no problem. Sorry Evie, I could have helped you with all that…”

I shake my head and take an unsteady step towards the metal bathroom, tossing the final bundle inside. “That’s alright, it’s been a good distraction.” I shut the door and step back sheepishly.

Aiden smiles at me and gathers the timer and the last of the tiny items, since a few of them are too big to have packed up - things like a calendar, a book, a baseball bat, all bigger than I am. Then he easily lifts the bathroom, standing up so he can transport it all to the nearby desk.

I stare out at the chasm between me and the high-up surface of the table, trying to imagine a ramp between here and there. It would be almost a hundred feet in length… How long would it have taken for me to have traversed back and forth across such a bridge in order to carry all of those items across? Meanwhile for this giant it takes him less than two seconds with practically no effort.

“Want to go up there right now?” he asks, his arm already outstretched as he comes back to me.

I keep it together best I can as the massive beast of a hand comes in for a landing. "Sure," I respond and force myself to march right up to him. I try to continue talking so that I can keep my mind off of how intimidated I feel. "So I’m guessing there wasn’t anything useful in that journal?"

His fingers visibly tense at the question - well, it's visible to me anyway. "No, not really," he responds softly, "I’m sorry…"

I climb onto his open palm, silently crawling to the center of it with my eyes downcast. I’m surprised by how disappointed I feel. I mean, what was I expecting? To find out I just need a bit more vitamin C and I’ll be back to my old self before I know it?

"Yeah, I figured as much," I say with mock indifference, settling into a kneeling position. I look up and give him a nod, an indication that I'm ready for him to carry me over.

He inclines his head in return. "Up you go."

Aiden raises me skyward, a lot more slow and careful than he was with the bathroom. I do wish I had something more substantial to hold onto. A part of me wants to ask him to loosely wrap his fingers around me so I can do just that, but I feel way too awkward about making that kind of request.

Thankfully the giant continues talking, keeping me distracted from how far down the floor is as we traverse the gap together. "So for uh… next steps. I was planning to go out this morning, check out a few things. There was a news article about the fire, and from the photo it looks like the building itself is intact. With any luck, so is some of the machinery - I’ll see what I can find out. I should probably replace my phone and stuff too…"

"Don’t you have classes today?" I ask a little absently, keeping my eyes on my destination as I'm now elevatoring down to the surface of the desk. As I climb back off his hand, I catch Aiden's bemused look.

"You’re kidding, right? That’s the last thing on my mind. I can stand to be absent for a couple of days." He pauses to make sure I'm fully off of him before he pulls his hand away again.

There’s something weirdly nostalgic about stepping out onto the parking lot sized surface of the desk. The visuals are rather foreign - a wide expanse, some oversized office supplies littering the other end, the desk lamp hulking ahead of me like an otherworldly tree. And yet something still feels familiar. I’ve done a lot of moving around in my life, and I realize that I’m strangely reminded of the moment where I walk into a new, empty apartment for the first time.

Aiden takes a seat at the chair nearby, his gaze softening as he watches me take a look around. I rather prefer seeing him from this position - instead of being near his knees as he sits on the couch, I'm closer to his chest level now. He's still looming over me, but not by quite as much. I have a feeling this view of him is going to become all too familiar.

"You definitely look steadier on your feet," he remarks.

"Yeah, this is way better, thank you. Plus I can get more sunlight from here!" I motion to the window that's just alongside the desk. "I promise I'll stay over on this side."

"No worries, take up the whole desk. I'm clearly not using it, it's yours."

My chest tightens. I keep feeling uncomfortable with how much he's going out of his way for me. But I also don't want to seem ungrateful.

"It's more than I need but… Thank you…"

"You bet. With any luck it'll be very temporary anyway."

I've noticed that Aiden has these moments where his gaze tends to linger. Can't say that I blame him - it's been less than 24 hours since I've become a bit of a freak of nature. I must be a rather bizarre sight… And hell, sometimes I can't stop staring at him either.

He snaps out of it, straightening up as he says, "Um, I saw you were almost out of water, I'll go get you some more… Any breakfast requests? I'm not the best cook but the fridge is pretty well stocked."

I blush, chest getting even tighter at the feeling of being so reliant on him. "Anything's fine, really…" I say and realize my nervousness is peeking through so I add more lightheartedly, "I don't even eat 'breakfast foods' usually. I'm a heathen and will just have whatever leftovers are in the fridge."

Aiden grins at this. "You're just like a friend of mine. He will literally roll into an 8AM class with his tupperware of lasagna."

"Breakfast lasagna's the best!"

We share a laugh. It's our first genuine laugh since the incident and I watch how it lights up his whole face like sunbeams after a storm. I swear, for just a split second, I forget that I'm small. For this infinitesimal moment of time, I can pretend that everything's normal and I'm just getting to know a new friend.

And then the nerves rush right back. I stay perfectly composed though as Aiden continues, "I'm pretty good at making eggs actually. We should have a proper meal this time.”

I extend an awkward thumbs up. “I’m game.”

He gets me another spoonful of water before he retreats into the distant kitchen. I can still see him just fine from where I’m at, but it’s more like watching clouds moving around, albeit too colorful and too fast. Sounds of clanging and sizzling echo in the distance, and cooking smells eventually travel across the room.

I decide to use my water supply not just for hydration - I really need to clean myself off. I can still smell the smoke on my clothes, a sobering reminder of just how recently everything changed. And speaking of clothes…

I already know from going through all the shrunken items yesterday that the only things that fit me are those little robes that Dr. Little had set aside. They’re so flimsy and scratchy, clearly something he bought as is instead of a real piece of clothing that he shrunk down. Still, it’ll have to do for now. I wish I had the tools to make my own clothes. I’m not too bad at sewing, but I would at least need a needle and thread and don’t have anything of the sort… Oh well, like Aiden said, with any luck this is all very temporary. I don’t want to think about the alternative right now.

I at least have a few tiny toothbrushes, toothpaste and a bar of soap. I duck behind the metal bathroom to strip down and clean myself best I can before slipping on one of the robes. It feels even worse when it's on.

I hear and see the giant coming back from the kitchen, massive plate in hand. I take a deep breath but stay steady at his approach. Good, I’m starting to get more used to this.

He sets the food down a short distance away from me, the ceramic of the plate a loud clang against the wood of the desk. I ignore my quickened heart rate reacting to the noise by commenting loftily, "With all this junk he shrunk down, he could've included some more outfit options.”

"Ohh, right, that's a problem,” Aiden says as he sits down, “Maybe we can get you some doll clothes?”

"That's alright, I'll make do.”

He sets a gigantic spoon beside me with little bits of scrambled egg and apple in it, and I realize that I’m starving. I thank him and dig in gratefully, not caring that I’m having to use my hands. I notice after a moment that I’m being observed - there’s a little frown on my new friend’s face as he's looking me up and down and then his eyes swing over to where I’d left the soap near the teaspoon of water.

"Evie… I could at least have gotten you some warmer water or something.”

"It's okay. This was fine. You really do make good eggs!"

Aiden still looks bothered but doesn't push it, eventually mustering a smile instead. "Thanks. It's one of, like, three meals I have any confidence in..."

Breakfast passes without further incident. It’s a little unnerving at first to watch such large amounts of food disappear into the giant’s mouth like it’s nothing. But strangely enough I get over it fairly quickly. Something about having a meal together like this is comforting. A small slice of normalcy in a very abnormal situation. Soon we're back to discussing plans for the day as Aiden finishes up.

"Take your time eating, I'll go get ready to head out. Speaking of which, um… I can try to bring you with me, if you’d like? Though I'm assuming you'd rather stay hidden if you don't want to make a scene, so… maybe it’s actually safer for you to stay here? Even if some of the machine is still untouched somehow, I don’t think it would be as simple as just…”

He trails off and the air feels a little heavier. Neither one of us is quite ready to think too hard about what will likely come out of investigating the lab today.

I shake my head, breaking the silence. "No, you’re right. I’ll stay here while you scope things out.”

He nods in return, his jaw tight. "I'll try to hurry back. You sure you don’t need anything before I go?”

“I’m good.”

I stare after him as he goes to get ready, feeling as restless as a dog whose owner is about to go to work. Just as he opens the door to leave the apartment, he turns to shoot me a quick wave and a “see you later.” He’s on the opposite side of the room, so even if I yelled I’m not sure he would have heard my response.

I hate the silence that’s left behind once he’s gone. It makes it harder to ignore the thoughts that are lurking in the depths of my mind, swirling beneath the surface and threatening to devour me. Everything’s too vast, too empty, I feel like I might drown–

No. No tears. It’s time to keep myself occupied.

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Re: Out of their Element

Post by littlest-lily » Sun Dec 04, 2022 1:43 pm

Chapter 8
Aiden

Really, what was I expecting?

Standing outside of the chemical lab is a little surreal. All of its outer walls are still standing, but glancing down the alley to the side of the building, I can see the charred black where I estimate Dr. Little’s rented room was. There’s a surprising number of people around, many of them just passersby who are stopping to stare. There are a few police officers near the entrance, some having discussions with a couple of people not in uniform - owners of the building maybe. The perimeter is blocked off with black and yellow caution tape. I approach with some hesitation, and one of the more idle officers notices me and walks my way.

“The lab’s closed,” she tells me with a very dismissive tone.

“I know, um… I was actually here when the fire broke out yesterday. I, uh, left some of my stuff in one of the lockers and was hoping to see if I could try to get it back?” Not a complete lie.

She frowns and sighs and I have a feeling I’m not the first person who has tried to get in and snoop. “Wait here,” she tells me.

She steps away to have a brief discussion with a couple of the officers, the three of them all turning to look at me from afar. In the end a different person joins me - a bearded, friendlier-looking man. “Come with me,” he says, lifting the caution tape up so that I can duck underneath it.

We go inside and the intense smell of the smoke and burnt chemicals is nauseating, though I guess nothing truly toxic burned up if they’re letting people come in here without hazmat suits. It looks like the firefighters were able to douse the flames before they spread across the whole building, so the entire right side is eerily empty but intact. I lead the officer to the left.

"If you were near where the fire broke out then you might be out of luck," the policeman remarks.

"I'm not sure if I was," I say. This one is a complete lie. "I think I was close but it's all a bit of a blur…"

"I'll bet."

My anxiety rises as we go down the hall, uncomfortable memories rushing back. I look for the familiar white door to the lab room but then suddenly realize that there is no door at all.

“Not something you see every day, is it?” the policeman says as I slow down to peek inside the very obvious scene of the incident. My heart sinks to my stomach.

Everything is in shambles. I can’t even make sense of what’s what - it’s all twisted metal and piles of charred rubble. I think the fire reached some kind of chemical in the cabinets that eventually caused an explosion. Part of the ceiling is caved in, one wall is mostly destroyed, and I see sunlight peeking through a crack in the other wall. There's more caution tape and the room is clearly mid-investigation, even if it's empty right now.

"Kinda spooky, right? Apparently someone died in there."

My heart now leaps up to my throat and my shoulders stiffen. I wasn't expecting him to announce something like that so plainly. "That's awful," I say tightly.

"Sure is. And the weirdest part is that no one knows who he was or what he was up to," the officer continues in a low, conspiratorial voice. "He was real dodgy and secretive about his experiments, apparently. And now that everything's destroyed I guess we'll never really know what he was doing. Apparently something dangerous since it caused a fire."

What the hell is wrong with this cop? Isn’t this, like, classified information or something? I wonder in a moment of panic if he's playing mind games with me for some reason, but from what I've been gathering about his demeanor… it feels like this guy might just not be very bright.

I try to stay cool while taking advantage of getting potential information, matching his detached tone, "Really? Was this the only place he ran experiments?"

"See, that's the thing!" He leans in a bit closer, looking excited about sharing the gossip, "No one knows! He used a fake address and fake qualifications when reserving this place, and nobody knows who was sponsoring him. It's all a big mystery. Real weird stuff."

"Weird," I agree, all the while my eyes still searching the destroyed room for any sliver of hope. I find none.

"Anyway, if you work here then I'm sure you've already been questioned about it..?" He's looking at me expectantly and I suddenly realize that [/i]he[/i] has been trying to wheedle gossip out of me.

"Oh, I'm just a student," I respond plainly. The officer gets very quiet after that.

Nearby are the lockers, and while half of them still look pretty intact, the ones that Evie and I had used are in the half that got caught in the blast and now looks like the blackened remains of a campfire. So much for that.

I decide after I leave the lab that there are a couple of different errands I should run, so I head back to my apartment building’s garage to get my car. I stop by the bank to request a new credit card. I replace my old phone. I get a temporary driver’s license at the DMV. Meanwhile my mind is a million miles away.

As I sit in the car after what feels like a long morning, I wonder if I should stop by a store for supplies before heading home. I try to think of what Evie might need. She specifically declined my offer to find her doll clothes to wear; it seems kind of rude to ignore her and get them anyway. I can't think of what else to do for her… I'm feeling really helpless again and my mind starts to spiral…

What am I going to say to her when I get home? It's been dead end after dead end. Who am I kidding, I'm completely in over my head. There was never a chance that I could fix this on my own. I'm starting to think there might not be anyone who can fix this.

I slump over the curve of the steering wheel, letting my head hang in defeat. I decide to head back to her. It's almost lunch time anyway.

One short car ride later, taking a quick detour to stop at a taco place so that I don’t have to cook, I get back to my apartment. There's a flutter of nerves in me as I approach the door - I hope my small friend has been okay on her own.

But my fears were unfounded. I step inside and look towards the desk at the opposite wall, immediately seeing movement on it. I smile as I notice how quickly her little legs are moving… it looks like she's running out to greet me. That feels really good, at least.

"Hi! It's getting close to lunch time," I call out to her as I set my stuff down and slip my shoes off, "Not too hungry?"

I realize my mistake as soon as her voice reaches my ears - she's yelling loud enough for me to hear her but not quite enough that I can make out the words.

"Sorry, I'm an idiot," I laugh as I approach the desk, "What did you say?"

"I said I probably have enough food to last all day," she responds, motioning to the spoon that still has some of today's breakfast on it.

“Right, I guess I still need to figure out portions. Better than too little I guess?”

“Oh totally, you don’t see me complaining.”

She's giving me a wide smile and for a second I’m once again overtaken by the cuteness of her size. She looks like a little toy... Though I’m getting better at catching myself at least and I quickly move on.

I notice as I take a seat that a few things have changed on the desk since I left. The shrunken items have all been unpacked, and while most of them are still organized in piles off to the side, it’s like she created little stations for herself too. There’s a chair and table with some books of various sizes stacked onto it, the toiletries are all next to her water source, and anything edible is on its own smaller table by the comparatively massive lamp.

It's so surreal, seeing this miniature camp easily fitting on the surface of my desk. I'm glad to see that she hasn't just been wasting away in misery while I was gone. I find myself endeared to her industrious nature.

"You must really like Magic: The Gathering."

"Huh?" I look back at her again, confused.

"Your shirt," she says with a teasing smile, pointing towards my chest, "You were wearing a Magic shirt yesterday too."

"Oh." That's right, we had bonded yesterday over card games. Right before our lives changed irrevocably. "I didn't even realize… You know, I own exactly two Magic shirts. Apparently thought it'd make a good first impression to wear them back to back." I laugh, a little embarrassed. "I promise I like other stuff."

"Uh huh. Likely story."

I grin at her, enjoying this procrastination before we get into what I was up to this morning. But then, due to us talking about clothes, I suddenly notice that Evie’s wearing something new.

It takes me a second to figure it out, but she’s somehow used one long strip of gray fabric to tie around herself, looping over each shoulder and around her torso, and knotted off at the hip to make a rudimentary dress. She definitely looks way more comfortable than she did in that hospital gown thing. I idly wonder where she got the strip of fabric until my eyes fall onto the one other thing that’s different since I’d left.

While half of my office supplies have gradually migrated to my bedroom, the other half is still here on the desk, on the opposite side from where I’d set up Evie. She’s dragged over every bit of fabric from the miniatures into a pile here… Right next to a pair of scissors. A pair of pointy, wide open scissors leaned up against a stapler, a heap of gray fabric still half draped over the sharp metal…

I can feel the color draining from my face as I imagine her miniature frame leaning over the comparatively gigantic blade. “Um, Evie,” I say faintly, “Please don’t tell me you used those scissors.”

Her demeanor changes as her eyes widen and she clasps her hands in front of her. “Was I not supposed to?”

“Are you serious? Th-that’s so dangerous!”

I didn’t raise my voice by much, but it really doesn’t take much, and the tiny girl’s stepping backwards now, shying away as her own voice wavers, “I-I was being really careful. I h-have experience with woodworking a-and building stuff, s-so I just… I thought I could…”

Ah, shit. I’m scaring her. I try to shrink back in my chair and appear less intimidating, taking a steadying breath to relax the muscles in my face. I remind myself that she’s safe, nothing happened, but my heart is still racing as I can’t help imagining the very different scene I could have walked in on if her hand had slipped while cutting the fabric. I feel like a parent who just found their toddler wandering around next to a swimming pool. Which, to be fair, isn’t a very respectful thought.

I lower my voice again and try to sound gentler. “Sorry. I don’t mean to be patronizing or anything. You’re an adult, I’m sure you’re fully capable, but… but accidents happen. I wouldn’t know how to help you if…” I trail off, unable to complete the sentence.

Evie slowly nods, still looking at me fearfully. She doesn’t say anything.

I try to force a smile. “You can let me know if you need help with something like that, okay? If I nick myself all I’d need is a bandaid.”

Her gaze drops down to the desk as she nods again. Her silence is killing me, but then finally she mutters something.

“Sorry?” I ask, leaning in.

She takes a deep breath and raises her head, summoning her resolve. “I just want to be able to… to do things myself. I don’t want to bother you every time I need something.”

“What? It’s not a bother at all.”

Her gaze drifts down again. “It’s a bother to me…”

I watch her for a moment, trying to find the right words. For being the larger person, I sure have been feeling a whole lot of helplessness lately. I know this entire thing is a bigger conversation. One that ties into what we needed to discuss anyway…

A wave of sadness passes through me. I want to keep putting this off. I want to go back to bantering about breakfast lasagna. I want to actually get to know her. To keep her for a little longer.

But it’s time to face the music.

“I think… we need to talk.”

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Re: Out of their Element

Post by littlest-lily » Tue Dec 06, 2022 3:26 pm

Chapter 9
Evie

Oh no. Oh no no no no no.

This is it. He’s done with me.

“A-about what?” I ask, trembling, “I won’t touch the scissors anymore, I promise!”

“Not that,” Aiden says, shaking his head. In this moment he looks very tired, and... hurt, almost. I don’t understand, not completely, but I’ve seen this kind of look before.

I stand there, not knowing what to say to stop the train from wrecking.

He sighs heavily. “I went to the lab and… it was bad. The whole room’s pretty much destroyed, none of the machinery was intact. And from what I can find out, Dr. Little was a complete mystery person - no one knows who he was or where he came from or anything. I don’t even know if that’s actually his name at this point or if it was just a sick joke. And according to his notes, none of the stuff that was shrunk down ever got restored again. It… it doesn’t look good, Evie.”

I have to keep the lid on. Keep it together.

“I wish I could tell you how sorry I am that this happened to you. I hate that I’m partly responsible. I’m trying to think longer term though…”

I can’t look him in the eye anymore, wrenching myself away from the piercing hazel.

“I understand that you’re scared of going to the authorities, and I wish I was able to just restore you myself instead. But I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what else to try.”

There’s a pause of deathly silence as I waver on the spot. It’s not a surprise at this point to find out that I might be stuck like this forever. I’ve either already come to terms with that, or more likely I just don’t have the capacity to process it yet. But now I have to face an entirely different reality instead. One that fills me with a deep, deep dread.

I blow out an exhale, like letting out steam to alleviate some of the pressure inside me. I try to take this small death gracefully and give him my gratitude for helping me as much as he has, all the while gathering the strength to negotiate.

“Aiden…” I finally say, still not quite looking him in the eye, “I don't know what would have happened yesterday but… the way I see it, you saved my life. On more than one occasion. That's not lost on me. I don’t know how to thank you and… you're right. You’ve done enough.”

Another breath, even as cracks threaten the walls of my facade.

“I can’t ask any more of you. I can only imagine the burden I’d be. So… so I’ll… I’ll go…”

I feel a tickling on my cheek, a tear that I wasn't able to keep in check. I stiffen and ignore it. Stay steady. I have to broker something other than the cops. Maybe someone from school, a professor or something–

“Hold on. What?” His tone makes me jump as he interrupts my thoughts, and my eyes suddenly meet his again. He looks completely bewildered. “Evie, I don’t think we’re on the same page. I really don’t know where you’re getting it from that I think you’re a burden?”

I blink, thrown off. “You were just saying… you want to go to the police, right?”


“I want to go to the police to better help you. Not to get rid of you. Is that what you thought?”

I had been reliving something from years ago. But it’s going differently this time, and I suddenly realize I’d completely misunderstood the situation. It’s as if the looming threat of a dark storm was actually just a cloud passing over the sun. I start seeing rays of hope again.

“Would you really rather just stay here? Even if you'd be stuck this way?” Aiden continues, “Y-you’re totally welcome to…”

Maybe it's selfish, but I scramble for the opportunity. “Yes. Yes, I would. If that’s okay.”

“I mean… If that’s really how you feel then… shit, you can stay as long as you want.”

“Really?” I ask, and I finally wipe away that stray tear.

“Totally.” And he’s smiling at me now, the pain in his eyes dissipating. “Honestly I really miss living with someone. Not to turn around and make light of everything but, I don't know, having a tiny roommate sounds kind of... fun?”

I feel surprised, but before I can unpack what he means by that, he resumes a more serious tone, “I just figured you’d want to take steps to getting back to normal as quickly as possible. You sure it’s a good idea to put it off?”

The danger has passed, but I still squirm nervously. “We don’t even know what that’ll look like,” I eventually say, “What kind of experiments they’d need to run or if I’ll end up all over the news… I just don’t know if I can handle that right now.”

"Okay… okay then! Well, damn, I'm glad we cleared that up. Just let me know when you feel ready to change course.”

"Thank you. I will.”

Aiden leans back in his chair and he actually looks just as relieved as I feel. "This changes things.” He crosses his arms and raises an eyebrow at me, corner of the mouth ticking up. “Now we can talk about the scissors.”

I wince. "I know, you're right. It wasn't worth the risk…”

"No, I can totally see why you'd want some amount of autonomy. So… let's compromise, yeah? Let's problem solve it. We'll set stuff up so it's easier for you to do things on your own. And please…” He leans in again, closer than usual, lowering his head so that I don't have to look so high up. His gaze is gentle but intent. “Do take my word for it if I tell you you're not bothering me? Being able to help makes me happy. Got it?”

I can feel something new on my cheeks. A warmth. It spreads through my whole body until I’m almost giddy with it. Suddenly I’m beaming up at him and extend my arm as if to give him a handshake. “Got it.”

He’s grinning right back and brings his hand up, index finger outstretched. I take it in both hands and we shake on it.

Things feel different as we have another meal together. I haven't gotten over my new size, not by a long shot. I'm still actively pushing a lot of fear and uncertainty aside. But accepting my situation, even just on a surface level, is helping us both to relax.

"One thing I do need to ask of you…" I say, looking up from my taco crumbs, “I’ve been staying at AirBNBs while looking for a more permanent place to live. I was going to move out of my current one this weekend. Not that I can use my stuff now, but it all fits in one suitcase so…"

Aiden's finished eating by this point and is currently cleaning up the desk. “Yeah, I should have enough space in my closet,” he says, “Sounds like we have some weekend plans then.”

“Maybe the day after tomorrow? The owner isn't usually around on Saturdays.”

“Sure thing. In the meantime…” And now he’s opening up a drawer, below where I can see on the desk, and pulls out a notepad that’s over twice my height. “How about we start making a list of things to help you feel more at home?”

I get to my feet and internally attempt to reassure myself that it’s alright to let him help me this time. “Okay. Let’s do it.”

We go through a typical day and try to think of everything I might need to take care of myself. Thankfully I already have some shrunken toiletries, but Aiden offers me little bits of his own shampoo, deodorant and such to fill in the gaps. We debate what might be the best container to hold some of these things and eventually he thinks of the fact that he had gotten a bulk amount of toothpaste, meaning he has a bunch of little caps from those that we can use. I figure these might also be helpful just as buckets for carrying water.

On the subject of cleaning, we agree it might make more sense for me to hand wash my own clothes rather than potentially ruining them by including them with the normal sized laundry, so he offers me a drop of laundry detergent in another toothpaste cap. He ties some thread up to stretch between the desk lamp and a mug that he brings over, laying a hand towel down underneath it all, and bam. I have a clothesline.

I still need to make the clothes themselves, but I plan on letting him help this time. I’m still not particularly keen on the idea of doll clothes… I feel like they’d be made of something similar to the scratchy fabric of the hospital gowns. But I tell my new roommate that I’ll try them on if he thinks he finds something suitable. I do agree that dollhouse furniture might be nice - I wouldn't mind shelves to store some of these things.

Food and water is a little trickier. A tank meant for small pets could work, at least to use for cleaning and whatnot. Aiden offers to give me a fresh spoonful of water every morning for drinking. He also brings over a couple of less perishable items - granola bars, packets of crackers, freeze-dried apple chips. We figure they're good to have around in case I have to unexpectedly be alone for a meal. As much as I enjoy cooking, we can't think of a safe way to set that up for me, so I'll have to rely on my larger friend for the most part.

"It'd still be nice if we could get you a little fridge though," Aiden muses. He's brought his laptop over by this point to look for ideas online and is scrolling through a list of mini fridges, all of which would be the size of bounce houses to me. "Hey look, this one only holds a single soda can!" He looks at me with a bit more concentration, sizing me up.

"A can is what… six inches tall?" I wonder.

"A little less I think. Hmmm," The giant has his hand up now, hovering it well above my head as he tries to visualize the height. "It would still be pretty big for you… Maybe worth a try though."

I catch sight of the price on the billboard-like laptop screen. Yikes. "Don't worry about it, I'm not sure I want to pay that much anyway."

I had begrudgingly conceded to the fact that I wouldn't be paying for rent nor for food since Aiden wouldn't be spending anything extra on me (and while I have a small bit of savings, I clearly won't be able to go back to work). He had wanted to pay for everything, but after some back and forth he eventually gave in to the decision that we would split the cost of my setup.

"My treat?" he offers now with a sheepish glance down at me. "If I see it at the store tomorrow I think it's worth the experiment."

I sigh in dramatic defeat, though I give him a grateful smile. "Fine. Thanks. It's true, it might be nice for when you have classes over lunch time."

Aiden pauses, thinking about what I just said. "We haven't talked about school yet," he says quietly, "It'll obviously be harder for you to attend classes this way… um… are any of your classes online?"

"No, they're not. I've thought about it, and yeah it's a bit of a bummer, and a waste of that scholarship money... but oh well. I took this long to start college, I can wait a little longer. Maybe when I get my textbooks back I can study and be extra prepared for next time."

"Hey, that’s the spirit. You can still be my study buddy for Biochem if you like.”

"I doubt I'd be much help, but sure!”

This leads us to the subject of what I’ll be occupying myself with all day. Studying aside, I’m bound to get bored. I do have several shrunken books that are more or less in my size to check out. Aiden breaks up little bits of lead in case I want to write or doodle. And thankfully I still have a warranty on my phone that was lost to the lab fire, so he can hopefully get a replacement for me and I’ll at least have internet access on that. It’s a good start.

Some craft projects will probably keep me busy as well. I will say, letting Aiden help me cut the strips of fabric for my makeshift dresses and rompers really is so much easier than when I spent an hour cutting one myself. But I’ve now also found a way to take a broken piece of toothpick and grind it against the side of a matchbox so that it sharpens into a point, creating a rudimentary sewing needle. Maybe I could make some real clothes at some point, but for now I test it out on a simpler project. Aiden cuts out a rectangle of fabric from an old shirt and offers some cotton stuffing from his couch cushions. I tie some thread to the toothpick to sew the thing up best I can. Voila. I have myself a mattress.

We’ve spent all afternoon and evening planning and making things, and I can’t believe I’m thinking this but… it’s true. This is kind of fun, somehow. In a summer camp kind of way, a new adventure where it feels like there’s so much to explore.

And we’re chatting throughout it all, entering into discussions about our interests and hobbies, and it turns out he does like things outside of Magic, such as hiking, fantasy novels and geology (hence his major). Meanwhile, I mostly mention enjoying cooking and crafting - everything to do with home economics. I find out that we’re almost the same age, with me being 24 and him 25, and that’s a rather strange thing to bond over, being a little older than the average college student. I find out it’s because he’s a grad student, and while I don’t go into all the details, I tell him about my wide variety of odd jobs I’ve had since high school.

We start joking around about the ludicrous gap between our sizes. At one point I invite him to sit down at my shrunken table and chair, acting all confused when he chuckles at me instead. At another point he pretends to hand me something but briefly holds it above my head, way out of reach. Nothing too mean, just kind of silly. Apparently finding the humor in the size difference is our way of coping.

The conversations are nice… I like him. We get along with very little effort.

Since neither one of us slept well last night, we decide to call it a little early for bedtime. Aiden gets me some warm water to wash myself with before he leaves, and I turn to look around at my setup, feeling satisfied about how everything’s coming together. And after some shopping tomorrow it’ll be even better.

Don't give up. Fight back. Work harder.

I can do this.

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