Patreon reward for Zeelo. On Zach’s birthday, he gets a strange bottle in the mail, that sends him and his friend Leon on a big adventure to a very small place.
Strangers in a Small World
“Happy Birthday!” Leon greeted Zach as he opened the door to his apartment.
“Ah thanks!” Zach grinned as he left the door open just enough for Leon to slip in. He was currently in his birthday suit, wearing only his glasses, so was being careful to avoid being seen from outside. Though he wasn’t naked because it was his birthday. It was just because he had the good sense to value comfort over worrying about what society thought was normal. And he wasn’t the only one.
No sooner had Leon gotten inside than he stripped off his own clothes. It was nice to have a friend who didn’t mind you getting comfortable. The only thing Leon had left was his hair tie. His hair, which was a darker brown compared to Zach’s pale brown, was tied back into a ponytail simply to keep it out of the face.
“Glad you could come over wanted to show you something weird I got.” Zach led Leon to the living room. There sitting on the coffee table was a card and a glass bottle with a cork in it filled with a pink liquid. “So… This randomly showed up in the mail today. You know, I can think of plenty of your stories that start with something like this.”
“And I can think of plenty of calls to poison control that also start this way.” Leon crossed his arms. “What is that?”
“Not sure, it arrived just a bit before you did.” Zach replied. “But it looks like a potion huh? Though probably just like candy liquid or something that’s meant to look like mad science stuff. You know, cause kids tend to like silly things like that.”
“Someone knows you so well.” Leon teased.
“Actually, I thought it might be from you, but guess not.” Zach looked thoughtful. He began to pull at the cork. “Now I’m curious what it is.”
“You going to drink it without knowing?” Leon asked.
“Nah but I figure if I get the cork out I can smell it. If it’s candy will be able to tell right away.” Zach explained as he continued to tug on the cork. It was being really stubborn though. He shook the bottle back and forth while trying to free the cork.
“Do you need some help with-“ Leon started to ask, but at that moment Zach finally pried the cork from the bottle. And promptly, the pink liquid exploded upwards soaking both of the young men.
And suddenly, the impossible happened. The two began to shrink. Both of them could do nothing but watch in awe as the living room got larger and larger. The bottle eventually got too big for Zach to hold onto and he dropped it. Zach’s glasses fell off, making it much harder to see, and Leon lost his hair tie, causing his hair to just fall in a mess down his back. Thankfully, dropped bottle landed right side up and didn’t spill. But soon the bottle was much taller than both Leon and Zach as they wound up shrinking down to a mere inch tall.
“Okay, so that just happened.” Leon spoke up finally. “That did just happen right? I’m not imagining this?” He walked around the potion bottle studying it, while also feeling the sensation of how different the carpet fibers were when they were only a bit smaller than his feet.
“Who would have guessed that shrinking potions were carbonated?” Zach replied. “Also, apparently shrinking potions are real.”
“I noticed.” Leon crossed his arms. “Well… What’s done is done. Might as well make the best of it. Can live out a few fantasies we’ve had while we’re tiny. Any idea if this is temporary or permanent?”
“Not sure…” Zach muttered. “But there was a card that came with it! It might explain more! It’s just… Up… On the coffee table. And uh… I’m probably not going to be able to read it without my glasses.”
“You know, when I said live out some fantasies I was more thinking giant snacks and using a cell phone as a movie screen.” Leon held out his arms in a shrug. “Guess we’re climbing giant furniture instead. Don’t suppose you just happen to have some dental floss and paperclips on the floor that we could make grappling hooks from?”
“No…” Zach muttered. “Oh, but my phone is plugged in charging!”
“So, we’ve got a point to climb.” Leon grinned. He knew they were in a very real predicament. But, he was going to try to have fun with it. It made it easier to process and deal with in general.
The cell phone cord was exceptionally thick, and neither of the two were great shape for climbing. Luckily, one big advantage of being small was that you weighed less and climbing was a lot less intense. They slowly climbed their way up the cord. Leon made it up onto the table first and turned back to check on Zach. Zach looked up and saw Leon and the top of a table. He reached up to grab the top, but then his hand found nothing but air. Without his glasses things were a bit blurry and where he thought he was in comparison to the table was a bit off. The absence of the grip he expected threw him off balance and he lost his hold on the wire completely.
“Zach!” Leon lunged after Zach, trying to grab his arm. However, all this accomplished was getting him caught in the momentum of Zach’s fall, as he tumbled off the table with his friend. Both of the tiny men fell all the way down from the coffee table.
And they happened to be directly above the shrinking potion.
There were two plops, as they each landed inside the bottle of what was left of the potion. At an inch tall they had to tread water, or potion in this case to keep their heads above it. But exposed to the potion again, this was an exercise in futility, as both of them began to shrink again. And now being inside the potion itself, the rate at which they shrunk intensified. For a few moments the world was a pink blur and then the two were suddenly tumbling between pink molecules as they got bigger and bigger in comparison.
Microbes might have been a threat to be concerned about, had they not continued to shrink so rapidly that no microscope could pick them up, nor could any microscopic critter see them. It wasn’t long before they were floating in a large empty space with strange colorful orbs.
“Are… Those atoms?” Zach asked.
“We’ve actually gone subatomic.” Leon stated in disbelief. “We fell into the potion and now we’re as small as… Erm smaller than… Um completely dwarfed by atoms.” Leon had to correct himself as the two were still getting smaller.
The atoms revealed themselves to be made of more strange particles that blinked in and out of existence. And then eventually those two were gone, as then there were just several bits of vibrating string. The two shrunk right down to the size of the string, then got even smaller, fell through it…
And suddenly were in a brightly lit room, normal human sized. The two were standing on top of a table covered with open bottles with liquids of various colors.
“Where… are we?” Leon asked.
“Almost… Looks like some kind of alchemy lab…” Zach mused. “You know your stories where the microverse is a thing. I think that happened.”
“So, we’re in some kind of subatomic universe now?” Leon asked. “And naked in someone’s work area. That may or may not be ok here we should- Wait is the table getting bigger?”
As it would turn out, the two were not done shrinking. They got smaller and smaller, until suddenly they got caught on the top of a potion bottle that they had been standing over. They both quickly tried grab at the edge of the bottle, but as that got bigger they fell into a second potion. At least they had stopped shrinking. But now, they were only an inch tall compared to what would be considered normal human height compared to the rest of the room. And stuck inside another strange potion bottle.
“Huh… I can… Suddenly see fine.” Zach muttered. His eyes had changed shape a bit, looking more bestial. Fur was starting to grow over his body.
“Pretty sure we landed in another potion…” Leon muttered as both of them sprouted long flexible tails. They both soon had triangular ears atop their head, and faces that pushed out into muzzles. They had claws on the tips of their hands and feet, which were both more pawlike now.
They were clearly felines, but two different types. Zach had almost uniform brown fur, while Leon was a cream color, with a lighter colored belly, a dark brown tip to his tail, and two black stripes running down either side of his nose.
“The universe has a sense of humor.” Leon remarked, realizing he was some kind of Florida panther human hybrid. Zach meanwhile was a mountain lion.
“So um… A lot just happened all at once.” Zach muttered.
“And now we’re very tiny cats.” Leon thought for a moment. “You know, I wouldn’t mind staying like this if we could set up good living conditions… But… more importantly right now we need to get out of this bottle. We’re not shrinking anymore, but we can only swim for so long before we get exhausted and drown.”
“Uh… Right… How do we climb up a glass bottle?” Zach asked.
“That is a very good question.” Leon muttered as he looked around. Even tiny and with claws he didn’t think making it straight up a glass wall was feasible. He tried scratching at the glass. He could make tiny little marks, but his claws were too small to try to cut a hole in the glass. “If we could apply enough force to tip it over…” But how to do that, they couldn’t easily charge one side of the glass since they were stuck swimming. Although it was pretty full. “I got an idea.” Leon swam to one of the walls. “Lean up against this with me.”
“Okay…” Zach not seeing a better way out obeyed. Both tiny felines had their backs to the wall.
“This bottle is almost full. If we can get it to tip just a little bit in one direction, the liquid will do the rest and tip the bottle over letting us out. Kick as hard as you can to try to push into this wall and hope we can apply enough force to tip it a little.”
The tiny felines did their best, and just a bit, the bottle began to tip to the left. As it did, more of the liquid poured onto the left side of the bottle, and it tipped further left. Then even more did and suddenly the bottled tipped onto its side, spilling out the potion and both tiny felines.
“Ha! We escaped! Leon stood up and shook himself off to get excess potion out of his wet fur. “You know, I might just have a knack for being tiny… And now that I got claws to help me climb things I think I could really make this work.”
“Yeah… This isn’t so bad.” Zach sat down and playfully swatted at his own tail, rolling onto his back as he did. “Now that I know what it feels like to have a tail don’t think I could ever live without one.”
“I know the feeling.” Leon was in high spirits. Their escape from the bottle, and felinfication had made it feel like things were really going their way. Then both of them froze as they heard loud voices approaching. “So, I have no idea if we’re allowed in here or not, if we’d get in trouble if we were found or if people would help us. We should probably hide until we know what’s going on.”
“Right.” Zach nodded at glanced over the table for a hiding place. There was a tray with a bunch of scientific equipment on it and a few more potions. “Over here!” Zach ran behind a pair of clamps. At an inch tall it was easy to crouch behind them and be invisible from sight.
The sources of the voice revealed themselves soon. Humanoid mice, who towered over the tiny felines. They didn’t wear clothes, so at least the two cats know they wouldn’t get in trouble for that. But they couldn’t learn much by watching the mice. They spoke in a strange language neither Zach or Leon could identify. The two felines slowly peaked over the prongs to get a better view of them, only to find one of the mice looking in their direction and walking towards them. Had they been seen? They both ducked down.
Turns out, they hadn’t been seen. Instead, one mouse grabbed the tray they were on, said something to another one, and carried the tray of potions and the two tiny kitties out of the room.
“Heh.” Zach gave a quiet giggle and whispered to Leon. “Feels right we’d wind up as shrunken cats in a world of giant mice.” As he spoke, the world became a lot brighter as the mouse exited the building they had been in. And suddenly, they could see giant green structures extending as high as the sky.
“I don’t think the mice are giant.” Leon muttered, realizing that they were a lot smaller than an inch tall. The two could do nothing but wait as the tray was carried. The liquid inside the potion bottles wobbled back and forth as they moved. After being sure the mouse wasn’t going to take notice of them, Leon crawled forward using a potion bottle as cover to try to get closer to the edge the tray and get a look at the world. Zach followed, and there wasn’t much to say.
Considering they were speck sized, they couldn’t learn a whole lot about what this universe was like to normal people. But at the very least it had talking mice who made potions. That turned people into cats. Why would mice make cats? Or did the potion just bring out one’s ‘inner animal’ or something. At their size, the best they could do was eavesdrop on the mice and they didn’t understand the language.
“Figures we’d shrink into a universe where they don’t just coincidentally speak the same language as us.” Leon muttered. If they got caught, and that turned out to be a bad thing it was going to make communicating their situation really hard.
It was at this point, the mouse carrying the tray stumbled, and nearly dropped the tray as he tripped on a tiny bit of a tree root. He caught himself and avoided dropping the tray, but couldn’t help but spill some of the potions. He said something exasperated, and then gave some kind of sigh of relief. The potions had only spilled onto the tray, there weren’t any accidents here.
Not that he knew of.
The two felines had suddenly been soaked in a new potion, and were getting smaller again. But it was different from when they shrank. Their figures were becoming a bit more round, their limbs shorter in comparison to their body, and their tails shorter. Leon suddenly developed spots covering his fur. The two had gotten younger, and were roughly three years old by the time the potion stopped working.
“Alright… Of all the potions that could have spilled on us, this isn’t too bad.” Leon muttered. “But I’ll be a lot happier when he finally sets us down.”
Leon got his wish soon enough. The mouse entered a small little building built into a mushroom. Once inside, Leon and Zach could make out a counter, what looked like some kind of register, and lots of shelves, most of them with potion bottles on them.
“I think we’re in a potion shop.” Zach muttered.
“So, I guess that makes the other building their lab or workshop or something.” Leon mused. “Wait… That means these potions are probably about to go up on the shelves…” Both felines looked at each other, realizing that when the mouse started taking potion bottles off the tray they would eventually be discovered. And they still had no idea if that would be a good thing or a bad.
“Let’s get back behind the clamps” Zach hissed. Leon nodded and the two crawled behind those.
This proved to be the wrong decision. The mouse didn’t wear clothing, and had no interest in touching the potion bottles with his bare hands. He knew if he did that he could easily spill it on himself and suffer its effects. So instead, he picked up the clamps and used those to keep the potions at an arm’s length as he moved them to the shelf. He didn’t notice that there were two very tiny felines hanging onto the outside edge of the clamps, dangling off as they clung to the side of his tool.
“Now what!?” Leon hissed.
“I don’t know but don’t talk too loud! Those mouse ears are probably really sensitive.” Zach muttered.
“Maybe but our voices are also really small.” Leon hissed back.
The two were nearly thrown from the prongs as the mouse put the first potion onto the shelf and then grabbed the second.
“Alright, let’s get ready to drop onto the shelf.” Leon whispered. “Some of these potions are pretty darkly colored. If we hide behind the right bottle he won’t be able to see us.”
“Right.” Zach nodded as he tried not to lose his grip while the clamps were swung around Thank goodness they had gotten turned into felines. If he didn’t have claws he would have already fallen off by now.
The two waited until the clamps moved close to a shelf.
“On three” Zach whispered to Leon who nodded.
“One.” They spoke in unison. “Two. Three.” They let go of the clamp, landing on the wooden shelf. The two ignored the fact there were some splinters that were taller than them and quickly hid behind the darkest colored potion they could find. It was a deep purple color.
Now hidden, neither one dared say a word. Instead, they simply waited for the mouse to finish putting the rest of the potions on the shelves. Eventually, he finished, and left the store taking the mostly empty tray with him and leaving Zach and Leon by themselves.
“This is making for a heck of an exciting birthday.” Zach gave a sigh of relief that the mouse was gone. He walked out from behind the shelf and sat down on the edge of it with his paws dangling over the side.
“Yeah… I think life is going to be a lot more exciting in general going forward.” Leon stretched after leaving his hiding spot, and soon joined Zach sitting at the edge of the counter. He looked down. “Of course we’re on the top shelf.”
“But, should be super simple for two fierce tiny felines! Right?” Zach grinned. “Cats in a giant land, scavenging for what they can use and learning about the world’s natives.”
“Heh, I think you mean kittens. We’re basically toddlers now. But yeah, getting down a wooden shelf will be a cinch for us.” Leon grinned. “So… We can’t tell what they’re saying…” Leon looked thoughtful. “But we can judge tones of voice. Maybe if we hide out while the store is open and wait for them to interact with customers we can get a gauge of how friendly they are.”
“I’m not sure customer service is the best way to judge the temperament of an entire species.” Zach objected. “I mean, they can have it pretty rough and so can act pretty mean because of the treatment they get.”
“True, but we have no idea where anything is, and even if we did it would take forever to walk somewhere else.” Leon put a hand to his chin. “I’m just hoping that they eat lunch in the shop so we can steal so crumbs to nibble on.”
“Are they still crumbs?” Zach asked. “I mean if the mice are mouse sized they’d basically be eating crumbs. So we’d have like a crumb of a crumb what would you call that?”
“Um… Still a crumb?” Leon replied.
“Nah there’s gotta be a word. A demicrumb. Minicrum. Crumb lite?” He suggested.
“You’re doing this just to annoy me aren’t you.” Leon stuck his tongue out.
“Hey, if I’m gonna be a child I’m gonna act like it.” Zach grinned. “Like you’re gonna be any different.”
“Fair point.” Leon chuckled. “Still… We’ve kind just been rolling with this. This is… A lot to deal with. We talk a big game but can’t guarantee it’ll be easy.”
“Maybe.” Zach looked thoughtful. “But being adult humans wasn’t exactly easy either.”
“True.” Leon mused. “And now that I think about it, trying to steal a crumb unnoticed-“
“Crumb lite.” Zach interjected.
“Crumb.” Leon stated. “But, getting that without being seen sounds a heck of a lot less stressful than working over 40 hours a week and watching my rent go up while my wages are still what they were ten years ago.”
“Yeah, guess we’re living rent free.” Zach muttered. “We should probably check out the store and find a good place that’s safe and comfortable to sleep.”
“I feel like I could curl up and sleep in most places now.” Leon thought for a moment. “Come to think of it most cats have nerve endings lower in their skin than humans. So got a thicker layer of skin and a layer of fur over our nerves. Can probably get comfortable easy in a lot of places.”
“I don’t think we have anything that’s thicker at all.” Zach teased.
“Ha ha.” Leon rolled his eyes. “You know what I mean. The main concern is finding a stable source of food and water. And if these people turn out to be friendly maybe they can help us.”
“Or maybe they’ll keep us as pets.” Zach mused. “That wouldn’t be too bad. Food and water would be provided.”
“And they’d probably buy us toys too.” Leon mused. “Heh, you know that wouldn’t be a terrible outcome… And since they probably won’t be able to understand a word we say anyway they might not even realize we’re intelligent unless we do something to prove it. Math is universal. Could come up with some creative way to show numbers to prove our sapience.” He paused. “Although, if we do wind up as a mouse’s pets there might be benefits to playing dumb and acting like we have normal cat intelligence.”
“But what is normal cat intelligence in this world?” Zach asked.
“Heck if I know.” Leon shrugged. “Some things we’re just gonna have to wing and make the calls as they come.”
“I guess so.” Zach leaned against Leon. “But you know, I feel like working together, there’s nothing this world can throw at us that we can’t tackle.”
It was at this moment there was a loud shout. Both cubs looked up and saw another mouse who had apparently been in a different room of the building. She had come in and clearly saw both of them sitting on the shelf. She was saying something and pointing at them. By instinct, the two made to scram. But, their bodies were a bit too young to run properly, and they had been sitting on the edge of the shelf. When they tried to get up to run and hide, they ended up toppling over each other falling off the shelf.
And landing in a potion on a lower shelf.
“What’s that make three today?” Leon coughed after he got his head above the liquid.
“Four if you count the one that got spilled on us.” Zach muttered.” The two looked around, wondering what this one would do.
And then they saw everything was getting bigger again. The mouse they had seen briefly peaked over the top of the potion before the distance between them grew two far for the felines to make out the mouse. And without a microscope it was doubtful that the mouse could even see the cats now.
“Another shrinking potion.” Leon couldn’t even find it in him to be annoyed. “Here we go again.”
“Well… If we wind up in micro microverse, I’m sure there’s nothing that one can throw at us that we can’t handle.” Zach insisted.
“Except possibly more shrinking potions and microuniverses.” Leon remarked.
“I think we’re handling that quite well.” Zach stuck his tongue out.
“Uh huh…” Leon replied and shoved the feline playfully. The two broke down into a wrestling match, one that became very interesting once they were subatomic and floated around.
And while they played, they continued to shrink, until even atoms were impossibly big again. But there was nothing they could do to stop it. So, they might as well just enjoy the ride. No matter how many microverses they wound up shrinking into.