Deven takes one step outside his door and suddenly finds himself in a magical forest. And of course, he’s far from alone.
Tales From Switch City
Switch City: a place built on a nexus in the multiverse where infinite timelines converge. With an infinite number of realities overlapping in this one place, it stands to reason that there are an infinite number of Switch Cities. Of course, some versions of it aren’t even a city. In some timelines, the area was never developed, in others, it may be another plane of existence, and in even others, it may be in outer space. Regardless of the ‘verse, this doesn’t stop the phenomenon known as a Reality Shift. This event is caused by the barrier between realities being so thin in Switch City that a person can easily slip between one reality and another without ever realizing it had happened. There is no limit or rules as to what kind of realities one can slip into. They might slip into a reality that is nearly identical to the one they left. Or, they might slip into a reality that doesn’t even have the slightest resemblance to their original world.
Deven was very much about to experience the latter. The young man with brown untamed hair was simply sitting in his apartment playing a game. He was completely naked, because like many others he had discovered that clothing was stupid and there was no sensible reason to wear anything at home unless it got really cold. He was off in his own little world, not paying attention to anything but the game until the doorbell rang.
“Huh? Who’d be here at this early in the-“ Deven paused as he looked over at the clock and realized it was not morning as he thought, but now late in the afternoon. “Oh.”
It was most likely just the mail. Deven crawled off the couch, and went for the front door to peer through the peephole to get a look around. He had a bathrobe hung on a hook next to him he could put on so he wouldn’t get in trouble for exposing himself. However, as he looked around it seemed that the courier had already left. It was only going to be a few seconds, no one was going to see him, and so he decided not to bother and just to quickly get the mail as fast as possible.
Deven opened the front door, spying the pile of envelopes laying on his welcome mat. He took one step out of the apartment in order to retrieve the mail-
And suddenly found himself stepping on soft grass instead.
“What?” Deven asked flatly. There were no signs of his apartment complex. The mail he had stepped out to pick up was completely gone. Now, he appeared to be in some kind of overgrown forest where the grass was up to his ankles. At least it made for soft footing on his bare feet. But, what had just happened? How had he gone from his apartment to the middle of the woods? Well… Obviously he hadn’t. This was either a dream or a hallucination.
Deven turned around to find the door that should have still been open now shut behind him. Unlike the hollow, apartment landlord’s standard door he’d just opened, this one was made of old, thick, dark brown decaying wood. That… wasn’t his normal front door.
“Okay, seriously what?” Deven demanded. Maybe if he just went back through the door everything would return to normal and start making sense. He tried to turn the handle, only to find the door wouldn’t move. It wasn’t locked, the old wood had simply rotted and swelled in some places. The door was jammed!
On one hand, Deven knew this clearly wasn’t the door to his room. On the other hand, he had no idea what was going on and didn’t see any obvious other actions he could take. Plus, if he wasn’t dreaming maybe his door had turned into some kind of portal and getting back in would take him to his room. He could probably use some clothing about now. He personally didn’t mind being naked in the middle of the woods, but if he ran into other people, they were more likely to take offense and the last thing he needed was to get mistaken for an exhibitionist and get in trouble. He also would have little to no protection against wildlife, should he need it. Even if it didn’t lead to his room, there might be something inside to wear. And if it was all just a dream? Well, forcing the door open gave him something to do other than sit around and wait to wake up.
Deven shoved his shoulder hard against the door. The wood splintered in a few places, but held tight. Because of course it did. It was amazing this door hadn’t fallen apart, yet had the strength to withstand a shoulder bash. If he wasn’t careful, he might shatter the door before he managed to unjam it. Next, he tried applying a constant pressure on the door without slamming into it in the hope this was less likely to break things. Suddenly, he felt the door begin to press inward. It was working!
And then it swung open completely and Deven stumbled inside.
“Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!” Deven stumbled in as he discovered the wooden floor of the room was just as much a mess as the door. Splinters and pieces of debris sticking up meant he hurt his feet before he managed to come to a stop. Wait, pain…? Did that mean this wasn’t a dream? As he looked around, any hope of returning to his room, or finding clothes for that matter, completely vanished.
Decrepit didn’t even begin to describe the place. It was amazing that it was even still standing. The walls had rotted just like the door, and the ceiling was even sinking a little near the center. As for the ‘house’ itself, it was actually a simple shack, or at least had been. It was hard to call this mess anything other than a fire hazard at this point.Deven could make out the remains of some furniture. There was a wooden frame that had probably been a bed, but the sheets had been eaten away by bugs or something by this point. A broken bench lay in splinters next to the remains of some kind of table. Across the floor were lots of broken urns and jars, mostly made from clay. An archeologist would have a field day in here. A few stains marked the floor where something had obviously spilled and then dried up… but nothing he could use. If there had been any clothes inside, they would have decayed just as much as everything else.
Deven stepped back outside, feeling relief as his feet sunk into the soft grass again. He had to admit, there was a part of him that was a little happy he couldn’t find anything to wear. Sure, if he ran into other people now, he’d have to come up with some explanation. But hey, how often did you get to have a naturist woodlands adventure? But that was the other thing… the pain from the various splinters and broken pieces of floor had convinced him he was very much awake. And this didn’t seem like a hallucination. So… what exactly was going on? All he had done was go outside his apartment door and now here he was.
Deven crossed his arms, thinking as he tried to figure out what he should do. Look for food and water? Maybe shelter? Or maybe look for a way out of the woods? He remembered something about when you were lost you should stay in one place, but he didn’t even know where he was lost. It was doubtful anyone was here, so it wasn’t like they were going to be sending a search party. Staying in one place felt like the worst possible choice. Besides, the old run down shack kind of creeped him out and he’d prefer to put some distance between it and himself.
“Oh my, a human all the way out here?” A girlish voice giggled from somewhere. Deven wasn’t sure where.
“Huh? Hey… Who’s there?” Deven spun around trying to find the source of the voice.
“And… Not only that, but the human is naked.” The voice came from a completely different direction.
“Ah!” Deven had momentarily forgotten his nudity. After you’ve gotten used to it, it just becomes a matter of comfort. You often forget about it until you need to put something on to go out or when you have guests. “Well… Um see… The thing about that…”
“Did you want to feel closer to nature too?” The voice asked. “That’s why none of us wear those silly things. How can you be one with nature when you hide your true form under artificial skin and fur?”
“Uh… Sure…” The conversation had just swung in a different direction from what Deven had expected. But, if they were just going to accept his nudity and not make a big deal about it, he supposed there was no reason not to get along with it. Instead, he focused on trying to find the location of the voice. “Who are you?”
“Such a rude question! You’re just going to ask me my name just like that? Have you no manners?” The voice sounded insulted.
“Uhhhhh.” Deven didn’t get it. What was wrong with asking someone’s name? Oh, whoever this girl was…. was she one of those people that got insulted if you asked their name first without giving your own. “What I meant was: My name is Deven, what’s yours?”
“Deven huh?” There was a merry laugh. “And I told you it’s rude to ask that question.” There was a heavy sigh. “For someone who came out to the middle of Switch Forest, you sure don’t know the rules very well.”
“Did you say Switch Forest?” Deven tilted his head. He lived in Switch City. He knew there was a forest on the outskirts of the city. But that certainly wasn’t the name of it. “What happened to the city?”
“What city?” The voice asked. “This land has always been untamed. Attempts to build civilization here have always ended poorly. Nature is too powerful. It doesn’t like concrete walkways or stone houses. The only person who ever managed to live here was a witch, and she had the good sense to build her entire house out of wood, as well as everything she owned from things she could find in the forest.”
“A witch?” Deven on one hand didn’t really want to believe in witches. On the other hand, he had been magically transported to a forest… One where Switch City apparently didn’t exist anymore, so a witch wasn’t too far out of the question.
“Oh yes. That’s her hut you just invaded.” The voice giggled. “Of course she’s been gone a long time now. Passed on like all mortals do. But you know… They say that her hut is cursed. Any human who visits it disappears forever.”
“Is– is that so…” Deven swallowed nervously and took a few steps away from the hut.
“That’s right! So- you’re doomed now. Her ghost could be haunting you from anywhere… even… right…” The voice went silent… And then suddenly was right in Deven’s face. “HERE! BOO!”
“Eh?” Deven could now see the source of the voice and it left him in a state of too much surprise to even jump. She looked like a young girl, maybe eight years old. Like him, she was unclothed. Unlike him, she was only two inches tall, had long purple hair, and a pair of translucent purple wings extending out of her body. She also seemed to glow with a small purple aura and dropped shining, purple dust anywhere she moved.
“Eh? That’s all you have to say? Come on, that was scary!” The voice, that Deven could clearly now see was a faerie, pouted.
“Sorry… But… you’re kinda too tiny and cute to be intimidating.” Deven chuckled. Then he stopped. “Holy crap faeries are real.”
“Of course we’re real!” The faerie snapped at him. “Who do you think watches over the forest and carries out nature’s will?!” She huffed, then gave him a menacing grin. “Of course, if my small size is the problem…? There’s an easy way to fix that, Deven.” For some reason, she put extra emphasis on Deven’s name. And then, a moment later, Deven felt a sense of vertigo. He got dizzy and gripped his head as the entire world seemed to stretch out before him. He closed his eyes and tried to block it all out till the sensation ended. When it finally did he opened his eyes back up to find himself now standing on the bare dirt. The blades of grass that had gone up to his ankles now towered over his head like trees. “What in the-?”
“BOO!” The faerie leaped out from behind some grass blades and tried a second time to spook Deven. This time, she got a flinch out of him as he took a step back. “Aha ha ha ha! I got you that time!” She landed on the forest floor next to Deven. Height wise, Deven was still taller. It seemed she had shrunk him to the same scale as herself. But of course, she was a little kid and he was an adult.
“You’re still not… that scary, I mean, I’m bigger…” Deven regretted the words as soon as he said it. Based on what he could surmise of the faerie’s personality he had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen next.
“Is that so Deven?” The faerie asked, putting extra emphasis on his name again.
Once more, Deven started to shrink, but the vertigo wasn’t nearly as bad this time. He wasn’t shrinking as small. In fact, the change was quite a bit different. His features softened. A lot of muscle mass disappeared. Then, there was the appearance of baby fat. And after a few moments the faerie girl was about a head taller than him.
“There! Now who’s short?” The faerie patted Deven on the head.
“Uh…” Deven looked down at himself. He had to be around six years old. A lot of weird things were happening right now but… He had expected her to shrink him to the size of an insect or something after his last comment, but this? How could he be upset about this? She made him a kid again! That meant no more responsibilities, no more work, no more rent payments… Or at least it would if he was back in his home! He– wasn’t quite sure what it meant here. But either way, he made a cute child, and he was more than happy to say goodbye to adulthood. He was beaming with such delight he couldn’t even hide it from the faerie.
“Huh, now isn’t someone happy?” The faerie put her hands on her hips. “I guess you must really be a kid at heart if this brings you joy.” Then she gave a wistful sigh. “Though I can’t blame you. I mean, I’ve chosen not to grow up for the last hundred years cause being an adult seems so boring.”
“Wait… You chose not to?” Deven tilted his head. “What do you mean?”
“Faeries only age when they want to.” The faerie explained. “So… When we reach an age we like, we can stop aging and just stay that way forever.” She stuck her tongue out. “And I think I picked the best age, cause I’m now big enough and old enough to be your big sister.”
“Right…” Deven looked around. While being a child excited him, and the giant forest seemed like a call to adventure, it was also a little terrifying. Exploring like this was going to be a challenge.
“Ohhhh, are you scared of the big spooky forest?” The faerie laughed. “Nothing to be scared of at all. I’ve been this small my entire life.” She grinned. “But tell you what… If you play a game with me and win… I’ll take you out of the forest. But if you lose well… Then you have to be my little brother!”
“Uh…” Deven wasn’t really sure what she meant by that… But he didn’t see himself getting anywhere on his own right now. And… Being the faerie’s younger brother would mean he had a family wherever he was, so it seemed like the situation was win-win. “Alright… Let’s play!”
“Oh didn’t even listen to the rules yet before agreeing. How bold.” The faerie grinned. “I like you.” She gave an absolutely wicked smile. “I suppose I should explain in the interest of fairness. We’re going to play a simple game of tag. You have five minutes, if you can tag me in that amount of time, you win the game. If not, then I win.”
“Simple enough.” Deven grinned. He got ready to break into a sprint. Maybe he had a two year disadvantage… And hadn’t played tag in real life for well over two decades. But there was no way he saw himself losing here. Especially if he only had to tag her once. “When does the game start?”
“Right… Now!” The faerie said as she flapped her wings and disappeared into the sky.
“H-hey! That’s cheating!” Deven shouted as he ran after her, only to see her completely disappear once she was past the top of the grass. “I can’t fly!”
“Is that so?” Her voice came from somewhere up above. “I suppose you probably should have listened to the rules before agreeing to play then… And maybe tried to get some wings of your own. But, there are no rules saying I can’t fly.”
“Ugh…” Deven ran around trying to find something to climb. There was a tree with a pretty complex root system sticking out above the ground. He could use that to at least get above the grass and try to see where she was. But, being unable to fly even if he spotted her wasn’t sure what he was going to do. Maybe if he could find a way to climb above her and catch her off guard…
But, the time limit was ticking away. His body was full of energy, but his skills were out of practice. Climbing the tree roots proved to be more difficult than he expected, and by the time he was above the grass level he had wasted at least a full minute of his precious time limit. That was fine, there were still four left. All he had to do was find her and… where was she? He looked around in the direction he had come from. He was certain once he got above the grass he would have been able to see her. But, she was nowhere in sight. Had she flown even higher into the sky, far beyond his reach?
“Looking for me?” The faerie suddenly popped up right behind Deven.
“Whoa!” Deven stumbled backwards and began to trip and fall backwards down the root system. The faerie reached out a hand to grab him then pulled it back. “Ah, sorry, I want to help but that would have counted as a tag.”
“Ow ow owwwwww!” Deven complained as he tumbled back down to the dirt beneath the forest of grass. “That… actually didn’t hurt that bad.”
“Of course not!” The faerie flew down and hovered just a few feet… No wait based on their current scale it was more likely a few inches away from him. “You’re small. You could fall from the very top of a tree and you wouldn’t get hurt. You know, the whole ‘bigger they are, the harder they fall’ thing? Well the opposite is true too.”
“Is… that so?” Deven pretended to listen, but picked himself up and quickly made a dive for the faerie while she was low to the ground. She flapped her wings and flew above him while he wound up landing flat on his stomach.
“Ohhhh so close.” The faerie giggled. “Though you should be happy, I could just fly up so high you could never reach me. But then the game would be boring, and there’s nothing I hate more than a boring game.” She landed on the ground. “Over half your time is gone. So, no more flying! Come on… Try to get me!”
“In that case…” Deven climbed back to his feet and broke into a sprint. She nimbly danced around him and ran in the opposite direction. It was amazing what a difference two years made in athletic performance. He turned to run after her, but no matter how hard he ran he couldn’t run as fast as her.
“Come on, don’t give up already!” The faerie turned to run backwards as she looked at Deven. “Where’d the bravado go! It’s no fun if the other person isn’t giving it their all!”
“All you care about is fun huh?” Deven asked. Yet, at the same time he wished he could live by the same mentality. It must have been nice. However, her taunting gave him the chance he needed. She was much slower while she was running backwards. But… If he broke into a full sprint she’d likely turn around and go full speed.
He had to trick her. He started a jog, first just trying to keep pace with her without her getting away. Then, after clearing past some roots and plants in the way, once he had a clear shot. He burst into a full sprint. He ran at her full speed. The faerie realized her mistake and tried to turn around so she could run properly now, but it was too late. Deven tacked her to the ground and quickly reached down a single finger and booped her on the nose with it.
“I win.” Deven smiled smugly.
“Good job.” The faerie grinned. “But… I’m afraid your total time was five minutes and eight seconds. So, you may have gotten me, but you lost. So you’re my little brother now… Deven” Again, there was the extra emphasis put on his name, and once more Deven started to shrink.
He easily recognized it as himself actually getting younger again. But, for a moment it didn’t seem like it would ever start. His arms got stubbier, and he was soon much smaller than the faerie, where he had tackled her almost fully, he now fit comfortably on her stomach. He tried to stand up but he couldn’t balance himself and fell over onto all fours. She had regressed him all the way back to an infant.
“There we go. Always wanted a baby brother. Six months is a good look for you.” The faerie sat up and shifted to hold the now infant Deven in her arms.
“Bwuh?” Deven tried to talk, but he was too young to form any words.
“Well that was fun… So for the heck of it I’ll take you away from here… Just not out of the forest. You’re coming to my home now, in the deepest part of the forest. After all, now you’re my baby brother.” She grinned. “But… I’ll give you another game, one with an unlimited time limit.”
“Bah?” Deven tilted his head, remembering how the last game went he wasn’t sure he trusted her.
“It’s simple, you just have to guess my name… and then say it out loud.” The faerie grinned. “Do that, and I’ll change you back to a six year old… Or your normal age if you really want.” She rolled her eyes. “But no idea why you would.”
“Bwuh?” Deven tried to protest. He couldn’t talk! How could he say her name?
“Ohhhhh- you can’t say it in baby talk. Gotta say it in plain English.” She affectionately rubbed the hair on his head. “But don’t worry, you’ll have unlimited time to work on it. Because, I guarantee you won’t age a day past six months until you guess it.
“Bwaaah!” Deven shook his head. If he was never going to age, even if he learned her name he’d never be able to say it out loud. He was too young to talk, to walk, or really do much of anything on his own.
“Now then, let’s get you home. Going to need to set up a bed for you next to mine in the tree hollow.” The faerie stood up and floated into the air as she held Deven close to her chest.
“Bah…” Deven was considering objecting more. But, as his head was held against her chest he could feel the warmth from her body and hear her heart beating. It made him feel safe. You know, being a baby forever honestly wasn’t a terrible deal so long as you had someone to look after you. And he had a big sister now to take care of him.
He had no idea how he got here or why? But… He was happy. He was going to be a cute little baby forever and get to run around naked for the rest of his life… Which if he never aged was going to be a very long life living among the faeries in the forest. Yes, he could live with this. He leaned his head closer to his big sister’s chest and listened to her heartbeat once more. Maybe it was the game, or maybe it was just being carried like this, but he found himself growing sleepy.
“You know… maybe the rumors about people disappearing around here have nothing to do with the witch.” The faerie mused as she carried Deven. “Considering we tend to take the humans away who come here, it could actually be us fae who got those rumors going.” She giggled. It was the last thing Deven remembered before falling asleep.
He felt warm and safe. Like everything in the world was going to be right. And so, he took a nap, full of warm dreams of things to come.