Welcome back to another night of Thirteen Tales with me, your host Dr. Callyco. Tonight, Charley receives a letter intended for a different address. When he tries to do a good deed and deliver the letter to its intended destination he uncovers a series of riddles and puzzles intended to lure him into some of game.
Meanwhile at the Lair of Dr. Callyco
“Wow, the second to last tale already.” Dr. Callyco perched inside a cardboard box. This year really went by fast huh?”
“Squeak.” The mouse known as Dr. Cutie Pup agreed from where he rested on the kitten’s knee.
“You’re right, not fast enough.” The kitten gave a wistful sigh. “But time can pass quickly when you’re caught up in something. Sometimes you don’t know how fast… Or what direction time will pass in. Tonight’s guest is Charley, a catmink who is no stranger to adventure. However, a series of clues and riddles sends him on a chase that might leave him in for something bigger than what he bargained for. I bring you our Twelfth Tale. The Tale of Letters and Puzzles.”
Thirteen Tales 2020
The Tale of Letters and Puzzles
Someone had gone through an awful lot of trouble to get Charley here. The catmink’s ruby eyes glanced around the room nervously. It was dark, but there was just enough light for him to make out shapes. The room was mostly barren. The door he had come in through had slammed shut the second he was inside and refused to open. There was a wall with two objects sticking out from it that he couldn’t quite make out without getting closer. He rubbed a gold furred hand through his blue-green hair while he tried to think of the meaning of this. Considering he was locked in a dark room he doubted it could be anything good. He felt around the room with his foot, tapping his black shoes against the floor ahead of him to make sure there was nothing he might trip over. He could hear dripping noises coming from somewhere and the entire place felt unclean. When he got close to a wall, he could make out streaks of black grease on them. Charley imagined his white dress shirt wasn’t going to stay white if he didn’t get out of here soon. His maroon slacks and black vest might fare a little better, but fashion wasn’t really his top concern right now. It was getting out of whatever situation he had somehow gotten himself into.
It had started out so innocently. A green envelope had arrived in the mail. Charley had received a letter not intended for him. So, he had tried to do the noble thing and deliver the letter to its proper location. When he arrived at the address though he just found an old rundown house. No one was inside. It looked like it hadn’t been lived in for ages. But there was a note taped to the front door. On it was a handwritten message.
‘Open the letter for further instructions.’
At first Charley didn’t assume the note was for him. He assumed someone else was supposed to meet here for some reason, and they were supposed to get the letter. But as the day passed and no one showed up he began to wonder if the letter had been sent to him on purpose. Come to think of it, he hadn’t seen the courier come by today, and it had arrived a lot earlier than mail usually did. But if it was for him, why drag him out here only to tell him to read the letter?
There was only one way to find out. He opened it, feeling slightly guilty. There was a chance he was wrong and was now reading a message meant for someone else. However, upon opening the letter those thoughts were forced from his mind as he saw the letter was just a mess of numbers and letters, many of which were randomly cut off in the middle. It was gibberish.
But why would someone send a gibberish message? Charley studied the letter for a few moments and noticed something else. There were crevices in the paper, as if it had previously been folded. Getting an idea, Charley tried folding the letter along those creases. It resulted in the paper being folded into the shape of a house. It also caused some of the jumbled-up letters and numbers to line up with each other into a recognizable message. It was another address. He was being led somewhere, but why? A question he likely wouldn’t get answered unless he went. But now he was being cautious. This was a bizarre way to get someone’s attention and he had no way of telling if their intentions were good or foul.
Traveling to the second address led Charley to the end of an old road running through the forest. There were a few houses, but none of them bore the address he had deciphered in the hidden message. Instead the road actually ended exactly one house before the written address. Meaning this address didn’t actually exist. But this wasn’t a tough puzzle to figure out. This was out in the wilds and the homes were spread out. There was roughly 1000 yards between each one. If Charley kept traveling in the same direction off the road for 1000 yards, he would reach the point the address actually pointed to. However, where road ended forest began, and so it was slow traveling moving through. When he finally reached his destination, there was no house but instead just a dried out well.
Charley glanced around. Aside from the well there was nothing here. No one else seemed to be here, and he didn’t see any further instructions. But… As he looked around he noticed the bucket was down in the well. Whoever was behind this was playing some kind of game. So, he had to treat it that way to make any sense. Charley grabbed the rope and pulled up the bucket from the well. It was surprisingly heavy. When he got it up, he saw why. The bucket was full of rocks. And the rocks all had strange lines and marks on them.
Remembering how the paper had folded to reveal an address Charley tried setting the rocks on the ground and moving them around to connect the lines. At first he met with little success, then he noticed that the rocks had edges to them that matched up to other rocks. It was like a jigsaw puzzle! He didn’t have to solve this just by lining up the shapes, but by seeing what pieces fit together! Confident in what he was doing it wasn’t long before he had assembled the rocks together. No surprise, there was another address. This one on the outskirts of town. But, something was nagging at Charley’s mind. Completing the puzzle left exactly one rock unused. It currently sat by itself, with lines and edges that matched none of the other rocks. Charley picked it up and noticed it was lighter too. Did that have any meaning?
He studied the rock closely and noticed a very thin crack. It looks like a panel. Charley tried sticking a claw into it and pulling it back. The panel opened up, revealing the rock was hollow. It was a fake! And inside the fake rock was an old brass key. Charley had a feeling that if he hadn’t found the key the next puzzle would be impossible.
The key saw no use at the next location, but instead he had another puzzle. They took him all over town, out into the woods and at one point to the beach as he put together the puzzles finding the next address. Then finally he seemed to reach the final destination. It was just a metal shack at the edge of the forest. There were no clues around, nothing that looked like a continuation of this game. Just a shack with a rusty doorknob and a large keyhole.
Charley tried the door and found it locked. But, he had the key had had found in the rock puzzle. He tried it in the lock. It fit perfectly. However, as soon as he unlocked the door the key became stuck and would not come out. It seemed he wasn’t supposed to take the key beyond that point. He had stepped into the shack, and then the door had slammed close and that brought him to his current situation.
If the goal had simply been to imprison him there were plenty of opportunities to do that. Charley didn’t know the purpose of this game, but he didn’t think it was over yet. He moved towards the wall where he could see the two objects jutting out from them. It was a pair of levers. Not the first pair he had seen tonight. The last set he had encountered he thought someone, maybe the person responsible for this, had been sneaking up on him. One lever didn’t seem to do much, the other revealed another clue. This was likely the same. One of these levers would likely continue the game… The other. Well, last time he had gotten one wrong he had heard a loud noise but nothing happened to him. Whoevever had been trying to sneak up on him had disappeared real fast though.
Last time, the right lever had been the correct choice. Charley assumed it wouldn’t be the same twice so he tried the left lever. Then suddenly the floor opened up directly beneath him and he was sent plummeting downward. Thankfully, it was a soft landing atop a pile of pillows and the area he was in now was better lit. That was largely due to the only other feature the room had besides the pillows. It was a door with a window in it, and bright lights were coming from the window.
It wasn’t as if Charley had any other options. He tried the door. It was unlocked, and he entered a room that was completely different from the shack. Everything was shiny and pristine. There were machines with spinning wheels and several lights that lit the room up. Then several pipes seemed to run through the various machines with strangely colored liquids pumped through them. It was obviously some kind of lab. But to what purpose? And why bring Charley here?
He didn’t like this one bit. This was definitely wrong. By now he was certain whoever was behind the game had some nefarious goal. But the entire way here there had been puzzles and riddles, things Charley could beat to move on. Were the rules the same? Was there another puzzle that if he solved he could leave the lab?
Charley crept through the lab with glacial speed. Considering how active this place was, there was the possibility the person behind this game was still here. They could be watching him right now. Or maybe they were going to ambush him. Well, they’d find Charley had a few surprises up his sleeve if they tried something like that. No one showed up, but Charley found what he assumed to be the next puzzle.
There was a large sink with three taps. And three of the tubes with strange liquid ran into the sink. Red, yellow and blue. Next to the sink was a table with several beakers. Charley tested the taps. As expected, each one released one of the three colored liquids. He was careful not to let any of them touch him. He was certain the puzzle here had something to do with the colors, but he had no idea what to do for a solution yet. But there was nothing here at all that gave him a clue as to what he was supposed to be doing. He walked around the lab for a bit looking for a hint. He knew there was an answer he just had to figure out what he was looking for.
Not seeing any clues, he thought about the key and how it had been found during an early puzzle and not used till he got to the shack. Could something else from an earlier puzzle be a clue or tool to what he was supposed to do? He hadn’t seen anything else that looked important enough to grab along the way. He went through each one backwards in his mind trying to see if he had missed anything until he was back to the letter that had arrived in the green envelope.
Why a green envelope? That was something of an odd choice. Every other letter or paper he found had been plain ordinary white or manilla envelopes. Only the first one had been different? Did it mean something? Honestly, Charley wasn’t sure. He knew the current puzzle was related to colors, but assuming the green envelope had something to do with it might have been a bit of a stretch.
Still of the three liquids… If he mixed yellow and blue he’d make green. Of course, there was the question of what he would do with the green liquid once he made it. Was some hidden door going to open up the second he got it right, or would he have to do something with the liquid. Place it on something, pour it on something. Hopefully not drink it. He wasn’t about to start drinking strange fluids found in a lab that had entered through trapdoor.
Decided it was worth a shot. Charley returned to the sink, grabbed a beaker and filled it half with the yellow liquid and half with the blue. Slowly, the two liquids merged until the beaker just contained one green liquid.
“Now what?” Charley looked around. Nothing seemed to happen. Did that mean he was on the wrong track? Or that he had to do something else. Distracted by figuring out the next step he hadn’t noticed the green liquid had started to bubble. He didn’t notice it right up until the liquid exploded out of the beaker landing right on his face.
“Blech!” Some of the liquid had gotten into his mouth and it tastes terrible. Charley did his best to spit it out and tried to wipe the liquid from his face. It was a shame there were no normal sinks in here so he could rinse off with water. However, after a few seconds the liquid seemed to evaporate. “Huh.” Charley looked at the beaker seeing it also empty. Maybe he had gotten the choice wrong. He took a few steps back towards the sink but nearly tripped. Something was wrong with his shoes. And his shirt and pants were kind of baggy.
Charley tried taking a few more steps and slipped right out of his shoes. The leg of his pants covered his paws and dragged on the floor making it difficult to move anywhere without tripping. His clothes were definitely getting bigger on him.
“What is this?” Charley asked as his pants felt down around his ankles. His voice sounded weird, high pitched. Like a child’s. He looked down at himself. His shirt and vest hung loosely off his body covering most of it. However, he was a lot scrawnier than he was a few minutes ago, and the neckhole of his shirt slid off one shoulder as the vest fell off completely. He didn’t just sound like a child! He was a child! The liquid had made him younger! And the regression wasn’t stopping.
Charley rushed over to sink, this time tripping over the hem of his shirt. He wriggled out of the shirt. He could stay naked for now, modesty was kind of a secondary problem at the moment. He had to stop himself from getting younger! By the look of things he was already down to five years old. Blue and yellow made green which made him regress. Maybe the opposite color of green would reverse this? That would be red, meaning he wouldn’t have to mix it with anything if he was right.
There was just one problem. He could barely reach the top edge of his sink from his current height. The taps were beyond his reach. He needed something to help him climb up. But time was against him. He rushed over to the table that the beakers were on, hoping to climb up onto that and from there onto the sink. But he fell over again as he got close to the table. This time he hadn’t tripped. His legs were just too weak to support his weight. He was reduced to crawling, and soon any hope of climbing the table was lost. Charley had been reduced to a tiny infant, and after a few more seconds was reduced completely to a network. He made a squeaking noise, too young to talk. He couldn’t walk. Was this it? Had the goal of whoever set all this up been to turn him into a baby?
And yet despite that, he was still getting smaller. It wasn’t possible to get any younger. But his body was still shrinking. Smaller and smaller till he was small enough to fit in the palm of someone’s hand.
He tried to think. Maybe there was some way he could still get to the taps on the sink. He couldn’t climb properly, but maybe around the lab he could find enough objects to build some kind of staircase, but at his size what could he use that would get him all the way up? Maybe there was something around the lab that could help or…
He froze as he glanced around. Beneath the sink there was a small opening in the wall that led to a room behind the sink. Was this a possible exit? It wouldn’t fix his age problem… But he would not have been able to fit through had he not been so small. Still, why did he have to be small and a baby? Had he gotten something wrong? But if that was the case would getting it right mean he just shrunk without getting younger? That didn’t seem like much of a reward.
Charley considered his options and decided to investigate the opening. It wasn’t as if things could get any worse in the lab. He was already a rat sized newborn baby, it wasn’t like he could get any younger. Hopefully he wouldn’t get any smaller. He crawled towards the hole and into a long tunnel. He wondered if this was some kind of ventilation shaft or something. Maybe he could get outside through it? Then maybe he could get help from his friends. But of course, that would mean crawling all the way back home from here. Hopefully he’d find a way to turn back to normal.
The further Charley got from the lab the darker the tunnel became. Soon it was too dark to see and he had to feel his way forward. Eventually he bumped into a dead end. Except, he felt the wall move when he bumped into it. He pushed against the wall and it gave way to another brightly lit room. Charley was temporarily blinded from the bright light as his eyes adjusted.
During this time, someone picked him up off the ground. He didn’t see them before he was being carried cupped in their hands but he heard them speak.
“Looks like we’ve got another one for the nursery.” The voice sounded wistful. “A real cutie too, will probably be adopted in no time. At least we’ll make some money off the fees.”
Charley squeaked in protest, but the owner of the voice carrying him ignored him. Instead, he was carried to a room full of tiny cribs that looked like they were sized for rodents, most of which were full of newborns of various other species. The person holding Charley sat him down in one of the cribs and disappeared. Charley tried to climb out of the crib, but his newborn body was just too small. He wasn’t getting anyway anytime soon. He was stuck… And what had the voice said? Something about being adopted. Hopefully, if that was true whoever picked him out was more benevolent than the creator of this little game.