This story is by Antonio Roberts and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Day thirty-two—I think. The shrink ray’s still busted, and all attempts of reversing the polarity have failed so far. Blast tests on inanimate objects proved to only make subjects even smaller. I dare not test it on another living creature.
This house feels so much bigger alone, especially at this height. I miss my wife, my kids, and I know somehow, I’ll get them back. Those traitors will pay for what they did to us. They all will.
Every day’s another challenge to survive. I thank God daily for Priscilla; without her, I couldn’t have made it this long.
After the accident, I wandered two days across the barren basement floor. My stomach roared in pain, and I’d never been so thirsty.
My goal was simple. Survive, and the laundry room was the closest water. If I had any hope of saving my kids, I needed to stay alive.
I squeezed my body under the doorframe into the dim room. I felt around out of muscle memory for the sink. Sure enough, I found a leg. The question remained how I would climb it.
I heard a scampering of footsteps across the tile, and immediately, I ducked for cover. If being this height had taught me anything, I’m vulnerable. Everything can kill you. Bugs, falls, carpet burns. These would never bother me before but now controlled my thoughts.
The only light shone from under the doorframe. Darkness surrounded the rest of the room. Whatever it was, I didn’t want to stay to find out.
I peeked around the corner, and two glimmering eyes stared me down. Dead ahead, I could make out a broom. I dove inside the bristles.
A hulking mass lumbered over to where I stood and laid against the washstand. Coarse whiskers sprouted from its snout. Enormous ears curved above its face, and a long skinny tail ran behind it.
As the figure plopped itself down, the light caught a small field mouse, and under her soft grey fur, her stomach bulged. She was a lady mouse in labor.
This felt like my chance to leave while she was “distracted.” I crawled from beneath the bristles and dusted myself off.
Suddenly, the mouse released a blood-curdling cry. I jumped. Her beady eyes narrowed on me with her ears back, but she didn’t budge.
I tiptoed towards the door and she released several more agonizing squeaks. I hated hearing her pain. Part of me felt guilty leaving her there, but she stood the size of a horse compared to me. And I’m a scientist, not a doctor. I turned back one last time, and she stared me down with longing eyes.
I sighed and cautiously tread over to the bloated mouse. For the record, I had helped my wife deliver our eldest on the way to the hospital. So, I wasn’t a complete idiot here.
Not that I recommend trying this. I’ll spare you the yucky details, but several grueling hours later she delivered four healthy baby mice.
The pink lumps of joy laid tenderly beside their mother. She slept the most soundly of all and rightfully earned it. My heart warmed watching them nestled together. I supposed helping her was the right thing.
After vigorously scrubbing my arms on my once hiding spot, I let them rest and scaled the broom for what I came for. Cracks in the grain guided my climb. Splinters of wood slashed my palms. I tore my sleeves to wrap them and kept climbing.
The light felt a million miles away, and vertigo was sickening, but I had to do this. I needed to live, and I must find my kids.
Upon reaching the top, I realized the broom was on the wall, not the washtub. I stopped and took a breather. Cold metal against my back made my skin crawl. A strange knob rose from the wall. The light. Little did I know how much a godsend this was.
I bent my knees and pressed the switch with all my might. And with a war cry, the entire world illuminated with a satisfying click. The gleaming washer and dryer towered in porcelain white and stainless steel. Pukey lime linoleum sprawled the floor, and a soft bitty mouse lazily peeked at me.
My attention turned toward the washtub. The leaky faucet dripped, taunting me. I wet my cracked lips. Half of me contemplated jumping right there. If I made it, I lived. But if I fell—well, at least I wouldn’t suffer.
My stomach bellowed again like a savage beast. It’s hard to think on an empty stomach. Not to mention my arms felt like gelatin. I couldn’t have made the jump if I wanted.
I rested against the cool backsplash. Something in my pocket jabbed my waist. I pulled out my wallet. My family photos unfolded. I saw my daughter’s smiling face, my wedding day, and my son’s first batting practice. If I died there, I wanted them to be the last thing I saw on this Earth.
A few pups squeaked and nursed beneath the washtub. The mother mouse still eyed me suspiciously. Maybe I still had a chance.
I put away my wallet and descended the massive wooden trunk. I approached the litter and the mother’s eyes narrowed on me. Her back arched, too weak to stand.
“It’s okay. I’m all right,” I lied.
She bared her bucked incisors. My eyes scanned for the exit. It would be a long sprint for cover. I wished I had a gun or a bodyguard. Things were so much easier as a scientist.
I tiptoed closer and put my arms up to show I was defenseless. No weapons. All but my pocketknife on my belt.
The mother mouse tugged her young closer and curled her frayed tail around them. In the fresh light, her tail bent like a scorpion barb at the tip.
“Please just one,” I pleaded. “I’m starving. I’ll never bother you again; I swear.”
The mouse hobbled to her feet in front of her pups. I clenched my fists. My knees shook. The mother hissed.
“Fine. You wanna fight me. Bring it,” I screamed. “I’m willing to die for my kids. You best be willing to do the same.”
The mouse galloped towards me. Paw over paw hit the ground in a blazing charge. I leapt aside as the mouse crashed into the leg of the washtub. Adrenaline pulsed through my veins, and my legs carried me forward to the mound of fresh meat.
I groaned and barely lifted one off the ground before it cried. The mother charged as a silver bullet, and I dropped the pup. I darted as fast I could toward the dryer.
It roared through the air, and my face hit the floor. It dragged me away by my pants leg. I kicked and flipped over on my back. It clamped harder tearing my skin, but I broke free.
Her paws pressed my arms against the ground over me and threw its head back. I kneed her in the waist, and she toppled over with a wheeze. Saliva dripped off her whiskers.
I leapt onto her chest and drew my knife. The mother kicked and squirmed on her back. She gazed back at her pups then to me, and her eyes rested to my left. I turned to see a trail of ants following a mousetrap.
The two of us heaved out of breath. We fought our all, but only one could end on top. She closed her eyes and raised her head back as if accepting her fate.
I took a deep breath. The knife fumbled in my fingers, and my arm shook. My reflection stared back at me in the stainless-steel dryer.
My traps had killed the father, and here I was finishing the mother. Was I really willing to slit her throat? What would my daughter think? I’d be no better than those who shrunk me. Is this the only way?
My arm grew tired. The mouse’s chest thumped. She cared for her children as much as I did mine. I closed the blade and collapsed beside her. I couldn’t do it. Not to someone else. My kids deserved better from me.
The mouse caught her breath and gaped over me. With confusion, anger, or pity, I may never know.
Suddenly, the mouse sneezed in my face. I groaned and wiped the spit from my cheeks as she pulled at my leg. I didn’t care anymore. She earned the right to end me. I found myself in her cluster of pups. She laid sideways as the pups nursed and nodded at me.
Of course! The spit was her scent. Not my proudest moment, but I was one of hers now and remain grateful forever. I named my new mother Priscilla after my own, and now I’m no longer alone.
My Priscilla delivered four pups and adopted one more, and I’m a bigger man for it.