Sarah Bridges is a loving, hard-working single mother to her 18-year-old son. After an incident, though, she realizes that she has been neglecting him in favor of her demanding but exciting job at a research lab. Fearing that she may lose him forever, she decides to take drastic action. Drastic action that involves the lab's latest invention.
12/5: I'm sorry, but my stories are on temporary hiatus. I've been extremely busy lately, and will continue to be so for the next couple weeks, so I can't work on anything else. I have every intention to continue once I'm not as busy, but I just wanted to give you all an update. I'm so sorry for the delay, and thank you for your patience. I hope you'll continue to enjoy this story when I return! <3
Categories: Teenager (13-19)
, Adult 30-39
, Instant Size Change
, Mouth Play
, Sci-Fi Characters:
Minikin (3 in. to 1 in.)Size Roles:
Following story may contain inappropriate material for certain audiences
June 11 2021 Updated:
September 20 2021
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
1. It's Fine, Mom by Pluto Pendragon
2. The Incident by Pluto Pendragon
3. A Secret Plan by Pluto Pendragon
It's Fine, Mom by Pluto Pendragon
I'm still working on my ongoing story, but I had this extremely sudden and extremely strong idea pop into my head a few days ago, and I really want to try getting it out there. Perhaps inspired by the themes of motherhood in my main series, I wanted to write a story just about that. I hope you enjoy it.
Sorry sweetie, I have to work late again. Can you handle dinner tonight?
Sarah hit send. After a brief loading period, the word “delivered” appeared under her message. Almost immediately, it changed to “read,” and a speech bubble with three dots appeared, indicating that a response was being typed.
Sure, no problem. I’ll save you a plate, read the new message on her screen. Sarah adopted a huge smile, before quickly typing out a response of her own.
Thank you baby!!! You’re the bestest son ever!!!!! she typed, along with ten heart emojis. Keeping her huge, triumphant smile, Sarah showed her phone to the concerned supervisor sitting next to her.
“See, Heather?” she asked smugly. “He says ‘no problem.’ He can survive without his mother for one evening.”
“Mm-hmm,” Heather mumbled, narrowing her wrinkled eyes at the phone screen.
“Sure went big on the hearts, didn’t you?” she asked, to which Sarah waved her hand dismissively.
“Oh please, that’s nothing,” she replied. “Anyway, you’ve got me for the evening. Don’t worry so much.”
Heather sighed, and closed her eyes in resignation.
“I’m just saying that you’ve spent a lot of time here lately, when you should be spending more time taking care of your son. We don’t need you here tonight, so why not go have dinner with your boy?” she replied exasperatedly.
“In other words, you don’t want to pay the overtime…” Sarah said teasingly, causing her supervisor to huff in annoyance.
“Sarah, I’m being serious,” she scolded.
“So am I,” Sarah replied firmly. “My Matty is more than capable of looking after himself. That kid is more mature and responsible than anyone else his age, and I am not just saying that as his mother. It is because of him that I feel comfortable spending so much time here, because I know he’ll be alright. I appreciate your concern, but we’re both fine. I promise.”
Heather looked at her concernedly for a moment, but finally relented with a small nod. Sarah smiled in response, before remembering another point.
“Besides, he’ll be off to college next year anyway, right? The fact that he’s so independent now just means that he’ll be better prepared for the future,” she said.
“Well, that’s exactly my point,” Heather replied, her concerns renewed. “I know this from experience - once your kids leave the nest, you’ll regret not having spent more time with them while you could. You’ll miss having someone to take care of.”
Sarah frowned, as she suddenly found herself a little less firm in her conviction. Heather’s warning tickled a certain part of her brain, and she felt a twinge of anxiety and doubt begin to creep up on her. However, she quickly pushed it down. Still, Heather continued.
“Look, I think it’s wonderful that Matt is so independent. You’re right - he’s approaching the part of his life where he’ll have to be. But, until then, my advice to him would be to stay a kid while he can be a kid,” she said, before turning to face her underling with a firm expression.
“And my advice to you is to stay his mom while you can be his mom. Don’t be so eager to sacrifice your moments with him, because you can’t ever get them back,” she warned. Sarah nodded in response, although she was secretly a little annoyed by the unsolicited advice.
“Okay, okay, I understand,” she replied dismissively. “Either way, though, I’m staying late today. I’ve already confirmed it with him, so might as well. We’re getting so close, and I want to be around to help.”
“Very well,” Heather sighed, knowing better than to keep pushing it. “Let’s get to it, then.”
Sarah smiled victoriously, before following her supervisor out of the break room and into the research lab.
“Home!” Sarah called out as she came bounding inside the house. She closed the door behind her, and leaned against it with a sigh. Up the stairs that were directly to her right, she heard an indistinct voice speak up in response to her declaration. At that, she tossed her things aside and dashed upstairs, seeking out the source. She made her way to a certain door, gave it a few quick knocks, and then threw it open before eagerly storming inside. Inside the room, and standing up from his desk to greet her, was her 18 year old son.
Matt Bridges, like his mother, had dark brown hair and even darker brown eyes. His sharp, well-defined features suggested an older age than he actually was, which was only accentuated by his calm, mature temperament. Sarah contrasted his personality with her energetic, slightly goofy demeanor, which was similarly accentuated by her attractive, youthful features. She was often mistaken for her son’s older sister, to his modest embarrassment and her overwhelming delight. Having had him at the young age of 20, Matt’s upbringing was always accompanied by his mother’s youthful spark, which she refused to give up even as she neared the dreaded age of 40. Her gorgeous face lit up at the sight of her beloved son, and a wave of comfort quickly washed away any stress she was carrying as a result of her day.
“Welcome ho-” he started, but he was quickly cut off as his mother sprinted towards him and tackled him to his bed. She was a little shorter than him, standing at 5’7” to his 5’8”, but size hardly matters when faced with the element of surprise.
“I’m so sorry for working late again,” she said guiltily, while holding him tight in a firm embrace. Once the shock of his surprise tackle wore off, Matt gently reciprocated the hug and began to softly rub his mother’s back.
“It’s fine, Mom, I’m used to it,” he assured, before quickly regretting his choice of words.
“Matthew!!” Sarah shouted angrily, burying her face in his chest as she bopped his back with her fists repeatedly.
“Not what I meant,” he sighed, before softly removing himself from her apologetic embrace.
“I just mean that I know you’re doing important work, and that you really enjoy it,” he elaborated, as Sarah finally relented and let him go. She then rolled over onto her back and watched him with a pout as he stood up from the bed and sat back down at his desk.
“You’re too forgiving, sweetie.” she chided. “You’re allowed to be selfish, you’re only 18.”
Matt chuckled as he reclined into his chair.
“Something tells me that you’re just fine with that,” he said with a grin. Sarah reciprocated, and moved over so her head was resting on his pillow as she laid on her side.
“Of course I am, you’re absolutely perfect just the way you are,” she replied firmly.
“Noted. Anyway, how was your day?” Matt asked, causing Sarah’s eyes to light up as she sat up on the bed.
“Busy, but exciting,” she answered. “We’re still in the testing phases, and we’re just waiting for the approval to test a human subject. It’ll happen any day now, and everything so far has been great.”
Matt nodded appreciatively.
“I see, I see. And you think the live test will go well?” he asked, to which his mother nodded vigorously.
“Oh, absolutely. It’s basically a guaranteed thing, the escalation of tests is just a formality at this point. Lots of recordings, lots of data sheets, lots of boring paperwork, lots of sampling - which is why I’ve been staying late to help out. But now we’re finally getting to the good stuff,” she continued, her eyes positively sparkling. Matt couldn’t help but smile at his mother’s enthusiasm for her work.
“That’s great, Mom,” he replied softly. “I know you’ve been working super hard. I’m really happy for you.”
Sarah’s eyes softened in loving adoration, and she quickly rose from the bed and made her way over to him. Knowing what was coming, Matt braced himself. His mother’s body crashed into him as she subjected him to another hug, her ample chest pressing right into his face as she rested her chin on the top of his head. Sarah was a very physically affectionate parent, and constantly subjected her son to a never-ending barrage of hugs and kisses. Having long grown used to this, Matt simply endured it in silence as she squeezed him with all her might.
“Thank you so much, baby, you’re the absolute sweetest,” she cooed.
“Mm-hmm…” he awkwardly replied, before thinking of a way to direct the conversation elsewhere.
“What about your coworkers, though? Or your boss? Are they giving you any less trouble?” he asked, knowing that his mother never passed up an opportunity to vent about her colleagues. Although he couldn’t see it, he knew that her face was likely souring in annoyance as he felt her body slightly stiffen. After a moment, she pulled away and sat back down on his bed with a huff.
“No,” she said angrily. “I swear, these are some of the smartest people, but they act like they never graduated from high school. And Heather seems to take any opportunity she can to lecture me about stuff that is not at all her business, like she’s some wise old sage or something.”
“I see,” Matt replied, ever the active listener. Although he didn’t exactly enjoy listening to the tales of annoyance and workplace-drama, he knew that he was the only person that his mother could tell, so he dutifully let her complain.
“Yeah, it sucks. And Steve, the H.R. guy, apparently is annoyed with her because she didn’t inform him about something that Paul, one of the engineers, said to her in confidence a week ago, but only just spoke to him about. But, like, it was a private conversation! And now he’s telling me, for some reason, that he wants to go over her head and talk to the C.T.O…”
And so it continued. For the next indeterminate amount of minutes, Matt said nothing but the occasional “Yeah…” or “I see…” while his mother ranted about her colleagues. Eventually, though, she came to a stopping point, and noticed that Matt had a collection of books and an open notebook on his desk. Immediately, she felt a pang of guilt.
“Oh, sweetie, are you studying? I didn’t mean to distract you with my nonsense…” she asked concernedly. Matt looked over at the pile of stuff on his desk, and turned back to his mother while shaking his head reassuringly.
“It’s fine, Mom, I needed a break anyway,” he replied. Sarah’s eyes softened a bit in relief, but quickly darkened as she came to another realization.
“I’m 90% sure I’m a terrible mother for not knowing this off the top of my head, but does this mean you have a test coming up…?” she sheepishly asked, to which Matt chuckled.
“Yeah, tomorrow. Calculus,” he replied, causing Sarah’s eyes to widen in shock.
“Tomorrow?!” she repeated incredulously. “Why didn’t I…?”
She sighed, and lowered her head.
“Matthew Bridges, I’ve failed you,” she said solemnly. “I know you’ve told me this before, and I forgot. I’m sorry, sweetie.”
“It’s fine, Mom,” he replied, reaching forward and patting her knee. “You’ve got a lot of stuff on your mind, and it isn’t a big deal.”
“Is it a big test, though?” she asked, looking back up at him.
“It isn’t the biggest, but… yeah, kinda…” he answered, while averting his eyes. Sarah’s expression softened, and she once again rose from the bed and moved towards him. Much more gently this time, she wrapped her arms around his seated body and held him close. She then leaned down to give him a gentle peck on his forehead, before speaking in a reassuring voice.
“Don’t stress, sweetheart,” she murmured. “I’m sure you’ll do great, like you always do. After all, you’re the smartest person in this house.”
Matt let out a small scoff, before closing his eyes and leaning into his mother’s warmth. In that moment, he felt perfectly comforted and safe.
“That’s a big fat lie, miss scientist,” he muttered, to which Sarah ruffled his hair affectionately. She then looked over at his desk, and what she saw caused her to adopt a small frown.
Despite his claim that he had been studying long enough to need a break, his notebook seemingly had nothing written in it. His textbooks seemed to be opened to the start of their respective chapters, and his graphing calculator wasn’t even turned on. Shrugging it off, Sarah figured that his notebook had just been turned to a fresh page, he had just finished the previous chapters, and his calculator must have automatically powered down while she was yapping. She then turned her attention back to the young man in her arms.
“You’re doing way better than I was at your age, honey,” she assured. “You’ve done so well, and I’m really proud of you. Just make sure you don’t stress yourself too hard.”
“I won’t, Mom,” Matt replied. “Anyway, you should go eat. Your portion is in the fridge, so just warm it up in the oven.”
Sarah’s eyes lit up a bit in excitement, and she released him from her embrace and looked at him with a huge smile.
“What did you make?” she asked eagerly. Matt lowered his eyes a bit in response.
“Just, um… just some mac and cheese,” he answered sheepishly. “The shortcut kind, with the sauce made from the soup can stuff. I’m sorry it’s kinda lazy, but I was a little tired, and-”
“Are you kidding? I love that stuff!” Sarah interrupted. “Sometimes lazy stuff tastes the best, honey. Don’t beat yourself up, the fact that you even have to cook for me at all is honestly a bit embarrassing.”
Matt looked back up at her and adopted a grateful smile, to which she reached out and tenderly rubbed his cheek.
“Thanks for dinner, sweetie. Alright, I’ll leave you to it. After I eat, I’m probably gonna go to bed, okay? I’ll most likely head into work early tomorrow, so I might not see you before I leave,’ she continued. Matt nodded in response, trying to hide the disappointment in his eyes. Not noticing this, his mother beamed at him before leaning in one last time. She gave him a big, fat smooch on his cheek, which he received with an annoyed groan. Pulling away with a large smack, she flashed him a final grin before bouncing out of the room. Once she was gone, Matt’s expression darkened immensely. Despite his earlier assurance, he was greatly saddened by the fact that his first and likely only interaction with his mother that day had just concluded, and lasted no more than twenty minutes.
“Love you! Sorry for being such a horrible mother!” Sarah called out chipperly as she descended the stairs. Matt slowly turned around in his chair, until he was facing his desk with dejected eyes.
“It’s fine…” he whispered.
The next day, Sarah received some big news at the lab. They had finally been approved for a test on a human subject, and it was about to commence. Nearly everybody in the building was crowded into the main research laboratory, eagerly awaiting the arrival of their subject. Nobody involved with the project was allowed to volunteer - a fact that a couple of women behind Sarah were quietly lamenting.
“I was kinda hoping that Steve would somehow end up as the subject…” one of them whispered to the other, to which she snickered.
“I know, right? At least that way, it wouldn’t be a big deal if they couldn’t return him to normal,” she replied, causing both of them to crack up with hushed giggles. Sarah turned around and shot them a firm glance, which promptly shut them up. With that being said, she couldn’t help but crack a small grin once she turned back around. Eventually, a commotion in the distance signalled that it was showtime, and everybody in the room stiffened in anxiety. A tall man in a strange, yellow jumpsuit was hurried into the room, accompanied by a couple of the lead scientists.
They guided him to a small platform in the middle of the room, and Sarah noticed that they were quickly followed by what looked like a medical team. A couple of serious-looking medical professionals were directing a stretcher into the room, surrounded by a couple of nondescript medical devices. This caused the seriousness of the situation to sink in, and she couldn’t help but get a little nervous, despite her overwhelming confidence in the safety of the experiment. In the blink of an eye, it was time to begin. A small, nervous scientist began to record the subject with a device, and the scientists on either side of him began to speak.
“Uh… okay, and… welcome to, uh, the first experiment with a human subject…” he began awkwardly.
Nobody ever accused us of having showmanship… Sarah thought with a smirk. The scientist continued, nervously and stiffly explaining the science behind the experiment, as well as what was about to occur. Eventually, it was time to truly start. An assistant approached the platform with a tray, on top of which was a small pill and a glass of water. The scientist received the tray with a nod, and held it out towards the subject. Stoically, and without any trace of fear, the man placed the pill in his mouth before washing it down with the water. Just like that, the experiment had begun. Taking a nervous breath, the scientist continued speaking for the camera.
“Our fast acting chemical agent within this pill will quickly circulate throughout the subject’s body, binding to his cells. It will, in effect, ‘tune’ his body to a unique frequency that we can then manipulate. We do this with, um, a remote…” he explained, before rustling around in his pockets for a moment.
“Which I am holding,” the other lead scientist cut in, holding out the remote towards the camera while shooting him a firm glance. He deflated a bit in embarrassment, before backing up to make room for her. She stepped forward, and took over the explanation for the camera.
“Now that a few minutes have passed, the subject’s body is ready to be manipulated. His cells can now ‘talk’ to us via this remote, through our artificial frequency. And, now that we can talk to them, we can tell them what to do,” she continued, before firmly nodding. With that, everybody except for the subject cleared off the platform. Everybody in the room was waiting with stifled breath, their hearts on edge. Sarah was no exception, and she was fighting the urge to stand on her tippy-toes to get a better view. Then, with a few verbal confirmations, the scientist punched a few commands into her remote.
She pressed a green button, and the subject disappeared. This was hardly a cause for concern, though, far from it. Indeed, rather than any cries or yelps in surprise, everybody in the room simply lowered their gaze. Sarah, the lead scientists, the medical team, the cameraman, the interns in the back who were practically clamoring over each other to get a better view - they all looked to the floor of the platform. There, alternating between examining himself and his surroundings, was the subject.
Only now, he was three inches tall.
In awe, the entire room watched his miniscule movements as the subject looked around in amazement. He was perfectly proportional. His hair, his build, even his jumpsuit - it was all exactly as it was, only now unbelievably tiny. He was still alive, he was still conscious, he was still able to move, which the scientific aspect of Sarah’s mind took note of with great relief. However, that aspect of her consciousness was vastly outweighed by the borderline childish aspect of her mind that was marvelling in perfect amazement at how fragile, how delicate, but most of all how gosh-darn cute the tiny man on the platform looked. Everybody else was in similar bafflement, but it soon wore off as everybody quickly remembered that they were all supposed to be professional scientists, not middle-schoolers on a field trip. At that, the lead scientists directly next to the platform got themselves together.
“S-Sir?” the female scientist squeaked, to which he looked up in her direction. He could still hear, obviously, which was another good sign.
“D-Do you, um… are you in any kind of discomfort? Does it hurt anywhere, do you feel tired or sluggish at all, does your head feel fuzzy, anything like that?” she continued. After taking a few long moments to self-check, the impossibly small subject looked back at her. His stoic expression finally transformed into a relieved, excited grin, and he shot the scientist an enthusiastic thumbs-up.
At that, the room erupted into applause and cheers. It felt like the weight of a thousand suns had lifted from everybody’s shoulders as the result became clear:
Their experiment was a success. Humans could safely be shrunken down.
It would be impossible to describe the overwhelming relief and joy being experienced in that room, but unfortunately it did not last long. The shrunken man suddenly flinched and held his hands to his head, which only the lead scientists and medical team noticed amidst the celebrating. They all quickly moved in closer to see what was wrong, their hearts about to explode. However, they immediately noticed that the subject was actually holding his hands to his ears, and they swiftly understood what was going on.
“EVERYBODY SHUT UP!” shouted the male scientist, in his loudest and most authoritative voice. Everybody promptly followed his instruction, and looked to him with nervous eyes. The scientist held a finger to his lips before pointing to the subject, and they all sheepishly realized their mistake. The celebration resumed, but this time at a hushed volume. Many smiles were adopted, many hugs were shared, and many tears were shed. Sarah was sporting one of the biggest smiles of her life, and fighting the urge to tear up herself. Realizing that the next few days were going to be unbelievably busy, she whipped out her phone and began to craft a message to her son.
Sorry sweetie, I have to work late again. Can you handle dinner tonight? Exciting news today!!!
Sarah hit send. After a brief loading period, the word “delivered” appeared under her message. She quickly slipped the phone back in her pocket, not waiting for the reassuring response that always came within seconds. If she had, though, she would have noticed something peculiar.
After a few long moments, the word “delivered” changed to “read.” However, unlike the previous time, or the time before, or the time before, or the time before, or the many previous times before that, no speech bubble with three dots popped up. The message had been seen, but no reassuring response ever came. Sarah was too excited to notice.
I honestly have no idea how frequently I will update this story, since my other one takes priority. Still, I hope you enjoyed part one of the prologue. The size-changing stuff will happen at around chapter 3 or 4, by the way. Until then, please let me know what you're thinking!
The Incident by Pluto Pendragon
Sorry for the delay, but here's chapter two. More plot, more buildup, hope you enjoy.
Her mind buzzing, Sarah pulled into the driveway of her home - a small, two story house in the middle of a quaint suburban neighborhood. She was practically vibrating in her seat as she unbuckled her seatbelt, as she positively couldn’t wait to tell her son the good news regarding the experiment. The experiment in which a fully grown man was shrunk down to three inches tall, subjected to a litany of tests, then successfully regrown to his full height. Being one of the senior members of the research team, Sarah had even been able to hold the subject in her hand for a moment, an experience that sent shivers throughout her body every time she recalled it.
Although Matt wasn’t aware that her ongoing research project specifically involved shrinking, due to certain confidentiality protocols that needed to be followed, he knew that it was related to the manipulation of matter. As such, he was well aware that her research had the potential to radically change the world, and Sarah knew that he would be thrilled to hear that their most important test had gone perfectly. Due to her having few friends outside of work, and a very small extended family that she was not especially close to, her son served as her only real outlet for sharing such accomplishments. Just as she finally gathered her things and prepared to exit her car, though, she noticed something odd.
The house was dark.
Matt, who always came home hours before his mother, usually tried to turn a few lights on as it started to get dark. This was both to make Sarah feel more welcome when she finally returned, and because he believed that it made them less likely to be robbed. However, Sarah wasn’t able to see any light from either of the two floors. Shrugging it off, she figured that Matt must have been in his room, which faced the backyard, and had simply forgotten to turn on the lights in the front-facing rooms. With that, she exited her car and began eagerly making her way towards the house.
“Home!” Sarah called out as she came bounding inside the house. She flipped a few switches on the wall to her right, which brought light to the living room. Looking around, she saw that the house looked undisturbed, showing no signs of life. Her declaration of arrival, which Matt usually replied to, was met with pure silence. Sarah’s home had never felt more empty, and her first instinct was to assume that her son wasn’t actually home yet. It was getting into the evening, though, which made that possibility seem less likely. Looking behind her out the window, she saw that his car - a used, sturdy-but-cheap thing - was indeed in the driveway, further dispelling that notion. Shrugging it off, she figured that Matt had headphones on or something, and simply hadn’t heard her arrival. She made a mental note to herself, wanting to tease him about it later on. For now, though, she decided to head into the kitchen.
Turning on the light, she saw that the kitchen looked similarly devoid of life. In fact, it looked exactly as it did when she had left for work. The same dishes were still drying on the rack, and the sink was completely empty. Seeing as how Matt was supposed to handle dinner, she found this quite odd. A twinge of anxiety began to creep up on her, and she opened the fridge to check for leftovers. She saw that the fridge was also exactly as it had been, and her confusion drastically increased. She tried shrugging it off.
He must have ordered… she started to think, but quickly realized that him ordering takeout wouldn’t explain the lack of food. She closed the fridge, now extremely confused. After a moment of contemplation, something clicked in her mind. She quickly whipped her phone out and checked her texts.
Sorry sweetie, I have to work late again. Can you handle dinner tonight? Exciting news today!!!
Her text from earlier had indeed been sent, as well as read, but had not received a response. Sarah’s twinge of anxiety had now evolved into fully-fledged concern, and she quickly exited the kitchen and made her way towards the stairs. Something was definitely wrong, and her instincts were telling her that she needed to find her son.
“Matty?” she softly called out, while somewhat nervously climbing the stairs. Reaching the upstairs hallway, she was extremely unhappy to see that it was also dark. Directly to her left was Matt’s closed bedroom, which she instantly locked on to with worried eyes. Her heart began to speed up, and she brought her slightly trembling fist up to the door before giving it a few soft knocks.
“Baby?” she said, barely more than a whisper. To her soul-crushing dismay, no response came from behind the door. Looking at the floor, she could see from under the door that the room appeared to be dark. Again, she tried shrugging it off.
He must be sleeping… she thought, before reaching towards the doorknob to check. However, once she was about to open the door, something stopped her. She didn’t know what it was, but something deep within her mind didn’t want to open the door. It was convinced that something horrible was behind it. Her heart now racing, and with extreme trepidation, Sarah finally opened the door and looked inside the room. What she saw stopped her heart.
It was empty.
To her equal parts relief and concern, the room was completely empty. Turning the light on, she took a few steps inside and looked around. The bed was made, his jacket and backpack were hung up next to his closet, and his phone was on his desk. Matt had definitely been in his room recently, and everything appeared to be fine. However, this did little to soothe Sarah’s anxiety. In fact, it was only getting worse. Every question she had been asking now flashed through her mind all at once.
Why didn’t he reply to my text?
Why didn’t he turn on the lights?
Why didn’t he respond when I came inside?
Why weren’t there any dishes?
Why wasn’t there any food?
Why didn’t he respond when I called out for him?
Why isn’t he in his room?
Where is he?
Where is he?!
Suddenly, a burst of crushing fear completely overtook her consciousness. It was primal, something built into the genetic code of every parent. A unique kind of fear that could only accompany one specific thought:
My child is in danger.
“Matty!” she called out, now slightly louder. However, something was preventing her from completely shouting out. Her instincts were telling her to scream his name and sprint out of the room, but she found herself once again paralyzed by fear. She was afraid that even if she screamed at the top of her lungs, she still wouldn’t get a response. If that were to happen…
Now completely trembling, she hesitantly exited his room. Her call was once again met with silence, and she began to panic as tears formed in her eyes. She looked to her right and down the stairs, at a thorough loss for ideas as to what she should do next. She then looked to her left, further down the hallway. At the very end, nestled right next to the wall, was her own bedroom. Turning towards the door, she noticed something that caused her eyes to widen.
Under the door, there was a faint shimmer. A light was on.
Wasting no time, she dashed towards the door and threw it open. She saw that her bedside lamp was on, which caused the room to be bathed in a soft, orange glow. She looked all around the room with wild eyes, before coming to a stop on her bed. What she saw caused an indescribable wave of relief to wash over her, and her expression softened. There, sitting on the bed and hugging a pillow to his chest, was Matt. His face was draped in shadow due to the positioning of the lamp, which made his expression hard to make out from Sarah’s position. However, he was clearly alive - a fact that dispelled the most horrifying of her fears.
Seeing the door fly open, Matt flinched and turned to look at his unexpected visitor. Now able to see his face a bit more clearly, Sarah could see that his eyes were wide. Just as she was about to speak, Matt reached up and took out his earbuds, placing them in his lap before fiddling with a device. He then began to speak in a small voice.
“I-I didn’t hear you come in,” he said quietly, lowering his eyes in seeming embarrassment.
“Y-You didn’t… you didn’t hear me call for you?” she asked, still breathing a little heavily. Despite her overwhelming relief, she was still grappling with the effects of her previous anxiety. Her heart was pounding, and her whole body buzzed with adrenaline. Matt softly shook his head in response to her question.
“I didn’t, I was listening to something. I’m sorry,” he replied sheepishly. He looked back up at his mother, and finally noticed just how distressed she looked.
“Are… are you okay, Mom?” he asked, narrowing his eyes in concern. At the sound of his sympathetic voice, Sarah couldn’t take it anymore. Wordlessly, she made her way towards him on the bed, holding her arms out as she approached.
Just a little frantically, she wrapped her arms around his seated frame and hugged him tight. Resting her cheek on the top of his head, she took in the soft texture of his hair. She then closed her eyes and squeezed him even tighter, her mind unable to fully process just how scared she had been at the thought of something happening to her boy.
“Oh, thank God,” she whispered. “I love you so much, Matty.”
“I love you too, Mom,” Matt awkwardly replied, doing his best to reciprocate the hug. Although he was a little confused as to the nature of her surprise bear hug, he certainly wasn’t complaining. Unbeknownst to Sarah, it was actually something that he had been wanting all day.
“Is everything okay?” he repeated.
“When you didn’t respond to me, and I saw that your room was empty, I got a little worried. That’s all,” she replied, still holding him close. Although hugging her son was one of her all-time favorite activities, she had never been as reluctant to let him go as she was at that moment. So she didn’t, while Matt’s expression slightly darkened in guilt.
“Oh. I’m sorry to have worried you,” he replied quietly. He then felt a comforting sensation on his back as his mother began to rub it tenderly.
“It’s okay, sweetie, I’m just glad you’re okay,” she breathed. “Why are you in my room, though?”
“I… I just wanted a change of scenery,” he replied, after a small silence. Sarah found that response odd, but decided not to press him. She continued to embrace him for a long while, before eventually and reluctantly pulling away. She then sat down next to him on the bed, curiously eyeing the device that his earbuds were connected to. A second later, it clicked in her mind.
“Is that your old iPod?” she asked nostalgically. Matt looked down at the device, a small blush forming on his cheeks.
“Y-Yeah…” he answered. “I just felt like seeing what was on it, since I used to listen to it all the time…”
“I know you did,” Sarah replied smugly. “I could hardly tear you away from that thing. I remember how happy you were when I got it for you, it was just the cutest thing.”
Matt’s blush deepened as the memory flashed through his mind, now slightly embarrassing to his 18-year-old self. Luckily, his mother didn’t make him stew in it for too long.
“Well?” she asked. “Any good songs?”
“A few,” he quietly replied, before looking down at the floor. Sarah looked back up at him, adopting a warm, relieved smile as she brought her hand up and lovingly brushed his hair away from his eyes.
“So, did you not eat-” she started, before abruptly stopping. Once she could clearly see his eyes, her smile vanished. Up until that moment, she hadn’t been able to get a good look at Matt’s face. Now that she was right next to him, though, she could make out the finer details of his expression, and what she saw instantly brought her anxiety back.
His eyes were ever-so-slightly red, and just a little raw. They appeared sunken and lifeless, as if they were carrying an ocean of darkness. It was as if all the energy and happiness had been drained from his handsome face, leaving behind a dejected husk of teenage melancholy. Sarah wasn’t sure if she had ever seen her son look so sad, and her motherly instincts began to scream in concern. Especially once she realized that Matt was doing his best to hide it from her.
Wordlessly, she brought her hand around to the other side of his face and gently pulled it towards her. He was soon facing her, but still trying to avoid eye contact.
“What’s wrong, baby?” she softly asked, her face painted with pure and overwhelming concern. Matt knew that he would break if he saw her face, so he kept up his attempts to look anywhere else. Futilely, he tried to deny it.
“Nothing,” he replied, trying and failing to keep his tone steady. Sarah wasn’t fooled for even a microsecond, and kept trying to get him to look at her. She scooted closer to him on the bed, until her thighs were pressing up against his. She then brought her other hand up, until she was cupping his face with both hands as he weakly tried to pull away.
“Did something happen?” she asked, slightly afraid of the answer. Matt shook his head in her grip, in one last act of denial.
“Matty, look at me,” she instructed, tightening her grip on his face and firmly pulling him towards her one last time. Matt finally relented, and looked his mother in the eye. Just as he expected, the concerned look on her face instantly obliterated his mental defenses, and he quickly teared up. His mother’s next words finished him off.
“What happened?” she whispered. At the sound of her sympathetic voice, Matt couldn’t take it anymore and began to quietly cry. His head turned limp in Sarah’s hands, and all the energy in his body evaporated as the sadness within him began to pour out. Sarah quickly removed her hands from his face and wrapped her arms around him, allowing him to bury his face in her shoulder as he continued to cry. Her heart was being positively destroyed, as she genuinely couldn’t remember the last time that her son had cried. She had no idea as to what was happening, but she knew that the only thing she needed to do was comfort him as he let it all out. With that being said, it was taking everything she had not to tear up herself.
Some time had passed. Sarah spent what felt like an eternity cooing and shushing her son’s quiet cries away, but he eventually got himself under control. She was now facing towards him on the bed, holding his hands in her own as she gazed at him concernedly. Matt, on the other hand, was once again refusing to make eye contact out of embarrassment.
“What happened, Matty?” Sarah gently asked, while rubbing his hands with her thumbs. Matt didn’t respond, he just continued to look down at the floor.
“Sweetheart, please talk to me. Tell me what happened,” she repeated, doing her best to keep her tone soft and comforting. Eventually, her son spoke up.
“It’s… it’s s-stupid,” he whispered, interrupted by the occasional sniffle.
“Obviously not, if it’s upsetting you this much,” she replied firmly. “I need to know, baby. Please tell me.”
Having lost the mental fortitude to keep fighting, Matt finally relented and decided to be honest.
“I-It’s just… my test…” he started, lightly gritting his teeth in frustration. Sarah furrowed her brow in response, trying to push past her memories of the experiment to recall what he was talking about.
“Your test, honey?” she repeated, obviously a bit confused. After a moment, Matt let out a small, ever-so-slightly angry sigh.
“My calculus test,” he said quietly, clearly a little unhappy that she didn’t remember. Sarah recalled their conversation from the prior evening, and mentally punched herself for forgetting again.
“Right, of course,” she replied, closing her eyes in shame. “Well, what about your calculus test? Do you think you did badly?”
“I know I did badly,” Matt replied, his tone darkening even more. Sarah was confused.
“What, you got your score back? Already?” she asked. Once again, Matt was disappointed that his mother had forgotten a detail of his life.
“I always do with that class,” he answered. “It’s first period, and I have that teacher again at the end of the day. He’s a fast grader, so he always gives me my score when I see him then. I’ve told you this.”
Similarly, Sarah once again felt a pang of guilt at her forgetfulness. She hung her head and let out a small sigh.
“I’m so sorry, Matty,” she muttered, before looking back up at him. “Is that what you’re upset about, though? A bad test score?”
“You don’t understand,” Matt replied, pulling his hands away from hers in anger. “School is the one thing I’m supposed to be good at. I don’t have anything else, and now I can’t even…”
He trailed off, trying not to get emotional again, while Sarah frowned in concern.
“You’re good at a lot of things, honey, school isn’t-”
“You don’t understand!” Matt interrupted, as he started to breathe a little heavier.
“School is the one thing! I study, I work hard, I do well, and that’s all I can do! I need to do it, Mom. I need to do well so I can get a scholarship and go to college, and a bad score could screw everything up. We don’t have a lot of money, so I need to do it. I can’t get… I can’t get a… I need to…”
He trailed off again, burying his head in his hands. Sarah’s mind was being pulled in too many directions at once, and all she could do was stare at him for a moment in complete bewilderment. She had no idea that he was putting so much pressure on himself.
“Sweetheart, one bad score isn’t going to prevent you from getting scholarships,” she said reassuringly, moving one arm around to his back. “And even if it did, nothing is going to stop you from going to college. I’ll find the money, and we’ll figure it out. I promise.”
“I don’t want you to take on debt because of me…” came his slightly muffled response. “I need to get as much money as I can, and I can’t do that if I get bad scores! I was so stupid…”
“Baby…” Sarah sadly replied, her heart breaking at how much he was beating himself up. Even though she knew that one bad score wouldn’t change anything, she did have to admit that a bad score was extremely unusual for him. Sensing that there were deeper issues at play, she decided to try and find out what they were.
“Well, what went wrong with this test?” she gently asked, continuing her attempts to physically soothe him. “You were studying for it last night, so why do you think you got a bad grade?”
His head still buried in his hands, Matt turned quiet for a moment. Having already cried, and having already shown how upset he was over the score, he suddenly found it impossible to stop being honest. It was as if the dam of his repressed stress had finally broken, and all he wanted to do was get everything off his chest. So, he continued.
“I’ve… I’ve had a really bad week…” he whispered. Sarah leaned a bit closer to him, not wanting to miss even a single syllable.
“It feels like I’ve had nonstop projects and tests lately, and it’s getting harder and harder to k… to keep going…” he continued, fighting back more tears. However, he quickly let out a small huff and got it under control. With that being said, he still couldn’t bring himself to make eye contact with his unbelievably worried mother.
“Yesterday was really hard… all day, I was so tired, I just couldn't… it felt like I was walking through mud, I just couldn’t focus… I just wanted to go back to sleep. And, when I got h-home, I… I just…”
He grit his teeth and lowered his head even more, trying to make himself as small as possible.
“What, baby?” Sarah whispered.
“It’s so stupid…” Matt breathed. “I tried to make dinner, but I burnt it. I wasn’t paying attention, and I burnt it, like an idiot. So I had to start completely over and make something different, which wasted so much time, and by the time I was finally able to study… I just didn’t want to. I just kept staring at my textbook, trying to tell myself that I needed to study, but I didn’t. So I wasted at least an hour just sitting there like an idiot, and then eventually went to bed like an idiot, and then I did badly on my test like an idiot. And it’s so stupid, and it’s all my fault, and… and it’s just so stupid…”
Despite himself, small tears were once again racing down his face. Sarah, on the other hand, was staring at him with shocked eyes. What he was saying didn’t make any sense to her, and she didn’t know how to process it.
He’s been… he’s been having such a hard time? she thought. How did I not know?! Even yesterday… he seemed fine! But…
Slowly, the blood drained from her face as she came to a crushing realization.
I only saw him for twenty minutes… I never asked him about his day… All I did was talk about my work…
As if to cement her realization, Matt spoke up again.
“I’m sorry…” he whispered. Sarah narrowed her eyes in confusion.
“What? What for?” she asked incredulously.
“I shouldn’t be telling you this… it isn’t your problem…” he continued. Sarah almost recoiled in shock, not understanding in the slightest how he could possibly think that.
“O-Of course it’s my problem!” she exclaimed, before quickly lowering her tone. “How could it not be my problem? You’re my son!”
“You have enough problems, Mom,” Matt weakly replied. “You’re a scientist, and you’re doing work that will change the world. My stupid issues don’t matter…”
H-How… what…” Sarah stammered, trying to reign in the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that had overtaken her as a result of those words. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“I am your mom before anything else,” she said, calmly and slowly. “My job doesn’t matter, I will always be your mom first and foremost. You’re my baby, Matty! If you are going through something, then I have to know about it. I simply have to! Why haven’t you said anything?! I had no idea…”
Matt did not respond. He was still hunched over, his face covered by his hands. Although she couldn’t see it, Sarah could tell by his trembling movements that he was crying again. Slightly overcome with emotion, she leaned in to give him another hug. She snaked one arm under his stomach and the other over his back, and leaned her head on his shoulder as she squeezed him with all her might.
“I’m just so tired…” Matt choked out. “I’m just so tired all the time… I study, and work, and cook, and clean, and sleep, and that’s all that ever happens… even when I don’t have anything to do, I’m too tired to do anything fun… I’m just so tired… I want everything to stop… I j-just want everything to s-stop…”
“I’m so sorry, baby,” Sarah squeaked, holding him as tight as humanly possible. “I had no idea… I had no idea…”
Sarah had never felt more like a failure at that moment. The fact that her son was in so much pain, and that she’d been completely unaware, was shredding her heart.
“But… don’t worry,” she continued, returning to a more stable tone. “I know now, and I’m going to make it better. I’m going to help you get through this, I promise.”
Then, something unusual happened. Matt, in his fragile mental state, instinctively spoke up in anger.
“How?!” he snapped, causing his mother to flinch. “How are you going to make it better?! You’re never home!”
Sarah recoiled from her embrace, and stared at him in shock. It had been years since her son had snapped at her, and his words pierced her down to her soul. Small tears formed in her eyes as she realized that he was right. Not only had she been unaware of his pain, she had been unknowingly making it worse. Matt, quickly realizing what he had just said, immediately started to cry harder out of guilt.
“I-I’m sorry,” he whimpered, before pushing his mother’s arms off of him and rising from the bed. Before Sarah could protest, he ran out of the room. A moment later, she heard the closing of his bedroom door, along with the faint clicking of the lock. Just like that, she was alone. All she had for company was the newfound knowledge that her family was nowhere near as healthy as she thought it was, and that she had absolutely no idea how to go about fixing it. She collapsed onto her side on the bed, before drawing her knees up to her chest. Then, finally, she began to cry.
Yes, I'm aware that my stories feature a lot of crying. What can I say, I write about emotional people dealing with emotional things. I hope it isn't annoying, and I hope you enjoy the next chapter. Sarah will grapple with what she has learned, as well as come up with a very strange idea.
A Secret Plan by Pluto Pendragon
Sorry about the super duper holy-cow wait, but here's a long chapter to hopefully make up for it. Sarah grapples with what she has learned, and comes up with an unconventional solution. Hope you enjoy.
Sarah was completely lost.
The tears had stopped, but she was still laying on her side. Her expression was one of absolute worry, as she somberly reflected on what she had just learned. Matt - her perfect, mature, and unwavering son - had been hiding an immense amount of stress and pain from her, and it had gotten to the point where he could no longer contain it. He was apparently struggling in school, and finding it hard to muster the energy to even get out of bed. Two thoughts kept bouncing back and forth in Sarah’s head endlessly in response to that revelation.
How could I not have known?! came the first thought.
Because you’re never home, followed the second thought.
Matt’s angry words flashed through her mind once again, for what felt like the hundredth time.
“How?! How are you going to make it better?! You’re never home!”
Struggling not to tear up again, Sarah reached down to her back pocket and pulled out her phone. Opening up the messages app, she selected the message chain with her son. She read her most recent text.
Sorry sweetie, I have to work late again. Can you handle dinner tonight? Exciting news today!!!
A few messages before that…
Sorry sweetie, I have to work late again. Can you handle dinner tonight?
Scrolling down the list with her finger, she saw that nearly every conversation started with her informing Matt that she was going to be late, and asking him to make dinner. A majority of the messages even used the exact same words as the first two, and she silently cursed herself for not bothering to even think of new words or apologies every time. That would have been quite the difficult task, however, considering the sheer number of instances - a fact that made her feel even worse.
Marveling at the sheer superficiality of the conversations with her only child, every single one of Sarah’s interactions with him was brought into question for her.
How long has this been going on? she wondered. Indeed, even time itself seemed to take a backseat in comparison to her single-minded focus on the shrinking project. How long had it been since she first started working at the lab? How long since she joined the project as one of the higher-level researchers? How long since she stopped caring about anything else?
These questions soon transitioned into questions about her son.
How long since I started ignoring him? she thought, as another tear formed in her eyes.
How long since he started hurting?
How long since he started needing me?
“My baby… I’m so sorry…” she whispered, as wave after wave of guilt and fear continued to shred her insides. She didn’t know it was possible to feel so afraid, to be so worried on behalf of another person. Matt had always been so mature for his age, so capable of looking after himself. She had never needed to worry about him - something that she now realized she had taken for granted. Suddenly, even his reliability seemed suspect to her guilt-ridden mind.
Was he only like that because he needed to be? she wondered. Did he have to teach himself how to do that because I’ve always been like this?
“Oh, God…” she whimpered. Her overwhelming happiness regarding the experiment had completely vanished from her mind. She was now singularly focused on her son, doing her very best to somehow make up for the lost time. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to get her emotions under control.
I am his mother, she thought, pounding that fact into her soul.
He is MY son. My child, my baby, my cub. He is in pain, he needs me, and I am going to help him.
With that, she let out a huff and sat back up, wiping the tears away as a determined expression formed on her face. Mustering everything she knew about being a mother, she decided that it was time to come up with a plan. That big brain of hers was able to help build a shrink ray, for crying out loud. Surely, she thought, she would be able to figure out how to help her own child through a rough patch.
“What do I do if my son is depressed?”
Sarah tapped the search button on her phone, bringing up a multitude of links on the results page.
“I’m such a failure…” she muttered, lamenting the fact that she was turning to the internet for help. Still, she figured it was a decent enough starting point, and began to examine her screen. Scrolling past a few advertisements and helplines, she came across a parent’s guide to teen depression. After a brief moment of hesitation, fearing what she was about to read, she tapped on the link. The page was broken into sections, including signs and symptoms, teen versus adult depression, and so on. Sarah first glanced at the signs, making sure that they aligned with her observations.
“Sadness or hopelessness… irritability… crying… loss of interest in activities… poor school performance… feelings of worthlessness or guilt… fatigue… difficulty concentrating…” she whispered, each new sign hammering in the seriousness of the situation. Her heart sped up a little as the intense worry returned, and she hurriedly scrolled down the page until she found the section giving tips on how to help. Her heart fell off a cliff as she read the very first highlighted tip.
Make face time a priority.
Tossing her phone to the side, she flopped onto her back and covered her face with her hands.
“I can’t do this,” she whimpered. “This is all my fault, I have no clue what I’m doing…”
She tried thinking of anybody she could call for help, but no names came to mind. Sarah’s own parents were out of the picture, but she wouldn’t have exactly relied on them for advice anyway. Their approach to solving emotional or mental problems had been pretending they didn’t exist, leaving Sarah with virtually no examples for what a skilled, loving parent should do in such a scenario. She then silently cursed Matt’s cowardly father for running away from them, leaving her with the impossible job of raising a kid alone while she was still practically one herself.
She sat back up, positively dejected, and weakly retrieved her phone. Looking back at the guide, she continued to scroll down the list. After moving past the questionably helpful bullet points of parental advice, such as “get your teen involved” or “set limits on screen time,” she reached the section titled “know when to seek professional help.” Sarah paused and looked up from her phone, considering the possibility.
Does my insurance cover that? she wondered. Probably, right?
She made a mental note to check, before sighing once more. Deciding that she was done with the article, judging it only somewhat helpful, she gave the screen one last upwards swipe, bringing her to the top of the page. However, one of the sections caught her eye as it rushed past. It was a section she had skipped in her frantic search for advice, but she now hurriedly scrolled back down to examine it more closely. As it set in, a sense of dread began to overtake her consciousness. She realized that it was the exact same fear she had felt when she was looking for Matt - the feeling that her child was in danger.
Suicide warning signs in depressed teens, read the section title.
“I’m just so tired… I want everything to stop… I j-just want everything to s-stop…”
Matt’s earlier statement bounced around endlessly in Sarah’s head, blurring her vision and stopping her heart. Suddenly, she flashed back to when she didn’t know where he was, and was about to open his bedroom door to check. She remembered the dread that had stopped her for a moment - the fear that she would be met with something too terrible to imagine. She had been relieved beyond belief when that had turned out not to be the case, but reading those words and remembering Matt’s pained declaration immediately made it feel like a possibility again.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,” she muttered endlessly, desperately trying to convince herself that something like that could never happen. However, she found it impossible. In the span of one hour, everything she thought she had known about her relationship with her son had been flipped around, and nothing felt certain anymore.
For the briefest of moments, she allowed herself to imagine a life without him. She imagined how lonely, how empty she would feel. Matt was her only family left, and the one thing outside of work that made her feel happy and loved. Just for a moment, she tapped into the guilt she would feel if she let him slip through her warm and loving fingers, into the darkness below. Never to return.
One moment was enough. She was never going to let that happen.
Once she recovered from the shock, she turned off her phone and finally stood from the bed. Her expression, although still carrying traces of worry, was now fierce and determined. She had discovered the one thing in the world that she wanted to happen less than anything else, and now knew that she had to figure out how to make sure that it never did. However, her lack of experience again made it difficult to know what to do, and she found herself struggling once again.
“Okay, Sarah, time to be a mother,” she whispered to herself. “I should, um… I should start by… making him some food…?”
Her eyes lit up a bit as the idea formed in her mind.
Yes, right! He was probably too upset about the test to make anything for himself, which is why there were no dishes.
Her expression fell as she came to another realization.
If I didn’t expect him to make food every day in the first place, then he would have had enough time to study…
Shaking her head, in a futile attempt to drive away the guilt, she decided to keep moving.
A-Anyway, he needs to eat. My boy needs a home-cooked meal from his mom.
She nodded to herself, and began to march towards her door and out into the hallway. She approached Matt’s door, and reached out in preparation to give it a few soft knocks. However, just as had already happened several times that day, she found herself paralyzed by fear and guilt.
Looking down, she could see from under the door that his bedroom light was off, suggesting that he had gone to bed. Even though she was well-aware that he was almost definitely still awake, it indicated to Sarah that he was asking to be left alone. This then reminded her of his angry outburst right before he ran away, further making her feel like he didn’t want to see her at all.
All of the determined energy in her body faded away, and Sarah slumped over. Her fist weakly dropped to her side as she closed her eyes dejectedly.
“I’m so sorry, Matty. From now on, I promise to do better. I love you more than anything,” she whispered, hoping that he was somehow listening. With that, she shambled back towards her own room, before quietly closing the door behind her. For the moment, she had given up.
Sitting back down on her bed, she decided to simply wait. She wanted to wait and see if Matt would eventually come out of his room on his own, perhaps to seek out some food. Or, even less likely, some comfort. In such a case, she wanted to be awake for him.
So, she waited.
And waited some more.
However, after a couple hours of silent contemplation, it seemed more and more clear to her that nothing was going to happen. Furthermore, she began to feel traces of exhaustion creep up on her, the result of a true emotional rollercoaster of a day. Her eyes began to stick together for longer periods of time when she blinked, and her sitting posture on the bed began to lean backwards. Soon, without even realizing it, Sarah had fallen asleep. She had terrible dreams.
Sarah’s eyes flew open, a distant noise having startled her awake.
“What…?” she mumbled, rubbing her eyes sleepily. She then frowned and brought one hand to her stomach.
Trying to remember what had happened prior to her falling asleep, she stood from the bed and checked the time on her phone. It was only six in the morning, which was a bit earlier than she normally woke up, even when aiming to be the first one at the lab. A moment later, her silent ponderings were answered by the sound of a car driving away. Realizing who it must have been, her consciousness was zapped back into full awareness, and everything came flooding back to her. With a racing heart, she dashed out of her room and down the stairs, before eagerly peering out the front window. To her dismay, Matt’s car was gone.
“Damn it,” she muttered, closing her eyes in sadness. She figured that he must have been embarrassed about his outburst, and had woken up extra early to avoid her. Now feeling even more like a wedge had been driven in their relationship, she quietly made her way towards the kitchen to grab some much-needed food and think about her next moves. She hoped that Matt was doing the same.
An hour had passed. After breakfast, Sarah had spent a long while deliberating what to do next. She considered taking the day off, but she knew that doing so would only lead to her wasting around the house all day, waiting for her son to come home. This would do little for her anxiety, so she eventually decided to try going into work. This was despite the fact that she was in no mindset to actually do her job, making her unsure as to how it would go. Nonetheless, she figured it was better than stewing in her own misery. With that, she rose from her seat and moved to get ready for work.
Pulling up to the facility, a sense of nervousness began to creep up on her. She remembered just how hectic the lab had been the day prior, and she knew that she was nowhere near focused enough to keep up with that. So, although she had recently taken to offering her help to the engineering and testing departments, she hoped that she could instead find a quiet research-related task to focus on throughout the day. To that end, she would need to ask her supervisor, the head researcher: Heather Langley. She took a moment to compose herself, trying to mask any traces of her internal torment, and finally exited her vehicle. She was ready to begin a day of work.
After making it past the front desk, she entered the main hall of the facility. This was where the experiment had taken place, and served as a central hub that connected to all the other departments of the building. Giant machines of varying purpose were strewn about, with stray whiteboards littering the area for good measure. It was quite the mess, actually, with only the central stage serving as a moderately clean workspace. This was undoubtedly due to the chaos caused as a result of the previous day, as everybody suddenly found themselves having fifteen extra tasks to complete and not nearly enough time to complete them. Now that the most important test had concluded perfectly, the facility was now in the final phases of testing and research before they could officially reveal their experiment to the world, which was undoubtedly the best part of the entire process. As such, even at only 7:30 in the morning, the place was hectic.
“S-Sorry!” stammered one nervous-looking scientist as he stumbled past Sarah, almost running into her. His vision was currently being blocked by the giant bin that he was hauling from one end of the building to the other, at a pace that suggested it was very urgent.
“It’s fine,” Sarah quietly replied, the man having already hurried off before he could hear her. She then looked around the room, trying to catch a glimpse of her boss. After a moment, she decided to try checking Heather’s office. Pushing past the occasional panicked looking scientist, or the even more panicked looking intern, she eventually reached the humble door that she was looking for. The door in question was slightly ajar, and the visible light indicated that someone was inside. Just to be sure, Sarah gave the door a few knocks.
“Come in!” Replied a breathy voice, one that Sarah was all-too familiar with. She then entered the room, finally coming face-to-face with her supervisor. Once Heather caught sight of her, her slightly wrinkled face broke into a relieved smile.
“Sarah!” she exclaimed joyfully, setting aside her mountain of documents and rising from her seat. Sarah smiled back, although her troubled heart made it difficult to muster anything too genuine. Not noticing this yet, Heather came forward to greet her.
“Thank goodness, I was starting to get worried,” she said, before checking her watch. “7:30, huh? I gotta say, I was incredibly surprised to see that you weren’t the first one in today.”
“Of course, there’s no expectation to come in early, and 7:30 is perfectly on time, I’m just saying that it’s unusual for you. Especially after yesterday, I would have thought that you’d be more excited than anybody to get started,” Heather hurriedly continued. Already, Sarah was having a hard time keeping up with the type of fast-paced conversations that she was used to, and she decided to just skip to the point before she got dizzy.
“U-Um, Heather, can I ask you something?” she said, trying to keep her voice steady. Heather furrowed her brow at her underling’s unexpected behavior, but sensed her distress and decided to soften her tone.
“Yes, of course. What is it?” she replied.
“Is there, well… are there any quiet, boring tasks that I could complete today? Maybe something research-related?” Sarah sheepishly asked, looking down at the floor.
“Something quiet?” Heather repeated, completely caught off-guard by the unexpected request. Sarah nodded in response.
“Yeah… I’m just not quite myself today, so I don’t know how helpful I would be to the engineering or testing people. If it’s alright, I think my time would be better spent elsewhere,” she continued. Heather frowned in concern, and moved around Sarah to close her office door.
“Yes, I’m sure we could find something,” she gently replied, walking back around. “In terms of the shrinking project, the research part is pretty much over, but… perhaps we could dust off one of our other ongoing projects for you to look into today.”
“Thank you. I’ll go take a look,” Sarah said, before starting to turn away. Before she could, though, Heather spoke up again.
“Sarah, you know I have to ask,” she said, causing Sarah to close her eyes in defeat.
“What’s going on? Considering what happened yesterday, and your wonderful enthusiasm over the project, I would have thought that… well, that you’d be acting differently right now. Is everything okay?”
Still with her back turned, Sarah lowered her head and thought for a moment. Out of all people, she really didn’t want to turn to the slightly nosy Heather for relationship advice. Plus, breaking down crying in front of her boss was something to be avoided at all costs, and it seemed like a real possibility at that moment. On the other hand, though, Heather was also a mother. A much more experienced one at that, with multiple grown children who were off leading successful lives. Out of everybody Sarah knew, it was very likely that her best chance at advice rested within her supervisor. With that, born out of pure desperation, Sarah decided to be honest.
“N-No,” she finally replied, turning back around. Heather’s frown deepened once she saw her underling’s downtrodden face.
“Nothing is okay.”
“It’s about Matty.”
“Oh?” Heather replied, before locking her office door and double checking that the blinds were closed. She then guided Sarah over to a chair, and sat down in an adjacent one. With a crossed leg and hand on her cheek, then, she was in “advice” mode. Although she would never admit it, Heather always relished at the opportunity to flaunt her motherly experience.
“I don’t want to go into specifics, but… he’s really going through something right now, Heather,” Sarah continued, debating how best to word it. She already felt like she was violating Matt’s trust by confiding in her boss, so she decided to keep the information vague.
“He’s apparently been going through it for a while, and it’s starting to really affect him. And the worst part is… he doesn’t even feel like he can talk to me about it. He was actively trying to keep it a secret from me, and I only found out because he simply couldn’t keep it in anymore. He apparently did badly on a test, and it just destroyed him. He broke down in front of me, and he acted like he was… like he was committing a crime, or something.”
“Why doesn’t he feel like he can talk to you about it?” Heather asked softly, studiously absorbing every piece of information. Sarah grew quiet in response, and looked down at the floor.
“It’s my fault,” she eventually whispered, trying not to cry again. “You were right, I’ve been neglecting him and spending too much time here. At this point, he might as well view me as a stranger.”
“I see,” Heather sighed, lowering her eyes a bit. This hardly came as a surprise to her, given her repeated warnings about Sarah’s excessive devotion to the project, but it was still nonetheless saddening to hear.
“He… he said it wasn’t even my problem,” Sarah continued, letting out a small, angry scoff. “He apparently thinks that, because I’m a scientist working on important projects, his problems don’t matter and aren’t worthy of my attention. I just…” she trailed off, unable to continue due to the ever-increasing sense of helplessness within her.
“I am his mom, and he thinks that his problems aren’t my problems…” she choked out, burying her head in her hands.
“Oh, honey…” Heather murmured sympathetically, never having seen Sarah so vulnerable before.
“What am I supposed to do?” came Sarah’s muffled voice. “How am I supposed to help him if he doesn’t even think that it’s worth telling me about?”
“Well… think about it from his perspective,” Heather softly replied, causing Sarah to look back up at her.
“He’s a very responsible, self-sufficient guy, right?” Heather continued, which elicited a nod. “So he’s obviously used to dealing with things by himself. It must be hard to ask for help after being that way for a long time, don’t you think?”
“But… acting like it isn’t my problem, or that it doesn’t matter…” Sarah quietly replied, shaking her head in frustration.
“Sarah, be honest. Have you talked about the shrinking project with him?” Heather asked, adopting a small smile. Sarah’s eyes darted up at her, suddenly afraid that telling the truth would get her in trouble.
“I’m not talking as your boss right now, just as a friend. You can be honest,” Heather continued reassuringly. After a small hesitation, Sarah spoke up.
“N-Nothing specific,” she nervously answered. “Nothing about shrinking specifically, just the manipulation of matter. But… but yes, I’ve talked about it on occasion…”
“So, he knows then about your passion for it? And the potential it has to change the world?” Heather asked, to which Sarah nodded once again.
“I see,” Heather sighed, leaning back in her chair a bit. “So, knowing all that, is it really a surprise that he might feel like his issues don’t mean much in comparison?”
“But they mean everything to him,” Sarah earnestly replied. “They’re having a devastating effect on him, and I simply need to know about stuff like that! Regardless of what my job is, how can he not know that being his mother is my first priority?!”
Heather turned silent for a moment, debating how best to word what she wanted to say next. Soon, she began to speak in a gentle tone.
“Sarah… can you honestly say that you feel that way?” she asked, gazing at her underling with sympathetic eyes. Sarah almost recoiled in shock at the words, her heart starting to speed up with anger.
“…excuse me?” she whispered, practically hissing.
“Honey, this is what I’ve been trying to warn you about,” Heather continued, placing one hand on her chest. “Regardless of what you feel in your heart, every time you chose to work late, every time you chose to skip dinner at home… you were sending the message that you valued your job more than your son. You only have so much time in a day, and you clearly expressed that you preferred to spend time at work, and not with him. Even if he fully understood logically that you were doing so because of how immensely and genuinely you loved your job, I have no doubt that he eventually started to feel like it was because he wasn’t important enough. Again, please try to think about it from his perspective. Kids are so fragile, Sarah. And even though Matt is 18, he’s still just a kid. Can you honestly say that you don’t understand why he would feel that way?”
Sarah had nothing to say to that.
“What do I do?” she eventually whispered, desperately trying not to break down in shame again.
“Right,” Heather replied, moving away from the “scolding” part and towards the “advice” part. “Well, look. I obviously don’t know the specifics here, and I’m no doctor. I can just tell you what I’ve done when one of my kids has gone through a rough patch.”
Sarah nodded, silently begging her to continue.
“First, I would strongly recommend that you get him in therapy,” Heather started, pulling a clipboard and pen from off her desk to take notes.
“He’s, um… he’s currently on my insurance, does it cover that…?” Sarah asked, to which Heather nodded reassuringly.
“Oh, absolutely. I can email you a list of local practices that we cover,” she replied.
“Thank you, I would appreciate that,” Sarah said, letting out a small sigh of relief.
“You might want to consider therapy for yourself, while you’re at it,” Heather continued. “There’s no shame in it, and you’re obviously dealing with a lot of stress right now.”
“I-I’ll think about it…” Sarah murmured, to which Heather nodded.
“Next, I think it’s extremely important to set aside a period of time each day where you are completely focused on him. It could be a game night, family dinner, watching a movie, anything. The most important part is that it’s just you and him, and he knows that he has your full attention. You have to make it clear to him with your actions that he is your highest priority, and that you’re committed to making a change,” she continued firmly.
“O-Okay…” Sarah replied, a little intimidated.
“Now, obviously for this to work, you simply need to spend less time here, honey,” Heather said, a small smile on her face. “That’s not to say you can’t ever work late, but I firmly believe that it would be best for you and your boy’s mental health if you tried to go home on time for the most part. At the very very least, aim to share a meal with him at least once a day. Sound good?”
“Yeah, that sounds reasonable,” Sarah answered, looking down at the floor as a fresh wave of concern began to drown out her other thoughts.
“What is it, Sarah?” Heather asked, looking up from her clipboard.
“Both of those are slow, long-term solutions. I can obviously get started right away, but… isn’t there anything bigger that I can do right now? Something that would help him right away?” Sarah asked. Heather studied her underling’s face, trying to discern what she was getting at.
“Sarah… what exactly are you afraid is going to happen?” she asked slowly. Sarah did not respond, she just continued to look down at the floor with an extremely troubled look on her face. After a moment, Heather’s heart fell off a cliff as a possibility entered her mind.
“A-Are… are you afraid Matt is going to hurt himself?” she whispered, afraid to even speak the words. Once more, Sarah did not respond. However, the expression that formed on her face and the tears that formed in her eyes were all the information Heather needed.
“Oh, my…” she murmured. “Sarah, if you truly believe that… that might happen, then you need to take Matt to the hospital. End of discussion.”
“N-No, it isn’t like that,” Sarah hurriedly replied. “I have no real reason to believe that he would try to… but, he said something that… that I can’t stop thinking about. I just can’t help but think that… i-if things don’t get better, then…”
“I understand…” Heather replied, closing her eyes and thinking for a moment. After a little while, an idea popped into her mind that instantly perked her up.
“Sarah, what day is it?” she asked, causing Sarah to frown in confusion. She pulled out her phone to check.
“Um… Friday,” she replied, looking back up at her boss with a befuddled look.
“Alright, I know what you both need,” Heather continued, adopting an excited smile.
“W-What is it?” Sarah asked, leaning forward in anticipation.
“A mother-son weekend!”
“This is something that I loved doing with one of my kids if they were feeling left out. Simply put, spend the whole weekend with Matt. It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as it’s fun and you do it together. You could go on little ‘dates,’ maybe to an amusement park or the movies, go to a nice restaurant, stuff like that. Or you could spend the whole weekend watching TV and eating ice cream under a blanket, if that’s what sounds best to you both. The point is that you both get the break that you seem to need, and you get to demonstrate how things will be different from now on. Doesn’t that sound fun?” Heather explained, practically vibrating in her chair due to second-hand excitement. Sarah’s eyes softened in appreciation as the explanation continued, although she was still a little skeptical.
“That does sound fun, but… don’t you think it’s a little childish? I don’t know if my 18-year-old is going to go for it,” she replied sheepishly, to which Heather grinned even wider.
“Honey, sometimes the best course of action is to get a little childish. We try to pretend that kids get easier as they grow up, but don’t you think that everything was better when they were small?”
Sarah was stunned speechless, as that statement unexpectedly resonated down to her soul. Her heart started to beat a little faster as she recalled memories of Matt as a small child, and all she could do was slowly adopt a warm smile.
“…yeah, I guess it was better,” she eventually replied, causing her boss to nod triumphantly. She then finished taking notes of her advice, and held out the piece of paper for Sarah to take.
“It’s decided, then. Long term, try to get Matt in therapy and work on spending dedicated time with him every day. Short term, scoop him up this weekend and shower him with as much love and affection as he can handle. Dote on him like there’s no tomorrow, my dear,” she recapped, as Sarah took the piece of paper with a grateful smile.
“Ok. I’ll do my best,” she quietly replied, unbelievably happy to have a real plan of action. “Heather… thank you so much. I can’t tell you how much this means to me, and I’m sorry for burdening you with my troubles.”
“Nonsense, don’t be sorry,” Heather said dismissively. “Moms have to stick together, after all.”
“Right,” Sarah replied with a giggle. “Well, I’ll go have a look at what other projects I can look into today. Thanks again.”
“Oh, hold the phone on that,” Heather said, before Sarah could rise. “What time does school get out for Matt?”
“Oh, um… 2:30, I’m pretty sure,” Sarah replied, a tad embarrassed that she didn’t immediately know off the top of her head.
“Right. Well, I guess that means you’re clocking out at 1:30, then,” Heather continued with a firm nod.
“Heather, come on…” Sarah began to whine, but her boss was having none of it.
“Nope, no complaining. Get an early start to your weekend, and give him a nice surprise when he gets home.”
“But… I’d feel bad if I’m not contributing in some way…” Sarah continued, her workaholic brain still uncomfortable with the idea of taking a non-required break.
“Honey, there’s nothing wrong with taking a mental health day. Or a partial one, at least. Besides, you literally have the maximum amount of vacation hours saved up. You simply have to use them at some point!” Heather replied exasperatedly. Sarah began to protest again, but she was cut off.
“Look, just work as much as you feel comfortable with today, and go home early. If anything comes up before then that you can help with, I’ll let you know. Easy as that, okay?” she asked kindly. Finally, Sarah relented and let out a sigh.
“Fine,” she muttered. “Thank you, Heather. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.”
“Of course, honey. Off you go, now,” Heather replied, gently waving her underling away with a smile. Soon, she was once again alone in her office, reflecting on everything she had just learned. Sarah, meanwhile, began her search for something quiet to work on until 1:30.
Later in the day, Sarah was peacefully working away in her office when she suddenly heard a knock on the door. Looking up from her computer, she saw that Heather was standing right next to it.
“Hey, Sarah. Whatcha workin’ on?” she asked cheerfully.
“Hey, Heather. I was looking at our other projects, but I realized that there was something related to the shrinking project that I could research. So, I’ve been looking into that,” Sarah replied.
“Oh? What might that be?” Heather asked, walking forward and taking a seat on the opposite side of Sarah’s desk.
“When shrinking living beings, we currently need to have them ingest a pill first. Since we don’t need to do that to shrink inanimate objects, I’m curious if it’s possible to eliminate the need for the pill altogether,” she explained.
“Oh, I see. Thinking ahead, are we?” Heather replied, impressed at her diligence. “Yes, that certainly seems like the first big improvement to our design. Any luck?”
Sarah shook her head, a small smile on her face.
“No, not really. I’ve spent the whole time basically just getting caught up on the literature,” she sheepishly admitted.
“That’s completely fine. Like I said, just do what you’re able to,” Heather reassured.
“Thank you. Anyway, is there something I can do to help?” Sarah asked, perking up a bit. At that, Heather’s eyes lit up as she remembered the reason for her visit.
“Oh, right, of course,” she said. “Yes, actually, there is. Now, feel free to say no if you don’t feel up to it, but I thought of something easy and mindless that could occupy a bit of your time before you go. Would you mind taking inventory in the toy-bin?”
“T-The toy-bin?” Sarah repeated incredulously. “You mean… the room where we keep the inventions? Aren’t you the only one allowed in there?”
Heather chuckled, looking down at the floor as a small, embarrassed blush formed on her cheeks.
“Technically, yes, this is me attempting to shirk one of my more boring responsibilities onto you,” she muttered guiltily. “It’s just, well… I’m supposed to take inventory once a week, which takes about half an hour, and… I’m kinda stretched thin at the moment. Thirty minutes is harder to find than you’d think. Pretty please?”
Sarah blinked, still in mild shock at the unexpected request.
“I mean, I guess… but, are you really sure it’s okay for me to be in there by myself?” she asked, to which Heather waved her hand dismissively.
“Of course! I trust you, after all. It’ll be our little secret,” she replied, whispering the last part with a goofy grin. Although still apprehensive about the whole thing, Sarah smiled back as she came to a decision.
“Okay, sure. After how nice you’ve been, it’s the least I can do,” she responded, letting out a firm nod. Heather’s smile widened, and she lightly clapped her hands in excitement.
“Thank you so much! Here’s the key,” she said, taking it out of her pocket and placing it on the desk. “Everything you need will be on a small table to the left of the door - just count the items, and mark the document accordingly. When you’re done, just put everything back on the desk and come find me afterwards. Once I get the key back, feel free to head home.”
“Okay, sounds good,” Sarah replied, grabbing the key and giving her boss a thumbs-up. With that, and another round of thank-yous, Heather hurried off to her next responsibility. Taking a moment to admire the shiny, gold key in her hand, Sarah turned off her computer and began to make her way towards the “toy-bin.” It was time to count.
40 minutes later, Sarah was bored out of her mind. What had sounded like a cool opportunity - being able to privately examine every invention the lab had to offer - had amounted to minutes upon minutes of manually counting flasks, microscopes, and dozens of other types of scientific equipment one by one, writing the final number on a document, and moving on to the next thing. Heather had even downplayed how long it would take, which seemed to explain her decision to let Sarah go home when she was done. After all, it was getting dangerously close to 1:30. Regardless, Sarah moved on with diligent meticulousness.
“Almost done…” she muttered to herself, having taken to talking out loud in order to stave off the silence of the toy-bin. “Next is… oh, the shrinking stuff.”
Indeed, laid out before her on a shelf was a collection of various odd-looking remotes, along with a small box containing a multitude of small, white pills. Suddenly, Sarah realized something that caused her heart to skip a beat.
“Wait, am I supposed to count every pill as well?” she mused, before sighing in defeat. “I suppose I did ask for something boring…”
With that, she grabbed the box of pills, sat down at a nearby desk, and dumped them all out on the surface. Groaning in annoyance at the small mountain in front of her, she dutifully began to group the pills into sets of five before moving them off to the side.
“5… 10… 15… 20…” she counted, making a small mark on the document to indicate each set of five. As it went on, the autopilot part of her brain began to tune out the process, while the conscious part of her brain once again began to worry about Matt.
What if he keeps avoiding me? What if he doesn’t let me do this for him? she wondered, remembering that he had woken up extremely early just to avoid her. She began to ponder what she could do to prevent him from leaving, but nothing came to mind. Grounding him or taking away his car felt counter-intuitive, so she simply hoped that his nerves had faded enough to where they could have a real conversation. She had to have faith that their relationship hadn’t been permanently damaged.
“115… 120… 125… 130… oh, 132,” she said, finally reaching the last pill. With that, she erased her earlier markings, wrote ‘132’ in the appropriate spot, and started to return every pill to the box. She then walked back over to the shelf, and began to eye the collection of shrinking remotes. For the most part, they were all very simple. A basic, small, brown, and rectangular box with an antenna at the end. On the “face” of the remote, only two buttons could be seen. A green one with a downwards-facing arrow, and a red one with an upwards-facing arrow. Unassuming as they may have been, these were indeed the machines that were capable of reducing living and nonliving matter to mere fractions of their original sizes.
For simplicity's sake, every remote had a pre-programmed size reduction coded into them. There was a “master” remote that could be altered, but that one must have been in use at the moment. For the remotes in front of Sarah, all one needed to do was press the green button to shrink, and the red button to restore. Underneath the buttons, there was a small label with a decimal written on them. This indicated the extent to which an object or creature would be shrunk. Sarah reached out and grabbed the one closest to her, bringing it up to her face to admire.
“0.04…” she read aloud, thinking about what that would mean for whatever she pointed it at. She was half tempted to shrink something right then and there, but ultimately decided against it. Still, she couldn’t help but adopt a small smile as she pictured it in her mind.
“6 feet is 72 inches, so…” she mused, doing some quick internal math. “Wow… 2.88 inches tall. That’s amazing.”
Giggling to herself at the idea of a big, tall man reduced to a little 2.8-inch bug, she put the remote back on the shelf and began to count. As she went, she also examined the size reductions listed on each remote.
“0.005?!” she exclaimed, stifling another laugh. “That would be, like, a centimeter tall! He would be nothing but a little speck on my fingernail.”
She playfully blew on her fingernails, imagining a little, squealing dot flying into the distance. With that, she pulled up the document and began to record her count.
“26,” she stated, letting out a huff as she finally finished her task. There was still a bit more paperwork to fill out, though, so she sat back down at the desk and let the autopilot take over. Despite her desire to keep brainstorming about the upcoming weekend, her thoughts had now been taken over by tiny, shrunken men. Thinking back to the day prior, she recalled the moment she had held the test subject in her hand as she quickly transferred him from one workstation to another. She practically squealed in delight as she remembered the sensation of his little, skittery movements as he crawled into her hand. It was just like holding a bug, only much cuter.
He was so cute… she thought. Almost as cute as my Matty. I can’t even imagine how cute Matty would be if…
She stopped. Silence descended upon the room as her pencil stopped moving.
…if he was…
Sarah stood from the desk.
She walked back to the shelf.
As if in a trance, she picked up one of the remotes.
…little shrunken man… who couldn’t go anywhere in his normal-sized car… who would need me to do everything for him… who would be forced to relax and let me take care of him… who wouldn’t be able to hurt himself if he tried…
She gulped, breathing heavily. She once again recalled holding the test subject, but this time replaced his older, stern features with those of her son. She imagined her baby boy peacefully sleeping in the palm of her hand, cuddled against her fingers as she cooed over him. By this point, her heart was racing. She came to a decision.
After all, wasn’t everything better when he was small?
Later in the day, long after Sarah had hurried out of the office, Heather entered the toy-bin. She picked up the nearby document, giving it a quick glance to make sure Sarah had done everything correctly. It looked like she had, and Heather made a mental note to thank her once again for doing such a great job. She hoped that everything was going well for her with Matt, as she came to the end of the document. What she found was the record of their shrinking pills and shrinking devices, and she examined the numbers with a curious eye. The record was as follows:
Oh gosh oh geez, shrinking is gonna happen next chapter! I hope you've enjoyed the buildup chapters. See you next time!
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.