“N…no, this can’t be!”
Nicholas scrambled to his feet, disoriented from the fall he took in the middle of the crowded station hallway. As he struggled to his senses, he immediately noticed that the room had changed. The walls and ceilings became hazy and distant, and the ground seemed to stretch on and on, with only bits of dirt and debris breaking up the smooth, tiled surface. The din of voices and footfalls resonated through the halls. To his horror, he had shrunk.
What was once meant to be a simple train transfer at Shinjuku during his trip to Japan had now become a struggle for his life. Thoughts of his various fates flooded his mind, overwhelming him with a torrent of horrific deaths that likely awaited him. At best, he’d live the rest of his life as a miserable bottom feeder, trapped in the station forever until insects, starvation or the sole of a shoe took him from the world.
“No… I can’t just… give up.”
Steeling his nerves, Nicholas rose to his feet and walked towards the main hallway, forcing himself to take every step only to freeze as at the sight before him. An endless wall of people, appearing more like living skyscrapers than fellow human beings, flooded the main passageway of the station. An older woman walked dangerously close, buffeting his tiny body as her massive white pump displaced the air beneath it. The thud threatened to fling him across the station, and he rushed to hide along the wall in the hopes of remaining safe from the near-certain death that awaited him if he strayed too close to the wall of people.
Instead, he chose to travel along the wall, staying as close as he could to the tiles while dodging the occasional shoe that strayed too close to wall. A massive black loafer momentarily impeded his path as a schoolgirl stopped to look at a poster on the wall. Nicholas involuntarily shuddered, a wave of inferiority washing over him just compared to the towering leather wall of a young woman’s footwear. Nevertheless, he kept going, rushing around the shoe, and continuing along the wall.
A few minutes of walking later, he carefully slipped around a corner to find himself in a small pastry shop. Nicholas sighed in relief as he looked across the floor at the crumbs scattered about around the counter. Croissant flakes and bits of cake clung in the bits of dirt and muck by the gargantuan cooler. Quickly looking around, he dashed across the hallway before resting under the lip. Above, the cooler’s fans bellowed with a deafening roar, blasting hot air above him. The volume was of little concern as he grabbed ahold of a shingle of croissant flake, choking down the dirty piece of pastry. Unfortunately, few other crumbs seemed edible, either being too small or too embedded in the filth to consume. As he scoured around for more things to eat, the sound of talking seeped through the drone of the fan.
Nicholas struggled to understand the conversation through his limited Japanese, but a few words registered in his ears.
“Clean”. “Mop”. “Sanitize”, and a few similar words stood out, just in time to see the looming black sneaker of the store attendant, followed by blasts of acrid cleaner drenching any other bits of crumbs he could eat. A rushing sound filled his ears, and he rushed into the open just in time as a dirty fabric wall barreled through the crevice, effortlessly mopping away grime under the cooler.
Mere moments later, he heard a scream, looking up just in time to see an older woman raise her heel over him. Although he couldn’t fully understand her, the word “bug,” tipped him off to her intention. He dodged to the side as her stiletto smacked the ground with a crash. Another seismic thud stopped him in his tracks as the store attendant narrowly avoided crushing him flat under her dirty work sneaker.
With only a moment to spare, he ducked underneath a rack, buying him a few moments of time to catch his breath. His chest heaved uncontrollably, and tears streamed down his face in mortal terror. Consumed in stress and fear, he was unable to stop himself from throwing up, expelling the last bits of food from his stomach. After a few minutes of quiet sobbing, he rolled back onto his other side, sighing in relief as it seemed like the attendant and customer went back to their business, completely forgetting about the tiny life they so callously attempted to snuff out just a bit ago.
Once he caught his breath, Nicholas staggered back to his feet. Quietly apologizing to the store for the puddle of vomit under the rack, he made his way to one of the other sides of the rack, surveying the landscape outside the store. With the shop located on a corner, he weighed his options. Attempting to cross the hallway seemed like a potential option. As it was now late in the afternoon, now seemed like the best time to try crossing before the evening rush once again filled the hallways with people. He also considered continuing along the other wall, hoping to find a safer place to take shelter for as long as he needed.
Thoughts of the long term filled his mind as well. The chances of him surviving in the station long-term seemed grim. If he somehow avoided being crushed or otherwise snuffed out by one of the giants, surely some pest would find him and rip him apart. Thoughts of rats or bugs consuming his helpless body caused him to shudder, and he quickly worked to push the doom from his mind. Because of this, the only option would be hopefully getting the attention of someone passing through. Once again, thoughts of becoming nothing more than smushed paste under the shoe of a random person flooded in his mind.
Setting that aside, Nicholas had to decide. As the hours clicked by, he would have less time to maneuver around. Taking a breath, he checked on the store attendant before darting from the rack, through the door and back into the main hallway. As he jogged down the hallways, the telltale roar of shoes on tile resounded behind him. Without thinking, Nicholas leapt over the yellow tile of the visual impairment blocks and laid down in groove, bracing himself for the gigantic being to walk near him.
The visage of a younger woman, clad in short black skirt and crop top filled his view. As the woman struggled with a plastic container with a pastry inside, she grew larger and larger on the horizon. The rumbles quickly grew louder, turning into a deafening roar as her combat boots trampled the dirt in her path. Lifting his head, Marcus realized she was heading right towards him. He knew he couldn’t run, and in a last-ditch attempt to survive, he covered his head as the shadow over his tile trough grew dark. He squeezed his eyes shut and prepared for the worst.
Nicholas felt like a bomb exploded in his face. An earsplitting blast wracked his body, accompanied by a rush of air barreling through the trough. He opened his eyes, and nearly screamed. Mere inches from his face was the lugs of the girl’s heavy boot, the ceramic walls around him being the only barrier between him and becoming grimy mush between the skyscraper-sized woman’s shoe treads. She paused for a moment above him, wrestling with the container until a pop and subsequent sigh of relief tipped him off to her success. Moments later he heard a plop, and the girl’s Japanese mumbling vaguely hinted at some sort of berry falling to the ground below as she continued her walk, once again flooding the trough with light.
After a few more minutes of wide-eyed recovery from the abject terror rushing through his mind and body, Nicholas shakenly clambered back onto the floor of the station. As he stood back to his feet, a blue orb on the horizon caught his eye. A blueberry, likely dropped from that woman’s pastry, sat just a few meters away from him. Another wave of biting hunger radiated from his stomach; a feeling that went unnoticed as he ran to the berry, tackling in it excitement as he clawed at it, barely managing to tear through the skin of the fruit. He hungrily shoved his hand into the fruit, ripping a bit of the fruit flesh before shoving it into his mouth. The tart sweetness of the fruit flooded his palate, purging the latent taste of the grimy croissant crumbs from his mouth. He sighed at the bit of familiarity, a distant reminder of his former size as he slurped down the juicy fruit flesh.
His rest was short lived as once again; the ground began to shake. He turned his head to face the source. To his horror, a gargantuan young woman strolled directly towards him, distracted by the phone in her hand. Most important to him was her footwear, black platform boots that loomed over his miniscule frame. Although she was far from the first giant he had encountered, the sheer impact of seeing the skyscraper-sized woman eclipsing his very existence threatened to break his mind entirely. In comparison, his pathetic form felt more like a twisted mockery of the near godlike woman approaching him, an oppressive weight that threatened to overwhelm his sole as he watched the earth-shattering rubber hammers of her boot strike the ground with unimaginable force.
Moments later, he snapped out of his delusion and his gaze returned to his berry. Desperately, he clawed at the heavy sphere, trying to move it over the gap before slipping off of the condensation on the smooth surface. He stumbled back just in time for the girl’s enormous black boot to land on top of his berry. Her shoe barely even hesitated as the small fruit popped into a spray of juice underneath the incomprehensible force. In an instant, his one source of food was reduced to a wet purple mush, a disgusting pile of gunk tainted with the dirt from the enormous woman’s heavy shoe. A chill ran down his spine as he stared blankly at the nasty slop before him. Just an inch to the right and he most likely would have looked like the berry, a crushed stain pasted into the floor of Shinjuku station, sentenced to be worn away to just another bit of blacked mush, and almost certainly would have attracted a similar level of attention as the berry.
Looking back up from the remnant of his fruit, he spotted the girl leaning against a vending machine a few feet away from him tapping away on her phone, unaware of the disaster she had caused a few moments ago. Frustrated, tired and hungry, Nick turned back towards the girl and began marching towards her. Despite the overwhelming size difference and the fact that he was essentially an insect to her, he was determined to give the skyscraper-sized woman a piece of his mind.
“HEY, YOU CRUSHED MY FOOD YOU OVERSIZED…” He paused, staring up the woman towering over him, his anger dissipating as he realized his insignificance to her.
“Sorry…” he muttered, hoping to avoid being crushed on the off chance she heard his rant.
He looked back up and an icy chill ran down his spine as he suddenly locked eyes with the enormous woman who looked away from her phone.
Like the tiny on the floor,
Yuumi too was having a less than stellar day. Train delays meant that her
connection departed right as she arrived at the station, stranding her for the
next 30 minutes while she waited for her next train. Shinjuku was the last
station she wanted to be stuck at, so it was clear she was not in a good mood.
In a huff, she strolled over to a nearby vending machine and leaned against it,
opening her phone to buy more train tickets. For a brief second, she glanced
away from her phone, only to spot what appeared to be some sort of insect at
first glance. She looked again, and the bug almost appeared to be… waving to
Meanwhile, every fiber of Nick’s being screamed at him to run as the titaness locked eyes with him. If she thought he was a bug, he’d maybe have a second before her huge boots snuffed him out. After a moment of her watching him silently, he began to move, trying to run away before she decided to drop her shoe on him. A rush of air behind him caused him to break into a sprint.
“Hmm.” Yuumi muttered, watching the small creature start to run away. Without thinking, she shifted her foot, setting her shoe down in front of the tiny creature blocking its escape. She covered her hand in shock as she watched the tiny panic at her feet.
A tremendous crash blasted him off his feet as his view of the station was replaced with an enormous wall of black. It was over, Nick thought, as he desperately scrambled for some form of escape from the cruel woman. A dark shadow came over him as his attention was drawn back to the woman, who has begun squatting down. It was like a building was collapsing down on him, as the woman descended from above. Before he could even think, slender fingers plucked him from the ground. The world became a blur as he rocketed upward, faster than even the most powerful fairground ride. When his world stopped spinning, he was staring at her billboard-sized face. Her eyes fixated on his every move.
“A tiny… foreigner?” She muttered, blasting him with her warm minty breath with every word. Nick struggled to process her words in his shrunken, disarrayed state.
“Do you… speak Japanese?” The woman asked in Japanese, eagerly waiting for a helpful response.
“A little” Nick shouted back, prompting a relieved sigh from the woman, who muttered something he couldn’t understand in Japanese.
“You… are safe” the woman stammered in broken English, gently sliding the tiny into her breast pocket. For the first time since he shrank, Nick was able to breathe a sigh of relief, the thunderous roar of her powerful boots on the concrete floor fading into a distant rumble, far from his mind as he leaned into the warm shirt pocket.
The train announcement caught her attention and she sighed with relief as the cheerful announcer broadcast the impending arrival of her train. Carefully adjusting her jacket around her now sleeping new friend, she rushed to the escalator, riding it to the platform until she slid her way into the empty train door, just as the chime signaled departure. As the train quietly rushed through the amber glow of a sunset Tokyo, Yuumi closed her eyes, a strange sense of peace washing over her as she felt the tiny foreigner bundled in her jacket gently squirm in his sleep.
Nicholas awoke on a vast wooden plain, wrapped in what appeared to be a clean, white sock. Off in the distance, he watched his savior off in the distance standing over a skillet. The smell of bacon and the hiss of frying meat in the pan filled the small apartment. As Nicholas carefully rose to her feet the behemoth off in the distance turned to look at him.
“Good Morning.” Nicholas spoke in Japanese.
“Good Morning!” Yuumi replied. She opened her mouth, lost for words before rushing to her phone. After a few moments of tapping on her phone, she turned the screen to him. The billboard sized screen was lit with a translation app, with Japanese text on one side and translated English text on the other.
“How did you get so small?” The translated screen read.
For a moment, Yuumi tried to hand him her phone, before realizing. Thinking for a moment, she tilted the phone with the speakers and microphone aimed directly at him before pushing the button. A ding from the phone prompted him to begin reciting the day’s events to her. As the Japanese text flooded the screen above him, he watched as Yuumi’s face began to sink.
“The berry…” Yuumi muttered, her guilt displayed on her face as she instinctively began to pat the small boy on her desk.
As Nicholas finished his story, Yuumi tapped on her phone.
“I am so sorry you had to endure that. You looked so scared when I picked you up. I did not even realize how terrifying your day was. I must have been looked like a monster to you…”
“It’s ok, it’s ok. You were the one who saved me. I can’t thank you enough.” Nicholas responded.
“What do you want me to do now?”
“I don’t know. I can’t exactly travel on my own now. Someone will have to get my stuff at the hotel, but other than that, I don’t know what I will do until then.”
Yuumi pondered for a moment before tapping away. “I can take care of you until we find a way to reverse this. I’ll make sure that you’re kept safe and well fed.”
Nicholas’s stomach growled, the soft moan filtering its way to her ears.
“Hang on, I will return in a moment.”
The gargantuan woman walked away, leaving Nicholas with a few moments to himself as he watched his savior digging through her refrigeratior. Yuumi smiled as she returned with a small blueberry gingerly pinched between her fingers.
“There, here’s a berry to replace the one I stepped on. I hope this makes up for it.”
“Thank you, it really means a lot. I will do whatever I need to in order to earn my keep around here.”
The enormous girl giggled. “No need! You’re small so there’s no need to worry about being a burden! Even then, you’re kind of like a pet, but better! My apartment is really quiet by myself, so it’s nice to have someone to liven up this place.” Yuumi gently pat his head. “You’re in good hands, I promise.”
Nicholas sighed. “Thank you, truly, thank you. If I can get unshrunk somehow, I promise I will find some way to repay your kindness.”
Yuumi gently grabbed ahold of him between her fingers and lifted him to her face.
“I think this is the start of something fun.”