Season one of “The Shrinking Show” was broadcast nationally the summer after it was recorded in the suburban Los Angeles studio. It became an instant hit and the nation watched it with rapt fascination.
Never mind that the story was staged, that the contestants were amateur actors and not ordinary people. Never mind that no one was actually shrunk because it was all done by expensive special effects. It was still a very entertaining show, keeping people on the edge of their seat not knowing who was going to shrink or enlarge, or what couples would form and break up.
It wasn’t long before the studio powers decided that a second season was a perfect way to follow up the first season’s success. It was unsure how they would recruit the next round of contestants—presumably they would stage a publicity campaign but in reality grab eight new amateur actors.
But many reality shows were searching for people, and you often didn’t know which reality show you were auditioning for. So the way Season Two grabbed its participants was much in the same way that Season One grabbed its: nonchalantly and anonymously.
In a room on the ground floor of a small Southern California studio, eight finalists were signing in for the show. None of them had yet been told the name of the show nor told anything about its nature. All they knew was that it was another house-family style reality show and it would be relatively short, lasting less than two weeks.
Andy was a tall, blonde, and handsome 26-year-old engineer from New Jersey. Standing at five feet eleven inches and slender, the interviewers for the show had described Andy as “a friendly, sociable kind of guy” who talked with a reasonable wit and felt comfortable in crowds as he was in small groups. His public release photo saw the short-haired man sitting behind a laptop, smiling at the camera. He wanted to be in a reality show for the excitement and the chance to meet interesting people. He was #1.
Carla was a tall, slim, leggy dark brunette with red streaks in her shoulder-length hair. Standing five feet eight inches and twenty-two years old, she was a intern at the financing arm of a construction company in Connecticut. She was attractive in a nontraditional way and was described as having a seductive smile. She was described as “soft spoken but friendly”, and often looked shyly away from the person she was talking to. Her photo saw her smiling wearing a black shirt, her face framed against a window that showed a view of the sea beyond. She was #2.
Dale was a sturdy, six foot one man with light brown hair. At thirty years old, he worked as a carpenter and in his spare time he coached middle school football. He was of a thicker build but not fat; he was strong enough that people typically chose not to mess with him. He talked in a loud voice and was rumored to have quite a temper when he was angry. He was described as “very outgoing and macho”, taking the lead in any conversation. His picture showed him standing in the lawn in front of his house in suburban Denver, Colorado. He was #3.
Hailey was a twenty-five year old light blonde who stood at five feet eight inches. She had bounced around to many jobs but had not yet honed in on exactly what she wanted to do. She had lived with her boyfriend but upon breaking up she had moved out on her own, and she now worked as a taxi driver in South Bend, Indiana. She had been described as “flirty but cautious” at the interview, as if she was distrusting due to previous experiences. Her picture showed her in a bathing suit floating on a plastic tube in the neighborhood pool, her mouth open in exclamation. She was #4.
Jerry was a mousy, tan-skinned 27-year-old black-haired man. He was just five feet four inches, and he was a little stout but not fat. He drove a delivery truck in an Chicago suburb, and he had been with that job for a considerable amount of time. He didn’t seem to be all that sociable, and it seemed that he took a while to warm up to others. But he was described as being “funny and sincere” when he got right down to talking, and he seemed a trustworthy sort. His picture showed him in his delivery uniform carrying a box of canned goods to a house. He was #5.
Marie was a 20-year-old brown-haired college student. She stood at only five feet two inches, and had cuteness about her that she loved to play off of. She studied not far from her hometown along the west coast, only a few hours north of Los Angeles by car. She was very intelligent and was a good student, but she also loved to have fun with the girls. She was described as “lively and charming” in the interview, and stated she wanted to be in a reality show because of the exciting social conditions she would find herself in. Her picture showed her sitting on a couch, the picture taken from above her showing the top of her head and just a taste of what she held in her tank-top. She was #6.
Paul was a 24-year-old Air Force vet from Virginia who kept his hair cropped short and walked upright and proud. Although he was slim he was muscular, and could dominate almost any crowd at his six foot two height. He now worked in a police department and he was known as one of their most resourceful and responsible members. He was described as being “proud and talk-able” in the interview, as he got along well with people despite his dominant personality. His picture showed him posed in his white air force dress suit with a leg up on the wheel of a historical cannon at a museum. He was #7.
Vera was five-foot six athletic girl with dark brown hair and strong muscles from Portland, Oregon. In high school she had once been a track star, but now at the age of twenty eight she taught high school and coached girl’s track. Despite being an able coach, Vera was very reserved on one-to-one interactions and did not like divulging too much about herself. However, she was described as “very loyal and honest” when you got to know her. Her picture showed her sitting at a desk surrounded by old records she collected, a hobby of hers. She was #8.
Andy, Carla, Dale, Hailey, Jerry, Marie, Paul, and Vera were the contestants selected to appear on a reality show. What the show was they had no idea, but they had all been told that it would put them in “very unusual situations”. They had signed documents where they promised to stay in until the end, and that they understood that they were walking into an unorthodox situation.
A lamp shone gently in a maroon-colored waiting room with many chairs that was ready to accept inhabitants. Although no one was yet in the room, it was filled with a pregnant excitement over the game that was about to start.
Dale was the first one in the room. The tall man walked in through the near door, looking around and seeing that he was first. He was wearing a white shirt and tan pants. He did not sit; he wanted to be standing when the others arrived. Hiding his anticipation, he swung his arms a bit, cupping his right fist into his left hand to distract himself. He had not met any of the other competitors but wanted to make a good impression when they came into the room.
Andy was the second person into the room. He was wearing a button down shirt and the front pieces of his hair had been gelled stand up an inch. He was wearing a smile on his face, looking like a man who was about to launch a group meeting. He walked up to Dale and the two men shook hands right away, firmly.
“I’m Dale, how about you?” Dale said, solidly as his handshake.
“Andy.” Said the other in a slightly higher voice. “Good to meet you.” There was a brief pause. “So what kind of game do you think this is going to be?”
“I don’t know.” Dale said. “Probably some sort of dating game or something like that. Whatever, I’m sure we’ll meet some nice ladies.”
Andy let out a small laugh. “Yeah,” He said. “I bet there will be competitions too.”
“I’m not so worried about competitions.” Said Dale, swinging his arms again just a little, looking off a bit arrogantly.
The door opened again and in strolled Marie. The little Marie was a stark contrast to the tall Andy and Dale as she made her way over to them. She smiled and tilted her head, looking up at them, and said, “Hi.”
“Hi,” Said Dale, as Andy said, “Hey.”
“Well, I guess we have a head start on the others.” Marie said, still smiling bashfully.
“It seems that way.” Dale said. “They should be arriving soon.”
No sooner than he said that then Vera walked into the room. She attracted both Dale and Andy’s attention as she entered, and once again they introduced themselves. Vera said “Hi,”, but didn’t seem that interested in talking to them, despite Marie’s encouraging smile. But it didn’t really matter. As Vera stood off to one side, Andy started to ask Marie about where she was from.
Paul was the next to walk in. He walked in wearing a solid line on his face and strode at a purposeful rate. Dale extended his hand to Paul, which Paul shook very strongly and solidly, as the two men tried to display their toughness to each other. They followed this up with a very tough nod to each other. Paul then moved on to talking to Vera, who seemed to be receptive to Paul, who actually talked in a much more calm and relaxed voice than one would have expected from a man who made such an entrance.
Carla was the next to walk in. She was glad many people were already in the room because she was a little nervous about it. She was greeted by Andy, who gave her a gentle handshake. Carla started talking to Andy, who she took a quick liking to, but she couldn’t shake off the feeling that this room was eerily familiar to her, as if she had been here before, or at least saw it before.
Jerry was the next one to walk in. He didn’t walk too far in the room, choosing to stay outside and access the situation first. But it wasn’t long before he was being greeted by the much larger Dale. Before long Jerry was talking to Dale about the selection process, and a joke he told had Dale roaring with laughter and Marie giggling as well.
Last in the room was Hailey. She noticed that the room was full and she was the last arriver, which she wished hadn’t happened so she could have gotten one-on-one time with one of the guys first. Sizing up everyone, she immediately decided Paul was the most attractive of the lot, Jerry the least. Dale and Andy were okay too. Hailey was greeted by Marie and they almost immediately started talking about their outfits and other girly things.
The eight of them talked for a few minutes more in little groups, members often shifting from one group to another. Off to the side of the room, in another entrance, was a ninth person hiding behind the wall. This person was very pleased about the situation. This was going to be just as good as last time, if not better. She decided that now was the time to make herself known.
From the second entranceway entered an attractive woman in her mid to late twenties wearing an attractive sleaveless shirt and shorts, but nevertheless carrying an aura of power and authority. “Greetings, contestants.” She annonced. “Welcome to the show.”
The talking died down immediately as the eight of them looked to the newcomer. Not a single person in the room had any dowbt who this woman was. One by one, it dawned on each person exactly who she was and what situation they were now finding themselves in.
“Wait…you’re…” Started Dale.
“My name is Betty and I’ll be your host.” The woman said. “Welcome to the Shrinking Show, season two.”
There was a gasp of shock and suprize as the eight contestants looked from face to face, hardly believing what they were hearing. A few of them murmered something to their neighbors. Betty sood with arms crossed, ready for the inevitable questions.
“But…” Dale said. “How can this be? I thought the show was staged?”
“Yeah,” Marie said. “And I don’t think any of us are actors!”
“I can guarintee you that none of the previous eight were actors either,” Betty said.
“But doesn’t that mean we’ll have to do blue screen and wires?” Andy asked.
“Yeah, I don’t think I have the patience to do that!” Hailey said.
“I can assure you none of that is part of this show.” Betty said. “In fact, our special effects budget is absolutely zero.”
“Then how did you do the shrinking effects?” Asked Paul.
“Simple.” Betty said. “We have a real live shrinking machine.”
There was dead slience for several minutes as the contestants stared on in shock. But Dale broke the silence with a rumbelling laugh. “Very funny.” He said. “But really, what are we doing here?”
“I’m being completely honest.” Betty said. “The participants of the first season were shrunk, as some of you will also be by tomorrow night.”
“You must be twisting our legs.” Dale said. “There’s no way.”
“Yeah, so where you hiding our real host?” Jerry said, raising an eyebrow.
Betty let out a large sigh of feigned exasperation. “Well, since none of you believe it, I’m going to have to show you proof.” Raising her voice and shouting over the contestants heads, she said: “Sherri! You can come out now!”
All of the contestants turned to the door they had come in. At first they didn’t see any movement, but then out from the doorway came a small figure. At first glance it seemed to be a child of about five or six years old. But looking at the figure, one would see a perfectly proportioned woman standing two feet eight inches tall.
The woman, Sherri, walked forwards to them. She walked with legs thin as sticks upon feet that were doll-sized. Her waste was level to most people’s knees, and it was so small you could almost cup your hands completely around it. Her shoulders were at about the height of a person’s upper legs, and only about that width as well. Upon those shoulders sat a tiny head with shoulder-length brown hair. She had a mature face that was smiling in an excited, almost pleasurable way. She was wearing a tank top and a skirt, both of which were too small to fit onto a five-year-old.
The eight of them stood aghast as Sheri walked between them, moving in circles as to pass in front of each of them. Dale stared dumbfounded and for once was unable to speek. Paul stood perfectly still but his face betrayed his shock. Carla’s mouth hung agape as Sherri passed by her legs. Finally, she walked between Jerry and Hailey before leaving the group and walking over to Betty, who took Sherri’s hand in her much larger one.
“As you can see,” Betty said. “Sherri is a perfectly normal adult just like any of us, only reduced to half her normal height.”
There was another pause before Paul spoke: “This could be a trick. She could be a child pretending.” Both Vera and Jerry nodded their heads in agreement, but the others said nothing. It was fairly obvious that Sherri had much too small of a head and was far to slim and womanlike for even the best of costume designers and makeup artists to make out of a small child.
“Sherri, go re-enlarge yourself, dear,” Betty said. Sherri turned off and jogged lightly down to the far door, dissapering around the corner. No one said anything for two minutes as they waited for Sherri to return.
A few minutes later they heard footsteps coming from the hallway, and to their astomishment they saw a full-sized Sherri rounding the corner. Sherri beamed at them all and stopped where Betty was standing. The two women put their arms around each other’s shoulders.
“You probably recognize Sherri from the first season.” Betty said. “She will be co-hosting the show with me, and helping me out as I need it.” The eight of them remaned quiet, still trying to soak in the information.
“How is this possible?” Andy asked. “Shrinking, that is?”
“Shrinking technology was develouped a short number of years ago.” Said Betty. “But that is all you need to know. Obviously, you understand that the entire first season was not a special-effects show done by actors, but an authentic reality show done by laymen like yourselves. So you will be shrinking and taking part in an authentic reality show.”
“But—but what if we don’t want to?” Dale asked.
A smile crossed Betty’s lips. “You already signed the contract.” She said. “You’re locked in until the end of the competition. Besides, a big tough guy like you should have no problems dealing with this, right?” Dale did not speak again.
“For now, I will tell you how the game will work.” Betty said. “Since it seems you are all familiar with the first season, I can tell you this season will have both similarities and drastic differences, so don’t expect certain things to happen, because they might not. Also, the game’s story will unfold as it goes along, so don’t expect more than a day’s preparation for any event, if that. Some events will be sudden and unannounced, so don’t get too comfortable.”
“Do we still get eliminated when we reach—we reach,” Began Marie, unable to finish her sentence.
“When you reach one sixteenth normal size?” Betty finished, smiling. “Maybe, maybe not. You’ll find out when the time comes. I can only tell you the game piece by peace. What I can tell you is what’s happening now.”
All the contestants were listening fully. “In a minute I will lead you to the back of the compound, where a temporary house has been erected for the duration of your stay. I’m sure you’ll find it comfortable; it has all the amenities you could ask for. You will spend tonight together, and tomorrow at three o’clock I will take you back to this building, where you will get your first taste of shrinking. Specifically, four of you will be randomly selected to be reduced to half-size.”
They all looked at each other, varying states of worry on their faces. They had just found out that shrinking machines actually existed; that they weren’t just s fairy tail. Now they were being told that their first shrinking experience would be tomorrow. This was quite overwhelming news.
“Well, it’s time to show you to the house.” Betty said. “Follow me!” Betty lead the eight contestants down the hallway, Sherri branching off into one of the rooms on the side. They walked from a large open hallway to a smaller and more mysterious one before finally reaching a back door.
Betty opened the door and led the contestants out to the back yard that was surrounded by a tall fence. Across the small yard was a low-lying house that was one story with no pitched roof. For being temporary it sure had a good deal of landscaping done around it; however it was mostly small plants and flowers.
They entered into the house, which was unlocked, to find a small entranceway leading into a larger room. On the left side of this room were a full kitchen and a table that could easily sit eight. On the right side of the room was a living room complete with rugs, couches, and a TV. On the other side of the room was a small hallway along which were situated the bedrooms and the bathrooms. All in all, the house had a nice homely feel, though it lacked decorations.
“I’ll be leaving you now.” Betty said. “Feel free to do whatever you wish, but do not try to get back into the compound or over the perimeter fence. I’ll be returning at three o’clock tomorrow afternoon for the first round of shrinking.”
With that, Betty waved and left the house. The contestants, who had been silent up until this point, started to speak again.
“So we’re actually going to be shrunk?” Marie asked, her eyes wide.
“It seems that way.” Jerry said.
“Maybe not.” Paul said. “That could have been a child disguised to be identical to the Sherri woman.”
“I don’t think so,” Said Vera. “I think this is for real.”
“Yes, but holy cow!” Exclaimed Andy. “Do you know what this means? Shrinking machines! Here! For real!”
“Yeah, and we’ll all be shrunk by them.” Hailey said. “Or maybe not! Maybe we’ll get lucky!”
“Did you watch the original show?” Dale said. “Everybody shrunk as small as four inches during some part of the show.”
“That’s…” Hailey said, holding up her hand and placing her fingers apart in an estimation of the size. Dale quickly pushed Hailey’s hand down.
“We don’t want to frighten anyone.” Dale said, sensing the uneasiness of the group. Vera looked particularly frightened.
“How about dinner?” Jerry interjected. “I can cook, can anyone else here?”
“I’ll help.” Said Andy.
“Me too,” Said Vera, willing to do anything to get her mind off of shrinking.
The three of them made their way over to the kitchen while the rest of the group slowly made their way over to the living room. Carla sat down first on a single chair facing the rest of the group. Dale plopped down in the center of a large three-seater couch, Hailey sitting on one side and Marie on the other. Paul sat down in another single chair on the other side of the couch
“What do you think it feels like, shrinking?” Marie asked.
“I don’t know, that’s a good question.” Dale said.
“Maybe it tickles.” Hailey said. “I could definitely imagine it doing that.”
“They never showed the actual shrinking.” Dale said, referring to the first show. “It was always implied with a flash of light.”
“They have some kind of booth.” Paul said. “I don’t think it’s mobile.”
“So we don’t have to worry about someone sneaking up on us. That’s good.” Said Hailey.
“I don’t know; there was probably a lot we didn’t see.” Dale said. “What happened after elimination, for example? That was ever shown.”
“I think they just stayed in the back.” Paul said.
“I don’t know.” Said Marie, cautiously.
Over in the kitchen the three cooks already had the meal underway. Vera was beating furiously at the mashed potatoes, her mind lost in thought. How could they shrink her? Was that legal? She had doubts about this whole deal. There had to be something wrong. Whatever it was, Vera had a very bad feeling.
Jerry was trying to take it all in strides. He was of course shocked by the revealing of the show’s true nature, but he knew he had to keep a level head if he wanted to win. He understood that he wasn’t the most attractive guy in the place and therefore wouldn’t have much chance with the ladies, but perhaps that was for the better. Relationships that went sour could cost him in voting rounds, as they had in the first game.
Andy had been surprised too, but his mind was moving in a different direction. He thought the girls here were pretty attractive, but seeing little Sherri contrast against the girls set off something inside of him. He was almost afraid to admit it, but he was actually looking forward to being shrunk! He could imagine himself at Sherri’s height, walking amongst a forest of legs, looking up at the tall girls.
In the living room, the conversation had divided as Dale and Paul vied over Hailey’s attention. Paul seemed to be less involved than Dale, his eyes frequently darting over to where Vera was cutting vegetables. On the other side of the room, Marie and Carla had started a conversation.
“Are you worried about it? Are you scared?” Marie asked.
“A little, I guess.” Carla said. “Not too much, though. I don’t think anything really bad will happen.”
“I’m nervous,” Said Marie, shaking a little. “I mean, I’ve been short all my life, but what would it be like to be really short? That kind of worries me a little.”
“Are you worried about the guys here?” Carla asked.
Marie shook her head. “Not really,” She said. “They seem like a good bunch. I think Andy’s pretty cute. Jerry’s a little creepy, though.”
“I don’t think so.” Carla said. Over Marie’s shoulder, he could see Dale employing gimmick after gimmick to get Hailey’s attention, even using the pretense of a stretch to put his hand on the couch behind Hailey’s head.
“I’m not interested in any of the guys here.” Carla said.
“I wouldn’t rule anything out.” Marie said. “I mean, look at the action they got on the first season!”
“Yeah,” Carla said. “But I’m not sure I’d like to be the small one in the relationship.”
“Last time the girls seemed to get luckier size-wise than guys.” Marie said, smiling a little. “Maybe we’ll get lucky again.”
“Maybe.” Carla said.
“I wouldn’t mind shrinking a little, I guess.” Marie said. “I mean—wow, it’s so exciting! Who knew this was possible?”
“Yeah,” Said Carla. “But I’m more worried about the people who would stay large.”
“I would worry.” Marie said. “If you get shrunk and I don’t, I’ll watch over you, okay?”
“Okay, and I’ll do the same for you.” Carla said. The two girls smiled at each other. Carla was starting to warm up to the chatty shorter girl, who she liked much more than Hailey, who seemed to be falling for Dale’s clumsy tricks in a way most girls would easily rebuke.
“Supper’s ready!” Announced Jerry. The five people in the living room stood up and made their way to the kitchen, taking their seats around the table where steaming piles of food were drawing their attention. They dished out the food and they started to eat.
“Mmm, this is delicious!” Marie said, pointing to her mashed potatoes. “Who made that?”
“I did,” Said Vera, a smile coming to her face.
“Oh yeah?” Marie asked. “It’s very good.”
“Thanks,” Said Vera.
“So,” said Dale after swallowing a very large mouthful of steak. “Anyone else here a fan of the Denver Broncos?”
“Nah, I’m more of a Raiders fan.” Vera said.
“Oh yeah?” Dale said. “Tough luck about last season.” Vera made a face.
“I’m not really a football fan.” Said Hailey.
“Yeah, I’m more of a basketball fan myself.” Paul said. “Played on the thirteenth division navy team.”
“I played a little in high school,” Voulintered Carla.
“Yeah?” Paul said. “How’d you do?”
“I wansn’t actually on a team.” Carla said, smiling. “I just played with friends, really.”
“Oh.” Paul said. “My team had a 13-3 record, but we sank at the quarter-finals to the second division.”
“With all that playing, did you have time for much fighting?” Dale asked.
“Of course!” Said Paul, looking a little ticked. “I trained sixteen, eighteen hours a day during the week!”
“Did you have to fight any battles?” Marie asked.
“No,” Paul said. “Fortunately things were quiet during my service.”
The conversation continued on, meandering through several subjects before Jerry began talking about gardening, which turned out to be an interest he and Carla had in common. Hailey apparently didn’t like spending too much time outside, whereas Dale and Paul couldn’t get enough of it.
After dinner was over, the group came to an unspoken agreement that three people that weren’t involved with the cooking would do the cleaning. So Paul, Carla, and Marie joined together to wipe the table and wash the dishes. There was little talking; Paul moved quickly with military precision. It was all Carla and Marie could do to keep up.
Dale and Hailey had taken up their previous spot on the couch, this time joined with Jerry who sat on Dave’s other side. Vera sat apart from them on a chair, and Andy sat on a second couch. Dale and Andy got into a conversation about mechanics, Hailey listening but mostly not participating. By this point Dale had his arm completely around Hailey.
After a few minutes Paul, Marie, and Carla rejoined the group. Carla and Marie talked to Jerry, who Marie thought wasn’t quite as creepy as she initially thought. Paul walked over and sat next to Vera, talking to her in a softer voice than he normally used with the others.
It was Marie who suggested that they put in a movie. The rest of the group agreed but it took a little bickering over what movie they actually wanted to watch. Dale and Paul were in favor of an action movie, whereas Jerry, Hailey, and Marie were all about a romantic comedy. Carla was more interested in a serious drama, but the mood didn’t tend that way. In the end, Andy sided with the three who wanted the romantic comedy, so that is what they ended up watching.
Paul was obviously bored with the movie and got up several times, but since there was little left to do in the house (they couldn’t call out or use the internet for security reasons) he ended up returning. Marie seemed to enjoy the movie, pointing things out to others. Carla was mildly amused by it, and Vera thought it a nice distraction. Dale was more interested in Hailey, however, and was making suggestive advances to her. Hailey too was excited about big strong Dale.
Carla watched this out of the corner of her eye. She certainly didn’t disprove of sex or relationships, but she felt that Hailey was letting Dale take things way too fast. If they keep up this way he’ll bed her tonight, she thought. Paul seemed to show an interest in Vera, and so far Andy and Jerry hadn’t made any moves.
The movie ended and they stayed in the living room and talked a little while longer. They turned on the TV and watched normal late evening programming and chatted lightly. Andy was the first to turn in, followed shortly by Jerry. Marie yawned loudly and announced she was tired. Tired of watching Dale and Hailey, Carla left for bed shortly after. It was not long after that when Dale whispered a suggestion into Hailey’s ear, and they disappeared into a bedroom together, not to emerge until the following morning.
Paul had been in the kitchen straightening things up, and now he went into the living room to talk to Vera.
“Hey,” He said. “You don’t look too happy. What’s up?”
“Oh, I’m just…” Vera started. “I’m scared about the shrinking. I’m worried about…the guys.”
“That big oaf Dale I’m sure.” Paul said. Vera nodded, and Paul chuckled.
“I don’t wan to be, you know, taken advantage of.” Vera said. “I’m pretty good at defending myself, but if I was small…”
“I wouldn’t let anything happen to you.” Said Paul. “In fact, if you ever need anything during the competition, just let me know.”
Vera smiled appreciatively. “Thank you.” She said. She felt pretty good about Paul. His rigid military style was certainly hiding a softer side, and she felt good to have him watching after her.
Vera went to bed shortly thereafter. Paul stayed up just a little longer reading the paper. His mind was on the shrinking too, thought he would never admit it to anyone. He was confident in his abilities as a fighter. He had been in many fights—and had won almost all of them. But if he was only three feet tall, he could loose a fight to anyone, even one of the girls! The idea was pretty embarrassing, but he knew where the pressure points were and knew he’d be ready in any contingency.
Paul mentally smacked himself for thinking about the competition in this way. It may be a battle of sorts, but it certainly was no fight. He doubted he would have to fight anyone, although Dale seemed like he might cause trouble. He would have to keep his eye on him.
Stretching, Paul made his way to bed, and now the entire house was asleep. There was no activity but for the creaking of crickets. Unbeknownst to any of them was a tiny figure, no larger than a mouse, running along the outside of the house. This tiny figure had a few chores to do—but stretched them out longer than they needed in order to have fun. Marie could have sworn she felt a tiny tickle on her big toe, but of course she didn’t remember it the next day.