Two (Commission) – Ch 4 – lostandwhatever
Continued from Chapter 3.
When Greyson and Ethan entered the house, they discovered that Stephen was not alone in the kitchen.
“James!” Greyson said, pausing by the door, stunned by the sight of Stephen’s big brother. And, that was an accurate word to describe him, big. Already taller and beefier than the average man, he seemed even larger now from Greyson’s 11-year-old perspective, rivaling even the largest linebackers he knew.
Greyson was at a loss for what to do in his presence. Just a couple of days ago he had crashed on James’s couch. Then, when he started getting younger, Greyson had come to James for help, only to find his old friend had forgotten their friendship.
“Hey guys,” James said casually as he pulled a bottle of water from the fridge. “Don’t mind me, I’m just passing through. I was in the neighborhood and decided I ought to pick up some things from my old bedroom.” He looked at Ethan and Greyson, and a concerned expression appeared on his face. “What happened to you?”
“Uh,” Greyson said, glancing at Stephen for help. Stephen subtly shook his head. “We were just… playing in the yard, and I tripped. Cut my lip.”
“Come here,” James said. He grabbed a paper towel and fetched an ice cube from the freezer. Greyson walked up to him but kept some distance, feeling a bit intimidated by his size. James turned and handed Greyson the paper towel with the ice cube inside of it. As Greyson took it, he noticed the contrast of how rough and calloused the man’s hands were and how pale and soft his own boy hands were . “There you go, makeshift icepack. Press it on your lip until the bleeding stops.
“T-thanks,” Greyson said and put the ice cube on his lip. It was refreshingly cool, especially as he was feeling a bit overheated all of a sudden. For once, Greyson was happy to be so little as it meant no one would notice the bulge in his shorts.
“So,” James said, turning his attention to his little brother. “He tripped?”
“Yeah,” Stephen said.
“You haven’t been playing football?” he asked, crossing his arms.
“No,” Stephen said.
“Then, why are the three of you shirtless and covered in grass stains?”
The boys had been shirtless for so long that they had forgotten they had left their shirts in the backyard. Greyson felt particularly embarrassed, realizing that James had seen his boney boyish torso.
“Um,” Stephen said. He seemed to be trying to think of an excuse, but he gave up and said, “Please don’t tell Mom.”
James sighed and turned his attention back to Greyson. “Okay, kid,” he said. “Let me check you out real quick.” He leaned forward and looked Greyson in the eyes. Greyson noticed flecks of green in James’s brown eyes and wondered how he had never noticed them before.
Ethan asked, “What are you doing?”
“Looking to see if his eyes are dilated,” James explained. “It’s a clear sign of a concussion.”
Greyson asked, “How do they look?” He hoped that James was so focused on his eyes that he would not notice him blushing.
“They look normal,” James said. “How do you feel? Are you dizzy? Do you feel silly? Confused?”
“No,” Greyson said, although he was feeling a bit light-headed in James’s presence.
James asked a few questions about the day of the week, the year, and the president. Greyson answered them all correctly.
“You’re lucky, kid,” James said. “I’m guessing you had no pads or helmets.”
“We were being careful,” Stephen said.
“If you were careful, he wouldn’t be bleeding,” James said. His tone was more disappointed than angry.
“Please, please, don’t tell Mom.”
James sighed and said, “Fine. You get a pass this time, but if I catch you kids playing tackle again, Mom will hear about it. Got it?”
“Thanks,” Stephen said.
“Thanks,” Ethan and Greyson repeated.
James playfully mussed his little brother’s hair, and Greyson found himself feeling jealous.
Everyone froze when they heard the sound of the garage door opening.
“Should we go?” Ethan asked.
“Don’t bother,” James said. “She’ll have seen your bikes out front. Go get your shirts. Then, come back in. I’ll handle Mom.”
The three boys retrieved their shirts from the yard and returned moments before James and Stephen’s mother walked into the kitchen. She carried grocery bags in each hand as did the little boy wearing soccer cleats that followed her in.
“Oh,” she said, noticing James. “You’re home. I didn’t expect to see you until this weekend.”
“Just dropping by to clear out some of my junk,” he said.
“Hey, James!” the soccer boy said.
“Hey, Billy. How you been?”
“Good,” he said and set the grocery bags down on the kitchen floor. “We went shopping after practice.”
“Hello, boys,” their mother said, addressing Greyson and his friends. “I thought you were all supposed to be hanging out at the twins’ house.”
“They just got here before you did,” James lied. “I guess Stephen wanted to show them something in his bedroom. Of course, on the way here one of them fell off his bike and split his lip.”
“Oh, no!” she said, setting down her own groceries. “Are you all right, Greyson?”
“He’s fine,” James said. “I checked him out. He’s a tough kid.”
Again, Greyson felt himself blush.
“Well,” she said, “that’s good. How about you boys help carry in some groceries? They’re in the van. Thank you.”
Greyson followed the other boys to the garage and grabbed a pair of surprisingly heavy grocery bags out of the van. They returned to the kitchen to find James and his mother in the middle of a conversation.
“Nope,” he said. “I’ve got some things I need to get done tomorrow.”
“You just said you’re not working this week.”
“Even if I’m not working on a site, I’ve still got things to do.”
“Come on,” she said. “Billy will love to have you there.”
“What’s up?” Billy asked.
His mother said, “James might be able to take you to your soccer game tomorrow.”
Billy’s face lit up. “You will?” he asked him, hopefully.
“I actually have some other things I need to do more than watching 8-year-olds play soccer,” he said.
“Please?” Billy said, setting down his bags and clasping his hands together in prayer.
James looked as though he wanted to resist, but then he sighed and said, “Fine. I’ll take you to your game.”
“Great,” their mother said. “Thank you. Now, I won’t have to change my schedule.”
“Thank you! Thank you!” Billy said, giving his big brother a hug. “You’ll love it. We’ve got a really good team this year.”
“Sure,” he said, affectionately patting the kid on the head.
The boys set down their groceries, and Greyson stood there a moment, admiring James. Greyson was reminded of all of the times he had refused to spend time with Ethan and felt guilty.
“We’d better get going,” Ethan said.
Everyone exchanged goodbyes. Then, James added, “See you later, boys. Be careful on your bikes.” He gave them a little wink and a knowing smile, and Greyson felt his heart flutter.
Once they were back home again, Greyson and Ethan took turns cleaning up and then made sandwiches together. They ate on the living room on the couch, watching TV. Ethan put on some anime that Greyson had seen him watching before. It was actually a lot more fun than Greyson had expected. With their lunch done, they made microwave popcorn and shared a bowl as they binged a whole season of the show.
After probably the second time their fingers brushed against each other in the popcorn bowl, Greyson noticed the casual connection that he shared with Ethan now. Neither of them made any mention of the contact. As a pair of boys that, in this reality at least, had grown up together since conception, the idea of sharing everything with each other was totally natural. The idea that Ethan might borrow his underwear seemed a bit less farfetched, while still being kind of gross.
When the popcorn was done, Greyson’s eyes drifted down to their bare feet, propped up on the coffee table. They were so nearly identical now. He guessed that he could borrow Ethan’s shoes now and walk a metaphorical mile in them. There were no gaps left between them. Suddenly, his brother made total sense to him.
Again, Greyson thought about James and his brothers and felt a sense of guilt. He decided he ought to start doing something about it.
“Hey,” Greyson said.
“What?” Ethan replied.
“I love you, man.”
“Cool,” Ethan said. “Love you too, bro.”
That night, Greyson ate his dinner, barely even tasting it as he continued to think over the day and his relationship with Ethan. In his old life, he realized that all Ethan had ever wanted was to connect with him. The years that had separated them had made that difficult, but Greyson had never done much to make it easier. After the time they had spent together today, he realized that it would be no problem at all. Ethan was a good kid. He made a silent vow to be a better big brother to Ethan when he returned to his normal age again.
…If he returned to his normal age again, which he still had no idea how to do.
“So,” Ethan said as their mother collected his empty dinner plate. “What kind of cake are we getting for the party?”
“Your favorite,” she said. “Devil’s food cake.”
Hearing them talk of cake woke something up in Greyson’s mind. Some connection seemed to be forming.
“Nice,” Ethan said. “Man, I can’t believe we’re going to be twelve in just a few days. That’s almost a teenager.”
Their father let out a concerned grunt and said, “No need to rush into it. You mother and I wouldn’t mind a little more prep time before having to handle a pair of teenagers.”
“Nonsense,” their mother said as she took his plate as well. “Our boys are a pair of angels.”
Their father looked at them skeptically and playfully said, “Yeah, angels who love devil’s food. You sure we can’t just put a different candle on the cake, maybe an 8? They were pretty easy going second graders.”
It clicked for Greyson at last. “The candles!” he cried.
Everyone looked at him curiously.
“That’s what did it!” he said and smiled, having finally figured it out. “It wasn’t the old woman in the shop. It was the candles on my birthday cake.”
“What are you talking about?” his mother asked.
“Where did we get the birthday candles you use, the ones shaped like numbers?” he demanded.
“Uh,” she said, taking a moment to think. “I’m not sure. They were my mother’s. I think she got them from your grandmother. Where she got them, who knows? They’ve got to be decades old now. I mean we only use them for a minute or two every year. They’ll last a long while.”
“They’ve got to be magical or something,” Greyson said, piecing it all together. “You blow out candles and make a wish. I only blew out one of my candles. Maybe that changed my age. Ethan took the number one candle, so I only had the number two left.” He grew worried. “Wait. If this keeps going, am I going to end up as a two-year-old?”
There was a long silent pause while everyone looked at him as though he had gone crazy.
“You feeling all right?” his father asked.
Greyson looked at all of them. They seemed genuinely concerned, especially Ethan. Greyson realized that his brother was probably worried that he had a concussion after all.
“I’m fine,” Greyson assured them. “Sorry, I was just… fantasizing, I guess. A weird idea came to me.”
Everyone seemed to relax, except Ethan.
As their parents started reviewing party plans, Ethan asked him, “Is your head okay?”
“I’m fine,” Greyson said. “I’m great actually.”
Ethan eyed him suspiciously as Greyson made quiet plans to light some candles later.
That night, when he was sure everyone had gone to sleep, Greyson crept out of his bedroom slowly. He took several minutes to open his door to avoid waking anyone up with its creaking hinges. Then, barefoot in his pajamas, he inched his way down the hallway to the stairs. The first stair creaked when he put his weight on it, and he froze. He listened silently a long while, searching for any sign that someone else was awake. When he was confident that everyone was asleep still, he continued down, being careful to avoid stepping in the middle of the stairs. At last, when he had reached the bottom, he let out a sigh of relief and headed for the kitchen.
With only a the light over the sink turned on, he started his search. After checking the lower cabinets for the candles, he gently pulled a chair over to stand on, so he could reach the top cabinets more easily. All the while, his eyes kept darting to the glowing blue digital clock on the stove, watching wearily as midnight slowly approached. He had no way of knowing what would happen at twelve o’clock when the new day began, but it was possible that was when reality would change again. He did not want to chance it. With only minutes to go, he knew he had to hurry.
“Yes!” he cried a little too loudly when he found the bag of candles at last, right next to a box of matches. “Got ‘em,” he added more quietly, as he pulled out the number two and number one. With his prize in hand, he grabbed the matchbox and stepped down from the chair to light them up, but he realized he needed a cake or something like it to put the candles on. A quick search through the refrigerator for anything cake-like left him with a sandwich-sized French loaf of bread.
“It’ll have to do,” he said as he set the candles on top, the two to the left of the one this time. He struck a wooden match on the box and lit them left to right, just to be sure that whatever magic was in them understood his desire completely. He shook the match out and tossed it into the sink. Then, he closed his eyes and made a silent wish to go back to being a 21-year-old man again, just as he had been a few days ago.
“What are you doing?” a voice whispered behind Greyson, startling him enough to make him jump and yelp.
He spun and saw Ethan in his pajamas, standing in the doorway to the kitchen.
“Why are you awake?”
“I heard you walking around. I was… worried, I guess.”
“Go to bed. I’m fine,” Greyson said.
“Why are you lighting birthday candles by yourself… in the middle of the night?”
“I’ll explain later,” Greyson said. “I need to do this.”
Greyson glanced at the clock, just a minute left until midnight. He shut his eyes, said, “I wish to be twenty-one years old again,” out loud, and blew out the candles.
The two boys stood there silently watching twin streams of smoke rising from the still warm wicks.
“There,” Greyson said. “I did it.”
The clock switched over to 12:00 and Greyson felt a sort of vibration erupt from the candles and wash through him and the room around them like a sound wave. The vibration flowed through him, ringing his body like a bell. It kept on vibrating as he felt himself begin to change shape.
For a moment, he was overjoyed as he expected to start growing older again. Then, horror filled him as he realized that he was actually shrinking instead of growing.
It was a strange sensation to shrink, very alien. After all, everyone knows what it feels like to grow, but hardly anyone shrinks. Although it had happened to him several times before, Greyson had never been awake to experience it. It felt as though his body was being simultaneously pulled inward and crushed down from the outside. He wanted to fight it, to resist what was happening, but there was nothing he could do. He could only watch it happen. He looked down to see his already small body get even smaller. There was a sense that something was draining out of him, as if the last traces of his maturity were leaking from him. He felt a tingle and a jarring upwards pull in his crotch, as if he were dropping too fast on a roller coaster, and then he felt very little down there. His already weak limbs became even skinnier and shorter; his hands, softer and smaller. His little feet seemed to rise up closer to him as his height dropped. He looked up at the room around him and felt momentarily nauseated to see everything seem to rise up as if he were falling without moving. He shut his eyes and waited for the vibrating sensation to pass.
When it stopped Greyson opened his eyes to find himself in a bigger world. Everything in the kitchen seemed to have grown. The counters were chest-high to him now and the upper cabinets, which had been hard to reach before, were totally out of reach now.
“Oh no!” he said and winced at the even higher voice he heard. “It didn’t work.” His mouth felt clumsy as he formed the words. His braces were gone, but now he had to deal with gaps left by missing baby teeth.
“What are you doing?” Ethan demanded.
Greyson spun to face his brother and yelped to find that his formerly younger brother was a full head taller than him now, leaving him too intimidated to respond.
“Well?” Ethan asked. He crossed his arms, taking the authoritative pose that their mother loved to use when they had gotten into trouble.
“I-I was…” Greyson stammered, but his voice trailed off. His mind was struggling to handle the fact that he was no longer physically superior to Ethan. Greyson remembered how the boy had seemed so small and weak before, which left him feeling even smaller and weaker in comparison.
“You were lighting candles in the middle of the night?” Ethan asked, making it less of a question and more of a statement of outrage.
“What were you thinking? You could have burned the house down.”
“I was careful,” Greyson said, realizing as he said it that it was a weak excuse. “I swear.” He was nervously aware that Ethan could hurt him if he was not placated, not that Greyson imagined that Ethan would. Howerever, the possibility was there now unlike it had ever been before. Ethan being the bigger one meant he was in control now.
Ethan sighed. “I’ve got to tell Mom and Dad.”
“Wait!” Greyson said, grabbing Ethan’s arm as he turned to leave. He was disturbed by how much effort it took to stop his brother.
“Please don’t,” Greyson said, fearing having to deal with being in trouble while still getting younger. He had failed to stop the magic this time, but he would lose any chance of trying again today if he was in trouble on top of being stuck as a little kid. “Nothing got burned. It was just a couple of candles.”
Ethan looked unconvinced, but he had stopped not trying to leave.
“I won’t do it again,” Greyson lied. “I swear.”
Ethan sighed again. “Fine,” he said. “I won’t tell them.”
Another sigh. “I promise,” he said. “But, do you understand how dangerous that was?”
“You’ll never do it again?”
“Fine,” Ethan said. “Now, go to your room. I’ll clean up here.”
“Thank you!” Greyson said, letting go of Ethan’s arm.
“And, go to bed,” Ethan said. “I don’t want to see lights on or hear you playing around. Okay?”
Greyson backed out of the room while watching Ethan pick the candles off of the French loaf. Then, he made his way to the staircase and immediately tripped on the first step. He stumbled on several more steps on the way up, finding it nearly impossible to judge their height in the dark with his much shorter legs. Eventually, he made it to the top and tip toed swiftly back into his bedroom and shut the door behind himself.
He went to turn on the lights but missed the switch. Then, he decided that it would be best to leave the room dark, so as not to upset Ethan again after having calmed him down. He crept towards his bed, and immediately tripped over something plastic on the floor, stubbing his toe. He regained his balance and moved more slowly sliding his feet forward on the carpet to avoid hitting any other unseen obstacles. When he reached his bed, he climbed in under the covers and rested his head on the pillow.
In the silent dark, he lay there, thinking. “What did I do wrong?” he whispered to himself. He was sure now that it was the candles that had done this to him, but when he had tried them just now, they had not changed him back to normal. Maybe it was the cake, he thought. What if it has to be an actual cake? What if it has to be on my actual birthday?
Both possibilities meant that he had no hope of returning to normal before he became a two-year-old, so he would rather not consider them. Still, as he tried to think of a new plan, he found himself starting to yawn as his eyelids dipped again and again. He felt incredibly sleepy, despite his worries. Soon, he gave up the fight to stay awake and drifted off to sleep.
“Wake up, Sleepyhead,” Ethan called to him.
Greyson yawned and blinked his eyes open in the morning light. He stretched his little arms and looked around his room for Ethan, but his brother seemed to be nowhere in sight.
“Where are you?” Greyson asked.
A shadow filled the window, and Greyson looked over to see a giant eye looking in through it.
Gryson shrieked and leapt out of bed. He ran to the door to escape, but when he turned the knob, it would not open. He spun around with his back against the wall and watched as the whole opposite wall of the room swung open on a hinge, revealing the giant face of his brother.
“Rise and shine!” Ethan said, reaching in a hand as big as Greyson was. Its enormous fingers wrapped around Greyson’s body. He struggled to get free, but he was trapped in his huge brother’s powerful grip.
The hand lifted him out of his bedroom, and he found himself inside a giant version of Ethan’s bedroom. Looking back, he saw that his own bedroom had been only a dollhouse on Ethan’s shelf.
He looked down to the floor, seemingly 50 feet below, and saw a pair of huge bare feet there. His eyes followed the feet up tree-like legs to the body above, then back up to Ethan’s face, seemingly too enormous to be real. The giant smiled, and Greyson was terrified of Ethan’s monstrously big white teeth.
“How’s my little guy doing today?” Ethan asked, and Greyson felt the horrible warmth of the titanic boy’s breath.
Greyson was too terrified to respond.
“Don’t worry,” Ethan said, sensing Greyson’s fear. “I’ll take good care of you.” Then, Ethan pursed his massive lips and pulled Greyson in close for a kiss.
Greyson shrieked and kicked and shook himself free of everything on him, causing himself to roll off his bed onto the floor. The pain of hitting the carpet with his face woke him from his nightmare, and he began to calm down, relieved that he was not his little brother’s toy.
There was a swift knock on his door, and it swung open. His mother poked her head into his room and asked, “What happened?”
Greyson sat up and said, “I think I just had a bad dream.”
She entered his room and approached him, and Greyson noted two things: she seemed huge now and appeared somewhat younger as well.
She crouched down next to him and asked, “Are you all right?”
“Uh,” Greyson said, realizing that he was hardly “all right” as far as the situation was concerned. “I’m not hurt.”
“Good,” she said, standing up again. “Well, come downstairs for breakfast. Your game is starting in another hour, so you’ll need to get a meal in you first.”
“My… game?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said. “I’m sorry that Dad and I can’t go today, but Billy’s brother is going to take you to the game.”
“Wait,” Greyson said, remembering Billy from yesterday. “Soccer?”
She looked concerned. “You sure you didn’t hit your head?”
“No,” he said, feeling a bit frustrated at being asked that again and again.
“Right,” she said. “Well, come down to eat. Then, you’ll need to get your gear on.” She left the room.
Greyson sat on the floor trying to wrap his head around another new reality. “I’m Billy’s friend now?” He thought about the soccer kid he had seen yesterday, remembering how young the boy had seemed. Then, he held up his own hands, little soft boy hands like those that would belong to a kid like that.
He looked around his bedroom, seeing toys scattered on the floor and on his shelves. Cartoons were everywhere, on posters, on his sheets, and even on the tight stretchy pajamas he now wore.
He pulled down the front of his bottoms to take a look at his crotch. It was as bad as he had feared, no hair left at all and tiny to the point of complete insignificance. There may as well have been nothing there at all. He let go of his waistband to hide that embarrassment.
“Ethan! Greyson!” their mother shouted up the stairs. “Get down here, immediately!” She sounded angry.
Greyson stood up and maneuvered his way around his toys to the door. He encountered Ethan in the hallway. They exchanged a concerned look and then descended the stairs together. Greyson lagged behind a little as he took each step carefully on his unfamiliar legs.
When Greyson joined Ethan and his mother in the kitchen, he froze in the doorway after seeing what she was holding up between her finger and thumb.
“Would either of you care to explain why there was a burnt match in the sink?” she asked them.
Again, Ethan and Greyson exchanged a look.
“Well?” she demanded.
“I don’t know,” Greyson said.
“Me neither,” Ethan said.
“Then, how did it get here?” she asked them.
Neither of them replied.
“Ethan?” she asked him.
“Maybe Dad did it?” he speculated.
“I did what?” their father asked, walking into the room. He looked dressed and ready for work already.
“Did you light a match and leave it in the sink last night?” their mother asked him.
“No,” he said, and looked at the boys suspiciously. “Wait, did one of you?”
“Neither of them is confessing,” their mother said.
“This is very serious,” their father said. “You’re both too young to be lighting matches. Do you have any idea how dangerous that is? You could have set the whole house on fire.”
Again, Ethan and Greyson exchanged a look. Greyson silently pleaded for Ethan to keep his promise, while Ethan looked back with a trace of resentment in his eyes for having been put in this situation.
“Well,” their mother said. “If you won’t confess, then you’re both grounded for the day.”
“But…” Ethan said.
“Yes…?” she prompted him.
He sighed and said, “Nothing.”
Their father asked her, “Doesn’t Greyson have a game today?”
“He does,” she said.
“It wouldn’t be very fair to the team to keep him home, especially since we don’t know if he was the one who lit the match in the first place.”
“Very well, then,” she said. “Greyson, you’ll go to your game and come right home afterwards. No playing with Billy. Ethan, you’ll stay with me today. I’ll have to call to take the day off work. Neither of you is getting any screen time. Understand?”
“Yes,” Ethan said, sounding deeply annoyed.
“Yes,” Greyson said, feeling guilt like a lead weight in his stomach.
They ate breakfast in silence, and when he was done, Greyson was sent up stairs to get dressed for soccer. It had been years since he had put on this particular type of uniform, but it was not far off from a football uniform. The shin guards, long socks, and cleats were familiar enough, but the shorts and T-shirt felt a bit flimsy. As for underwear, all he had were colorful cartoon prints on tight fitting briefs. Thankfully, he did not have to look at them under his jock strap and shorts.
When he came back downstairs, their father had already left for work and Ethan was dressed and ready to go. They went to the garage and began getting in their mother’s car. Greyson went to sit in the front seat next to her.
“What are you doing?” she asked him. “Trying to be funny? Get in the back with your brother.”
He did as he was told and sat next to Ethan, who did not even look in Greyson’s direction. His brother just stared out the window as they drove off.
It wasn’t long before they were back at the house the two of them had visited only yesterday in their previous reality as twins.
They parked in the driveway and Ethan was told to wait in the car. Greyson got out and followed his mother to the front door. It was James who answered when she knocked. Again, Greyson felt astonished at how huge his old friend seemed, and from his even younger perspective, Greyson thought James looked like an actual giant now.
Greyson’s mother and James exchanged pleasantries, and the two of them left Greyson to wait on the stoop until Billy was ready to leave.
Meanwhile, Greyson watched his mother return to the car as the garage door opened and Stephen walked his bike out from inside of it. Stephen noticed Ethan in the car and went to talk with him. Although Greyson did not hear the conversation, he saw the sad look on Stephen’s face. Then, several of the boys they had played football with yesterday rode up on their bikes. Stephen rode over to join them and apparently told them what was going on with Ethan. They all gave Ethan sympathetic looks. Then, the boys rode off down the street, while Ethan could only watch them go.
Ethan looked at Greyson for a moment, just long enough for Greyson to see the anger on his brother’s face. Then, the car backed out of the driveway, and Greyson was left there alone.
As James drove them to the game, Greyson and Billy sat together in the back seat of his truck. Billy had started talking when they met at the front door and had not stopped the whole ride, despite Greyson not saying more than a word or two in response. The kid had endless thoughts to share on cartoons and pets and toys and everything else a kid might find fun. It all left Greyson feeling dizzy and a little bothered.
What bothered Greyson most was not what the kid said but what size he was. Normally, Greyson would expect that kind of childish babble from someone small. Now, he was hearing it from another person the same size as him. He saw himself reflected in the boy next to him. Billy was the same size as him, same age, wearing the same uniform. Anyone that saw the two of them would assume they were of the same maturity level as well. Of course, Greyson was still an adult in his head. He had very little interest in most of the topics Billy brought up. The mismatch between his mind and his body was growing larger every day as he got smaller. Already it was starting to be a struggle. How long before it was absolutely unbearable?
“Right, boys,” James said as he pulled into a parking lot. “It’s game time.”
The game was a nice distraction. So long as he ignored the fact that he was competing against a bunch of relatively huge third graders, Greyson could fall back into his familiar competition mindset for a while. He had played soccer as a kid even before he had played football. The skills came back effortlessly. Soon, he was scoring goals and trading passes with his comparatively clumsy teammates.
As the game went on, Greyson was developing a new appreciation of his young body. Just after he had changed last night, he had felt small and terrified of the bigger world around him. Now, having spent more time around other kids his size, he was getting more comfortable at being small. He was even enjoying the feeling of it in some ways. For one thing, being only a fraction of his former size meant that he was much lighter now. His legs may have been weaker, but they had much less weight to move around, making him much swifter and lighter on his feet.
Additionally, there was something pure about being this age. Yesterday, he had been a boy on the cusp of puberty, feeling the first changes related to that. It was like a corruption of childhood to feel adulthood emerging. His body had been coping with something new it was not quite ready to handle yet. Now, there was no sign of adulthood left in him. His body was hairless beneath his head. There was not much sensation around his crotch now, besides the constraint of his jockstrap and cup. He thought back on the topics Billy had brought up on the ride here and realized that none of them involved romantic relationships or sexual attractions. Those things just did not exist yet at this age. It was freeing in a way to think that he had no need for those complications with his current body. Childhood was feeling like a bit of a vacation from adulthood now.
However, that vacation only lasted while he was away from older people. When he was on the sidelines, there was the coach to listen to and referees. They seemed to exist in another world from him now, the land of big people. He certainly felt like they treated him as though he did not belong in their club, the adults. They talked past him to each other. They did not expect him to participate in their conversations. He felt beneath them in addition to the difference in height. Again, that mismatch between his mind and body was causing him a bit of distress. He was as smart and capable as any adult there, but they only saw him as an ordinary child, leaving him feeling unjustly excluded and ignored.
Halftime came quickly, and Greyson settled down to eat granola bars and orange slices with the other kids. Billy stood up after scarfing down his snack and ran over to James who was sitting on some stands watching. Greyson watched as the excited kid rambled on to James, who took it all in with smiles and nods.
Greyson was reminded of Ethan, his own little brother. Well, not “little” anymore. Now, Ethan was his big brother. He was impressed that Ethan had kept his word earlier and had not told Mom and Dad about the candles, even though it had gotten him into trouble. He remembered the angry look Ethan had given him. Greyson was ashamed to admit it, but he knew he deserved it.
“I need to make it up to him,” he told himself.
“What was that?” Billy asked, taking a seat next to him.
“Nothing,” Greyson said. “Just thinking out loud.”
They ran out to start the second half, but Greyson’s mind was still with Ethan and James and conceptualizing the idea of what a brother is. He kept playing, but instead of thinking about scoring, he was thinking of ways to patch things up with Ethan. Because of that, he did not notice when a boy from the other team ran up next to him and tried to take the ball. Their legs tangled up and Greyson took a bad step, twisting his ankle.
He tumbled to the grass and said, “Ow! Ow!” as he grasped his sore joint.
It was a short while later when the whistle blew, and the ref and other boys came to investigate Greyson. He could feel his ankle swelling up painfully. He tried to stand, but putting any weight on it was too painful.
“I’ll get him,” a man said.
Greyson looked up to see James blocking out the sun above him. His old friend lifted Greyson up in his arms as if he weighed nothing at all. Greyson’s face flushed red. He was happy to have a cup on as it would hide the little boner that had suddenly popped. All of that powerful muscle holding him gently was a bit too much to take. Again, his adult mind was starting to overwhelm his kid body. Maybe when he had originally been a boy, this kind of situation would have been more innocent, but he was feeling overwhelmingly turned on by being carried around by a man like this. By the time James set him down on the stands, Greyson had all but forgotten about his sprained ankle.
“You all right?” James asked him.
“Y-yeah,” Greyson said.
“We’ll find you some ice. Chill that ankle down.”
“Sure,” Greyson said, appreciating the idea of cooling down.
James dropped Greyson off at his house, giving Greyson a hand as he limped to the front door. After explaining what had happened, James left with Billy, and Greyson was helped upstairs to the bathroom by his mother. Then, she left him to take a bath.
He drew a bath and stripped naked, taking care with his sprained ankle. It was swollen and red now, but the pain was less intense. He got into the tub and settled in to soak a little while. Again, his mind drifted back to his brother. He had not seen Ethan since coming home and assumed his brother was in his bedroom now. He wondered if Ethan was still angry.
Greyson soaped himself up, again noting the lack of hair anywhere on his body from the neck down, feeling how strange it was to touch so much smooth bare skin. Probing the gaps in his teeth with his tongue, he realized that he felt unfinished, like a rose bush without a bud, all potential but no progress.
He wondered what it would feel like to grow up again. For the first time, he considered that the magic might be irreversible. There might be no way to stop his descent into being a toddler. Could he stand it, being an adult mind trapped in a baby body? Already, he was feeling that disconnect, and the younger he got, the worse it would be.
Again, he thought of Ethan. Having a brother might make it bearable, he realized. He would have someone older around who might be willing to listen, like James listened to Billy. Greyson only hoped Ethan would be a better big brother than Greyson had been to him.
Later that evening, Greyson knocked on Ethan’s closed door. There was no response.
“Ethan?” Greyson said, feeling how small his voice was.
Still, no response.
“I’m sorry,” Greyson said. “I’m sorry for not being a better brother to you. You don’t deserve to be grounded. I’m going to tell Mom I lit the match.”
Ethan’s door opened and Greyson looked up at the boy. His face was no longer angry but more confused. “Why’d you change your mind?” Ethan asked.
“I realized that I’m not alone, and I don’t want to be alone. I want you as my brother. I want you to be there for me, and I want to be there for you. I want to do what’s right for you.”
Ethan pulled Greyson into a hug. Greyson hugged him back, feeling Ethan’s superior size and power as less of a threat and more of a comfort for the first time that day. He was happy knowing that Ethan would be there for him.
Greyson confessed to his mother and spent the rest of the evening after dinner confined to his room. He considered sneaking downstairs again to get the candles and try to make the magic work once more, but he realized his sprained ankle would make that very difficult. He could get around now, but it was slow and painful. The idea of climbing up on a chair and reaching the candles was too perilous. Besides, he doubted his parents would leave the matches in the same place again. He might light the candles on the stove, but he worried about the heat damaging them.
“No,” he told himself as he felt his young body giving in to sleep. “Not tonight.” He resigned himself to wait and try again tomorrow when he was younger, if he could. He only hoped he would still be old enough to give the candles one more try.
To be continued…