A Vacation

by: TabulaRasa | Complete Story | Last updated Oct 26, 2008

A college student, his younger cousin, a summer vacation. You know the drill.

Chapter 1
A vacation

Chapter Description: Just noticed I'd forgotten to post this, even though it was finished a while ago. Oops!

A stirring on the other half of the bed woke Nick up, and he lay there for a moment, eyes closed, enjoying the motion of the bed as it rocked slightly with someone’s sleeping breath.

As he woke up, a question popped into his mind: who, exactly, was lying next to him? The day before was still a bit fuzzy, but he couldn’t remember meeting a girl, let alone inviting one to spend the night with him. How could he have invited a girl to sleep with him here in the beach house, with his parents and aunt and uncle just down the hallway.

Opening his eyes, he looked over with a bit of trepidation. It was his little cousin, Mike, lying on his stomach fast asleep. Lying far too away for this to be the cot in the room Nick had claimed. Looking around the room, this appeared to be one of the three main bedrooms, presumably the one Mike had been sleeping in.

Nick sat up and looked around more carefully. There was plenty of light, thanks not only to the bits slipping past the edge of the window shades, but to the night light which still glowed across the room. Nick had, apparently, shared the queen sized bed not only with Mike, but with the giraffe he recognized as Mike’s personal companion and a lion which was less familiar.

But why? He tried to remember the day before. It was easy enough to remember the long drive from home, in the back seat, headphones on, practically sulking about his parents’ theft of a week of his precious summer vacation for a family trip to the middle of nowhere. He remembered gleefully claiming the little room at the end of the hallway, the one with the fold-out cot, gladly accepting the mediocre bed for a shred of privacy. He had, even, fantasized a bit about meeting a fellow college student, perhaps, like him, stranded here with family, and sneaking her in through the back door.

The thought made Nick glance over at his companion. The boy was sprawled out in just his underwear, the lack of pajamas presumably a concession to the heat. Looking down, Nick wasn’t surprised to see that he, too, had slept in just underwear. He was surprised that, instead of his usual boxers, he was wearing flyless blue striped briefs; indeed, they appeared to be identical to the ones Mike was wearing.

A bit embarrassed, not to mention confused, by the skimpy clothes, Nick decided to head over to his actual room to change. Trying not to wake Mike, he shifted carefully to the edge of the bed and stepped off. Well, in fact, fell off. For some reason, his feet didn’t reach the floor, so instead of standing, he ended up landing with a thump, losing his balance and falling against the bed, shaking it a bit. The combination of noise and movement, naturally, woke Mike, who yawned loudly and stretched.

The strange fall off the bed triggered memories of the day before. The odd lightheadedness he’d started to feel after the big fight with his parents. The strange, secretive grin Mike had kept delivering Nick all evening. But more than that, he remembered thinking it was unusual for the bathroom mirror to be so high that he could barely see in it. And after the family had all gathered round to watch some pixar cartoon, had Nick really fallen asleep during it? He could remember feeling sleepy, and couldn’t seem to remember even going to bed after...

Mike snapped him out of his attempts to piece the previous day together. "Mornin’, Nick," the boy slurred, half opening his eyes.

"Good morning, Mike. I’m just going to go get dressed," Nick said, creeping towards the door.

"Okay..." the boy trailed off, sounding confused.

Nick tip-toed down the hallway, not really wanting to be seen almost naked by the rest of his family. The snoring coming from his parents room suggested they were asleep, and the lack of noise or movement from the common room made it likely his aunt and uncle were as well. He made it to the end of the hall, opened the door, and found the room completely empty.

His suitcase and his backpack were both gone. The laptop that had been sitting on the desk, the ipod, wallet, and keys he’d left on the dresser, all gone. Nick returned down the hallway, just as stealthily. Mike was sitting on the bed working on some sort of puzzle book. "Hey, Mike, do you have any idea where my suitcase might be?"

Mike looked at him like it was the stupidest question in the world and pointed to a corner of the room. There was a suitcase there, a small one Nick vaguely recognized as belonging to his parents. Not sure why it was in this room, or why Mike thought it was his, Nick went over. It did have clothes in it, an odd mix, and certainly not his, but holding them up, they did seem the right size. Finding some comparatively normal ones--jean shorts and a sleeveless red shirt--he pulled them on, willing to prioritize his modesty.

Mike was eight, an age when modesty was a less definitive thing, and seemed to have no such concern. "Are the grown-ups up?"

Nick flinched slightly, annoyed that the young boy didn’t consider Nick old enough to be a grown-up. "No, I think they’re all still asleep."

"Okay." Mike seemed mostly unconcerned. "Wanna help me with this puzzle?"

Nick sighed. Really, he wanted his parents to wake up so he could get some clue what was going on---and get his stuff back, so he’d have something to do---but waking them up early would make that ever so much harder, so he’d just have to kill time until then. "Sure, whatever." Nick climbed onto the bed, struck again by just how oddly tall it was, and kneeled next to Mike to look at the puzzle.

In fact, despite its presence in a book aimed for kids Mike’s age, it was quite complicated, and it took even the two of them together some time to work it out. Nick, who’d never been a big fan of puzzles of that sort (indeed, as his grades attested, of thinking too hard for any reason), found the process frustrating and tedious, and suggested more than once that they look at the solution in the back of the book, at least enough to get a hint.

When the puzzle was finally solved, Mike was eager to move on to the next one, but Nick had had enough. "You can do the next puzzle. I’m going for a walk." Even this little town must have somewhere for people his age to hang out, and while it probably wouldn’t be open yet, if he could find it he’d have somewhere to justify running off to later. Nick hopped off the bed, more deftly this time, and headed for the door.

"You can’t go out. The grown-ups aren’t up yet."

Nick rolled his eyes. "I’m allowed to go out if I want."

"No! The grown-ups have to sup-er-vise. That’s what they said."

"No, Mike, they have to supervise if YOU go out."

"Nuh-uh." Nick ignored him and started walking down the hallway. From behind, he heard Mike call, "I’m telling!", and the sound of Mike knocking on one of the closed doors, but he kept on walking, content to let Mike get in trouble.

He was almost out the front door when footsteps charged down the hallway and a hand firmly gripped his shoulder. "Nicholas Daniel Piper, what do you think you’re doing?"

Turning, Nick looked up at his father. Way up. His father, who should have been a few inches shorter than Nick, instead towered over him. In the back of his mind, it occurred to Nick that a lot of things had been suspiciously tall, but he’d somehow kept overlooking the significance.

Still, he tried to answer the question confidently. "I’m...I’m...taking a walk." Despite his best efforts, it came out less like a confident assertion, and more like an unsteady, almost defiant, question.

"Not without supervision, you’re not. You know the rules, Nick. You can’t go out of the house without a grown-up. You’re not old enough."

The absurdity---he was old enough to go to college, but not to take a walk into town---combined with Nick’s building frustration at the whole vacation, burst out. "I am so! I’m old enough to go out by myself!" Once again, when the words actually came out, they didn’t sound quite the way Nick had intended; less self-assurance, more whining, and far too petulant.

Worse, they set his father off, into a lengthy rant about Nick’s behavior. Nick was used to these, of course---he could almost make a MadLib for one, mixing in in the key phrases that always appeared ("I don’t know what’s gotten into you!") and a few criticisms adjusted to the occasion ("You could have gotten hurt...that was very dangerous"). Perhaps it was the same pent up frustration, but this one bothered Nick. A lot. Embarrassingly, he felt his eyes fill up with tears. He tried to hang on to his usual self-control, or at least keep in mind that he had to figure out why he seemed to be so much smaller, but the tide of emotion swept it all way, until he was sobbing openly, unable to think about anything but the combination of anger and shame he was feeling.

When his father grabbed him roughly by the arm and dragged him down the hallway, it only upset him further, and he found himself shoved into the corner of the room that was supposed to be his bedroom, and ordered to stay there and "think about his behavior."

It took several minutes for him to get control of the sobbing. He considered sneaking away, but fear of another lecture from his father kept him in place, sniffling quietly, for what felt like an eternity.

Finally, he heard footsteps, and then his mother’s voice. "Alright, Nicky, I think you’ve been there long enough. Do you think you can behave now?" Eager, desperate to get out of there, he turned and nodded eagerly. She knelt down with a tissue and wiped his eyes and nose dry, and he followed her to the kitchen, where the rest of the family was sitting down for breakfast.

Legs dangling wildly, barely able to see over the edge of the table, Nick was reminded of the matter he’d forgotten. The situation was, obviously, much worse than merely shrinking: he’d somehow become a child, not only physically, but, given his reaction to his father’s lecture, emotionally as well.

He pondered the subject, trying to remember anything from the day before which might explain it, only half paying attention to the rest of the table. Besides, the grown-ups...that is, his parents and aunt and uncle...were having some tedious discussion which he wasn’t able to follow, probably since he’d missed the beginning of it.

He wracked his brain without success, unable to think of anything that could explain his strange situation. And, trapped at the breakfast table, it wasn’t like he had a way to get more information. When Mike finished and wanted to leave, he had his chance to get away, at least.

"Yes, you may both be excused." Nick got up eagerly, remembering only at the last moment that he had to land getting off the chair, and not merely stand up. He was halfway to the door, just behind Mike, when his mother cleared her throat. He and Mike both turned back to look at her.

"Bring your plates to the sink, please." Both boys returned to the table and brought their plates over, earning an exaggerated "Thank you" from her. Inside, Nick glowered at the condescension. Besides, he’d only forgotten because he was distracted by something more important.

Before he could investigate, however, he received a less important distraction: "What do you wanna play?" Not even whether---just what; apparently, Mike considered it a given that the two of them would be playing together. And then, Nick had a thought to solve two problems at once.

"Let’s play secret agent. There are clues hidden all over this house, so we have to sneak around and find anything suspicious!"

Mike’s eyes lit up. "Yeah!"

They started out in (what was now) the kids’ bedroom, since it was both the most natural place to be and the place most likely to have some clue as to what was going on. Mike found a number of "clues" (including the stuffed lion, whose name was apparently "Kyle", and the clip-on fan by Mike’s side of the bed) which Nick half-heartedly helped work into a rather lame spy story to keep Mike interested. Unfortunately, Nick’s rather thorough search didn’t reveal anything that would be out of place in a room being shared by two eight year olds. And, intent on his search, Nick didn’t notice the suspicious, thoughtful look Mike gave Nick’s back part-way through the game.

The next room to be searched was Nick’s parents’, but before long, hearing footsteps coming down the hall, Mike declared (overacting more than a bit) that it must be one of the bad spies, and that they needed to hide. Annoyed, but not wanting Mike to lose interest, Nick joined Mike hiding under the bed. And when Mike continued whispering about the bad spy, and what he might do if he found them, Nick felt an inexplicable wave of fear rush over him. It was right around there that Nick lost control of the game. The first wave of fear was followed by another, when he suddenly noticed how dark it was in their hiding place. With Mike going on and on about their dangerous enemies, Nick found it impossible to hang on to his knowledge that the footsteps around the room was just his father going through luggage. Soon, Nick found himself clutching Mike’s hand for comfort, having completely lost track of what his original purpose was.

When the footsteps left, and Mike finally declared it was safe, Nick felt a palpable sense of relief. They clambered out and resumed their search. Nick knew he was looking for something important, but wasn’t entirely sure what, so he ended up showing interesting looking items to Mike, who seemed to understand the game much better, and judging their value by how enthusiastic Mike’s reaction was. The best items, like the high-tech razor in the bathroom, were incorporated into the elaborate spy plan they were investigating. Nick had trouble coming up with ideas, but Mike invariably knew exactly how each item related.

Their search moved into the common room, and after the television was accidentally turned on, soon devolved into watching a cartoon, which gave Nick a chance to pull his scattered wits back together. He hadn’t found anything useful in the game, although, now that he thought back on it, he wasn’t sure he’d stayed focused on his goal through the whole thing. Apparently whatever had turned him into a little kid also made it hard not to think like one. Nick resolved to be more vigilant, and began thinking about how to disengage from Mike, since playing childish games with him was definitely not helping.

Help of a sort was soon given, when Aunt Leanne looked in. "Honestly, boys, you can watch television anywhere. Why don’t you go play outside?" Nick eagerly, and Mike less eagerly, walked outside. The adults were sitting on the porch under an awning, the men with newspapers out, the women discussing plans for the rest of the trip. Mike charged forwards to the grassy backyard, while Nick just plopped down on his back near the porch to enjoy the sun. Besides, it was too hot to run around.

Mike soon noticed that Nick wasn’t joining him. "C’mon. What’re you doing?"

"I’m sunning."

"What’s sunning?"

Nick sighed. "I’m just lying here and enjoying the sun, and tanning a little."

Even without opening his eyes, Nick could guess at the confused look on Mike’s face. "That sounds really boring. Come play with me."

"No, I don’t feel like playing with you right now."

Footsteps, and then Mike’s voice. "Mooom, Nick won’t play with me, and he’s just lying there and sunning."

The grown-ups chuckled. "He’s sunning? Well, I guess if that’s what he wants to do, he’s allowed to." The grown-ups chuckled a bit more.

Admittedly, Nick did feel a bit silly, even putting aside the oddity of doing this in his strangely changed body. This wasn’t a beach, there was no one else around, so he was really just lying on the grass by himself. Still, it kept Mike away and gave him a chance to think.

Nick tried to work through his situation. Perhaps the strange effect had made them forget he was nineteen, but more likely they had somehow done this to him, and were simply conspiring to treat him like the kid he looked like. He combed through the day for clues or inconsistencies, but the heat made him drowsy, and his thoughts soon drifted into daydreams.

After some unknown amount of time, Nick sat up with a start. He’d almost fallen asleep, and his half-conscious daydreams had rapidly steered towards childish games with Mike and that stuffed lion. Fortunately, he’d caught it this time. He still remembered that he was an adult, and wasn’t going to get distracted again.

No one was looking at him, so he had a chance to sneak back into the house for a more thorough look around, this time without Mike to distract him. As he climbed the steps onto the porch, though, Mike noticed him.

"Hey, Nick, where’re you going?"

Nick turned to answer, his foot half way onto the next step, and slipped, slamming into the railing and then fell further, collapsing onto his hands and knees. He cried out in pain. Once again, he tried to keep his thoughts together, knowing that this was, really, a trivial "injury," but despite himself, he felt tears well up in his eyes and then begin overflowing as he started sobbing.

By the time he calmed down, with a colorful band-aid and motherly kiss both ceremonially planted on the tiny cut on his knee, his thoughts were scattered to the winds, so he got caught up in Mike’s suggestion that the sprinkler be put out for them to play with.

Mike’s father put out the sprinkler and Mike began running circles around it. Nick started for it, only to be held back by his mother. "Not so fast, Nick. You’ll soak those clothes. Here, you can just go in your undies, like Mike is." She started lifting off the shirt, as Nick squirmed out from it, and then helped him out of his pants. Finally, Nick was allowed to join Mike, and the two danced back and forth around the sprinkler, splashing water at each other and giggling.

This continued until a late dinner, late enough that even the summer sun was beginning to set. Since dinner was served on the porch chairs, the boys were just half-heartedly dried off and sat on towels as Nick’s father grilled hot dogs and hamburgers for the family. Somehow, the conversation over the meal became a joke telling contest, consisting primarily of knock-knock jokes supplied by Mike. When Nick’s father told a joke with a subtle double-entendre, leaving the adults doubled over in laughter while Mike looked mystified and a trifle annoyed, Nick realized that he’d actually gotten the joke. That snapped him back, and he remembered with horror wasting the entire afternoon playing like the little kid he seemed to be acting like more and more.

He was sullen through the rest of the meal, not wanting to risk his recovered composure on careless interaction with his family. As he went back to scheming and combing his memories for clues, he noticed, almost as an afterthought, that he, like Mike, was eating dinner in just his underwear. Far worse, though, was that even after remembering what had happened---indeed, even now, as he thought about it---he didn’t really feel embarrassed. He knew he ought to be, but the emotion just wasn’t there. It felt entirely comfortable, and he had to concentrate hard even to remember what was wrong with going about dressed like this.

When he’d finished eating (not a lot, he noticed---his appetite was much smaller). He excused himself for the bathroom, mostly wanting to clear his head. Standing in the bathroom, Nick finally had an inspiration. Things that changed your body were medicine...and medicine went in the medicine cabinet. Unfortunately, the cabinet was behind the mirror, over the sink, which meant Nick couldn’t actually reach it, another galling reminder of his situation. He clambered onto the toilet and leaned over, bracing himself against the wall, and flicked the mirrored panel open with the tips of his fingers.

It was hard to see into it, and most of what was there looked normal enough: two razors (not three, even though Nick had brought his own), contact fluid, various toothpastes...and a tall bottle Nick couldn’t identify. He had to go a step further, clambering from the toilet to kneel on the sink itself in order to reach it, but the effort was well worth it. The bottle was labeled, "RegressX," and warned, right on the bottle: "Causes regression in age."

Nick felt a burst of panic well up from his stomach. His family had done this to him, on purpose, and they must all be in on it. He had to get away, with the bottle as evidence, and find a cure. He scrambled off the sink, and opened the door as fear began to overwhelm him. He couldn’t think straight as every idea, every instinct twisted back to panic.

He ran, as fast as he could, not even thinking about where he was running, and a scream began to build in the back of his throat. He knew he it might alert the others, and that they might come after him, but soon he couldn’t hold it back.

"MOOOMMMMMY!" In a moment of lucidity, it occurred to Nick that he’d meant to run out the door, and not directly to his mother, but the thought was quickly washed away by his terror. His mother picked him up and cradled him, and he buried his face in her shoulder.

"Shh, it’s alright Nicky, mommy’s here, everything’s okay."

Nick whimpered, no longer sure what had gotten him so scared, just relived to feel the safety of his mother’s arms. Someone gently pulled whatever he’d been holding on to from his hand and replaced it by something soft which Nick quickly recognized as Kyle. He clutched the lion tightly and let his mother rock him gently as he calmed down.

"Poor Nick, I think he’s had a long day. Let’s settle you down for bed, okay sweetie?." Nick just nodded, willing to agree to anything put in that soothing tone.

His mother carried him to the kids’ bedroom and stood him next to the bed. Clutching Kyle, he stepped out of the briefs after she pulled them down, and then into the green baseball-themed underwear she got out for him. As he got ready, Mike came in, changed his own underwear, to plain white briefs, and plopped down on the bed. Nick lay down next to him, and his mother plugged in the night light and turned off the main light.

"Night, night boys."

As soon as she closed the door behind her, Nick hopped off the bed.

"What’s wrong, Nick?"

At this point, Nick decided to gamble. Given what a disaster the day had been, he needed an ally. And after all, Mike had always liked him. "Mike, I need your help with something important."

Mike nodded sagely.

"I don’t know if you remember, but I used to be much older. Like, in college. And our parents did something to me to make me a little kid." Staring at Mike’s impassive face, he pleaded. "You have to believe me."

Mike hopped off the bed and came over to stand next to Nick. "I believe you." Right next to him and standing still, Nick realized that he’d just assumed all day that he’d been reduced to about Mike’s age; able to compare their heights, it became obvious that that was wishful thinking: Mike was taller, much taller, enough to suggest that Nick’s new age was several years younger. Still, that was all the more reason Nick needed Mike’s help.

"I need you to help me fix it. I don’t know what they did, but maybe if I escape to town I can find someone who can help. Or maybe..."

Unexpectedly, Mike kissed him on the forehead. "Don’t worry, Nick. I’ll help you." Nick breathed a sigh of relief, and as Mike wrapped his arms around the smaller boy, Nick let himself sink into them a little, finally feeling a little less trapped and alone. "Yeah, it’ll all be okay," Mike continued, holding Nick and rubbing his back gently.

"It’ll be so cool when I have a little cousin who looks up to me and wants to play with me, like Mom promised." Letting himself be lulled by the gentle tone and the hug, it took Nick several seconds to realize what Mike was saying, and he tried to pull away. Mike held on, kissed him on the nose, and then pulled him back to rest softly against Mike’s body. "Yeah, it’s all gonna be okay." Nick’s worries warred against Mike’s confidence, and he hesitated while Mike kept talking. "Mom said you might remember, but all I have to do is make you feel a strong emotion, like being scared or loved, and you’ll forget." Mike’s tone was a breezy sing-song, and he rocked a back and forth a bit to the rhythm, pulling Nick with him in a soothing motion. It belied the words, and Nick found himself having trouble focusing on the meaning over the tone. "And the best part is, ’cause little kids like you don’t have self-control, I can tell you all about it, and it’ll still work."

"Yeah, you’re my favorite little cousin, and I love you so much." Nick’s horror was drowned out by a wave of pleasure at the compliment, and he found himself cooperating as Mike guided him back to the bed. "’cause today is so special, I’ll let you hold George Giraffe tonight." Mike handed the stuffed giraffe to Nick, and Nick grabbed it, then Kyle, and held them both, grinning broadly. The warmth of Mike’s affection drowned out his worries for the last time, and he crawled onto the bed and drifted off to sleep amid daydreams of getting to play with his beloved older cousin.



End Chapter 1

A Vacation

by: TabulaRasa | Complete Story | Last updated Oct 26, 2008


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norhrd ยท Oct 29, 2023

why did they turn Nick into a child?

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