Honeyed Memories

by: nico | Complete Story | Last updated Aug 28, 2009

Do you remember your first friend?

Chapter 1
Chapter One

And aye, perchance, some sweet receives

When, all the leafage over past,

Time leaves but sweetness at the last,

And gives, if nothing more, forsooth,

The honeyed memories of youth!

John Cameron Grant - The Vale Between[/I]

Graham nudged the door to his apartment open and stood in the doorway, trying to muster what little strength remained in his drained body to take the final few steps into the room. It had been another soul-crushing Monday - history lecture at seven that ate most of his morning, followed by a sprint across campus for the two hours of interpretative bullshit that passed for an English class, topped off by a fifteen minute break for lunch and a calculus course taught by an Eastern European refugee with a deep accent and an even deeper resentment for spoiled American college students.

He shut the door behind him and allowed his backpack to fall off his shoulder, the overburdened sack and its load of a half-dozen bloated textbooks nearly putting a crack in the linoleum as it hit the ground. Somehow he managed to stumble over to his bed and collapse into it, his determination rewarded by a sharp pain that shot through his gut the instant he hit the mattress.

“Son of a...” Graham muttered. He rolled over and saw that he had fallen on the pointy end of an unsolved Rubik’s Cube, sitting innocently in the middle of a sheet of clutter that covered his bed. In his frustration he whipped the toy across the room, watching as it skipped into a dark corner, never to be seen again. With a sigh he rolled over and looked around the cramped studio apartment, its already-small confines made to look even smaller thanks to the scattered clutter that covered nearly every surface within. Cut from the mold of the thousands of other off-campus hovels scattered around town, Graham had come to resent the one and a half rooms that had been his home over the past school year. During the first semester he had managed to keep his living arrangements somewhat tidy but as the exhaustion mounted his motivation to do so slipped away. It was really getting to be too much.

His first year of college so far hadn’t been what he expected. Though Graham was grateful to his parents for funding his tuition all other expenses had been left up to him. That meant that on top of having to drag himself to a bunch of classes he wasn’t interested in order to meet graduation requirements, he was also forced to relinquish nearly all his free time to a part-time job. It had become a struggle just to get through the day and often Graham found himself thinking, just hang on. Only a few more months until summer. During the last few days he honestly began to doubt that he would make it.

He ran a hand through his hair, exhaled, and sat up in bed. Like it or not, I’m here until June. Gonna have to tidy up at some point. With that thought in his mind he set about cleaning the tiny apartment, resolving to making things just neat enough so that he wouldn’t feel embarrassed living there. Papers were organized, books and tools put in their proper places, clothes scooped from piles on the floor and shoved in whatever drawer would have them. It wasn’t long until Graham could actually move around without stepping on a t-shirt or kicking aside a crumpled-up syllabus.

The project was just about complete when Graham spotted a small cardboard box in the corner, previously hidden beneath a pile of tangled sweaters. He kneeled down and pulled back the flaps, his eyes widening and his lips curling into a smile as he laid eyes upon the contents within. His mother had packed the box full of relics from his room back home, intending for him to make them part of his new life. Thinking back, Graham remembered that this box was the last thing she handed to him before leaving campus, and he couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt for unceremoniously dumping it in the corner as soon as she left.

“Oh wow.” Graham chuckled. With careful hands he reached into the box and lifted out the first item he saw, regarding it with wide eyes and a cheek-splitting smile. What he held in his hands was nothing less than his childhood in toy form, a caramel-colored home-sewn teddy bear with button eyes, big round ears and mouth comprised of two small black lines, pointed downwards in a perpetual little frown.

“Honeycomb.” Graham laughed, speaking the bear’s name for the first time in untold years. He looked it over closely and found that it was in remarkable condition given its age and recent living conditions. Mom must have touched him up before putting him in there. “How did she even find you?”

The bear stared stoically back at him. Graham smiled. Somehow he could remember faint details about when he first saw Honeycomb, how his mother presented the bear to him on his second birthday and how warm and soft he felt when he hugged him tight. From that day on it was years before the two were separated for more than a few moments. He glanced at the rest of the items in the box and bit his lip in thought. Most of this stuff is just nostalgia. I’m the only person who cares about any of it. He returned his attention to Honeycomb and thought for a moment. But maybe this little guy can still make some kid happy.

Graham remembered the small park and playground that was just a short walk away from where he lived. He looked at his watch, held the bear up and smiled. I’ve got time to see him off.

Nearly every time Graham saw the park it stood silent and empty, and today was no different. As far as he knew, there weren’t any kids around to take advantage of the green or the attached playground - from what little he knew about the neighborhood, it used to all be residential but was swallowed up by the demand for housing when the university went through an aggressive expansion some years back. What a shame, Graham thought. It really was a lovely little park, with plenty of well-maintained grass to run around in, a small lake that doubled as a home to a family of ducks, and an old-school wooden playground with all the classic equipment. If I were a kid I would love to play here.

Still, he had seen children around on rare occasions, and with any luck some kid would find Honeycomb before too long. With a sigh and a sad smile Graham held Honeycomb at arm’s length, looking into the bear’s eyes for a long moment and trying to find the right words to leave him with. After few seconds he laughed and shook his head in disbelief. This is ridiculous. I’m actually getting worked up over what to say to a stuffed animal. I should be using this time to get some sleep instead of getting weepy over some dumb teddy bear.

Suddenly feeling very silly for caring about the toy’s fate, Graham plopped the bear on the lowered end of the seesaw and turned to leave, all thoughts of his time spent with the once-cherished keepsake leaving his mind.

“Hey! That’s it?”

Graham spun around, startled by the closeness of the voice. But when he turned he saw that the park was still completely empty, no motion to be seen whatsoever save for a ripple on the water and the rustling of the leaves on the trees.

“Aren’t you even going to say goodbye?” The voice demanded.

“Who’s there?” Graham shouted.

“Hey!” The voice snapped. “Down here!”

Graham’s eyes widened as he looked down and saw Honeycomb standing on the seesaw, his paws on his hips and his little V mouth curled in displeasure.

“Aren’t you even a little ashamed of yourself?” The bear questioned, pointing at Graham as he did so. “Leaving your best friend out here all alone! Your mother would be mortified.”

Graham felt his jaw drop and the color drain from his face as the bear crossed his arms and stared at him intently, waiting for an answer. The teddy bear is talking. Honeycomb...is talking to me. That thought ran through his head over and over as he dumbly tried to form some sort of response but found himself unable to make anything more than small stuttering noises. Honeycomb sighed and looked away.

“Hmph. Can’t even muster up an apology for your best friend.” The teddy bear turned up his nose. “I guess our time together really didn’t mean anything to you.”

“This is impossible.” Graham finally managed to blurt out. “How are you talking?”

“Oh, sure, change the subject.” Honeycomb said. “You know, you’re really hurting my feelings here, G.C.”

Graham’s eyebrow twitched. I haven’t heard that name in over eight years.

“My name is Graham.” He insisted, momentarily able to forget the ridiculousness of carrying on a conversation with a teddy bear.

“Right, Graham Cracker.” The bear stated in a bored tone. “G.C. for short. How do you not know your own name?”

Graham furrowed his brow. Nobody had called him by that nickname since his tenth birthday, when he demanded that all his guests call him Graham from now on. G.C. was a nickname for little kids, he insisted, a group whose ranks he clearly no longer belonged to. What the hell is going on here?

“Listen, uh...Honeycomb.” Graham opened his hands. The bear uncrossed his arms and regarded Graham suspiciously. “I’m, uh, sorry about leaving you out here alone. Can you forgive me?”

The bear eyed him for a moment, as though considering whether or not to accept the apology. Not only did I just apologize to a teddy bear, Graham thought, it doesn’t even seem like he wants to forgive me.

“Well...” Honeycomb drew the word out. “Okay. But only if you promise to play with me for an extra long time tomorrow. No excuses!”

Graham raised an eyebrow. “I...don’t really play with teddy bears anymore. I’m eighteen.”

The bear cocked his head back. “What? Get outta here.”

Graham frowned. “Did you not notice how much bigger I am than the last time I saw you?”

“Well, yeah.” Honeycomb mused, looking Graham over as though seeing him for the first time. “But I thought you just went through a growth spurt or something. Anyway, so what if you’re eighteen? Too old to play with your best friend?”

Graham held his hands up in defense. “Slow down a second. How is it that you’re even talking and walking around right now?”

“How should I know?” Honeycomb leaned back on his palms and kicked his feet. “One second I’m watching you leave, powerless to do anything, the next I’m on my feet giving you the third degree. Maybe it’s only right I be given a chance to tell you what a big mistake you’re making.”

Graham lowered himself to one knee and looked into the bear’s eyes. “Weren’t you lonely sitting in that box all that time? I hadn’t even touched it since the beginning of the school year.”

“Nah.” Honeycomb shrugged. “I don’t even remember any of that. Truth be told, all I can remember are the times I spent with you - before you plucked me out of that box just now the last thing I remember is you putting me away at the bottom of your toy chest. Guess you just forgot about me.”

“Well...the thing is...” Graham measured his words. “The reason I stopped playing with you is because I got too old for a teddy bear. It was wrong of me to just bury you at the bottom of that chest and pretend like you didn’t even exist...but I’m just too big to play with you now.”

The bear stared into Graham’s eyes for a moment looking down and crossing his arms, as though trying to process what he was just told.

“So, what you’re saying is...” Honeycomb began, bringing his eyes to Graham’s, “If you were still little, you’d be able to play with me. Right?”

“Well, sure.” Graham shrugged. “I don’t see why not.”

Honeycomb grinned.


Graham titled his head. “Okay...what?”

Without saying another word the bear put his paws together and bowed his head in concentration, looking for all the world like a Buddhist monk deep in prayer. Curious despite himself Graham narrowed his eyes and leaned towards Honeycomb, close enough to hear that he was muttering something under his breath but unable to make out the words.

“Honeycomb...?” he asked. “What are you doing?”

Honeycomb finished whatever it was he was doing and gave Graham a smile, offering him no answer to his question. Before Graham could ask again he was stopped by the feeling of a soothing warmth surging through his body, emanating from his chest and spreading quickly to his furthest extremities. Though it wasn’t an unpleasant feeling it was an experience altogether new to Graham, the sensation that rippled through his bones and muscles causing him to stop dead in his tracks. It wasn’t until a moment had passed that Graham became aware of a very odd phenomenon, a feeling that the playground equipment that surrounded him was somehow growing larger. With trembling hands he reached towards the top of a nearby slide, which a moment ago he was eye-level with but now retreated from the grasp of his outstretched fingers.

Just before he could take hold of the cool, smooth metal, the feeling suddenly shifted and intensified, changing from a pleasant warmth to a sudden feeling of overwhelming gravity, as though he were being pulled down by a thousand tiny ropes from within his body. Graham cried out in surprise as the slide and the rest of the surrounding playground equipment shot up in height in a matter of seconds, sprouting into skyscrapers before his very eyes. Then, just as quickly as it had come, the sensation left his body, leaving no indication that it had ever even existed.

For a moment Graham was too scared to so much as breathe, his mind unable to process what it was his body had just gone through. After a moment he became dimly aware of a breeze rippling beneath his shirt and looked down to see that not only did the garment drape his body like a dress but also that his pants and boxers were pooled around his ankles, having completely fallen off of his waist. He wriggled his toes and felt them move feely in a pair of shoes that was now much too large for his feet. Graham raised his hand and saw a soft, small, unfamiliar appendage, one that responded to his commands but couldn’t possibly belong to him.

What in God’s name...[/I]

Graham felt goosebumps rising on his skin as he turned his gaze to Honeycomb, who was standing with his arms crossed and a triumphant look upon his face.

“There.” He said. “Problem solved.”

“What...” Graham squeaked, cringing at the sound of his voice. “What is this? What did you do to me?!”

Honeycomb frowned. “Were you always this dumb? I had remembered you as being a pretty bright kid.”

“Answer me!” Graham shouted, the demand’s intimidation factor lessened considerably by the soprano in which it was delivered.

“Calm down.” Honeycomb rolled his eyes and motioned towards the lake. “Just take a look at yourself..”

Graham was halfway tempted to run screaming from the demented toy before he had a chance to unleash some new trickery upon him. But the logical side of his brain managed to win out, convincing Graham that whatever it was Honeycomb did to him, he was likely the only one who could reverse it. With slow steps he made his way over to the water, dragging along his pants and boxers as he struggled with his now-oversized shoes.

As he walked towards the lake so too did a young child in teenager’s clothing, mirroring Graham’s movements in the soft ripples of the water. He paused, and so did the boy. His eyes widened, and so did the boy’s. Graham rushed to the shore and fell to his knees, bringing his face close to the surface of the lake, intently studying the features of the scared and confused child that stared back at him. The mousy black hair, the wide hazel eyes, the missing front tooth...no matter how his mind raced to come up with explanations, there was no mistaking what he was looking at. It can’t be. This is impossible.

“Are you done yet?” Honeycomb called out, walking up behind Graham. “We’re losing daylight, here.”

Graham didn’t respond. He was unable to tear his eyes away from the living reflection, the confirmation of what had happened to him.

“I’m a kid.” He heard himself say. “You turned me into a little kid.”

“Well, yeah.” The bear said, as though stating the obvious. “You said if you were little, we could play. So let’s get to it!”

“I didn’t mean I wanted to be a kid again!” Graham snapped as he spun towards the bear, the feelings of fear and confusion boiling over. “How did you do this?!”

“It was pretty simple. All I had to do was wish hard enough for it to happen, and poof, you’re little again.” The bear tilted his head, as though admiring his handiwork. “Pretty good, if I do say so myself. You look just like you did the last time I saw you. Figured we might as well pick things up from where we left them off.”

Oh God. Graham looked down at himself. I can’t be a day over seven years old.

“Change me back.” He said, locking his eyes with Honeycomb’s.

“What? No way.” The bear scoffed. “C’mon, I’ll race you to the monkey bars!”

“No!” Graham cried, trying not to cringe at how petulant his voice sounded. Honeycomb leaned back, looking startled and a bit frightened by the boy’s outburst. The bear’s expression prompted Graham to take a deep breath and reconsider his approach. If he gets angry you might just make things worse. Try to reason with him.

“Listen, Honeycomb...” Graham took a deep breath and lowered to one knee, bringing his eyes level with the bear’s. Honeycomb remained still, clearly cautious of the boy’s motives. “I know that all you want to do is rekindle our friendship, but I can’t be a little kid again. I just can’t. I’m a grown-up now, and you need to accept that.”

Did I just use the word grown-up? Graham shook off the thought as the bear waved a paw in dismissal of his concerns.

“Relax.” Honeycomb said. “I don’t plan on keeping you like this forever. Just long enough for us to play for a while.”

Graham hesitated. Honeycomb crossed his arms and frowned.

“Don’t you think you owe me at least that much?”

Jeez. I’m being put on a guilt trip by a teddy bear. The boy sighed.

“How long is a while?” he asked.

“Hm, I dunno.” The bear pondered. “Until I get bored, I guess.”

Graham cringed. Honeycomb smiled.

“I mean, what other choice do you have?”

The boy bit his lip in thought. He’s got me there. I won’t get anywhere if I don’t play along for at least a little while. That’s not to say anything of what would happen if I refuse. Honeycomb watched Graham intently as he thought, waiting for a confirmation. The boy cleared his throat and smiled.

“Okay.” He said with as much enthusiasm as he could muster. “Let’s play!”

The bear beamed. “Yeah!”

Graham rose to his feet but in doing so forgot about his pants and boxers, which immediately slipped to the ground. Honeycomb chuckled as the boy let out a small noise of embarrassment and stretched the shirt down to his shins.

“Looks like you need some new clothes before we do anything.” The bear mused. “Shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Uh, no, that’s okay.” Graham said as held up his hands in protest. As much as he disliked wearing nothing but the oversized shirt he also had no interest in being a victim of the bear’s whims a second time. Despite his objections the bear had already bowed his head and begun murmuring the necessary incantation. Without warning his clothing vanished, leaving Graham completely nude. But before he could even react a new set of clothing materialized on his body, a head-to-toe outfit that gave him the appearance of any other little boy enjoying an afternoon at the park. Graham examined the ensemble and couldn’t help but smile at seeing what Honeycomb had whipped up. He found himself wearing his childhood favorite blue striped shirt, plastic digital watch, a small pair of jeans, and the little sneakers with lights in the heels that he loved so much when he was seven the first time. As Graham examined himself his old clothes materialized on the ground next to him, magically folded into a neat little pile.

Curiosity got the best of him and Graham had to know if the outfit was really as complete as it appeared. With some chagrin he peeked inside his waistband to see that he was sporting a pair of child’s briefs, white with bright red trim and covered with dozens of tiny baseballs.

“Not bad, huh?” Honeycomb asked. “If I remember correctly that was your favorite outfit at that age.”

“Well, yeah.” Graham admitted. “But did you have to do the underwear, too? Nobody’s even going to see that.”

Honeycomb appeared to ruminate on that for a moment before bowing his head again and going off on another muttering streak. Before Graham could even ask what he was doing he felt a sudden lightness on his lower half and looked down to see that his jeans had vanished, leaving the childish undergarments in full view.

“Ah!” Graham cried out and shielded the briefs with his hands as best he could, feeling his face burn embarrassment as Honeycomb looked on and chuckled at the sight.

“What did you do that for?” the boy asked, a little hurt by the bear’s laughter.

“Well...” Honeycomb composed himself. “You said that nobody was going to see it, as though that was the problem.”

“That isn’t what I meant!”

“I know, I know.” The bear held his hands up in defense. “I was just having a little fun with you, that’s all.”

Honeycomb bowed his head and a moment later the jeans reappeared, as though they had been there all along. Graham cautiously withdrew his hands, as though they could vanish again at any moment. The bear put his hands on his hips and smiled.

“No more tricks.” He said. “I promise. Now c’mon, let’s play!”

With that, the bear turned and sprinted towards the playground, laughing as he ran. Graham stood and watched him go, still anxious about the situation and unsure as to whether he could trust Honeycomb. But watching the bear’s unflappable joy gave rise to new feelings in him, a longing to share the same freedom and happiness that chipped away at the lingering fears and doubts within.

C’mon, he encouraged himself. What’s the harm in playing a little? Most people would kill for the opportunity to be a kid again. Might as well take advantage of it.

Graham exhaled and let himself smile. It was then that he took after Honeycomb, a gap-toothed grin spreading across the boy’s face as he chased his best friend.



End Chapter 1

Honeyed Memories

by: nico | Complete Story | Last updated Aug 28, 2009


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