I awoke to the plane slamming onto the runway and the screech of the tires howled to let the world know we’d arrived. The engines powered in reverse and blocked out what little sound remained and threw the air in reverse, and we slowed. I wiped my eyes for some time, scrubbing away the slime and trying to shake off the dizziness and I eventually settled into an equilibrium and consciousness.
My eyes finally opened clearly and I looked forward towards the cockpit, the edges of the plane still lined with the same people in the same spots as when we left. I shifted from the world of sleep to wakefulness and my eyesight gradually increased it’s clarity. My brain was operating quickly just trying to make sure that my body was safe and it was engrossed in the post-wakeup checklist that I hadn’t even bothered to really see things. When I finally did it was marked by noticing two black shapes in the lower peripherals of my vision, where one would normally see kneecaps. Instead, I saw the tips of my slippers pointed skywards.
Immediately my senses shut out the world around my and my focus rested solely on everything within arms reach. The seat that had once cradled me expertly now dwarfed me. My hips were no longer resting against the armrests but were taking up only a small portion of the width of the seat, and I could easily rest the palms of my hands flat and outstretched next to me on the cushion and still have ample room between my biceps and the armrest. My legs no longer extended past the edge of the chair and flexed downwards. Instead, my knees were locked in a line and sat gingerly in front of me, my heels just extending past the plane of the cushion.
I was still wearing the same green colored suit; however, this time without any patch or identification. As I ran my fingers over the zipper I quietly gasped as I saw my hands and fingers. I stretched them in front of me, and even though I had straightened all of my fingers, they were still divided by small wrinkles. Not the wrinkles of age, but the linear dimples created by the pudgy parts of the finger meeting the one in front of it. There was no longer a soft fur sticking from a worn hand, but a soft pink canvass of skin that was delicate and tender.
My body started to fire, to kick and to move, to get a sense of my new kinetics. My limbs were no longer driven by the powerful muscles in my shoulders and thighs but almost solely on the power of weak muscles and tendons. It’s hard to describe in words, because I didn’t feel weak or sickly, but rather, incapable.
My heart fluttered and the gravity set in.
The experiment had worked.
I tried to shift away and somehow power through the daze my mind was in, but as soon as I instinctively moved forward in the seat I felt the restraints that had been adjusted to my new form sometime in the flight. I wasn’t unnerved or scared, just innately curious. It’s odd for me to describe such a situation without saying that I was frightened, but in candor, I wasn’t. I hadn’t gone into the deal with hesitance or suspecting of foul play, and to this point everyone had been polite and accommodating. I guess it’s a little odd to undergo such a transformation, but, after being somewhat prepped for it, I really didn’t seem to mind.
I stopped fidgeting and remained seated as the plane slowed and turned, and eventually there was the sound of twenty “clicks” at once as the flight technicians and nurses freed themselves. All I could do was look around, and it didn’t take long for me to realize the magnitude even a few feet in perspective made, and I felt engulfed by this fluid crowd of people that circled about me as though I were just an obstacle, until the shadow of two hands quickly came into my vision. They reached around me and towards my chest, releasing the dulled metal clasps that joined the webbed belts. I followed the hands up the arms until I saw them affixed to the same nurse that situated me during the pre-flight, and though, as before, we met eye to eye, it now meant that she had gracefully lowered to one knee. Although I was now free from the seat I was entranced at her calm amidst a backdrop of organized chaos, and felt like putty. She swept her hands over mine and brought them together, my now stubby fingers naturally following her lead and forming a slight grasp of her thumb, her hands enveloping mine and she looked at me with a lavender smile.
“Mr. Turner, how are you feeling?”
I was still a little stunned to respond.
“Mr. Turner?” she asked again, still somewhat playfully. “Can you hear me, Mr. Turner?”
“Yeth, yeth I can.”
I don’t pretend to ever have any linguist training and my hockey career would surely suggest that a few missing teeth might have, at one point, contributed to a less than crisp speaking voice, but I was sincerely astounded when I first heard the pip that came from inside me. To replicate such a frequency with a normal man’s voice would be impossible, and just thinking about the idea would cause one’s larynx to become taught and sore. What flowed from me now was not the haggard and marinated voice I was accustomed to, but a softer one that seemed to stumble elegantly from my lips. My cheeks felt heavy and my tongue seemed almost swollen, making it difficult for me to articulate precisely what I meant.
“Good!” The nurse chuckled. “Good to hear. You’ll get used to your new whimper, I promise.” She continued to joke. “Here, let me help you out and we’ll go debrief with Dr. Brooks.”
She guided my hands again, this time pulling them forward and over the edge of the seat. The flow of background people had slowed and there was a little bit more room in the bay to move around, and as I held my grasp and her arms took me forward, I began to slide and instinctively inch towards the edge of the seat before letting gravity slide me off. After un-bunching my pants and making sure my feet were still slippered, I turned my gaze towards the open hatch of the plane. The lights outside were loud and bright, masking a good portion of the faces of people outside. Though it contrasted with the dim glow of safety lights in the plane’s interior, it could not hide the very apparent difference in perspective I now had.
It’s hard for me to really describe what it was like to look at the world through a set of eyes that was so different yet unchanged. It’s not hard for a grown man to rest on his knees and for a moment try and realize the uniqueness of the vantage point. But, when the eye itself becomes physically smaller, and the lens bends more light to the retina, you don’t just “see” the difference, you “feel” it. The walls of the plane shifted from being an entrapment to a protector, almost as if they shed their curved and narrow structure for a looming and thickly staunch fa?ade that now perched high over me. Looking through the portions of window that I could still see buildings through and looking beyond the hatch ramp, the world didn’t just “look” much bigger, but rather, it truly was bigger than I could ever have imagined.
The nurses slight tug on my hand brought me from my esoteric though to reality and I began to take my proverbial first steps. Thought it was not difficult, I could certainly feel the difference. My thighs felt thicker and almost like a nuisance as they brushed against and over each other with each step, but for some reason they felt so incredibly energized that I was in danger of breaking into a skip at any moment. The nurse led me down the ramp and through a fairly empty flight line before approaching the main doors, sliding an access card, and stepping forward again. I followed cautiously behind her right foot, close enough to still grasp her hand but still somewhat shielded by her large trunk that was now at my eye level, and eventually we found our way to a brightly lit medical examination room.
“Alright, Todd, Dr. Brooks will be here shortly to make sure everything went smoothly. It doesn’t look like there’s anything amiss, but, he’s the doctor,” the nurse said to me before switching to her nurse-self-dialog, reciting orders to both me and her self. “OK, take a step over here, good. OK, Todd, I’ll try to do everything I can right now that doesn’t require getting you undressed, I’ll try to keep you warmer for as long as possible, but first thing’s first, take off your slippers, please.”
I fell quickly to the ground, somewhat surprised at how naturally and effortlessly the transition to standing and sitting was. I remembered just a few weeks ago when I had tripped on a jutting piece of sidewalk and fell. The ground seemed so far away and so unforgiving, and it was truly weird, now, to just plop anywhere I pleased. After arranging myself to grip the slippers I pulled them off, quietly chuckling as I noted that my ugly cracked toenails had been replaced, my like the fingers, with little cherubic stubs.
“Thank you, Todd, if you could make your way over here, thank you. Now, put your feet here, with your heels pressed against the wall, good.” She busied herself with the measuring apparatus and slowly brought the measuring stick down to the top of my head as I did my best to level it while still trying to look skyward.
“Good, thank you, now if you could step over here and hop on the scale, thank you.” She paused for it to register. “Good, now if you could come over here and take a seat,” she said, gesturing to the chair next to the computer desk. I walked towards it, the edge of the chair resting just above my waist, making me lunge forward somewhat to get enough momentum to toss my one leg onto the seat part to pull myself up.
“OK, stick this under your tongue, please. Thank you. OK, Todd, everything looks good, I’ll bring your chart to Dr. Brooks and then he’ll be right in.”
The nurse left me and for the first time since getting in the car with Dr. Books and Jerry I was sitting solitarily. I was the only one in the room and whispers of the fluorescent lights clouded any noise that might have seeped in from the metallic outside. Though I was given this lull I didn’t really use it to think and ponder about the consequences and implications such an experiment has. I was still in awe at my new birthday suit, how it seemed so small and plump but oddly resilient. I felt proportioned slightly differently but not to the point of discomfort. Any gaps that had naturally filled my previous body were replaced with chubbier limbs that pressed against my sides, pressing softly against the cotton sweat suit I wore. Gone were the aches that years of contact sports had imbued deep in my muscles and I felt rejuvenated with a physical tabula rasa, but I was snapped to awareness by an entering Dr. Brooks who pushed through the door gently, his taught face immediately giving way to raised brows and a reserved smile.
“My God, look at you. It really worked.” He said with a mixture of disbelief and elation. He came towards me and lifted my hands and legs, delicately applying pressure and flexing muscles to ensure that everything moved in the correct direction. He bent at the waist and reached through my ribs and grasped my armpits, and in one succinct pull hoisted me to the examination table only a few steps away. It was the first time that I can remember another being manipulating me through the air, and it was of no difference if I had any objections. All I could do was to let my legs dangle.
He sat me on the edge of the examination table and gave a quick look at my overall figure before turning and grabbing some medical instruments. He stood over me in a controlling manner, and we were no longer human colleagues with some sort of equal take in things, but rather now one of us had assumed dominance over the other. He again moved his hands over my shoulders, straightening one arm and moving it about and noting its range of oscillation, repeating every move on the opposite arm. He pulled my ears out and looked through his tools, then the same with my nose and throat, and lastly with my eyes, all done silently but with quick nods of approval. As he knelt and began to examine my thighs and calves his figure moved and opened a large venue of the room to my sight.
Directly ahead there was a large ovoid mirror placed all too ironically, projecting my own image into my eyes. In the reflection I could see my eyes dilate and recede somewhat as my mouth loosened and gaped, wondering exactly who was the face imposed over mine in the mirror. My tousled and graying hair was replaced with straight and fine wheat colored locks that rested casually over my ears, parting naturally at the peak of a much rounder head. A small marble nose separated to large eyelids that made a pronounced crescent above my iris, and two plump cheeks drooped tightly over two tiny lips that were just a shade different than the rosy maroon flushed deep under the cheeks mentioned just now. As my mouth continued to become wider with awe I could notice tiny white caps sink just below and above the outlines of the lips, no longer chiseled and worn, but rigid and defined, though admittedly somewhat flat.
I looked down and refocused on Dr. Brooks who looked as though he had been waiting for an answer to a question I had missed.
“Todd, everything looks great. We’ll get you set up with some continuing medical examinations but I doubt any pediatrician could tell the difference. I mean... I knew it would work, but to see it... and to see it work this well... it’s still a surprise.”
“How old do you fink I am?”
He smiled. “Well, you measured at just over 34” and a few ounces under 35 lbs. If we’re looking purely at national averages you’re just shy of three.”
“Free?! I fought I would end up closer to wike ten or sumfing.”
“Well, Todd, like I said before, there are never any guarantees. It’s certainly not an exact science.”
I guess I had missed that caveat.
“Hang tight for a few minutes and the nurse will be back in with some new clothes. Take your time, and whenever you’re ready she’ll take you to meet the host family and me in the airport lounge just a short shuttle ride away. After that... you start your new professional career.”
Literally. I know I still had quite some time before I’d be looking for agents and signing contracts, and frankly, a little more time than I had wanted. However, I looked at the situation and thought that with even more extra time to practice and to hone my skills, I’d be three times the player I would have been otherwise. Anyways, I doubt there was a reset button anywhere, so I didn’t bother complaining. I decided to just go with the flow for a while and let others hold my hand, no pun intended, through the ropes of all this. Shortly thereafter the nurse appeared with a small stack of clothes in her hand and approached me with a smile. She helped me to my feet and stood me on the examination table, first removing my pants as I looked down, completely naked south of my shirt tail. She outstretched a plain pair of undershorts, and allowed me to step into them. I noticed they seemed thicker than underwear I would normally wear and came without a front fly, but I attributed that to being typical of the design for someone my size. She slipped up the dark blue sweat suit bottoms and repeated the process with my upper half. I got to chuckle once as she removed me shirt to reveal a hairless belly, something I can’t remember ever having. Lastly she sat me down and pulled out a small and thick pair of white cotton socks and plied them over my toes and feet, ending with a plain and flimsy pair of Velcro sandals.
“We weren’t sure how big or small you’d be, so we bought a lot of cheap stuff. Don’t worry, your host family will be given a little spending spree to get you set up with something a little more fashionable.”
With that she picked me up and held me tight against the natural intrusion of her sides, supporting my bottom with the thick part of her forearm, and I seemed to meld naturally into her feminine curves, tucking my arms in front of my chest as my legs straddled her and bounced with her steps.
It began to sink in that I would be leaving the “experiment” phase of things and taking another and more pronounced step away from the life I chose to leave behind. Instead of an entire plane of medical workers devoted to me, there were now only two people in my immediate sphere that would know who I really was and what I was really doing. It began to feel very real and very intimidating, and I pulled my arms closer to my sternum and brought my head down, resting it on the nurse’s shoulder, and shut my eyes.