Ryan was planning Donna’s birthday surprise for quite some time. An elaborate plan involving shrinking everyone down for her party, letting everyone experience the world from a whole new perspective. Donna was always obsessed with experiencing new things, so in Ryan’s mind, this was the perfect gift.
Ryan dialed Donna to give her a bit of a heads up. “Hey Donna,” he said.
“What’s up Ryan?”
“I’m planning a bit of a birthday surprise for you...” he said.
Donna chuckled, “Not much of a surprise if you’re telling me ahead of time...”
Ryan smiled, “Yeah... it’s a bit tricky, but trust me you’ll be still be surprised.”
“So what do you need from me?” she said, pushing a cart down the aisle at a grocery store.
“Not much,” said Ryan, “I just need into your place before the 5th, only you can’t be there, since it’s a surprise and all.”
Donna rounded the corner grabbing some jam off the shelf and placing it into her cart. “Uhhh... okay...” she said, a little skeptical, “Just don’t come in before the 3rd, alright?” she said, not wanting Ryan to know she’d just begun dating his best friend Dan.
Ryan chuckled, “Okay!” a mischievous grin forming on his face. He would show up early on the 2nd to ensure the surprise was actually surprising. Besides, him and Donna were good friends since the breakup, so him showing up early would be no big deal. Ryan figured they were gonna get back together soon enough anyways. They’d been on breaks before, after all.
ONE WEEK LATER
Ryan invited six of their mutual friends. It started with Carl and Sheryl. Carl was a personal fitness trainer with a bald head, Sheryl was a stunningly gorgeous redhead who owned a nutritional supplement company. Next Ryan invited some of Donna's coworkers, two of their friends who had started dating, John and Jackie.
Rounding out the party was Matt and Patricia, whose kids were visiting from out of town - Ryan insisted it would be no big deal for them to come too, two college freshmen named Katie and Oliver. Everyone was excited for Ryan’s surprise. He was somewhat famous for planning epic surprise parties.
“Okay guys,” said Ryan, opening the back door into Donna’s house, “Donna won’t be home till 6, so that gives us lots of time to get ready.”
“Ready for what?” Said Matt, a tall lanky guy who looked exactly how you'd expect a computer physicist with two phds to look.
Ryan chuckled, “We're gonna shrink everyone down and see the world from a whole new perspective!” he said, pulling out a strange looking ray gun.
There was a long moment of silence before Sheryl finally spoke.“Uhhh... aren’t those things extremely dangerous?” she said, her voice dripping with skepticism.
Ryan sighed. “Well yes... but I’ve got everything planned out...” he said smiling as he pointed to the corner. “First, I’ve set up a safe point,” he motioned towards a strange looking cup-like device on the floor, sitting safely in the far corner of the living room. “If at any point things get dangerous you just need to step up to the safe zone and after 30 seconds you’ll start to grow back to regular size.”
Sheryl nodded, still unconvinced. “Okay... but what if we can't get there, will we be shrunk permanently?” she said.
Ryan smiled. “Not possible! If for any reason you can’t get back to the safe zone, your body will revert to regular size after 48 hours.”
Jackie tilted her head against John's arm, wrapped around her. "Hey, I heard that getting wet can be a problem though, right?"
Ryan shook his head. "You guys worry too much! Yeah, try not to get wet, because then you won't automatically grow back, but the ray will still grow you back if someone targets you. It's not like we're all gonna get wet, it's not a water park!"
Sheryl smiled, slightly more convinced. “Okay... but, just in case, one of us should stay big. That way nothing can go wrong.”
“You're right honey. I can stay big.” said Carl, Sheryl’s husband, “I can hide in the closet until they get here,” he smiled taking a sip from his beer.
Ryan nodded, “Sounds good, just don't let them see you before we surprise them, alright?”
John chuckled. "Once we get used to being small, we'll have to come up with some way to surprise Donna when she comes in..."
"Ugh, you and your pranks... Whatever, it'll be good to see Donna on the receiving end instead of me." Jackie let off a playful jab at Jack's side.
Ryan looked around at the group, “oh yeah, what about you guys?” He looked to Katie & Oliver, Matt and Patricia’s Kids.
They shrugged. “Sure why not,” said Katie. “Sounds fun!”
“Okay” said Ryan, “Just make sure we all stick together, alright? Oh, and I only have two of these, so here...” He handed Oliver a small shrink ray gun, keeping the other for himself.
“Uhhh... what are those?” said Patricia, the most skeptical of the group.
“These are low energy shrink guns, so in the rare event if you run into a predatory insect you can take it out with one of these,” he said, smiling with his always confident smile.
“P-predatory insects?” Said Sheryl, her voice dripping with concern.
Ryan chuckled, “Don’t worry I scanned and cleared the entire house already, it’s empty.”
“Empty?” said Matt, “Then why do we need these?” he looked down at the mini ray gun with a hint of fear in his eyes.
Ryan shrugged, “It’s just a legal thing, there’s literally zero chance we’ll run into anything. Besides, we'll all be together, so it'll be fine!” He smiled, setting the main gun up on a table and setting it to timer mode. Standing with the rest of group like posing for a picture, they waited for the device to go off. zzzZZAP...
A strange wave of energy burst out from the device, warping across the room and shrinking them all down. “Woah...” they said in unison, a strange falling sensation overtaking them as they shrank smaller and smaller, their clothes shrinking in proportion as well.
“Holy shit...” said Matt, completely in awe of the experience.
Finally they were all shrunk down, each of them smaller than poppy seeds.
“Holy shit...” said Sheryl, looking around the room with complete awe. “Okay, Ryan, I gotta admit this is pretty cool...”
A giant rumbling shook the ground underneath them.
“How’s it going down there?” said Carl.
Everyone craned their necks to look up at him, the waves of his voice like gusts.
“Woah...” said Sheryl, he literally looked like a mountain compared to them now... seeing your husband like this was really something.
Carl chuckled, knowing he wouldn’t be able to hear them even if they were talking, and grabbed the main gun off the table for safekeeping. “Okay, I’m gonna go stand in that corner by the door so I don’t accidentally step on anyone...” he smiled, cautiously tip-toeing backwards.
Patricia sighed, poking a strange boulder looking object with her foot. “What is this thing?”
“That’s... a bread crumb,” said Ryan, smiling as he crossed his arms, smugly pleased.
“Jesus christ...” whispered Patricia, completely dumbstruck by the new perspective. Matt chuckled, taking a deep breath and turning back to look at Ryan.
“Okay Ryan, I gotta admit, this is pretty spectacular...” Matt said.
Ryan smiled, beaming with pride, “See? I knew you guys would love it.”
“Hey guys?” said Patricia, her voice filled with concern, “Where’s Katie & Oliver?”
She looked back over her shoulder. Everyone looked around, starting to get slightly worried.
Patricia pulled her phone out, “Do these still work at least?” she said, looking at Ryan. He nodded, smiling with confidence. Even he was starting to wonder if this was the best idea deep down, but he couldn't let it show. Patricia rolled her eyes and dialed Oliver's number.
Meanwhile Katie and Oliver had snuck off, wanting to go explore without all the boring ‘old’ people. Finding a small glass of water underneath the living room table. An especially dark area in the shadows. They climbed up onto a nearby ledge, standing at the edge of the cup like a massive swimming pool. “Woah...” said Katie both of them amazed by the strange sight. “I’m going in!”
“W-what?” said Oliver, his voice almost shaking with fear.
Katie chuckled, “I’m going swimming...” she smiled, doing a cannonball into the water, only to bounce off the surface, unable to break the tension. “W-woah!” said Katie, rising to her feet and standing on the water like a water strider. “I’m walking on water!” she yelled, throwing her hands up.
Oliver gulped. “W-we shouldn't get wet, remember?"
Katie stood shakily on the water's surface, looking back at him. "Well obviously I'm not wet, I can't even break the surface! Come on and check it out with me already!"
"W-we should get back to the group,” Oliver stammered, getting more nervous with each passing second. Suddenly his phone started vibrating, he pulled it out of his pocket, “Oh no... mom’s trying to call us, they’re probably wondering where we went...”
“Fuck that!” said Katie, “They’ve always been over sheltering us, we’re old enough to do things on our own now. Just ignore her.”
Oliver gulped, hesitating before he pressed the ‘block caller’ button, pushing the phone back into his pocket. Katie always had more of a rebellious attitude than him.
“C’mon!” said Katie, “Come down here! It’s sooo cool!” she started running across the surface, small rippling circles waves out from her feet as she slid into a skating motion. Moving across the water like skating on ice, going faster and faster with each stroke.
“H-hey!” Oliver yelled after her, but she was too far away now. She couldn’t hear. “HEY!” he yelled again, but it was no use. “Oh no...” he said, looking back over his shoulder nervously, a growing sense of dread looming over his mind.
Meanwhile Katie skid to a stop, sliding in a circular motion at the edge of the cup, slowing to a stop, spinning around and stopping. “Woah... that’s cool.”
That’s when Oliver noticed something. Moving up in the shadows of the couch above them. A strange labyrinth of criss crossing wood boards and lost coins. He squinted, wondering if was just his imagination, wondering if it was just a trick of the light. The darkness staring back at him like some void into nothing.
That’s when he saw it. A tiny glint, Eight tiny white dots moving in distant shadows. Moving in tandem like a coordinated group. He strained his eyes even further, unsure of what he was even looking at. Was it a cloud of moving dust? Broken wires in the couch? Then it finally hit him. The dots were eyes... eight eyes. A wash of dread poured through his very being. Ryan had promised all predators were eradicated, but based on what he was seeing right now, this was obviously not the case. Oliver froze up, his lifelong arachnophobia becoming reality in the most unimaginable way as he saw the spider crawled out from the shadows, upside down on the cavern life bottom of the couch. Directly above his sister.
A grotesque, almost unnatural looking spider. Like it had been living for hundreds of years, diseased and evil. Sharp corners at every joint, shiny and demonic looking. It was looking directly at his sister, as if this cup of misplace water was a common hunting ground for its bloody hunger.
Oliver thought about calling out again, trying to warn her, but the last thing he wanted was the spider coming after him. His mind raced through options like a slot machine spinning on overdrive.
DING. He hit the answer. The shrink gun! He couldn’t miss though. According to Ryan these things had one, maybe two shots before they went kaput. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out the gun. The spider slowly setting a web, dropping down with devious elegance towards the completely unaware Katie. She was dancing on the water surface, staring down, fascinated by the way the surface moved and rippled.
Oliver raised the gun, his hands shaking slightly as he went to aim. One shot... he thought to himself, trying his best to calm down. The spider falling faster and faster, its spindly legs flicking and twisting as it let out more and more web until...
He pulled the trigger, and a shockingly loud blast echoed through the entire house, as a beam of energy warping through the air and bolted right through the spider, causing it to vanish into thin air.
Oliver gasped as the energy beam pushed forward, slamming into a shiny metal plate lying on the floor, bouncing up, hitting a mirror on the wall, and finally Carl. ZZAP... he gasped as his perspective suddenly started lowering.
Ryan and the others looked over, their faces filling with horror as they saw Carl shrinking down to their height. Things were getting more out of hand with each passing second.
“What the fuck?” said Matt, turning to Ryan. “What the fuck just happened?”
Ryan shook his. “One of your kids fired the shrink ray.”
Matt rolled his eyes, “Yeah well we wouldn’t be here if you didn’t come up with this brilliant idea in the first place!”
Sheryl stepped in, “Guys, we can fight about this later, right now we need to get out of this situation and back to normal size,” she turned to Ryan. “What time is donna getting home?”
Ryan thought, then shrugged. “Usually around five, five thirty...” he said.
“Okay,” said Sheryl. “Let’s call her right now and explain everything!”
Ryan’s shoulders slumped. “We can’t...” he said.
“Excuse me?” said Sheryl. “We literally just phoned Oliver.”
Ryan sighed, “Shrunk devices only work with other shrunk devices!”
“Jesus christ...” said Matt, throwing his hands up in the air. “Maybe you should’ve planned this out a bit better.”
“Maybe you should’ve raised your kids to not be total fucking idiots.” snapped Ryan.
Matt grit his teeth and clenched his fist, stepping forward only for Patricia to grab his arm and pull him back.
“Sheryl’s right” said Patricia, “We need to focus on getting back to normal. Blame doesn’t matter if we're all dead.”
Matt let out a long breath, running a hand through his hair and took a step back. “Okay.... Okay” he said, forcing a smile, “let’s figure this out.”
John was the first to speak up with a plan. "Well, if we've got that much time, can't we just head for that unshrinking device? If Ryan's right we have another hour at the least before-"
CLICK. The front door handle suddenly turned. A low, deep scraping sound began rumbling as the door pushed open. Everything sounded massive from such a small size.
Ryan looked up, his face filling with fear, “It’s... it’s too early...” he stammered, checking his wrist watch. “That’s not possible...” he shook his head. “It’s still 4:00!”
Sheryl gulped. Things just got exponentially more dangerous.