The Booth     When I first read the sign I thought it was a joke

The Booth     When I first read the sign I thought it was a joke

The Booth

When I first read the sign I thought it was a joke. I mean who wouldn't have?

Yet there it was boldly emblazoned in red letters, "Shrinking Booth $1.00, and

written parentheses just below it the words "Men only please". I mean a kissing

booth sounded believable at least. The booth itself was a monstrosity. It would

have been best described as an overdone lemonade stand. It was crudely built and

rickety looking with a sparsely applied purple and pink paint job. It was so

gaudy and poorly done that it couldn't escape notice.

On passing by I did a double take, then a triple take at the sign. I stood there

debating whether or not to see what it was all about. It was the first Saturday

in ages I had no exams or assignments to finish up. I could definitely think of

better things to do than indulge someone's overactive imagination. Sure I was

curious, but curiosity wasn't enough to sway me. The woman sitting in the booth

was another matter entirely. The brunette had been watching me intently ever

since I first showed interest in the booth. She smiled wryly at me as I

approached. My eyes drifted between her and the sign, though mostly they were on

her. Convinced I hadn't misread the sign, I contented myself to size her up. She

was worth it. Sharp vibrant eyes, a smooth face and petite features. Trim but

not emaciated, shapely, and fairly well endowed. Not beautiful in what you might

call the supermodel sense of the word, but very, very pretty. She had to be no

more than eighteen or nineteen so I guessed she was probably a Freshman.

There was something about the way she looking at me that made me feel a little

uneasy. Like I'd fallen into her trap or something. Finally I gathered the

courage to ask her the obvious question point blank. "So, what's the story with

this booth?" I tried to sound conversational instead of incredulous but didn't

quite succeed. The knowing look she gave me told me it wasn't the first time

today she'd heard the tone.

Her voice was warm and friendly, with an almost soothing quality to it. Just

hearing her speak gave me the impression that this was a person who could be

trusted, one of those rare people who can treat strangers with the total

sincerity that would make them feel like a lifelong friend. An impressive

quality to have since what she was saying to me seemed patently ridiculous. It

was plain to me that she believed every word of it. "You give me a dollar and

I'll shrink you. It's as simple as that." For the first time I noticed that she

was sizing me up too. Just not in the same way I'd been doing to her. In her

left hand was a green pen. Even as she spoke to me I could see her making a mark

next to the 3-and-a-half-inch mark on a ruler that was sitting conveniently on

the counter. There were four other marks already on the thing, each in a

different shade of ink at 2, two-and-a-half, three, and six inches respectively.

I remember thinking, "She can't seriously believe that she's already shrunk four

guys can she? I didn't say it out loud of course she seemed really sincere and I

didn't want to offend her.

"Three and a half inches tall?" I asked. I was a little amused at how seriously

she was taking all this. If she noticed my amusement she didn't let it show. She

nodded briefly and held the ruler up to face level, comparing me to the height

she'd chosen. "Palm sized." She explained. "I want you small enough to handle

you one handed." I was still trying to humor her. "Then what happens to me after

you shrink me?" She set the ruler back on the counter and gave me that same wry

smile. "For starters I'll take you home with me. After about six months you'll

be ready for re-enlargement. Between now and then, who knows?" She sounded sly

and possessive at the same time. "Now how about that dollar?" Her gaze settled

on me expectantly. I hesitated. Deep down I knew, or alt least thought I knew

that shenever be able to shrink me for real. Still her whole attitude threw me

for a loop. Able to shrink me or not it was clear that she wanted to do it.

Wanted me for what though? Her toy, her pet? That made me nervous. It was just

plain weird.

I debated whether or not to just turn around and walk away. Feeling strangely

detached I reached into my wallet and pulled out a dollar. Reluctantly I handed

it to her. "Excellent!" Her enthusiasm brought me out of the reverie I had

drifted into. She reached beneath the counter and pulled out several jars. She

looked at me apologetically. "There is one thing I forgot to mention. I have to

stay here for at least twenty minutes longer. That's when Cheryl's supposed to

come and take over. You'll have to wait in a jar until she shows up."

I blinked at her several times not really sure how I should respond. She put her

hand over mine. "I am really sorry about this. I was in a hurry to get here this

morning and I forgot my backpack." Again I didn't know what to say. After a

moment she picked up the largest jar and held it up. It looked like an old

pickle jar. Someone, either she or Cheryl I assumed had already jabbed a few

dozen holes in the lid. "What I'm getting at is you can pick the jar if you'd

like. I suggest this one. It'll give you the most room." I forced a smile and

nodded.

She went to work trying to twist the lid off. It didn't budge. "You know I

forgot to ask your name." Finally she gave up and handed the jar to me. "Could

you get that...? What is your name?"

I gave the lid a hard twist and it came loose with a loud pop. "I'm Allen." I

set the jar and the lid on the counter. "I'm Sarah." She blurted as she thrust

her hand at me. I shook it cordially. Sarah glanced down at the jar. "I am

really sorry about the jar thing Allen. I won't ever put you in one again. I

promise."

I smiled at her. "That's good to know." I wondered if she had any idea how

ludicrous this whole thing seemed to me. If so she didn't let on. From

underneath the counter she produced what looked like a pocket flashlight

attached to a pair of brass knuckles. It was made of black plastic and I noticed

that Sarah had painted two sky blue hearts on either side of the thing. This

time I couldn't stifle my laughter so I turned it into a coughing fit. Sarah had

busied herself adjusting a few nobs and didn't seem to notice. "So, that's your

shrinking ray?" I asked pointing doubtfully at it. It looked like something you

might find in a crackerjack box. Sarah patted it proudly. "This is it. It took

me most of last semester to earn it." She fixed me with that same possessive

gaze. "But it was worth it."

I had no time to ask what that meant. Sarah made a final adjustment and aimed at

me. "Alright this shouldn't hurt, but try to hold still." I held up my hands in

mock surrender. "Okay shrink me." There was an audible click as Sarah depressed

the trigger. The device made a whirring sound, followed by a high whine as it

gathered power. All at once a stream of pure white energy lanced from the tip of

the thing. I jumped back in total surprise but the beam hit me anyway. The

blinding bolt struck me at heart level. I felt for the hole I was sure had just

been burned in my chest.

Nothing.

I started to say something to Sarah before I realized I couldn't see her. I

couldn't see anything but a wall of shimmering white energy. The beam had

expanded and enveloped me in what seemed like a bubble. Within the bubble I was

being covered with what seemed like thick fog. I breathed it in, and felt my

throat and tongue tingle with warmth. It settled on my skin and nipped at me

like static electricity. Then as abruptly as it had encased me, it was gone.

When I first looked around my "new" surrounding I wondered where the booth had

gone. All I could see was a massive slab of plywood as long and tall as a small

building with that same easter egg purple paint job. Disbelief hit me all at

once as my gaze drifted upwards. Impossible as it seemed I was still in front of

the booth. My jaw dropped. The front of the booth now extended so far upwards

that I could scarcely make out the top of the counter. The sign wasn't visible

from my tiny vantage point. But I could imagine the words I had thought so

ridiculous were mocking my disbelief far above me. It really was a shrinking

booth, she'd really done it. I was less than four inches tall. Small pieces of

gravel had transformed themselves into stones and boulders. The patch of short

grass in front of the booth came up to my waist.

Then Sarah came around the corner. I gasped. Disbelief gave way to fear. It

seemed impossible for something so large to be moving so quickly. Her hightops

rose and fell causing bone jarring tremors as she came for me. The muscles in

her legs rippled like fluid. I felt the raw power and grace in each step she

took. My own legs were frozen in place. I wanted to run from her but I found I

couldn't. My fear of her was so great I couldn't look up any further than her

knees. Never in my life had I been so terrified. It's not that she wasn't still

beautiful. Or even that I wasn't still attracted to her on some level. It's just

there was a new quality to her from this angle. Majestic and awesome are good

words to describe it but even they can't do it justice. A feeling of intense

fear at her size, but mixed with a sense of awe at her beauty, grace, and power.

If you've ever seen a natural wonder and marveled at it's power you'll know

something about what I mean. The Pacific Ocean for example is vast, and

beautiful, and powerful, but it isn't staring back at you with perfect awareness

of just how small and vulnerable you are compared to it. Sarah had all those

qualities, and even with my eyes fixed firmly on her ankles I could sense her

eyes on me. Feeling her gaze coupled with the immensity of her made me feel even

smaller. I couldn't bear the thought of those piercing eyes looking down on me

like an insect. I started shaking like a leaf.

She reached for me. I knew that she was even before the shadow of her hand fell

over me. Slowly I forced myself to look up. Her hand was directly above me and I

had to take several steps backwards befor I could see it clearly. Her fingers

were spread wide. The thought of being handled didn't thrill me. I fell to the

ground bringing my arms up in futile warding off gesture. Her fingers curled

around my torso. The warmth of her was penetrating, almost oppressive at first.

She whisked me off the ground effortlessly. For a minute my fear of her was

negated by my fear of heights. I clung to her hand for dear life as she lifted

me towards her face. If she hadn't spoken to me I might have lost consciousness

then and there. My fear and feelings of helplessness must have been apparent to

her. The soothing in her voice intensified. "Calm down. I'm not going to hurt

you. I promise." Her grip on me tightened slightly. It wasn't painful. I guess

she was just afraid that I was going to jump out of her hands. I was trying to

do just that. Fear of her had taken precedence over fear of heights again. I

didn't care how far I fell. I wasn't ready to trust the word of someone who

could have killed me with only minimal effort. Getting away from her was my

priority. I strained and screamed as I tried to pry her fingers off me. It was

no use, I may as well have been trying to bend steel.

Sarah pulled me close to her lips and spoke in a hushed, gentle tone. "Allen,

listen to me. I meant what i said. I'm not going to hurt you. You're safe.

Please calm down." Warm little puffs of air blew across my face each time she

spoke. Exhaustion more than anything made me stop struggling, but I listened to

her. Spent and defeated I stopped fighting her.

Sarah pressed her lips softly against the side of my face. It was a strange, yet

pleasant sensation to be engulfed in her soft kiss. It had the desired effect

too. Whatever tension and fear remained crept into the back of my mind. I smiled

at her. Still not able to look straight at her. She stroked my face with her

thumb. For several minutes she just held me like that. Reassuring me with soft

kind words.

Then she turned me towards her. Seeing those cool hazel eyes on me for the first

time wasn't frightening at all. There was kindness in those eyes, concern over

how I felt. I could tell she didn't want me to be afraid of her. That moved me

somehow. I let out a long breath and let myself relax completely into her hand.

Her eyes searched me for a while longer, watching for any trace of doubt and

fear. Finding none she smiled brightly.

"There much better. I know you probably have lots of questions. We'll talk about

them as soon as I get you home. Cheryl should be here in about ten minutes. Try

and stay calm until then, I won't leave you in that jar any longer than I have

too." I realized that she was lowering me slowly. The jar was open below me like

a gaping maw. I half expected her to just drop me in, instead she set me gently

on the smooth glass surface. I looked up at her. She gave me one last apologetic

smile before putting the lid on and setting the jar under the counter. For a

while I was alone with my thoughts.

The Booth     When I first read the sign I thought it was a joke

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The Booth     When I first read the sign I thought it was a joke