Preface

One of the weirdest job interviews go down at Google. Put yourself for a minute in the shoes of a computer scientist-3.6 CGPA, majored in software engineering- straight out of college, with the prospects of a nice job, a company car and a six figure salary, being asked by the Human Resource officer at Google, “So, how many golf balls can you fit inside a Boeing 747?”

Imagine, if you will, the kid’s surprise at being asked this question. He’d been cramming algorithms, numerical analysis equations, and the syntaxes of data structures for the better part of a month, hoping to prepare himself for the interview that would potentially change his potential life. But he gets asked the most trivial question-which is analytical in its essence- and that throws him off his feet for a minute.

The answer is pretty simple once you take a moment to think about it clearly for a second. A golf ball has a diameter of forty millimeters and a 747 has a space of about one thousand and thirty-five cubic meters that can be occupied. Do a little bit of beep bop boop mathematics and the answer you get is: you can fit more than 22,870,000 golf balls within a Boeing 747.

And then there are questions that are so uncanny that they are borderline hilarious. Take, for example, the question: “You’re shrunk to the size of nickel and are dropped in a blender. What do you do?”

Let’s take go back in the shoes of that Stanford-grad-3.6-CGPA-holding Computer Scientist. He minored in physics back in college, so he’s going to answer this question thoroughly from a physical point of view. He’s going to answer with a very mundane fact that if you shrink your strength to weight ratio, it allows you to be more resilient and jump higher, lift heavier weights and break through sturdier stuff. Like ants. Ants can carry five to ten times their own weight. The American field ant can amazingly withstand pressures up to fifty thousand times greater than its own body weight. All because of the Newtonian laws that dictate strength, weight, mass pressure into one equation. So, the logical choice for the Hypothetical-Nickel-Sized-Stanford grad will be to either jump out of the blender (the blades of which are whirring at full speed but for the sake of the hypothesis, it is considered empty) or break through the glass wall of the blender with sheer strength. It’s purely scientific.

That answer will get the Stanford grad student disqualified, but that is another story. There is nothing wrong with the answer; it’s just that everyone knows that Google asks this question at the interview table and everyone ironically ‘Googles’ the answer prior to going in the interview room and well, Google is not exactly looking for plagiarized, pre-perused, unoriginal answers. They’re looking for diversity and they’re looking for weird answers: the answers that make sense but not quite so in the rational sense of the word ‘sense’.

There was a movie released back in 2013 in which two middle-aged salesmen, played by Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, after getting fired from their watch-selling job, apply to be interns at one of the biggest tech conglomerate in the world i.e. Google. When they were asked the ‘Nickel-sized-shrunk’ question, they replied with quirky and utterly unscientific answers.

They said that they would wait it out for the blender to stop running -because even the best blenders in the world, the German ones, can run nonstop for about ten hours-and when they would get out, they’d get out for the better. “Two nickel sized men free in a world full of possibilities”, they said, “Off the top of our heads we can think of uses such as fixing sunglasses and even angioplasty!” They got inducted for the internship, because apparently the guys at Google liked their eccentric out-of-the-box thinking.

There are no right answers. There are questions and then there are solutions; no answer is a wrong one. Now why do tech companies keep asking the same question from thousands of job seekers every single year, even when they know that all the possible answers have been exhausted? It’s because in those questions lie their own curiosity. Now that the computers have been technologically enhanced to be more like humans, what with artificial intelligence, speech recognition, virtual and augmented reality, robots and whatnot, the tech giants are intent on pursuing the goal of making humans more like computers. You can compress terabytes worth of data into a mere gigabyte thanks to the efficient Huffman compression algorithm. But can you actually compress humans too? It has all been done in fantasies and comic books before: Ant-man from Marvel and Atom from DC comics, both can shrink and enlarge at their will. But, steadily as the actual world is catching up with the fictional one in terms of technological progressions, manipulation of bio-matter is still a far-fetched notion.

Anyways, what do you think you could be able do if you were shrunk to the size of nickels?

Chapter 1

Keith Sandberg did not intend for the shrink ray to be actually used for any purpose other than academic. The ray was not-as the name suggested-meant to cure your mental issues and neither did it offer therapeutic advice: It literally shrank stuff-both organic and inorganic-to your desired dimensions. Was it realistically plausible? No it was not. But then again, most pioneering things in technology were not. Back when Nikolas Tesla proposed the idea of wireless induction of electricity, people dubbed him as a black magician and hid his research in the name of theological correctness. Man was not intended to interfere in such devilry, they said as they stacked away Tesla’s research papers into storage. Storage from where later Thomas Edison would procure the documents and use them to his advantage. No wonder school science books did not have any mention of the actual revolutionary.

For Keith however, the case was quite the opposite: at fifty-two, he was a computer scientist whose prime-both in terms of age and career-had come and gone in a blink. It was way early when he decided to prospect metaphorically in the gold mine that was computer science. Back when he applied to Stanford, his high school batch fellows were thinking about going into ‘stable’ field such as finance, medicine, engineering and music even. Back then, anything was steadier than computer science. However, Keith, being the visionary he was, applied to Stanford, got admission and spent the better part of four years learning in-depth about the limits of computation.

At twenty-two, he had graduated with a summa cum laude and a cumulative grade point average of 3.9. No more college for me, he thought back then. He did not get a master’s degree, let alone a Ph.D. because, in his opinion, all the research in computing was heading in the wrong direction. Researchers, scientists and entrepreneurs alike were trying hard to make computers more like humans. And that sucked. Who’d want to have more humans-or human like droids-in the world when all the existing ones were busy waging wars, ripping each other off and prejudicing their way through the twentieth century into the twenty first? Not Keith.

Keith envisioned a future where humans would be more like computers: efficient, easily manipulated, fast and trustworthy. That was the future worth aspiring for. And all that was in his capacity, Keith did in order to bring that dream to life.

“Our DNA is like data, that much we all can agree upon, right?” he had said, standing with audacity in front of the one of the more astute and open minded Venture Capitalists in Silicon Valley back in the late nineties. They nodded.

“So, when and if we are able to compute and translate DNA code into computer code, we will be able to manipulate it like data! Compress it, alter it, engineer it, whatever you wish!” he had said, withholding his excitement as best as he could.

However, the uncertainty of the when and if had been the cause of the failure of his idea back in the late nineties. The Venture Capitalists had shrugged him off, saying that this was highly hypothetical and that he should come back to them for funding once he had actually something tangible in his hands.

Keith did not lose motivation at all. Rather, he kept his nose to the grindstone and worked harder than ever on bringing his idea to life. Everything else going on in his life was just background noise: His marriage to a fine woman, in his late twenties; the birth of his son when he was thirty; the birth of his second son when he was thirty-five; his day job that paid him more than six thousand dollars per month for debugging and writing code for enterprise applications; his divorce from his wife and his winning the custody of his two children and everything else, it was just background noise. Nothing else mattered to him more than his work and his research. If a real life Doc Brown existed, Keith would be it both in terms of eccentricity and innovation.

Long story short, somebody discovered the way to actually compute DNA strands into computer code and binary numbers in the early twenty first century and when that happened, Keith who had been actively trying to make that breakthrough himself, learnt all about it and went ahead to apply that new knowledge of DNA manipulation into making the first thing his Sci-Fi inspired mind allowed him to make: A Shrink Ray. A Ray that utilized the very same algorithms that would compress humongous amounts of data into mere megabytes, except the ray did not compress data: It could compress anything that had DNA at the fiber of its core: cats, lab rats, ants (not that they needed any more shrinking), lizards and even humans. It took him four years of research, development, sleepless nights and Red Bull induced marathons of writing code, engineering the hardware and testing it on test subjects, to finally get the product right.

There were a lot of variables to account for but in the end Keith got everything right. By God! The shrink ray actually worked! But it was too ahead of its time a technology and that posed a gigantic hurdle to him. And so he put that project in a tightly hermetically sealed box-so as to inhibit contamination because some of the components of his gun were very sensitive- and began focusing on other projects and products, ones which would actually befit the consumer market of today; ones that would contribute less to techno-paranoia and actually sell. Products that required zero intelligence level to create: location detecting apps for smartphones, data transfer solutions for enterprise businesses and in short, ideas that actually made money.

Now computational variables, no matter how unprecedented, were something that Keith could deal with, but human variables were something in which he was out of his depth. For example, he never anticipated the fact that his wife would leave him for a man she met at a grocery store? Perhaps it was because that guy was everything Keith was not: an adventurer, a self-proclaimed poet, handsome and… unsuccessful.

The second thing that Keith did anticipate was him starting to grow fond of his sons Benjamin and Joel. Ben was five and Keith was barely a year old when the divorce happened. And on top of that, Keith’s research had been at a crucial juncture back then. He simply did not have the time to deal with the kids. But amidst the cacophony in which he had to go to his day job, book a babysitter for the kids, attend to his research in his basement, eat, sleep and wake up, he found order in the form of tethering love for his kids.

Ben would sit on the floor, idly playing with his toys whilst Keith coded at his computer. Joey would be asleep for the most part of the day and periodically wake up only when Keith would be free from all of his day’s work. He’d then feed him bottled milk and ate dinner with Ben. In the end, being a single dad really paved his way into becoming more organized and steady a man. A family man.

His love grew for his sons as he saw them going way out of their way to achieve great accomplishments. Ben became somewhat of a computer prodigy at a very early point in his life and Joey went on to outshine at sports. It was the best of both worlds for his sons; the brain and the brawn, not that one didn’t have the other. Ben would swim about a dozen laps every day at the community swimming pool and Joey would do as good as getting more than enough A’s in his results. They were well balanced kids, good looking even. However, Joey took after his mother in terms of prettiness. Keith had never been known for his beauty, but then again, most successful entrepreneurs were not too choosy about their looks. Ben took after his father both in terms of looks and scientific prowess. Keith did not.

                                                          *

At the moment, Keith was stuck. Besides being literally stuck-his foot was caught in the disharmonic mess of wires in his basement lab- he was also stuck between the two tech poles of the world: Silicon Valley and Silicon Prairie. He was unceremoniously tethered to the quiet town of Calumet City, forty-five minutes south of Chicago. Why Calumet City?

San Francisco was always bustling with life and hustle bustle that it felt a little too crowded and too tense a city for Keith to live in. How someone managed to work in that environment was beyond him. It was like a metaphorical city wide frat party was going on and all the cool kids were busy doing their beer chugs and beer pongs: it was too frivolous. Silicon Prairie on the other hands, was too elitist a society for Keith. While high school drop outs were hording to San Francisco to dabble in the glorious world of computer science, the prudes at Texas had imposed a law that demanded that everyone who wanted to write computer code should have a license. So, in short, both the cities were poles apart and neither climate suited Keith. He chose to settle down in a quiet town next to Chicago, where he could dedicate all his time to doing the thing he loved in peace. He was stuck in this city by choice.

But, one must show his face in society every once in a while, and Keith had to make his annual trip to San Francisco to showcase his newest inventions to the same Venture Capitalist guy who had shrugged him off back in the late nineties. In a glorious turn of events, the VC had now come begging back to Keith to let them fund his projects so that they could get a decent market share in them before they hit the shelves for the consumers. Keith had them right where he wanted them: curled up around his fingers.

The shrink ray was not to be trifled with. It was going to be Keith’s secret. If the government or anyone found out what he had created, they would snag it from him and probably hole him up in a dank basement, interrogating him about the technology used in the gun and whether aliens were involved or not.

“Benny!” Keith called. He was in his basement and literally stuck in a very crucial spot. If he moved the teeniest bit, the power cord would give away and all his computers (there were more than eight computers running at the same time, with two server towers too!) would shut down, rendering his latest programming project useless. He needed Ben right now so that Ben could disentangle him from a web of his own creation.

Ben was a sweet kid, thought Keith. Ben had gone way out of his way to make his dad proud. He had aced his way through high school, topped his SATs, gotten a scholarship program for MIT’s computer science program and had graduated with magna cum laude- not that he complained- and had secured a researching job all by his own at the biggest microprocessor development company in the world. Come next month, Ben would be researching the practical implementations of advanced quantum computing alongside the best scientists in the world. Ben had made his dad proud.

“Yeah pop?” Ben came running down the basement stairs, avoiding habitually the creaky stair step and ducking under the huge bundle of wires as he came down. “Whoa, you’ve gotten yourself stuck there, dad,” he said, stating the obvious before suddenly realizing the reason his father had called him down. He stooped besides his father’s foot and like an astute boy scout, he loosened the wires away, making sure they did not trip or unplug.

“Thanks Ben, would you be so kind as to help your old men with the luggage?” Keith said. The two of them took the four bags up the stairs, out of the house and into the car. They had two cars: Keith had a Honda Accord because he believed they provided a smoother experience and better mileage. The other car which Ben and Joey shared-but was actually Ben’s- was a blue Nisan Juke. Why that model specifically? Because it was extremely outrageous and yet underneath its exterior ugliness, it had the most comfortable interior. Back in early 2015 when they had gone shopping for it, the three of them had unanimously decided on this car.

“Any idea how soon you’ll be back? Not that I can’t hold the fort,” Ben said, in good humor, to his father. Keith had a little tinge of melancholy on his face, a melancholy that, like Roger Murtaugh’s face, said I’m too old for this shit. How long could he practically keep up this life? The hectic day job, the frenzied evening spent in his lab making scientifically advanced inventions, pitching those inventions to potential buyers… How long was he going to dance this dance for? Not for long, he would answer himself at times when he would see his son, Ben, the apple of his eyes, the chip off the old block. Ben had followed his father’s steps to the T and was surely going to continue his legacy.

“I’ll be back in a week I think. Those Silicon Valley investors have a thing for time. They don’t waste yours and they don’t want theirs wasted. They’re probably going to want to see what I have up my sleeve soon. So, yeah, a week it is. Pray that I get the funding, yeah?” Keith said. His son was an old soul and Keith felt that he could literally share everything with him, from the errors in his codes to his nonexistent love life.

                                                          *

It was a pity he could not do the same with Joey. Well, you cannot have everything you want in life. Joey had been going downhill since the start of school year. He was a high school senior now and this year was going to be the most critical for him if he were to get admission into a good university and that too in a good program. He had been the star player of Calumet High’s junior varsity soccer team and had graduated to becoming a promising baseball player. His grades had been consistent too for the better part of high school up till now. Ever since fall, Joey had fallen out of a lot of good things in his life and had fallen in some bad ones. Keith did not suspect him of drug abuse because that is not how he was raised and secondly, Joey appeared intellectually sober. If he were doing drugs, they would know it.

No, Joey had gotten addicted to a different kind of drug: Massive Multiplayer Real Time Strategy Games-or as most gamers called them MMRTS’s. Why this sudden infatuation with controlling little characters onscreen? Keith had no idea.

In truth though, Joey had been having a tough time at school. There had been some isolated events of bullying: In some cases, Joey was the victim and in others, he was the bully. Back when he had started the school year, a grumpy, pimple-laden, mentally disturbed senior of his had gone and called him the N word. Nope, the other N word: Nerd. Now, Joey, who considered himself a stud and an academically well balanced jock, did not like that one bit. There was nothing degrading about the word itself, it was just that being called a nerd associated him with his elder brother and his father-both of whom were classic nerds in every sense of the word. And for someone like Joey, outshining his father and his brother was a feat nearly impossible. To even think of actually coming close to their accomplishments was a deed that required a lot of courage. As far as Joey knew, he could never come close to them, what with their achievements in computing and their Ivy League degrees and their fancy jobs and their salaries.

This was all too constricting and suffocating a thought for him. Joey was not trying any less than his brother and his father. Look where he was, he was in both the soccer and baseball teams of his high school and had truly brought good name to his school. The student counsellor had told him that his scenarios were sunny in all senses: “There is always the sportsman scholarship to turn to if you can’t get admission the normal way,” the counsellor had said. And to Joey that had been all the disgrace in the world summed up in one sentence. The normal way? What was that supposed to mean? Did the counsellor imply that Joey was scholastically challenged? Did he imply that Joey was not capable enough to ace his ACTs and his SATs to get admission into a college like his elder brother? Whatever the tone that underlined that sentence was, Joey did not like it. And he did not like it how everyone referred to him as “Ben’s brother” or “lookie that kid, he’s Keith Sandberg’s son!”

He did not want to be labelled, he did not want to be judged and frankly, he wanted people to get out of his hair with their expectations for him, with their hopes that he too will achieve greatness like his dad or his bro did. Maybe I will end up working the night shift at a Burger King or something, Joey had mulled over that thought many a time. Maybe he did not want a star studded life.

Thereby, in his angst he resorted to the only way in which he could catharsis his frustration: A video game that had caught the world by storm. Whenever he would come home from school, he’d fire up his computer and play the game for hours. He got to control a minute hero who upon Joey’s command would wreak havoc on armies of orcs and goblins and zombies alike. It was very transcendental an experience. The first month, he quit baseball. The second month, he quit soccer. His team would often jeer at him during lunch breaks or in the corridors, calling him all sorts of bad stuff like, “you’re a coward Joel, you’re a coward for quitting the way you did!”

That was fine with him. For once he was being known for something that he did, even if it was being called a coward. He accepted that. In fact, to him, it was liberating. However, after that event, one person from his ex-baseball team had the audacity to shove him and call him a ‘cunt for quitting’. That had triggered Joey and he had punched the bejesus out of the person in the school parking lot. People had gathered around him and it had taken two securities guards-from the Mart next to the school-to get him off the other boy. No one had called him names since then and he hadn’t bullied anyone else either.

That event made him more of a recluse than ever. Keith and Ben dismissed Joey’s broody period thinking that it was nothing but teenage hormones raging that caused him to behave erratically but when the condition went on for more than four or five months, they began to anxiously worry for him. Interventions were held, one-on-one sessions were arranged but to no avail. Joey did not take heed of any advice and let his grades suffer. His baseball team and soccer team weren’t doing any good without him either.

                                                          *

“Mind if I talk to Joey for a second before I go?” Keith said as he and Ben finished loading the bags and equipment into his car. It was a thirty-one-hour drive to Silicon Valley for Keith and while he had more than enough money stashed in his bank to buy a private jet for himself, he preferred to take the road and take in the countries’ diverse landscape as he drove because for him, that yearly trip to San Francisco was all the vacation he could afford (or allow himself to take, whichever sounds more plausible) so he tried to make the most out of the quantum of solace he had. A thirty-one-hour drive tends to clear your mind and give you new insight Benny, he had one said to his son.

Joey was sitting at the dining table, eating cereal and drinking coffee. Normally one has either juice or milk with cereal, but not Joey. He liked when the bitter aftertaste of black coffee merged serendipitously with the crunchy and sweet flavor of cornflakes.

“Son?” Keith said, trying to assess his son’s mood. These days, it was pretty much doom-and-gloomy but today Joey had turned up at the dining table which was a good sign. He normally did not do that. He ate in his room while playing his game with one hand and the other pouring food in his mouth. This was a form of multitasking neither his dad nor his brother were adept in. You had to have a certain level of dedication for that.

“Sup pop?” Joey said.

“I’m leaving for a week today. I thought a little father and son time wouldn’t hurt before that, would it?” Keith said, mustering all the amiability he could. In truth, he had no time to deal with the shit that humans pulled. Computers were simple: you put in an input and you got an output. Yes, sir. But with humans, you had to keep all the variables in mind; the mood, the health, the location, the person to whom you were talking to, how you were talking to them and why you were talking to them. Humans were complex.

Joey shrugged, much to Keith’s annoyance. But Keith kept a compassionate composure and continued talking.

“Son, I know that you’ve been facing things that everyone goes through and I understand that. I want you to know that I fully support you and I have your back wherever you need. But son, let the past remain in the past. Work harder for a better future, if you know what I mean?”

Joey dropped his spoon in the now-empty cereal bowl with a clang, as if making a point of downright disdain. He did not say anything because he knew that if he did, he would spew hatred. And that he did not want to do. No matter how much his inner self rebelled and revolted against everything, there was an inherent respect for his father deep down him. Underneath that respect, there was fear and love too. He loved his father and adored him for who he was, but he also feared him because of his abilities. If Keith wanted, he could hack into anything and anywhere in the world by using just his smartphone. And the thought of Keith hacking into Joey’s multiplayer game’s account scared the shit out of him. So, he played nice for his father. He fetched ball.

“You want me to do what, dad?” he said.

“I want you to think of yourself as more than just a gamer and more than just my son and Ben’s brother. You are your own person and you have abilities, confidence, good looks and everything that a person would need. The world is your oyster Joey, but only if you let it.”

This hollow holistic talk was bugging the hell out of Joey. He forced a smile albeit underneath that smile hid contempt. “Dad, with all fucking due respect, I don’t think that you can dictate what I can do and what I can be!” he said, losing his calm that he had maintained with such effort. What made him lose his calm? The false sense of conformity his dad was pulling, that’s what. He was screwed up and he needed people to acknowledge and accept that and not just take it as some sort of ‘teenage phase’. It was not.

“You need to mind your language, young man and secondly, that is no way to talk to the only man in the world who looks out for you and thinks for you on your behalf. I mean, who else is going to be supportive of you? How long do you think you can pull this emo-grungy act? What are you trying to prove with all this?” Keith started getting angry too. Here he was trying to be all nice and supportive for his son and he goes ahead and uses ‘fuck’ in a polite conversation.

Keith left after saying his goodbyes to Ben and Joey. He would not return for another week. He took a good look at the house as he reversed his car out of the driveway. This was the last time he was looking at the house in all its integrity.

                                                          *

“Yo, what’s your deal man?” Ben said to Joey. Joey was now retiring back into his room, seeing as it was a Sunday and nobody had anything better to do.

“What do you mean?” Joey said.

“Why did you have to be so rude to dad?”

“He was getting up in my shit, I was merely fending myself,” Joey said matter-of-factly. He was not in the mood for any elder-brotherly advice, not when he least needed it.

“Can you hear yourself? Fending yourself, what was dad doing? Attacking you with a pitchfork?” Ben said furiously. He could take it if someone were rude to him-he had been facing that for the better part of his life what with bullying in high school and social out-casting in college- but the only thing that made him flip was when someone mistreated his dad. And Joey had done exactly that.

“Shut up Ben, just for the sake of Christ, shut the fuck up! I have had enough of both of your prudish shit! Both of you, thinking you’re on some exalted level of self-righteousness! Ugh!” Joey snapped and rushed off to his room, leaving an utterly confused Ben standing in the dining room.

What does he mean? Ben thought. I hope he doesn’t go ahead and do something vindictive because, the Joey I know, he’s got the memory of an elephant. And he aint forgetting anything anytime soon.

 

Chapter 2

We each pick pain along the way. Failure, loss, bullying, trauma, tragedy, what have you, take your pick, there’s lots to go around. There is a lot of pain in the world; happiness is temporary whilst pain and sorrow may last lifetimes. What most of us do is we figure out coping mechanisms to deal with the agony: listening to cathartic music and crying, painting an abstract picture depicting one’s delirium, reading a book and relating with the characters, doing drugs and escaping the sheer reality of life and many other methods to deal with the looming insanity. Most of us at least, are able to purge ourselves. The other unlucky ones who cannot, breakdown mentally, resulting in their becoming sociophobes, recluses, psychopaths even. For Joey, latter was the case, causing him to confront some deep seated issues without any coping mechanism. Video games went only as far as offering therapeutic pacification.

He could not for the life of him understand how his saintly father and brother, both of whom who could have had it all-fame, money, respect-chose to earth themselves ever so humbly and choose to remain out of the spotlight that they so justifiably deserved. If he had been given the chance, Joey would have availed it in the blink of an eye. But his dad had this philosophy, “We are merely transcribers of something that is already present in the creative ether of the universe. To be able to perceive and later on conceive something that God saw fit for us to see, must remind us that we are merely his delegates and that we do not possess any creativity on our own. Only that which has been allotted to us,” and this bullshit thinking bugged the bejesus out of Joey, who did not believe in that holistic pseudo-religious crap.

Right now, Joey was in his father’s basement, taking a look at the lab, deep in his disturbed thoughts. His computer’s graphic card had fried a few moments ago, leaving him unable to play his game. Dad’s gotta have some Graphic cards lying around in his lab, he had thought as he made his way to the basement. And just as expected, there was a whole stack of the latest graphic cards lying in the corner. Sometimes Keith tended to do some heavy simulations and those required all the graphical juice he could muster up.

After he had taken the graphic card and the screwdriver with which he was going to fit the card in his computer, Joey wandered around aimlessly in the cool, dark basement, looking at the numerous computer screens showing code being compiled and analytics being updated. They weren’t beyond him, the codes and the analytics: learning all about computation had been a rite of passage in this family. He just did not want to deal with that shit. It was utter shit to him because, what was the point of doing it all if you could not make billions of dollars or a decent rapport in the tech world? For joy, his dad’s words rang in his ears. Keith had once told Joey, “the things we do, the things that fuel our passion, be they sports, arts, writing, computing or science. We do them not for money, not for vanity and not certainly for the sake of keeping our sanity. We do them for joy.”

Well lookie here dad, I aint a bit happy! He thought as he roamed around the basement some more before deciding to get out of there. His dad’s aura was strong in this room. Just as Joey was about to go up the stairs, he noticed some misplaced boxes. Keith must have not placed them back in his hurry to get out of town. Each box contained an invention of Keith’s and was labelled on the top, with most of the boxes being empty. This was apparently the last time Keith was making the journey to sell his products and apparently he had pulled out all stops this time, taking more than eight of his uncanny inventions with him. However, there was a box labelled “Shrink Ray: Class X restricted” which peeked Joey’s interest. He went towards the box, forgetting about his fused out computer. The box was huge, unlike the other ones.

Let’s see what dad’s been hiding, Joey thought as he opened the crate. If it were something labelled Class X restricted and on top of that if it were something so classified that dad had seen it befitting not to take it with him on his last business trip to San Francisco, then it must be something awesome indeed, thought Joey.

Upon opening the box, he saw two gadgets; one looked like a mini-generator and the other looked unmistakably like a futuristic gun. Good luck selling this dad, what with the new gun laws. He took out the gun, weighing it in his hand and wondering what it did. The box did say Shrink Ray, whatever that meant. “It probably doesn’t even work, that’s why he must have left it behind,” he said out aloud, dismissing the wildest notions that popped in his head.

Did this gun really shrink stuff? If it did, then his dad was a bigger prude than he had imagined. All that power and yet Keith did nothing. What was the use of an invention if you weren’t going to even use it?

Joey was intrigued. He hadn’t felt this excited in months. Forgetting all his depression, his angst and his gloom, he turned the basement’s lights on so that he would be able to better see and experiment with the gun. Being the methodological and clinically organized man Keith was, he had gullibly enough, left an instruction manual in with the gun. Whom was he even planning to instruct how to use this shit?

Joey took a good look at the manual, read it and memorized the mechanisms before packing the gun and the generator back in the box. He took the graphics card, closed the basement’s lights and went back to his room where, after fixing his computer, he would forget all about the gun for a while. Just for a while though.

                                                          *

Ben was feeling bad for his younger brother. Big brothers often do. They don’t always act on their empathy, but at least the sentiment is there. For two people to be living under the same roof and being so different-one for the better and the other for the not so better-was bound to bring up some feelings of resentment in Joey’s heart, Ben knew that. But Ben did not intend to bring any of that up during the weekend. Dad was gone, they had the house to themselves, it was probably best if they came to a temporary treaty of mutual respect and bonding. Being the elder, Ben would have to initialize that; be the bigger man as it were.

“Joey? Whatcha doon?” he called Joey from downstairs. Joey was still in his room. He hadn’t come out since morning. That was when Ben had been doing his calisthenics.

“Fixing my computer, damn sumbitch won’t work!” Joey’s angst laden voice travelled down the staircase.

Perhaps this is my chance to help him out and bond with him, Ben thought. He grabbed his computer repair kit-it was a sturdy DIY model his dad had given him for his birthday five years ago-and went up the stairs, to Joey’s room.

The room was organized, it was clean, well kept in and many ways, it did not resemble a teenager’s room. No posters, for one; the sheets were made, the computer table was prearranged systematically, books and DVDS were shelved very meticulously and there wasn’t a pile of dirty clothes anywhere to be seen in the room. If Joey masturbated, that is Ben thought if he masturbated at all, then he did so ever so tidily because there weren’t any crusted up tissue papers or hardened socks lying anywhere in the room either.

Joey was sitting with a defeated face next to his computer. The computer was opened up with its parts-motherboard, the busted graphic card, the RAM, power supply, the hard drive, the DVD drive and the power supply-scattered on the workbench. “What’re you doing here?” Joey said, looking at Ben.

“Thought I’d help you with your computer. You can always ask for help, you know,” Ben said good naturedly and went to the workbench. Joey must have really been desperate because he did not throw any tantrum or hesitate in letting Ben handle his computer. Instead, he moved over and let Ben sit in front of the computer.

“Alright let’s see,” said Ben squinting with concentration as he analyzed the busted graphics card and in no time, removed it from the motherboard. He went ahead and fixed the broken one; it was just a simple matter of swapping the transistors. Upon fixing it, he screwed it back on the motherboard and took the new graphic card that Joey had stolen from dad’s basement, and fixed it alongside the older one. Then it was only a matter of minutes as he put the computer back in place.

“There, I used two graphic cards so you should be getting twice the juice now. Let’s see how your game runs at full-high definition at a hundred and forty-four hertz,” Ben said.

Joey momentarily forgot his angst and looked at his elder brother with gratitude. “Thanks Ben…”

“It aint a problem bud,” Ben said as he got up and left Joey to tinker with his upgraded computer. Back when things were smooth and not as complicated as they were now (for the life of Ben he wondered where they went wrong) Ben would be dad’s apprentice and Joey would be his. The flow of nerdy information would start from Keith coming home from work with an epiphany of some sorts; he’d share it with Ben and later Ben would do so with Joey.

                                                          *

It was almost noon and Joey grew hungry. The newly fixed computer had been working smoothly now. That being said, he was now getting famished from all the countless hours he had spent playing his game. Also, he hadn’t had anything proper to eat-black coffee and cornflakes didn’t exactly constitute a proper meal.

He made his way down only to see Ben sitting in the TV lounge, catching the latest episode of that medieval porn show that went by the name of Game of Thrones. Seriously though, what was Ben’s fascination with dragons and tits?

“That show again? That Jon Snow guy back again? I thought he died in the last season,” Joey said.

“And speaking of coming back from the dead, lookie here folks, lookie who’s out of his room!” Ben said laughing.

“Hey, I was hungry, thought maybe you were too. Wanna grab a bite or something?” Joey said, sitting beside Ben on the sofa.

“Sure thing. I’ll get some Ken-Taco-Hut soon, say, in twenty minutes?”

“Whatcha gonna do for the rest of the twenty minutes?”

“Talk to you hopefully, if you’d like to,” Ben said, trying to suppress his elder-brotherly concern as best as he could. His heart wept and bled each time he saw his brother throw away the most decisive years of his academic life away in pursuit of baser things.

“What did you want to talk to me about?” Joey said, with a little reservation. Ben may have fixed his computer for him but that didn’t grant him the right to cross Joey’s comfort zone.

“Just stuff man, like what’s been going on with your life? I was away at MIT for the better part of four years to talk to you and discuss stuff with you. How’s life dealin’ with ya? Handing you lemons fine?”

Joey laughed. Ben was treading in safe waters. He decided to let his guard down and have an honest talk with his brother. They ended up talking less and watching more of Game of Thrones in which Jon Snow had apparently decided to keep his hair in a man-bun. They made fun of him for that, laughing some more.

                                                                   *

The first few days went without hitches. Ben decided to give Joey a wide berth and Joey reciprocated. They decided to not interfere with each other a lot; Joey would spend the day levelling up in his game and Ben would prepare for his quantum computing research job.

However, shit has a way of hitting the fan and when it does, damn, does it smell. On Tuesday, Ben encountered at the grocery store, Mr. Simmons, his high school gym teacher. Given that Ben had never quite excelled at gym, it was somewhat implausible that Mr. Simmons would remember him. But Mr. Simmons did remember him. There weren’t a lot of kids from Calumet City High who went on to graduate from MIT, so unbeknownst to him, Ben was revered as a legend at school. They talked, Ben and Mr. Simmons and Ben was even so courteous as to offer Mr. Simmons a ride back home. Mr. Simmons obliged.

“If only things played out for your brother the way they did with you and your dad,” Mr. Simmons said to Ben during the journey, making him fixate on that sentence for the rest of the morning. Mr. Simmons went on to ask Ben for a favor: Coax Joey into rejoining the football team, if not both the football and the baseball teams. He had been their prodigy player and without him, the teams were falling apart, suffering loses where they shouldn’t

Ben dropped Mr. Simmons off and went home, brooding ominously about Joey. Enough is enough, someone’s gotta talk some sense into him.

                                                          *

Joey was getting over his game. He had leveled up as much as was possible in the game and had taken out most of his multiplayer opponents. Also, the exceedingly high graphics-thanks to Ben-had taken the fun out playing the game: it was too photorealistic, almost lifelike. Joey needed a new muse. His mind inadvertently pondered to the Shrink Ray and he thought of using it. But on whom? Thought Joey as he wandered aimlessly around the house.

Serendipitously enough, Ben came in the house at that moment. He was looking pissed. It was almost afternoon and he hadn’t brought food with him, unlike what he had been doing so for the past few days ever since dad was out of town.

“Where’s the food Ben?” Joey asked.

“Don’t Ben me…”

“What’s your deal today?”

Ben looked at Joey with daggers. “The deal with me? I don’t have any deal with me Joey. Last I checked, I graduated from MIT with a 3.9 CGPA and a job all ready for me at Intel. I don’t have no deal going on with me. You however, have colossally fucked your life and for the worse! Video games Joey? Quitting soccer? I talked to Mr. Simmons today and he told me that you were barely skating by in academics. What is that supposed to do for you? Where are you even going to go to college, if at all?”

Ben shot a lengthy tirade of rhetoric questions at Joey, hoping in his heart that they would serve as negative feedback mechanisms to Joey and make him reevaluate his life and take some action even.

But Joey was so far off, he didn’t take any advice from those questions. Quite the contrary, the Pandora box of his mind, which he had kept shut with effort, was rummaged open and all the worse thoughts (the bad ones were already looming in his mind) started flooding in his head: Who was Ben to come out of the blue and make such audacious statements? Ben, who had been spoon fed everything in his life whether it was grades, admissions, research or accolades from other people. Ben, who had managed to become the apple of his father’s eyes by surpassing his every expectation, leaving Joey to miraculously to bring himself up to the standards that Ben had created. Ben, who had never faced bullying the way Joey had. Ben, who had friends in high places. Ben, who had a job at Intel lined up for him. Ben, who had gone to MIT.

Joey was absolutely jealous of his elder brother at the moment and his anger was almost that mountainous in magnitude as was Cain’s back when Abel had stolen all the spotlight. Cain ended up killing Abel.

It took Joey all the self-control and deception that he could muster up to fake a smile and say, “I’m sorry Ben. I really am. I am over my video game craze as of today. Seriously, I am. I’ll try and get my shit together and I’ll try to make you and dad proud. I’ll even join the football team again, if that is what will make you and dad and Mr. Simmons and the rest of the world happy. Seriously. I will. I think I am over my monotonous phase.”

For a moment Ben could not perceive if it was sarcasm or actual remorse that Joey was showing. But being the optimist he was, he chose to believe in the latter. He sighed with relief, thinking to himself, was it that easy? If I had done this before, he might have even saved his grades earlier.

“Can you please go get some food? I am hungry,” Joey said, squeezing the last drops of feigning nicety.

“I shall. Anything for my brother. You know you can always count on me, right?” Ben said as he grabbed the car keys and headed out. Joey headed out with him.

“Sure Ben, I will.”

“You wanna come with me? Let’s go and grab some Subways together, what say you?” Ben asked in good humor. He genuinely believed that Joey had turned for the better. If only he knew the shitstorm that Joey had already planned.

“Yeah, wait. Just let me go and get my cap from my room,” Joey said and rushed in.

He’s a good kid, that ‘un, thought Ben as he got in the car. It was searing hot in the car what with the sun being merciless today and no wind making its way south of Chicago. After turning the AC on, Ben, relieved with the realization that he had consoled his brother for the better, decided to listen to music. He hadn’t done that in a long time, what with work, prepping for the new job and getting his clearance from the university leaving him no window for leisure, nary at all. So Ben did turn the radio on. Fleetwood Mac was on, playing their all-time hit song, “I’m so afraid” which so happened to be one of Keith’s favorite song. And if it were Keith’s favorite then it was Ben’s favorite too. Ben began headbanging in the car, riffing it out and totally feeling the beat of the song, at times singing along too.

In his busy-ness, Ben did not notice Joey’s absence.

                                                          *

Joey was fucking furious at the fact that Ben had given that high and mighty prudish speech. He couldn’t let Ben get away with that. Thinks he is the bigger man, I’ll show him. I’ll literally belittle him…

You cannot help or interfere someone who is seeing red. And right now, Joey was seeing blaring, bloodshot red. In his frenzied state of egoistic hurt, he made his way to his dad’s basement in a rush and opened the box; the box containing the shrink ray. Vindictiveness pulsed through him, consuming his entirety. How can he think like that? Why does he get to judge me? Who is he to think that everything in life is all bright and shiny? He doesn’t know jack shit about jack shit.

Well, let’s show him, He said to himself as he turned on the generator of the gun. The generator warningly whirred to life, making the shrink ray glow with blue neon light.

Never mind how you’ll use it, you’ll figure it out later! The rebel in his head had hijacked all rationale in Joey. He headed out to where Ben was sitting in his car, still obliviously listening to music.

Joey decided that going out all guns blazing (literally) won’t do any good in favor of the element of surprise so he made his way around the back of the house, hiding behind the side wall of the house, from where he could see the hideous blue Nisan Juke, with his contemptable brother sitting in there, still obliviously listening to music. The car was parked in the driveway. Joey looked at the gun a little closely, trying to figure out how it would work. The gun had a dial that had a lot of markings that connoted length in millimeters and inches.

So, seemingly it does shrink stuff. Let’s find out for sure, thought Joey. Excitement and intrigue overcame his negative feelings as he set the dial to the ‘five inches’ setting. What if it really worked? He thought.

The sun gleamed in his eyes brightly as he pulled the trigger, aiming the gun at the car. A beam of dark blue light-in composition, for all Joey knew, it might have been made of antimatter or God particles or something like that-zapped from the gun and made its way fluidly through the air towards the car. It hit the Nisan right in the windshield. For Joey, for whom life had taken a black and white monotone for the better part of the last few month, this was the first colorful moment in a long time. That sense of curio, the feeling of triumph at the proper functioning of the gun was very pleasing a moment for Joey. He watched as the blue ray consumed the entirety of the car, formed a cocoon around it, encapsulating it completely. So it does work! Dad’s not a deadbeat scientist after all! Lo and Beggorah! Ladies and gents would you lookie here? The car’s shrinking The car’s a shrinkin!

The Nissan started growing smaller and smaller by the second. The blue ball of laser that had molded around it, as if through an act of autophagy, started eating away at the car-so to speak-and made it attenuate in size. As Joey looked at that scientific miracle with awe and exhilarated excitement, he forgot the fact that he was angry, he forgot that he had been feeling down in the dumps for quite a while, he even forgot that he was jealous of Ben and his dad. He witnessed as the car shrank to the size of five inches and stood in place of where a normal sized car was.

The street was empty with no one passing by. Had there been any other witness other than Joey present in the street at that moment, they would have freaked out, called the cops, phoned the guys at Conspiracy theory or worst of all: they would have recorded the entire thing on their smartphones and would have uploaded it on their social media feeds. But thank God, there wasn’t any one observing that. Only Larry Kaspersky, the stoner next door, watched in his daze as the car completely disappeared. He would later dismiss it as a bad hallucination from a bad combination of LSD and marijuana.

Ben who had been listening to the radio in the car, had not foreseen that a blue zap of light would hit the car out of the blue. In his tranced state of elevated perception-listening to Fleetwood Mac would do that to you too-he started noticing how the car-and him inside it-started imploding inwards. Outside the window, he could notice the garbage cans, the trees, the pavement, the birds and the house getting bigger. It took him less than a second to realize that it wasn’t them which was getting bigger, it was the car and whatever was inside it that was shrinking exponentially. Of the billions of possible thoughts of terror and fear that could have come in his mind as he got smaller and smaller, the most irrational one decided to bother him: So, I’m getting smaller. I bet that would really help with my quantum computing research! Har-de-har-har-har!

Ben got a little bit scared later, as he continued shrinking and the world kept getting bigger. He was by now, almost face to face with the pavement outside. The car had been leaving puddles of oil for quite some time now-nothing big, just few blots of black ooze-and well, those blots didn’t look like blots anymore. They looked the size of roadside puddles now. Puddles you got when it kept raining for days on end. Chicago got that kind of rain sometimes, but not Calumet City.

Joey came up from behind the dumpster, revered with the success of his experiment. It was not his experiment entirely, seeing as how the gun was created by Keith, and seeing as how it did say on the manual that the gun shrank stuff. Well, for condolence, he thought, at least I tried it out for myself. Joey moved towards the small car, which was now the size of a small toy. Dinky, they were called, the small toy cars. This car was as dinky as it got.

Still trying to overcome his awe, he went ahead and picked the car-maybe the tangibility of the newly shrunk car would help him believe it more. It was only five inches in size, just as the Shrink Ray had said. Each detail of the car was still as eminent as it was when the car was full-sized. There was the dent in the back from when Joey had tried reversing it without knowing that he was reversing with the steering wheel drawn to the left. The car had crashed in the wall, denting the back. They had never gotten around to getting it fixed. Other scratches, fixtures, blemishes which had been accumulated over the years were still visible, granting authenticity to the shrunk car. If they hadn’t been there, Joey would have thought that Ben had gone to great lengths to play the biggest practical joke on him.

Ben! Joey saw with astonishment that Ben was still inside the car. With the seatbelt strapped to his chest and the color out of his face-in pure dread- he was still in the car, certainly smaller than five inches. Joey calculated that if the car was shrunk to five inches, then my laws of mathematical induction, Ben must have had shrunk to round-about two inches.

Ben could literally see the grooves in the pupils of Joey’s eyes, as he stared in the car. The breath from Joey’s nostrils fogged the windows of the five-inch car from all sides. The car, to Ben, felt like it was tilting, tumbling and rolling up, rolling down, being turned in every direction. That was probably because Joey was too busy exploring the car. Disbelief for Ben would come later. He would later realize that this had been Joey’s doing. And that too an intentional one. He would later come to find out that the Shrink Ray that his dad had started working on some decades ago-which had been since its completion, stored in the basement-had somehow found its way in Joey’s hands. He would later come to know of a lot of things.

Joey was feeling empathic towards his brother at the moment. Had he known that the gun would really work, he would have considered it at least dozens of times before shooting Ben and the car with it. But what was in the past was in the past. This was purely miraculous, all of it and the innocence of the whole thing was too intriguing to Joey.

But then Joey remembered all the shit he had been given over the past couple of months by Keith and Ben. Them being the bigger men and trying to show him to follow his example. Who’s the bigger man now Ben? Joey thought as all of a sudden the gates of vindictiveness opened and Joey turned maleficent. He was going to have a good time with Ben, show him what it felt like when you were belittled by all those around you.

A helpless Ben looked out the window of the car and caught the glimmer of evil mischief in Joey’s giant eyes. God help me now! He thought as he imagined all the shit that could go wrong. Maybe, he thought, if he appealed to Joey’s kinder nature, maybe then Joey would let him go and even turn him back. But that look in Joey’s eyes had given all the red flags to Ben. This was probably not going to end well.

Joey’s mind had started incubating a lot of possibilities. He wanted to play with Ben. Play with him as if he were a tiny action figure. A high maintenance MIT-graduated action figure. He looked at Ben again. Ben was screaming something which Joey couldn’t make out.

For Ben, this was horrendous. When Joey had been walking towards the car, each step he took, it shook the entire world around him. Joey was at that moment, bigger than the Titans of old mythical tales about the Greek, bigger than the Beanstalk giant, bigger than god even. And now, Joey was playing with the car as if a cat does with its food. He was rolling the car upside down, tilting it sideways, gently shaking it and even at times making it go up and down, as if expecting something to come out of it. Not Ben though; Ben was strapped to the seat with the seatbelt and even though, upon the shaking and the tilting, all the items in the car that were not tethered to anything-the mobile phone, the Aux cord, the documents inside the glove compartment, the shopping bags in the back seat still containing the grocery that Ben had bought before coming face to face with Mr. Simmons-had started hurling itself in the car. It was a mess.

After the tossing and turning had bored Joey, he decided to play a different game with the car. He started flying it with his hand, making the ‘vroom!’ sound with fervor, like a child would do with his toy cars. Ben buckled up even more tightly because to his minute two-inched self, the speed at which Joey was doing that feat was nearing light speed. I think I am going to puke! Thought Ben helplessly as the car made its way through the entire house, in Joey’s hand. The entire house looked completely different. Each room was looked like Valhalla, the Nordic hall of the gods where only the bravest of men were buried.

Ben couldn’t keep it in anymore, he vomited chunks of sick all over the shotgun seat. Great, Ben thought, Enchiladas everywhere.

When would this end? Would it end with Joey killing him off? Ben wondered with paranoia.

Joey put the car near his face again, so that he could see Ben better. It was obvious to Ben that Joey had gone full vindictive and was seeing red. Ben watched with utter fright as Joey put the car close to his mouth and opened that gargantuan entrance: All the teeth-all thirty-two of them-were looking like jagged ridges at the end of a cliff; the tongue looked like a basilisk; the lobe at the end of the tunnel looked like a huge boxing bag. Was Joey going to eat the car? Was that how crazy he had been all this time? Ben suspected earlier that Joey was a little unhinged what with his uncanny sleep patterns, his odd fixations and his weird taste in food, music, girls and clothes. But he did not precedent that Joey was going to swallow a five-inch car.

Joey didn’t. Instead, he spoke to Ben, in a voice as loud as an atomic blast, “Wouldn’t want anyone else seeing you Benny!” The noise split Ben’s ears. Even the auditory insulation of the car did not help him. It was sound as he had never heard before. Louder than the screams of blue whales, louder than the loudest of street riots and definitely louder than the battle sounds of wars. The reverberations from the sound were so great that the mirrors and the windshield of the miniature car cracked.

Joey noticed that and made a note to himself not to make loud noises again. He was sensible. Uncontrollable with infinite power- but sensible. He had to make a short trip outside the house to get the shrink ray back, which he had left lying behind the dumpster. He put Ben and the car in his back pocket so that they’d remain close and not go anywhere. Besides, where were they going to run off to? Seeing as how they were so small and couldn’t possibly outrun Joey.

The car was now vertically stuffed-with Ben still inside it-in the back pocket of Joey’s cargo shorts. Ben was not a big fan of being stuffed into claustrophobic spaces. It was full dark here. And the thought that he was squashed next to Joey’s butt was somewhat off-putting. The slit from where he had put the car in his pocket let in a sliver of sunlight. Sunlight meant that they were out again. Joey’s walking was making the car lurch up and down, giving the utmost sense of nausea to Ben. The darkness did not help either. More tumbling and tossing (Ben was still tightly strapped to the seat, strapped on for dear life) and then Joey pulled the car out of his pocket. It was like Ben was put inside the world’s most unstable cable car, with the cable being Joey’s hand which was grabbing the car from above.

They were inside the living room now. And by the looks of it, Joey was a little tired. Ben prayed that Joey would get an ounce of empathy for his elder brother and let him go, or turn him back full sized normal. This shit was freaking him the fuck out. He was alone for the entire week in an empty house, with no one in the near future coming in and out of it. Dad was going to come back in a week and who knows what kind of crap would have transpired by then? Ben decided not to think too much about it as Joey sat down on the sofa to get some rest. He put the car on his stomach, placing it there so he may better see the divine creation he had fashioned. The car rested gently on Joey’ flat stomach, heaving up and down with each breath of his. Joey had been working out for the better part of two years, what with his being on both sports teams, he had to do so in order to be in spick and span shape. He had a flat stomach with nicely shaped adolescent, athletic abs. Abs that served as traction for the car. The polyester-cotton shirt that Joey was wearing was slippery, but the abs evened it out. The car going up and down, made Ben feel like he was driving on the hilly roads of Tennessee.

For five minutes or so, Joey kept the car on his stomach and then decided that he had enough rest and would like to tinker more with the real subject of the shrinking: Ben. But for that, he had to get him out.

“Okay, let’s get you outta there Ben!” Joey said, again, his voice sounding like the heavens had split and the hells had been opened. Ben knew that Joey wasn’t the brightest kid and that scared him. Had there been someone else, Ben would have thought that they would pry the door open with their hand and gently take out Ben. But not in the case of Joey. Ben suspected that he was going to either shake the car so hard that Ben would be forced out with inertia or he would cut the car open with a chainsaw. For his safety, he prayed it was the former.

And the former it was. After trying to tilt the car up and down, in order to get Ben out, and miserably failing, Joey stopped for a moment, giving Ben the much needed rest to recuperate from the world’s most merciless roller-coaster ride. And here kids, you have the Giant Man coaster, with all lurches, no stops. Ride at your own risk… Who knows, who knows, who knows, all yawl might die! Har-de-Har-har-har!

Failed attempts. Nothing seemed to work. It was partially because Ben didn’t want to come out the car. For him, it was the safest place-inside the car-seeing as how Joey could not get to him in there. And he did not want to be in Joey’s hands. Joey had been vindictive and passive aggressive for the past months, venting out his frustration at everybody who would so much as slightly tread on his nerves. And Ben had done more than that. Ben had before getting shrunk, obliterated Joey’s ego in an attempt to get him to fix his fucked up life. It was revenge time for Joey.

As if an epiphany had struck him, Joey’s facial expressions changed to a “Eureka!” look and he lifted the car in his hands again. The car lurched unstably.

What’s he going to do now? Ben thought, expecting the worst. And the worst did happen. A sudden shocking push to the car by Joey, imitating a car crash, caused the airbags to go off. The shock of the abrupt motion unhinged the seatbelt. The windshield broke apart, throwing splinters of glass everywhere, one of which hit the airbag providing faux-protection to Ben. The inertia, the momentum of the shove and the broken windshield providing a decent enough window, caused Ben to topple out of the car at full speed, some of the splinters grazing him as he fell out of the car.

If I ever go back to being normal, I am so going to suffer from PTSD! Ben thought wildly amidst all the billions of emotions, as he plonked out of the car and into Joey’s hand.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire. A fire of Abrahamic proportions.

Chapter 3

Now Ben had never been a praying man. He went as far as to say that he did not believe in providence or the existence of a divine entity that controlled all the macrocosms and the micro ones. However, this shit was different. Right now, Ben was praying to just about any god out there who would listen to him. Please get me out of this, please get me out this, please get me out of this! Ben kept repeating in his head, each time with exponentially increased desperation.

Joey had decided to take Ben up to his room. Had he done so in a civil manner, Ben would have thought that Joey was being rational to some extent. But no. Joey was flinging Ben up and down in the air, his steady baseball hand catching Ben each time he started to fall down in the air with terminal velocity.

For Ben this was a feeling of amazement and fear. But the fear heavily outweighed the amazement. There were moments of utter awe as Joey threw him up the air and he, Ben, experienced the momentary joy of flight. It was not exactly flight, being thrusted in the air and then falling back down, but you get the idea. As Ben soared up with wind gushing against his face, he wondered what would happen if Joey did not catch him this time. Maybe, I’ll fall splat on the ground, spilling out my entrails everywhere. Maybe, I’ll land miraculously on my feet and run away. Maybe then I will seek out the Shrink Ray on my own and get myself fixed.

But there was a fat chance of all that happening. Joey had the gun in his hand and he did not look like somebody who was going to let it go just yet. He was also not going to let Ben go that easy, if at all.

Whoosh! Joey threw Ben lightly once more as he ascended the stairs. This was probably the scariest jump for Ben. As Joey hurled him up in the air, Ben saw down and saw the deep gorge that was the staircase and even deeper than the deep staircase, he saw the living room below. It looked as bottomless as the Grand Fucking Canyon itself! Who knew being small would be this scary! Ben was sure he was going to fall down to his impending doom and die. But Joey caught him in the nick of time, cradling him in his cupped hands as the two of them went into Joey’s room.

“Hey, Benny, I wonder what I’m going to do with you,” Joey said thoughtfully and then added, “besides letting you go I mean. I wanna have fun! You dig?”

Ben had grown accustomed in the small time he had been shrunk to the loud noises and ear splitting sounds. So when Joey said what he said, it didn’t come off as deafening. How weird was that? Ben’s body was already adapting to his shrunken form! That was the last thing he wanted his body to do. He wanted to go back to being normal, not remain stuck to this position he was in.

“I have an idea,” said Joey as he lay on the bed. The bed, with its creaseless bedsheet, looked like a huge desert with white sand as far as the eye-Ben’s eye- could see. To think that this was the bed on which Joey slept on every day, was a little baffling to Ben, no pun intended. Ben was plonked atop Joey’s shirt. Okay, this isn’t so bad, Ben thought as he felt up the soft cloth with his hands. It was cool, it was comfortable and yet, it looked so dissimilar to a normal cloth. To Ben, it looked like as it would look like to an average person through a microscope. There were giant pores in the shirt, giving it the look and feel of an intricate spider web. The threads were thick, like army training ground climbing ropes. However, their being so humongous in comparison to Ben did not change the fact that they were soft, mushy and restful. Forgetting all the terror and the tension for a moment, Ben felt the slightest bit drowsy, wanting to sleep right there, atop his lied down brother. However, as soon as the thought had entered Ben’s mind, it was as if Joey telepathically intercepted it. He sat up and looked at Ben with mischief.

Grabbing the ends of his shirt, each with one hand, he made a makeshift trampoline of sorts with the hapless Ben in the middle, the poor unwilling subject of this cruel play. Ben did the only thing any sensible man in his position would do: he held on tight to the grooves and ridges in the fabric for dear life. God knew there were only so many plunges he could take before Ben’s innards started spilling out. Ben hoped it would not come to that.

Plunk! The shirt-trampoline bludgeoned upwards with a lot of force, the momentum of which caused Ben’s grip to loosen. He went up high into the air, catapulted with great speed. All the adrenaline that had calmed down for the time being, splurged through Ben again and he wondered with wildness as he soared in the air, What the fuck is Joey getting out of this?

Joey was having the time of his life right now. He had forgotten about his crappy video game. He had forgotten about his shit show of a life. All his focus and his concentration was on Ben, his big brother, right now. His big brother that he had shrunk. Joey always had a thing for action figures. Even right now, there were a dozen G.I Joe action figures in his closet. More were stashed underneath his bed. He would play with them at times, wondering what it would be like if they were alive.

And now he knew. Now he knew what it would be like if one of his action figures came to life miraculously. Ben was a living example of that. For starters, their appendages would be easily manipulated. He could talk to them, if he ever felt like it. Also, they would be able to respond to whatever he said or did to them. But all that was dulled in comparison by the sheer power surge Joey was feeling, having Ben in his shirt.

“Please stop!” Ben screamed as he was flipped in the air one more time, this time him doing an involuntary barrel roll in the air and landing headfirst on the shirt.

Joey did not hear Ben. To him, everything that Ben said, came to his ears in a high pitched, cartoonish voice. He disregarded that voice. Aint no one telling me what to do now, I’m the motherfookin boss now, yessir. But, regardless of that, Joey checked the time. It was almost evening. Evening meant that Joey should hit the gym. No matter how rough things had gotten for him in the past few months, he never quit a day of gym. He also took daily baths, two baths; one after the gym and one after he woke up every day. It was clinical the way he took care of his body. Dad suspected he had OCD, with contagions being the trigger elements.

“Let’s hit the gym Benny!” Joey said. He was obviously too hyped. He thought that going to the gym would somewhat subside his power-lust. Ben did not know how this was going to turn out for him. Maybe it will turn out good, he thought. Maybe the gym will distract Joey and make him less agitated than he was. Maybe it will turn out for the worst. Maybe it will make him more amped up and hence cause more inadvertent harm to Ben.

“You wait right here, don’t think of going anywhere, you know I’ll catch you if you do,” Joey said with grave warning in his voice. Ben was sitting atop the bed. He did not intend to cross Joey right now. Maybe later, when he would be tired or asleep. But not certainly now.

Joey went into the changing room to get changed for the gym. They had a nice little room, that overlooked their backyard, dedicated to a gym. There were weights, treadmills, exercise bicycles and various other gym equipment items which Ben did not know the name of. Of all the rooms in the house, this was the one room Ben frequented least of all. Joey would spend hours there.

Joey came back from the room wearing a sleeveless shirt and cargo shorts. He looked around the room and then at the bed, checking to see if Ben had obliged. He had. Ben was right there on the bed where Joey had left him. Good.

Since Ben was still at two inches small, it wasn’t a hassle for Joey to pick him up by the scruff of his shirt. Ben was lifted in the air in a most ungraceful manner, but he chose not to flail and wither about. That would only add insult to injury. Joey grasped him with one hand and with the other, he held out the waistband of his cargo shorts. Jesus fucking Christ! He’s gonna put me inside his pants! Ben thought with terror as he was brought closer and closer to the extended waistband. But Joey had other plans. He did not mean to show Ben his dick just yet. He placed Ben such that the waistband of the cargo trouser clamped him tightly to Joey’s lower abdomen.

This is just great, Ben thought sarcastically. He was stuck-without any hopes of getting out- with the rubber waistband of the pants congesting him, making him suffocate. His back was against Joey’s rock solid abs and that didn’t help the discomfort either. The elastic waistband was digging into him, choking the hell out of him. There had been a Fleetwood Mac concert back in 2009 which Ben had visited. Never having been to concerts before, Ben had found his way to the front of the crowd, where a giant rope was hung tightly so as to stop the crowd getting too near to the stage. It had been all well and good until the band came onstage. Ben, who was standing right next to the rope, was pushed against it with such strength that he suspected some ribs had broken right there. He was sure back then as he was sure right now, that he was going to die of strangling. But that didn’t happen back in 2009; a moment of respite came to Ben as the crowd backed away for a second and in that second he had made his way to the back of the horde. He had stayed there till the end of the concert. Bummer. However, right now, it looked as if there was no getting away from his impending demise.

C’mon man, you’re a quick thinker, think on your feet, what can you do right now? His brain raced as he calculated different ways that would save his life. He looked at the waistband carefully and came to see that it was grooved. I’ll have to get in one of the grooves. And he did. He placed himself rather snuggly in a groove, which allowed him to properly breath again. It was still goddamned uncomfortable, but it beat choking to death.

In all his mindfulness of his condition, he didn’t notice that Joey had made his way to the gym already. They were standing right next to the treadmill. The room was large, like a warehouse large and each gym equipment looked like a giant alien spaceship to Ben. It was terrifying.

Joey got on the treadmill and started jogging at a brisk speed. He didn’t do easy. It was either all or nothing for him. And right now, excluding the vigor that he was pouring into this gym session, he had everything clocked all the way down to nothing: his love life, his academics, his civil and social duties and everything in between.

Each time he moved his legs back and forth, Ben experienced each muscle of Joey’s stomach move mechanically, as if gears were inside those hard abs, making their motion known by bulging in and out, up and down. Think of getting rammed by a battering ram continuously with no respite: that was how Ben was feeling. Then came the sweat. A lot of it, in dubious amounts started seeping out of Joey’s shirt. It wetted the entire backside of Ben that was propped against Joey’s abs. Too uncomfortable and rigid to turn his head or hands, Ben did not try to turn around and see what was happening. He just kept his head straight and waited for all of this to blow over. But there’s no blowing over here, Benny my boy, the sardonic voice in his head mocked him.

After what seemed like hours, Joey decided to come off the treadmill. The two of them, with Joey making the way, went back to his room and as they did so, Ben could not help but feel a little bit amused as he thought how he looked like a baby kangaroo at the moment, being tucked into the waistband and all.

As if to cut his amusement short, Joey took off his cargos, holding Ben by the scruff of his collar again as he did so. He was wearing a tight pair of black boxer briefs, drenched in sweat. “I wonder what would it be like if I did this…” Joey said as he took hold of Ben and put him in the front pouch of his briefs. It was all too sudden for Ben, and thereby, did not allow him to express any disdain at first. However, it was only after he was in the pouch that he realized where he was: the smell of sweat, the tight asphyxiating feeling of choking with it being dark all around him, the feeling of a giant bulge pushing against him. This is my little brother’s giant penis thrusted at my face! Can things go any worse? Ben thought and immediately regretted asking himself this question. As a matter of fact, things could get worse and worse they did get when Joey started moving his dick inside the boxer. It was a very surprising feeling for the both of the: For Joey, it was the first time he was rubbing his cock against a living thing-yes, he was a virgin-even if it was his brother; and for Ben because he did not realize that even with the fabric of the boxer being in between him and Joey’s penis, he would be so fucking disgusted by the mere notion that it was there! He felt like puking.

Joey decided that it was enough and took Ben out of his pouch. “I think you have had enough, right?” he asked Ben. Was he serious? Ben thought and then, without waiting for his brain to come up with a response, he started nodding vigorously.

“Bet you would like that wouldn’t you? Being turned back normal? I wonder if you are going to take revenge from me for doing this to you? Would you, Ben?”

Ben started shaking his head with more vigor than before. He just wanted to go back to being average sized. He would forget all about this. Even about the dick smashing in his face.

“Okay, I will turn you back. But first,” Joey said with suspense in his voice. “But first I am going to have just a little bit of more fun with you. Just a teeny bit.”

And without any prior warning, Joey put Ben on the workbench right next to the computer, pushed his boxer brief down, giving Ben the first (of many) look at Joey’s pubic area. It was indescribable. Why? Because Ben closed his eyes at the exact moment, dreading that he had to see that. Ben had some homophobic tendencies which is why he was not okay with the new LGBT laws getting passed all over the country.

But in his unknowingness-what with his eyes being closed and all-Ben heard a dull thud, reverberations from the source of the said thud made his feet shake. Surprised, he opened his eyes, forgetting that a naked Joey was standing right in front of him. There, right next to him he saw the biggest penis he had ever thought he would see. It was bigger than him and that too when it was still flaccid! It was twice as long as him, probably at five inches, and thicker than him too, probably at two and a half inches. Ben had never suspected in all his years that Joey, his timid little brother would be packing that big a cock!

From this up close, it stopped looking too gross. The giant penis, heaving a little up and down, had numerous creases and crevices, as most flaccid penises do. It is when they are full erect, throbbing with blood, aroused to the brim that they are not creased anymore. Ben wondrously looked at the dick again, seeing the giant arteries in all their red glory. They were visible to him better than ever. There was blood coursing through them and even from this far away, Ben could feel the carnal heat emancipating from his penis. The glans was a whole new world; it was pinkish red and owing to the fact that Joey was circumcised, it looked like the head of one of those vegetarian dinosaurs. It looked as big as one of those dinosaurs too.

Joey decided that it was enough for now. He pulled back his boxers up again and shoved his dick inside them. Ben did not get to have a detailed look at the balls and the hair down there, but that would come later. Joey had hinted it to Ben that he would make him normal sized again, but that was a lie. Joey had no intention to turn his brother back. He had, however, the intention of showing Ben more of his dick.

“I’m sleepy Benny, and I think so should you be. C’mon, let’s sleep. I’ll keep you close by.” Joey grasped Ben again by the scruff and took him to bed with him. Ben did not know what he meant by ‘close by’ but he prayed that Joey would not shove him anywhere near his dick.

He didn’t. Joey stretched out his boxer briefs from the posterior as he lied down on his bed on his stomach, and shoved-somewhat gently so as not to hurt him- Ben inside the boxers, placing him right on top of his right butt cheek.

HOLY FUCKING SHIT! I am sitting on top of my brother’s butt! I didn’t think that I would stoop this low in my life! Ben was angry, sad, terrorized and flabbergasted all at once. He had been swimming in a cocktail of emotions ever since he had been shrunk but this moment, him being placed on his brother’s ass, it took the cake.

But it wasn’t all bad though. The butt cheek, Ben noticed in the dark, was not as vulgar or hideous as his initial thoughts had led him to believe it was. On the contrary, it was quite soft, mushy and oddly comfortable. Of all the places he thought he would find comfortable, Joey’s ass was the last place he had expected to be one of those places. Some credit was due to Joey, what with him being so clinically clean. His butt was not smelly; it did not reek of shit or sweat. It was soft and gave off a distant fragrance of soap. Does Joey wash his ass with soap every time he takes a shit? Ben thought. All that thinking and all the extraneous effort from before had made him sleepy. Deciding that there was no better place to fall asleep than where he was at the moment (even though it was a butt), Ben decided to lay down and close his eyes. He felt asleep almost suddenly, underneath the soft fabric of the boxer brief and on top of the soft butt cheek.

Chapter 4

Ben had the eccentric-most dream! He dreamt that he was shrunk by his brother and that Joey showed him his cock! It was probably due to all the pressure he was feeling lately that he dreamt such an oddity of a dream. I should probably cut Joey some slack, I am being too tough at him lately, Ben thought as he opened his eyes.

The room was pitch black. Great. Joey had gone and closed all the lights. What was with him and darkness? Ben tried to get up but felt that he couldn’t. He looked around but felt that his motion was obstructed by something.

It suddenly hit him, much to his hopelessness and agony, that it was not a dream. The pitch black was because of the boxer brief. Yes. He was in the nightmare that he had thought he had dreamt. As if to confirm and conform that thought, Joey’s butt cheek reciprocated. It tightened, causing Ben to slip down, near the anus. He grabbed the soft flesh, desperately trying not to fall down the chute from where shit comes out.

Joey let out a fart. A most smelly, poisonous, pressured, airy, acidic and destructive fart that caused Ben to almost faint. The smell burnt his eyes, the pressure made him gag and the sheer realization of the fact that he was hit with a fart made him puke.

“Oops!” Joey said, realizing that his brother was in there. He fished Ben out with his hand absentmindedly, looking at him with amusement. “Bet you didn’t like that one bit, did you?”

“FUCK YOU!!!!” Ben screamed at the top of his voice.

Joey heard that. Ben was being arrogant. He didn’t like arrogance. Ben needed to be taught a lesson. A lesson in politeness. He needed to be reminded who was the bigger man here.

“Okay Ben, I am sorry, here,” Ben was lifted in the air and placed on the workbench again. “Let me turn you back…”

Finally, Ben thought.

Joey aimed the gun at him, and Ben saw inside the nozzle of the gun with amazement. There was a lot of complex circuitry stuffed inside there. Dad had really gone out of his way to make this. It was a pity it was being used like that.

“Okay, three, two, one!” Joey said, and pulled the trigger. Blue light zapped at Ben, engulfing him completely. Thank you god, for this, thank you indeed. I swear I will be a better person from now on, Ben thought as he felt his body mass change.

But there was only one god in this room and he was holding a giant Shrink Ray. Not a ‘turn-you-back-to-normal-size-ray’. The ray only shrank stuff. Joey knew that. He was only busting Ben’s balls, leading him on that there might be a sliver of hope somewhere. There wasn’t. In real life, shit like happy endings didn’t exist. People died in the most gruesome manner. People got shrunk by shrink rays and didn’t get turned back normal.

Ben had been shrunk to a millimeter. Shit only got worse from there. Joey appeared more giant than ever. Everything was so much worse now. Joey’s laughter, echoed through the room and pierced Ben’s ears menacingly.

Ben was flea sized. This was bad news. However, there came some good of it too. He noticed, standing there on the workbench, that if he jumped, he jumped higher. He felt stronger now. Almost like Ant-man. But he was smaller than Ant-man; smaller than ants even.

Maybe I’ll call myself the Flea Man! Har-de-har-har-har, Ben thought wildly. All this shrinking and experimenting had turned him borderline psychotic. There was no coming back from this. His life was fucked as it was.

The only hopeful foreseeable future that he saw in his mind was if his dad came home and discovered that he had been shrunk, he would reverse-engineer the gun and use it on him to make him full-sized again. But that would mean Ben would have to wait seven more days. Seven days with Joey the giant.

Chapter 5

Sigmund Freud had his shortcomings. He used to do enough cocaine that would kill off a small horse, in the words of Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting. But, in terms of the pioneering psychological research that he did, he was a man of most noble a standing.

He said, indirectly of course, that if you boil down to the base of human psyche, everything was triggered and inspired by sexuality. Every motive and every emotion, it was in some ways or others an impulse of lust. Hypothetically, if the societal constructs of structure and sanity were to disappear all of a sudden, then according to Freud, everyone would go about fucking everyone. Men, women, animals, inanimate objects. Everything. This was a dark fact that he had explored and there wasn’t much truth to it if you perused the idea idly.

However, come to think of it with some depth, the dude was not that far off. Inherent sexuality is one of the reason why people read and conform to George R. R. Martin’s works. They literally crave incest. This is not something that one should be disgusted of; its basic human nature. Every time someone experiences a power streak, he yearns for a sexual release. Joey was nearing that wanton desire for sexual release at breakneck speed.

Ben however, was far from feeling the slightest bit sexual. He was as of this moment, three hundred and thirty microns broad and a mere one-millimeter long. Everything that had been previously gigantic, had gone and become fifty times bigger! Joey, who looked like a giant previously, was looking like as big as Cronus himself. There was no escaping him. The room looked like purgatory. There are a lot of things computable by the human mind but this was something that Ben-a brilliant mind-could not compute. His faculties had started giving away. The first signs of psychosis started emerging.

Joey had been having a difficult time searching for the newly shrunk Ben. He did not expect that Ben would turn that small. Joey looked around the room around at first, thinking that he had somehow transported Ben elsewhere.

“That’s silly. How can I do that? Ben is right where he was ten seconds ago when you shrank him!” he thought and looked again. Yep. There he was, as tiny as a speck, Ben, in all his minuteness, perched helplessly on the workbench. He needed to be able to see Ben better. Right now, the workbench was all the way down near Joey’s knees. He had done that so that the Shrink Ray wouldn’t backfire on him or something like that. Joey pulled the bench upwards, making it come at level with his hips. There, I can see him all better now, he thought mirthfully.

Ben experienced the worst case of vertigo as Joey pulled the workbench up. His newly shrunk brain matter was still adjusting in the newly shrunk body and to be quite honest, he was feeling jet lagged. And when Joey pulled the bench up, it was too much. The dizzying motion made him want to churn out his innards. However, he could not do that. He had already vomited his share of food and was completely empty in the stomach. He didn’t have anything to eat since the enchiladas (which he had spilt on the car seat). Coming up to Joey’s hip level was no big surprise as he had just a few moments ago seen his dick up close, something he never thought in his life that he would do. But this was a new Joey. This was a fifty times magnified Joey. The giant boxer briefed pelvis area of Joey looked as huge as a mountain, with the massive bulge in the middle (the penis) symbolizing the peak of the said metaphorical mountain. Ben could not see past it, no matter how much he tried. It was too wide and too encompassing to let Ben see past it. It was awe-inspiring and yet terror inducing at the same time. The black cloth that tightly wrapped Joey’s pelvis was too pedantic in detail. Ben could see the outline of Joey’s giant crotch. A crotch more than a hundred and thirty times larger than him. A crotch that heaved in and out, breathing like it had a life of its own. The outline of Joey’s giant dick was nothing less than majestic. Yes. Majestic. The dick bent a little to the left, as most dicks do, and the testicular motion-motion that was initiated by the dartos and cremaster muscles for when and if the testicles were too cold or too warm-made the penis adjust inside the underwear accordingly.

All of a sudden, Joey turned away, in slow motion as most giants often do, and Ben caught a good look at his ass. Ben didn’t have a thing for asses, unless they were girls’ but this ass was very immaculate in its shape and very athletic in its posture. Why hadn’t I ever seen it like that when I was normal? He thought. Joey’s butts were as huge as one of those domed pre-medieval monastery buildings you see in BBC documentaries. But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that they were descending towards Ben at a relatively fast speed. Is this what is his fate was going to be? Was this his demise? Being squashed to death by his little brother’s big butts? Should he run? He thought helplessly as he saw the giant ass cheeks descending downwards still.

Imagine if you will, a scene from one of those sci-fi movies where a giant planet, a hundred times larger than earth comes a’ crashin’. There were no prospects of escape for the miniature earthlings in those movies. Similarly, Benny could not outrun the doom that was about to drop on top of him.

It turned out that Joey was merely harassing Ben. He had no intentions of killing off Ben right now. And even if he did decide to kill Ben, he wouldn’t be so uncreative as to actually just very bluntly squish him to death. He stopped short of the workbench and turned his face towards Ben, who was pale face and petrified, having seen death right in the ass.

Joey had been having a hoot. Nothing more. It was all in good fun. Joey looked at Ben and realized two things. One, he was not going to go anywhere now because there wasn’t any possibility of it. Two, he had to get rid of all evidence that suggested that Ben had been shrunk. First, he had to get rid of the car. The two inched car. Joey had another epiphany, as most adolescent boys in their late teens do. Acting purely on impulse and curio, he took the car out from where he had hidden it and zapped it with the Shrink Ray. The car was now half an inch long. It was still twelve times bigger than Ben, making it impossible for him to try and ride it. Right in the middle of the experiment, Joey turned to Ben and looked at him quizzically. “You know what I’m doing here, right?” he said. This was the first time Ben was listening to Joey’s voice in his newly shrunken form. The voice came off as low pitched, slow and dumb. Just like in the movies.

“I am going to make this car disappear. Wouldn’t want anyone finding about this shit,” Joey said and then proceeded to take out a chunky, green, slime covered booger from his nose almost arbitrarily. What was he going to do with that booger? Ben thought madly. Surely he is not going to stick it on me, he thought.

You get the cigar Benny boy, the sardonic voice in his head returned and mocked him as Ben’s premonition came true. Joey took the booger in his right hand’s index finger and swabbed it on top of Ben. The booger was as big as a giant boulder and as slimy as the slimiest of squids. If it weren’t for the fact that Ben’s strength had substantially increased owing to him being shrunk, he would have died from the weight of the thing. But he didn’t. He had grown stronger.

“Okay, now that I know you won’t run away anywhere, let me try something,” Joey said.

Joey turned his back towards Ben one more time. He placed his left foot high on top of the chair on the left, so as to expose his rectum completely. Why? Ben didn’t know. Joey put his foot back on the floor and took off his boxers, exposing his giant nude butt cheeks to Ben, who had felt them up close before, but hadn’t had the opportunity to actually see them. They weren’t half bad. As he had seen before, when Joey had been still wearing the boxers, the butts were symmetric, athletic, clean and supple.

Joey put his foot up on the chair again, making his hips part amply, revealing his rectum to Ben. It was horrific that Ben had to bear the torture of seeing that shit, but he chose to persevere with resilience. He wasn’t going to let Joey get the pleasure of watching him suffer. Whatever he was going to do, Ben was going to watch. Right now, Ben saw the rectum and looked in detail at all the minute detail that the rectum beheld.

The first thing he noticed were the crevices. The entire opening was one big puckered up hole, the walls of which were made of a black, creviced and creased, wrinkly lining. It was tightly shut, constricted in its compactness. The most surprising thing that made Ben wonder with amazement was the fact that Joey had kept all his hairs, all his hairs, trimmed down to the inch. Even the hair around the anus! How doctrinaire of him!

Why had Joey parted his cheeks? What was he going to do? Wondered Ben. He soon regretted asking that question. What followed was something that Ben had never imagined would happen: Joey licked his finger and lubed up his rectal opening. As soon as he touched the hole with his moist finger, it started puckering and relaxing. It was one of the tricks they used to teach on porn sites. Whenever you had to penetrate an asshole, you had to lube it up first. It was elementary. The hole relaxed a little and Ben got a peek inside it. The walls were smooth, red and lubricated. The last shit Joey must have taken must have been a while back because the inner lining of the anus was quite clean. That was probably because, in all the bathrooms, there was a bidet installed in the toilet. While Keith and Ben didn’t use theirs, Joey made sure to use it after every time he used the toilet. That was why his ass was so clean. There was the added aesthetic of trimmed hair. But that all did not matter because Joey was doing the stupidest thing ever: he had taken the car and was now pinching it inside his anus. Pinching was the right word for what Joey was doing. He had the car in between his two fingers and he had split his rectum open with his other hand, showing a black chasm of pure darkness. He slowly put the car inside, and moaned a little as he did so. The asshole was meant to only shove shit out, not take things in. No matter what you take in, even if it’s a half inch of a toy car, it hurts. Because that is how assholes are designed. It’s a wonder how people can cope with anal sex. It’s an even bigger wonder how drug mules shove cocaine up their ass!

The car was finally inside Joey. Ben had never seen something so detailed and painful in his life. And the fact that all of it was magnified a thousand times in size, made it worse. Fucking worse.

Joey turned around and looked at Ben again, this time with exasperation and emotional exhilaration. “How did you like the magic act, Ben? I call it ‘making cars disappear up one’s ass!’. I know I know, I’m still working on the title. Ha-Ha!” If there had been any doubt in Ben’s judgment before, there wasn’t any now: He knew it that Joey was certifiably insane. Had he and his dad recognized the signs earlier, they would have taken him to a shrink. All this wouldn’t have happened.

“Hey-o, what do you think you’ll size up next to my penis now? Now that you’re a millimeter short! I mean, talk about being the bigger man. I am certainly it right now. I don’t know if I am feeling big though….” Joey was horrible at taunting. This was the one thing he couldn’t do for the life of him. He could curse and he could fight, but he was piss poor at taunting and jeering.

Joey was still in the nude, his flaccid penis, hanging down like a giant anchor from a ship. Ben could not come up with any other suitable parable for how his penis looked because, he had not seen anything like it before. It was all very new and very frightening for him. The amazon forest had some of the thickest and tallest trees known to mankind. Let’s just say for the sake of imagination, that his flaccid penis was thicker and taller than those trees.

“I wanna see, I wanna see how you match up to my dick now,” Joey said, placing his goliath cock on the workbench again, this time making Ben seriously doubt for his life. To him, it looked like a giant submarine resting on the ocean floor- or even better in terms of vividness: it looked like the sunk carcass of titanic. It was, honest to god, that big! Ben felt powerless and minute, standing next to it. The arteries that were visible to him, they looked thick enough to fit Ben inside them, scout’s honor.

Desperation led him to struggle. He wanted to get out of the booger badly. The stench, the swampiness, the ooze and the utter disgusting notion of him being encapsulated in mucus, was nauseating. All effort was futile. There was no getting out of the booger ball unless Joey wished it. And by the looks of it, right now, Joey had no intentions of letting him free.

He had started stroking his dick, looking to assuage his sexual frenzy. Ben watched with wonder as Joey’s scrotum started stretching, its loose grooved skin tightening into a constricted wrap, wrapping the balls inside it with snugness. Ben heard faint gurgles and he wondered what they were and where they were coming from. It was soon obvious to him that the gurgles were that of blood; blood starting to pump its way inside Joey’s behemoth penis. Slowly, the flaccid, hung dick started throbbing, the arteries becoming greener and livelier as each second passed by. Ben struggled harder. He knew he was in the crossfire of Joey’s cock. He’s probably going to jizz all over me! He thought. Today was a day Ben was experiencing many ‘firsts’ of his life: the first time he had been shrunk, the first time he had been placed on an ass cheek, the first time he had been squashed by said ass cheeks, the first time he was measured up to a giant cock, the first time he was squished in human boogers and probably, the next first on this list was going to be the first time Ben got a body load of jizz on himself.

The penis rose, like a giant dragon, and arched all the way up, until only the lower area was visible to Ben. The place where the testicles conjoined the penis, had a small tuft of hair that Joey had overlooked whilst cutting his pubes. Ironically, it looked to him, from the current point of view, like an Afro on top of a man’s head. It would have been hilarious were the circumstances any different. It so wasn’t now. The five-inch cock had now erected to a full nine and a half inches. It literally looked like an oil rig from where Ben was lying. An oil rig made of flesh.

Joey was stroking his penis in deep strokes, passing his cupped hands from the glans to the base of the penis. Masturbating always looked very analogous to scientific experiments kids used to conduct back in high school: the solenoid experiments in which you had to use the ‘Right Hand Thumb Rule’ and figure out the direction of the electric flux. Ben saw as Joey moaned and rubbed his giant hands (the size of space saucers from 80’s Sci-Fi movies) on his dick. He was dry humping his hand. In most of Ben’s experiences, going dry was never a recommended way to go. It chaffed the penis later on. Should I tell Joey? He thought as he saw the giant cock starting to spit out droplets of crystal clear, transparent pre-cum. I probably shouldn’t. Better let the guy finish.

More moans ensued and the dick kept throbbing uncontrollably. The fact that it was just a few inches above Ben made it easy for him to see all the happenings in detail. He saw it with clarity as Joey’s hand smeared all that pre-cum on the basal side of the cock. That’s where most of the sexual-sensitive orgasmic tingling happens. The glans had gone red; partly because of excitement and partly because of being rubbed dryly.

“Oh shit, I’m gonna cum!” Joey gasped, and aimed his cock at his brother. Warbling sounds deep from the depths of Joey’s testicles, originated by his epididymis-where the sperm was stored-reverberated in Ben’s ears as he saw with utter horror the manhole sized urethral opening of Joey’s cock widen and shoot with maximum velocity, semen at Ben.

One squirt, two squirt, three squirt.

Three massive loads of ejaculate were squirted at Ben, who had prepped himself for this scenario, stared in horror at the face of Joey’s cock as it gushed out semen on him, unloading that slippery, slimy fluid upon him with post-orgasmic urgency.

Ben was left covered in salty semen drops, their viscosity paralyzing him. The giant booger on top of him didn’t help either.

Chapter 6

The light from the overhead lamp shined on him, the icky semen and the gooey booger muck seeped inside his clothes, in his mouth, in his anus, in his eyes and earholes. He felt like he was being interrogated at Guantanamo, if Guantanamo interrogated Lilliputians. Tell us where you touched Gulliver or else! Or else we gonna drop a bucket load of shit on you next!

And aptly so, fitting the role of the interrogator, Joey was looming around excitedly, enthralling himself in his post-ejaculatory relief. He was feeling omnipotent. He was feeling on top of the world. He was feeling like he had finally gotten his shit straight. And he was for once in his life, feeling like he was in control. What a wonderful feeling!

Joey looked at Ben, who was no less covered in muck than he had been ten minutes ago. There came no pity nor empathy in Joey’s mind. He had stopped imagining Ben as another person as soon as he had shrunk him. To Joey, Ben was just a plaything now. And you played with your food. It hadn’t come to his mind yet that he wanted to eat Ben. He probably wouldn’t want to eat Ben, given his current sticky disposition.

Ben looked in despair as Joey lurked out and about him. He bent really close towards Ben and breathed hot air through his nostrils. The ick that had taken oh-so-many minutes to dry and form a somewhat less disgusting crust, turned wet again from the heat of the breath.

Joey didn’t back his face, instead, he thrust it closer towards Ben. “Ben!” he yelled. As if the normal pitch of his voice wasn’t loud enough to shatter Ben’s ear drums. Fuck this shit, Ben said out aloud but given his size, he was inaudible to his own self. Everything he said, sounded like thoughts to him. On the contrary, when Joey as little as whispered, it shook Ben to the core, making his blood curdle.

The magnitude of Joey’s voice was not indescribable. It was like a thunderstorm, but with the thundering occurring far more frequently than in regular thunderstorms. Each word that left his mouth, it reverberated into shockwaves of devastating destruction. It was almost like Ben could visualize the constructive interference of the sound waves, coming at him at breakneck speed like demons of hell, antsy to rip his ears off and drive him to the depths where they came from.

Joey’s giant mouth flailed and clamped open and shut, making mundane and slow motioned noises. Joey’s tongue, looked like one of Cthulhu’s giant tentacles. It thrashed inside the mouth, as Joey spoke. Getting eaten alive was the least of Ben’s worries. He feared that Joey would scream him to death.

“Ben! All my life, I saw it in your face, the disdain with which you looked at me! The loathsome looks that you passed me! You treated me as Abel treated Cain! With degradation. I always cursed you in my heart, praying that one day you get to feel how I feel. And that day has come. How does it feel Ben? How does it feel to be humiliated? How does it feel to feel congested? To feel trapped?” Joey was screaming, shredding away the fibers that kept Ben’s ear drums intact.

“All my life, all I did was look up to you and dad. I knew I wouldn’t be able to be like both of you, given that you two were so fucking brilliant. And you rubbed that in my face, the both of you. Well, guess what! I am going to shrink him the fuck down too as soon as he comes home! You wait, the both of you. I am going to exact justice the likes of which Roman emperors used to!”

Joey clearly didn’t know what he was talking about. All Roman emperors did was watch gladiators duke it out in arenas and colosseums. They weren’t as proactive as Joey. If they had been, they wouldn’t have met their demise in the way they did.

“Alright, this is what I am going to do to you! I am going to make you suffer more! Seventeen years’ worth of it! Just you wait. I have all kinds of twisted shit planned out for you. But first, I gotta figure out how to pick you up,” Joey said.

Ben wondered for a second what Joey was on about and then realized. Since he was a millimeter short, if Joey as much as grabbed him like he had been doing before, it would squash the shit out of him. And Joey didn’t want to kill of Ben just yet. He just mentioned it that he wanted to exact justice on Ben. So, this meant, that no matter how tough things were about to get for little Ben, he still had hope for his life.

“Anyways, if I pick you with my hands, I can kill you off. How else should I manipulate you, my little puppet?” Joey was being demeaning on purpose. He had some right to do that but that right had been chucked out the window the moment he had started experimenting with his body with Ben being the subject. Revenge went only as far. This was pure anarchic madness on his behalf.

The mulch that had soaked Ben had dried up again. His ears were still ringing from the aftershocks of Joey’s loud voice. Joey went away, searching for arbitrary objects with which he would try to lift Ben. It would be cool if he actually washed Ben first, seeing as how he was way beyond filthy.

It had been an hour since Joey had jerked off and the semen was starting to itch the hell out of Ben. He tried to shake it off with sheer power of will but couldn’t. He struggled a bit and was actually surprised when one of his arm got free from this makeshift crucifix that had splattered him flat. His resilient strength had made him somewhat strong enough-and he figured this out a little too late-to pluck himself out of his sticky situation. He freed both his hands and eventually his legs too, pushing aside the giant booger that had been the source of his suffocation. He was still drenched in sperm but that was the least of his worries right now. First, Ben had to devise a plan that would free him from his brother. And then he had to devise another plan that would turn him back full-sized.

Chapter 7

“Oh, I see you have managed to free yourself of the grime,” Joey said, coming back to the workbench almost instantaneously the moment Ben got free. He had a few things cupped up in his hands. “You get points for trying, Benny, but let me ascertain that you aren’t going to be free of me anytime soon. Better clear up your schedule, coz, it is going to be jam-packed!”

“By the way, did you enjoy the flavor of my sperm? I mean, do you think if a girl blew me, she would swallow it? I wouldn’t know, I’ll confess: I’m still a virgin. Ha!” he said. What was he trying to do, other than taunt Ben?

Joey put beside Ben, a sheet of white paper, a thread and a needle! Ben thought that Joey was going to dissect him open. But that was not what Joey had in mind. He was trying to find out a way that would allow him to lift Ben up without causing him any harm.

Let’s pause for a moment and evaluate Joey’s psyche for a moment. Do you not find it odd that of all the things he could do with the Shrink Ray, he chose to shrink a live person and then spend all his waking moments, manipulating, torturing and playing with that person? There is an explanation to it all and it can be summed up in one word: Control. Joey had been losing control of his life at a breakneck speed ever since school had started. The only compensation for a sense of control that he did get, it was by playing that stupid role playing game. Even Joey thought it was stupid, constantly drilling through the game again and again, doing the same shit: killing enemies, levelling up, getting trinkets and repeating all that. But in that game, Joey had control of his character. He would press a key and his player would move; he would press a key and his player would take out its sword/dagger/staff and destroy enemies; he would press a button and he would directly control the outcome of his player’s actions. That was pseudo-control at best. And it was sickening. Heroin addicts get addicted to their lucid highs in which they control each aspect of their dreams: kind of like that movie Inception, where DiCaprio incepts ideas into people’s minds. The actual contents of heroin, morphine, cocaine are already present in our body as it is. It is not the chemical that one gets addicted to, rather it’s the neurological effect that they produce which causes dependency.

For Joey, playing with Ben was more than just a vindictive muse. It was control and it was by no means a pseudo one.

Joey put the piece of paper on the floor of the workbench and started sliding it towards Ben, in hopes that Ben would flop on top of it. But, to Ben, the paper’s side looked like a giant blade coming at him. “Stop! Stop! It’s going to cut me in half!” he started screaming and running away!

Joey understood and he immediately stopped. He was well familiar with the concept of paper cuts, having received a lot of them back in the days when notebooks had yet to be taken over by smartphones and tablets. So he stopped, because he was sensible, or at least in his mind he was. “Okay, okay, calm down Ben, no paper!” he said, a little angrily, slapping his hand with might on the workbench. The vibration shook Ben to the core. His housefly-like movement had obviously irritated Joey.

“Okay, so, calming down,” Joey said, “I have this lasso here I fashioned from a thread. I am going to try and use it on you. Let’s hope it doesn’t straddle you to death, Ha-ha!”

Joey tried with vain to put the lasso around Ben. But rather than serving as a lasso, it served more as a gallows rope! It wound up around Ben’s neck and started choking him. Joey immediately loosened it with his hands, allowing Ben to breath again. “Sorry about that, but not really.”

Ben was gasping for breath, sidetracked with the thought of him dying at the hands of a thread. Of all the ways he could have met his demise, he didn’t imagine he would die by a bare thread.

“You hang on right here, I might have something,” Joey said and went to his drawer out from which he pulled out an inventory, looking for some possible items that might provide him an epiphany regarding the predicament he was in.

The pages of the inventory were sticky from being placed in stagnation for far too long.

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