Old novella I wrote between 2000 and 2008, recently updated!
|Chapter Five: Freedom!
When I woke up the next morning, I felt better than I'd felt in a long time. For the first time in over a month, I was free.
I found houses on the outskirts of town as I made my way toward the town, and after a couple of hours, when I was not far from the nearest house, I saw an ant.
To me, it was as large as an average dog, because I was only six millimeters tall. Then, I saw another one. Just as I was walking down a slight incline, I saw a whole colony.
I can't remember ever being so terrified in my entire life. There were hundreds of them that I could see, and probably thousands more in the foliage and in other places where I could not see them. My fear subsided when I realized they had no interest in me.
There were more than just ants from one colony, as I had at first thought. There were several different varieties of ants, all from different colonies. One group were large black ants, and another group were the same size as the black ones, but were yellowish in color. Still another group were a combination of black and yellow, and there were two groups of smaller ants, each a different type.
What I marveled at as I stood there observing them, was the fact that they all seemed to interact peacefully with each other. There would be a group of ants from one colony, marching along in an ant trail, and when their trail intersected with the trail of ants of a different variety, for instance, black intersecting with yellow ants, they did not attack each other. Like cars at a stoplight, each ant took his turn, then an ant from the other colony would move forward.
Then I saw a different kind of insect that I could not identify, other than saying it was not an ant. Remember, I studied nuclear physics in college, not entomology. When it intersected an ant trail, a group of ants from that trail would team up and attack the intruder. When the beetle or whatever it was left the ant trail, the ants left it alone, and resumed their daily business.
Then, not long after that, the same insect again accidentally intruded on another ant trail, this time in a location where two trails from two different species of ants intersected one other. Both species attacked the intruder as a team, and after the insect fled, the ants returned to their trail, each variety of ant rejoining the trail of their individual species.
I found it amazing that several different colonies of ants could all interact peacefully, and I wondered if the human race would ever evolve to a similar level of understanding. Could people of different creeds and religions ever accept each other and live peacefully as equals, just as these ants were able to do? The human race could learn a lot from the wisdom of the ant.
As I sat there watching the ants, I thought about my life. I had always been interested in science, and from a young age I had wanted to be an inventor, like Thomas Edison. I made a decision to be a nuclear phycisist as a youngster, after being inspired by a character in the comic books I had read. I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a nuclear phycisist because I wanted to emulate the fictional comic book character, or if my love of science and technology were the main inspiration.
I eventually put that goal on hold, when I reached junior high school, because I discovered body building, and I decided that lifting weights was a more efficient way of increasing my muscle mass than studying about nuclear science. I continued body building on through my high school years, but I had never considered going into competition.
I did have friends who were interested in going into competition, and they were all interested in experimenting with steroids, to give them that extra "edge." In my junior year, I decided that supplying them and other body builders was a quick and easy way to make money, so I started making trips down to Mexico on the weekends, where steroids could be purchased legally.
This went on for a couple of years, and it was an easy way to pay the rent and any other bills that I had. I didn't feel that I was really doing anything wrong, because after all, it wasn't like I was pushing addictive street drugs on people or anything.
I finally decided to get an accomplice, so more steroids could be brought over to fill the demand brought on by an increased number of customers. A friend of mine agreed to do it, but he just didn't have what it took to be a smuggler, and I never should have trusted him to begin with.
The last time I ever tried to smuggle steroids across the Mexican border, we got caught. I had the 'roids stashed in a hidden pocket of my jacket, and I had sewn it up, so everything was concealed. An American border patrol guard asked a simple question, and my friend cracked up under the pressure. If he had kept his mouth shut, we would've never gotten caught.
My friend and I were taken to a jail in San Diego, and we were split up. I was only 19, and it was my first time in jail. I ended up with a sentence of six months, but ended up doing about four months, with time subtracted for good behavior. It was pretty simple; you don't fight or get into any trouble, and you only do two thirds of your time. You screw up, and time is added. You screw up too much, and you end up doing your full term.
While I was in there, I was in a cell with a guy that was an electrician. There was no television, so we talked about his job. I'd have to say, he was the main inspiration in my adult life that was a major factor in my decision to go to college. He taught me about Ohm's law, voltage drop formulas, and equations concerning transformer coils. He really rekindled my childhood desire to learn about science. When I told him that I had wanted to be a nuclear phycisist, he didn't laugh at me, he actually encouraged me. He told me to go for it.
There was a nuclear power plant in Devil's canyon less than ten miles from Bullet Bay University, and if I had a degree in nuclear physics, there was a good chance I could get hired there. I could probably make pretty decent wages. The electrician told me that I'd better minor in electrical engineering, also, just in case they weren't hiring physicists. I'll never forget what he told me. He said that as long as they had power flowing through powerlines, they would always need electricians to work on those powerlines. He said computer programmers could be laid off when a company downsized, and college graduates with degrees in business marketing or cinematography could be flipping burgers because the jobs they were qualified for just weren't in demand, and they couldn't find anything else. An electrician, however, would always find work; and any contractor would rather hire someone with a degree in electrical engineering than someone who had less impressive credentials.
So when I was released from jail, I took a Greyhound back home, and enrolled at my local junior college. It took three years to get my general education courses out of the way before I could transfer to the University, because I had a lot of prerequisites to take.
During my years at junior college, my mother moved to Oxnard, and I was left alone in the town I had lived in since my first year of high school. I chose to remain, because I'd had enough moving around when I was growing up, and I decided that I was never going to move away again; at least not to another part of the state. That was also when I first met professor Stiles.
I started doing work for him, because he taught classes during the day at Bullet Bay University, and worked on perfecting his cold fusion experiment until two or three in the morning, and he needed someone to run errands. Sometimes he remained working in his laboratory until the predawn hours, despite the fact that he had classes to teach the following day. I went to electronics supply stores to purchase materials he needed to conduct his experiment, and I swept and mopped his lab. He paid me pretty good money, so that I had enough money to pay my rent and bills.
When I was done with junior college, I was able to obtain a grant, and I enrolled at Bullet Bay University. It's hard to believe that now, all these years later, professor Stiles finally succeeded in his cold fusion experiment, only to have his ideas stolen from him by those masked gunmen. At that point I made up my mind; I wanted revenge.
Revenge against the thieves that robbed professor Stiles of a lifetime of work. Revenge against the men who had afflicted me with a curse that made me a potential victim to normal-sized human-beings. Humans are by nature social animals, and if a human-being was cut off from others for too long, he could lose his mind. The bandits who robbed the lab that day took away my ability to interact normally with other human-beings, and my condition was terminal. There was no way to reverse the shrinking process that subtracted over ninety-nine point nine percent of the mass from my body, reducing me to six millimeters tall. For that I wanted to track them down, and make sure they were convicted for their crime.
Professor Stiles was probably the person I could trust the most in my unusual condition, but I knew he would be working night and day to duplicate his cold fusion experiment. He just wouldn't have the time to help me track down the bandits. Jerrica was the only other person I could trust, besides my family; I couldn't trust them, because I knew my overprotective mother would never allow me to leave the house if I was under her care, so that wasn't an option.
As I continued to observe the activity of the ants that were not much smaller than me, I remembered back to the time I'd first met Jerrica. It was my last year at junior college, and I was at the top of my class in every math class I took there. I ended up with a 3 point zero GPA, however, because I wasn't as fortunate in some of my other required classes.
My grades were good enough to qualify for a grant, and one grant that I had applied for required me to tutor math for students K through 12th grade, and one of my students was Jerrica Calypso. Ironically, Jerrica’s mother was the District Attorney of Matheson county. Fortunately, nobody knew of my criminal record, because I had done time in San Diego.
I wanted to make sure that she did good in math, so that if anyone ever found out about my criminal record, Jerrica’s improved grades would vouch for my integrity. Fate dealt me an unkind hand yet again, because Jerrica was, without a doubt, my most difficult student. She was fourteen, yet she still had not learned her multiplication tables. This wasn't her fault, though. From K through the second grade, Jerrica and her family lived in Southern California. In that school district, multiplication wasn't taught until the third grade, but Jerrica’s family moved to the central coast of California during the Summer between second and third grade. In the Matheson county school district, multiplication was taught in the second grade, and they moved on to division in the third grade.
By not knowing her multiplication tables, division was too far beyond her grasp, and her grades plummeted. She became discouraged, and her problems in math haunted her until her mother finally decided to hire a tutor, because as a District Attorney, she just didn't have the time she needed to tutor her daughter herself. That's when I came along.
It wasn't easy to teach her, but eventually I figured out games I'd created that helped her memorize her multiplication tables, as well as various pre-algebra formulas. By the time her grades went from F's to C's, and from C's to B's, she fell in love with me. I tried to discourage her, but if I had dropped any of the students I was tutoring, I was afraid I would be denied the grant that would allow me to transfer to Bullet Bay University. I couldn't qualify for a loan, because I didn't have collateral. A grant was the only way I would be able to attend the University.
She was really the first female in recent memory who had claimed to be in love with me; two other girls had been in love with me during two seperate occasions in my childhood, but my mother chose to relocate to a different city, ending any possibility for pursuing those relationships. That is why, when I arrived in Matheson county during my teen years, I vowed never to leave the area. I planned on raising my children and grandchildren here on the central coast of California.
The last time I had seen Jerrica had been almost one week before the lab accident. As always, she proclaimed her never-ending love for me, and reminded me that her eighteenth birthday was in January, and that she expected a ring from me. An engagement ring.
I knew what I had to do. It was ten miles to Jerrica’s house, and I had to find her. She was the only one I could trust to help me track down the criminals that were responsible for my diminished stature. I stood up, and said goodbye to my ant friends, and started walking South...
If I could walk one mile a day, I knew I could reach the coast in about a week and a half. As I mentioned before, one mile to me is equivalent to between thirty and thirty-one miles. So I set out, as I had done the day I had first been miniaturized, before my unfortunate detour. With revenge on my mind, I had a new goal: to seek out Jerrica Calypso, and enlist her help to formulate my plan of retribution on those responsible for transforming me into Deuce Orion, the six millimeter man!
To Be Continued!