Knee High to a Grasshopper
By Audrey W.
This story is intended for fun…best to leave your logic here and take your imagination with you... :o)
“Well, look who’s back. If it isn’t the hero of the fire department,” Chet said as Johnny walked in to the dayroom after a morning of doing fire prevention inspections.
Johnny turned around to see who Chet was referring to. Completing the circle, Johnny was back facing Chet, a puzzled expression on his face.
“Who are you talking about, Chet?”
“You!” Chet grinned. “You shouda’ heard the guys from 36’s after we finished on a run with them today. It’s all over the fire department about how you talked those bank robbers into surrendering last week. What’d you do again? Confuse them with your infamous illogic?”
Johnny scowled at Chet.
“Look, I’m not the one whose claiming to be a hero ” Johnny tapped his finger against his chest for emphasis. “It’s not my fault that someone gave everyone the idea I did something special.”
“Oh yeah? Well, you’re not denying it either, are ya?” Chet shot back, teasing.
“Chet, all I did was--” Johnny cut himself off as Roy walked into the room. “Oh, it’s the problem creator himself.”
Roy looked at the two men arguing, not sure he wanted to know what this was about. He noticed Johnny staring at him.
“What? I just walked in.”
“Roy, why did you have to tell everyone about what happened at the bank last week?” Johnny asked, annoyed. “I told you when we finally got out of the hostage situation, that I didn’t do anything to talk those guys into turning themselves in.”
“But you did,” Roy said grinning. He looked over at Chet. “You should’ve seen him tell those guys the facts.”
“Yeah, well, I wish I had because I just can’t picture it. They must’ve been so ready to leave after listening to him, they were begging to be locked behind bars,” Chet snickered.
“Chet!” Johnny clenched his jaw.
The tones sounded, putting an abrupt end to the conversation.
Squad 51, Child down, 2606 Maplewood Lane, Twenty-six zero six Maplewood Lane, time out 11:22
* * * *
Johnny and Roy arrived at the scene of the rescue. They got out of the squad, grabbed the basic equipment and walked up to the house in front of them. As they approached the front door, it opened. A man about the same height as John and Roy stood in the doorway with his arms folded across his chest.
“You called about a child down?” Roy asked.
“If you can call it that,” the man said with little concern in his voice. “My wife called it in. She’s over reacting if you ask me. Women…you know how they are,” the man rolled his eyes.
“Well, where is the child at?” Johnny asked.
They had been on calls before where one parent thought it was serious and another shrugged it off. The paramedics could never be sure of the exact nature of the injury or rescue until they assessed the situation themselves.
“He’s upstairs in his bedroom. Damn kid was messing with chemicals and was overcome by the fumes in the attic. I got him down from there before he got too sick.”
Johnny and Roy followed the man upstairs. He led them down the hallway and into a bedroom at the end of the hall. As they walked in they could see a boy about 10 years old laying on a twin bed, a lady sitting beside him. She looked up as the firemen entered the room.
Johnny set down the oxygen and biophone beside the bed. He quickly got the obviously woozy youth on 4 liters of O2 and set up the biophone. Roy set down the drug box and started checking the boy’s vitals.
“What was he making?” Johnny asked.
“You won’t believe it,” the man answered. “The kid thought he could make a formula that could shrink things.”
Johnny grinned. He looked over at Roy to see the same reaction.
Kids. What will they not try? Johnny thought.
Johnny contacted Rampart and within a short period of time they had the boy ready for transport. Roy went down the stairs with the ambulance attendants and the stretcher carrying their patient. Johnny gathered up some of the equipment and carried it down the steps. He placed it in the ambulance.
“I’ll be right behind you,” Johnny said to Roy as he closed the doors.
“Okay, see ya at Rampart, Junior,” Roy grinned.
With the doors closed, Johnny gave the two customary slaps on the outside. The ambulance pulled away and Johnny turned to go over to the squad. As an after thought he went over to the father.
“You wouldn’t happen to have any of that stuff your son was messing with, would you? It may be helpful if the doctors can check out exactly what chemicals he was using.”
“I can get you the whole thing of it,” the father answered. “It’s all in a glass jar.”
He trotted in the front door and up the stairs, Johnny following behind. When they got upstairs the man pulled down the attic steps and climbed up. In less than a minute he was back down with a mason jar filled to the brim with a clear liquid. There was a lid on the jar as well.
“Just don’t open it,” the man said, handing the jar to Johnny. “It doesn’t have an odor, but the fumes are strong.”
“Right. Thanks,” Johnny said, heading back down the steps. “You want to follow behind me?”
“No. Since my wife already went when the ambulance left, I’ll let her handle this one. I’m gonna be busy packing up a chemistry set.”
Johnny laughed. “Good luck!” He went outside to the squad and got in. Johnny set the mason jar on the seat beside him and started the engine. He pulled out and headed towards the city and Rampart.
After making himself available from the house, the police officer that had been called to the scene stayed behind to help the father gather up the items belonging to the homemade chemistry set.
* * * *
Johnny drove along the country dirt road at a faster speed than he normally would since he was so far behind the ambulance. He had the lights and siren on despite the unlikelihood of meeting into another vehicle on the empty roads.
As Johnny sailed through an intersection, a car ran a stop sign and crossed paths with the on-coming squad. Johnny swerved to miss the car, sending the squad over the edge of the road and down an embankment. The squad rolled a few times, flipping its contents around in the cab. Johnny hung on to the steering wheel at first, but as the squad rolled onto its roof, he lost hold and could feel himself lifted up off the seat. His chinstrap too loose, his helmet flew off his head. As the squad flipped onto its side again, the momentum threw Johnny to the passenger side of the squad. He could feel his right arm and side impact with the passenger door, then he slid down onto the floorboard. The squad was on its side again and Johnny felt himself slide down towards the driver’s side, but before his body moved very far, the squad was already on its roof again and his right side was thrown up against the underside of the dash. Johnny now landed on his stomach as the squad continued to roll. He could hear the sound of shattering glass and crunching metal. When the squad came to rest it was upright. The side compartments were opened, supplies scattered about the hillside.
Johnny moaned as he slowly pushed himself up from where he had landed on the floor. He could hear the sound of broken glass pieces fall around him as he changed position.
Did the windshield break?
Johnny could tell he was soaked in various places with some sort of liquid. Blood? He already hurt everywhere. I can just imagine the bruises I’m gonna have.
Now lying on his back, Johnny watched as drops of liquid fell onto his shirt and stomach from the dashboard above.
Before he tried to get himself up off the floor, Johnny moved all his limbs to make sure nothing was broken. He then carefully eased himself into a sitting position and slowly pulled himself up on the passenger side of the seat. By some miracle he was pretty much okay, aside from some sore ribs and the other numerous aches. Although he had a few nicks on his arms from the glass pieces in the squad, he couldn’t see any sign of blood on his clothing.
Johnny began to feel woozy and his vision blurred. He tried using the radio in the squad to summon help, but it wouldn’t work. Johnny let the mic fall from his grasp when he felt a warm sensation on his chest, legs, back and stomach. As he looked down he could see that the liquid on his clothing was going through to his skin as the wet material clung to him. It suddenly dawned on him, he was breathing in fumes of some sort.
The jar! Oh man, I’m wearin the stuff! . The jar must’ve hit the dashboard and shattered!
Sure enough he could see the broken pieces of the jar on the floor to the sides of where he had been lying. The excess liquid still dripped off the dash to the floor.
I better get out in the open air.
Out of habit, Johnny grabbed his helmet that had somehow ended up on the seat and loosely put it on. He tried to open the passenger side door but it was jammed. He slid over to the driver’s side and gave the door a try. Much to his delight, the door opened and he got out. Johnny began to feel odd. Not just dizzy, but almost numb. His legs felt weak. He sat hard on the ground and leaned back against the wrecked squad. The light-headedness was too much and the paramedic passed out, still sitting up.
* * * *
Up above the other vehicle involved came to a stop on the other side of the road. The woman inside sat with her head resting on the steering wheel.
That other truck went over the side! I better get help just as soon as I stop shaking.
* * * *
Down at the bottom of the hillside, Johnny started to come around again. He opened his eyes but everything was dark. He blinked hard, hoping to clear his head enough to see. When he opened his eyes again, nothing had changed.
What in the world?
As he felt around with his hands, Johnny could tell he was under something. Almost like under a dome. He crawled forward to the front edge of the cover and struggled to lift it up. Light shone from underneath on the other side. Johnny gave a strained groan as he tried to lift the edge up higher. Not being able to get lift it anymore, he got down flat on his belly and squeezed out from underneath by mashing the grass down as he went. He turned over on his back and looked at what had been over him. There in front of him was a giant black helmet with the numbers 51 on it. Behind it was a massive version of the squad, obviously banged up in an accident. He looked around at his surroundings and for the most part, all he could see were tall blades of grass and weeds. Johnny’s mouth dropped open as he came to one realization. Either the world had suddenly gotten bigger or he now was one tiny paramedic.
Oh my God. The kid’s formula…It worked!
* * * *
Roy walked alongside the stretcher as the young boy was taken down to treatment room three. He helped transfer the boy to the exam table, then stepped back and allowed Doctor Morton and the nurse to check the patient.
“You said he was overcome by fumes?” Morton asked, looking over his shoulder at Roy.
“Yeah. He was playing around with chemicals in the attic and I guess he mixed the wrong kind or something,” Roy explained. “He’s been stable since we first got to him. No vomiting or anything. Just complained of dizziness, and he had passed out when his parents first found him.”
“Any idea what the chemicals were?” Morton moved his finger in patterns in front of the boy’s eyes, checking his ability to follow.
“No, but we can find out easy enough.”
“What was he making?”
“Ah…a formula to shrink things.” Roy felt a flush of embarrassment for the kid.
Morton shook his head and looked back at the boy on the table. All his vitals were now normal and he showed no symptoms of being under the influence of any drugs. Morton helped the boy sit up and swing his legs over the side.
“How’re you feeling?”
“Okay,” the boy quietly responded. “Just tired.”
“I think he’ll be okay. I’ll ask his parents what the chemicals were. No need for you guys to get tied up on it anymore,” Morton said, looking at Roy.
Roy nodded. “You need me for anything?”
“Nope. I think we’ve got it. Thanks.”
“Sure.” Roy opened the door and walked across the hallway to the desk. He looked around the area, before turning his attention to Dixie.
“Hi, Dix! Where’d my partner go? To chase after yet another nurse?”
“I haven’t even seen him, yet,” Dixie looked over Roy’s shoulder at the treatment room. “I thought he’d met up with you in there.”
“No, he was supposed to follow right behind me in the squad though.” Roy thought about where else Johnny could be. “Maybe he’s in the cafeteria getting a drink. Guess I’ll go track him down.”
“Good luck. If I see him, I’ll make him wait here for you,” Dixie offered.
“Thanks. See ya!” Roy grinned and headed towards the cafeteria.
* * * *
After they were sure they had gathered up all of the chemicals and accessories from the boy’s chemistry set, the father and officer carried them down to the basement. The boy’s dad put them in a locker he had for storage and secured it with a padlock.
“That should do it,” the father said, standing back from the locker. “I appreciate the help.”
“Oh, you’re welcome. Glad to do it,” the officer smiled. “Well, I better head on out.”
The father showed the policeman to the front door.
* * * *
Johnny could not believe the situation he was in. He had no idea exactly how long it had been since he had the accident, but it appeared no one was coming to help him. And even if they did, would they be able to see him? Or would they just assume he left the scene?
This has to be a dream. That’s it! I’m been knocked out and dreaming this! But I sure am thinking kind of logical for being asleep. Just in case it is real, I better try to find help.
Johnny started walking up towards where he thought the road would be. He didn’t get two inches before he stopped.
I’m only about half an inch tall. It’ll take me forever to get up this hill. And what am I gonna do when I do get to the top? Flag down a car? They won’t even see me!
Johnny sighed. Why me? Well, it’s not doing any good to wait here.
He started to climb up the hill. The progress was slow, but he knew it might be his only option. As he made his way through the blades of grass, Johnny felt like he was going through a jungle. He pushed each blade aside, peering through to see what lay a head. He had barely gotten very far when suddenly a grasshopper jumped in front of Johnny, causing the paramedic to stumble backwards. Johnny grabbed on to one of the blades of grass to stop himself from falling all the way down. As he tried to pull himself back on his feet, he stared at the insect in front of him. It was bigger than he was. To Johnny the grasshopper looked more the size of a bull. It hopped again and disappeared from sight.
Man, I wish I could travel that fast.
Johnny resumed his climbing, when he thought he heard an airplane overhead. He paused and looked straight above. A bee the size of a Learjet was coming in for a landing on a nearby flower. Johnny ducked down in the grass, hoping the bee wouldn’t notice him.
I want to be a normal size again!
The officer came upon a car parked off to the side of the road, the engine still running. He pulled over behind the car and walked up to the driver’s side. A woman could be seen inside with her head resting on the steering wheel.
The officer tapped on the glass. “Ma’am? Ma’am?”
The woman lifted her head and jumped, startled by the officer’s presence.
“Oh thank the Lord!” The woman opened her car door and got out. “There was a truck that went over the side of the road over there,” she pointed at the tracks leading off the edge. “I was gonna report it, but I swear, I could not get myself to stop shaking!”
“Are you all right?”
“Yes, yes! I was just scared! But I don’t know about the other person.” The woman was near tears.
The officer ran to where the tire tracks were and looked over the side. Down below about eighty feet was Squad 51, sitting upright, but with a lot of damage to it. The lights on top were broken, the roof dented in and the door that was visible was banged up. The vehicle looked like it had rolled a few times. The side compartments were open and the driver’s side door was open as well. The officer immediately went to his patrol car and called in the accident, then carefully tried to make his way down the hill.
* * * *
Roy walked back towards Dixie’s desk, hoping to find his partner waiting for him. As he approached he could see Dixie with a somber expression on her face.
“Hey, Dix. Any sign of Johnny?” Roy saw a change in her expression at the mention of his partner. She actually looked more concerned than she had just seconds before. “What is it?”
“Roy, Johnny never made it here,” Dixie explained, frowning. “A police officer that was on the run with you guys called in an accident.” Dixie paused, not sure how much she wanted to say.
“And…?” Roy had a sinking feeling.
“The squad went over an embankment and apparently is damaged pretty bad. No word of any injuries yet. We’re waiting to hear from the fire department after they get there.”
Roy stood stunned. He wished he could drive out that way to check on Johnny himself. Unfortunately with the squad being his main transportation, he’d have to wait it out at Rampart.
* * * *
Johnny saw the giant policeman start to make his way down the hill. Suddenly, the man turned and scrambled back to the top, disappearing from view.
“Wait! I’m here! Help me!” Johnny yelled. “Oh man. I don’t believe this. What next?” He stopped to rest as the aches in his body were really making themselves known. Johnny looked behind him to see how much distance he had covered.
Oh wow! I’ve gone maybe a whole ten inches. Johnny groaned. While he was looking back he realized something strange. The squad was still its normal size.
Wait a minute! That stuff got on the squad, too. How come I’m the only one that shrank? Maybe because it was only on a small part of it? Johnny frowned. Whatever the reason, I wish it was the other way around.
He sighed and pressed on with his long journey up the hill.
* * * *
The police officer ran back up to the road when he heard the woman from the other car cry out. When he got to the edge of the road, he was just in time to see her collapse as she fainted.
He ran to the woman and propped her up against his chest as he sat beside her. He now could see where she’d bumped her forehead on something in the car. He tried to bring her around by talking to her. She slowly opened her eyes, gasping.
“Oh…oh I’m so sorry. I…I just...felt dizzy.”
“It looks like you hit your head on something, ma’am,” the officer explained. “Maybe you should lay down till the paramedics get here.”
“I…I guess I might’ve hit it…I don’t know…everything happened very fast! I was really scared. I put my head down so I wouldn’t have to look before I hit the truck. I…I’m really sorry.”
“I have a thermos of cold water in my car…let me get you a drink.”
The woman nodded as she looked over at the tracks left by the squad. “What about the person down there?”
“I’ll go back down just as soon as I get you taken care of.” The officer handed the woman a thermos lid full of water. “The driver’s side door is open, so John may have gotten out on his own.”
“The paramedic that was driving the squad. He was just on a call with me,” the policeman said. Sirens could be heard in the distance. “Sounds like the fire department is almost here now.”
* * * *
Johnny paused, as he started to feel woozy again. While standing still, he looked over at the biophone that had been tossed out on the way down. The lid was still on it and it looked to be intact from the appearance of the case.
Man, no way I could even get that thing open now.
He looked up at the sky, his arms spread out. “What am I gonna do?” he shouted at no one in particular. Johnny jerked his head forward when he thought he heard sirens. The motion on top of his woozy feeling caused him to stumble forward slightly, but he caught his footing and stood listening to the familiar sound.
* * * *
Engine 51 and Squad 8 pulled up to the scene near the police car. Captain Stanley climbed down and approached the officer.
“What’ve ya got?”
“Your squad ran off the road over there,” the officer pointed. “John was driving it…he had just left the scene of a rescue about forty-five minutes ago.”
The Captain was alarmed. When they had gotten the call he had no idea it was one of his men. He ran over to the edge of the road, the others close on his heels.
Chet let out a low whistle. “Gage sure did it this time. Look at the squad!”
Hank turned around to face the officer. “Is he still in the squad?”
“I don’t know. I was about to go down when the lady here,” he motioned to the woman now sitting up against the patrol car, a thermos lid in her hands, “fainted. I had to check her out. The squad door was open so I figured John must’ve climbed out.”
“Or got thrown out,” Hank Stanley said with a frown. He looked at his men. “Marco, Chet…get a couple of ropes tied to the front of the engine and get yourselves down there.”
The two paramedics from Station 8 trotted up to Stanley. “The lady seems to be okay other than a bump on the head. Dan can check her out if you want me to go down there to Johnny,” Paul offered.
“Sounds good. Marco and Chet can help you down there with John if you need it.”
“Gotcha, Cap,” Paul said. “I’ll get my gear together.”
Dan went over to take care of the lady.
* * * *
Johnny stopped as he saw the men start to come down using the ropes. The familiar sight of Chet and Marco brought a smile to his face. Forgetting they wouldn’t notice him, he frowned as they quickly passed by him in mere seconds. Johnny started towards where the men had stopped to untie their ropes, but being so small he didn’t reach them before they had already released themselves and were over by the squad.
“No sign of Johnny anywhere,” Chet said after he pulled his head out of the cab and looked around the area. “I wonder if he was thrown out on the way down.”
“We still should see him somewhere,” Marco pointed out. “Unless it really threw him far.”
“I think he may have wandered away,” Paul said. “Look, his helmet is down here on the ground. This close to the squad, I’d say it was set there.” Paul glanced around. “Maybe he climbed up and the lady was too out of it to notice.”
In the meantime, Johnny was making his way to the squad, hoping to get anyone’s attention. Before he could get there, Chet unknowingly walked towards him.
Johnny stopped, once again grinning. I don’t care what we say about ya, Chet! You come over here and you’ll be the greatest guy at the station.
Chet got close enough to where Johnny could reach out and touch his foot. Johnny tried to get Chet’s attention by climbing on his right shoe and tugging on the hem of his pants.
“Hey! I’m down here!”
Chet felt a slight movement at the edge of his pant leg. Without looking, he reached down in annoyance and swatted the bottom of the pant leg with the back of his right hand. Not expecting it, the impact sent Johnny flying a few inches away where he landed on his back. He watched as Chet walked over to where the others stood a few feet away from the squad.
Great! Just great! Well, this obviously isn’t gonna work.
Johnny stood up and tried raising his arms and yelling from where he was, but no one even took a glance his way.
“Engine 51, HT 51,” Marco called on the radio.
“Go ahead, HT51.”
“Cap, we can’t see Johnny down here. Just some broken glass in the squad and his helmet on the ground.”
Johnny was getting desperate. Not able to get anyone’s attention in the grass, Johnny spied a big rock a short distance from where he was. Maybe if he got above the grass, the guys would see him. He trotted over and began to climb up. If he was his normal height, he could’ve picked up a rock this size and held it in one hand. But being as small as he was now, it took all the effort he could muster to get on it. Grasping at whatever he could, he was able to pull himself up on top of the rock. There he stood up and began to wave his arms.
“Hey! I’m over here! Help! Chet, Marco!”
With the way the paramedic was sweating from exertion, the dissipated fumes from the chemical on his clothes became stronger again. Johnny wasn’t aware of the effect until his vision started to narrow to a pinpoint, and he felt dizzy again.
No, not now…I’ve gotta stay awake!
“Hey!” Johnny waved his arms again, not sure if anyone was even looking his direction. All he could see now was a dot of light in front of him. The feeling of dizziness caused him to take an unsteady step backwards and he lost his footing. Johnny reached out for anything to stop his fall, but his hands met with empty air. The back of his head hit on the rock’s surface with a resounding thud and everything went dark.
The limp paramedic tumbled off the rock’s edge and landed on the ground on an incline. He rolled down into a small crevice where he lay unconscious, his back up against the rock. The grass around the rock hid the area from view. Johnny was oblivious to the men now calling out his name as they searched the area for their missing co-worker.
* * * *
Roy stood by the base station at Rampart where he tried to will the call concerning Johnny to come over the radio. He watched as Doctor Brackett handled another call. Soon the sound Roy had been waiting for came over the speaker.
“Rampart, this is Squad 8, how do you read?”
“Go ahead Squad 8, we read you loud and clear.”
Roy braced himself as he waited for the worst.
“Rampart we have a female, thirty years old…”
Roy listened as the information was given to the doctor. Where was Johnny? Maybe he didn’t wreck as bad as they had thought.
“Transport as soon as possible,” Brackett instructed. He turned and looked at Roy. “Maybe Johnny faired okay.” He pressed the button to transmit. “Rescue 8, what about your other victim?”
“Uh…” there was a brief pause. “Rampart at this time we have no other victim. He…ah…he seems to have left the scene on his own accord.”
Brackett and Roy exchanged puzzled glances, Roy’s mouth dropped open in shock.
Neither said a word although they both certainly had the same thought.
Why would Johnny walk away from an accident? Unless he was extremely disoriented...
* * * *
The fire fighters climbed up and down the embankment, then searched around the outlying areas for Johnny. They paused only long enough to pick up the spilled equipment, then made their way topside.
“Cap, there’s just no sign of Johnny anywhere!” Chet exclaimed, bewildered. “Not even a footprint or mashed grass or anything!”
“Yeah, it’s like he just disappeared without a trace!” Marco added.
“Well, he has to be somewhere. The lady didn’t see a car come by that might’ve picked him up. And he certainly couldn’t have been in any shape to run the 440 after a ride down the hill like that.” The Captain looked at the wrecked squad below. “Why would John even leave the squad in the first place? He would have to have been very disoriented.”
Chet looked at Captain Stanley, his brows furrowed in worry as the situation sank in. “What are we gonna do? We don’t know where else to look!”
“We’ll have all the hospitals in the area checked to see if he was brought in…maybe he wandered off in another direction and someone found him.” Stanley rubbed his chin. “I’ll call in for an aerial search. Maybe a helicopter can spot him out wandering around somewhere.”
“Yeah, but Cap,” Marco began, “to not even leave any sign of having walked out? Isn’t that strange? I mean, the grass was kind of flat where his helmet was.”
“Marco, this whole thing is bizarre to me. The fact that John even left the scene of an accident without checking to see if anyone else was hurt. It’s so unlike him, I’ve gotta believe he’s not thinking clearly right now.” The Captain paused as he looked at the confused faces of his men. “We’ll find him. He has to be somewhere.”
The men turned to watch as a cable was attached to the squad and it was pulled up from below.
* * * *
Roy hurried over to Dan when the paramedic came down the hospital corridor with the lady from the accident on a stretcher.
“Was there any sign of Johnny before you left?”
Dan gave a sympathetic look at Gage’s partner. He shook his head. “Huh uh. Sorry, Roy.” Dan went into treatment room three with the patient.
Roy stood silent, the HT still in his hands, as he leaned against the wall.
They’ll find him soon… Roy tried to assure himself.
* * * *
Johnny groaned as he slowly opened his eyes. He could feel the hard surface of the rock against his back. He looked straight ahead at the blades of grass in front of him. One blade suddenly split into two, then blended to one again. Johnny lay there curiously watching as the images repeated the show.
Oh my head. What happened?
He squeezed his eyes shut in an attempt to ward off the throbbing in his head. When he opened his eyes again, the blades of grass were still playing their tricks on him.
“R…Roy?” Johnny called out quietly. “Anyone here?”
He carefully got himself up on his hands and knees. Very slowly he crawled out into the open. Johnny glanced around for any sign of his co-workers. Images everywhere seemed to want to divide and come together at regular intervals. Johnny found himself nauseated.
As hard as he tried to recall what had happened, he could only remember being in an accident in the squad and that he had shrunk. Johnny grabbed onto a Dandelion stem for support as he got to his feet. It was as sturdy as a tree trunk to the tiny paramedic. As he peered through the grass over to where he thought the squad had been, he saw it was gone.
I did wreck the squad…didn’t I? Oh man! Someone’s taken the squad and left me behind. And I don’t even know where I am!
Johnny slid down against the stem till he was sitting on his bottom, deep in the grass. Suddenly overcome by the nausea, he turned his head to the right and vomited. He then closed his eyes and tilted his head back.
I gotta go somewhere for help. After I rest, I will. I just need to rest so I can get rid of this headache.
Johnny drifted into unconsciousness just minutes before a fireman’s shoe missed stepping on him by less than an inch.
* * * *
“Engine 51, HT 51.”
“Go ahead, HT 51,” Captain Stanley’s voice came over the radio.
Chet looked around one last time before keying the mic. “Cap, we’ve done a final sweep and still no sign of Gage,” he reported glumly.
“Okay, Chet. You, Marco and Paul get back here and we’ll leave it up to the helicopter.”
Chet held the HT down by his side. “You heard him, guys. Let’s go.”
Marco kept turning around and looking behind them as the men made their way to the road. “You know, Chet, this is one time I would love to hear Johnny going on and on with his illogical logic.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. Kind of makes me sorry I teased him earlier today.” Chet paused a minute before he added with a grin, “But boy, am I gonna have fun if Gage has gone off thinking he’s someone else or something.”
Marco shook his head. Chet could only let his soft spot where Johnny was concerned show for so long.
* * * *
Dixie came back to the base station after assisting with a patient in treatment room four. As she sat on the stool behind the desk, she noticed Roy leaning against the wall across the corridor. Dixie stood up and walked over to the man.
“No word on your wayward partner yet?”
Dixie’s question brought Roy out of his thoughts.
“Hmm umm. Dan from Station 8 just came in with the lady from the accident. They hadn’t found Johnny when he left.”
“You know, Johnny’s pretty resilient.” Dixie put a reassuring hand on Roy’s arm. “I’ll bet he walked out of there to get help for both himself and the woman. It’s the only logical explanation.”
Roy looked at Dixie, a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.
“You forget who we’re talking about here?” Roy teased. “I’m beginning to believe the word logical and the name John Gage should never be used in the same sentence. After all, this is the guy who struck out with a nurse inside of two minutes last week and hung around another twenty-eight minutes or so to find out why.”
Dixie smiled. “He’s quite a character at times.”
“Besides, the lady’s injuries didn’t sound too serious when Brackett was talking to Dan on the radio. Not to where Johnny would feel the need to travel to get help.”
Dixie could tell by the frustration in his voice how worried Roy was about his friend. She nodded towards the staff lounge. “C’mon, let’s go get some coffee. We can come back in a short time and see if there’s any word on Johnny.”
* * * *
Johnny could hear some rumbling as he slowly edged near consciousness. He tried to open his eyes, but the effort seemed like too much. He gave up and let himself drift in a restful state of mind.
* * * *
When they got back to the station, Chet and Marco went into the dayroom to get a drink. Mike walked up to Captain Stanley who was standing in the spot where the squad normally parked. As Mike started to make a comment, a slight rumbling could be heard from outside. Mike walked over to the front entrance of the apparatus bay and looked out side. He could see dark clouds in the distance, an occasional bolt of lightening appeared in the clouds.
“Looks like we’re gonna get a good rainstorm.” Mike remarked.
Captain Stanley joined the engineer over by the open door.
“Figures. When it rains, it pours, as they say.” He glanced at Mike. “You know that will never be just an expression to me anymore.”
“Cap, we still haven’t checked all the hospitals in the area. Johnny could be safe in a bed right now.”
“Right now, I just want to get my two paramedics back in my station.” Hank sighed. “Roy and John’ll have to work out of other stations till the squad gets repaired or replaced. I think there’s a guy on vacation at 25’s. Maybe Roy can fill in there. Of course, it may mean riding with the engine crew…” He looked up at the dark clouds again. “I’ll figure out John’s situation when we find him. I just wish I knew that he wasn’t out in this.”
Mike watched the Captain closely as the man headed for his office to make some phone calls.
Johnny, you’d better have a good excuse for putting Cap through this.
* * * *
The first thing Johnny was aware of was the splash of water on his head. His initial thought was that a water bomb planted by the Phantom had hit him.
“Chet!” Johnny called out, his voice raspy from his dry throat.
When a second splash hit, Johnny opened his mouth to let some of the liquid trickle in to relieve his parched throat. His mouth was still open and his head angled up when drop number three hit him right in the face. Johnny choked and sputtered as too much water got into his throat. He opened his eyes and looked at his surroundings. More splashes from drops hitting the ground and grass could be seen. Large wet drops beaded up on the blades of grass.
Oh man! It’s starting to rain!
Still coughing, Johnny grabbed on to the Dandelion stem again and pulled himself up on his feet. He glanced over at the large rock he had crawled out from under earlier. Although Johnny could now feel every ache in his body from the accident and his head was still throbbing, he knew he had to get to shelter before the current sprinkle turned into a downpour. An adrenaline rush taking over, he hobbled over to the rock as fast as his stiff, sore legs would allow, and ran under it. Johnny panted from his efforts. A nauseous feeling returned and Johnny felt himself losing the battle with his stomach again. He leaned out into the open and threw up.
Johnny got back under the shelter of the rock’s edge and watched the raindrops hit the ground. He had never seen it so close before…not like this.
Hey…maybe I need to go out in it before it gets too heavy and rinse this formula stuff off really good. Maybe that’ll get me back to my normal size. Can’t hurt. Johnny shrugged. Besides, it always works in movies.
He went back into the open and allowed more drops to hit him as he scrubbed at his clothes with his hands. For Johnny it was like being beneath a super sonic showerhead. A couple of times, the rain sprinkles nearly toppled Johnny over since he was so small, but he managed to stay upright on his feet.
Without warning, the raindrops quickened. A soaked Johnny stayed out in the wet weather until a big white oddly shaped ball fell out of the gray sky and landed near him. Then another…he could see white balls landing everywhere at random.
Johnny groaned as he hurried back under the rock’s edge and watched the hail hit the ground and bounce. He caught a movement over to his left. As Johnny turned his head to look, he could see he was about to get company. A huge black beetle, with pinchers that could cut Johnny in two if it had the notion, was heading for the same space Johnny was in.
“You must hate the hail, too,” Johnny said, wishing he was just a little bigger or had the same abilities as Doctor Doolittle.
The closer the beetle got, the more worried Johnny became.
This can’t be good.
Johnny snapped his fingers as he got an idea. He took a couple of steps to the right, and bent over and picked up one of the pieces of hail that had bounced in under his shelter. Besides being heavy and cold, the ball was half the size of him. Johnny grunted as he strained to lift the hailstone above his waist. Not knowing if this bug was friend or foe, Johnny didn’t want to hurt it…just scare it away. He heaved the cold stone in the direction of the beetle. After three tries, Johnny finally managed to discourage the beetle. It changed direction and headed towards a weed with large leaves.
Johnny breathed a sigh of relief and sat on the ground. His already sore arms and ribs ached even more from the strain of lifting and throwing the hailstones. On top of everything else, the throbbing in his head intensified.
I guess it could be worse…I could have a tiny Chet here with me.
Roy came into the station to talk to Captain Stanley. He knocked on the doorframe as he stepped into the office.
Captain Stanley looked up from the paperwork on his desk.
“Hi, Roy,” Stanley spoke quietly. “I take it the guys from 25’s picked you up at Rampart?”
“Yeah,” Roy nodded. “I’m gonna finish my shift over there…Wheeler was pulling overtime for a guy on vacation, but he agreed to trade out when I get there so I can take over. I just had to come by and get my car and my stuff. The squad dropped me off.”
The Captain sat back in his chair and sighed.
“We called all the hospitals in the area. No John Gage anywhere. There was a helicopter doing an aerial search near the accident scene, but they had to stop once the rain got heavy.”
Roy chewed his lower lip. “Cap, what exactly did you guys find at the scene?”
“As far as the squad goes, it was damaged on both sides...the roof was dented and the lights were broken. Most of your equipment was strewn all over the hillside. I’d say John most likely rolled the squad a few times on the way down.”
Roy nodded slowly. “Any sign of blood?”
“Nope. That’s the strange part.” The Captain sat forward again, folding his hands together. He furrowed his brow. “There was no sign of John anywhere. His helmet was on the ground like he had set it down and the only thing left in the squad was a broken bottle or jar of some sort. Apparently whatever was in it had already dried up when we got there, if it was a liquid. Also, the driver’s side door was wide open.”
“Cap, I don’t think Johnny would go off and leave an accident like that. Not with the equipment all over the place and another driver involved. Something’s very wrong here.”
“I agree, Roy. But all we can do for now is wait.” He sighed again. “We just have to press on and hope for the best. Now if I can just take my own advice, huh?” Captain Stanley said with a hint of sarcasm to his voice. “Easier said than done.”
Roy grinned. “We’re our own worst listeners.” Turning serious again, Roy added, “Keep me posted, okay?”
* * * *
It was early evening when the storm system finally moved out of the area. Johnny had spent most of the time huddled in a corner under the rock, trying to keep himself warm after getting so wet. He had found a dry leaf near the left side of his shelter and had wrapped it around himself like a blanket.
Rinsing off the formula hadn’t helped Johnny’s small problem. He still was only about a half inch tall.
Now nearly dry, Johnny glanced at his watch when he felt and heard his stomach grumble. Six-ten all ready? Oh man, and I haven’t eaten since…since those donuts we had right after roll call. I’m starvin’!
Slowly getting to his feet, Johnny let the leaf fall to the ground and ventured towards the opening of his shelter to look at the sky. It was then that he realized just how much he hurt from the accident. He could now see bruises scattered about on his arms. His right shoulder was so stiff, it was painful to even move his right arm. Although Johnny couldn’t see his legs underneath his pants, he guessed they were most likely quite colorful as well. He pulled up his shirt and looked at his sides and stomach. He winced at the number of the bruises he saw.
I just want to crawl into a bed and forget this whole day.
Johnny put his shirt back down and peered out from under the rock. The sky looked clear.
Guess it’s time to head out for some help.
* * * *
Johnny had been walking twenty minutes when he heard the sound of a helicopter. As he looked up he could see the aircraft flying over him. Johnny ignored his pain as he jumped and waved his arms.
Wait a minute. They can’t see me when I’m this small. Damn it!
He looked around for anything that might be used to draw attention to the spot he was at.
Johnny’s hopes of being found diminished. Unless someone came by on foot, it was impossible. He kicked at a tiny patch of dirt in frustration.
May as well continue on…I guess I’ll have to find someone instead of them finding me.
Johnny was so lost in his thoughts that he didn’t see the spider web that stretched across a big gap between two blades of grass. He walked right into it.
A spider web! Oh man!
Johnny flailed his arms, trying to free himself from the sticky substance. A fly that had been wrapped up in the webbing bounced up and down as Johnny struggled. The paramedic didn’t want to meet the same fate as the fly…packed tight in the web and waiting to be eaten by the spider.
He paused a minute to rest and catch his breath as he panted from his efforts to try to get free from the web. Johnny’s eyes widened when he saw a large brown spider the size of a standard dime coming down the web towards it’s newly trapped prey.
The sense of danger heightened, a renewed strength and endurance came over Johnny. He fought harder than before to get free. In a matter of seconds, Johnny found himself sitting on the ground, a broken web in front of him. He could feel some of the sticky material still on his arms and head, but he was safe from the confines of the web.
That was too close.
Johnny pulled the sticky cobweb pieces off of his head and arms and shook them free from his hands. He drew up one knee and leaned forward, taking a deep breath. The fight had taken its toll on the paramedic, but he knew he had to press on. He forced himself to get up and continue on his journey.
The men at the station sat around the table picking at their spaghetti. Captain Stanley eyed his men with concern.
“I understand how you guys feel, but we better eat so we have our strength to finish out the shift. I’m worried about John, too, but we have a commitment to the community and we can’t forget that.”
“Cap, it’s just that Johnny has completely disappeared,” Marco explained. “It would be easier if we knew where he was and what was wrong with him.”
“We’ve always known what’s wrong with him, Marco,” Chet replied.
“Chet!” the Captain admonished. “Not now…please.”
“Sorry, Cap…just trying to lighten the mood.” Chet took a bite of the spaghetti in front of him.
“I’ll bet he’s trying to find his way back to a highway by now, “ Mike said. “Maybe someone’ll pass by him and give him a ride into town.”
The Captain listened to his men talk as he took a few bites of his dinner. He was trying not to jump to conclusions on John’s whereabouts, but the father instinct in him had him guessing wildly at where the paramedic could be and what kind of shape he could be in.
Just don’t think about it so much…the helicopter is out again searching for John.
* * * *
Roy returned with the engine company of Station 25 after a call to a house fire. Luckily all the occupants had gotten out and the firemen were able to get the flames doused before the house was a total loss.
The men dispersed as they climbed down off the engine.
“I’ll get dinner going,” one of the men called out.
The others groaned. Roy had picked up on the fact that this guy wasn’t the best cook of the crew.
Kind of like Johnny, Roy thought. He walked into the dayroom to give Captain Stanley a call.
* * * *
Johnny wasn’t sure how far he had gotten, but the sun was starting to set and he knew he needed to find a place to settle for the night. There was no way he was going to try to travel in the dark. One more run-in with a spider web and he could be history. He searched visually for a good place to stay for the night. He rubbed his head as the throbbing that had been there all afternoon continued.
He saw a low branch on a bush that touched the ground. Johnny decided that he would go under there to settle for the night and get some much-needed sleep.
* * * *
Roy placed the telephone receiver back in the cradle after talking to Captain Stanley. There had been no word on Johnny and now the sun was beginning to set.
If he’s disoriented, thinks he’s John-Boy Walton rather than John Gage and is off looking for his mountain, I’m gonna kill him myself. But if he’s out there lost and hurt…well, maybe I better hope he is doing the other, after all.
Roy went to the table to eat when the others were called in to dinner.
* * * *
Upon entering his sleeping quarters, Johnny discovered there wasn’t much padding there. It was mostly dirt with just a few blades of grass. He tugged on a leaf on the bush that he wanted to use as a blanket. Finally the leaf came off, sending Johnny onto his backside. He groaned as his body felt the impact.
How much more do I have to take? I wanna be big again.
Johnny crawled over to where the few pieces of grass were, dragging the leaf by an edge in one hand. He lay down on the grass and pulled the leaf up over himself. He no sooner closed his eyes and covered them with his left arm, then exhausted paramedic was asleep.
* * * *
At two-thirty in the morning there was a two-alarm fire at a warehouse. Both Engine 51 and Station 25 were among the companies called to the fire. Captain Stanley caught a glimpse of Roy as the paramedic donned his turnout gear and oxygen. Stanley watched as Roy ran in with three other rescue workers to do a sweep of the south end of the building.
“Be careful in there, pal,” Hank said aloud.
Mike was the only one who heard. He knew the Captain was still thinking about Gage.
* * * *
It was close to four-thirty in the morning now and the fire had finally been put out. Now firemen worked on keeping hot spots under control. There had been only one smoke inhalation victim from the fire and the paramedics from Squad 25 had taken care of the man. Roy saw Captain Stanley and Mike standing by Engine 51. He walked over to talk to his regular shift mates.
“Roy!” The Captain hadn’t noticed Roy approach from the side. “Hey, how’s it going at 25’s? They treating you okay?” Stanley teased.
“Yeah…food could be better,” Roy grinned. “But it’s okay. I’ll be glad when we get the squad back at 51 though.”
“I know what you mean. Hey, Roy…”
“Don’t forget…no news is good news.” Hank looked over his shoulder at a smiling Mike. “Stoker reminded me of that about an hour ago. Keep it in mind. It might help.”
Roy nodded. “I will. Thanks.”
“Hey, Desoto! You ready to roll?” Miller from 25’s yelled.
“Yeah! On my way!” Roy waved as he turned to trot over to the other engine. “I’ll be in touch, Cap!”
Captain Stanley glanced back at Mike. “I can’t wait till this shift is over. I may drive out where Gage disappeared, myself.”
* * * *
Johnny rolled over on his left side and opened his eyes, groaning, as he slowly began to wake up. Forgetting where he was, he sat straight up, alarmed at finding himself outdoors under a tree. The leaf blanket fell off and to the side of him. Johnny looked around in a panic, then the facts started to return.
I really did shrink. It wasn’t a dream…and I’m really lost. What am I gonna do?
Johnny slumped. He had no idea where he was headed or what he was hoping to find. All he knew for sure was that he was achy all over, and the throbbing in his head felt worse. He felt the back of his head with his right hand. Sure enough there was a bump there. He still didn’t know how he had gotten it.
Maybe it was from the accident.
Now that the sun was up, Johnny would start on his travels again. His throat was dry and his stomach felt empty. He hoped to find a remedy for at least one problem soon. He lay back down, thinking about what his plan would be.
* * * *
Roy stood in the hall waiting for one of the fire fighters to come out of treatment room three. They had gone to another house fire right after returning from the warehouse fire, and this time Roy and the other fireman had taken in some extra smoke. Doctor Morton nearly ran into Roy as he came down the hall.
“Oh, excuse me, Roy. I wasn’t looking where I was going,” Morton grinned.
“S’okay.” Roy thought about the last time he’d talked to Morton. “Hey, you ever find out exactly what that kid we’d…I’d brought in…what kind of chemicals he was playing with?”
Morton folded his arms across his chest. “Nope. As a matter of fact, your partner, Gage, was supposed to be bringing a jar of the stuff in when he had the accident.”
“Yep. The father told me Gage asked him for a sample and he gave him the whole big jar full of it. Told him not to open it or the fumes would get to him.”
Roy thought back to what the Captain had told him.
There was no sign of John anywhere. His helmet was on the ground and the only thing left in the squad was a broken bottle or jar of some sort. Apparently whatever was in it had already dried up when we got there.
“Johnny had the formula with him in a jar?” Roy asked in disbelief at what he was starting to think.
“That’s what the boy’s dad said,” Morton replied matter of fact. “Maybe when the jar broke, the fumes did get to him. He wandered off not realizing what he was doing.”
“Yeah…maybe…” Roy tried to shove the thoughts he was having out of his head, but a part of him wouldn’t let the idea go.
Johnny had the jar of shrinking formula, he had an accident and the jar broke…Johnny disappeared except for his helmet…so what if…nah, it couldn’t happen. But what if…?
“You okay, Roy? Desoto!”
“Huh?” Roy saw the concern in Morton’s eyes. “Oh…yeah…yeah, I’m okay. I just need to talk to Captain Stanley. I have an idea where Johnny may be.”
The other fireman came out of the treatment room. “You ready to head back soon? The engine should be picking us up on the way to the station.”
“Yeah…I sure am.” Roy said, as he gave more thought to Johnny’s whereabouts. Maybe I’m just desperate for an answer. But what other explanation is there?
Roy decided he would stop by Station 51 on his way home from work later. He could call Captain Stanley and have him wait for him there.
* * * *
“You think Gage what?” Captain Stanley asked bewildered.
“I…I think he may have…” Roy fought to get the word out again. He never imagined just how foolish it all sounded till now when he was forced to say it a second time. “I think he shrank.”
There I said it. It’s out. Roy looked at the sick expression on Cap’s face. And he thinks I’ve totally lost my mind. Great! Well, he’s done it. Johnny’s finally taken me down to his level.
* * * *
Johnny had only been walking for ten minutes when he was overcome with a dizzy spell. The lack of food and water, along with a head injury, were starting to take their toll on him. He stumbled forward a few steps, then collapsed and found himself tumbling down a small dirt hill. When Johnny stopped, he looked around to see where he was. It was a pit of some kind was all he knew for sure. The sides of the dirt walls made it look like a funnel. Sudden realization had Johnny scrambling for all it was worth towards the top. As a kid, he had done his share of dropping ants in these type of traps and was too familiar with them. Johnny knew the insect underneath the bottom of the pit would reach up with its pinchers and pull whatever was caught inside down below the surface where it would suck out the juices of its prey.
An ant lion pit! I gotta get out of here!
Although the sides of the pit were only twice the height of Johnny, he struggled to climb out. The more he moved the more dirt would come out from under him. The fact that he didn’t have all his strength wasn’t helping. Johnny squeezed his eyes shut as another bout of dizziness hit. When he opened them, he looked over his shoulder. He could see a hint of the ant lion at the very bottom of the pit.
Johnny looked up at the top of the pit again. He was close to it. If he could just pull himself up. Suddenly an ant half the size of Johnny crawled down the wall near him. It fell the last distance to the bottom of the funnel. Johnny jumped, startled at both the size of the ant and the fact it had been beside him. Now he looked down as he saw the ant struggle to climb up. He watched as the ant lion below grabbed the ant and pulled it underground.
And I thought life was rough as a human!
Johnny concentrated and gave it all the effort he had to get himself out of the pit. Once he had half his body out, he dragged himself forward until his feet were clear. Again Johnny found himself panting from his efforts. He lay on his stomach, his head resting on his arms, wondering how he was going to make it another day.
* * * *
A search team had been formed to look throughout the area where Johnny disappeared. Captain Stanley had explained to Roy that he obviously couldn’t tell them to look for a miniature fireman, but that he would join in the efforts to find the paramedic. Roy had called home and explained to Joanne that he wanted to look for Johnny awhile. He left off the part regarding the…small problem Johnny was likely dealing with.
One person thinking I’m nuts is enough, Roy thought.
Chet and the others from A-shift planned on helping in the search after they had a chance to go home and take a short nap. It had been a busy shift and they were feeling the effects of being up most of the night.
When they arrived at the scene, Roy and Captain Stanley got out of their cars. The other men that were on the search team were all ready off in various directions looking for Johnny. Roy was relieved at that thought. The farther away the men were from where the accident occurred, the less likely they were to step on Johnny.
“Well, I guess we start looking close to the accident site,” Stanley said, his hands on his hips. “If Gage is…small…he couldn’t have gotten very far.” He glanced over at Roy. “I can’t believe you talked me into this theory. You know, you really ought to consider a second job as a salesman,” he said grinning.
“Well, I can’t believe I’m doing this myself. But Johnny’s involved, so I have to figure anything is possible,” Roy answered.
The two men started down the embankment, using the ropes that were left by the other men. Once they were at the bottom, Hank started walking around glancing off in the distance.
The Captain jumped, startled. “What? You found him already?”
“No, but we better keep our eyes on the ground if we step anywhere. We…uh…we don’t want to…you know,” Roy shifted on his feet, as he answered sheepishly, “Squish Johnny.”
Hank rolled his eyes. Now I really can’t believe I’m doing this. “Okay, you’re right. I’ll…I’ll keep my eyes on the ground.”
Please don’t let anyone see me doing this.
* * * *
Two of the men on the search team walked through an area that was a short distance from where Johnny’s accident occurred. They called out his name as they traveled through the bushes and trees.
“I’m thirsty…you have that canteen handy?”
“Yeah…here,” the other man said, as he handed the canteen to his partner.
The thirsty man sat on a large rock while he took a few gulps of water. He set it beside himself a few seconds not realizing that he had accidentally poured some of the water out on the ground. A small amount pooled up on the top of a rock down below.
The man closed up the canteen, and handed it back. “Here…thanks…I guess we better get going.”
“Yeah…sooner we get this done, sooner we can get out of here. I sure hope Gage is okay.”
The two men continued on. They didn’t notice the small blue spot on the ground over near a weed.
* * * *
Johnny lifted his head. He rubbed his eyes as he looked around.
Must’ve passed out. I wonder how long it’s been?
He looked at his watch and saw that it was only 9:43 in the morning. Johnny pulled himself up to a sitting position. He felt so weak. As he scanned his surroundings he caught a glimpse of something shimmering over on a rock. It would take some effort to get to it, but he had a feeling it was water. He had seen many puddles since it had rained, but knowing the hazards of drinking muddy water, he had opted to go thirsty. But this had a different look to it.
Johnny got up and made his way over towards the rock. He tripped and landed on his stomach. When he stood up again, Johnny could see he was standing in a part of a huge footprint.
I must’ve tripped over a tread mark. Someone’s been here! Maybe they’re looking for me!
Johnny’s excitement was short-lived when he thought about the fact they would be looking for a big John Gage, not the little guy he was now. He continued over to the rock. When he got to it, he could see it wouldn’t be too difficult to climb, as it was only one and a half inches high. He stuck his right foot in a hole and reached up with his left hand. Ignoring the pain the effort brought on, Johnny managed to get himself to the top of the rock. It was a flat rock with a surface three inches wide and two and a half inches long. He could see now the water that had pooled on it was clear. He kneeled on the rock and cupped his hands. Johnny drank one handful of water after another.
* * * *
“Roy, this is like looking for a needle in a haystack.” Hank ran his left hand through his hair in frustration. “Maybe he didn’t shrink as much as we think. Maybe John could travel a lot farther than just around here.”
Roy couldn’t help but grin. As much as the Captain had said this was crazy, he believed it as much as Roy did. And it was a much better answer than thinking something bad had happened to Johnny.
“Could be, Cap. Maybe we better start branching out some. I’ll go one way and you go another. Just watch where you’re stepping,” Roy reminded.
“Yeah, I know…wouldn’t want to step on John.”
* * * *
After he had gotten plenty to drink, Johnny climbed back down, dropping off the foothold of the rock. He swayed slightly when he landed. Although he was still starving, the relief of getting something to drink helped somewhat. Johnny was still so sore he hated the thought of having to do anything, but staying where he was certainly wasn’t an option. Whoever was looking for him had already gone by and most likely wouldn’t be back through this way again. He decided to back track to where he had started. Maybe whoever the searchers were would meet there after they were done. Trouble was, he had been so out of it the night before, he wasn’t sure which way would take him to where the squad had been. Johnny shrugged. He’d have to start off in a direction and hope something would look familiar to him.
* * * *
As Johnny made his way back, he came upon an ant pile. Although it was a distance to the right, he could see activity on it as the worker ants took care of their daily business.
Johnny’s stomach grumbled again, reminding the paramedic it had been a long time since he had eaten. Johnny stared at the ants.
Well, people do eat them I guess…He shuddered. Nah, I can’t…I just as soon starve. Besides, one ant would be like eating a whole turkey at this size.
He carried on as he tried to ignore his weary body and the dizzy feeling he kept getting from lack of food.
Roy called out his friend’s name as he searched around the area for him. He stood still, as he looked around for any sign of blue in the grass.
C’mon Johnny…you’ve gotta be around here somewhere. I hope Cap is having better luck than me.
Roy cupped his hands around his mouth. “Johnny! Johnny, it’s me…Roy!” He furrowed his brow in concern.
I hope he’s not hurt too bad.
* * * *
Johnny came up over a slight incline and saw two men standing nearby on a pathway talking.
Ah ha! This is it! If I can just get their attention, I’ll be saved!
He ran towards the men, his achy, tired legs protesting every step he took. Johnny ignored the pain…he was determined to get help. By luck the men didn’t move from where they stood and Johnny was able to make his way over to them. He jumped up and down as he tried to get their attention.
One man scuffed his foot on the ground as he talked to the other man. Johnny jumped back, as the foot almost knocked him over and would’ve flattened him out like a steamroller.
There has to be a way to get their attention.
Johnny looked around for a stick or leaf he could wave. He saw a tiny twig the length of a match nearby…and a leaf close to it. Johnny managed to get the twig through the leaf like a spear. He struggled to hold up the makeshift flag and waved it as best he could manage.
Neither man noticed any of what Johnny did. They were too involved in conversation.
Why are you guys just standing around talking anyway? You’re probably supposed to be looking for me. Johnny frowned, as he strained to keep his makeshift flag up.
Suddenly one of the men took a step and the edge of his shoe hit the tiny paramedic. Johnny lost his balance and went tumbling backwards. The momentum caused him to do a back flip right into a mud puddle that was a remnant from the previous night’s rain.
The puddle was equivalent to a lake for a person Johnny’s size. Stunned, Johnny fought to keep his head above the water as his tired limbs refused to cooperate very well. He could see the men now heading off down the path.
“Wait! Help!” Johnny yelled. He then had to close his mouth as he went under. When he popped back to the surface, the men were nowhere in sight. Johnny knew he was going to have to save himself. He kicked his legs as hard as he could while he tried to swim. Finally reaching the shore, Johnny crawled out of the muddy water coughing and collapsed on the ground. He tried to get up on his hands and knees, but he was too weak. The world faded into a pinpoint and Johnny slipped into unconsciousness.
* * * *
Roy made his way back towards where he and Captain Stanley had divided up. As he came out to where Johnny’s accident had happened he heard yelling.
“We found him! He’s over here!”
Roy took off in a run towards the sound of the voices. When he got to where the men were, he saw Captain Stanley and a couple of other guys kneeling down by a very soaked and muddy Johnny...a normal sized Johnny. They had him lying on his back and he was unconscious. Roy walked over to the Captain.
“Cap…did he…is he…”
“He’s alive, Roy. He’s bruised up and sure needs a good bath, but he looks to be okay for the most part.”
The two men who had been there earlier came running back when they heard the yells. They stopped in their tracks, shocked looks on both their faces.
“We were just here and he was no where in sight!”
“Yeah!” The other man echoed. “There wasn’t anyone around but us!”
“You two must be confused,” another said. “No way you could’ve missed him.”
“But...” Both the men looked at each other and shrugged. Some things were better left unsaid.
“I can’t believe he’s been here the whole time,” Captain Stanley said.
“But he’s soaked! How did he get so wet?” Roy asked, baffled by his partner’s appearance.
Roy looked at the mud puddle under Johnny’s legs. Could it be…?
Captain Stanley shrugged. “I don’t know.” He looked where Roy was staring. “You aren’t thinking…?” He pointed at the puddle.
“I don’t know, Cap. But if those guys didn’t see him here and he’s wet and muddy…suddenly appears out of nowhere…”
The Captain shook his head. “I don’t know what to believe.”
Two paramedics from Station 8 came with the equipment to treat Johnny. One set up the biophone while the other started taking Johnny’s vitals.
Roy stood back with his Captain and watched. He would have to get the answers from Johnny when he was well enough to discuss his adventure.
* * * *
Roy and Captain Stanley followed behind the ambulance to Rampart. When they got to the hospital, they telephoned Chet, Mike and Marco and filled them in on Johnny’s condition. Besides being bruised from the accident, he was dehydrated, despite the fact that he was soaking wet when he was found. Also he still had a concussion, which everyone assumed happened in the accident. Johnny’s arms had a few scrapes on them, like they had rubbed against rock or gravel and his uniform was a mess…a few tears were here and there on his shirt and pants.
Once they found out Johnny was indeed going to be okay, Roy and Hank left to get some much-needed rest of their own. It had been quite a stressful twenty-four hours.
* * * *
Finally in a room at Rampart, Johnny slept soundly. He had been so exhausted when he was brought in that he had to be woken up a few times while Doctor Brackett examined him.
Dixie quietly walked into the room to check on the paramedic, being very careful not to wake him up. Although, she doubted she could right now if she wanted to. She went over to the bed and looked down at the sleeping man.
You really had us all worried, Johnny. Welcome back.
Dixie made sure the IV drip was fine, then she patted Johnny gently on the left shoulder.
“Sleep well,” Dixie whispered. She slipped back out into the hall, easing the door closed behind her.
* * * *
The following morning, the door to Johnny's room opened, revealing two familiar faces as Captain Stanley and Roy walked in. Johnny grinned, glad to see friends again.
"Hey, pal! How're you feeling?" Hank asked, smiling.
"Sore as hell...tired," Johnny shifted slightly. "But glad to finally be in a real bed." He looked at the two men in front of him, not sure how much to say.
Roy hesitated a moment. He was anxious to find out if his theory regarding the boy's formula was correct, but he didn't want to sound half nuts either.
"So...uh...you remember what happened?"
Johnny eyed his partner. Totally out of character for him, Roy was shifting from foot to foot while his eyes kept darting to Hank. Johnny's gaze took in both men, neither of who would look right at him, as though they feared the answer he was about to give Roy.
"Yeah...I...I remember some stuff."
"And, uh...just what kind of stuff would that be?" The Captain ventured.
"Well, I...I remember wrecking the squad and...and when I came to I realized the kid's formula had spilled on me."
Roy tried to keep the curiosity in his tone to a minimum when he questioned, "It did?"
"Yeah. Yeah, it did."
"It didn't burn you or...or anything like that, did it?" Hank asked. "I mean, the doctors didn't find anything wrong we should be concerned about, did they?"
"No...no. Not that I'm aware of."
Johnny continued to study his co-workers. He could tell the Captain and Roy suspected something about his story might not be true, yet they were acting as though they didn't want to hear the truth. Not the real truth anyway. The paramedic mulled his options, then settled on the most benign explanation he could come up with while still halfway being honest.
"Sure had some weird dreams while I was out there, though."
"Weird dreams?" Roy asked.
"What kind of weird dreams, pal?"
"Well...uh...well, in my dreams I was about half an inch tall...if you can believe that. I had to scare away a beetle before it cut me in two. Get untangled from a spider web before the spider ate me for lunch. Man, are those things sticky. I had to climb out of an ant lion pit, and I got knocked into a lake by a giant shoe."
"A giant shoe?" Roy questioned. He was growing even more unnerved by the fact that Johnny's eyes were lit with excitement, as though this 'dream' he was talking about went far beyond something his subconscious mind had produced while he was sleeping.
I wonder if my theory about that kid's formula is right?
Roy tuned back into his partner as Johnny rectified, "I suppose it wasn't really a giant shoe. It just seemed like it was so big because I was so small."
When he saw the look Roy and Cap exchanged, Johnny quickly added, "I mean, in my dream. In my dream I was small."
"You sure?" Hank asked, then realized what he'd just insinuated. "What I mean is, are you sure this was a dream and not a result of that...that knock to the head you took? Or maybe...maybe the formula even."
"Um...yeah, you know. The fumes from it or something might have caused you to shrink...uh think, that you had shrunk. You know, hallucinating. You might have been hallucinating."
"Oh. Well, maybe. I guess I could have been hallucinating." Johnny shifted his gaze to Roy. "I...it all seemed so real though. Not like a dream or hallucination at all."
Roy cocked an eyebrow. "No?" The paramedic didn't succeed at masking his interest in just what power that formula might contain. "I mean, it didn't, huh?"
Johnny locked gazes with his best friend. "No, it didn't."
"Did you tell Brackett all this?"
"That I shrun...that I dreamed I shrunk, you mean?"
"No, I didn't tell him."
"Maybe he should know. It might be important."
"What would be important about it?" Johnny fished. "It was just a dream."
Roy gave what he hoped was a casual shrug. "I don't know. I just think you should tell him, that's all."
"Yeah, John," Hank agreed. "You'd better talk to Brackett about your...dream."
Johnny wondered why the two men were so anxious for him to speak with Kelly Brackett about a dream, unless they didn't think it was a dream at all. Unless they suspected it was more than that, but were afraid to voice their thoughts.
I suppose it does sound kinda nutty. And even more nutty if Cap or Roy say it. Now me....people expect me to say goofy stuff. But Cap or Roy...no. Brackett would think they'd been out in the heat too long when they were looking for me.
"So, you'll talk to Doctor Brackett?" Hank pressed.
"Yeah...sure, Cap. I'll...I'll mention it to him."
"He should at least know that formula got on you," Roy pointed out.
"I suppose you're right."
Hank smiled at his bed-ridden paramedic. "You look tired. Get more rest, John. We'll see you later."
"Cap? Is the squad okay?"
Roy and the Captain exchanged glances. Hank sighed while thinking of the battered squad and how his station wasn't the same right now without John and Roy present with the rest of their crew.
"There'll be a Squad 51 in service by the time you get out of here and on your feet. Just worry about yourself right now."
Johnny nodded as he yawned. "Thanks."
"Take care of yourself, pal."
"I'll call you later this evening, Johnny."
"Okay. Tell Joanne and the kids I said hi."
Johnny's visitors headed for the door. Hank exited the room first. Before Roy could do the same, his partner beckoned him with a "Roy?"
Roy turned around.
"What exactly did the kid say the formula was supposed to do again?”
"Uh...what was it supposed to do?"
"Yeah, you know. What was its purpose? What did the kid mix it for? It was a rough twenty-four hours, Roy…I can’t remember what was said at the kid’s house." Johnny could recall vaguely, but he wanted to hear it from Roy to be sure.
"Well...he...well, you'll laugh when I tell you this...considering your dream and all."
Johnny got a funny feeling in the pit of his stomach. "I will?"
"Yeah, you will. He...the boy...he was...well, the chemical was supposed to...well...it was..."
"It was what? What was it supposed to do, Roy?"
"Shrink things," Roy finally confessed. "It was supposed to shrink things." Roy broke eye contact with his friend when he added, "Pretty silly, huh?"
Seeing how unnerved Roy was, Johnny gave a slow nod of his head.
"Um...yeah. Pretty silly."
"I have to go," Roy said in a way that indicated to Johnny he felt a sudden urge to flee the room before this topic could be discussed further. "I rode with Cap. He's probably wondering what happened to me."
"Yeah, go on. Sorry for holding you up."
"You get some sleep," Roy ordered.
With a final good-bye Roy left the room. Johnny sunk into his pillows, reviewing the conversation that had taken place since his visitors had arrived.
They act like they know what happened to me, but at the same time they don't want to admit they know. Was it just a dream? Or a hallucination? Or was I really knee-high to a grasshopper? Mmmm...don't suppose I'll ever know for sure now.
With that final thought, Johnny allowed his eyes to close. As he drifted toward sleep the paramedic wondered if he'd suffer any ill effects from that formula.
"Yeah, right," Johnny mumbled to himself with a sarcastic smile. "Like I'm gonna start shrinking when I least expect it. That'll be an interesting worry to explain to Brackett."
The paramedic turned on his right side, curling his arms around a pillow that suddenly felt as big as a tugboat.
Johnny's eyes flew open. He sprang up in the bed, frantically scanning the room. He studied the pillow with suspicious eyes, then lifted it, flipping it over and over in his hands. There was nothing wrong with it. It was just a pillow. Just a normal sized pillow.
The man put the pillow back in place at the head of the bed, then sunk down once again.
I'm exhausted. I just need to get some more sleep.
Johnny kept repeating those words to himself until he did finally fall asleep. His dreams were filled with giant spiders, beetles, and ants, plus The Incredible Shrinking Paramedic, John Gage; who battled them all and came out the victor.
But, it was only a dream, as Johnny reminded himself when he woke up two hours later. No matter how real it seemed, those twenty-four hours before he was found had likely been nothing but a dream.
“No such thing,” Johnny reassured himself as he reached for the remote control on his nightstand and aimed it at the TV. He flipped through the channels until he came to a rerun of The Land Of The Giants. He laughed a little at his viewing choice, then said again for his own peace of mind, “Nope, no such thing. There's no such thing as a formula that shrinks people.”
* * * *
Unbeknownst to Johnny, in a lab located deep in the bowels of Rampart, a chemist did a double take as he read the printout in front of him. He lifted the glass container that was sitting on the worktable with what was left of the kid’s formula in it.
“It shrank the sample of tissue I used it on. The stuff really works! I could make millions off of this. I’ll be famous!”
Good thing the kid’s dad still had some of this stuff. Little do they know, they were sitting on a gold mine.
He peered closely at the clear liquid. You and I are gonna make it big. No pun intended.
The chemist carried the glass container over to a cabinet that housed other assorted bottles and jars with samples. Carefully labeling this one Snivlem Repus Terces Tcejorp, which was his own secret code for Melvin’s Super Secret Project spelled backwards, he placed the container in the cabinet behind the other items.
I’ll just hang on to this sample until I can figure out what chemicals the kid used to make his formula. After all, what’s it gonna matter? It’s not like anyone was exposed to the stuff, except for the vapors. And if anyone asks, I’ll just tell them I dumped the stuff once I found out it didn’t amount to any significant findings. This is gonna be great! My one chance to be rich is just around the corner. I’ll be talked about more than that fireman who convinced those bank robbers to surrender.
Melvin closed the cabinet door and locked it. Knowing his little secret was safe, he went to make up a bogus report for Doctors Morton and Brackett. He didn’t want anyone to find out about his discovery.
Maybe they’ll be doing things for me someday.
First a HUGE thank you to Tracy for the inspiration…then a great big thanks to Peggy and Tigger for the beta reads! And a special thanks to Kenda for the beta read, and the guidance and assistance on an ending. You all are super! :o)