Fear, rational or otherwise, was something one never truly wanted to face head on.
For twenty years, give or take, Carol Walding viewed conquering some certain fears as overrated; avoidance was just as commendable in her eyes.
So as she sat quietly in the large, solemn office, under the scrutinous gaze of the austere Colonel Jackson, she wondered what decisions in her life caused her to end up here.
"It's quite illogical, Carol." Colonel Jackson was a longtime friend of the family, possibly her father's best friend, but as he spoke with her that evening, his voice was leveled and professional; though he still had trouble concealing the underlining concern he held for her. "Your fear that is; it's irrational." He softly tapped the tip of his pen onto the desk and leaned onto his elbows; watching the girl carefully from across the table.
Carol slumped into her chair and sighed; she had been getting this conversation all week and she was growing ever tired of people telling her that her feelings were "illogical" or anything of that nature. "With all due respect sir," she tilted her head and stared out the small barred window located behind the man's chair, "no fear is irrational to the person who has it. And what's not to be afraid of?" She caught herself; hearing her voice spike in slight panic. Balling her fist tightly, she stared at her lap and muttered. "A person with the capability of crushing you with no effort at all
wiping you out of existence in one motion;" Colonel Jackson furrowed his brow as the girl looked up at him; nearly pleading. "I find my fear quite rational."
The Colonel shook his head solemnly, "Size-shifters are not our enemies. They-"
"Please don't make me do this, Mr.
I mean Colonel Jackson, please." She had promised herself that she would maintain her composure during their meeting, but the actual reality was starting to dawn on her; there was no way of getting out of this. She scooted her chair up and gazed at him from across the table; the sharp ticks of the wall clock chiming the long, painful seconds of silence as she sat, searching the man's eyes for some sign of compliance. "I'll do anything, sir
The man's features were weary, but muted compassion glowed in his eyes, "I'm sorry Carol." He apologized quietly, "I wouldn't make you do this if I could." Breaking standards, he reached across the table and squeezed her trembling hand, coaxing his thumb across her clammy flesh until her breathing evened out; "But I have a duty. As do you. We'll all be here for you every step of the way, but your father made it this way for a reason; you didn't always use to hate them."
Carol closed her eyes and allowed the man to sooth her, "I don't
.hate them, Mr. Jackson." Closing her eyes, she remembered the first time she saw a fleet of Size-shifters at the town's parade; years ago. She remembered how exited she had been sitting on her father's shoulders and watching as they grew and marched in perfect synchronization; how she had to strain her head back just to follow their growth above the clouds. She had caught one of the Shifter's eye and, as he continued to expand with the others, he wink down to her and offered her a joyous grin; she could tell that he absolutely loved what he was doing and she laughed back, offering a toothy, childish smile in return. To this day, she still cherished the memory; still found it completely mesmerizing. "I'm just aware of what can happen if we're around them
.So I've planned to avoid them. And what you all are asking me to do is greatly interfering with that plan."
Colonel Jackson released her hand and shook his head, "They are people just like you and I, Carol; not monsters. Your father has been working with them since before you were born, and I know your mother would have been more than proud to know what you have been called to do."
At the mention of her mother, Carol pursed her lips and frowned at him. "My mother
Before she could continue, he cut her off, "I've discussed this with you for as long as permitted, Ms. Walding." Colonel Jackson straightened back into the chair and steadied his posture; his voice dropping once again to one of authority and order. "You will report at once to your assigned room and begin your duties." Something slipped in his tone as he reached forward to hand her a small clipboard, "And have an open mind, Carol. This might help you as much as it's going to help us. Keep your heart open."
Carol stood and took the clipboard, unable to find a voice or even words to respond. With one last look, she sighed and closed the door behind her.
Carol stared at the clipboard as she made her way down the dimly light hallways.
All that was on the sheet of paper was the name Conner and a room number. She knew what she had to do; was briefed time and time again the past month, but she still couldn't bring herself to believe that this was actually happening. She knew her father had wanted this for her, and that she'd be helping out thousands of people in her community.
But she had to be in the presence
.spend time with a Shifter.
And she wasn't sure how prepared she was to do that.
"Don't treat them like monsters
" She reminded herself as she watched the numbers on the doors she passed increase one by one.
Her heart began to beat rapidly against her chest when she reached her assigned door; her alleged "Conner".
After sliding her card in the door's lock mechanism and placing her hand on the scanner, the door slid open and she stepped inside.
She could do this.
Fear or no fear, everyone was counting on her; and apparently this "Conner" was too.
Filling her lungs slowly, she took one last deep breath and fully entered.
The room was enormous. Enormous was an understatement. The ceiling stretched far above her, stories up; and the room's cubic ration was that of a large mall or ware house. The walls were painted a soft, medical eggshell white and it was all lit with many fluorescent lights. An assortment of furniture was lined up against the walls; all varying in size and shape. She could see a couch that seemed suitable for a person of her size in one corner, and across the room a different couch at least ten times that size.
" her voice echoed out as well as the slow clicks of her heels against the linoleum floor. The size and content of the room was truly overwhelming and she stopped in the middle to take it in.
"It gets old after a while." The voice shocked her for a moment before she remembered her whole reason for being there.
"C-Conner?" She turned towards the voice and saw a dark haired man lounging comfortably on one of the normal sized beds. In fact, from across the room, he looked pretty normal sized as well; average based on most of the guys her age. Carol slowly walked towards the bed, gripping tightly on her clipboard. "Um
Hi. I'm Carol Walding and I'm here to-"
"Don't come any closer." He said urgently and stared at her. Carol stopped in her tracks and waivered under his gaze.
.Carol, was it?" He leaned back against the backboard of the bed and closed his eyes, combing irritated fingers through his hair. "I just don't want to be responsible for what might happen to you."
Carol swallowed dryly, "Was
was that a threat?"
The man, Conner as it seemed, looked up with wide eyes and his hands shot up in defense. "No no. just a warning, Princess. For your sake. That-" He pointed over to an area behind her and she turned; following his gesture. "happened when I got the hiccups just after I arrived here."
Carol's heart skipped a beat when her eyes rested on a enormous pile of woodchips and destroyed furniture; obviously pulverized under a great force. The color rushed from her face and she looked back at him; eyebrows knitted in fear.
"It was an accident." He muttered, slightly offended at her reaction. "But
.I guess you have a right to be afraid." Carol watched as he slumped further into the mattress. "I never wanted this. It's horrible, y'know?"
Carol took a step forward, and despite her trembling knees, decided to take another, "I-It doesn't have to be
" Another step, and Conner raised his eyebrows; deciding to allow her to continue her approach. "I-I mean, people discover they're Shifters in different ways
Conner's eyes widened slightly as she walked up to the bed; nearly popped out of his head when she decided to sit down with him. Carol crossed her legs together and bounced slightly on the mattress, settling herself in front of him. "My father has been working with
Shifters for a long time now. T-There's nothing horrible about you
?" Conner looked at her skeptically. "Because the way your quivering right now tells me something otherwise." He chuckled sadly to himself and sighed. "Look. Carol. You don't have to do this. I understand how terrifying it is, believe me. If it was my choice, I'd never grow again for the rest of my life. I would give anything to be normal like you."
" Carol shook her head; guilt assaulting her heart. "Don't think that way, Conner. I'm
. I'm sorry. I'll admit that, initially, I was really against doing this, but
Listen, what you are
is amazing. Being a Shifter isn't something you should be ashamed of or something you should try to subdue. It's something you should rather
.control. You have the capability of helping others
.more so than harming them. It's just up to you
Conner listened intently to her words, watching her silently as she explained. "I just don't want to hurt anybody." he said softly, closing his eyes.
"Y-You won't." Carol touched his hand reassuringly and gave him an unsure smile. "I'm the only one here right now, and we'll both be just fine."
"You don't understand Carol
I nearly destroyed my college campus last month after realizing what I was....I just....I don't want to experience that again. The terror...the screaming
.the panic below...all because of me. I never want to feel that again..."
Carol watched as a tear slid down his cheek and squeezed his hand tightly. "That was your first time, Conner; an accident. Everyone understands." she felt his hand shake and tremble in her grasp and looked into his eyes; saw an energy lash and spark beneath his irises. She leaned in closer and whispered lowly "When was the last time you grew, Conner?"
I-It's been a week." he muttered and she saw his muscles tense and twinge from underneath the jumpsuit's sleek material.
Carol's heart then began to truly ache for him.
He was confined in the worst kind of way.
It shouldn't have to be this way. It was people like her that made Shifters like Conner feel like they should have to hide; live in discomfort. Conner was just a regular guy, just as scared as she was, and Carol was starting to understand how truly irrational her fears had been.
"This is a part of who you are, Conner." she started and determinedly scooted forward until she felt their knees lightly touching, "You can't just keep
this pent up inside of you...I know, deep down inside, you want to grow." she spoke quietly
gently as she took hold of both his hands. "You...you don't have to be afraid.....I...I'm not....so...so neither should you." She didn't know when she had closed her eyes but when she opened them again, she found that Conner was gazing at her with devastating fondness.
"H-Honestly..." he kindly squeezed her hands back and gave a weary laugh."I've been wanting to grow so bad lately...."
"Yeah?" Carol smiled encouragingly, "Totally knew it."
"I get these...urges. Sometimes they even wake me up in the middle of the night
My skin starts tingling; my muscles start hurting, like...like I've suddenly become contained; trapped. And I need to get out."
Carol glanced towards their shaking hands once more and urgently whispered back, "A-Are you feeling that way right now, Conner?"
"Yeah, a lot, but..."
She slid off the bed and tugged him with her, "Well let's get growing then, why don't we?"
Conner stood with her, but stiffened at her words, "What? But Carol...I don't...I-"
"Look, we'll do this together, okay? Everything will be alright...y-you..., you need to do this....and, honestly...I need this too. You'll be helping both of us out." she smiled and led him to the center of the room. "See? Look at you. Helping people already."
Conner laughed, still holding her hand, and looked around the room. "You sure want me to do this? I mean, I'm not sure if I can even grow anymore..."
"I-I'll be just fine...and sure you can!" she faced him, stood firm, and closed her eyes. "All you have to do is focus. Think...um think power...release....expansion...my father often mentioned that taking deep breaths ...helps...with..."
Carol's words drifted off as she felt the hands grasping hers shudder and pulsate with a warm energy. She opened her eyes and saw Conner concentrating on her; staring at her with glowing blue eyes. "Those are all great suggestions." Carol gave a surprised gasp as the size of his hands began to slowly increase and envelop hers, "but really? I just really want to see you small....as weird as that sounds."
Her head only came up to his belly button by now, and if not for the specially made jumpsuits all patients were required to wear, his expanding body would have ripped out of any regular clothing. Her heartbeat increased as they maintained eye contact, "Conner..." she was eye level with knees now and he had let go of her hand a while ago; his palms now expanding to the size of small cars.
" he commented softly and Carol noticed how the rate of his expansion had suddenly dwindled significantly; his concentration faltered.
Taking a deep breath, she firmly placed her hands on his leg and maintained contact with him. "I'm fine...I'm here for you. You can do this...we can do this... Just keep going, Conner. As much as you need to."
The floor rumbled as the man took a seat; and Carol stood firm as the giant limbs settled all around her...she was confident that Conner would remain aware of her.
And she was right.
His eyes never left hers as he knelt down and stretched his legs around her; all the while still growing.
He lowered his hand down towards her and she pressed her face against the pad of his finger; showing her awe-inspiring support. His finger alone was as large as an oak tree. To him, she figured she had to have been nothing but a few inches by now. "This feels so good..." Conner bashfully admitted, and he extended his legs out; staying mindful of the things around him. He looked down towards Carol, his finger tingling from her tiny embrace. Wiggling his finger slightly, he gingerly grazed her head with unnerving precision. "Are you still alright?"
Carol gazed into his concerned filled eyes and her heart warmed. "I've honestly never been better." And she meant every word of it. Now she understood why her father had dedicated his life to working with Shifters; why he was so enthralled with his work. Something about her being in Conner's presence, watching him grow just felt right; she couldn't justly explain it. "You're amazing..." She announced.
Conner grinned wildly and the index she had been preoccupied with nuzzling
shifted slightly. "I would..." the fingers loomed over her and waivered in unsurety as Conner gazed at her, wincing, "I would like to hold you, Carol..."
Carol choked slightly, the basis of her fear peaking again and setting alarms off in her mind. She willed her fear to the furthest corner of her mind and nodded.
He needed this.
She needed this.
There was no reason to be afraid of Conner; he had shown nothing but kindness towards her since she entered the room. He had lost all hope, and it was her job to help him regain trust in himself; control over his ability.
And for that to happen, she needed to trust him as well.
"If it will help...then let's go." She made a conscious effort to maintain her smile as his gigantic fingers surrounded her. "This is therapy after all..."
"Therapy for which one of us?" Conner chuckled and gently lifted her into his hand. Inhaling deeply, he gave a content sigh at the feeling of Carol slightly trembling in the center of his palm. He closed his eyes, "Geeze..." Carol sat stiffly and tumbled a little as he curled his fingers over her. "I don't know how I've gone so long without holding a person." Smiling, he grew a little more until his feet were pressed against the opposing wall.
"T-Told you it was a part of you
. I...I think it's been a part of me too....being here that is. So...thank you."
Looking down, Conner smiled and lifted his hand to eye level; his irises still glowing a luminous blue. "I should be the one thanking you, for treating me....I don't know...normal."
"I don't know Conner," Carol laughed and wobbled on her hands and knees until she was closer to the edge. "I'm pretty sure this is as normal as it gets, wouldn't you agree?"
Conner nodded in agreement, "No I think you're right
.I could definitely get use to this."
And as much as ex-Shifter Fearing, Carol Walding didn't want to admit, she could get use to it as well.