The Cordova Incident

 

by Máire Flynn

 

            The little plastic cave men began banging on their rocks and chanting gibberish as Josie’s novelty alarm clock blared to life.  It was seven o’clock – time for school.  The sixteen year old smacked the head of the foremost caveman, bringing their morning concert to an abrupt halt.  She got up from bed and stumbled out of her bedroom and into the bathroom, where she pulled off her nightshirt. 

She looked at herself in the mirror for a second, and frowned as she poked her finger into the pudge of her stomach.  She wasn’t really obese, but she was definitely not on the skinny side of the perspective.  She hefted her breasts in her hands and smiled a little at their weight.  They had definitely gotten larger over the past year.  Most importantly was that one breast did not look disproportionately larger than the other one.  From the age of fourteen until recently, one of Josie’s boobs had been a full cup size larger, forcing her to stuff her left bra cup with tissue paper in order to compensate.  Josie’s mother had told her that it was often normal for one breast to be noticeably larger than the other when a girl began blossoming.  This didn’t comfort Josie.

            If it was so fucking normal, why was I the only girl in the locker room who looked like that, Mom?  There were explanations.  It wasn’t like she ever saw any other girls topless at school.  The days of girls taking showers at high school were long gone; no words could describe Josie’s relief upon discovering this little factoid.  Watching all those movies from the eighties painted a bleak picture of high schools dominated by perfectly shaped teen heart breakers with quarterbacks for boyfriends.

            Well, at least we don’t shower together.  Other than that, real life was even worse than those movies.

            Josie stood out in the thirty degree November morning as she waited for the bus to come by.  Since the bus usually wasn’t due by for another fifteen minutes, she pulled out a clove cigarette and lit up.  The soothing taste of the smoke warmed her insides with each drag.  After a few hits, she felt a little woozy from the anesthetic effect of the cloves.  She heard that cloves were worse than cigarettes because prolonged regular use made the lung bleeds.  What a jip for something that tasted so good to be so damaging.

            When the rolling cheese log finally came around, the doors opened, and Josie stepped in with the slow determination of a condemned prisoner.  The bus driver, a woman in her late middle ages, who reeked of Marlboro and Maxwell House, greeted Josie with a smile full of discolored teeth.  Josie smiled back, but only for the sake of being polite.  To be honest, she had been afraid of Momma Marley – as she was dubbed among children – ever since she had first started riding the bus in kindergarten.  Ten years was a long time to be afraid, but that was Josie – the Fraidy Cat, or as kids called her nowadays, the big pussy.

            When she got to the back of the bus, she smiled when she saw her friend, Lisa.  Lisa, oddly enough, looked a little gloomy on this morning.  “Hey Lis, what’s up?”

            “I woke up and looked in the mirror, that’s what.”  Lisa replied, edgy but willing to talk about her problem.

            “Yeah, but what’s wrong with how you look?”  Josie asked, truly puzzled.  Lisa was a knockout!  She was the blonde-haired, blue-eyed cutie that many a boy lusted over at Cordova High School.  She was the blonde-haired, blue-eyed cutie that many a girl envied.  She was the blonde-haired, blue-eyed cutie that made Josie the brunette with her shit-brown eyes want to crawl into a cave to never be seen again.  Josie was truly puzzled by her grumpy friend; so she examined the girl closely with a critical eye.  She was about to give up, when she noticed a few pimples (it was strange how Josie could be so super critical of herself while ignoring what other people saw when they looked in mirrors).  Pimples?  That was it?  Every other teen had pimples, for crying out loud!

            “What?  What is it?”  Josie asked, pretending not to notice the skin blemishes.

            “My face is broken out with pimples again!”  Lisa hissed.  “I haven’t had a break-out in a year at least!”  Josie thought about it and realized Lisa was right – she had not had an acne problem for a while, but from seventh to ninth grade, Lisa had been known as Lisa The Pizza by other kids. 

Had it not been for that one single flaw, Lisa and Josie may never have become friends.  Sitting together during lunch – outcasts because they were “inferior” to the other kids – they formed a bond so tight that the insanity of adolescence could be dealt with.  Josie had never had an acne problem – she was just weird, and ugly, and stupid – according to the other kids.  Her mother insisted that she had been beautiful, but she did not listen.  What was her mother’s compliment when weighed against the legion of teens at school?

            But Lisa had always been nice to her, and up until this year, Josie thought that nothing would ever change that, but then some dark force had crept into Lisa’s life, and Josie feared that their friendship was dying because of it . . .

. . .Boys.

            “What’s Cameron going to think, Josie?!”

            “He’s going to think you have acne, just like he and almost everyone else at high school, Lis.”

            “Yeah, but I get acne really bad!”

            “Lisa, sweetie,” Josie placed her hand on Lisa’s and squeezed a little.  “If he dumps you because of a couple a pimples, he isn’t good enough for you anyway.”  It was so easy for Josie to sound comforting when it wasn’t her being reassured.  But she meant what she said – if he stopped liking her over teen acne, he wasn’t worth her time.  Acne or not, he doesn’t deserve her at all.  No one can appreciate her like I do, especially not some boy.

            Thanks Josie . . . I just get worried . . . you know … no one liked me when I had the pizza face.”  She said this in a hushed tone, in fear that her old detractors might reappear to scorn and ridicule her.

            “You never had a pizza face, Lisa.  You have everything going for you . . . good looks, you’re smart, and even if Cameron did freak out, there are a million other guys out there who would take his place.”  Josie said, not without a little envy.  She had never had any feelings for guys – they scared her, to be honest – but she did envy how Lisa was worshipped nowadays.  Josie did not really have much room to complain; even if people pretended she didn’t exist, at least they didn’t call her a freak anymore.

 

***

 

After stepping off the bus, Lisa took off running, leaving Josie in her dust.  Josie wasn’t entirely surprised to see Cameron standing not too far away.  He was the tall dark and handsome guy that girls swooned over.  He was also a boy who drove a Mustang convertible – that is, until he ran off the road and busted the radiator. Back before the accident, it became unnecessary for Lisa to ride the bus with Cameron picking her up every morning.  Lisa was depressed because she was deprived of personal time with Cameron, and Josie was elated.  Ever since the boy came into the picture, she had seen less and less of her best friend.  Even their phone conversations were becoming fewer, with her talking to him on the phone every night.

            “Hey angel,” Cameron crooned as he kissed Lisa on the lips, oblivious to her acne – which wasn’t a big shock to Josie.  Guys were rather dense when it came to noticing the sort of things that drove girls nuts.  Josie slowly and quietly walked over and stood beside the two young lovers and sighed with some agitation.  “Guess what?”

            “Umm, what?”  Lisa asked, looking up into his deep blue eyes.

            “I get my car out of the shop today after school.”

            “Really?  That’s great!”  Lisa hugged him tightly lifting both legs off the ground in the process.

            “Cool.”  Josie muttered, her tone anything but warm.  When Cameron glanced over in her direction, she managed a smile . . . barely.

            “So Lisa-Angel, you wanna go do something tonight?”

            “Oh would I?!”  She squealed.  Josie rolled her eyes and began examining her feet carefully.

            “Mind if I come along?”  Josie heard herself asking, and wishing she hadn’t.  She knew damned good and well that they would not want her along, and she knew that she would hate every minute of sitting in the backseat while they flirted in the front seat.

            Now it was Cameron’s turn to look at his feet, for he obviously did not want to be rude to Josie, but . . .

            “Josie, we haven’t seen much of each other since the accident, and we need some catching up to do.  You know, some private time.”  Lisa spoke up.

            “Oh yeah … right.”  Josie said with a nervous laugh.  “Right, I understand.”  Yeah, she understood perfectly.  After a long and uncomfortable silence, Josie relieved the tension by saying, “Well, I think I’m gonna go study for my history quiz today.”  With that said, she scurried away, not wanting to meet anyone’s gaze.

            “Well, I’ll see ya later Josie!”  Lisa called after her.

            “Yeah, take it ee-sy.”  Cameron’s voice cracked, causing him to cough a little.

 

***

 

            The history quiz came and went, and Josie was quite sure she had aced it; then came Computer Science.  Computer Science was a joke.  The students surfed the internet and played online poker to pass the time.  Their teacher was an old senile woman who had no business teaching anything involving modern computers, but Josie and the other students didn’t care.  They got to run wild in her class.

            “Hey Josie,” a boy sitting beside her whispered.  “I found a picture you might like.”  Josie turned to look with curiosity, when he hit the ENTER key and a nude female appeared on screen.  Nude was a nice way to describe it.  She was bent over a sports care with fingers spreading her apart, obviously showing her readiness for sex.  Josie gave a disgusted sigh and went back to browsing the internet for Anne Rice websites.

            “Oh, I’m sorry Josie . . . I thought you liked this sort of thi-ing.”  The boy coughed when his voice cracked. 

            Josie, noticing this, looked back at him and said, “Oh what’s the matter, Brian?  Did puberty finally happen?”  She had to deal with his antics on numerous occasions during the school year, but never had she noticed his voice having a problem cracking like it just had.  He was a senior, after all.  Didn’t boys have stable voices by then?

            “Shut up, you dy-yke!” His voice cracked again.  Apparently he was still developing.  Josie looked at him and smiled condescendingly.  It was not often she had the upper hand in a battle of insults, but today was turning out to be different, somehow.

            Josie silently reveled in her small victory, also imagining what it would have been like to do the same thing to Cameron when his voice cracked.  The only problem was, Cameron was for the most part an okay guy, and if she had been mean to him, Lisa would have given her hell.

            By the time Josie got to her Drama II class, Josie was dreading PE – which would come afterwards.  She heard a rumor that they would be playing basketball, and she royally sucked at any and all sports, particularly basketball.  The only physical education it provided was the simple lesson that people were inherently stronger and faster than Josie.  She tried to ignore her growing anxiety by focusing on the movie they were watching – Gone With the Wind.

            Shit!” a girl next to her whispered.  Josie looked over with a little curiosity when she saw Terra readjusting her bra with obvious frustration.  Terra gave her an embarrassed look and whispered to Josie, “I don’t know what the deal is, I must have grabbed my sister’s bra by accident.”

            “Hey, maybe you’ve lost weight, Terra.”  Josie said, looking the other girl over.  She did look more trim than usual.

            “You think so?”  Terra asked, hopefully.  God only knew why she would be happy about losing weight; she had been slender to begin with.  Any more and she would start resembling a heroin addict.

When the bell rang, Mr. Phelps stopped the movie, not even halfway finished, as the class quickly exited the room.  Josie frowned a little when gooseflesh passed over her body.  She had noticed something strange, but couldn’t place a finger on what.  She looked at the other students quietly and looked at their surroundings.  Everything looked normal, until Terra stepped in front of her, once again tugging at her bra straps with quiet annoyance. 

That was when Josie began to truly notice.

            Josie – at 5’4 – had never been the tallest girl, but what she saw in front of her made her frown.  Terra, at 5’6, was now same height as she was.  She looked over at another girl – Jennifer Anderson – whom she knew was the same height, and even she looked shorter!  Josie stepped over behind her examined the girl closely.  She was definitely shorter by two inches at least.  Josie’s eyes widened when Jennifer stopped to fidget with her bra strap as well.

            Josie looked around at the guys – many of whom were taller, still, but not most of them, which was normally the case.  In fact, some of them were the same height as she was now.  She shook her head and tried not to think about it.  It was just too crazy to be true.

            What’s true, Josie?”  A little voice in the back of her mind asked.  What do you think you’re seeing?”

            I’m taller.  Josie reluctantly answered.

            “What?!  How do your clothes fit?”  When Josie made it out into the hallway, she examined herself.  Her clothes felt as comfortably and slightly loose fitting as always.  Her shoes didn’t feel tight, and her boobs weren’t straining against the fabric that held them at bay.  She had not magically grown during the morning, she was just taller than the other teens around her.

            Josie looked up and around at the other students walking by.  Normally it was rare to find someone the same height or shorter than she was, but now she was either equal or even taller than many of the girls – and boys – walking by.  She watched them walk, and noticed that they were walking strange.  The cuffs on some of the boys’ pants were beginning to bunch up around their ankles.  Their shoes seemed dangerously loose, and she even noticed one boy lose a Doc Martin and stop to pick it up.  People’s clothes looked baggier than usual, even the guys who weren’t trying to dress like thugs.

            This can’t be, Josie protested, drawing upon all the common knowledge she had accumulated over the years.  People don’t just shrink! 

            She went back to watching the girls again, and saw more instances of annoyingly loose bra straps, and that was when she noticed that the clothes weren’t the only things that were the wrong size.  The girls weren’t only shorter, they looked smaller – especially around the hips and the chest.  There were girls walking by who she knew were not small girls.  Yesterday, they had been busty; today they were average.  Yesterday, average girls had been, well, average . . . but today . . .

            Why are all their tits smaller?  Josie wondered. 

 

***

 

            In a near daze, Josie made it to the gym locker room, where she began changing into her shorts and tank top.  She had spent so much time staring at the other students in perplexity, that she had neglected to notice she was late for gym class.  By the time she got in there, all the other girls had finished changing and were undoubtedly upstairs warming up for the basketball match.

            When she made her way up to the gym floor, she saw that the girls were indeed warming up for the match, but they were being a little clumsy today.  Their shoes must be a little loose like everyone else’s.  Josie concluded to herself. 

            “Miss Connely, you’re late.  See me after class.” 

            “Yes Mr. Walker.”  Josie blushed and looked down at herself.  She heard a couple of girls giggle at her impending punishment, and all the thoughts of perplexity were replaced by good ole juvenile insecurity, which fit like a well worn pair of shoes to Josie.  “Well geez O’Pete, Josie, the other girls are ready to play!  Stop lollygagging and get out there!” Josie’s slow, timid steps upgraded to a scurry as she moved out onto the basketball court.

            “Hey Josie, ready to help us win today?”  A girl on the other team said, this was followed by a few childish giggles.  Josie stopped and looked up at all of them and was surprised at how childish they did sound!  Not only that, but they looked different.  The girls – every one of them – looked less menacing today.  Yes, they were shorter, yes, their breasts were definitely less pronounced, but their faces looked very fresh.  Fresh, was that the word Josie was grasping for?  At any rate, her thoughts were put on hold as the game began.

            Girl passed to girl, girl dribbled, girl passed to another girl, this girl dribbled, then passed to another standing near Josie and the goal.  The girl tried to make a two point shot, but she couldn’t clear Josie . . . Josie was just too tall for her!  Josie slapped the ball out of the air and found herself actually dribbling the ball for the first time in her life.  The fresh-faced girls before her were shocked.  Well, let’s see if I can do something with this, then.  With that, Josie began dribbling down the court, dodging the other girls with surprising ease.  She could hear the sound of loose shoed, floppy foot falls behind her, but she was moving too fast for them.  When she reached the other side, she stopped.  She had never made a basket in her entire life.  Just as she was about to shoot, a girl tried to slap the ball out of her hand, but Josie’s two-handed grip was too strong for the little girl’s dainty slap.  Then another came up and tried to do the same thing, but this time all Josie had to do was hold the ball up in the air; none of the girls could reach it.  She looked over at the coach, to see if he saw this weird chain of events, but Mr. Walker was off talking to Miss Fletcher, an assistant soccer coach.

            She looked back at the girls, their agitated expressions, their complete obliviousness to the situation . . . The situation!  God, what was the situation?  They were all nearly a head shorter than Josie, their arms looked skinny, their hips were non-existent, and their breasts were . . . tiny!

            “Oh my god!”  Josie said out loud, looking at all of them.  She threw the ball in the air, and ignored its true arc as it hit the backboard, bounced on the rim, and lolled through hoop.  “Look at yourselves!  Don’t you see what you’re becoming!

            There was an uneasy silence as the girls stopped to look at themselves, and each other.  The one girl who asked if Josie was going to help her team win again, stared up at Josie with wide-eyed fear.  “Josie, why are you so tall?  You’re like . . . huge.”

            “IT’S NOT ME!”  Josie exploded.  “I’m 5’4, and that’s how I’ve always been.  It’s you!  Look at yourselves!  You’re …  you’re children again!”  There, it was out.  She had been thinking that ever since standing out in the hall watching the girls walk by with loose clothes and flat chests, the guys with cracking voices.  All of it.  They were becoming children again . . . all of them!

            Except for Josie.

            “This is some kinda trick, you stupid bitch!”  Another girl, Kirsten, screamed.  “What did you do?”

            “Hon, I didn’t do a damn thing.  Look at yourself … look at your breasts, no better yet, look at where they used to be!  Jesus, none of you could be that stupid.  JUST LOOK AT YOURSELVES!”  Josie walked over to Kirsten and yanked her shirt up to reveal her mostly empty bra.

            “Hey!”  The girl squeaked.

            “Look!  It’s flatter than Kansas under here!  All of you, you’re getting younger… God knows why because I sure as fuck don’t!  Can’t you see this yourselves?”  For a moment, Josie wondered if she had gone crazy.  Perhaps this was some elaborate hallucination, because no one seemed to be noticing the changes but her – and it wasn’t like they were inconspicuous changes.  She could understand them not noticing earlier that morning, when everybody looked seemingly normal, but now?!  Wait, they noticed that I’m taller than them. What sort of witchcraft was this? 

            Josie was about to go drag Mr. Walker away from the assistant coach and show him what was happening, when the other girls began to realize what was happening.  The look in their eyes was unmistakable, as though they had finally awakened from whatever had kept them oblivious to whatever power was at work.

            The only dribbling on the court then was from a puddle spreading out from around one girl’s feet.  The girl, Kimberly is her name, began trembling, first her lips, then her pee-soaked legs, then the whimpering came, but it didn’t stop there.  The whimpering got louder, and more shrill, until it became a solid scream.  It wasn’t the scream of merely someone afraid, it was the scream of a little girl waking up and realizing that the nightmare was still going on.

            The coach came running over and was shocked, but he wasn’t staring at the girls in floppy shoes and loose gym clothes, but at the puddle of urine that Kimberly had produced.  He then blinked and stared at all the girls for a second, almost like he was waking up from whatever dark dream had held the others.  Then something clicked.  Thank God and the messiah and all the saints, world without end, hallelujah, something clicked in his dense skull, and Josie secretly rejoiced.

            “What’s going on here?  You’re not my students . . . you’re . . . you’re . . .”

            “Yes they are, Mr. Walker!  I don’t know what’s happening , but they’re . . . But it’s them . . . they’re younger!”  Josie was going to say more when she noticed that Mr. Walker’s hair was no longer gray, but a healthy auburn color.  Any other day she would have thought of it as hair dye, but not today.  She had understandably noticed the other students’ regression first, because most of them were still in the middle of puberty.  Adults – on the other hand – their changes would be hard to notice with just five to six years subtracted.

            “Mr. Walker . . .” Josie couldn’t finish the sentence.  It was madness, and she was right in the middle of it.  All she could do was stare at all of them and wonder why this was happening.