Toucan came crashing to the ground at top speed, close to the giant raccoon known as Roger.
“Ow,” Toucan moaned. “That doesn’t get any easier.”
Roger didn’t seem to notice at first, but then jumped with alarm when she saw the small bird next to her, and fell backwards, shaking the ground and knocking into two palm trees.
“Quick,” Toucan began now that Roger was paying attention. “Where’s Montgomery?” Toucan had been racing through the sky at top speed for the last hour or so, scanning the ground below with intensity for the lumbering moose creature. He was nowhere to be found, though, and Toucan hoped that this other, much larger creature would know where to find him.
“Umm, who?” the raccoon asked with a shrug.
“Montgomery. The Moose. Where is he?”
“Who’s that?” Roger asked again with little care, and Toucan slowly realized what had happened; this place had got to the raccoon in the same way it had to Fred, making them forget their friends and the past they had before coming here.
“What’s your name?” Toucan asked, hoping to try a different approach.
“Uhhh…” the raccoon started. She wasn’t sure at first if she even had a name, or what having a name even meant. “I don’t…” she started before trailing off.
“Okay, well, you’re not the moose, but maybe you can help. There’s someone trapped and we need someone very big and strong to help them get out. You look big, and… maybe you’re strong, it’s hard to tell. Will you-”
“I am big!” the raccoon interrupted. “I am really big!” Toucan thought about what the large creature might be saying.
“Wait, did something here make you big? Was it the water in that stream?” Toucan asked.
“Yyess!!” the raccoon replied with excitement, her eyes widening as if remembering for the first time, and then seemed lost in thought, tipping her head to the side a little and staring into space.
“Ugh,” Toucan continued. “Okay, come on…”
Toucan led Roger in the direction of a waterfall – and Roger followed Toucan, without really knowing why she was doing it. The trek took close to an hour, but neither of them spoke, and it felt like only five minutes because time moves in such unpredictable ways in this land.
This waterfall was gentle, but came from a long way up; so high in fact that Roger couldn’t see where it was coming from. And as they got close to it, the pool it landed in seemed to go nowhere; almost as if it just continued to fall into the land in some never-ending flow of water.
“Okay,” Toucan ordered, “drink some of this.”
Again, Roger didn’t know why she was going along with what Toucan wanted, but she did it just the same. She stuck her head out to lap up some of the water as it fell, before Toucan shouted out, “No no no! Not like that! You’ll get too much. Just put some in your hands and drink it.”
Roger did as she was told, and cupped her hands to gather some water from the falls. She looked at Toucan for confirmation. Toucan nodded, so Roger took a sip, and slowly drank the whole amount.
She looked again at Toucan, who now seemed to be growing larger. But everything seemed to be growing larger. Of course, it was really Roger who was shrinking. As her body settled at approximately the size of a donkey, she tried to adjust to her new size. Her eyes looked all around, and widened as they settled on the sky.
“Montgomery the Moose,” she said.
“Yes!” Toucan replied. “It’s working, see? Your memory is coming back now that you’re returning to your own size.
“No,” Roger replied with panic in her voice, pushing Toucan to the side. “Montgomery the Moose!”
Well this isn’t going well, Montgomery the Moose thought to himself a few hundred feet away. Well, a few hundred feet diagonally up in the sky. He had slipped off Spaceship’s cockpit just as he suspected he might, and was tumbling down through the air. With every turn the ground seemed to be getting closer, and he wondered why he’d never learned to fly.
Suddenly, less than twenty feet from the ground, Spaceship swooped underneath with perfect accuracy for Montgomery to land directly onto the domed cockpit again, legs straddled as before. It was all very impressive to Toucan and Roger… until Spaceship stopped suddenly after a job well done, and Montgomery the Moose’s momentum carried him straight off the cockpit again and he tumbled to the ground with a crash, just a couple of feet from Roger.
“Montgomery? Are you okay?” Roger asked. Now that she remembered him again, all the memories of their friendship had come flooding back.
“Owwwww,” he moaned in reply. Laying almost upside-down, his head stretched back, very close to the waterfall Roger had just drunk from. “Ooh, water!” he said, distractedly, and stretched to take a deep gulp.
“No, wait!” “Stop!” Roger and Toucan called out almost in unison.
“Huh? Why?” he said, looking at them.
“Never mind that now, never mind that now” Toucan replied in a hurry. “Now that you’re here, I need to take you to save The Great G’n-zalo.”
Spaceship swooped down and landed close by, opening her cockpit and letting everyone out. Montgomery the Moose looked at Toucan with confusion. “Who are you?”
“Look, it doesn’t matter who I am (I’m Toucan, by the way – nice to meet you). You’re the one who’s supposed to save magic, and we don’t have much time. I need to take you through a portal to another realm.”
“If a realm means the same thing as a world, I think I just did that.”
“Well, no, another another realm.”
“And then what? How many realms are there?”
“Well… actually that’s a good question, I have no idea how many there are,” Toucan replied. “But the one I’m taking you to is where The Great G’n-zalo is imprisoned. No one else has been able to get him out, but you can.”
“Why do you think I can?”
Toucan paused. “Because The Great G’n-zalo says you can.”
A voice boomed from the air as the orange dragon known as Trevor came down to land close by. “Because we’ve always known it would be you.”
“Uh-huh,” Montgomery replied, doubtfully.
“The Teleporting Trevor!” Toucan greeted the large dragon reverently, bowing as he did so. The Teleporting Trevor waved him away without much notice. Nevertheless, Toucan continued. “Sir, it is a great honor to meet you once again, and now that you’re here, I believe fortune favors us all. The portal through to The Great G’n-zalo’s cell is growing smaller by the hour. This moose will never fit through. But with your powers, you can expand the portal to allow him through.
The Teleporting Trevor sighed a deep sigh and closed his eyes. Toucan picked up on what that meant.
“I… cannot,” the large orange dragon said.
“Why not?” Spaceship asked. “You just brought us through here…” but the dragon’s face said it all. Opening the portal from Maine to this land had exhausted him more than he realized it would. He looked wobbly and, as they all watched helplessly, he collapsed, sending up a cloud of dirt and dust as he hit the ground.
Toucan looked distraught. “Time is running out,” he said.
Roger seemed to have an idea and tried to speak but was interrupted.
“Well, there must be another way for me to get through,” Montgomery said. “After all, I’m pretty good at running through small holes.”
Roger raised a paw to get everyone’s attention, but was ignored.
“He’s got a point there,” Montgomery the Mouse said from his vantage point on Spaceship’s hull.
“No,” Toucan replied. “The reality that The Great G’n-zalo is in was designed to keep one large creature in and keep other large creatures out.”
“Hmmm,” Roger said loudly, feeling quite proud of herself as she stood on her back legs and leaned on a rock by the waterfall. “If only,” she said sarcastically, “if only there was something that could make you small…”
“Exactly,” Montgomery the Moose said, somewhat irritated at Roger, “that’s the point.”
“No, that’s it!” Toucan said. “Your smelly friend has got it.” Toucan hopped over to Roger and attempted to give Roger a kiss on the cheek, before becoming repulsed by her scent. Roger took great offense to this, and smelled herself, but decided she smelled beautiful and that birds just had a terrible sense of smell. “The waterfall! That will shrink you down!”
Toucan looked concerned.
“The… waterfall?” Montgomery the Moose asked incredulously.
“Yeah!” Roger said excitedly. “Remember how I was huge? And now I’m regular size again? (Well, more or less…) The water in this place is crazy.”
“Yeah, but remember how changing size made Roger forget things, Montgomery?” Montgomery the Mouse added with worry. “She forgot her life, and her friends. What if that happens to you too?” Montgomery the Moose shared his friend’s concern.
“Besides,” Toucan added. “It won’t work. That reality is protected against magic.”
“But… I only need magic to fit through the portal on this side, right?” Montgomery the Moose asked, but he could see Toucan needed help to follow along. “So… if magic stops working the moment I pass through, I’ll be regular size again.”
“Hmmm,” Toucan understood at last. “Intriguing!”
“How does this magic water work, anyway?” Francesca the Frog asked. “I mean, you’re saying some made Roger bigger, but this would make things smaller?”
Toucan explained that the water in this land came from two springs – the water from one was known as growing water, which is what Roger had drunk before. This water was shrinking water. The only water that wouldn’t affect size was from the ocean, where the two springs met and mixed. Spaceship said that sounded completely ridiculous, and Francesca pointed out that the creature who was saying it sounded completely ridiculous was a sentient spaceship who had just traveled to a magical land with the help of a dragon. “Okay, point taken,” Spaceship replied.
“But… but…” Montgomery the Mouse argued, with tears in his eyes. “But if you’re regular size on the other side of the portal, how will you get back? And what if… what if it does the same thing it did to Roger, and you forget me?”
Montgomery the Moose walked slowly over to Spaceship, bringing his head level with his mouse friend sitting on her hull. “Montgomery,” he said slowly and gently, “I could never forget you.”
With that, he strode to the waterfall, and as Montgomery the Mouse covered his teary eyes, Montgomery the Moose held his mouth open under the falls, and took a large deep mouthful of water. Almost immediately, he shrunk to the size of a mouse.
“Whoa!” Montgomery the mouse-sized Moose said, with wide eyes. “I thought this was supposed to make me small. Why are you all so big?!”
As Freddie the Frog corrected him, Montgomery the Mouse jumped from the edge of Spaceship’s hull to a nearby bush and scurried down to his friend. The two Montgomerys, now the same size, met eyes in a way they had never been able to before. Montgomery the Mouse panicked that his Moose friend would lose memories quickly, and wanted to be there with him the whole time.
“My friend!” Montgomery the mouse-sized Moose said as if they had not seen each other for months. “Now… now I can see what you really look like.”
Montgomery the Mouse nodded. “It’s really different seeing you at this size. You’re like me now.”
“Come on,” Toucan ordered. “We need to go.”
“Yes,” Montgomery the Mouse agreed. The fact that Montgomery the Moose had called him “my friend” worried him slightly, and he didn’t want this to take longer than it had to.
Spaceship suggested Toucan take the two Montgomerys ahead of everyone else to save time, and she would track them to follow on. The two friends climbed onto Toucan’s back and flew off, but as Freddie and Francesca hopped up to get back inside the cockpit, a metal panel opened in Spaceship’s hull just a few inches from them, revealing a funnel connected to a hose, which snaked out like an elephant’s trunk, and made its way under the waterfall.
“What are you doing?!” Francesca demanded.
“I have a plan,” Spaceship replied mysteriously. “This water won’t affect me, but I’ll put Bobby inside it, shrink him down, and then send him into the same place Montgomery is going. If magic doesn’t work there, he’ll be back to normal, right?”
The frogs thought through the theory for a moment. The Teleporting Trevor, in his weakened state and collapsed in a heap, growled.
“Why wouldn’t it work on you?” he said. “You are alive…” With that, the great orange dragon dropped his head once again, and Spaceship began to shrink, with the frogs tumbling to the ground as a result.
When Freddie and Francesca recovered, they looked around, sure that Spaceship would now be the size of a mouse too. But she was nowhere to be found.
“What…?!” Freddie shouted.
“Where did she go?!” Francesca shouted at the same time.
The dragon stirred again.
“She took too much. She’s gone subatomic. It’s up to The Shrinking Sh’la to save her now…”
To be continued…