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´╗┐Title: A matter of size
Author: Mines, Samuel
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A matter of size" ***


                           A MATTER OF SIZE

                            By SAMUEL MINES

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                Thrilling Wonder Stories February 1947.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


Professor Hiram Dexter put the finishing touches on his toilet by
tenderly brushing out his crisp, black Vandyke beard. He stepped back
to look at himself in the mirror. He had to stoop a little for even the
full-length glass was short for his six feet four inches of gangling
height. Nevertheless he regarded his image with undiluted satisfaction.

"Ah, Dexter," he sighed, "you're a dashing rascal."

Humming tunelessly, for he was quite tone-deaf, he picked up a book
titled, "The Nutritive Quotient, Vitamin Factors And Trace Elements of
Protein-High Diets," put his hat on, the light out, and left the house.

Outside, a spring night hovered tenderly over the campus of Fredonia
College. The darkness was alive with the richness of new grass,
the vagrant perfumes of verbena, alyssum, calendula, nemophila and
ageratum, not to mention lobelia, mignonette, nicotiana, scabiosa,
Kochia and salpiglossis. He knew them all and loved every Latin
syllable.

His nostrils dilated with pleasure as he strode, with a loose, almost
clanking motion, along the concrete paths. It was a night for romance,
for tender, whispered discussions of vitamins and tissue regeneration,
of gamma rays and the atom.

Professor Dexter's heart welled with the rich pathos of life. As
straight as the curving paths would allow, he headed directly for the
neat brick house where dwelt his lady love: Professor Clarissa Wilkins,
of the Domestic Science Department.

At the foot of her steps, a shadow loomed out of the dark. It was a
very short, barrel-shaped shadow. Prof. Dexter leaned over from his
great height, to peer at it.

"Ah--is that you, Donald?" he queried.

"Who were you expecting?" snapped the tubby shadow peevishly.
"Hirohito?"

Professor Donald Curtis was in almost every way the opposite of his
friend Hiram Dexter. He was five feet two inches in his elevator shoes
and his circumference was better than that by two or three inches. He
was as quick, and jumpy in his movements as a chipmunk and he seemed to
buzz around the taller, slower-moving man like an irritated bumble-bee.
Nevertheless they were fast friends, rivals only in their physics
research--and for the hand of Professor Clarissa Wilkins.

They turned and ascended the steps together. Professor Curtis clutched
to his plump bosom a book titled: "A Statistical History of the
Nutritional Influence Upon Intelligence of the Child From One to Six."
Neither were Greeks, but they both came bearing gifts subtly slanted to
their beloved's tastes.

       *       *       *       *       *

Professor Dexter pressed the doorbell and a muted chime rang softly
within. The door opened and light bathed them, pressing back the soft
darkness of the spring night.

"Good evening, Professor," Professor Dexter said, beaming at the lady
in the doorway.

"Good evening, Professor," Professor Curtis echoed, smiling broadly.

"Oh, it's you," Professor Wilkins said. If this had been the South she
would have said you-all.

Clarissa was an energetic spinster in her forties with snapping black
eyes, graying hair drawn into a neat, no-nonsense bun at the back
of her head and the most remarkable grasp of bio-chemistry of any
woman alive. Professors Dexter and Curtis admired her intellectual
attainments extravagantly and mistook the admiration for love.

She let them in, accepted their gifts with a murmured thanks and waved
them vaguely to chairs. She seemed a little absent-minded, a bit
distracted this evening.

Professor Dexter cleared his throat.

"A most amusing thing happened in class today," he began. "I was
lecturing--"

"That was amusing enough," Professor Curtis snapped testily.
"Professor--er--Clarissa," he said daringly, "referring to the
Stefansson experiments in living on meat alone for a year--"

"By the way," interrupted Professor Dexter, "I don't see any of
those--er--those delicious cookies you make so well, Professor.
Those--ah--little brown ones with the chocolate chips in them."

He was peering around anxiously.

A flicker of emotion crossed Clarissa's face, but was gone at once. She
rose.

"I'll get them."

She returned bearing a plate heaped high with crisp, crunchy,
chocolated cookies. The professors' eyes lighted. They reached.

Professor Dexter hurried into the conversational breach, impolitely not
even waiting for his mastication to cease.

"A most amusing thing happened in class today," he repeated.

The doorbell chimed.

Anticipation lighted up Professor Wilkins' cool gray eyes. She went to
the door and presently returned with a man in tow.

"Professor Dexter, Professor Curtis, you know Mr. Donahue, our athletic
director."

They knew Jake Donahue. They did not approve of mere muscle, without
mind. They gave his powerful, athletic figure, his rugged, square-jawed
face a disapproving glance.

"How d'ye do?" they said.

"Hi!" said Jake Donahue.

He sat down. Clarissa transferred the plate of cookies to his side.
He munched. And a surprising thing happened. Mere muscle could never
triumph over intellect, yet the Professors Dexter and Curtis found
themselves pocketed, side-tracked and elbowed aside.

The conversation was of football, racing, track, crew, basketball,
pole-vaulting, shot-putting, boxing, swimming, wrestling, baseball,
not to neglect tennis, skeet-shooting, ice-skating, skiing, horseback
riding, lacrosse, bob-sledding, jai-alai, handball and billiards.

They took it for an hour. Then they folded their tents like the Arabs
and as silently withdrew. The final blow was that Clarissa hardly
seemed to know they were departing.

Defeated, they stared at one another, when outside. The spring night
was still fulsome with perfume and romance. But the joy had gone from
their hearts, the glamour was an empty, mocking shell.

"This may be new to us, Professor, but it is a familiar thing," Curtis
said as they began to walk down the path. "The female of the species
wishes to be conquered. Hence, whatever her intellectual endowments,
instinct triumphs over intellect and she succumbs to the animal
magnetism of brute force."

"But it's Clarissa!" Professor Dexter said weakly.

"Even Clarissa. Oh, of course if she married him she would soon awake
to her horrible mistake. She would weary of an endless conversation
about basketball and foot racing. She would yearn for the rarified
heights of our discussions. But it would be too late."

"We must rescue her from this tragic error, Professor," Dexter said
firmly.

"Yes," Curtis agreed. "How? Did you ever try to change Clarissa's mind?"

"Uh--once." Professor Dexter shuddered at the memory. "It was worse
than my fraternity initiation--which I still remember with revulsion
after twenty-six years."

       *       *       *       *       *

They walked in moody silence for a while, Professor Curtis skipping to
keep up with his friend's loose-jointed stride. Then Professor Dexter
stopped with an exclamation.

"There is a way!" he said. "Look. It seems obvious that what Clarissa
admires in this Jake Donahue is not his conversation but his
overwhelmingly masculine physique. Do you agree?"

Curtis grunted. His own figure was a sore spot with him.

"Against Jake Donahue--let us face it--we do not cut inspiring
figures. I am too tall and you are too short. But suppose we were
to change--suppose I were to come down four or five inches and fill
out correspondingly and you were to come up ten inches and slim out
correspondingly? Then how would we compare with Donahue?"

Professor Curtis stared at him angrily.

"There may be something wrong with my ears, but I doubt it," he
snapped. "I think I heard you say what I heard you say. And I wish to
point out, with bitterness, that this is hardly the time for fanciful
pleasantries."

"Nonsense!" Professor Dexter said. "I am not joking. We have the means
in our grasp. Come along with me and I'll show you."

He hurried the protesting Curtis along, the little man's feet fairly
flying to keep up. At the darkened physics building, Dexter used his
key and let them in. They went up to the laboratory.

"You know my work on the atom," Dexter said. "I have never boasted
of my part in atomic fission which resulted in the atom bomb. I was
pledged to secrecy but there is no harm in telling you what you have
doubtless guessed, that I was one of the physicists whose work on
uranium made the bomb possible."

Curtis nodded. There was no jealousy in him, only the true scientists'
appreciation of a good job well done. He was Dexter's staunchest
booster.

"What I have done," Professor Dexter said, snapping on the lights
in his laboratory, "is to shift my research away from destructive
metallurgy and turn the light of new atom discoveries upon protoplasmic
tissue. If the atoms of metal can be shifted, altered or broken apart,
why not living tissue?"

"Because your subject would die, obviously," Curtis replied.

"They did, at first," Dexter admitted. "The reason was that the
cyclotron--" he waved at a hulking monster which looked like two giant
Swiss cheeses lying flat, one above the other "--was much too powerful
to use on living things. The problem was to use less power, apply it
more slowly, yet retain the ability to move the electrons about the
nucleus."

Excitement began to pop in Professor Curtis' voluable face.

"You did it?" he stammered.

"I did it. Needing only reduced power, I scaled down the cyclotron and
incorporated the electron stream in this cathode tube. What I have here
is essentially a pocket-sized cyclotron which I am satisfied will have
no lethal effect upon living tissue."

"But what will it do?"

Professor Dexter shrugged bony shoulders.

"Anything. By exerting the proper kind of force on the electrons I can
crowd them together, thus reducing anything in size. By bombarding
them with a different intensity I can cause them to repel each other
and thus increase the size of the subject. Or--I could simply alter his
appearance by shifting the arrangement of the atom, or by knocking out
some of the electrons which would change his chemical composition."

"Then you can actually make us smaller or larger?"

"I am convinced of it. I never intended, nor expected, to put the
machine to such frivolous uses. I had dedicated it to pure science.
But what is science, after all, but a tool which man should use for a
better life? And our lives are now affected, Professor. We must use
science to solve our own problems."

"Admirably put."

Professor Dexter laid his hand on a huge shining cathode tube, whose
terminal ends were clamped in the shining copper embrace of a massive
induction coil.

"To be fair, we will need two of these. We will both undergo the
experiment simultaneously--you to grow, I to shrink. Will you take the
risk, Professor?"

Curtis clasped his hand.

"Gladly."

"Then I shall build another apparatus and as soon as it is finished we
will complete the experiment."

"I will help you, Professor," Curtis exclaimed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Working feverishly, they completed the job in a week. Two identical
machines stood near each other on the lab floor, shining cathode tubes
poised like a pair of futuristic ray guns.

In all this time they had no word from Professor Clarissa Wilkins.

"Probably baking cookies for Jake Donahue," Dexter said bitterly.

"If he eats enough of them he'll get fat and lose his figure," Curtis
said. "But it would take too long."

They finished early one afternoon and by common consent made their
plans to go through with the experiment the next morning. Though
neither man would admit it they were just a little scared. They went
home and made their wills. Each left everything they possessed to
Clarissa.

Early the next morning, before the campus was astir with class-bound
students, they met at the laboratory. The grass sparkled with dew and
all the freshness and sweetness of a spring morning tugged at their
hearts. Professor Dexter had circles of sleeplessness under his eyes
and Professor Curtis' chubby face was drawn and haggard.

They entered the laboratory. Professor Dexter set the automatic timers
on both machines. They shook hands gravely, then, unable to find words,
took their places silently under the gleaming eyes of the cathode
tubes. Together they raised their hands and depressed the switches.

Deep in the basement a generator sprang to life and faintly they sensed
the deep rumble of its movement. The Coolidge tubes awoke as the stream
of electrons impinged upon the platinum target plates. And then the
shock of induced rays struck them, sank into them, seemed to flow and
spread to every tissue and cell.

Something was happening to Professor Hiram Dexter. He felt, first of
all, a sudden surge of nausea that rocked him on his long legs. His
stomach twisted and a paralyzing weakness turned his muscles to water
and made the lab swim unsteadily before his eyes.

At the same moment he felt a definite shrinking effect. His limbs
became suddenly heavy. He felt in the grip of a vastly increased
gravity, like a man going swiftly upward in a fast elevator. He was
unable to move because of the strange weight of his arms and legs.

Then, to his horror, he saw the Coolidge tube sliding swiftly up out
of his line of vision. The edge of the lab table came up, passed his
eyeline and began to recede toward the ceiling. He was shrinking, but
too fast and too far!

Even in that moment of undisguised terror, his scientist's mind noted
that his clothes shrank with him. The ray worked on them as well as his
living tissue.

Steadying his reeling vision, he searched wildly for Professor Curtis.
Far across the huge expanse of rough, pitted lumber which the lab floor
had suddenly become, were two shoes the size of the Queen Elizabeth.
From them two colossal legs, each like the Washington Monument, soared
into the sky. He could see only just past the knees. The rest of the
torso loomed into the distance. The ceiling was unthinkable distances
beyond.

There came the click of the automatic timer. The power went off and
the Coolidge tube subsided into lifelessness. The potent stream of
electrons ceased.

Slowly the nausea lifted. He could breathe again. He stared around
him, terrified at the huge, strange cavern he was in. Judging from the
apparent girth of chair legs and similar objects near him, he was about
three inches tall! The fleeting thought crossed his mind. If a mouse
should come across him now! What a terrifying carnivore it would be!

But this was not the worst. He could not move. At first the dreadful
thought came that the rays had somehow paralyzed him. But there was no
numbness in his muscles. They were simply too heavy to lift themselves.
He stood as immobile as though he had been nailed to the floor.

Across the room Professor Curtis was having his troubles. The ceiling
had shot down to him as it had to Alice-In-Wonderland when she had
drunk the little bottle labeled, "Drink Me."

       *       *       *       *       *

He had hastily stooped to keep from bashing his head and he had to keep
on stooping more and more until he was bent more than halfway over
before the click of the automatic timer released him.

"This is a little too much of a good thing," he muttered and was
startled at the sound of his own voice. It was light and fluttery with
a sound like soap bubbles bursting in midair.

"Professor!" he called. "Professor Dexter! Where are you?"

The tiniest of squeaks came up to him. Still feeling light-headed and
dizzy, Curtis searched the area carefully. With horror he spotted at
last, the diminutive, toy-like figure of his friend.

He took a careful step forward. His limbs seemed to float, with little
effort, which was fortunate, for he felt as weak as though he had just
emerged from a long illness.

Then he realized there was only one way to get close. He lay down flat
on the floor, doubling up at knees and waist and got his face close to
the tiny figure of Dexter.

"Get me out of here!" the mannikin squeaked painfully. "Start the
machine and reverse it!"

Professor Curtis clambered to his feet.

If Clarissa could see us now, he thought. I am twenty feet tall and
Professor Dexter is three inches tall. What a pair!

Weakly he lumbered back to his machine and reached for the control.
Then, crowning horror of horrors! The lever sank right into his hand!

It hurt like the devil too, and he pulled back his arm with a yelp of
pain. Carefully he tried again. And again the solid metal seemed to
push right through the flesh.

Dazed, frightened, he cautiously tried to touch other objects. There
was always the same result. Everything penetrated his tissues like a
needle going through cloth. Yet he did not bleed.

Terrified, he went down on his stomach to report this new catastrophe
to Professor Dexter. The shrunken scientist groaned.

"That was the one thing I forgot," he squeaked. "I forgot that no
matter how I altered the size of the atoms in our bodies, the mass
would remain the same. Thus I am now so heavy that I cannot move. You
are so light that you have no strength and your atoms are so dispersed
that solid objects penetrate your tissues and you cannot move the
switch. We are trapped, Professor Curtis, trapped like miserable rats
in a cage!"

There was a timeless moment of despair during which the two pioneers
stared at each other in hopeless terror. Only Professor Curtis saw a
mere pinpoint of white face too small for features, while Professor
Dexter saw a huge floating blob of a planet like the full moon looming
over him.

There was a sudden and welcome interruption. The door banged and
Clarissa Wilkins' crisp efficient voice came to their ears.

"What's going on in here?" she demanded. "Professor Curtis, is that
you? What have you been doing to yourself? Get up off the floor!"

"Careful!" Professor Curtis panted, beginning to unjoint himself.
"Don't step on Professor Dexter!"

"Step on him? My heavens, where is he?"

"She wouldn't hurt me if she did," Dexter groaned to himself. "Probably
break her foot."

"Clarissa--er--Professor Wilkins, turn on the machine for us!" Curtis
gasped, pointing wildly to the starting switch.

"Tell her to reverse the polarity!" Dexter squeaked.

Clarissa snorted as she moved purposely toward the machine.

"I always thought you two theorists were too childlike to be left
alone," she snapped. "I knew you'd get into trouble and need a woman to
get you out!"

Efficiently she reversed and started the machine as Professor Curtis
stepped into the path of the rays. Before her startled eyes he
shrank--shrank--shrank back to his normal elevator-shoed tubbiness, and
the timer clicked off the machine.

With a gasp of relief, Professor Curtis leaped forward and did the
necessary for Dexter's machine. To Clarissa's even greater wonder,
Dexter grew rapidly out of the floor and shot up into his normal
gangling six feet four.

Both scientists faced each other with beads of sweat on their brows.
Their hands met silently.

"When you two get through admiring one another, I'll tell you what I
came here for," Clarissa said crisply. "I just wanted you to know that
I am going to marry Mr. Donahue!"

They heard her go, but the sense of loss did not come. The sense of
relief persisted.

"She's a wonderful woman," Professor Curtis said softly.

"Yes," agreed Professor Dexter. "But you see now what difficulties this
mating instinct is apt to bring on? This insane desire to please an
illogical woman? Professor Curtis we have had a narrow escape!"

"You are right," Curtis said gloomily.

"Besides," Professor Dexter sighed, "I think it was those chocolate
chip cookies she baked so well that I was really in love with. I am
going to miss them."

"Maybe she'll let us drop around some evenings and she'll bake us
some," Curtis suggested.

Their eyes brightened. All was not lost.



*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A matter of size" ***




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