RELUCTANT ADVENTURE J. Brennan
“Whatever you do, don’t touch that…”
Before Jerry finished the sentence, it was too late. Candy’s natural curiosity prevailed and her finger seemed drawn to the bright red button, marked LAUNCH.
Everything seemed to happen at once. The winged doors of the small space capsule snapped closed and locked. Belts automatically secured Jerry and Candy to their seats and helmets dropped from the ceiling covering their heads. Lights inside the capsule blinked. A recorded voice gave instructions to follow before lift-off.“Can’t you stop this thing?” screamed Candy.
Jerry fought panic. Candy had pushed the button, which would send the capsule into outer space. Nothing he knew how do would stop it from inside, and no one was in the lab on Sunday afternoon.
He should have never used his dad’s ID card to sneak Candy into the lab, and never allowed her to talk him into sitting inside the capsule. He looked over at her, the cutest girl in the sixth grade class. What was he thinking? His dad, Professor Henry Jenkins, would kill him.
“Attach your helmet,” the recorded voice instructed. Jerry knew that when the capsule took off, they, along with the capsule would shrink to an eighth of their original size. A gas will put them into a deep sleep and they wouldn’t wake up until they landed.
The ceiling of the Cosmo Laboratories slid open and lights inside the capsule dimmed. Before the craft shot out of the building, both Jerry and Candy had lapsed into a deep sleep.
When the capsule’s doors popped open, Jerry had no way of determining when or where they had landed. He removed his helmet and tentatively stepped outside to survey the surroundings. It appeared to him that they landed in the middle of a forest in the dark of night.
He reached inside to shake Candy. “Are you okay?”
“I guess. Where are we?”
“I have no idea.”
“Can you get us back home?”
Jerry glanced back at the capsule. “I don’t dare experiment with the drive panel. The machine has the ability to self-destruct. If I push the wrong button, we’re toast.”
“But what can we do? I don’t want to die here, wherever here is.”
“The best thing we can do now is to wait until daylight. We should be safe in the capsule, but please Candy, don’t touch anything. I’ll block the doors open so we won’t take off again.”
At the first light of dawn, Jerry stepped out of the capsule. Candy yawned and followed him.
“Stay close to me and let’s see if we can find any sign of life.”
She grabbed onto of his shirttail and followed behind as they made their way through a patch of brown and green undergrowth. After fighting their way through thicket, they ended up on the banks of a muddy river. Candy frowned when Jerry brushed away the surface grime and dipped his cupped his hands into the water.
“Better get a drink. A little dirt never hurt anyone.”
Candy reluctantly bent down to dip her hands into the water when she slipped and fell in. “I can’t swim,” she gurgled as her head bobbed up and down in the water.
Jerry kicked off his sneakers and jumped in beside her. “Relax, don’t struggle. I have you.” He pulled her to the muddy shore and they sat down on a boulder to catch their breath.
Once out of the thicket, Jerry noticed huge birds, and then he recognized a jet streaking across the sky. They had shrunk but never returned to their normal size. The river he drank from was merely a mud puddle.
Loud voices called his name. A huge foot shook the ground beside him.
“We’re down here,” he screamed at the top of his lungs.
A hand scooped him and Candy up.
“Young Mister Jenkins. Seems you got yourself in a bit of a situation here. And who is this young lady?”
Jerry immediately recognized the head Lab Scientist, Professor Ludwig.
“How did you find us?” Jerry shouted.
“Wasn’t hard. The capsule is equipped with a GPS.” The professor snickered. “You managed to launch, and shrink, but you didn’t go far. You shot straight up into the atmosphere and immediately landed on the edge of the parking lot. Now listen carefully while I explain how you can return to the laboratory and regain your normal size."
The professor set the couple down next to the capsule. On his hands and knees, he instructed Jerry exactly how to program the spaceship for the return trip.
“Okay, young man. Blast off.”
The door closed. Jerry pushed a series of buttons. The capsule jerked upward and then they dropped into the whirlpool of darkness. When they regained consciousness, the capsule perched on its launching pad in the lab and they had returned to their former size.
Jerry prepared himself for the worst. He didn’t expect a hug from his dad and cheers when he and Candy stepped out of the spaceship.
“You made history, young man. You successfully tested the capsule and proved it worked as designed. Had you programmed in a destination, we probably would never have found you, but you’re back safe and sound.”
Someone popped the cork on a large bottle of champagne and filled paper cups…root beer for Candy and Jerry.
After an afternoon of celebration, Jerry’s dad pulled him aside.
“You’re grounded. Don’t ever do anything that stupid again.”