SATURDAY, JULY 31

A/T:

- Help Lucy with poem for writing contest

- Feed reptiles with Lana

- Join Lola for tea party

10:00 AM:

- Meet Lisa in her room for "new scientific breakthrough"

Lincoln didn't know how he ever survived without his daily planner. After the "Noise-B-Gone" incident, he made a pointed effort to never forget or renege on anything he promised to do for his sisters. The following day, he ran out to the drug store and bought a tiny little notepad, which he thereafter used to organize all his sister-related activities into neatly organized daily agendae.

Today, it seemed, was a day for the younger ones. At 10:00 that morning, he was to meet Lisa in her room to "bear witness to a groundbreaking new innovation," as she put it. As for the other three, he could attend to them at whatever time and in whatever order he pleased. The shorthand "A/T" stood for "any time", and it was usually the timestamp for his activities with Lucy (who didn't care when he showed up) and the twins (who hadn't learned how to tell time yet).

But Lisa was a stickler for punctuality. If she wanted you in her room at 10:00, she meant exactly 10:00, and not a single minute earlier or later. Fortunately, this generally wasn't a problem for Lincoln, since his bedroom door was right next to hers. All he had to do was set his alarm for the time Lisa chose, and when it went off, he could just step out of his room and stroll right into hers.

So from 9:30 to 10, he just lay about his room, wondering what Lisa could possibly have in store for him. An android? A miniature nuclear reactor? An automated peanut shell remover? With her, the possibilities were virtually limitless.

As soon as the clock struck 10, he hopped off his bed, left his room and creaked open Lisa's door. When he walked inside, he saw Lisa on the other side of the room, standing atop her chemistry table. On the table next to her was a large, bulky platinum cyndrilical apparatus with a red, cone-like nozzle attached to the end, which was pointed at the wall opposite her.

"Ah, greetings, Lincoln," said Lisa, giving him a curt wave. "You have arrived at the optimal chronological period."

"What?"

"You're right on time."

She donned a prideful smirk and rapped the cylinder a couple of times with her fist, creating a tinny clanging sound. "This took me five months, but I'm proud to say that it's finally finished. What I have here is a miniaturization apparatus: in layman's terms, a 'shrink ray'."

Lincoln's eyebrows jumped. Lisa had put together some pretty outlandish contraptions - certainly beyond anything an average four-year-old could do - but this sounded far-fetched even for her.

"A shrink ray?"

"Indeed," said Lisa. "It can drastically reduce the volume of any object-"

"N-n-no, I know what a shrink ray does, but..."

Lincoln stepped further into the room. "It... it just doesn't seem possible. How would it even work?"

Lisa shot him a stiff, icy look. "Well, Lincoln, there are two ways I could respond to that," she said, her tone pointed and deliberate. "I could describe, in detail, what the device can do on a molecular level, using scientific theories far beyond your level of comprehension..."

She grabbed one end of the cylinder and started to push it counterclockwise.

"...or I could simply demonstrate. Which would you prefer?"

Lincoln sighed. "The second one," he muttered. Lincoln had always been apprehensive about asking Lisa questions, since her answers inevitably made him feel like a complete moron.

"That's what I thought," said Lisa. "Now, if you'll observe the layout of the room, you'll notice that I've already set up a target for the apparatus."

On the right side of the room, propped up against the wall, was a wooden stool with a head of cabbage resting atop. Lisa continued to push the shrink ray around until its nozzle was aligned perfectly with the cabbage.

"As of now, the miniaturization apparatus is fully operational and ready to fire. Are you ready to see its first successful test run?"

Lincoln gulped. "As ready as I'll ever be, I guess."

"Then feast your eyes on this!"

She clenched her hand into a fist and hammered a switch placed atop the shrink ray. Lincoln waited with bated breath for the device to go off.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

For two agonizingly suspenseful minutes, nothing happened. At the two minute mark, the machine started to sputter, and a tiny plume of smoke started emanating from the back, but that was the only sign they received that the machine was doing anything at all. Lisa took a moment to look up from the apparatus towards her older brother, just to reassure herself that he was still enraptured. Much to her dismay, she could see the wonderment draining from his eyes with every passing second.

"Lisa, how long is this supposed to take?" he asked.

"Be patient!" she said. "This device is the first of its kind, you know."

Minute after minute passed with no discernible progress. Lincoln's eyes were constantly shifting between his watch and the still-sputtering machine on Lisa's table. Every time he looked up, he caught a glimpse of Lisa staring at him from across the room, silently pleading him to stay. It would only be so long before he decided that enough was enough.

"Okay, I'm out. Let me know when it actually starts working."

"Lincoln, wait!" cried Lisa. "I'm sure it won't be long before the device is fully calibrated!"

Lincoln scowled at the flustered young genius. "Lisa, I've got other things to do today. I'm not going to spend the whole day standing in your room waiting for that thing to go off. I'm leaving."

Lincoln turned around and started to walk towards the door, prompting Lisa to jump off the table and try to chase him.

"Lincoln, please! It just needs a little more time!"

Lisa leaped off the table, ran across the room and grabbed ahold of Lincoln's pant leg. "Just a few more minutes, I promise! After that, I'll let you... let you..."

In the midst of her begging, Lisa took a glance back at the device, just to gauge its progress. What she saw caused her jaw to drop and her pupils to shrink. Much to her delight, the machine's sputtering had become louder and more violent, indicating that it was nearly ready to go off.

Much to her horror, it was pointed the wrong way.

As it turned out, Lisa had just committed what was known in the scientific community as a "whoopsie". In her haste to stop Lincoln from leaving, she had accidentally nudged the nozzle a few degrees to the left when she jumped off the table, pushing it away from its intended target and towards an entirely new one.

All she could manage to say in that moment was a hoarse little squeak of, "Uh oh."

Lincoln, perturbed by Lisa's utterance, looked across the room to see that the nozzle was pointed directly at him. Before he even had a chance to process the fact that he was in danger, the machine let loose a piercing shriek and expelled a beam of luminescent yellow plasma, which hit him square in the chest. The entire room started flashing, and Lincoln could feel every muscle in his body contracting and his skin tightening around his skeleton, as if every one of his cells was trying to compress itself. The sounds of Lisa's panicked cries were the last thing he heard before his entire body went numb and his world went black.

Lincoln awoke moments later in a daze, clutching his head in pain. Through his slightly blurred vision, he had a bit of trouble making out the scenery surrounding him. Stumbling forward, he felt something graze his calf, and looked down to find some strange maroon-colored tumbleweed tangled around it. He bent down, unraveled it, and held it up to his face to get a better look at it. It took a bit of fiddling and examining for him to figure out what it was, but once he did, his heart fell into the pit of his stomach.

It wasn't a tumbleweed. It was lint.

Lincoln rubbed his eyes and started to survey the world around him, and what he saw just confirmed his suspicion: a massive, building-sized baby crib on one end of the room, a ceiling so high he had to crane his neck all the way up to see it, and a frazzled-looking giant stomping towards him.

"Oh, dear," boomed the giant, wringing her hands. "Dear, oh, dear, oh, dear. This was not supposed to happen."

Every step Lisa took in his direction served to reinforce how large she was compared to him, both from the minor tremors he felt every time one of her feet touched down, and the fact that his eye level was at least an inch below her knees. Upon seeing the titanic toddler draw closer, his body went into full-on panic mode.

"G-gah! Don't hurt me! Don't squish me!"

He fell backwards onto his butt and frantically tried to crawl away from her. Consciously, he knew that Lisa would never do anything to harm him, but her enormous (relative) size set off his fight-or-flight response. It was hard not to be afraid of someone so huge she could step on him without even noticing the crunching sound.

"Lincoln, I'm not going to harm you," said Lisa, her voice trembling slightly. "Please stop trying to run away."

"O-okay," squeaked Lincoln. "Just give me a moment."

He closed his eyes and started taking some deep breaths, giving himself some time to confront the reality of the situation. She shrunk you, Linc. You're about eight inches tall now. But she's not going to hurt you. She's still your sister and she still loves you.

Once he found the wherewithal to open his eyes and look up at his sister, she began to speak again.

"I sincerely apologize, Lincoln," she said, crouching down to get a closer look at him. "While I'm pleased that my invention turned out to be a success, I did not intend for you to be its first target."

At his diminutive size, Lincoln could see every crease, every fold in Lisa's shame-ridden face. The bottom lip protruding just a little bit, the light wrinkles cris-crossing her forehead, the faint but noticeable sound of her sniffling... it was all so profoundly pathetic.

"Lisa, it's okay," he said. While he knew that his current predicament was just about the furthest thing from "okay" he could imagine, he couldn't bring himself to stay mad at her. "I'll go get mom and dad; they'll figure something out."

"NO!" cried Lisa, causing Lincoln to flinch from the sudden spike in volume. "We can't inform our parents. If they discover that I inadvertently miniaturized your body, the repercussions will be catastrophic!"

"What?"

"If they find out I shrunk you, I'll be in a lot of trouble!"

Lisa started wringing her hands again as she paced back and forth across the room.

"Well, we have to do something!" exclaimed Lincoln. "I mean, I can't live like this, Lisa! Can't you... um..."

Lincoln hesitated to ask his next question, as he feared that Lisa would respond to it with her usual condescending snark. Regardless, asking the question was the only way he could reassure himself that there was a way out of this.

"...can't you, I don't know, grow me back? Like, run the machine in reverse or something?"

Lisa scratched the back of her head. "Well, technically, yes. The good news is that the machine can, in fact, be run in reverse. It's perfectly capable of restoring your body to its original volume and mass."

Lincoln's face lit up. "That's great! Then just do that!"

"I wasn't finished," said Lisa, averting Lincoln's gaze. "The bad news is that it has a recharge time of approximately 24 hours. You'll be back to your old self tomorrow morning, but until then, I'm afraid you'll remain miniaturized."

Lincoln's smile disappeared just as quickly as it appeared. "A-are you kidding me?!" he shouted. "You made a machine that takes ten minutes to boot up and a whole day to recharge?!"

Lisa looked back towards Lincoln, shooting a biting glare in his direction. From jittery and sheepish to cold and condescending in 0.2 seconds.

"Oh, I'm so sorry for displaying such incompetence," she said, her tone dripping with acid. "Why don't you take me to your room and show me your shrink ray, and we can see how it measures up to mine?"

Lincoln could only respond by hanging his head in defeat. He didn't think it was possible for her to make him feel even smaller than he already did.

"You'll just have to wait until the shrink ray is fully recharged," she said. "Until then, sit tight. I'll bring you food from downstairs."

Lincoln shook his head. "Uh-uh. No dice. I'm not going to spend 24 hours sitting in your room doing nothing."

"But-"

"I have stuff I need to do!" cried Lincoln. "Lucy, Lana and Lola are all expecting to see me today! At the very least, they deserve an explanation!"

Lisa dropped her steely authoritative demeanor once again and dropped to her knees, clasping her hands together.

"Lincoln, please! I know you had plans today, but what if mom or dad sees you out in the hall?!"

Lincoln didn't really know how to respond. It was a little bizarre to have someone fifty times his size groveling to him for mercy.

"If it really matters that much to you, I won't force you to stay here. But please don't go out into that hall alone. Let me escort you."

Lincoln saw Lisa's bottom lip starting to quiver. "Pretty please with a prunus avium on top?"

He took a moment to mull over Lisa's offer, and he couldn't really find any reason to say no. If anything, he'd feel safer having Lisa escort him from room to room, so that he wouldn't risk getting stepped on or vacuumed or eaten by one of their pets.

"Okay, you have a deal," he said.

Lisa sighed with relief. "Thank you, Lincoln. I promise I'll make this up to you when it's all over."

Lincoln's first instinct was to try to brainstorm what favor he'd have her do for him, but before he could really start the thinking process, he was interrupted by a voice coming from behind.

"Winky?"

Lincoln turned around to see Lily standing in the doorway, eyeing him with what looked like an expression halfway between confusion and curiosity. Lincoln could practically hear the gears turning in her underdeveloped brain as she toddled towards him. She recognized that what she saw was outside the norm - after all, Lincoln was supposed to be big, not small - but she still understood little about the world around her. For all she knew, this was a completely normal turn of events and she just hadn't experienced it yet.

"Um, hey, Lily," said Lincoln, giving his baby sister a nervous smile. "It's me, your big- um, not-so-big brother."

Lily continued to walk closer, continuing to stare at him. The sight of a 15-month-old towering over him was something he never thought he'd experience. Lily was a good deal smaller than Lisa, so he didn't feel as tiny compared to her, but he was still only a third her height, if that.

Once she was right in front of Lincoln, she just stood there staring down at him with that same inscrutable expression. As the seconds ticked by, Lincoln prayed that she wouldn't try to eat him - not just for his own sake, but for hers too. He was too big for her to swallow whole, and if she tried to eat him, she could choke.

Luckily, she didn't do anything of the sort. She reached down, wrapped her thick, pudgy fingers around him, and hoisted him up into a hug.

"Winky!" she squealed.

Lincoln heaved out a sigh of relief as he felt all the tension in his body dissolve in that instant. He never had anything to worry about, and in fact he felt a bit silly for thinking that he did. For a moment, he just let Lily hold him, resting his cheek up against hers.

The moment ended abruptly, though, when he and Lisa heard their mother calling out to the latter.

"Lisa?" Rita called from the top of the stairs. "Can I come in?"

Lincoln's body went right back into danger mode as soon as he heard her calling. "Mom's coming!" he cried. "Quick, Lily, hide me!"

Lily's eyes darted around the room for a place to put him, but Rita was getting dangerously close. In an act of desperation, she pulled open her diaper and shoved him inside.

"No, not in the-!" was all Lincoln could say before he was thrown in. For what seemed like an eternity, he sat there shrouded in darkness, barely able to make out the conversation Lisa was having with Rita.

"I just wanted to let you know that the latest issue of MIT Technology Review just came in."

"Oh. Thank you, mother. You can just leave it on my bed."

"Say, what's that on your chemistry table?"

"Um... excellent question. Let me try to explain it in layman's terms. How familiar are you with the theory of-"

"You know what, never mind. You can just tell me later."

"Very well, then. Good day, mother."

Nice save, Lisa.

As soon as he heard the sound of the door shutting, Lily reached in, pulled him out and set him down on the floor. He looked up to see his baby sister with her eyes pointed downward and her hands behind her back.

"Sawwy."

"I-it's okay, Lily," he said in between gasps of air. "Just warn me next time you're gonna do something like that."

Lincoln was then greeted with the sound of muffled giggling, and saw Lisa a few feet away with her hand clasped over her mouth, in a vain attempt to hide her chortles.

"Oh, what are you laughing at?"

"Come on, Lincoln. You have to admit that that was at least a little humorous."

Lincoln just snorted at her. "For you, maybe."

Lisa gave herself a little more time to giggle before taking a deep breath and regaining her composure. "Anyway," she said, "I believe you told me earlier that you had activities scheduled with Lola, Lana and Lucy today. Is that correct?"

Lincoln nodded.

"In that case, I think it's important that we meet with them as soon as possible to discuss your current situation. This means I'm going to have to take you out into the hall."

She bent down to meet him at eye level. "I hate to subject you to another dark, enclosed confinement, but would you kindly go inside my pocket, please?"

"Sure, I don't mind," said Lincoln. "Better than a diaper, at least."

"Yes, I would imagine so."

With that, she picked up Lincoln by the collar, pinched open her pocket, and dropped him inside.

"Lily, I'm afraid I'm going to have to take Lincoln away for now," said Lisa. "He has business to attend to."

Lily just smiled and gave the two of them a wave goodbye. "Ba-ba, Winky!"

Lincoln grinned, peeked his head out of Lisa's pocket and returned the wave. "Bye, Lily!"

Once he saw Lisa clear the doorway and enter the hall, he ducked back inside. As he waited to be withdrawn again, he began to shudder, fearing that his three other sisters (especially Lola) would be somewhat less than pleased to see him in this state. Would he have to cancel his plans with them? And if he did, who were they going to blame, him or Lisa?

All he could do was sit there in the musky confines of Lisa's pocket and wait.