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Chapter 1 Dimensions
Tristan suppressed the urge to vomit as he watched the girl exit the bathroom and sit down at
her desk, facing her laptop. The pounding of his heart resonated in his ears; adrenaline
temporarily alleviated his flourishing headache. After surviving the last two days without food or
water, he knew that she would be his only hope if he wished to continue living.
The email was simple enough:
My name is Tristan and I’m an alien. Please try not to be surprised by this email. I’m currently
living in your room and desperately need water. I know that sounds strange, but please don’t be
afraid. Do not try to search for me. Do not call the police. If you do anything other than provide
water, I’ll be dead by tomorrow. I’m sorry to burden you with this. It is not a permanent situation,
just for a few weeks. Please leave water under the nightstand beside your bed. Thank you.
Lying on his stomach under the bed, Tristan watched from the shadows as the girl leaned back
in her office chair. Dark chestnut colored hair spilled across her thin shoulders revealing a
porcelain face devoid of any makeup. A silver ring attached to her lower lip reflected the light of a
nearby lamp while her sky blue eyes stared intensely at the screen. A long sleeve black tshirt
and ripped blue jeans hid the rest of her body.
Suddenly the girl stood, peering around the room. Tristan’s heart leapt into his throat and he
withdrew further under the bed. The edges of the yellow bed frame dipped low, making it
impossible for the girl to see him without a flashlight.
He watched as her feet, wearing a pair of black socks, quickly stepped toward the purple shag
rug and stopped beside a rectangular phone. Earlier, Tristan disabled the ringtone and attempted
to push the phone under the bed. However, he couldn’t budge it, estimating that it must weigh in
excess of three hundred pounds. Instead, he constructed the email right there in the middle of
the room before she returned from the bathroom.
Raine’s hand appeared and picked up the phone. Tristan held his breath, listening for her to call
911 or whatever emergency service existed in this world. So far everything else he’d seen
matched his own universe, except for the size differences of course. Even after two days, he still
could barely grasp the unreal nature of his circumstances. Only thirst and hunger emboldened
him enough to overcome his instinctual desire to hide.
He waited for what seemed an eternity. To his surprise, she didn’t appear to be talking or
moving. He wasn’t sure what she was doing. Finally, she did move to the door of her bedroom
Tristan released a breath that he didn’t realize he’d been holding and the tension drained from his
shoulders. As the adrenaline in his system dissipated, he felt light headed with exhaustion.
Tristan crawled further under the bed to a large piece of cloth, he assumed a shirt of some sort,
and rested on his back, staring up into the near darkness. He allowed his eyelids to drift shut for
a moment, but that was all it took for his subconscious to win the battle, and carry him into a
Tristan awoke, sitting up straight as if he’d just received a powerful electric shock. How had he
fallen asleep during such a critical moment? He couldn’t afford such carelessness.
A wave of dizziness nearly toppled him. Tristan tried to swallow, feeling his dry mouth and
swollen tongue. He didn’t know how long he’d been asleep, but he couldn’t survive another day
without water. If she caught him now, it wouldn’t matter. At this point remaining hidden held far
He moved slowly toward the edge of the bed where the nightstand resided and crawled out onto
the open hardwood floor. Moonlight filtered in through the window granting him enough light to
see his surroundings.
In general, the floor looked cleaner; random piles of clothing had been picked up. Large yellow
cabinets lined one wall adjacent to tall bookshelves filled with books and boxes of various sizes.
Two white pillowy squares — perhaps chairs of some sort — sat on the purple rug in the center
of the room. A well worn bean bag slanted such that it faced the wide screen television on the
wall opposite of the bed. In the days since Tristan’s arrival, he had not once seen or heard the
television being used.
The sleek metallic nightstand loomed above his head, standing at least twentyfive feet or so.
The middle of the nightstand consisted of an open cabinetlike enclosure with the base almost
resting on the floor. When Tristan saw the glass of water resting in the cabinet, he almost cried,
only just suppressing the temptation of breaking out into a sprint.
However, after stepping into the cabinet, he realized the edge of the glass extended slightly
above his head. Surely the girl must be sleeping and he didn’t want to make more noise than
necessary. However he couldn’t hold back any longer. Grasping the edge, he pulled his head up
enough to dip it into the water and drank deeply. Nothing in his life had ever tasted so delicious.
Reluctantly, he stopped himself from drinking too much for fear of vomiting. At that moment, he
noticed the phone on the floor just a few feet from him. How could that be possible? Did she
place it near the nightstand for a reason?
Overcome by curiosity, he turned on the phone and saw the email application already open to an
email Raine sent to herself:
Are you hungry?
A chill ran down Tristan’s spine; he felt as if he were being watched. He looked up to the edge of
the bed but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. He couldn’t determine if the girl slept in the
bed and he certainly wasn’t about to climb it to find out. However he could see enough in the
moonlight to confirm she wasn’t watching him.
Tristan closed the email and decided to risk a response. He immediately noticed her other
emails no longer appeared in the inbox. She must have deleted them; he felt guilty for violating
her privacy. He’d only seen some of the subject lines and her name of course. An email from last
month had read ‘Happy 18th!’ so she must be eighteen years old, a year younger than himself.
Tristan selected ‘Compose’ and formulated his response:
Raine, thank you for the water! Yes, I’m very hungry. Anything you can spare would be great.
Also I only need very small portions of water and food.
He’d hesitated before writing that last sentence, afraid to reveal too much about himself. Then
again, she probably suspected he wasn’t a huge monster given the fact that the room only
contained so many hiding places.
Tristan quickly made his way back under the bed, wincing as his stomach growled. Hopefully the
sound wouldn’t be audible to the girl.
Sleep didn’t come easy. Something about Raine’s response nagged at him. Thoughts swirled in
How could she seem so accepting? If an alien landed in my room is that how I would respond?
Probably not, I’d be freaking out. At the very least I’d be curious, not concerned for the alien’s
state of hunger. This girl, she seems a bit odd…
Finally sleep did arrive and the night passed uneventfully. This time Tristan did dream. He dreamt
of the book, the portal and the day that changed his life forever.
It was Monday, March 12th 2012. The day started off like any other. As usual, Griffin’s alarm
woke him at seven in the morning, nearly two hours before his first class. He’d given up
complaining about the situation. Even though Griffin slept in a separate room of their three
bedroom apartment, the alarm penetrated the thin walls with ease. Griffin would turn it off after
about twenty minutes. Cooper, their other roommate, didn’t seem to mind so Tristan decided to
just roll with it.
As with most mornings, he ran a few miles in the neighborhood. Last semester, he ran on the
cross country team. At five foot ten inches, he didn’t set any land speed records, but he usually
kept up with the leading pack. He did not participate with the team this year, though they politely
said he could rejoin at any time. He had no plans of doing so, yet he still ran to help keep his
mind off last year’s events.
He attended his classes — biology, physics and philosophy — but struggled to remain attentive
during the lectures. As a biology major, he wanted to learn the material, but he lacked the drive
since returning late to start the semester in February. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to continue
with that major or if his dreams of becoming a doctor really meant anything anymore.
Today the weight of his decisions seemed heavier than usual. He’d returned to college after last
year’s tragedy even though he could have easily skipped the remainder of the year. He did it to
keep moving forward, to engage in something that would help at least maintain his sanity and pull
him out of depression. For the first few weeks, it helped but he wasn’t the same person. His
friends noticed the difference; he couldn’t bear the pity in their eyes. They weren’t his real friends.
He’d been invited to a party that night but chose to skip it and visit the campus library instead.
The building never closed and even though he rarely used the books, he enjoyed the peace it
Tristan took the stairs to the fifth floor and found an empty desk along the wall with a window that
looked out onto the campus grounds. The setting sun painted the clouds with shades of gold and
He popped open his laptop and checked email. One unread message from Caleb:
Hey Tristan, can you go over the most recent pull requests for monkeystomp? I’m drowning at
work and don’t have time. If not, no big deal. Thanks!
Caleb did not attend the same college but he’d been Tristan’s friend since grade school. They
grew up together in Nashville and he was the one person Tristan could always count on for
anything. Recently, he spent time assisting Caleb with some opensource software. Though he
suspected Caleb only involved him as a distraction, Tristan appreciated the offer and actually
enjoyed learning the process.
Tristan spent the next hour reviewing the code changes that the community recommended for
their project. He merged some of the recommendations to the master branch and left others for
Caleb to review. He also spent time reading through a few of the issues. The project in question,
monkeystomp, helped other developers by finding bugs in code. However, the algorithm needed
constant attention to handle the latest updates to the languages it supported.
After a couple of hours, Tristan gazed upon the full moon that shone through the trees. Even
though the floor lights remained on, the musty silence magnified his isolation. He rose and
proceeded to walk down the corridors.
Something in the pathway to his left caught his eye. Tristan maneuvered between the tall
shelves, drawn to a pale light emanating from the bottom shelf of a central rack. Upon closer
inspection, he saw no book at the location, only an empty space. Where could the light be
Tristan knelt; a stark white book came into view. Strange, perhaps he overlooked it. He pulled the
hardback from the shelf and examined the cover. The title read Splinter’s Edge — no author.
He returned to his desk and opened the book only to find the first few pages blank. He flipped
through the book. Every single page was empty. As he examined its contents, the lights flickered
before shutting off entirely.
Tristan prepared to turn the floor lights back on as he’d done in the past. He started to stand only
to realize that he was already standing. Or was he? Darkness enveloped him like thick a cloud of
ink, feeling heavy and almost liquid. How could the library possibly be this dark? He’d never
experienced such absolute...nothingness.
He couldn’t tell if he was sitting or standing. He couldn’t determine if his eyes were open or
closed, if he was breathing or not. All sensory information seemed to be lost.
Then the moon appeared before him. No, not the moon. Something appeared before him,
something that projected light. Desperate to escape the darkness that threatened to consume
him, he approached the light...
Tristan awoke to pain, both in his head and his bladder. Momentarily disoriented, he sat up; his
stomach tightened as recent memories returned. Unfortunately nature called and he didn’t have
time to wallow in selfpity.
Looking out from under the bed, he studied the surroundings. Sunlight illuminated the room and
the bedroom door stood ajar. Raine must be at school or wherever she went during the day. At
least he hoped she wasn’t still in bed.
Tristan set his eyes on the white piece of furniture in the far corner of the room — a wooden
cabinet with a curved rectangularshaped hole in the lower center of the door. Two days ago,
he’d discovered the cabinet contained a litter box, one that he’d never seen cleaned and, more
importantly, never seen used.
He scampered across the barren floor, noticing a critical difference midstride. Earlier, stacked
books provided makeshift stairs for him to reach the cabinet entrance. In the process of cleaning
the room, Raine had arranged those books neatly on shelves. She was too organized for her
own good...or his own good.
He considered the rim of the entrance and jumped. Like a basketball player with no hope of
dunking, he fell short.
I could do this if I had more energy, he thought. It isn’t that high.
Defeated but desperate, Tristan’s eyes wandered. The nightstand caught his attention; Raine
had delivered more food and water. Jogging over to the area, Tristan smelled the block of
cheddar cheese in a small dish.
Does she think I’m a mouse?
The large glass had been replaced with a small paper cup of water. A phone lay off to the side of
the nightstand, though it was different than before — an older looking model.
An idea crossed his mind. Tristan took a few swigs of water and sat down inside the nightstand,
feet bracing against the side of the cup. He pressed hard until the cup toppled over, spilling water
everywhere. Luckily, the deluge missed the phone.
Tristan lifted the trashcansized cup and carried it over to the cabinet. Turning it upside down, he
climbed into the entrance of the litter box. Though it didn’t smell terrible, the scented clay caused
him to cough. He walked toward the back and took care of business, simultaneously humiliated
and relieved. At his scale, he doubted anyone would notice a smell or perceive any significant
change. It certainly beat the alternatives. He couldn’t imagine trying to get outside to use the
bathroom or just going directly on the floor.
Tristan hopped out of the box, using the cup to step down. He headed back over to the
nightstand, separated a piece of cheese, and took a small bite. The sharp, pungent flavor
seemed stronger than he remembered. Of course, he didn’t frequently eat cheddar cheese in a
Ravenous, he stuffed his mouth with the food, filling his stomach. The vast majority of the
cheese — nearly two square feet — remained untouched and would likely feed him for days if
necessary, though he didn’t much like that idea.
After walking over to the phone, Tristan turned it on to see a message waiting for him: What kind
of food do you like?
Again, what’s up with these short messages? he thought. Perhaps that’s just how people behave
in this world.
Based on the phone data he’d seen previously, Tristan knew his location and the date: Atlanta,
Georgia and March 15th 2012. The book must have transported him physically without altering
time. Questions surged through his mind but those would have to wait.
The program on the screen no longer appeared to be email. Instead, it seemed designed for
instant messaging, though he’d never heard of an application called Triangle Chat. Using the
touch screen, he responded: Probably anything that you eat, just smaller portions. Thanks for
He hesitated then added: Sorry, I spilled the water.
Slightly embarrassed and unwilling to provide further context, he pressed Send. Surprisingly, his
name appeared beside the text bubble. Had she configured this phone for him? He didn’t have
time to contemplate; the phone beeped a few seconds later.
Raine: That’s OK. I’m in class at the moment. I’ll bring something different tonight.
A few seconds passed and another message appeared.
Raine: What do you look like?
Finally, a question that seemed somewhat normal, well, as normal as one could get when asking
an ‘alien’ questions. Unfortunately, it was one that Tristan didn’t want to answer.
Tristan: I’m sorry, I don’t feel comfortable describing myself yet.
Raine: That’s OK. How long are you staying?
Tristan: A few more weeks, until the next full moon.
She’s probably going to think I’m a tiny werewolf or vampire. He sighed.
After waiting a few minutes without any further response, Tristan crawled back under the bed
and lay down, pulling the cloth around his body. A calming warmth radiated from his full stomach
as sleep overtook him.
The sound of scraping jolted Tristan from his sleep. Fluorescent light illuminated the edges of the
bed, luring him to the corner nearest the noise.
Raine sifted through the litter box, dumping scoops into a trash can that Tristan hadn’t seen
before. After finishing, she replaced the box inside the cabinet and carried the trash can out of
Tristan crawled back to his bed, mortified. How could he forget about the cup! Surely she noticed
it and realized its purpose, especially since she now had a clue about his size.
Tristan pulled the cloth over his entire body and just lay there, burning with shame. He wanted to
escape into sleep but it wouldn’t come. So he just rested, listening to the girl move about the
room. He heard a plate being placed under the nightstand and smelled something...meaty. His
mouth watered and stomach growled, but he didn’t move.
Raine sat at her desk, perhaps reading. Eventually, he heard a familiar beep on the phone and
figured she must be trying to message him. In spite of his gnawing hunger, he wasn’t about to
answer it until she slept, assuming she ever did.
As if sensing his discomfort, the lights shut off and he could hear her getting into the bed above.
He waited another full hour, literally counting the seconds in his head until certain she would be
Tristan felt naked as he left the protection of the bed, even though he still wore the same jeans,
tshirt and gray hoodie that he’d had since his arrival. The moonlight gave way to a new light
coming from the far wall. A night light bathed the floor and illuminated the nightstand, revealing a
small plate of spaghetti, bread and salad with a paper cup of water.
Once again feeling a shiver across his spine, Tristan jerked his head up, only to see the edge of
the dark sheets. No giant face peered down at him, at least not that he could see.
Eyes darting to the cabinet, he noticed his cup had been replaced with a couple of books aligned
in a staircase pattern. Embarrassment gave way to hunger as he approached the plate.
Tristan ignored the salad and tore off a piece of meatball, stuffing it into his mouth. He devoured
buttered bread, delicious pasta, and a few bites of lettuce and tomatoes, the latter spewing
streams of juice across his clothing. He finished off the meal with a drink of water and plopped
down, hand on stomach.
Truly satiated for the first time since his arrival, he noticed the phone blinking and remembered
the beep from earlier. He turned it on and reduced the volume to zero. Two messages appeared:
Raine (3:45 PM): Are you still there?
Raine (7:30 PM): Are you a cat?
Tristan fought to stifle his laughter. Was she joking with him? If not, he supposed he couldn’t
blame her for thinking that.
Tristan: Thanks again for the food. No, I’m not a cat. Do you have a cat?
He also wanted to thank her for the litter box but couldn’t bring himself to mention it, though
surely she knew he must be using it. Can’t think about that. He returned to his bed, trying to send
his mind elsewhere.
He’d told her that he would only remain until the next full moon. Somehow the book transported
him here during a full moon and he needed it to do the same in reverse. Strange how she had
the same book on her shelf, only much larger.
He needed to return to his world. He managed to survive here for now but that wouldn’t last, he’d
go insane eventually or die some horrible death in the mouth of a real cat. The cat probably
wouldn’t find him tasty, but that wouldn’t matter. Cat’s didn’t care; they just played with things
until they died. Thoughts of cats filled his mind until dreams of cats invaded his sleep. Cats...
The next day, Tristan awoke to the smell of toast. Judging the coast clear, he headed to the
nightstand to find a small corner of toast with grape jelly on a plate with a single piece of
cantaloupe and a bottle cap full of oatmeal. The meals seemed to get progressively smaller; she
must have realized that he didn’t eat much.
The oatmeal tasted like wet cardboard since the oats themselves were too large, however he
enjoyed the toast and fruit. Still, even after stuffing himself, more than half the food remained.
Momentarily guilty, he remembered that at his size, the amount of waste would be minimal.
Tristan made use of the bathroom, immediately thankful for the improvised staircase. The books
simplified his climb. Furthermore the interior of the box smelled and felt different, as if the litter
itself had been altered. None of the clay dust from before disturbed his lungs.
Am I seriously getting happy about new cat litter? he thought.
After relieving himself he returned to the nightstand. At that moment, he heard a beep and turned
to the phone. Where is it? he thought. A sinking sensation in his stomach nearly caused him to
vomit his breakfast — the familiar green light of the phone blinked under the bed.
Tristan crawled under and sure enough, the phone sat there just under the edge, out of view
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