Chapter 4: The Escape
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Waking up this time felt much more natural, and Maxwell felt that he might be regaining his strength again. Sitting up, in the bed, he tried to take in his surroundings. It was still dark outside, but he thought he could see the faint glow that would accompany the rising sun. Everything that had happened recently had just been so bizarre, he wanted to go home and rest, maybe take a few days off to think about everything that had happened. 

Alarm started to shoot through him as he realized that he’d already missed almost a week of work, and he had yet to be visited by anyone, even his father. Growing nervous about it, he rang the remote call for a nurse and a new unfamiliar nurse came into the room. “You feeling alright in here?” he said as he turned on the lights.

“Yes, I was wondering if I could have my phone, I haven't been visited by my father yet, and I was worried that he might not know I’m here.”

“Sure thing, I can go grab it for you. You were visited by your father the first day, he asked us not to get in contact again until you were ready to leave, and that he'd arrange to have someone come and get you. Sorry” The night nurse looked apologetic as he saw the reaction on Max’s face, and slowly made his way out into the hall, when he realized Max wasn't going to reply. Max should have known better than to expect anything different, but it still hurt to hear how little he seemed to care. 

Coming back with a bag of clothes and personal effects, the nurse set them on the bedside table and asked “is there anything else I can get you, kiddo?” That question caught him off guard and he struggled to form words for a minute. 

Kiddo, he’s maybe one or two years older than me, tops. “Um, no- that's fine. I’d like to get released if that's alright- I’m ready to go home.”

The nurse looked unsure of how to respond, and ultimately avoided the subject “I’ll let the doctor know when she gets in at nine AM.” 

Why was he treating me like a kid? Max thought as he eased himself off the bed. His energy was coming back to him and he decided that he could stand. Wobilly he made his way back to the attached bathroom and made his way to relieve himself. He struggled to stand again after doing his business but slowly made his way back to the sink to wash his hands. 

The face he saw in the mirror shocked him, as he looked at least five years younger. His youthful face still had no hair on it, but his cheeks seemed to have filled a little on his bones, giving him a softer rounder face. His hair seemed a little shaggier than he had remembered, but it wasn't the biggest thing that shocked him. The thing that truly scared him, was that he seemed a little bit shorter than even the day before, and more petite in general. Maybe, I got smaller and the fat on my cheeks just seem more soft by comparison? Max thought with growing concern. What if I’m turning into a kid? 

Fully panicking, Max shot back into the room to grab his effects off the nightstand, and went straight back into the bathroom. I gotta get the fuck outta here, they are going to keep me and test on me if they think I’m getting younger. The thought might not have been foolproof or even sound, but at this point, he was too scared to care.

As he made his way back into his clothes, fueled by adrenaline, he noticed that his clothes were indeed too big on him, and he looked like a teenager trying to use his dad’s clothes to buy booze. The clothes also felt more scratchy on his smooth youthful skin, but he resolved not to let it stand between him and escape. 

Seph has got to be real, that's the only explanation. Max quietly made his way out of the bathroom and peeked his head out into the hallway. Seeing the coast was clear, and double checking he had brought everything, he sneakily made his way out into the hallway, trying not to let his oversized office shoes clomp on the floor. He had tied them as tight as he could, but he still felt like a clown in them. 

Seeing the male nurse at the nurse’s station speaking with another nurse, he thanked his luck with getting up so early, they seemed to be the only two on this floor. He made his way the opposite hallway towards a set of elevators and a set of stairs. He didn't know what floor he was on, so he opted for the elevator. 

Waiting for the elevator to arrive he silently prayed there would be no one inside, because he was standing suspiciously close to the door, on the off chance that the nurse made his way back to within view. With luck, the elevator dinged and was empty, so he stepped in and hit ‘lobby.’ He was on the 23rd floor, so he silently thanked his luck with the elevator again. He wasn't sure he could have scaled all those stairs in his current state, although he was definitely feeling much better. 

His luck ran out when the door pinged to a stop on the 17th floor, and opened up to show a large man with a sweater vest, who tilted his head quizzically while looking down at the small framed person in the elevator. He boarded and seeing that ‘lobby had already been selected, waited for the doors to close. 

Don't be nervous. Just act natural. Max thought to himself as he let out a large breath he had been holding. Max silently cursed himself for what turned out to be a very non casual sigh of air. 

The man turned to face Max, and said casually “Visiting some folks?” with a gentle smile, but a signal of worry in his eyes. 

“Yeah, my big brother” Max said, capitalizing on the perceived childhood innocence he figured he was exuding. 

“Ahh, well he's a lucky big brother, having a little sister who was willing to violate the visiting hours policy to try and sneak in and see him.” Max’s blood ran cold as he turned back to see the man holding back a chuckle. “Don't worry, I won't report you, I personally think the rules are dumb, I just work here. But please, get yourself a better disguise, you're not pulling that one off.”

With that the doors opened and the man left the elevator and headed out into the lobby. Max slowly followed, trying not to panic about what the man just said. He’d have plenty of time to panic when he got home. 

No one in the lobby paid him any mind, and he slowly made his way to the exits. Well that was easy Max thought.

“Hold it right there! I need to see some ID” a security guard said, coming from around the corner. “I may have found him,” he said into a radio. 

Adrenaline kicking back into full gear, Max bolted in the other direction and tore off into the other side of the lobby, looking for an exit. 

“Stop! Stop!” The security guard yelled, but this only fueled into Max’s fears about being trapped. “You haven't been discharged yet!” Max continued to sprint as fast as his legs could carry him. He found another door and burst out into the cold morning New York air, and quickly kept running down the sidewalk. 

Making the same mistake in a single week, Max turned back to see if the guard was chasing him, when he collided with someone and knocked them both to the ground. Max rolled off and looked at the man to apologize when he recognized the homeless man he had seen yesterday. 

“I'm not just a homeless man, I’m the Oracle” the man replied sounding chuffed “and I’m allowed to be chuffed when people don't remember that.”

“I- I’m sorry sir. I didn't mean to bump into you, but I need to go. I'm being followed.”

“No, you aren't...” the Oracle said to Max pointing him around to show behind him. True to his word, no one was following Max, but he still felt the need to get home. “... and you're right where you need to be. Rushing off is liable to get you hurt again. Look at you, you're progressing exactly as you should. Have you realized yet?”

“Realized what?” Max said, confused again by the Oracle’s weird ravings. 

“I suppose you have not, but that's to be expected. Just take it easy and follow your heart. You'll find your way in your own good time.” With that, the Oracle turned and continued back down the way Max had come, mumbling something about his ravings not being weird.

Paying extra attention to not getting hurt again, Max made his way back to his apartment and fished his keys out of his pocket as he arrived at the door. The door handle seemed significantly higher than usual and Max tried to suppress his panic as he unlocked the door. 

Once inside, Max instantly felt the need to shed the clothes he was wearing as they were dirty, and they were really starting to irritate his joints and chest. He took off everything but his boxers and his work shirt, and made his way down the hall. 

He turned on the shower in his modest bathroom, being sure to set out everything he needed before turning off the lights and getting fully undressed, as was his bathing ritual. It was something he’d done since puberty, as he just hated the feeling of looking at his body while he bathed. It was a coping mechanism he’d started using after he realized that he was avoiding bathing. He couldn't stand to look at himself naked, and he started to get mocked in school for his body odor. 

The shower was heaven, and he spent the first few minutes just basking in the warm water, and letting the stress from the past week leave his body. His skin felt alive, and the burning heat from the shower seemed to feel extra intense, and he idly worried if he was bringing his childlike skin. Why in the fuck was he turning into a child. He was shorter, and his skin was softer. Even the man in the elevator had mistook him for a young woman because of his youthful features. How was he supposed to go to work? He was royally fucked, and he had no idea how any of this would resolve itself, let alone why it had truly happened in the first place. 

His legs started to feel weak, so he reasoned he better get on with the cleaning so he could lie down for a while. He squirted a few pumps of shampoo from his glow in the dark soap dispenser and started massaging it through his hair. It certainly was getting shaggier than he had normally worn it, and he started to wonder if he should get it cut, before he second guessed that knee-jerk response. He wasn't in boarding school anymore, his hair could be any length he wanted. Did he want longer hair, he started to question as he rinsed it off. 

He moved on to conditioner, and luxuriated again at the feeling and at the thought that he actually liked the longer length. Leaving the conditioner in, he moved on to his body wash. With a luffa, he started to softly apply it along his arms and his pits. Strangely, his body hair didn't seem as prevalent, he could tell it was still there, but it seemed to have softened considerably, with his youthful appearance. He moved onto his legs, feet and rump where he felt similar results. His least favorite parts to scrub, he always saved for last, so he began to roughly wash his chest when he felt pain and yelped in the darkness. 

That hurts, why in the hell am I so sensitive there? Max tried again without the luffa, and considerably softer and he felt that the skin and fat around his chest were soft and almost a little but chubby. His nipples seemed especially sensitive, and they seemed almost fluffy with irritation from where his dress shirt had rubbed against it. 

That was when it hit him. Am I growing breasts? Max thought and he gave them a soft squeeze. “What the fuck, these are boobs” he said aloud and instantly noticed that his voice was higher pitched, but also softer and more melodic. Almost like a woman’s voice. Shakily, he lowered his hand down to his groin and felt that he indeed had a penis, although it also seemed to have shrunk with his body. Surprising himself, he found that he was almost upset that it still remained at all. He had never really liked his genitals, but that didn't mean it wanted it gone, did it?

He finished scrubbing and rinsing almost in a haze. What is happening to me? Was this caused by that interaction with Seph in the diner? Was that even real? Max didn't know the answers to these questions, but this certainly felt like some sort of magic. It certainly wasn't scientifically explainable to lose this much mass and change so heavily in less than a week. 

He turned off the shower and padded out to grab his towel. Lights still off, he tried not to think too much about his body as he dried himself, but his mind wouldn't allow it. He could feel his skin was softer, and the tissue underneath was also soft. His budding breasts were tender as well, so he made sure to be extra gentle. 

Mostly dry, he decided to do something he hadn't done in years. Instead of getting dressed, he turned on the lights. Max found himself looking at what appeared to be a very androgynous, albeit youthful person in the mirror. They certainly looked like him, like maybe a cousin, but it was almost impossible to tell their gender through appearances alone.Strikingly, try as he might, he couldn't get himself to panic now. He didn't look like a child, although he definitely looked younger and much shorter. He was all soft lines and smooth curves. He was still fit, but now he seemed more lithe, like his body had been before puberty. This is an improvement.

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