Chapter One, The Broken Chest

I was within my own mind, too much for the continuation of my birthday's fifth week out. Birthdays confused me – and they reminded me of death.

It was a funny thing, Layton shifted twice, just there, sitting on the beanbag, playing Mario Kart.

"I'm playing Mario Kart," he said.

"Mario Kart?" said I, but I wasn't interested in talking, I was mesmerized by the race.

It was funny, that he had just declared that he was playing Mario Kart. Just out of the blue. He had a serious pout on, and he was triggering the controls – but, he was playing Mario Kart. He did it again, he shifted – hardly noticeably, but he did it.

"I'm playing Mario Kart," he mentioned. He had intoned it, and I was drifting across my eyes to himself, and I noticed sweat upon his brow.

"Stop annoying me, Tule." Layton didn't look over, he didn't shift, but he had said it.

I didn't reply, I was too mesmerized by the game, and this new little mystery. He was sitting on the beanbag, with his face pouted, his brows sweating – he was going red in the face – and he was playing Mario Kart. I was just sitting on the couch, watching. He shifted again.

I began watching the screen more closely, and about five minutes passed. I was trying to figure out why he was shifting, so suddenly, younger, and then older again – but I realised I couldn't spy him changing if I was watching the screen and not he.

"Why are you shifting?" I asked him.

"Just trying something out," Layton replied. I watched him some more, and then I went to the kitchen.

The kitchen was smelly. It has the smell of either rotten banana, dead mouse, or old fridge – and I can't discern which. It must be a dead mouse, and then I grew older, old enough to reach the cookie jar. I didn't verbalise it as much as think it. Then I laughed, and I grew smaller. I had been spending most of the afternoon as a five year old child, same as Layton. I wondered back into the room, and sat on the couch. I didn't know very well how to think at this age, but I knew alright, and that was the malady of childhood in my opinion – the inability to express one's self. My feet didn't touch the ground as I sat there on the couch. I was in my clothes, which had grown smaller as well, and I was eating a cookie. I reached for the milk on the bench, I had been drinking milk and eating cookies all day. We hadn't had much of a day, but Layton was eagerly pressing buttons on the Nintendo 64 controller, and he was, in a way, winning. That's why I wasn't bothering him. But, he was, in fact, bothered. And I didn't know whether it was because he was watching his progress, or that he wanted to be alone. But, I didn't care, but I probably should have. We were all independent of each other in the house, but sometimes we had riotous fun, but sometimes we didn't. We were usually each other working on something, out of the grappling of each other's way, but I didn't care – but I probably should have. They were my friends, but I had discovered they were a lot older than me, just that the willing and shifting kept them the same apparent age as me, but they were much wiser in the willing, and that's why they were bothered by me – but I persisted.

Layton shifted. I intoned. "Shut up. Why don't you go outside and burn some ant's nests." But I didn't, I think he wanted to be alone, but I was curious.

"Hockety-Pockety-Wockety-Wack."

But I didn't shift, it was too old - so much so that the desired effect didn't really seem feasible to Layton nor Tony anymore. Tony came into the room. He shifted, and tackled the beanbag. He had been quite a dignified age, but now he was about five – like the rest of us. I was good at willing, but not that good. I was learning tricks, rehearsing the predictability of my shifting – but I wasn't that good.