Cathy Sherman

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6/30/2016 11:02pm

Fractal Cartography is a blast.

The rest of my small team is the best. Archie, Squeak, Merfnow, and Patricia really know the ropes, and have made me feel like family since our first day out. I had no idea that teen mice were just like you and me! They wear clothes, listen to music, and make jokes. Archie's been especially sweet to me, even though the others tease him about it.

There turn out to be tiny spaces in the walls which lead to safe passages to fractally smaller universes. Well, "safe" is a relative term. There's lots of weird territory you have to cover. Cliffs that go up and around and you have to climb them depending on their different centers of gravity. But once you get through them, you end up in a whole new world. And a different one every time.

We're still only mouse-sized, so each new world is its own enormous forest of table legs and chair legs and walls. Or things that I just assume are tables and chairs. But there are different kinds of creatures in each one, which we spy on and take pictures of with our phones. We also take a lot of other coordinates and readings and put it all together in maps when we get back to World A - which is what we call this world. The mice at Psychic High School have the biggest database of fractal cartography in any of the known Worlds. And I got recruited for one of the teams that makes the maps.

Only at Psyhigh would I have made such excellent friends, and received such a fantastic education. Thank you Psyhigh!!!

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6/23/2016 9:18pm

[A description of the red and blue brochure handed to me by the mouse in the brown suit]

So you'd like to be a Fractal Cartographer?

[Picture of four mice in climbing gear and helmets rappelling down what appears to be a frozen waterfall]

Do you have an interest in:

Heroic escapes?
Climbing up and down impossible features?
Discovering new worlds?

Are you an expert in the complex mathematics of chaotic systems?

[Picture of a classic Mandelbrot set]

Do you enjoy self avoiding walks, percolation clusters, and logistic families?

Do you understand the intricacies of traveling to infinitely smaller and smaller worlds?

Then fractal cartography might be for you!

Join the exciting young people who are exploring the very edges of our reality.

[Picture of a group of very happy adolescent mice in t-shirts and cut-offs gathered around a tiny campfire]

Perform complex quadratic polynomial equations!

Free climb, rope climb, and crawl through spaces you never believed could exist!

Become fractal cartographer today!

[It's followed by a bunch of small print written in a language made of dots and scratches, but includes the English words "fractal assassin."]

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6/15/2016 10:28pm

"You can take the armor off now. It isn't really necessary."

There was a brown mouse in a brown suit in my room. He was standing up, and speaking perfect English, so he seemed reasonable.

"Isn't it, uh... magical or something?"


"Legendary? Mythic? Historic?"



"No. It's a button, a drink pick, and a thimble with some costume jewelry glued on. Please take it off, it's a distraction."

I put them all back on my spool table. Now that he mentioned it, it did just kind of seem like a bunch of junk.

"Then, why the maps? Why the quests? Why... set everything up like that?"

"Please have a seat. May I?"

The mouse gestured to the doll house chairs I had on my doll house rug. We sat across from one another. He pulled a pair of reading glasses from his pocket and began to rifle through a small folder.

"We needed to make sure you'd properly adjusted to your re-sizing. Dexterity, balance, depression, madness. Things can get a little off-kilter for some people. But you seem to be doing quite well."

He found what he was looking for in the folder. He read for a moment.

"You were quite a promising mathematics student. Once."

It's true. I'd come to Psyhigh on a math scholarship from Eliphas Levi Middle School. They wanted me on Math Team, but my heart just wasn't in it. I do just enough math to pass my classes now. Actually, my main focus lately has just been surviving at this size.

"Do you know what a Fractal Cartographer is?"

"No, I don't."

"Soon you will." He stood up and put his glasses back in is pocket. "Your team will pick you up at 8am sharp tomorrow. Please read this carefully," and he handed me a colorful brochure. His mouse hands were hairy but perfectly manicured.

Then he turned around and walked out.

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6/7/2016 10:40pm

They were all resting on my spool table. The jewel encrusted helmet, the button shield, and the drink skewer sword. Naturally, the first thing I wanted to do was to put them all on. Do some lunges, do some blocks. I'd had huge adventures gathering them all, I thought I deserved a little dress-up celebration. So I did!

They felt perfect. The helmet fit snugly, but not tight, and I could see through the face guard just fine. On closer inspection it was a thimble, but expertly crafted and inlaid with swarovski crystals. The button shield was light, and seemed to catch the air like a glider as I swooped it around. And the sword -- perfectly balanced, like an extension of my own hand. Swish! Swash! Hack!

Ah! The envelope! A new adventure! Or would it be an award? A hero diploma? The answer to this mystery? I broke the red wax on the seal and pulled out a piece of parchment with these six words on it:

Do not put the armor on.

Oh snap.

"Not so great on following directions, it turns out," said a voice from behind me.

There, standing in the corner of my room, was a mouse, my size, standing on two legs, in a brown suit and tie, wearing loafers.

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6/2/2016 11:39pm

After a helmet, and a shield, you could probably tell what was going to come next. And you'd be right. I was too.

The third map led me through more complex parts of the school's infrastructure than I had seen. Lots more wiring, insulated super-cooled piping, high security steel, physical force fields that give you a little shock, mental force fields that give you an immediate flight reaction and make you run away. But the map took me around all of them, through holes that had been gnawed through drywall and across makeshift miniature zip lines.

Where I ended up was in the back of a liquor cabinet. It was Dean Hammer's office.

I climbed to the top of the cabinet, and among the fancy metal measuring cups and glass stirrers and other weird bartender tools, sitting in a tiny shot glass, was a tiny metal sword. It had an engraved hilt and the word TOLEDO on the blade. It even had a comfortable handle, and was sharp. It's the perfect miniature replica of a sword, made to hold olives or cherries in a cocktail. Perfectly sized for me. I went to grab it when suddenly a giant ROAR startled me from across the room.

I froze. I didn't even have the sword in my hands.

The roar came again, and I recognized it this time. It wasn't a roar.

It was a snore.

Laid out on the chaise lounge of the Dean's richly carpeted and upholstered office, it was the Dean himself. Snoring away and obviously deeply asleep.

Granted, it was the middle of the night. But - he sleeps in his office?

I took the sword - and a tiny envelope, sealed with red sealing wax, that had been sitting in the glass with it - and made my way back to my abode.

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5/26/2016 11:13pm

Map 2 led me to the top of the bell tower.

When I deciphered the map and realized where it went, I really wasn't looking forward to going there. Getting to the second floor was difficult enough - how was I going to make it to the tippy top of the whole building?

But the map ignored the human-scaled route - no stairs, no ladders - and took me on a comfortable scramble through crawlspaces and rafters and empty spaces in the architecture. It's amazing how much unused space is just walled over. Expanses bigger than closets - some spaces the size of small offices. But filled with cobwebs and dust and cracks of light streaming in.

I spiraled around chimneys and vents and pipes in the walls, then up supporting beams and cross beams till I found myself in the bell house at the top of the tower. Psyhigh's campus spread out around me in all directions, and I was high above it. Seeing the campus like this looked just the same as when I was full sized. Everything looked just as small from up here. That was a welcome glimpse back to my old life.

There isn't a real bell in the bell house, but an electronic amplifier and speakers that emits the digital bell sound. I guess I expected it to be a little dragon spirit or something, this being Psychic High School and all.

Sitting right below the bell box was another map. And a gold scaly disc about the size of a button. On closer inspection, it was a button. A light metal button with a burnished gold pattern, and an eyelet on the back that I used to pick it up. It weighed almost nothing, but fit so well in my hand I found myself dodging and blocking with it. It would make an excellent shield to go with the jewel encrusted helmet.

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5/21/2016 11:03pm

I hadn't been outside yet, not since I turned small. Too much to do inside just learning to survive. I hadn't thought about the added dangers. Like cats.

I followed the map. The landmarks and the dotted line led me through the walls and out to the rose beds right up next to the school. They towered up above me like a rainforest canopy. The map led me down along the building to a drainpipe, and after some long meanderings through dirt tunnels, I popped up in a tiny meadow.

The grasses were over my head. In the dirt was a trail marked out by a line of pebbles on either side - pebbles as big as cantaloupes to me. I slipped through the forest of grasses and weeds, and it was amazing to get gulps of such fresh air after being cooped up in the school for so long.

I took and extra big gulp when I ran right into the cat.

It pounced in front of me, then stood completely still as it studied me. Just a teenage mouse-sized girl in ill-fitting doll clothes by way of a caveman tailor. With a big long needle.

I pounced at the cat, and poked it in the paw.

Big snarl and it almost knocked me down with the swish of its tail when it took off.

I really wasn't ready for that. Across the crushed grasses where the cat had sat was a little construction of rocks. A little Stonehenge door with an igloo of river rocks piled around it. I could see something glinting inside.

As my eyes adjusted to the dark and I walked closer, I found an altar made from chicken bones, and resting on top of it - a tiny jewel encrusted helmet.

And another map.

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5/17/2016 11:37pm

Since first coming to this school, one of my greatest weaknesses has been the flourless chocolate cake from the cafeteria. It's not just for gluten-free people you know. Though I'd hate for word to get out.

So when I found a portion of flourless chocolate cake from cafeteria, neatly wrapped in a tiny piece of wax paper, perfectly sized for a person of my stature (three inches tall), next to a mouse hole in the wall, I was elated at first. And it looked as neat and hygienic as if the lunch lady had done it herself. Well, more so, really. So I ate it.

As I was devouring this sumptuous treat, I started checking out the mouse hole, and just at the edge of my vision what I did I spy inside but another portion of cake! Now, these portions weren't really that large, and I figured there was no harm and having another. It was as delicious as the first.

As I was eating that portion, my eyes adjusted to the dark and can you guess what I saw, deeper into the space between the walls? That's right. And it was delicious too.

I believe there were 17 such portions, each leading me deeper into the dark small spaces of the school, between walls and under floor boards and up into rafters. The flourless chocolate cake really is that good. And it wasn't till I was just about completely full that I realized the danger I was in. Wasn't this obviously some kind of trap?

Thankfully, no, it was not. After filling the last space in my pockets with the last of the cake, I spotted a tiny scroll with a big red bow on it, apparently laid out just for me. I unrolled it and there was just enough light oozing through the cracks in the walls that I could make out that it was a map - like an old treasure map with dotted lines and features and a big X at the end. I am taking it back to my room tonight to study.

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5/12/2016 10:40pm

Being as small as a mouse means everything takes 10 times as much work. Getting to classes is a hike, and usually a climb too. Studying out of books bigger than you means having to literally walk the pages, and turning the pages makes you sweaty. Having to hand-write all your assignments with broken-off pencil leads takes a lot of time, so keeping this little diary for Pete the Janitor to transcribe and post on my account is something I haven't had much time for.

Speaking of Pete, he found me a set of old doll clothes just my size and some real doll furniture for my little room, including an four-poster doll bed that's comfortable. The clothes aren't so comfortable though, since they weren't made for real humans to wear. They have rough seams inside and are generally bulky. But I'm making them work. I found a Swiss Army knife which is is now unfolded in my room, and I can use it to make alterations - cutting and ripping and poking holes and stuff. Sewing is easy - I don't need a needle! It's more like rope and knot tying.

I have do have a needle, though, which I use for protection in the mouse holes and at night. I've named it Needle. I found out the hard way that I needed Needle when I started exploring the spaces between the walls. Spiders pay me more attention than I'd like, and a big one cornered me when I was taking a shortcut to the cafeteria. I waved my arms and stomped and made a lot of noise thinking I could scare it off, but it just hunched itself up and made its hairs stand on end like a cat. I didn't know they could do that.

I'm not sure what would have happened next if a mouse hadn't barged in at that exact moment. It scurried past me and ran headlong into the spider. They grappled and rolled and there were hissing noises (I'm not sure from which). Ultimately the spider disappeared into the shadows and the mouse did too. So now I carry Needle strapped on my back whenever I go out, and keep it by the door of my tiny room at night.

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4/19/2016 1:56pm

Maybe being shrunk down to the size of a mouse is going to take more getting used to than I thought. Aside from moving from place to place, just BEING this small is really disorienting. Walking down a hall is like walking down a street in NYC. The walls seem as high as skyscrapers, towering up above you on both sides. Table legs and chairs too. My neck is sore from trying to take it all in.

And getting around is a giant hassle. Stairs are generally impassable. So I'm starting to explore the mouse paths. When I find a way through a space into a built-in or the walls I slip through and look around. Haven't explored too deeply yet. And what if I run into a mouse? I was sort of scared of mice even when I was full size. Do I need a weapon? Like a needle for a sword? Or a short pencil?

Speaking of short pencils, I'm obviously not typing this out on a keyboard. From the start, Janitor Pete was kind enough to transcribe my journal entries for me. At first I dictated, but now I'm using a piece of lead from the end of a pencil and writing it all down on scraps of paper. When I'm done I leave them under Janitor Pete's door and he finds them and reads my tiny scrawl and posts under my name. Thank you Janitor Pete! Couldn't do it without you!

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