Charlie Whiplash was an outcast. From a societal standpoint, he was about average height for his kind, measuring in at about two centimeters. He lived in a small hole that he carved out of a kitchen wall in a house owned by Miss Lorraine Cranberry, an old and unaware cat lady. Charlie’s family had been exiled out of the two clans of tiny people that inhabited (and fought over) the main floor: the Whallops and the Whittles. His family had been taken away from him when he was only 16, and after 10 years he was still all alone. He liked it that way. As Charlie had grown older, he tried his best to stay out of the political drama and warfare that often plagued the downstairs. He was perfectly content with the quiet and calm life he lived.
One day, as Charlie was just preparing to leave his house to try and find some food crumbs that had been left behind, a man the height of about 2.5 centimeters burst into his living room. The man was wearing thin armor and had cold, menacing eyes.
“Whiplash!” he hollered.
Startled, Charlie jumped up and pulled out his weapon, a small piece of a broken sewing needle that he used as a sword.
“Put down your weapon, boy. This is no time for games,” the military officer growled.
Embarrassed, Charlie sheathed his sword and asked, “W-What can I do for you?”
The officer looked him up and down and then slowly began to pace around the room.
“The King of the Whittles has sent me to bring you in on a dangerous mission. Benjamin Whittle, the youngest of the three princes, has been kidnapped by the Whallops. We need your help to retrieve him,” he stated firmly.
Charlie gaped at him. “Why would you need my help? What’s in it for me?”
“We have already wasted the lives of 30 soldiers trying to get that little tw—er—prince back. You know this kitchen’s layout better than anyone. We’ve seen you darting around the cups and plates from our kingdom in the living room. As for what’s in it for you, we will revoke your exiled and outcast status and you will be freely welcomed into the Whittle Kingdom as a hero. We will also pay you handsomely if you can pull this off.”
Charlie blinked at the officer in surprise. Him? A hero? Be welcomed into the Whittle Kingdom? He could barely wrap his head around the idea. He had never lived anywhere but in his little hole in the wall.
Sweating under the officer’s intense gaze, Charlie nodded and replied, “Um yes. Yes! I can do that.”
“Excellent. We’ll be starting immediately,” the officer stated as he turned around to leave.
“Wait!” Charlie called out as he fumbled with his things. “What’s your name?”
The officer paused briefly to answer, “I am Sergeant Peter Gumsworth.” Then he ducked under Charlie’s door and was gone.
Once Charlie collected his things, he raced outside to keep up with the sergeant, who was already way ahead of him. Accompanying the sergeant was a small motley crew of soldiers who looked like they were barely capable of wielding weapons. They traveled along the baseboard of the kitchen, cautiously staying out of sight of Miss Cranberry’s cats. Once they were about halfway to where Charlie assumed they were going, Sergeant Gumsworth stopped.
He turned to Charlie and said, “We’ll get you as close as we can to the Whallop Kingdom, but you’ll have to do the rescuing bit yourself.”
Charlie nodded, but his heart sank. How was he supposed to go against an entire kingdom who had already taken out 30 of the Whittle’s soldiers? Although, after glancing at the soldiers around him, Charlie mused it might be less difficult than he feared.
After another small trek, Sergeant Gumsworth guided Charlie over to a long thread that he would use as a rope to help him scale up a brown cabinet. Taking a deep breath, Charlie hoisted himself up and began the slow and very straining trip up the cabinet. Once he made it on top of the counter, Charlie darted behind a few cups and started searching for the opening to the Whallop Kingdom. Upon finding the small entrance that was hidden behind the Keurig, Charlie froze as a thought dawned on him. How was he going to know what the prince looked like? He had forgotten to ask the most important question! This mission just became a whole lot more difficult.
Slipping inside the kingdom, Charlie was startled by how big it was. It must’ve gone all throughout the section of the kitchen wall. He pretended to be a normal citizen, and nonchalantly looked around for where they might be holding Benjamin. Walking down a small alleyway carved out of the drywall, Charlie found himself amongst a few rows of very small living spaces. At the top of each was a name carved in large, bold letters. Although he doubted that would be it, Charlie began going through all the names. Suddenly, he came across one that looked familiar. It read:
Charlie stared up at the sign in surprise. Benji could be short for Benjamin, right? Why was it this easy to find a prisoner? Maybe the Whallops liked to show off their prisoners.
Taking a deep breath, Charlie barged into the small home and called out, “Benjamin Whittle!!”
A 20-something-year-old man, a little taller than Charlie, poked his head out around a corner, “Um, hello? Who are you?”
Charlie ran over to him and started pulling him towards the door. He was wearing an outfit that seemed too comfortable for a normal prisoner. Charlie figured that the Whallops must be trying to give him a false sense of security.
“Come on!” Charlie urged. “You’re in great danger, and I have to get you out of here!”
“W-What? What danger?” Benjamin asked as he was dragged by Charlie back through the section of drywall and towards the entrance to the Whallop Kingdom.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get us out of here!” Charlie shouted as he raced out of the kingdom and back towards the rope with Benjamin in tow.
Then, grabbing ahold of the rope, Charlie said, “Okay, now grab onto me and I’ll bring us down.”
Benjamin gaped at him. “Are you kidding? You’re kidding, right? Where are we even going?”
“What do you mean ‘where are we going?’ I’m rescuing you! Now come on!” Charlie grabbed onto Benjamin and started going down the rope with him as fast as he could.
“What are you—hold on—rescuing me? Rescuing me from what?”
Benjamin started to flail around as he realized he was being forced to scale down a cabinet with a complete stranger.
“Benjamin—would you—quit—doing that—please—it is very hard to not fall off when you’re wiggling like that,” Charlie grunted as Benjamin continued to squirm.
“I prefer the name Benji, thank you very much, and also, who even are you?”
Benji stopped flailing to peer into Charlie’s eyes.
“My name,” Charlie heaved as he reached the bottom and let go of the rope, “is Charlie Whiplash. Now come on!”
As he was being led away towards the fridge, Benji thought out loud, “Charlie Whiplash? Oh right, the outsider. Wait—the outsider? Then why the heck—” Benji’s thoughts were cut short when he finally realized where they were going.
Right when they made it under the fridge, Charlie felt a tug backward as Benji suddenly stopped.
“Hey what—? Why are you stopping? We still have a ways to go,” Charlie questioned.
“Look, I don’t know what they’ve told you, but there is absolutely no way that I am going back to my parents.”
Benji started to move away from Charlie.
“You can’t be serious, don’t tell me that they kidnapped and brainwashed you!”
“What—no—they didn’t—that’s not the point. The Whallops have treated me much better than my parents ever have.”
Charlie was confused. Benji didn’t seem like he had just been held prisoner for a long time. Was he telling the truth?
“Okay, you know what, it doesn’t matter. I am being paid to bring you back home so that’s what I’m going to do!”
As Charlie and Benji continued to argue, their commotion attracted the attention of several nearby ants. The ants slowly approached them unnoticed until almost the last second.
As Charlie was beginning to get exasperated, Benji looked over Charlie’s shoulder and screamed, “Look out!! Ants!!”
Spinning around and whipping out his broken sewing needle as fast as possible, Charlie managed to fend off an ant that was just about to grab onto his leg. As Charlie successfully agitated all of the ants in the nearby vicinity, Benji began to run towards the opposite side of the fridge, yelling for Charlie to follow.
After looking around and realizing that there were just way too many ants, Charlie made a tactical decision and booked it towards the direction that Benji was running. There wasn’t much space left before they would run out of cover from the fridge and the ants were gaining ground. As Charlie prepared to succumb to his fate, Benji grabbed his arm and dragged him out from under the fridge as he started to run towards the living room.
“What the—are you crazy?! We have no cover out here!” Charlie exclaimed as he tried to keep up with Benji.
“I have a plan, don’t worry!” Benji yelled back over his shoulder.
“Plan?! What pla—?! Charlie’s words were cut out by his own scream as Benji launched both of them up onto a solid black, round moving object.
“Roomba!” Benji shouted with glee.
“What—but the ants—?” Charlie asked before laughing out of pure relief as he watched the ants struggle to get ahold of the smooth, slippery surface of the Roomba.
As the Roomba glided further into the living room, Charlie said, “This is perfect! Now we’ll get back to the Whittle Kingdom in no time!”
Benji jumped up and started looking all around the Roomba in a panic as he said, “What? No no no no no, we have to turn this thing around. I am NOT going back.”
“Why are you so against going home?” Charlie inquired.
“Haven’t you ever been inside of the Whittle Kingdom?”
Charlie shook his head no and Benji sighed.
“The king and queen—my parents—treat everyone like garbage. Including their own children. I wasn’t kidnapped by the Whallops. Instead, I—well, I ran away from home. The Whallops took me in and gave me a nice small home. They treat me well. Many of the soldiers that my parents have sent to retrieve me have chosen to stay as well. The conditions in the Whittle Kingdom are. . . not favorable or healthy. When I confronted my parents, they threatened to throw me in the dungeon so I made my escape. I can’t imagine how they’ll react to me being home. Maybe they’ll make good on their threats.”
Charlie stared wide eyed at Benji.
“Oh… I’m sorry… I don’t even know what to say…” Charlie trailed off.
Charlie looked anywhere but at Benji, who had seated himself on the edge of the Roomba. He didn’t know what to do. On one hand, returning Benji to the Whittles would relieve him of his exiled and outcast status, as well as earn him a lot of money. But on the other hand, would destroying the life Benji had managed to create in the Whallop Kingdom really be worth it for money and social status? Charlie bit his lip. He didn’t think so.
As Charlie struggled with his moral dilemma, one of Miss Cranberry’s cats looked over and squinted at the Roomba. Upon seeing the two little people on top of it, the cat slowly stood up and began stalking it. As the cat crept towards the Roomba, Charlie pulled Benji up and tried to work out a plan with him. However, to Charlie’s surprise, Benji had already given up.
“Benji, come on! We have to think of something!” Charlie pleaded.
“There’s no point. We’re almost at the gates already,” Benji said as he waved his hand dismissively towards the entrance to the Whittle Kingdom, from which Sergeant Gumsworth and several soldiers had already started emerging.
Looking around frantically for any way out of it, Charlie finally laid eyes on the cat, who was preparing to pounce. At the last second, Charlie pulled the unsuspecting Benji out of the way as the cat lunged. Making a split second decision, Charlie chose his side, and leapt onto the cat with Benji in tow, grabbing onto its gray fur.
The cat yowled and Benji shrieked. Charlie and Benji barely held on as the cat spun around and tried to fling them off. As they struggled to climb up higher on the cat’s back, Benji pulled Charlie up away from the angry jaws of the cat just in the nick of time. They barely had any time to catch their breath before the cat went sprinting into the kitchen, getting the attention of all the other cats, who began to make their way over.
Amongst the chaos, Benji shouted at Charlie, “Look, the rope!!”
Laying eyes on the rope from earlier, Charlie waited until the cat was near enough to the rope before grabbing onto Benji and jumping for it.
Charlie and Benji both screamed as they went careening through the air, and the cat that they had been riding on spun around and advanced towards them. As Charlie grabbed onto the rope and Benji grabbed onto Charlie, Charlie felt intense pain shoot through his hands as he slid a little ways down the rope and suffered a terrible rope burn. After hearing Benji’s panicked yells to climb, Charlie used all of his energy to pull himself and Benji up the rope as fast as possible.
Charlie and Benji had barely reached the top of the cabinet when the gray cat jumped up onto the counter next to them. Using the last of his adrenaline, Charlie pulled out his sword and took a defensive stance in front of Benji, who was starting to slowly back away. As the cat hissed and opened its mouth as it prepared to pounce, Charlie pushed the fearful Benji in the direction of the Keurig for cover.
“Go—run!” Charlie shouted.
“I’m not leaving you behind!” Benji yelled back as he tried to make his way back to Charlie.
But before Benji could make a move toward Charlie, the cat lunged towards them. Thinking fast with the blood pounding in his ears, Charlie chucked his sword towards the cat, and then dropped to the ground, covering his neck, preparing for the inevitable. However, the cat’s sharp teeth never reached Charlie. Instead, Charlie was greeted by pained yowling. Looking up, Charlie saw the cat batting at it’s nose as it tried to get out the needle that was protruding from it. Charlie laughed, dumbfounded, and then ran over to where Benji was hiding before the cat could try to attack again. Then, to Charlie’s surprise, Benji hugged him.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!!” Benji exclaimed.
Charlie grew shy and replied, “Oh, uh, no problem.”
“How can I ever repay you? I don’t have much money-wise, but I have quite a few trinkets that are pretty valuable!”
“It’s really alright, you don’t need to repay me. I am just thankful for a chance to have one last daring adventure before I’m probably arrested.”
“Wait, what? Why would you be arrested?” Benji asked, concerned.
“Well, once I get back to my hole in the wall I’m sure that it will only be a matter of time before Sergeant Gumsworth comes to arrest me for turning against them,” Charlie started. “So, I might as well start getting back now. You know, to pack up my things.”
As Charlie turned to leave, Benji stopped him and said, “Wait! Why don’t you… stay here! With me. Or not with me—you could live on your own in the Whallop Kingdom. Or with me if you wanted—really it’s up to you.”
“You’d be… okay with that?” Charlie asked.
“Yes of course! Although you may have accidentally kidnapped me, you also saved my life quite a few times, and you successfully returned me to my home. Tomorrow, once the cats settle down, we can go back to your home and get all your stuff! I’ll get some of the Whallop guards to help us.”
Charlie thought for a moment and realized that he wasn’t as content with his quiet and lonely life as he thought he was.
“Okay, well, um, sure! Why not,” Charlie said with a small smile.
Benji grinned back and then led Charlie into the Whallop Kingdom where they would continue to live together happily ever after.