Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Stories Etc: ‘My Shrunken Universe’ offers a youthful tale of misadventure, fantasy

Poetry, prose offers author opportunity to explore ‘wild imagination’
Greta Zimmermann

Welcome to StoriesEtc, a place where University of Wisconsin students can share their original works of creative writing with the community, whether it be poetry, short stories or anything in between. As a section dealing with the arts, it feels only natural to create an opportunity for students to share their creative talents.

With that being said, let’s meet this week’s contributor, and The Badger Herald’s ArtsEtc. editor, Aidan McClain:

Tell us about yourself. What’s your major?


I’m a junior at the University of Wisconsin studying journalism. I just chose to pursue the strategic communication track, which revolves around marketing and public relations. I hope to start a career in the entertainment industry, which is why I’m currently one of the ArtsEtc. editors here at The Badger Herald.

Define your writing, authorship, and perspective.

It’s hard to describe my writing because I tend to just write down what comes to my head in the moment. I don’t plan ahead, I just type and type and type—like I’m doing now. My authorship depends on what I’m writing. I like to write poetry and music because it serves as an outlet for expression, but creative stories allow me to use my wild imagination to create a world that doesn’t exist outside of my head. Writing is personal, and everyone has their own writing style. Every writer and non-writer should embrace their writing style and make the best out of it—even if you aren’t confident in your work. When I write songs, I have trouble finishing most of them, but that’s okay. They’re mine and no one else’s and that means something to me.

Talk about your creative process. What inspires you, and how do you get from an idea to a finished product?

I tend to be the most creative when I’m not planning to be. I always tell myself that I should have a voice recorder constantly running so that when I say an idea out loud or sing a song lyric, I won’t forget it. That tends to be my biggest problem. Since my creativity comes out-of-the-blue, I usually don’t have time to find a piece of paper to write down the words. When writing songs, I’m inspired by the emotions I’m feeling. I’ve heard people say that writing songs is like having open-heart surgery because you expose yourself to the core, and I’d have to agree. It’s not an easy thing to share my work with anyone.

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Luckily, my piece today is a creative writing sample, which is easier for me to share because it doesn’t show my emotions, but rather my carefree side that is reminiscent of a child. When an idea forms, whether it be a song or a creative writing piece, editing is key. When I write on paper, there are many scratch marks, arrows and underlines. It can be frustrating to finish a piece, but patience is everything.

Here is a sample of McClain’s work:

“My Shrunken Universe”

On that dreadful day in September, my normal professor was absent from class. This took us all by surprise, as there was no warning email, but the class was pretty pleased at first. After all, no regular professor means there is going to be a guest lecturer, and guest lecturers are always a joke.

My excitement for a blow-off period quickly died as the lecturer jumped right into heavy coursework. He must have been able to read our minds — he said this material will indeed be on the next exam, so we best pay attention.

As I struggled to stay awake, I heard the repetitive tick of the clock slowly tick tick tick tick as the speaker’s monotonous voice droned on and on and on. I wish I could say this was all a nightmare, but that’s not the case. It’s not the class that I wish was all a dream, but what happened after the clock finally hit its 50-minute marker, and the buzz of the bell told us to leave. You would think I was relieved. And I wish I was, too.

I began to pack my bag and get out of the class as soon as possible—if I didn’t get fresh air I was bound to collapse of exhaustion. But the lecturer offered us something that my sweet tooth couldn’t resist: candy.

And so I accepted his offer, as did most students, and we popped the sour candy into our mouths. But this candy’s sour flavor soon turned bitter. A wave of fear overtook my body as my body started to shake, and everything around me began to grown. But the room wasn’t growing—I was shrinking. Smaller, smaller, smaller.

At the time I wasn’t worried because I thought my mind was wandering as my body slept, listening to the lecturer ramble. So I thought it was an adventurous dream. I decided I needed to get off my chair and onto the floor, so I crafted a paper plane out of my drooled-upon notes and flew down to the ground. I began to walk to the classroom door but since I was so small, it felt like miles.

After what seemed like a century, I made my way out of the building and onto the street. I began to panic as I found myself stuck to the ground. Fear wasn’t paralyzing me, but rather a piece of chewed gum was holding me down. My immobility didn’t last long, as I was lifted into the air by a few environmentally-conscious kids picking up trash from the ground. I was thankful for my freedom of movement, but unfortunately ended up in a trash can.

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My story doesn’t get better, but it does get more entertaining. A cute little dog that was walking itself stuck its head into the trash, and I ended up on its back. After quite the ride, I was painfully scratched off—he must have thought I was a flea.

I somehow ended up at my apartment, where I had to slide myself through the keyhole to get inside. After my roommates nearly stepped on me, they picked me up and I explained everything. I can’t imagine what was going through their heads—poor guys. Besides the fact that I had to sleep in a tissue box, I was doing alright.

The next day, my roommates brought me to my STEM friends, and they worked their magic to bring me back to my normal size. Like I said, this wasn’t a dream, but I wish it had been. My body and mind were shrunken to something I never imagined to be possible.

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