It was an aromatherapy candle that Ben had purchased from an odd little shop. A couple of inches tall, it had a tag proclaiming that it would 'relax the body and mind, bringing forth a feeling of fun and inner change'. What it didn't explain was why it was shaped like a raccoon. But Ben liked the look of the cute critter as it sat on its hind legs, smiling to itself.
Later that evening, he lit it as he sat at his computer. It sparked and spluttered, long lazy tendrils of smoke rising from its flame. The smoke smelt of tree sap and seemed to home in on him. He waved it away with a hand, the tendrils wrapping themselves around his arm then slowly dissolving. After a while, the room seemed to be getting smoky. He stood up, blew out the candle and turned on the light. It was then that he noticed it wasn't the room that was full of smoke but that he was sitting in his own personal cloud.
The cloud followed the outline of his body closely, except for around his waist and thighs, where it bellowed out. The strange thing was how the cloud seemed to follow him around wherever he walked. When he tried brushing it off, his hands passed through it like a shadow. There was something else now, a big plume of smoke behind him. As he moved, it seemed to be tethered to his rump. As he rushed to the mirror, he towed it like a balloon after him.
In the mirror he could see there was a definite shape to the cloud. There were little peaks on top of his head and in the middle of his face a big puff of smoke hung. He stared at his hand; it was outlined with stubby digits with pointed tips... It looked like a paw. He looked again at his reflection; he was standing within the smoky form of a raccoon! As his eyes widened, the raccoons tail and ears drooped to match his own expression. He gasped as more smoke reached over to cover him and fill out the coon. Its muzzle moved with Ben's lips as he mumbled "Uh oh.."
He followed the smoke back to the candle, it was alight! He hurried over and blew it out. It spluttered, glowed and sparked back a flame! He tried again, but it just sparked into life with dark black smoke that immediately started curling around his head, shadowing his eyes like a bandit’s mask.
He rubbed his eyes but the smoke still thickened. He made grab for the candle, it was hard as his hands were now hidden within large smoky raccoon paws. He got hold of it and dunked it into his coffee. It hissed and began to bubble, belching coffee brown smoke. He backed away, but he just couldn’t shake the smoke. He bumped into the mirror and turned to look again.
By now he was just a dark shadow within the smoky raccoon, he had to peer hard into the mirror to make himself out at all. He seemed wispy at the edges, as if he was made of smoke too. It was making him tingle. The coffee steam had blended with the gray smoke, turning him a brown shade. The plume of smoke behind him was now a fuzzy striped raccoon’s tail that flicked back and forth at his thoughts.
He stared hard into the smoke, but by now, try as he might, it was impossible to see anything but a raccoon staring back. He tried reaching inside the cloud, but all he could feel was something soft and squishy like cotton wool below the surface. It was taking on the soft wispy texture of fur, contracting, solidifying, and within it he was shrinking! He hadn't noticed it at first, but by now his room looked bizarrely outsized. Shelves and door handles towered above him and dusty spaces under beds and desks were now at his level.
He even had to scrabble onto a chair to see himself in the mirror. He stared to see a small, cute, raccoon staring back at him, sitting on its haunches. He began smiled then laughed. The noise came out like high chittering, which just made him laugh more. 'This was crazy' he thought to himself 'what was he going to do?' The raccoon in the mirror chittered and shrugged.
Aww, what the hell, he could think about that later. It was night and he felt like going out for a prowl, things always felt better when you were sat on a high branch with a belly full of scavengings. Besides, he hadn't eaten a good worm in ages.
He clawed his way up the curtains and nosed through the open window, out into the misty night.