Gymboree was bustling with children and their carers when they walked in. They spotted Joy and Amanda immediately, waving at them from middle of the play area. Sue was creeping on her tummy at their feet, mouthing a big soft been-bag. Danny was apparently practising standing, Joy holding both his hands while he stood with bowed knees and in-turned toes babbling with delight at his new-found ability to be upright.
“Look Rachel, it’s your brother and he’s standing up!” Sara told the girl in the stroller.
Sara brought them inside the play centre and Brian couldn’t help but look about with some wonder. There were just so many bright colours, oversized bouncy balls, slides, ramps and toys it was a lot to take in. Meggy was beside herself, slack-jawed with awe as she took in the room through an infant’s eyes. The reception area was separated from the rest of the room by a low barrier. The welcome desk and a row of chairs for visitors and parents sat along the wall. There was a tall cabinet by the entry for people to slide their shoes into before going into the main play area.
A plump older woman with dyed blonde hair and thick glasses welcomed them to Gymboree. “I’m Edna, can I ask how old your little ones are and what programme you’re here for?”
Sara jostled Brian on her hip and replied, “Well these little ones are all twenty-one and they’re here for the pre-walking play group.”
“Lovely, you’re right on time!” Edna declared, then looked at Brian, giving him an exaggerated smile and cooing, “Well hello there buddy!”
“Did you hear that Brian?” Sara said to him. “The nice lady said hello. Can you say hi back to her?”
“Hi,” Brian mumbled, not amused by their condescension. Though it only got worse when Mama grabbed his wrist and made him wave his hand like he was too thick to do so himself.
“What a bright little guy,” Edna told Sara.
“Yes, he’s quite advanced for his age, almost speaks in full sentences already,” she bragged.
“Oh that’s brilliant, you’re a lucky mommy.”
Sara nodded and pecked a kiss on her boy’s cheek.
“Okay, just leave your shoes in the bin and I’ll help you get the little ones into the play area.”
As Mama carried Brian in he watched the kids playing around him. Several young men were tip-toeing down a balance beam raised a foot off the ground. A group about their age was crawling through a tube on the floor, a multi-coloured tunnel. Others were swimming about in a sort of ball-pit filled with soft shapes. Everyone seemed to be having a good time.
Brian was set down on the floor with his Mama sitting behind him. She pulled him back into her lap and he saw that other mothers were sitting with college-aged men and women in their laps all in a circle. Edna set Meggy and Rachel down on either side of them, showing off incredible strength as she easily carried the two adult women across the room and lowered them to the floor as though it were nothing.
In front of them was what Brian recognised as a parachute. It covered a large section of the floor and their circle of moms and babies was formed around it. Edna had left but another carer who introduced herself as Claire cheerily directed the mothers to each grab a corner of the parachute and to lift it high in the air on her mark. Mama places her mouth right by Brian’s ear and whispered, “Okay baby, when Mama lifts the pretty blanket up, you get over to the other side just as fast as you can. Mama will give you a special juice ba-ba afterwards.”
“Okay mommies, lift!” Claire yelled, and the parachute went up.
With all the cheers of encouragement Brian couldn’t help but get caught up in the spirit of the thing. He forced himself forward, immediately dropping to his hands and knees and crawling forward. The parachute’s primary colours filtered the lights on the ceiling, casting a bright rainbow of light across the floor and the other babies. A young man in a Big Bird romper was creeping faster than Brian, and his competitive streak made him force his hands and legs to move faster.
Halfway across and the parachute was coming down, threatening to collapse on them and trap them. With a pounding heartbeat Brian didn’t think how silly that idea was, he just pushed faster. The parachute sprang upwards again just as it seemed ready to touch their heads. Happy with the reprieve Brian decided to try and walk the rest of the way. Surely with all this adrenaline flowing he could force his muscles to work correctly. He rose to his knees but it was impossible to get a foot on the floor without something to pull himself up on. A confused looking Rachel reached his side, also on her hands and knees. Without a word he grabbed her shoulders and used the girl to push himself up. She glared at him and called out in surprise. But he didn’t care, his knees had straightened and he could feel the carpet under his bare soles. He was standing!
With wide, halting steps he moved forward. He could hear Mama shouting her praises as he took step after step. Mamas on the other side of the circle were nodding and smiling at him and that made him feel all good and warm inside. He made it a full six steps upright before his ankle rolled and he dropped heavily to his hands and knees again. But at least he’d made it all the way to the other side. Just as he reached the mama on that side, the silky material of the parachute brushed over his head and neck as it dropped to the floor.
Brian smiled up at her, proud he’d made it in time. She knelt before him and tickled him under the chin. “What a cutie-pie you are,” she said.
Brian was starting to feel like a puppy, on his hands and knees being petted. He pulled back and looked around for his Mama. She wasn’t where he’d left her anymore. Immediately he started to panic. He needed Mama so much! She did everything for him because he couldn’t do anything for himself anymore. If she disappeared, what would become of him? He wanted Mama now!
“Mama!” he called out, tears forming in his eyes. “Where Mama!”
A hand on his shoulder and the scent of Mama immediately soothed him. “Shh sweetie, Mama’s right here baby,” she assured, pulling him into a much needed cuddle.
Brian slowed down his rapid breathing as he cuddled in her arms. He had to remind himself that he was being silly, that Mama would never abandon him. He was her baby and she loved him so much. No, she’d never leave him.
Once he’d calmed down a bit Mama produced a nice big ba-ba filled with apple juice. It looked so appealing, he grabbed for it right away, though he had trouble holding it at first. After dropping it to the floor once Mama helped him to grip it with both hands. He took the rubber nipple in his mouth and began to suckle. The juice was nice and sweet, quenching his thirst and tasting good. He sucked greedily, downing half the bottle in a matter of moments.
“What a thirsty little man,” Mama commented.
Brian took the nipple out of him mouth long enough to declare, “Yummy!”
“I’m glad you like your ba-ba honey.”
It seemed all too soon the ba-ba was empty. Mama took it away and Brian saw that the others had disappeared. He spotted Rachel across the parachute, now sat in a big baby walker like at Meggy’s house. This one was a bit more basic, just a white walker with mesh seat and a tray.
Rachel wasn’t happy about being in the contraption. She hadn’t even tried to walk since the day before. She was happy to stay on the ground, where she was at least free to roam. This thing kept her all cooped up, unable to reach anything beyond the tray. Her bowed legs felt funny dangling like that and it was strange pushing the thing about with toes just brushing the carpet. Rachel had been a bit jealous of Brian when he’d been placed in one the night before, but now she knew that was stupid.
She was getting right into a good sulk when an idea popped into her head. She looked over at Sara, standing near Brian, fitting his empty bottle back into her overfilled bag. The bag that was sitting precariously on the edge of a chair. With all her strength Rachel dug her toes into the carpet and pushed off in Sara’s direction. Her floppy legs did the best they could and she picked up speed, aiming right for the mother’s butt.
Brian wasn’t sure what his friend was doing. She had a look of insane determination as she flailed her legs within the saucer and scooted faster and faster towards him and Mama. As she got closer he realised she wasn’t going to stop. “What the hell?” he thought. But there was no time to warn Mama, for Rachel had given one last thrust and then careened into her.
“Yow!” Sara cried out as the walker slammed into her heel and hip.
“Oopsie!” Rachel called out innocently, a wicked smile on her face as Sara collapsed in a heap and the bag toppled onto the floor, spilling its contents everywhere.
The bottles, clean diapers, make-up, wipes, all of it was spilled across the carpet. And right in the middle of the pile, the book. The only problem was Rachel couldn’t reach it. Once again she was trapped in a baby’s toy her salvation just out of grasp. Sara was already recovering, so Rachel knew there was only one solution. She gave Brian a desperate look then pushed aside her pride and cried out.
“Waah! Ahh…ahhh!” she wailed, forcing snot out of her nose, shaking her head and making like she was crying her eyes out.
Sara’s attention went from the spilled bag to the distraught baby and she immediately was at the girl’s side, trying to comfort her.
While Rachel was being cuddled and assured it was okay by Mama, Brian crept over to the pile and found the book, snatching it up and crawling away as quickly as he could. The sound of Rachel wailing got more distant as he made a bee-line for one of the tunnels. He didn’t dare look back as he crawled in behind a slightly older man in bright red overalls. Keeping his hands just behind the man’s wiggling bare feet Brian silently willed him to hurry it up. Finally they reached the other side of the tunnel and with no one behind him, Brian was alone and hidden.
Brian held the book in his hand and thought carefully about what to do. He decided there was no point trying to make it turn him grown-up again. He would just try to get a bit older, then he could fix things more easily. So he spoke softly to the book, saying “Bein’ a gwown up was bad. I wike bein’ more widdle. But not a baby! Wanna be a widdle boy, go ta school and pway. Pwease, make me widdle boy.”
Nothing happened, so Brian tried a new tack. “Okay, I stay baby, but not my fwends. Make 'em big ‘gain. You gots me. Jus’ let 'em go,” he offered, hoping that once they were older his friends could find a way to save him too. If the book demanded a victim maybe it would be satisfied with just him.
There were no wavy lines of energy, no eerie glow emanating from the book. It didn’t do a damned thing. Brian felt a lost, he’d given it his all and had nothing to show for it. He felt his rage at the stupid book grow by the second.
“C’mon stupid book, do somethin’!” he roared.
“I hate you! You maked evewything bad!” he yelled, slamming the book onto the floor and hitting it.
What happened next wasn’t at all what he’d been expecting. The book didn’t start to glow, there was no slow change. Instead there was a blinding flash of light and a wave of searing heat from the cursed book.
When his eyes adjusted from the flash nothing seemed to have changed. He was still in the tunnel, still at Gymboree and still dressed in the striped romper. Only the book itself seemed to be different. It had become plastic. It was now a rounded puffy plastic infant’s book with pictures of little yellow duckies on the cover. “Baahpoopthhh,” he mocked the book.
Brian blinked. What had he said? That didn’t sound right at all. He concentrated and declared, “Mmmaahpthhh…bababoo!”
No! This was all wrong, the book had robbed him of his ability to speak! How could he fix anything now? He couldn’t, that was the simple answer. He just couldn’t.
There was something wet dripping on his hands. Brian saw bubbly liquid on his fingers, then he felt the wetness on his chin as well. He was drooling, spittle coating his chin and hanging from it. Brian had to concentrate on keeping his mouth closed to keep the saliva from running over his lips. Feeling inside his mouth with his tongue revealed that his teeth were all completely gone now. Fighting the panic rising up inside him Brian began to crawl out of the enclosing space of the tunnel. His arms promptly gave out and he found himself flat on his tummy.
Brian scooted on his tummy, legs flailing behind him like a frog until he was free of the tunnel. Just holding his head upright seemed to take an effort now. His muscled had turned to jelly. Even when he wasn’t crawling his legs twitched and his feet wiggled. The motor control areas of his brain were back to complete infancy now. As he left the tube and looked about the room he discovered that his visual acuity had also decreased. He’d never needed glasses, but now everything in the distance was blurry.
However things nearby remained perfectly clear and he was able to see the woman lying on the floor facing him. For a second he didn’t recognise the adult sized infant, even though he could see her just fine. Then the face staring at him clicked into place and he gasped at Meggy. He hadn’t recognised her until now because she looked very different than a minute ago. Meggy was bald, her lovely hair completely missing from her head. She was gaping at him slack-jawed with drool pouring freely from her toothless mouth.
Despite the bald head and toothless mouth it was actually her eyes which showed Brian the most prominent and disturbing change. Before she’d been wide-eyed and innocent looking sure. But something had happened in this last transformation, some threshold had been crossed. Now her eyes were completely vacant, empty of all personality or even a flicker of intelligent thought. Whatever had been left of adult Megan, the little flicker of her old self he’d still seen even as she babbled and messed her diaper, it was completely gone now. Her mind had undeveloped to the point that she was nothing but an empty-headed little infant, albeit in a grown-up body.
Meggy blinked those big unthinking eyes, pursed her wet lips and blew a raspberry, saliva bubbles escaping the corners of her mouth. Brian just shook his head in disgust. Then he had a terrible thought, bringing his hand to the top of his head and sighing with relief as he felt hair. Granted it felt thinner than before and was probably so light it appeared blonde by now, but still it was hair.
“Well there you are!” a voice called from just behind him. Brian managed to twist his head enough to see ma-ma there, hands on her hips, grinning down at him. “How did you get all the way over here Bri-Bri?” she asked.
“Baadoo,” he babbled, forgetting he could no longer form proper words.
Ma-ma giggled at his cute babbling and picked him up. The feelings of helplessness he’d been having since this began now became complete. He was limp as a rag-doll in ma-ma’s arms. From Meggy’s behaviour and his lack of speech or motor control he now estimated his abilities at the five or maybe six month old level. As ma-ma rested him against her bosom and cradled his bottom with her arm, he felt that his diaper seemed much thicker as well, the leg-holes no longer contoured to fit a learning walker or even a crawler.
For several disorienting seconds he could only see ma-ma’s shirt as she carried him across the room. Then she set him down in a strange seat that wrapped around him with a section sticking up between his legs. He recalled that this was called a Bumbo, it was designed to keep a small infant sitting upright, preventing him flopping over on his back or tummy. It forced his legs straight out in front of him where he watched them twitch and wiggle seemingly on their own.
Rachel was sat in a pink Bumbo right next to his. Though her outfit hadn’t changed her hair had become thinner as well and she too had a romper collar that was now wet with drool. Brian gave her a pitiful look, wishing he could tell her how sorry was that he’d only made things worse for them again. She glared back at him, opening her mouth as though ready to yell at him, but shut it again when the only result was more spittle down her chin.
For five minutes they were forced to sit there trapped in their Bumbo chairs watching other older kids play. With each demotion they appreciated what they’d had before. At least at the last level they were mobile and could communicate to some degree. Rachel thought she’d even enjoy being back in one of those baby walkers now. At least that was a vehicle of sorts.
When Sara and Joy returned from changing Danny into a new diaper they set about entertaining the bored looking babies. Danny was plopped on the floor to creep while the two mommies shook rattles before Brian and Rachel. Neither baby wanted to show any interest, even though the noises were undeniably attention-grabbing for both. Was this what their future held? How could they ever be happy contained to baby seats and forced to watch the world go by while their mothers gave them silly toys that could never entertain their adult minds?
Sara frowned at Bri-Bri’s lack of interest in the rattle. “Come on sweetie, look at the pretty rattle!” she urged. “Lookie, lookie Bri-Bri,” she cooed to the boy, shaking it right before his eyes.
Brian glanced at the rattle at last and then his eyes seemed locked on it. “Yes, there we go, there’s my happy baby! Who wikes his widdle wattle? Does Bri-Bri? I think he does! I think he wants to chew it, doesn’t he?”
Brian began to reach out for the toy, despite himself. Ma-ma let him take it into his hands and he found the urge to put it in his mouth was indeed irresistible. He gummed the hard plastic, slobbering over the toy and feeling ashamed by his infantile explorations. At least until he looked over and saw that Rachel was smiling and squealing with glee as her ma-ma tickled the soles of her feet. Maybe this wasn’t so bad after all. Brian felt light tickles brush up and down his own feet as ma-ma copied Joy. The nerves down there seemed to have become super-sensitive and he shivered with ecstasy, smiling around the rattle and giggling uncontrollably. Ma-ma was so funny! How could getting a little tickle be so much fun?
“Bri-Bri likes getting ikles on hims footsies! Look at that silly smile!” Sara baby-talked to him. “Do you love your ma-ma? Can Bri-Bri tell me who he loves? Say ‘ma-ma’ for me sweetie! I know you can do it, just say ‘ma-ma’ for me.”
Feeling alive with silliness as the tickles continued Brian opened his mouth and tried his best to make his ma-ma happy. “Mmmbaah!” he crowed.
“Ooh that was close sweetie!” ma-ma declared. “Try again sweetie. C’mon ikkle Bwi-Bwi, tell ma-ma who you love. Say ‘ma-ma’!”
Brian concentrated on getting his tongue in the right place, then opened his mouth, ignoring the flood of drool that caused, and said, “Mmmaa-maaa!”
Sara leapt with joy, clapping her hands and then leaning it to plant several big smooches on her baby man’s face.
“He said it! Did you hear that Joy?”
“I sure did!” Joy nodded, happy for her friend. Turning to her girl she said, “Can you do that sweetie? Can you say ‘ma-ma’ like you little friend?”
Rachel was still giggling from her tickles and decided to give it a try. “Daaadooo,” she blathered unsuccessfully.
Joy chuckled at her daughter’s attempt. “Oh well, it was close sweetie but I’m afraid it’s ma-ma, not da-da.”
“She’ll get it soon enough,” Sara assured the other mother.
“Yes, soon enough she’ll be crawling and speaking real words and everything. I’ll just enjoy her cute little babbles while I still can.”
Amanda reappeared with bald little Meggy on her hip. “Hey guys we better get going if we’re gonna get those photos done,” she reminded them.
“Oh goodness, you’re right, we need to get going,” Sara agreed as Joy nodded.
Brian and Rachel were picked up out of their Bumbo seats, Brian still mouthing his rattle, and were carried out of the play area to their waiting stroller. It had changed since they were last in it though. Now instead of being two abreast there was one seat behind another, behind another. Amanda slipped Meggy into the rear sear while Rachel found herself placed in the middle one. A set of plastic toys dangled above her head just in reach of her hands. Also facing her was a little mirror secured to the back of the seat in front of her. In it she could finally get a glimpse of herself and it wasn’t a pretty picture. She could see the drool glistening on her chin, how thin and wild her hair was, the darkened soaking wet front of her romper. Even with her obvious breasts showing she looked like an overgrown infant in every way. Brian was sat in the front seat, his legs now divided by part of the hand-rest. It had holes built into it holding a ba-ba and several toys.
Once Sue and Danny were secured in their own separate stroller they all made their way out of Gymboree and through the mall again. This time Brian wasn’t paying attention to the sights, his attention was locked on the toys attached to his stroller. He didn’t seem able to look away. Hitting at them over and over was just so enjoyable. Rachel felt just the same in the seat behind him. She lay back in her chair batting at the dangling toys, making them spin about and light up.
It seemed like no time at all had passed before they were at their destination and their mommies were lifting them out of the stroller. Rachel actually cried out when she was lifted free. She wanted to play with the toy more. She screeched at her ma-ma to make her stop but that accomplished nothing. Ma-ma just sat down on a seat with Rachel on her lap. It only occurred to Rachel a bit later that this was surely uncomfortable for ma-ma as she weighed at least as much as she did. Nevertheless ma-ma began to bounce Rachel on her knee, calming her down. The up and down motion was quite relaxing in fact. She liked the sensation as well as the knowledge she was safe on ma-ma’s lap.
Once she was calmer she was able to reflect on her recent behaviour. It troubled her that she so easily accepted playing with baby toys as fun and that she’d just screamed and babbled nonsense when she was upset, like that was a normal response to things going wrong. Just the idea that she’d thrown a tantrum over losing a flashing yellow baby toy was enough to make her feel like an idiot.
They were at a photography studio somewhere in the mall now. The waiting area they were in was not separated from the actual studio, so they could see the whole set-up. The walls were all painted black and there was a very complicated, expensive looking camera on a tripod in the middle of the room. There were several backgrounds available, but the one he had down at the moment was simple blue sky and clouds. There was a desk with a cash register and beside it a clothing rack with all sorts of outfits. The waiting area walls were covered in photos, some colour, some black and white. It appeared from these shots that the man here specialised in baby photos. That was probably a pretty good industry if people stayed babies for over twenty years.
The shots displayed showed naked or diaper-clad young men and women smiling eagerly for the camera. One had a teen girl clothed only in a diaper chewing on a big string of what were meant to be mommy’s pearls, giggling her pig-tailed head off. Another featured a twenty-something man in a plastic kiddie fireman hat and shirtless with blue-jean shortalls pulling a giant red radio flyer wagon in which a lanky teen boy was seated, he with a dumb infantile grin and naked but for a diaper as well.
Once Joy was satisfied that Rachel was calm enough she was carried over to a large play-pen in the corner and deposited there. The other babies were already all in it. Rachel noticed that Sue and Danny hadn’t really changed this time. It appeared they were now all about the same level of development. Those two and Meggy were happily lying on their backs or tummies gnawing on the simple baby toys in the playpen. Rachel and Brian still had enough self-control not to touch toys that countless young men and women must have slobbered over. This pen was surely rife with baby germs. That didn’t stop their baby-minded compatriots from offering them toys.
“Babababa,” Danny babbled to his sister, offering her a drool-soaked green teething ring.
Rachel shook her head, unable even to say the word ‘no’ to her brother. He stared blankly at her a moment then returned the teething ring to his own mouth, blowing spit bubbles around it. Rachel gagged and looked away. She didn’t like to see how far Danny had fallen. As with Meggy his eyes were now devoid of recognition or any real thought process.
“We’ll start with your older girl then,” a male voice announced from outside the pen.
Rachel tried to see through the mesh but it was too tough. Only when the man appeared over the railing, gazing disinterestedly down at them, did she see the photographer. Amanda appeared at his side a second later and together they lifted Meggy out of the pen.
“Here we go baby,” Amanda crooned to her girl. “Let’s get you in your special outfit for your photos.”
After a short time Joy and Sara appeared again, looming above them as though giants. Being in the huge playpen warped their perspectives. Rachel and Brian found themselves being lifted out.
“Let’s get you guys ready to be stars,” Sara joked.
Meggy was already having her turn in the spotlight, quite literally. With her mother right beside the photographer Meggy was alone on the studio floor with all the flood-lights focused on her. The outfit she worn was discarded in a heap by the tripod. Instead she’d now had a white ribbon tied around the crown of her bald head, a big pink bow affixed to it just above the right of her forehead. She wore that and nothing else. Even her diaper was discarded with her other clothes. She was lying naked on her tummy on a thick white section of shag carpet, long bare legs askew behind her, smooth bum lifted slightly in the air, boobies on display as she craned her neck and gaped at the squeaky ducky toy her mother held. Her blank eyes followed the toy’s every movement and each time it squeaked her face was lit with an open-mouthed grin, which the photographer dutifully caught in photo after photo.
“Good girl Meggy, look at the pretty ducky,” Amanda encouraged.
Meggy couldn’t so much as reach for the toy, or crawl towards it. But she was content to look at it and smile at the funny noise it made anyway.
When they’d taken enough shots of that pose Amanda put away the toy and went to her daughter’s side, rolling her onto her back on the carpet. “Good girl, Meggy is a good baby,” she cooed. Then she began to tickle Meggy’s soles, making the girl giggle as Rachel had at the treatment earlier. Only Amanda was also peddling Meggy’s feet in the air above her. “Lookit your tootsies!” she sing-songed to the naked woman.
Sure enough Meggy grabbed one of her feet and yanked it back and forth. Amanda stepped back and the photographer snapped shots of her playing with her feet, pulling them back and forth and finally jamming several toes in her mouth to suck on.
“There we go! That’s my little toe-muncher,” Amanda announced. “That’ll be our next Christmas card.”
When Meggy finished her toe-sucking session Amanda got her re-diapered and back in her baby outfit. Now it was going to be one of their turns. The photographer came over and asked who would be next.
“Well let’s get the boy out of the way,” Sara stepped up. “If that’s okay with you Joy.”
“No problem, go ahead.”
“Okay,” the photographer agreed. “Let’s get him dressed properly.”
“What do you think?”
“For an infant of his age I always say just a diaper or nothing at all is cutest.”
“Okay, let’s do it with just his diapee, so he doesn’t make a mess.”
The man nodded and went off to prepare his camera. Brian was lowered to the ground and laid powerless while his ma-ma slipped his romper off him. Then he was carried over to the white rug and laid on his tummy. The rug was warm and tickly but he refused to smile. The last thing he wanted was his humiliation permanently captured on film. He was determined to ruin the photo shoot any way he could.
Ma-ma stepped back and the man handed her the ducky. She dutifully began to wave it around, squeaking it playfully. Brian wouldn’t play ball so easily. He pointedly refused to even look up at the ducky, lest it actually capture his attention. Instead he looked intently down at the carpet. If they couldn’t see his face, they had no photo.
“C’mon sweetie, look at the ducky!” Ma-ma called in vain. “Quack-quack!” she imitated, with no result. Finally she turned to the photographer and shrugged. “I don’t know what’s wrong with him,” she declared. “He’s usually very good with strangers. I don’t understand why he’s so shy all of a sudden.”
“It’s okay miss, I’ve seen this before. Has he been fed recently?”
“Well no, he hasn’t had his lunch yet,” she admitted.
“Then you should feed him now. That often calms them down, makes them more relaxed.”
Sara nodded. “Of course, I’ll do that right now, thanks.”
With that she swept Brian back up and carried him out of the shop and into the mall, not bothering to put his romper back on him. Pleased though he was at foiling the photo-shoot he wasn’t happy about being taken into the mall in nothing but his diaper. He clung as tightly as he could to ma-ma, hoping to shield his body from public view.
“Why are you being so cranky today little guy?” ma-ma crooned to him. “Maybe you are just hungry,” she mused.
Ma-ma sat down at a bench just down from the studio, swinging Brian’s weak useless legs onto the bench beside her and resting his head in her lap. It was a weird position for him to be in, looking up at her that way. He watched as she undid the buttons on her blouse. What was she doing that for? Brian shrieked when she pulled back the blouse to reveal a nursing bra. Brian squirmed wildly but couldn’t get free. She had a firm grip on him to keep her baby from falling and he didn’t have the strength to pull away from her.
She seemed quite concerned by her baby’s fit, but couldn’t understand what was wrong. “Shh, shh, it’s okay baby, it’s okay. Ma-ma’s here Bri-Bri, right here and she’s not going anywhere.”
Brian shook his head, willing her to understand. “Baanaaaooh! Eeehgaa!” he jabbered incoherently.
“Here baby, have come to ma-ma,” she said, pulling his head to her breast.
Brian shook with revulsion as his mother’s bared breast filled his vision. He couldn’t, he wouldn’t…. The breast brushed his cheek and some unknown instinct took over and his head twisted on its own accord until the teat brushed across his lips. They opened and took the brown fleshy bit into his mouth. Once it was there he couldn’t stop himself from suckling, just like he did on the pacifier or the ba-ba. It was better than his binkie or ba-ba in fact. It was warm and soft and felt so natural. The creamy warm liquid that squirted into his mouth was the best tasting thing he could ever remember having. Once taste was all it took to be hooked.
Brian suckled on and on, swallowing a tummy-full of ma-ma’s milk. This was ma-ma inside of him, warming him, providing for him. He could see only the skin of her boob, but it didn’t matter, he wasn’t thinking about anything, just existing in the moment. Time meant nothing while he was feeding. All he knew was everything was perfect.
He was barely awake when the suction was broken. The lovely nipple slipped from between his lips, some milk dribbling down his chin and wetting his chest. Ma-ma closed up her blouse while he lay with his head rested in the crook of her elbow, staring wordlessly up at her, still smiling with delight. He didn’t struggle as she lifted him back up and carried him into the studio again. It was only once there that his mind seemed to flick back on and he realised where he was and what he’d just done.
Suddenly he wanted to vomit up the milk he’d just drunk. He thought about all the people in the mall who’d passed by and seen him feeding like that. People had actually seen him, a twenty-one year old man, feeding at his mother’s breast, naked but for a diaper right there in the mall! How could he ever go back to normal after that? And what was worse, he felt a burning desire to do it again! It tasted sooo good and it felt so wonderful. He was addicted.
Back inside the studio the photographer was finishing up with Rachel. She was wearing a big pink bow in her hair now and her romper was gone. Instead she wore a frilly pink tutu and nothing else. She was topless, her breasts bared to the camera as she squirmed on her belly like a fish out of water. She didn’t look happy either but Joy didn’t seem to care that the girl wasn’t smiling. She was just interested in capturing the cute outfit the baby was in.
With the photos done Rachel was finally stripped of the silly tutu and placed back in the playpen in just her diaper. Now it was again Brian’s turn.
“How’s he doing?” the photographer asked.
“Much better, he really calmed down once he got a tummy full of ma-ma’s milk.”
“Great, let’s get started then.”
“Okay, y’know what, I think he’ll be happier if we get him free of his diapee, so let’s make some nudie shots,” ma-ma decided.
“Sounds fine, those are always the cutest anyways.”
Brian shook his head but was completely ignored again. With a couple of rips his diaper was floating to the ground and he was being deposited on the carpet again, now totally naked. The shaggy material tickled his pee-pee nicely but that wasn’t going to make him forget how embarrassing this was.
“Aww, look at his widdle tushy, these are going to be just lovely,” Sara told the photographer.
Brian knew when he’d lost the battle. They weren’t going anywhere till ma-ma had her photos. So when she squeaked the stupid toy again Brian looked up and forced a grin. The camera snapped over and over and he did his best to hide his weenie. All they’d get was his butt and he could live with that.
The cameraman stopped and Brian hoped this was it, but instead he said to ma-ma, “Would you like some footsies shots like Amanda’s girl?”
“Oh yes, those are sooo adorable.”
“Okay, let’s get him on his back and playing with his tootsies.”
Ma-ma rolled the boy onto his back and then began to peddle his feet, just as Amanda had done to Meggy. But Brian just stared back at her, not amused. “C’mon sweetums, lookit 'em wiggle, lookit dose toesies,” she crooned.
Brian would have crossed his arms if he could have. Instead he remained still, not giving in.
“C’mon Bri-Bri, this little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home…” she sang, playing piggy toes with him. But again this had no effect on him.
“Guess he doesn’t like his toes much,” the photographer shrugged.
“Guess not,” ma-ma sighed, releasing his feet.
Brian was feeling pretty proud of himself. He’d ruined their photo shoot after all. Not bad for a baby unable to even sit up properly. His moment of pride was short-lived though. It ended as golden liquid arced through the air, splashing ma-ma and soaking the carpet. He hadn’t felt it coming on at all. Suddenly he was tinkling all over the place. Even once it started he couldn’t do a thing about it. His bladder had no control whatsoever. All he could do was watch the pee-pee spurting from his naked weenie.
“Oh dear!” ma-ma exclaimed. “I’m so sorry!” she told the photographer.
“No problem at all, happens a lot in this line of business. I’ll get it cleaned up when he’s done, don’t worry yourself. You just get him cleaned up and diapered again.”
Ma-ma nodded as his pee-pee stream slowed to spurts and then finally stopped. Brian moaned in shame as ma-ma slipped his diaper under his butt and grabbed some wipes to clean his weenie yet again. And the only thing he could think was, at least it wasn’t poopy.
Back home at last, Brian and Rachel were relieved to be out of public view, back in their snug rompers and left to play in Amanda’s living room. Baby gates blocked the exits to the room, and nothing small enough to swallow and choke on had been left on the floor. The whole place was now baby-proofed for big infants. All they had to play with were teething rings and rattles. That was enough for the real babies, but Rachel and Brian were quickly bored.
Joy noticed the depressed look on Rachel’s face as she checked on the babies from the kitchen, where the proper adults were enjoying a cup of coffee together. She slid the baby gate aside and entered the room, crouching by her daughter. “Oh baby, why the long face? You seem so listless today. Are you gassy? Are you coming down with something?” she asked, feeling Rachel’s cheek and kissing her forehead.
“Hmm, not warm. Maybe you just need a little love from ma-ma,” she said, rolling Rachel on her back and unsnapping her romper to expose her tummy.
Rachel squirmed, uninterested in being played with, her intelligent eyes burning with indignation. But ma-ma just placed her lips on the exposed tum-tum and blew a big raspberry on it. Rachel kicked her legs and chortled in glee. It just tickled so much! And then ma-ma did it again! Soon she was rolling on the floor laughing and smiling.
“That’s better, baby just needed some loving,” Joy declared. “I know, let’s get you in your bouncer!”
Rachel was still recovering from her giggles as ma-ma slipped her romper back off, leaving her in just the thick diaper with its heart prints. Ma-ma scooped her up and carried her over to the door jamb, pushing the baby gate aside and threading her legs through what looked like a big green diaper suspended from the ceiling by elastic straps. The green seat ensconced Rachel’s loins and ma-ma released her. She was suspended in the air, her tippy toes just touching the carpet.
“C’mon baby, show ma-ma how you like to jump!” Joy urged her.
Rachel wiggled experimentally, making the elastics stretch until her the soles of her feet were flat on the ground. She enjoyed the sensation of the carpet brushing across her soft soles again, as though she were walking. She gave a slight push from her knees and found herself rising quickly upwards. It was a dizzying and unexpected sensation, like she might just fly right away! Rachel gaped slack-jawed with surprise.
“That a girl!” ma-ma praised.
She descended with sudden rapidity and her feet connected with the soft carpet, knees bending as her weak legs refused to support her. But the elastics stopped her descent and she pushed off again, back into the air. It was lovely! What silly, pure fun! Rachel giggled as she bounced up and down in the oversized baby jumper. She didn’t even mind that her bared boobies were jiggling about with each landing, giving Brian a good show. She was once again lost in her own little world.
And so their afternoon went. Brian drifted off to a mid-day nap in the giant automatic baby swing, glimmering toys dangling from the canopy above him. Both he and Rachel made poopies in their diapers again. It had become so easy to do so, their poop becoming looser, flowing out of their bums with little warning and requiring little effort. They were even becoming accustomed to being changed in front of each other and the other babies. The changing sessions, with their mommies pecking them with kisses, giving them lovely toys and rubbing down their privates with smooth cream and sweet smelling powder, were actually enjoyable. They almost made the foul-smelling diapers and icky bottoms worth it.
By the evening though they were both bored again. Sue was having her turn in the jumper, Danny in the swing, leaving Brian and Rachel to the toys. Meggy was creeping nearby, trying to reach ma-ma’s bag, left by the couch. The diaper-clad woman reached her goal and after a couple attempts succeeded in knocking the bag over with her clumsy hands. So it was that the cursed book made one more appearance.
Meggy of course hadn’t a clue what it was. She didn’t recognise the object before her had completely stolen her life, reduced her to a mindless pooping machine for her ma-ma to care for. She didn’t even know it was a book, or for that matter, what a book was. So all she did was chew at the plastic corners.
Brian and Rachel though, knew exactly what Meggy had. Brian had no more interest in the book though. He was convinced now that it could bring nothing but bad luck and he had no intention of ever attempting to use it again. With any luck they’d start to slowly progress, grow back up. Rachel, however, looked at the book with desperation in her eyes. She hadn’t been there the last time it changed their lives, only Brian had seen how hopeless it was. Rachel still thought that wretched tome might hold the key to her salvation.
Rachel began to creep towards Meggy, a look of wild, almost insane hope in her eye. Brian couldn’t believe what she was doing. It was beyond all reason to think that thing could actually help them. As much as he wanted to just ignore it, he couldn’t allow Rachel to get her hands on it and then make things even worse. So he too began to creep across the room on his bare tummy, his romper long ago stripped off for ease of diaper changes.
The painfully slow race of the two frog-legged scooting young adults proceeded before the bemused eyes of their mentally-reduced cohorts. Their diapered bums lifted and dropped and their arms batted at the floor, propelling them along. In the end they reached Meggy at the same time. Rachel seized the book away from the girl, making her pout and whine. Holding it triumphantly up Rachel tried to reason a way to use it now that she couldn’t even speak. How could she exhort it to fix her without a voice to do so?
As she pondered this Brian grasped the other side of the book, shaking his head vigorously at her.
“Mmmdaadoo!” Rachel babbled angrily, scrunching up her face and pulling at the book with her weak arms.
“Eeehaaah!” Brian screeched back, pulling his own direction. “How stupid could she be?” he thought to himself.
The book sprung open as they pulled at the front and back covers. The plastic stretched, threatening to rip the book in half any second. The book was starting to give way, and a little tear appeared at the top. As soon as it appeared, a green light began to emanate from it, pouring out like radiation in a cartoon. Both Rachel and Brian froze, wondering how much younger they could possibly get.
The world didn’t shift though, it didn’t even freeze. Instead the greenish light energy seemed to grow outward, towards Brian. With a gasp he pulled his head back, but he was too weak and clumsy to actually make a getaway. The green energy shot into his temple.
Rachel watched, petrified, as her last real friend opened his mouth with shock, his eyes wide with terror. The green energy connecting his temple to the book pulsed, growing lighter and darker as though breathing. Brian’s terrified eyes glazed over, the fear draining from his face. His jaw loosened, mouth hanging wide open, lips slack. His eye-lids drooped slightly as his faraway eyes dulled. His whole face seemed to change before her eyes, his muscles losing their tension.
The beam receded, pulling back from Brian’s temple. A thick string of drool was hanging from his chin as his gaping mouth formed into a smile. His hands released the book and he dropped back onto his bum, legs splayed wide before him. He appeared almost drunk to Rachel, his head wobbling side to side. He looked at her and stuck his tongue out just between his lips and blew, sending spittle everywhere. He chortled as his spit bubbles popped, then seized his right foot in his hands, pulled it to his face and blinked spellbound at his long wiggling toes before jamming them in his mouth.
Rachel felt awful guilt as she looked into his eyes and saw they had become like Meggy’s, empty of even a flicker of intelligence. She knew it was all her fault. She never should have been so foolish as to fight with him over the book. Now she’d destroyed his mind and she was all alone. There was no one left to commiserate with, to scheme an escape with. Now Brian was nothing more than little Bri-Bri, a dumb little toe-muncher no brighter than Meggy. He’d be happy to play with baby toys and poop his diaper for however long they remained this way. Only she would be miserable.
In a moment of weakness, of utter despair, Rachel decided she couldn’t go on this way alone. She rolled to her back and managed to sit up, though it took considerable effort. She grasped the book in her hands and pulled with all her might, trying to rip it in two. Bri-Bri gazed at her with curious incomprehension.
The book reacted just as she knew it would. It had worked as planned, though it would likely be the last plan she’d be able to reason and carry out for a long time. The green light shot out of the tear. Rachel paused as the energy sat before her, seemingly analysing her. Then it blasted into her temple.
It wasn’t a painful sensation as she’d imagined it would be. It felt like warm marshmallow pumping into her head through her temple. Warm and gooey it trickled through her head, invading every crevice, making her thoughts sticky, slowing them down. It was quickly becoming hard to think, yet she felt comforted, warm, almost happy. Speech centres tingled, words blasting through her mind, then went dark, leaving her instantly wordless, her thoughts reduced to images. All the objects in her field of vision lost their names in an instant. Without words she couldn’t describe what they did, all her memories were in words. Suddenly she couldn’t understand what anything was. It was not a pleasant feeling, total and utter confusion. But mercifully it was short-lived.
The confusion dulled as her memories scrambled and disappeared. All her recollections of college, of high school, elementary school, growing up, riding a bike, swimming, driving a car, were wiped away in an instant. She still knew she was a grown-up and that she knew all the people in this room, but she had no idea what being a grown-up meant or how she knew them.
A sensation of indescribable pleasure washed away the rest of her confusion as her brain simplified, her higher thought processes shutting down and taking away all her inhibitions, her fears, her worries. Rachel no longer minded being naked but for her diaper, she wouldn’t have minded being completely naked. She no longer had the ability to feel embarrassed, or to worry about the future.
Brain cells were slaughtered by the million but Rachel didn’t miss her reasoning abilities as the left her. Because as soon as they were gone, she didn’t know she’d ever possessed such amazing thinking abilities. In the final seconds, as Rachel’s final IQ points disappeared, she lost her sense of past and future and even her sense of identity. She wouldn’t even recognise herself in the mirror anymore. She could not plan, could not think ahead. If an object left her field of vision it ceased to exist for her.
Finally the gooey warm marshmallow tickling her brain slipped back out of her temple, the green light disappearing into the book, leaving her mind empty, a clean slate. Rachel gazed at the person facing her and wondered who he was. Warm liquid tracked down her front-side. She ignored it. The person, Rachel was no longer aware of distinctions like he and she, was sucking its toes. Rachel copied it, pulling her foot to her mouth and suckling the toesies. She didn’t really comprehend the wiggly things were a part of her, but it felt nice to suckle. It made her feel something in her tummy, like she was eating. It gave her a sense of comfort. She felt her slobber dribble down the sole of her foot and it tickled. She liked that. Warm stuff poured out of her, she felt relieved, relaxed down below. It made her warm all around the puffy thing she wore. She forgot all about the toes, only focussed on what she was thinking about right now. The warm feelings in the diaper made her happy. She was a very happy baby.
Joy entered the playroom that evening to check on the babies and immediately shook her head. “Geese, I can’t leave you two alone for two seconds can I?” she declared.
Brian had gotten out of his diaper again and was splayed naked across the floor with his poopy bum presented to her. Hearing her voice he craned his neck around and gaped smiling up at her. Rachel was sat in a blue Bumbo right before him and at least she was still in her diaper. She looked up at her ma-ma with wide baby eyes, chewing away at the corner of her baby book, slobbering all over the poor thing’s cover.
Joy clucked her tongue and told her, “Honey, I hope you like to read books someday as much as you like to eat them now.”
Rachel yanked the book out of her mouth, a string of drool still connecting it to her lips, which she pursed to blow bubbles at ma-ma. Joy gently removed the wet book from the baby’s hands so it could be cleaned up. Rachel let it go, already forgetting about it as she babbled, “Daadoobaa… aaheehooooh” in cheerful tones.
“Yes sweetie, I’m sure,” Rachel replied, pretending to understand the baby’s senseless blather.
Brian continued to grin up at her with that endearing toothless smile of his and Joy decided the poopy-bummed jaybird could wallow happily in his filth for another minute while she disposed of the well-chewed book.
Joy carried it out to the kitchen by two fingers, trying not to touch the slobber coating much of it. Then she tossed it in the trash bin. “Ugh, who gave Bri-Bri such a silly toy,” she wondered aloud, heading back to fit the boy with a clean diaper.
What she couldn’t see as the trash bin lid closed, was the book take on a strange glow one last time before disappearing into thin air. This world had been sufficiently warped, now it was time to change a new world, a new dimension. It would take time to build up power of course, but then it was more than just a book and it had all the time in the universe. And so a newly reformed black leather copy of a literary classic appeared once again in the dusty stacks of a prestigious library. And there it would stay, not until someone came looking for it, but until it decided to go looking for them.