Well, I’ve actually been working on this one, more off than on, for quite some time. I have a few chapters written, and the general outline of the plot. This is the first chapter, and the second is coming “soon, man, soon”.
Dedicated to the authors whose work I have enjoyed over the years.
The display was an inconspicuous set of card hangers in an aisle. What they promised took me by surprise. “Bladder Incontinence Nanobots” read the name on the small packages. I pulled one off the hanger and read the description more closely.
…This next generation technology uses a tiny robot to deliver a
muscle relaxant that will temporarily stop the urethral sphincter
from closing. Available in one week, one month, and six month
The asterisk led to a footnote reading:
*Actual duration of incontinence may vary by a factor of 1.5.
Turning back to the front of the package, I saw a small syringe and a folded instruction sheet inside the sealed blister pack. The package in my hand was marked one month. Bladder incontinence. That would mean…? The thought of wetting myself flashed through my mind. Gross.
‘Gross?’ That startled me. Why was I even thinking that? ‘Why was I looking at this at all?’ was the question I should be asking. Who would be mad enough even to buy such a thing, let alone use it?
I put the package back and walked through the aisles to find the cough drops I had remembered needing to replace on seeing this small pharmacy while poking about the city.
My route back to the cash register took me past the Incontinence Nanobots again, and I couldn’t resist stopping and looking again. This time I picked up one marked “one week”. Could they even do this? They were certainly some remarkable experiments that had been carried out, but nothing near ready for release even in controlled conditions that I’d heard of, to say nothing of something like this sitting on a random pharmacy shelf. Hype and tomfoolery, no doubt.
I moved to put the package back on the rack, but some subconscious thought process caught my hand for a moment. Turning the package over I read the beginning of the description again.
Find out what incontinence is like. Perfect for those who must
try everything for themselves.
Still not really believing it could be true, I wondered how bad could it really be? What, wet myself? Nah, they couldn’t really do that with something like this. I looked at the price. A little expensive I thought, but some traitorous part of me added, ‘Not for what it claims to be.’ I stood the for a minute looking at the package without really seeing it before curiosity aided and abetted by disbelief won out.
I walked up to the cash register and handed the two items to the gentleman behind the counter. The cash register was in pristine condition, but looked like it must be nearing a century old, even featuring a marble bar above the cash drawer. The type bars could be heard marking the receipt as he entered the price of the cough drops. Then he picked up the Incontinence Nanobot.
“For you?” He asked.
I could only nod, feeling a bit of warmth in my cheeks.
“Do you have supplies already, or are you just starting?”
I found my voice, or enough to reply, “Starting.”
“Ah. In that case might I recommend a few supplies to make your experience more enjoyable?”
Sense was screaming for me to leave the nanobot there on the counter and flee, but the curious and the disbelieving sides of me left no room for it to be heard. Something, perhaps the absurdity of it all, even let my voice stabilize to something approaching normal.
He walked around the counter and started down the aisles and I followed.
“Well, for starters, you will want some good incontinence wear. Here, as in the rest of the store, I take pride in stocking only the best and ensuring that everything in the store is honestly advertised. Usually products good enough for me to carry are labeled honestly enough, but sometimes I have to add notes.” He pointed to a card by a display that appeared to disparage some of the claims of the product it was placed by.
This should have told me that curiosity could be satisfied that the Nanobot worked as advertised, and would have been the moment for sense to make another attempt at stopping this whole thing. Such an attempt would probably have been successful. Unfortunately, sense missed the opportunity.
“When it comes to incontinence protection even some of the good ones don’t work for everyone, but you can rest assured that everything here is a good choice to try.”
We reached the aisle and he turned and looked at my waist for a moment before speaking again. As he did so I noted that with his eye level a trifle above mine he appeared to be a little over six feet tall.
“Well, you look just big enough that a medium should fit you well. I believe you had a one week trial in mind?”
One part of me was screaming that this was foolish, soon to be horribly gross, and that I should tell the gentleman that I’d changed my mind and get out of there. Unfortunately this was the wrong way to handle a traitorously curious cat, especially when the curious side was in control. Curiosity beat sense into a small corner and replied with a calm that redoubled the alarm sense felt.
“Yeah, that seemed about right.”
He pulled a purple and white package off the shelf and handed it to me.
“These diapers are a good starting choice for daytime wear. Thin enough to not be obvious under most clothing, but absorbent enough that you don’t need to be constantly afraid of leaking.”
‘Wearing diapers? Leaking? What are you, an idiot?’ Came the faint thoughts from sense, but curiosity was now well settled in, and aided in keeping sense from taking control by disbelief in the nanobot that I should have recognized by now was unfounded.
I nodded and accepted the package. It was heavier than I expected, but not so heavy that I betrayed my slight surprise. The shape and feel was sufficiently unfamiliar that it elicited no hidden memories to threaten unseating curiosity.
He pulled a second package from the shelf, this one a clear plastic with blue writing that left the folded diapers inside visible, and handed it to me.
“These are better for many as an overnight diaper. While those can work well for many, others tend to find that something a little thicker is better for avoiding leaks at night. One package usually isn’t quite enough for a week, and this lets you try something else as well. These also can be useful if you are going to be far from a restroom or other place to change for a long time.”
I nodded again. “OK.”
He turned back to the shelves. “I think I also still have a sample package that will let you try the other diapers…ah, yes, here it is. This is a special sample pack I made up to offer a trial of the other diapers I sell,” He said as he offered me the sample pack.
I looked at the diapers in my hands and moved to transfer one package to the other hand as I said, “What you’ve suggested seems as good a starting place as any.”
He waved aside my motion and said, “I can carry this for you. Do you keep baby wipes around?”
“Yes, but it’s getting time I need more anyway.”
He turned to the opposite side of the aisle and indicated his selection of baby wipes.
“You might get by with one package, but you’ll likely end up needing two.”
I looked at the display, and found that he actually stocked the wipes I liked. I transferred one package of diapers to the other hand and picked up the wipes.
“These are what I usually use.”
He glanced at the package I held, and said as he reached for a different package, “Those will work, but will probably find larger wipes to work better. These are fairly similar to what you are used to, so they should work well for you.”
I put the wipes in my hand back on the shelf and took the pack he held out to read the label. Though I’d never seen them before, they looked like something I might have tried on my own had I run across them, just to satisfy curiosity.
“I think I’ll take two of these, and one of the other, so that I have what I know as well.”
He nodded, took the package from my hand, and put it and the specified wipes from the shelf with the sample pack of diapers. I moved one pack of diapers back to my now free hand, noting that he was right about carrying anything more being a little awkward.
“For wearing all the time like you’ll be doing a barrier cream is helpful in preventing rashes,” He said as moved down the aisle and picked up a tube. “If you were to wear for a long time you might come to find it less important, but it is a sudden change for your skin and a cream helps the transition a lot.”
I nodded agreement, and he added the cream to his load.
“The last thing I would advise now is a protective sheet for your bed, unless you already have one.”
“No. I’ve thought about it to protect against carelessness or an unruly cat, but haven’t gotten one yet.”
“In that case you might prefer the waterproof quilted mattress pad version. It’s more expensive than you might want for only a week, but you might find it more pleasant to sleep on. I do also have simple plastic covers as either fitted sheets or full zippered covers.”
He indicated the selection to me and went on, “What size bed do you have?”
“A queen,” I said as I looked at the options. I hemmed and hawed for a moment at the price of the mattress pad option, then, considering other reasons to protect my bed, sighed and said, “I’ll get the full mattress pad.”
He pulled a queen mattress pad off the rack and I followed him back to the cash register where he started ringing up the collection of stuff.
“Seems a bit odd to have such an old style cash register in a place like this.”
He laughed, “Well…To be perfectly honest this is actually a computer with all the modern inventory conveniences, but I like the old fashioned appearance, so I took the trouble to interface the two. Always fun to watch new customers wonder at it, too.”
“Nice to see the past appreciated so well, even if times have moved on and the old won’t quite do the job.”
He smiled at me, “And it’s nice to see someone young who appreciates the artifacts of bygone times.”
Before I could reply to that he named my total. More than I expected, and enough for sense to get in a feeble cry. Curiosity still stamped it out with a vengeance and I pulled out my wallet and selected some bills. He took them, punched the amount into the register, and counted my change the way I expected from the appearance of his register. I looked at the receipt. Despite being a modern thermal print, it had typewritten item numbers on it in a purplish ink. I could even make out the faint indents in the paper from the type bars.
“You must have put some work into that printing mechanism.”
“Thanks. And thank you for shopping here. My name is John. Come on back if you have any issues or questions. I’m usually the one here, but if I’m not here then my assistant is quite knowledgeable.”
I extended my hand. “Thanks. I’m Dale.”
He shook my hand, and then handed me a bag. “Here are your small items. I have larger bags for the other things, but I think you would prefer to put them in your backpack if you have room.”
I glanced at the other things mentioned and said, “Indeed, and I should have plenty of room. Sometimes a larger pack ends up being more comfortable even for a small load.”
I took my pack off and opened it. Everything fit neatly inside, hiding the contents much more effectively than any bag he might have given me. I put on my backpack and fastened the straps, absently noting that he hadn’t tried to use a gendered pronoun. It’s a game I played with myself to see how narrowly I could define the pronoun gender line, and he had so far evaded committing himself to a guess.
“Have a good day,” he said as I walked to the door.
As I walked through the door I replied, “Thanks, and you too.”