The Rip

Chapter 1

Wendy sat at the dinner table with her mom and dad, numbly shoveling meatloaf and spoonfuls of peas into her mouth while her parents talked about their days. Her ears were picking up every little sound that came out of her parents’ mouth but her brain wasn’t translating it. Their conversation was basically white noise mixed in with the scraping of her fork on the plate, gulps of water, and her talking to herself.

“-doing-?”

Wendy looked up from her half eaten meatloaf. “Hmm?” She looked up and brushed a patch of her own brunette hair out of her face. “What?”

Her father, whom she inherited her hair color from (not that one would know it now), repeated himself. “I asked ‘How are you doing with your studying?’.”

“Oh,” Wendy stuttered. “I’m doing good with it.”

Mom smirked. “You mean ‘You’re doing well’,” she said. “Doing good is Superman. Doing well is progress.”

Dad rolled his eyes. “We can’t all be English Teachers. Wendy’s getting her Law degree, not English.”

Playfully, Mom pointed her fork across the dinner table. “Precise use of language is one of the cornerstones of determining legal precedent and procedure. How can she hope to get to the Supreme Court if she’s using language like ‘It’s going good’?”

“Supreme Court?” Dad guffawed, bits of chewed up peas and mashed potatoes spilling forth from his lips. “Let her get her degree and pass the Bar first!” He wiped his mouth with his napkin and then looked sideways to his daughter. “Not that you can’t be on the Supreme Court, dear.”

“So,” Mom repeated, her fading blonde to white locks framing her middle aged face. “How exactly are you doing?”

Wendy’s lips rose up in a playful, if mischievous grin. “I’m doing good, Mother.”

“BWAHAHAHAHA!” Dad pounded the table with his fists to punctuate his full on belly laughs. “That’s my girl!”

“Howard!” Mom scolded, “Don’t encourage her!” She didn’t sound too upset, however. “I swear, you two. She gets this stubborn streak from you.” Dad was too busy laughing to argue.

“But I am doing good, Mom,” Wendy doubled down, a wry smile still framing her dainty chin. “If you look at it in the long run, me being able to pass finals will be yet another step to me getting my degree, passing the Bar, and yes eventually getting to the Supreme Court where I can do the most good. So I am technically correct. In studying, I am doing good.”

“No,” Mom countered, “you’re just preparing to do good.”

“And the effectiveness of any legal argument rests on the amount of research and preparation involved before trial.”

Mom didn’t laugh. It wasn’t her way. She did, however, seem particularly pleased with her daughter. “Touche, counselor. “ She pointed her fork between her spouse and offspring. “She gets the stubbornness from you. She gets her wit from me.”

“Yes, dear.”

“Good looks, too.”

“Can’t argue with that, Jody”

Wendy had already gone back to her plate and back inside her head, trying to figure out her next move. Were Morgan Freeman narrating her life, this would be the point where time froze and in his comforting baritone the audience would hear, “It was not, in fact, going well or good for Wendy.”

“Done,” Wendy said. She stood up and took her half eaten plate. “Thank you for dinner,” she said. “I gotta go back to my room.”

“Hittin’ the books, darlin’?” Dad asked.

Wendy left her dishes in the sink. “You know it.” Mentally she was already back in her room, and that sent shivers along her spine. She could already feel herself breaking into a sweat and it had nothing to do with the dark green sweater dress and black leggings. The weather was just starting to turn chilly outside and her skin and bones frame relished in the extra insulation; though oddly enough her feet were never too cold for sandals.

The world had dealt Wendy a pretty good hand. Her family was upper middle class and she was an only child so the bulk of the finances and parental attention went to her upbringing and continued security. She lived in a college town, and although that meant she’d been pressured- more like gently nudged- to stay home to save on living expenses the University had a very good law school and she’d gotten in on scholarship. Wendy’s night life might not be as wild as some of her classmates who came from out of state, but she’d always had someone to pick her up if she had too much to drink and didn’t have to get a job or pay rent. Very fair trade as far as everyone was concerned.

Even with the deck stacked in her favor, Wendy was working herself into a more than mild panic. She was experiencing something of a quarter-life crisis. With less than two days before her midterm exam for her History of Law class, she had to cram as much information as she could into her brain or she was going to fail.

It wasn’t hard, hypothetically. All she had to do was sit at her desk for a few hours, drink some coffee, and pound as many important court cases, dates, and legal precedents into her head as she could. Within seventy-two hours, she could then forget about it and dump all of the information out of her noodle and then look it up online like a normal person if she never needed the information again.

That’s what cramming for a test functionally was.

It’s just that Wendy didn’t know how to study. At all. In Elementary School she was what they called “Gifted”. What she thought that meant was that she was super smart, much smarter than the other kids her age. And in a way, that was true. She picked up information much faster than her peers, all the way through high school.

Then came college, and she was able to skate by on her own natural talents.

Now in Law School, Wendy was struggling for the first time, her own raw and natural talent wasn’t saving her, and she completely lacked the skill sets necessary to pass her current course load. If her brain didn’t immediately latch onto a concept or bit of information in class or if she wasn’t intensely interested in it from the get go, Wendy couldn’t remember it. In a class filled with other studious future lawyers, ones who had long ago mastered the necessary discipline to fail, struggle, and get back on their metaphorical horses until they mastered something, Wendy felt more like a two year old than twenty-two. Friendly rivals like Peter and not-quite study buddies like Morgan, people who she would have left in the dust not four years ago, were now having an easier time than she was. She was surprised as anything when Tonya got into law school with her and Tonya was acing every single assignment. The gap had closed and widened itself again, only now Wendy was on the wrong side of it.

As she’d shown at the dinner table, Wendy had talent enough for twisting words, arguing and generally bullshitting her way through a conversation; a skill that was easy enough to utilize for things like essays where she was trying to prove a point, but rote facts had become the bane of her existence. Even if her midterm was an essay, she’d need facts to back it up. She wasn’t failing, but only because there’d been so few grades collected. For the hundredth time in four hours, Wendy whispered to herself, “I’m doomed”.

Stalling, she took a sharp left turn in the hallway and went to the bathroom. “I’m just gonna go pee,” she promised herself, “then I’ll get back to studying.” It was a lie, she knew deep down, but it was a lie that gave her comfort. More than likely, she realized hiking down her bottoms and lifting up her hem, she’d pee, go to her room, see the empty coffee cup on her desk, decide she needed more coffee, go fill it back up in the kitchen, down it and refill, take the second cup back to her room, sit down, and stare at the same page for a solid fifteen minutes before she remembered to drink the second cup. Then she’d have to go to the bathroom again.

Rinse. Procrastinate. Repeat. Dinner had actually managed to break up the anxious monotony of it all as late afternoon bled into late in the evening. Four hours. Four hours and three chapters, and Wendy literally felt like she was banging her head against the wall. Three chapters was kind of impressive, she imagined, until she remembered that she had nine to go.

She relaxed her bladder and ignored the sound of liquid on liquid beneath her as so many did. At least something about her was managing to relax. The rest of her, brain included, was anything but. She was going to fail and she knew it. It was like finding out she had a terminal disease or something. There was no avoiding it, it was just a matter of time. The only question was how much pain did she want to put herself through in fighting against the inevitable.

Trying to delay the inevitable, Wendy sighed, cleaned up, redressed, and washed her hands. Maybe she could take the rest of the night off and then cram the remaining nine chapters tomorrow night? That made sense, right? She’d be more refreshed and less stressed. Simple. She was burned out. If the brain was a muscle, it made no sense to overstrain it.

That defense was countered by massive anxiety. No. Despite all her denial, she was going to go down swinging. Even if it took her another four hours of reading and re-reading the same chapters again and again, she’d manage to get halfway through the reading before bed. She gave herself no other choice.

Another shiver caused Wendy to yank down on the waist of her sweater dress. Was she sick or something? That might explain something. If she was sick, she wouldn’t feel so bad about not being able to study. Couldn’t feel bad about not absorbing information if her brain was fogged up from a disease.

Unconsciously seeing the next excuse to kill time, Wendy passed by her solid oak desk, the textbook propped open on the last page of the chapter she’d just read. She shuddered again, just glancing at the “Essential Questions” portion in her book. Something told her that she’d be completely unable to answer the questions, even partially.

That was because she was sick though. Best to bundle up with another layer. Wendy kept walking and flung open the slatted doors to her closet…and stared.

What was that ripple in the air? There in the middle of her closet, almost like a mirage or a heavy gas leak. The air shimmered, taking on a wispy, smoke-like quality. Wendy sniffed, smelling nothing. Her neck hunched and her eyes narrowed, trying to find more definition or else dispel it through willpower. Nothing.

Then, as if trying to pet a rattlesnake she gingerly reached forward towards the shimmering air. No change in temperature one way or the other; neither a hot flash or an inexplicable chill. What happened was worse. As the tips of her fingers made contact with the shimmering wisps of air a blinding flash like lightning tore out where her fingers made contact.

A sharp, quick scream erupted from Wendy and she drew her hand back as if she’d been electrocuted. Panting and with her heart rate approaching hummingbird levels she inspected her fingertips. Nothing. No singing or blistering or discoloration whatsoever.

The mysterious light had blinked out too; as quickly as if she’d just closed the refrigerator. “What in the…?” Wendy didn’t finish the sentence for fear of invoking a higher or lower power.

For the second time she stuck her hand in her closet. For the second time, brilliant white light poured forth, as if the air itself had a second heatless sun. Wendy looked just long enough to see that her left hand was well and truly engulfed, but not in pain, and turned her head away. No shadow fell on the floor, even though something as bright as her

She managed to gather her fright into a coherent word, “FUCK!”, before taking her hand out. Looking back into her closet, the light was gone but shimmering bits of air remained in its place. Wendy looked at her hand one more time, going so far as to compare left to right side by side. No warts or bits of rotting flesh; nothing lost or present that hadn’t already been there.

Curiously, she snaked her arm around the nearly invisible column and grabbed hold of a shirt. No amount of mysterious luminescence leaked from the fabric of reality. The same was true when she slid her elbow into the same space. Nothing. The moment she jabbed her arm straight through however…

LIGHT! ALIEN ABDUCTION LEVELS OF LIGHT!

“What was in that meatloaf?” Wendy whispered. Now was not the time for whispering, however. “MOM?! DAD?!”

Heavy footsteps signaled her father’s approach. Gray headed and balding, Dad opened the door to Wendy’s room wide. “Yes, honey?”

Wendy froze. She was up to her elbow now, and a tiny dawn’s worth of light was streaming past her out of her open closet. “Um…do you see anything…unusual?” She asked, rather unnerved by her father’s complete lack of surprise on the matter.

Calmly and thoughtful, her father scratched his chin. “Did you buy something? New outfit or something? Borrowed something from that Lindsay girl, maybe?” Lindsay was a classmate and a relative socialite that had come home for dinner one evening. The one thing she’d impressed on Wendy’s parents was how fashionable she was. She supposedly partied every weekend but still maintained a B+ average.

That was besides the point…

Not believing what she was hearing out of her father’s mouth, the law student did a full on double take, and walked forward out of the closet. The light vanished, closed up on itself the second she stepped out. “How about now? Did you see that?” Wendy asked.

.“Um…yeah…very nice?” Dad clearly had no idea what she was talking about.

“Cool,” Wendy lied. “Cool, cool, cool. Just checking.”

“Do you need anything else?”

“No. Thank you. I think I might just be studying too hard.”

“Oh,” her father looked concerned. “You don’t wanna do that.”

Wendy flexed her fingers and bit her lip. “Oh I’ll be okay. I just need some more coffee or something. I’ll be fine, I’m sure.”

That seemed to satisfy Dad. “Fair enough.” Dad walked away without further comment. Wendy trailed behind him to shut the door.

“Everything okay?” she heard Mom call.

“Yeah,” Dad’s voice, already fading, said. “Just being a twenty-something.”

Wendy leaned against her door, trying to stop herself from hyperventilating. “What? The? Fuck?” Forget studying, she wasn’t going to be able to sleep tonight; not until she figured out what was going on in her closet.

That’s why fifteen minutes later she was tossing the pillow from her bed into her closet to no avail. She’d gone and made a rope out of her bedsheets and everything. The idea had been sound: Send something expendable through the portal, that’s what she was starting to think of it as, that could then be reeled back like a fishing lure. All she managed to do was knock a couple of her shirts and dresses off their hangers.

“Oh for…!” Wendy dropped the sheet bundle and threw head back. This whole thing really was very silly. “It’s stress,” she mumbled. “It’s stress. It’s gotta be stress.” In a way, the idea that she might be hallucinating or cracking up was a bit more comfortable than stumbling across some bizarre preternatural phenomenon…

Feeling awfully silly, she pulled back the sheets, only to have the pillow slip out. Add knot tying to the list of skills Wendy needed to work on. “What’s wrong with me?” she asked the ceiling. Her eyes focused on the bit of plaster where her father had paved over a hairline crack.

Chuckling to herself, she walked forward, completely dismissing the shimmering rip in the air, bent over to pick up her pillow and…

LIGHT! BLINDING LIGHT!

Another small, startled scream leapt out of Wendy’s throat, but it was too late. Forward momentum and a force not unlike gravity pulled Wendy deep into her closet, tumbling into parts unknown.

Parts unknown, as it so happened, looked a lot like Wendy’s bedroom at first. In certain fantasy and sci-fi stories, a character going through a portal might travel through darkness to a mystical snowy landscape, or else plummet into a fiery inferno or go through a magical door to an island of boiling rains or a labyrinth of strange creatures.

To Wendy however, it was more like falling out of her own closet. She felt disoriented, and discombobulated like she’d just gotten spun around in circles until she lost her balance. The fantastical white light hadn’t helped any.

Blinking away the spots, she laughed in shock at the familiar texture and hazy color of her own carpet. Maybe it was a gas leak. She dug her fingers into it and pushed herself up to a standing position. She sniffed and the faint scent of perfume and something else, something slightly foul, registered in her nostrils, though she couldn’t quite place it. By the second inhalation the smell was either gone, her nose had gotten used to it, or she’d completely stroked out.

Stumbling around her room, the possibility of ocular damage, if not brain damage was becoming increasingly plausible to Wendy’s mind. Too much of her vision was still blurry as if she’d been staring at the sun. Everything was coming out in just the roughest of silhouettes. Colors were off, too.

The walls were a pastel pink. A few blinks and eye rubs later, ballerina fairies along the ceiling’s border came into focus. Her room hadn’t been pink in a long time; and she never remembered anything so patently childish in decoration; yet something in Wendy’s subconscious still accepted it and labeled the space as her room. The door was in the right place. A glance backwards over her shoulder confirmed that the closet was too, complete with that same wavering column of not quite air. Her vision was still too hazy to properly inspect any of the clothes contained therein.

Still looking at the closet the twenty-two year old woman tried to lean back on her desk, looking for balance. She came up short however, and wound up splayed out on a chest that was just as wide and sturdy as her desk but much much lower to the ground.

“Huh?” That was how Wendy realized that there were sparkling star stickers on her ceiling. Distinguishing the sparkling all the fine, glittery details on her ceiling, including the plaster seam where Dad had patched up that hairline crack years ago confirmed that Wendy’s vision had cleared up and she was where she thought she was….sort of.

The someday-lawyer sat up, rolled off to her knees and her vision had cleared enough for her to make out the rainbow lettered stencils on the chest she’d been laying on.

T-O-Y-S

What was a toybox doing in her room? Palms flat on the top, Wendy stood up and turned around to finally see what else was different now that her eyes were working properly. Her breath caught in her throat. She very much hoped her eyes were still deceiving her.

Forget the toybox, what was a crib doing in her room? A big one too! Far bigger than anything needed to contain an actual child! An adult crib? How was that a thing? If her eyes were as sharp as they felt, surely that meant she was hallucinating. The baby bed against the wall was both ornately carved and there were foam letters on the wall behind and above.

W-E-N-D-Y

Not only was this supposed to be a giant crib, it had been designated as her giant crib…

Her eyes darted to the right of the crib, practically drawn to what she initially thought were stacks of puffy white towels on shelves. Strange. She didn’t have anything like that, normally. Her dresser was supposed to be there.

The gears finished turning in Wendy’s head as she exhaled. Those weren’t towels that her eye had been drawn to. They weren’t even cloth; just cloth-like. The white bottle of baby powder on top of the table and the pail next to it explained the scents that registered when she first came out.

If the giant crib was in place of her bed. Then that must be a changing table. The giant diapers were on the top shelf, right where her underwear would normally be. But if that meant the crib was supposed to be her crib, then ipso facto that implied that the table as well as the diapers…

Wendy dived back into the closet, holding her breath until she tumbled back out again. She steadied her breathing, mentally labeling what she saw (and didn’t see). Beige walls; normal adult bed; study desk; chair; absolutely no changing table or diapers.

Wendy mopped the sweat from her forehead with her sleeve.

“What was that place?!” She looked at the wavering mass of air in her closet. Added to the unnatural thickness in the space, a bit of sparkling light shone out, no brighter than a nightlight. Bursting through from the other side had left a kind rip.

“Honey?” Mom called from down the hall. “Wendy, is everything okay?”

“Fine, Mom!” Wendy called back. “It’s fine.”

Fine? Maybe not. But a hell of a lot more interesting than studying for a History of Law Midterm.

3 Likes

Chapter 2

Wendy woke up achy all over with a crick in her neck causing her considerable discomfort. She’d fallen asleep on the floor of her own bedroom, her back against the wall parallel to her closet and her notebook opened to the very beginning of the fifth chapter she’d been meaning to study.

One chapter. She’d spent the rest of the night pouring over one lousy chapter of legal history. Combined with the previous three, she’d read only a third of her required reading material for the upcoming exam. She had just one more day to basically devour the remaining eight chapters she’d procrastinated studying on, and then an exam which could very well make or obliterate her GPA.

From an objective point of view, Wendy could hardly shoulder the blame of this procrastination alone. Most twenty-two year olds cramming for exams only had factors like the temptation of wild parties on a saturday night, or paper thin apartment walls where they could hear their neighbors arguing and making love, sometimes both. These were normal distractions.

Strange rips in reality that no one else could see, thus indicating some form of magic or severe psychiatric issue (a brain tumor perhaps?); that was a uniquely Wendy problem. She confirmed it not once, but twice, with each of her parents. Neither one could see it, even though since exiting the strange room made up for a giant baby, the invisible shimmering mirage in her closet had given way to being replaced with a beam of light coming out of nowhere. Absent the heavenly choir it still resembled the bright light at the end of the tunnel so common in near death and out of body experiences.
.
An afterlife with a giant adult sized nursery….yeah right!

“You sure you’re not studying too hard, cupcake?” Dad had asked. Mom had gone so far as to feel Wendy’s forehead checking for a fever and check to see if her lymph nodes were swollen or eyes dilated. Mom wasn’t a nurse, but being a public school teacher made her the next best thing.

There was a strange interdimensional rip in her bedroom closet that no one but her could see or seemingly interact with. What did one do in this situation, save retreat?
It’s why she’d hunkered down on the wall beside her bedroom closet. Out of sight, out of mind.

Once, when she was thirteen she’d banged her head really hard playing tetherball at summer camp. Squiggly lines started appearing in her vision, just on the fringes of her line of sight and crossing her vision only whenever she purposefully shifted her eyes from left to right; kind of like little white flurries in a snow globe.

The camp doctor had said she hit her head hard enough that some eye jelly had come loose inside her and that’s what the little squiggles that only she could see were. It happened all the time. Eventually the jelly would settle back into place or she’d stop noticing it. As long as she didn’t take a whole bunch of tetherballs to the face, everything would go back to normal and she wouldn’t need glasses.

This was the same principle. It had to be. As long as she ignored it and pretended not to see the hole in existence with blinding alien light shooting through it, it would go away. Right? Right.

That level of denial hadn’t served her well in her studying. Rather than the looming panic and procrastination in what was now tomorrow’s exam, Wendy was alternately obsessing over a miraculous discovery or her own fragile sanity depending on where her brain decided to go page by page.

The whole mess just resulted in her falling asleep with her back to the wall, waking up in brief spurts expecting to see a changing table where her dresser was supposed to be or a toy box where her study desk was. Then she’d go back to re-reading where she’d left off before dropping back into dreamland again. The text had made a better pillow than a book.

Achingly, Wendy stood up and raised her arms over her head, letting out a bellowing yawn. Her bladder was screaming at her. It had been the thing, rather than the trace amount of sunlight coming in through her bedroom blinds that had woken her up. “Why didn’t I just crawl into bed?” she moaned to herself. A mental overlay of a crib where her bed laid made her eye twitch.

“Oh yeah. That.”

Her bladder wouldn’t wait much longer. Still wearing last night’s leggings and sweater dress, Wendy jogged, actually jogged, out of her room to the toilet. Whether this was because of her dire need to relieve herself or because the extra bit of speed made it easier not to look back into her closet even Wendy couldn’t say.

Her bladder successfully emptying itself was the only relief she was experiencing just then. Blinking away the last bits of restless sleep, the Law student had to admit to herself that she’d absolutely failed at her endeavor. She could barely remember the three chapters she’d forced her way through before discovering the rip. The fourth chapter was a complete blur with the only knowledge she’d retained being that she had, in fact, read it. She couldn’t remember a darned thing!

The toilet tank was still refilling when her dad stopped her. “Wendy? Isn’t that what you were wearing last night?”

Wendy rubbed her eyes. Dad was wearing his ‘Sunday best’ a term he jokingly used when he wore khaki shorts and one of the tacky Hawaiian shirts. “Yeah, Dad.”

“Late night studying?”

“Yeah.”

“Go on and get changed, cupcake,” he said. “Your Mom’s out for an early grocery run. I’ll make you some instant oatmeal, and then you can do nothing for an hour.”

A smile crept up on Wendy’s face. “Which begs the question, why do I need instant oatmeal?”

In unison they said. “We could just make regular oatmeal and feel productive.”
That dumb, shared joke of theirs actually made Wendy feel a little better. “I’ll be out in a minute.”

Dad pointed to her. “You better,” he joked. “If you’re not ready by the time it’s out of the microwave, I’m coming in after ya.”

“Okay, okay,” she said, smiling despite herself.

Closing the door behind her, Wendy’s relief was short lived. “Oh yeah,” she mumbled. “That.” Directly across from her was the rip. It hadn’t gotten any bigger, as far as she could tell, but it was decidedly brighter. Either that or her lack of a good night’s sleep had made it seem brighter; the way the sun does after a hangover. Lacking sunglasses, Wendy did a right turn and forced herself not to look by shielding her vision with her left hand. Yeah…that’d make it go away.

She went to the dresser that definitely wasn’t a changing table. Despite knowing full well about it, she still sighed in relief seeing her panties in the top drawer where they belonged. She got some out and looked back over to her closet. “Definitely not.”

For that reason, her morning’s attire consisted of a bra and panties, and loose fitting tan shorts with a worn grayish t-shirt. These were clothes that she was more likely to wear to the gym than to school, but she didn’t have any classes today; just studying. Her own version of her ‘Sunday best’ would do just fine.

She went to her bedroom door, put her hand on the knob, and froze. She turned around and looked at the piercing light emanating from within her closet, so close yet so far away, and beyond it what she could only think of as a strange trip into a parallel universe. Hallucination or not, how long could she ignore it?

“Wendy!” Her father bellowed all the way from the “The microwave just dinged. Come and get some brain food, Cupcake!”

“Be right there, Dad!” She knew it to be a falsehood the moment she said it. “I’m just having um…lady things!” It was a stupid and shallow lie, but one that bought her, she hoped, at least a couple of minutes. Just how long could she venture into the world beyond her own closet before Dad checked in on her? What would he think if he opened her bedroom door and found her mysteriously missing? Surely he’d worry.

Addicted of all stripes find ways to justify getting their fixes. Just what she was addicted to didn’t come to Wendy in the moment, but she did come up with an idea. “Dad!” Wendy called. “Can you come in here for a second?”

There was a pause of uncertainty. “Yeah sure. Do you want me to find where your mother keeps the uh…lady stuff?”

“No. I’m fine. False alarm.” She paused for a moment and then thought to add, “And no, I’m not pregnant!”

“Oh thank god!” Dad laughed. It was the kind of laugh one does when they are both relieved and unsettled that someone guessed what they were thinking.

Wendy positioned herself at the threshold of her closet, right next to the rip. Her pulse was pounding, her breath was picking up.

A quick rapping on the door preceded its opening. “So what was it you wanted to show me, Wendy?”

“This!” Wendy dove head first into the light. This time, she was smart enough to close her eyes and the blinding light, like the heart of a sun, didn’t disorient her nearly as much. It was still disorienting, of course; expecting to hit the back wall of one’s closet and instead running several steps straight through was bound to be. It just wasn’t as disorienting as the first time.

What was disorienting was the fleshy thump into her father. “Whoah! Easy there closet monster!” she heard him say. It was definitely her father. She’d known his voice all her life. Warning bells blitzed her brain. She really was crazy. All she’d managed to do is stumble around in her own closet and parade out looking like a loon. “Is that what you wanted to show me? Did you want to show Daddy what a good closet monster you could be?”

“Daddy?”

She opened her eyes. Sure enough, her father was standing there, beaming slightly down at her with the height difference of a handful of inches. He was exactly the same as he’d been a handful of seconds before. The rest of her room wasn’t.

To her near right was a toy box. To her far left was the giant crib and changing table. The walls were again pastel pink with fairy ballerinas along the borders. “Dad,” the words poured out of her like a fountain, “what are you doing here? Did you follow me? Does that mean you saw me go through the rip? Why aren’t you behind me, then? Why aren’t you freaked out that my room looks like it did when I was a baby but everything’s…everything’s…bigger?”

“Hmmm?” her father squinted. “What was that baby girl?” It was the same kind of look that her father had when they’d gone on family vacations and a local or a tour guide had a particularly thick accent; even if their English was fine. It was like he was trying to translate in his head what they were saying through whatever patois peppered their speech.

Wendy cocked her head sideways. How could father be having trouble understanding her? “What are you doing here, Dad?”

Dad nodded in not-quite understanding. “Ooooooh! Where’s Daddy?”

“Where’s Da-?” Wendy was cut off as her father placed one thick hand over each eye.

“Wheeeeeeeeeere’s…?” Daddy said, his words like the wind up of a pitch. He removed his hands from off her eyes and finished. “Daddy?!” He did it again. “Wheeeeeeeeere’s….Daddy?!”

Between rounds of peekaboo, the Law student blinked. It certainly looked like her dad, but not. He was dressed the same, and had the same voice she’d heard since she actually needed a crib, but there was a dearth of gray hair in his beard and almost no wrinkles at the corner of his eyes or hints of laugh lines. A reflection of her father, but with the last two decades or so shaved off. “You’re not my father, are you?”

“Wheeeeeeeeere’s…Daddy?!”

She wasn’t scared. Just mildly confused. Befuddled? This might be what befuddled felt like. “Okay, okay,” she said, slapping his hands away as he came in for a fourth pass. “Stop!”

“Alright,” the not-Daddy (mirror Daddy? Closet Daddy? Yeah…let’s go with that) said. “I’m sorry. Daddy didn’t mean to upset you.”

“Wait,” she blanched. “You understood that?”

“Uh-huh,” he replied. “Time for breakfast! Let’s get some num-nums in that tum-tum!”

“Yeah…um…no.” She about faced and made to leap back through the rift of blinding light. “Thanks, bye!”

Her retreat was stopped as her Daddy’s hand grasped her by the wrist. “Whoah! Wrong way, Cupcake. You can play ‘closet monster’ later. First, some breakfast!”

The shriek Wendy let out as her father’s doppelganger pulled her into his arms and then draped her over his shoulder was one of surprise, but not necessarily fear. She could feel in his movements, and the tender strength of his grip that he wasn’t trying to harm her; nor was he close to straining himself. “What are you doing?”

“It’s breakfast time, Wen,” he calmly explained. “Most important meal of the day.” The world whirled around and the rip in this reality got farther and farther away as her Closet Daddy trudged out of her infantilized bedroom, carrying her halfway over his shoulder. “You want to grow-up big and strong, don’t you?”

“Big and strong?” Wendy echoed. A thought that should have been obvious finally came to her. “How old do you think I am?”

She jolted, helplessly in his arms while he gently patted her butt. It wasn’t flirty or sexual, (thank god). More clinical, like a nurse checking bandages. “Still dry, he said, more to himself.

“DAD! How-?” She cut herself off when she felt him shift her further and dig a finger into the waistline of her panties and pull them out. Her father, or someone very much like him, was literally staring at her ass. More accurately, part of her realized, he was staring at the back of her underwear. “THE FUCK?!”

“Not poopy, either.” he said more to himself. There was an unspoken ‘yet’ that she found most disturbing. He shifted her down so that she was off his shoulder and closer to riding on his hip. “What was that honey?”

“How? Old? Do? You? Think? I? Fucking? Am?” she repeated with deliberate slowness. She was taking her shock at being manhandled, having her personal space so casually violated, and being ignored, and tempering it with the realization that this world was decidedly not her own. Ironic, in a way. She was a foreigner in a foreign land, but talking like every depiction of a stereotypical American tourist; including the vain hope that speaking slower might make her more easily understood.

“Bla-blah-blag-baw!” Daddy crossed his eyes. “See? I can make silly faces, too! Drooly girl!”

“Drooly girl?” Self-consciously, she started patting her mouth, feeling for bits of saliva. Her chin was as dry as it ever was. Just like everything else, this man who looked so much like a younger version of her father, was seeing something that just wasn’t there.

Speaking of things that weren’t there, Wendy took a gander at her surroundings as she was carried off. Besides her room, not much else had changed. Everything else was exactly as she remembered it from this morning. Correction: A family photo in the space between the living room and the kitchen caught her eye.

It was supposed to be her High School graduation picture. Mom and Dad looked the same, albeit younger, but there was a little girl sitting down beneath them, wearing a pink dress with white tights and a big floppy bow in the child’s fair and fine hair. She only recognized her younger self in it by virtue of inference. She might have had a baby picture like that back home, but she’d long since forgotten it. A baby picture that didn’t exist…

What did that mean for this world seemingly adjacent to her own?

Between that photo, how her bedroom was decorated, and the way this version of her father was acting, Wendy might already have had her answer. “Daddy,” she said, much nicer than before. “How old am I?’

Wendy didn’t get her answer until she was set down and buckled into a particularly large highchair with a tray clicked into place. “How old are you?” Her Closet Daddy repeated as though he was just barely understanding her. Wendy nodded. “In just a couple of months,” he said slowly, “you’re going to be this many!” When he said ‘this’ he held up a single finger.

Part of her threatened to panic; that was why when she fiddled with the buckle around her waist, even though it was just a simple mechanism, it wasn’t budging. She likely couldn’t move the catch on the tray either and the bar between her legs would have prevented her from sliding out the bottom. A larger part of her was legitimately curious, not frightened by the absurdity as much as driven to understand it. Here was something that was completely outside the realm of normal possibility and Wendy’s brain itched to scratch the surface and understand it.

“You think I’m not even a year old?” she asked.

“That’s right,” Daddy said. He tied a bib big enough to be a towel around her neck. “You’re almost one whole year old! You’re growing up to be such a big girl!”

“That’s not what I said…”

“You’re getting to be such a good talker too. You’re a little smarty-pants just like your mother!” Closet Daddy turned from the microwave and started stirring around a bowl of instant oatmeal. “And when you turn a year old, you’re gonna have a big party! There’ll be cake, and balloons, maybe even a clown!”

“Fuck clowns.” Even now, she was experimenting.

“Okay, okay.” he chuckled. “Clowns are bad,” he picked up a bowl of instant oatmeal with a plastic spoon in it. “Maybe we’ll revisit that when you’re two or three. But all of your little friends from daycare will be there.”

“I don’t go to daycare,” Wendy said. “I’m a Law student.”

Her father dipped the plastic spoon in. Rather than make a straight line, though, he made the spoon duck and weave. “Bumble-bee, bumble-bee, bumble-bee….buzz-buzz-buzzzzzzzz!”

Despite herself, Wendy giggled at just how ridiculous he looked. That’s when he plunged the plastic spoon into her mouth. It was, in fact, just instant oatmeal. Cinnamon raisin flavored Not her favorite, but good enough. “You don’t get this kind of quality performance at daycare, I bet!” he congratulated himself.

Wendy swallowed. “I…don’t…go…to…daycare…” she repeated herself. “I’m…a…Law…student.”

The man who looked every bit like her father leaned over and tickled her foot beneath the tray, making her laugh again. That got another spoonful. While he was waiting for her to swallow, his brain seemed to make sense of the non-language barrier. “Oh?” he said “Oh yeah. They don’t call them daycares anymore, do they? I still think calling it Preschool is a little far-fetched. What’s the name for that place?”

Wendy searched her own memory. Back on the other side of the rip, she had pictures and certificates all the way back to before Elementary School. Being a chronic natural overachiever, she’d become inundated with story after story of her entire life. Before Elementary, it was Preschool. Before Preschool it was…

“Just follow the bouncing spoon!”

“Bouncing Babies Academy?” She got the words out just in time for a spoon to ‘bounce’ through the air and into her mouth.

She swallowed, and closet Daddy did that squint again like he was trying to parse out a thick accent. “That’s right! Bouncing Babies! My big girl goes to Bouncing Babies with her little friends like…Morgan and Tonya and Lindsay…who else is in your little playgroup? Oh yeah! Peter!”

The mention of her current classmates shut Wendy up quickly. Silently, she’d been working under the theory that this was some kind of time portal. She’d known her current group of friends for a while now; some of them for years. But she hadn’t known any of them for so long that they’d been in diapers together.

Red Flag! Definitely a red flag! Nothing a dollop of whip cream on the next spoonful and a tickle on the thigh couldn’t fix.

Wendy swallowed another gulp of oatmeal. It was actually quite relaxing. Not having to feed herself gave her time to sort this particular puzzle out. So this world beyond the rip wasn’t exactly a time portal. What was it? “Fuck clowns.”

“Yes, yes,” this alternate version of her father chuckled. Weird that he didn’t react to her deliberately dropping an F-bomb. Why was that? “I know you’re afraid…” he stopped himself, “I mean I know you don’t like clowns. That’s fine. I’ll tell Mommy. Maybe we can find a ballerina for you. Or we can dress you up like a ballerina for the party. Would you like that?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. I’ll try to remember it in a couple of months,” he started scraping the bowl. A final spoonful came up wobbling to Wendy’s mouth.

Wendy leaned back in the highchair like the final spoonful contained cyanide instead of moistened oats. “No.”

“No?” Good. He understood ‘no’.

“No.”

Closet Daddy shrugged. “Okay then. More for me.” He put the final bit into his mouth and swallowed. Glancing at the clock on the microwave he did a double-take. “Wow! That normally takes longer! Someone’s either super hungry or Daddy’s seriously upped his game! We do this a couple more times, and I can get the regular oatmeal! Good girl, Wendy!”

The praise, however condescending, caused all sorts of happy chemicals to release in Wendy’s brain. She smiled bigger and brighter than when she’d gotten her Bachelor’s degree.

“Ooops!” he reached up and used Wendy’s own bib like a napkin, dabbing at the corners of her mouth and cheeks. “Not a hundred percent success rate.” Wendy blushed. “Not your fault, baby. Hard to keep all your food in there when you’re being such a giggly girl.“ He smiled. “But if you weren’t such a giggly girl, Daddy might not get any of the food in at all!” He tickled the bottom of her foot again for emphasis. “Such is life. Time for a bottle.” He went to the fridge.

“Chocolate milk?” she called out.

“Chocolate?” He pointed to the nearly liter baby bottle he’d brought back. Wendy nodded. “I don’t think so,” Daddy said. “It’s a little early for chocolate milk, don’t you think?” He blanched. “Why am I asking you?”

Wendy reached out and accepted the bottle. The cool milk felt good after the hot oatmeal, and she gulped it down while her father wiped the kitchen counter and talked to himself.

Chugging down the bottle, Wendy felt like she’d about figured it out: For some reason, she was seen as an infant in this world; a toddler at best; not even a year old. Hence the giant baby furniture in her room and the chair in the kitchen she was sitting in. It’s why she had just another baby picture instead of her in a cap and gown. As far as her Dad was concerned, she was a baby; which explained patting her bottom and declaring her ‘dry’. In his mind, he was checking her diaper.

The physics of the world seemed to confine her to that diminished role, too. Closet Daddy was strong enough to carry her through the house like it was nothing. And even though she was a fully grown young woman, she lacked the physical capability to undo a safety latch meant for a small child. She didn’t feel particularly weak, just that everything else seemed that much stronger; like in the Marvel movies when someone tried to lift Thor’s Hammer.
Interesting.

Most interesting so far, though, was the communication barrier. Based on her probing, it seemed that there was some kind of one way language filter going on. She could understand everything that her kind-of-father said to her, but everything she was saying came out as though a small child just learning to talk was saying it. If it was something she might have said twenty-one years ago, he could just get the gist of it. Anything else must have gone unheard or come out as well…baby babble.

Did not even one-year olds actually talk that much? Wendy didn’t know enough about kids to say one way or another. Maybe a few words. ‘Mama’ or ‘Dada’. Maybe this weird mirror universe was taking what she was saying as a full grown adult and kind-of-sort-of splitting the difference. Almost like part of her world, the real world, was bleeding over into this one. That made as much sense as anything else, she supposed.

“Daddy?” she said.

He turned around from wiping down the counter. “Yes, Cupcake?”

Good. He recognized when she called him. “Since I’m going to go to the Supreme Court one day, what’s your opinion on Roe versus Wade and a woman’s right to bodily autonomy?”

“Really?” He sighed. “Okay, Cupcake. Okay.” He took a deep breath. “Row, row, row your boat….”

Theory all but confirmed.

“-gently down the stream-”

Roe versus Wade certainly wouldn’t have been something she’d have talked about when she was less than a year old, so the best that could be done was-

“-merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream.” Closet Daddy exhaled. “I love you, Wendy.”

“I love you too, Daddy.”

Something in that made Wendy feel tingly all over. She was sure she said it to her parents often enough, and they to her, but there was just something…different about it. Tone? Context? Implication?

She wasn’t completely sure. He didn’t say it any differently than he usually did, it just felt different. She most often heard such praise and affirmation either when she was feeling rather low in despair, or right after a major success: ‘Oh, you forgot your homework? Don’t worry, I still love you Wendy.’ or ‘Straight A’s all year? So smart! Love you!’

But if everyone thought she was, say nine or ten months, then they had nothing to say “I love you” about. No minor failures to soothe or major successes to celebrate. Looking into her Closet Daddy’s eyes, she caught the smallest hint at being valued not for what she’d done or what she might yet do. Instead, she had the briefest memory of what it was like to feel valued just for being herself.

And that feeling tingled in a way that she hadn’t felt in what seemed a long, long time.

“All done with your milk?” Instead of speaking, Wendy just handed the three quarters drained bottle of milk off to the man and waited patiently. It would be as easy for him to remove her from the scaled up highchair as it was impossible for her to escape it. “Almost forgot.” He removed the bib, and walked over to the sink, depositing it there and dumping out the rest of the milk.

When the bib came off, Wendy felt her first bit of renewed caution. Still buckled into the highchair, she looked down at herself, and witnessed something both miraculous and disheartening. Her clothes were changing color! Her tan shorts, now that she could see them, were now undoubtedly powder blue. “Huh?”

Her shirt was in the midst of changing, too. Like an oil slick spreading into the ocean, Wendy watched dabs and droplets of pink spread out on the plain gray of her shirt. The rose tinted color expanded and blotted out the dreary cloud coloring much in the way paper towels soaked up water. Strangely, the pink morass left a section of her shirt untouched while it washed over the rest of her dreary clothes. That was only because the outline of a white cartoon kitty-cat faded and bleached itself into existence.

Wendy’s own language usage wasn’t the only thing bleeding. This world, it seemed, was bleeding into her; or her clothes at least. This was certainly a new wrinkle! Blue and pink instead of tan and gray wasn’t the most infantile thing in the world; it was still just a t-shirt and shorts, but it was definitely an alteration from when she had entered. What did that mean for the clothes beneath?

She got half of her answer when her Daddy removed her from the chair. “Wow,” he said, patting her butt again through her shorts. “Still dry! New personal best!” He joked. Better one of her parents doing this to her than some creep on campus, she supposed.

Wendy felt the hand gently groping her through her panties, with nary a squish or a telltale crinkle. As far as she could tell, she wasn’t wearing a diaper, thank goodness. However, while the kitchen zoomed away from her back towards the giant nursery, Wendy cupped her breasts.

“Still have my…” Just as they crossed the threshold back into her room turned nursery, Wendy felt the wires and padding of her bra evaporate. The straps and fasteners practically melted into her shirt. A ruffled pattern, like flower petals, manifested and sprouted along her chest and all around her back, just above the white cartoon kitty cat. “…-bra?”

“Don’t worry, baby.” the variant of her father said. “Mama will be back in just a little bit.” He sat her back down in the nursery version of her room and gave her a wet, though chaste kiss on the forehead. “I love you so much.” He gently nuzzled his head against hers.

Wendy felt her face blush a deep crimson. Not just because of the intimate nature of the physical affection, but frankly, the embarrassment of it all. Her nipples were poking out slightly through the increasingly babyish t-shirt. The newly added ruffles obscured it enough, but that didn’t mean she didn’t feel them rubbing on the coarser, unpadded material. Her breasts were a long way from sagging at her age, but that didn’t mean she didn’t feel gravity try to reassert itself as her support was literally yanked out from beneath her by magic. Bras could be uncomfortable at times, but it was even more uncomfortable when they suddenly and unexpectedly ceased to exist.

Out of habit, she brought up her forearm and shielded her breasts, as though that might make her feel less naked.

As had been the case so-far, Closet Daddy looked at the distinctly adult, distinctly womanly gesture of reflexive embarrassment and modesty and interpreted it through the lens of a baby still working through its first set of teeth instead of a woman who had long ago gone through puberty. “You cold, baby? Do you want Daddy to get you a blanket? Turn up the heat?” Yet again, he was talking more to himself than to her. “No. I think you’ll be okay.”

More for her own peace of mind, Wendy gently shook her head, too shocked to say much of anything. Watching her clothes change color was admittedly kind of neat. Feeling her underwear literally disappear was disquieting at best.

Speaking of underwear, at least the padding in her bra hadn’t been added to her panties…(yet). Needless to say, the added hurdle that being on this side of the rip seemed to be affecting her clothing was adding a mounting sense of urgency.

“So what can we do?” Her Closet Father asked the air. “What can we do before Mommy gets back? What to do, what to do?”

From her place on the carpet the Law student looked at her closet, and saw the same rip of blinding luminescence glowing just inside it. If she could just make it past the threshold she’d go tripping back into her own world where she was a proper woman again. Problem being, this version of her father was bent over the toybox and poised between her and her exit.

Howard Merts wasn’t exactly an NFL linebacker, but he had well over a hundred pounds on her and was stronger than her ‘in real life’. Between arriving and breakfast, it was already very obvious that he was disproportionately stronger than her. That might apply to other physical attributes, too. It wouldn’t do to have the comparative speed and reflexes of a toddler.

No.

Better to wait.

Slowly, shakily, she stood herself up. Good. She could still stand, and the shaking was more from nerves than anything else.

A flat wooden rectangle clattered at her feet. “How about an alphabet puzzle?” Closet Daddy said. “You love playing with your letters.” It was a wooden puzzle, the kind that only a baby would struggle with and maybe not even that. Twenty six little notches, each one shaped like a letter. Tiny wooden letters with nubs in the middle so that they could be placed and removed one at a time filled the slots. Some of them, anyways. Their trip through the air and subsequent landing at her feet caused a good dozen or so to tumble out onto the carpet.

The younger version of her father bent over far enough to finish dumping out the letters. “There,” he said. “You can play with your alphabet.”

Wearily, Wendy went back down to all fours. Carefully, she placed the letters back into the puzzle, reconstructing the alphabet.

“Oh wow! Great job on finding the S!” Wendy blanched from the enthusiasm. “First try and everything!” Hands on his knees he loomed over her and the puzzle. “What about a W? W for Wendy!”

He gasped in astonishment when she plucked a W from the scattered wooden alphabet outlines gathered on the carpet. His applause was spontaneous when she placed it into the corresponding slot. “Oh my gosh!” he hopped. “Wow! You did it!” Dad- her real dad- didn’t get this excited watching his favorite sports teams win.
Wendy blushed. It had been a long time since she’d gotten this level of praise from anyone for doing something so simple. An unspoken truth was that the more grown-up you were thought to be, the harder adulation was to come by.

She looked past her father and to the glowing rip in her closet. Daddy was still positioned between her and her exit. “How about the letter E?”

Without nary a thought, Wendy put the vowel in its place. “YES!” Wendy would have thought he’d won the lottery. “N?”

Simple enough.

“D?”

Again. So easy, even a baby could do it.

“Y?”

Wendy took the penultimate letter of the alphabet and put it in the board puzzle.

“W! E! N! D! Y! That spells Wendy!”

The girl let out a shriek as her father yanked her up off the floor and started half-tossing her up in the air. “Wen-dy! Wen-dy! Wen-dy!” Wendy giggled and shrieked, spreading her limbs out to catch herself each time the big meaty hands left her side.

“Now how did you figure that out so fast?” He wondered aloud.

Wendy held her breath. On one hand this might be an effective way to communicate with her dad’s time displaced twin. On the other hand, what would happen if he realized just how little his little girl wasn’t?

The dilemma resolved itself when he looked at the lettering above the adult sized crib. “Of course you know those letters! You’ve been seeing them everyday your entire life, haven’t you?” He gushed. “Not even a year old, and my baby girl is studying!” He pulled her in for a hug. Despite all his monumental strength, it felt warm, and soft like a weighted blanket. “Clever! So clever!”

Complimented for studying. There was a first. She had to start somewhere though. “Do you want to play something else?”
Poking her head up through the clouds of dopamine and serotonin, Wendy remembered that she had more immediate matters to tend to. Her father, her real one, must be worried sick about her to say the least. She nodded. “Yesh!” Then she corrected herself. “Yes!”

“Okie dokie!” He set her back down and returned to the toy chest. “What to play with next? What to play with next?”

Her not-father kept tossing things out, careful to look behind him only so that he wouldn’t accidentally toss something at Wendy’s skull. “Or there’s your doctor bag. Your jack-in-the box. Your blocks. Your play pots and pans…how did they end up here? Shouldn’t they be in the play kitchen? Nevermind, not important. When did we get you a slinky? Oh a bouncy ball! That could be fun!”

Wendy quickly finished the baby puzzle, with one eye on her closet and the other on this strange version of her dad. Something about leaving it unfinished just bugged her. She didn’t need to consciously focus on it, only the slightest amount of anal retentiveness made her double check her work, (which was perfect by the way.)

Still on all fours, she shuffle crawled around the Closet Daddy, hoping that he’d distract himself enough digging through useless baby toys long enough for her to get to the rip and jump back through…

“Whoah! Where do you think you’re going, Cupcake?” Two hands reached down and grabbed her by the hips. The carpet flew away from her and she suddenly found herself, dangling by her armpits. She was now looking down at her father, and her tip toes only just grazed the floor, but the act of being held off the ground so easily was still quite unsettling. “Do you want to play ‘closet monster’ again?”

Inspiration struck. “Yes,” she said. “Closet monster!” Why fight the language scrambling and just go with it?

“Hmmm…” He seemed to look past her. Was there more than one difference between this version of her father and the (for lack of a better term) real one? Could he also see the blinding light that Wendy hoped to escape to? “I don’t knoooow…”

His expression was a blend of playfulness and parental paranoia; the kind that new parents get over unforeseen threats to their precious little ones. What could be so dangerous to a baby in her own closet (besides an inexplicable tear in the fabric of existence)?

Her old-man’s expression lit up when he pivoted back and looked at the floor. “Is that…did you?” Did she what? She reached behind her and felt the back. Had she had an accident or something? Wet her pants? Worse? She followed his gaze and realized what had gotten him so excited.

“Did you do that whole ABC puzzle all by yourself?” For a ten-month old, that was amazing. She found herself on her back, pinned under Closet Daddy’s loving grasp. “That’s amazing! He showered her with kisses, causing her to kick and squirm…but not too hard.

Daddy lifted up the front of her T-shirt and a puff of fresh hair breezed onto her belly button. “Who’s Daddy’s smart lil’ cupcake? Is it you? Is it you?”

Positively melting with all of the praise, Wendy allowed herself a happy,“Yes!”

She didn’t react until her Daddy said ,“Oh I could just eat my little Cupcake all up!”

“Daddy! No-ho-ho-ho-ho!” Protests erupted into giggles as a younger version of her father barreled down on her and started tickling her and blowing raspberries on her stomach! “No-ho-ho-ho-ho!”

She was powerless to fight the terrible two-ton-tickle monster her father had become. “Nom-nom-nom-nom-nom!” Even his beard tickled. Was she always this ticklish, or was some part of this reality now affecting her senses, too? “Daddy!” she shrieked. “Staaaaaahp!” She couldn’t have predicted the tinge of disappointment she then felt when he actually listened and stopped. The yanking of her shirt back down over her belly button gave an air of finality to the whole ordeal.

Catching her breath, her eye was still drawn back to the closet. “Closet…” she huffed and puffed, forcing her breathing to slow back down. “I need…to…go…back…to…the …closet.”

Closet Daddy turned his head and looked back over his shoulder. “What are you lookin’ at, Wendy?” He gave her a light tickle, enough to make her twitch and squirm, but not so much that she laughed again. “What are you lookin’ at?” His own memory seemed to catch up to him. “Do you still want to go hide in that closet?”

Breathlessly, Wendy nodded.

“Hmmm…what if…” he grinned, mischievously, “I just ate some more Cupcake!” He blew another raspberry right on her belly button. It took so much of Wendy not to break into another fit of laughter. It took even more, she found, not to tell him to try again.

“Please?” Wendy pressed. Then she had an idea. It had been forever since she’d done this, but she pouted her lip out, made her eyes big and sad like a puppy dog and gave her best “PWEEEEEEEEEASE!”

“Hmmm…” Closet Daddy said. “I don’t know…” He was going to give in. He’d already lost the battle of wills and they both knew it.

A muted honking preempted his impending surrender. “Sounds like Mommy’s home,” he said. “Let’s go see what she got us at the grocery store!”

Yet again, Wendy found herself carried away from her escape route back to the real world. The second time she was dragged back into her own kitchen, she was deposited straight onto the tile instead of her highchair.

Wearing a loose green dress, her mother (Closet Mommy?) walked through the door carrying several bags of groceries. Like her counterpart, this was a younger, fresher, less worn version of her own mother, with hair that was more blonde than pale, and a face far less wrinkled by time and stress. “Hey Wendy,” she cooed. She looked to her husband. “Hey, babe.” They kissed in a way that Wendy wasn’t sure she’d ever seen them before. “There’s more in the car.”

“Groceries or kisses?”

“There better just be groceries in the car!” They both laughed.

Wendy thought she was more mature than to just gawk at her parents acting like a young couple, a half step away from making out. As it turned out, she wasn’t. “Ew…”

“Oh. Not in front of the B-A-B-Y.” this world’s version of her Mommy said.

“Careful,” Daddy said. “Have I got a story for you! It involves a certain someone being really good with their letters. We’ll talk about making her a little brother or sister later.”

“Double ew…”

Daddy went out the back door to the car. Mommy started unpacking groceries. Wendy watched. As with her breakfast in the highchair, she was about to travel back inside her own mind and analyze what new factors might come into play, when her Closet Mommy took out a normal sized pack of Pampers from one of the bags and set it on top of the oven. “That goes in Wendy’s room,” she said more to herself than anyone.

Wendy grabbed onto the counter and pulled herself up to a standing position from her spot on the floor. Closet Mommy glanced over, but paid her no mind. The package of diapers didn’t leave Wendy’s focus. Something was off, and she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.

But as she tilted her head to one side, she got a better look at the package. Pampers. Size 3. Yet right in front of her, she witnessed a bizarre inverse of what had happened to her outfit. Just like how her adult clothes bled pastel and had become more infantile, the package was steadily enlarging itself on the counter. She watched in quiet horror as it expanded and grew; inflated almost. Yet the image on the outside remained the same.

Pampers. Size 3. With a picture of an almost naked child - boy or girl it was impossible to tell - giggling on the front and a promised count of twenty-six diapers. There was no way a pack that big only held twenty-six diapers unless they were very big diapers. Big enough to fit her.

More than the package was growing. Her own underwear grew too; except that ‘growing’ wasn’t quite the right word. A better one would have been ‘thickening’. Unconsciously, she spread her legs as a slight weight and a very noticeable bulk added itself to her panties. She felt a light tickle, more like an itch creeping itself, on her inner thighs, back and just below her belly button. Almost like ants creeping across her flesh. It wasn’t until she took a single step forward, drawn to the gigantic diapers that she heard the papery plastic crinkle coming from her own pants.

Wendy froze. She reached back behind her, feeling the extra padding on her backside. She lifted up her shirt and stared down past her breasts, seeing the thin waistband of the diaper creep up past the elastic waistband of her shorts as they tended to do. The slight tickling sensation on her thighs must have been leg gathers! That was what they called that weird bit of frilly stuff around a diaper’s leg holes, right?

Diapers.

Her diaper.

The changes hadn’t stopped at her bra. Or if they had, they’d picked back up. She had to go.

Now!

“Uh…bye!” She took off at a tear back towards her bedroom.

“Howard!” her mothers voice called. “You’ve got to see this!”

Wendy didn’t slow. It had taken her only a few steps to compensate for the added mass of the giant Pampers that had manifested itself between her thighs. She ignored the lack of support as her breasts bobbed up and down with every thudding step. Now was the time. She’d been gone more than long enough to prove to her real dad that this wasn’t a joke or a hallucination. Within four mighty strides of entering her bedroom, Wendy Merts closed her eyes and leaped head first back into the mysterious light between worlds.

She knew she was back when she stubbed her toe and realized she’d hurt herself on her boring old work desk. “Wendy?” her mother called. “Wendy? Are you alright?”

Wendy looked at herself. She was still in gigantic baby clothes! She lifted up her shirt and felt between her legs. That was a Pampers, sure enough.

Diaper! She had to get rid of the diaper! The rest of the ridiculous outfit, she could likely pass off as ‘quirky’; maybe something she borrowed from Lindsay. So much of women’s clothing was slightly infantilizing anyways. But the diaper? No way!

Panickedly, she reached down into the front of her pants and groped along. Weren’t these things supposed to have tapes or tabs? Her hands grasped, unsuccessfully. What was she going to do?

Her mother’s footsteps drawing closer, Wendy’s shoulders stiffened and her elbows tensed as right beneath her fingertips, she felt the stiff, crinkling, not quite cloth cover of the disposable diaper shift to the soft, cottony, familiar texture of regular underwear.

Her clothes were returning to normal! Her diaper receded back into her shorts, the waistline and leg gathers lightly scratching against her skin one last time before becoming normal elastic. Simultaneously, the ruffles on her shirt’s chest dissipated and she could feel her bra rematerializing around her, the padding from her bottom all but slithering up her back and around to her front.

Little by little, gray was coming into her shirt again, and the pink seemed to be draining out. Same for her tan shorts!

The door opened. “Honey, are-…?” Mom froze, her pale hale and crows feet back; her expression uncomprehending as the last bits of juvenile color and decoration dragged themselves off of Wendy and vanished from wherever they had come. “-you okay?” Mom finished her sentence less like she was shocked and more like she was a recording that had just unpaused itself.

More color drained from Wendy, but this time it was only from her face. “Mom? How much of that did you see?”

“Just that you ran back to your room in a hurry. I thought something might be wrong.”

Wendy blinked. “No,” she said, unsure if it was a lie or not. “I’m fine.”

“Oh. Okay,” Mom said. “Your father told me you’d done something really special just before I got home and-”

“Dad!” Wendy shouted! She was running out of her bedroom and past her mother before she realized it. “Daddy!” He had to be completely freaking out!

She found her father in the kitchen, having just come in with arms full of grocery bags and started unpacking. The only difference between the groceries he was handling here and the scene she’d just fled was that there was no Pampers package, enlarged or otherwise, laid out amongst the various cans, sodas, bread, and dinner items.

“Daddy?” her father repeated. “You haven’t called me that since third grade.”

“Second grade,” Mom corrected, coming in from behind Wendy. “I remember because when her report cards went from E’s to A’s she decided she was too grown up to be calling us ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy’. So you and I got demoted to good ol’ Mom and Dad.” The two shared a knowing, nostalgic chuckle. Mom stopped just long enough to check Wendy’’s temperature via the back of her hand on her daughter’s forehead. “Normal.”

Wendy frowned, not quite following what was happening. “Neither of you two were worried about me?”

“Why?” Mom asked. “I thought that mad dash you just made might have been to the bathroom, but you seemed fine in your room to me.”

“I hope that instant oatmeal wasn’t past its expiration date,” Dad said.

Wendy cocked her head to the side again, this time in confusion. “I had breakfast here?”

“I should hope so,” Dad said. “Otherwise I don’t know who I just got done sitting across the kitchen table from.’

No diapers, but Mom was still bringing in groceries. No highchair, but she’d still had breakfast with Dad. “Honey, are you okay?” Mom asked.

“She fell asleep studying last night,” Dad reported. “Must’ve paid off though. You should have seen what she did in her notebook just before you came home, the little show off.”

“Poor thing,” Mom said. “Why don’t you take it easy today?”

Extraordinary astonishment was overridden by mundane anxiety “But my test-”

“Test schmest,” Dad said. “You’re no good to yourself if you fry your circuits cramming. Take the day off. You’ve shown you’re ready anyways.”

Mom simply added an agreeable “Mmmmhmmm!”

Why was his dad so lenient all of a sudden? They were supportive as all get out, but they were never this laid back about it, not when it came to schooling. And what was that about being a show off?

“Maybe I’ll go lay down for a minute,” Wendy mumbled.

Dad got that same squinty eyed look on his face. “She said she’s going to go lay down, Howard,” Mom translated. “I swear we need to get your hearing checked.”

The Law student felt numb from her face to her toes, stumbling back into her bedroom. Just in case, she checked out the old family picture in the living room. There she was in her cap and gown, standing beside two older but very proud parents.

Had she dreamed the whole thing up? Had she gone into some kind of fugue state and only imagined that her father had been spoon feeding her the oatmeal in a highchair? A repressed memory maybe? What did that mean about the state of her clothes? More poignantly, what did that mean about the state of her mind?

The light beaming out from her closet was as bright as ever. It might have been smaller, but it was hard to tell. Was the light brighter or just more focused? Was this what having a stroke was like? Or going insane? Wendy looked down at the ground rather than stare into the bright abyss.

“Hmmm?” A bit of paper caught her eye. Her real room had been as spotless as the giant nursery had been cluttered with toys, so the rectangular shaped notebook stood out like a sore thumb. Wendy bent over and picked it up.

“Oh.” Twenty six questions were written, copied word for word from the end of her text books required reading chapters.

“My.” Each question was answered succinctly and in a way that she could understand. It was like someone had made her a study guide keyed directly to her brain with all the right questions and answers. No scouring and searching and trying to figure out where the answers were among pages and pages of text. Just simple memorization like a game of trivia.

“God!” To cap it off, everything was in her own handwriting.

On one side of the rip, she was twenty-two. On the other, she wasn’t quite one year old. Over there, she’d been spoon fed instant oatmeal, and then absentmindedly played with an alphabet puzzle. Over here was now the perfect study guide.

Both had Mom going to the grocery store and coming back while Dad made breakfast. Neither seemed to be disturbed or even recognize her absence. The only downside there was the infantile role she’d been placed in was starting to affect her clothing, but only on that side. And if everything she did over there had an adult equivalent effect on this side… Wendy’s mind started racing with possibilities.

She was going back. The choice was easy. So easy, even a baby could do it.

2 Likes

Chapter 3

It was a good four minutes and forty-five seconds before Wendy stopped cackling like a madwoman into her pillow. She’d done it!

She’d done it, she’d done it, she’d done it!

She looked again at the perfect study guide in her hands, the thing that hadn’t existed until she’d put together that baby puzzle in the universe on the other side of the closet. Wow, that sounded even wilder everytime she so much as thought about it.

Wendy was Aladdin with the lamp. She was Frodo with the One Ring. She was Dr. Frankenstein and it was taking everything she had not to crane her neck and shout up to the sky “IT’S ALIVE!”

A parallel universe-one where her parents thought she was a baby-right there in her closet. That alone was beyond remarkable. The fact that whatever she did in one seemed to trickle out to the other; that was beyond amazing!

“I’ll never have to study again,” she whispered to herself. “I’ll never have to take another test. Tomorrow I can…” She stopped. Never say the best part out loud. Tomorrow was for tomorrow. Today, she could take the whole day for herself: watch television, waste time, literally do whatever she wanted.

Laying back on her bed, the law student felt her veins buzzing deep inside her. The rip in between realities wasn’t the only thing that was glowing. To her, this was better than skydiving or white water rafting. For the first time since middle school, Wendy felt like something more than an ex-Gifted kid. She felt on top of the world, and soon would be at the top of her class with no real effort required of her.

And all it would cost the girl was her underwear thickening and becoming more than a little crinkly for a couple hours. She looked back into her closet and saw the rip, still glowing, if slightly fainter; more than likely because she was getting used to it. It was kind of like stepping out into the sunlight after spending all day indoors. You squinted, blinked, rubbed your aching eyes, and then got used to it.

A knock at the door caught Wendy’s attention. “Come in,” she said.

Her mom stepped in. “Hey, Wendy. Busy studying?”

Wendy smiled like a cat that had just gorged itself on goldfish and gotten away with it. “Naw. I think I’ve studied as much as I need to. Any more and I’d feel like I was talking to myself. You know?”

“Yeah?” Mom said. She took a seat at the foot of Wendy’s bed. “I know how that is. You can only do so much lesson planning before you start working yourself up with butterflies.”

Out of politeness, Wendy propped herself up enough to make eye contact with her mother. “Pretty much.”

“Absolutely. You should take the day for yourself. Just relax.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

“Although…” her mother said.

Wendy’s mouth got just a tad dryer. “Although…? She had a bad feeling about this. Mom was one of those types for whom enough was never quite enough.

“It’s a beautiful day,” Mom said. “Want to go to the park with me? Jog the fitness trail before it gets too hot outside?”

Anxiously, Wendy looked down at herself. Her metabolism and diet were at peak performance. She didn’t really need to exercise to maintain her trim physique. She hated sweating, too. Still, going jogging with Mom might be a good way to spend time with her. “Okay…”

“Great,” Mom patted Wendy on the ankle. “I’ll go get changed.” Then she lowered the hammer. “While we’re jogging you can explain to me the stuff you’ve been studying.”

Alarm bells clattered inside Wendy’s brain. “Hm?”

“No better way to learn than by teaching somebody else.” This! This is why Mom wanted to go jogging. It wasn’t Mother/Daughter time as much as it was a pop quiz!. That was so Mom! She left before Wendy had a chance to contradict her or back out of the outing.

Wendy was on her feet a moment later, pacing only because she was trying to stop herself from running out shrieking into the hallway. The twenty-two year old felt like she was in her late fifties with her chest tightening from panic and anxiety. As though she were clinging to a life raft, she snatched up the study guide and read over it. It was in her handwriting, but everything she’d written on it was completely foreign to her.

She hadn’t remembered writing any of it. Factually, she hadn’t; her parents just remembered her writing it. It had basically popped into existence due to some causal reaction from her tinkering in the closet dimension.

The girl nibbled on her bottom lip. “I could just read this while we jog,” she said to herself. No. That wouldn’t work. She could already hear her mother lecturing her: Note reading wasn’t rote memorization and rote memorization wasn’t comprehension. Wendy inhaled. “I don’t even know how much of this is accurate!” The answers could be complete bullshit as far as she knew.

In the big scheme of things, her mother embarrassing her and telling her that she needed to spend the rest of the day studying material she clearly hadn’t retained wasn’t the worst thing in the world. In Wendy’s scheme of things, however, it felt like the most damning of castigations.

Wendy leaned against her door, and closed her eyes from all the stress she was feeling. “It’s not even gonna matter tomorrow. If I’m right I don’t even have to study.” If she was right… What if the study guide was a fluke?

Her eyes opened and she jerked as though she expected a winged viper to fly out and bite her on the face… Only the faintly glowing rip stared back at her. Perhaps this cause and effect regarding dimensional travel required more study? Ironic since studying (or not) got her into this.

No. No. She was putting her foot down. Kind of. Wendy might not be good at memorizing facts, but she could talk circles around her mother when she needed to. “Actually, Mom,” she whispered to herself, “I think I’ll pass on going jogging with you. I had a late night last night, like Daddy…like Dad said and I don’t want to overexert myself.”

Almost like a game of chess, she could see the conversation play out from there. Move and Counter Move.

“That’s fine. You can tell me about what you’ve learned after your nap,” Wendy said, mimicking her mother as she began walking back and forth in front of her mirror.
Then Wendy would feint and go, “It seems like you’re more concerned with checking on my studying than spending time with me.”

Mom would reply with something to the effect of “I just want to make sure that you’re ready for tomorrow.”

Then Wendy would counter with “Are you going to be in the courtroom for me for my cases?”

Her mother would counter with, “You won’t get into any courtrooms if you don’t graduate Law School.”

From there it would be less like chess and more like jazz music: Structured improvisation around an ever escalating frame until Wendy pulled out her trump card at the argument’s crescendo. Then she’d say something like, “I’m an adult and I’d appreciate it if you treated me more like one. Or are you going to start quizzing dad about his job, too?”

It would de-escalate from there. Mom might resort to pot-shots about who is paying the bills, but that could be disarmed with something along the lines that gratitude is not the same as subservience, and when the offer for her to stay at home was made, no parameters were made where she was required to report directly to her mother.

Mother might flimsily counter that no such proviso was added where she couldn’t change the rules, but that could be easily sidestepped by calling her ethics into question: Only Darth Vader and the other great tyrants of pop culture and history changed the terms of an agreement on a whim and told the people under their rule that they should pray that the rules weren’t altered further.

From there, the conversation would go back into total predictability, Mom would acquiesce and leave her alone. They’d both walk away with hurt feelings, things would be tense at dinner, and then it’d all blow over in a day or two.

Wendy popped over across the hallway and went to the bathroom. Never get into an argument on an empty bladder. She slumped forward on the toilet. She hadn’t even gotten into things with her mom, yet, and already she was feeling exhausted.

After wiping, flushing and washing her hands, Wendy heard her father call from the kitchen, “You about ready, honey? Your jogging buddy is almost done!”

“Almost!” Both mother and daughter called out in unison, their voices coming from opposite ends of the house and meeting in the middle.

“Heh,” Wendy heard Dad chuckle to himself. “Two birds with one stone. I love when that happens.”

Wendy braced herself. This. Was going. To be. Unpleasant. She stopped in the hallway and looked back to her room. Should she meet Mom in her parent’s bedroom or her own? Meet halfway and have Dad bear witness? No. That wouldn’t be fair to him.

Feeling weary beyond her years, Wendy huffed. She hadn’t even started talking to her mother yet and already she felt exhausted. This would have been so much easier if she were talking to her Mom’s doppelganger; the one on the other side of the closet. That version of Mom had all of the love and affection that this one had, but without the strenuous expectations.

Twenty some odd years ago, ‘jogging’ would have just meant jogging. Spending time together. No tests. No nothing. A wonderful idea took root in her brain. “I might not have to go jogging with her either.” Babies didn’t go jogging.

Wendy darted back into her bedroom. Quickly, she removed her top long enough to switch out her regular bra for a sports one. “Not sure why I’m doing this,” she muttered. “It’s not like it’s gonna exist on the other side.”

If the parallel events on either side of the rip worked like she thought it did, her mother would think she went jogging with her anyway. When she came back afterwards, Wendy might be wearing a sports bra regardless. Best not to make the transition back any more jarring than it had to be.

“Just spend long enough over on that side so that Mom remembers me wowing her.” Wendy took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “I get quality time and rest. She gets her wunderkind. Win-win.”

Still feeling the glow coming out of the litteral tear in the fabric of reality through her closed eyelids, Wendy found herself hesitating for a moment. Was she really this afraid of confronting her mother she would rather flee to another world and hide back in diapers? For real? No, that wasn’t why she was going back. Avoiding all that arguing was almost a pretext. Deep down, the college girl knew she was looking forward to some more of that undiluted parental love. There was an entire reality to explore, and such moments to experience. Nothing else right now felt as alluring.

“Who am I kidding? Bluffing Mom is only half the mission. Testing more of those baby sides of things, that’s the real deal.” Wendy straightened up, feeling her building resolution. “Here…we…go…”

Blinding light so intense that she could see it through her eyelids! The sensation lasted no more than two steps before Wendy was sure she was on the other side of the rip.

Roller coasters rely on surprise and anticipation. That first heart-pounding drop, or the surprise loop or corkscrew turn; it’s all thrilling, but nothing quite so much as that first trip. Nothing got your pulse racing as much as that first time. Traveling between parallel universes had that in common, Wendy found.

She rubbed her eyes and took a survey of her nursery. She’d made it through the portal easily enough. She looked down at herself. “Same nursery.” She looked down past her chest. “Same adult clothes…for now.” She had no doubt in her mind that eventually she’d be back in toddler shorts and frilly shirts. Just like last time it was taking a while to kick in. Good. If she could get through this with as much time out of disposable underwear, so much the better.

Wendy had made a kind of calculated peace that her panties wouldn’t be panties over here on this side of the closet. It didn’t mean she was looking forward to that inevitability. She popped open the front of her shorts and stared down at her panties. Feeling silly, she reached down and poked herself. So weird to think that within the hour these would likely be thicker than if she’d balled up and wrapped every article of clothing exclusively around her waist.

Mumbled conversation leaked its way through her bedroom door. Mom and Dad- their alternate universe equivalents, rather- were talking in the kitchen. It didn’t sound too charged. Pleasantly excited more than anything.

The law student shuddered when she felt her bra melt into the front of her shirt just like last time. It was happening already! She’d been done with her oatmeal and was being carried back to her room last time. Morbidly curious, she walked over to the mirror and watched the little ruffles appear on her shirt as the fabric seemed to dye itself pink.

“Huh,” she mused. “Much quicker than before.”

The shorts were next. Instead of turning from tan to a light powder view like they had before, they became transparent. Wendy was reminded of that old movie that her parents loved; the one about the time traveling car. Her shorts were fading out of existence just like the main character’s siblings in that photograph. “How? Why-?”

This gave Wendy a front row seat for watching her panties thicken and bulge out into a giant disposable diaper. Elmo was on the front, smiling from the landing zone with colorful zig zags going all over her nether regions. The number near the landing zone, just barely covered up by the sides indicated that it was supposed to be a Size 3. In reality it was probably closer to a Size 7 or 8. Did they even make diapers that big?

It covered all the right places, modesty wise. Wendy had worn bathing suits that showed more skin. That fact didn’t stop the girl from turning almost as pink as her babyish top. She really did look like an overgrown infant like this; a toddler at best, and that was stretching it.

Again, she poked down at the portrait of elmo and felt the thickness of the padding between her finger and skin. She inhaled and caught a whiff of what might have been baby powder. Or maybe it was perfume. Some diapers were perfumed, right?

Wendy didn’t know. She’d had exactly one surprise period before she got her mother to teach her how to insert a tampon, and she had absolutely no interest in babies before this. Absorbent padding in all of its forms was downright alien to her.

Worlds collided in her mind. Some people’s worst recurring nightmare was being naked in class. After today, Wendy had the sneaking suspicion her embarrassment dream would involve standing in front of a judge wearing nothing but a pink t-shirt and a big fluffy diaper. It felt about the same as it had underneath her shorts. Seeing it there in the mirror, as her first layer of clothing made it different; more real. “What happened to my shorts?”

Still, as the shock wore off, she had to admit- if only to herself- she looked kind of cute. She turned to the side and stuck her butt out a little. Blushing, she put a finger in her mouth, trying to look innocent. The girl in the mirror looked absolutely adorable!

She turned all the way around and looked over her shoulder and wiggled her hips; watching as well as hearing the enlarged diaper as every movement became exaggerated. She turned back and pressed her pointer fingers into her cheeks, giving herself dimples. Pretending to be shy, she pulled down the hem of her shirt and looked down at her feet, looking like a naughty little girl who’d broken a vase or something.

She toyed with the idea of just plopping on the floor, legs spread wide and sucking her thumb. How would she look then? Kind of cute, she bet. More than ‘kind of’ cute.

Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad once she got used to it.

“Okay, baby!” Mom opened the door. Correction: It was ‘Closet Mommy’, this universe’s version of her mother.

Reflexively, Wendy’s hands shot down beneath her waist. She wasn’t used to it! Definitely not used to it!

Had she been wearing panties, she would have been better able to conceal them with her body. Bend over, squeeze her knees together, and spread her hands out to obfuscate the entirety of her underwear.

This universe’s underwear made all of the above much more difficult. The sides and back bulged and bunched out so that bending in any way just left an angle exposed; she couldn’t really close her legs all the way, and had to spread her feet out just to angle her knees so that they barely touched, not to mention her dainty hands were not even close to the task of covering the entirety of the diaper’s front side.

Of course, had she been in just her underwear, she might not have reacted that way to her Mom walking in on her. It was just underwear. Did diapers count as underwear? The would-be lawyer in her couldn’t help but wonder alongside her blushy embarrassment and panic.

“EEP!” She squeaked. “Mom! Private!”

Mommy didn’t seem to hear her, or at least made no effort to fix it. “Ready to go for a jog with Mommy?” In one fell swoop, she scooped Wendy off her feet and onto her hip. Wendy’s feet and arms wrapped around the only-slightly older woman’s waist and shoulder.

In hindsight being picked up by her father hadn’t overly startled Wendy. Howard Merts was still bigger and stronger than either his wife or his daughter. It wasn’t all that jarring or unbelievable that he could toss her over his shoulder or carry her on his hip; especially not one that had been de-aged over two decades.

Jody Merts, by contrast, was of an almost identical body type to Wendy, and her ‘Closet Mommy’ variation seemed even more like Wendy’s slightly older sister. Yet it seemed just as easy and natural for her to pick Wendy up off the floor.

“Oh wow,” Mommy said. “Somebody’s getting heavy!”

“You have no idea,” Wendy replied, knowing that it wouldn’t be properly understood.

“Whatchoo doin’?” Closet Mommy cooed. “Whose ‘dat baby? Whose ‘dat baby?” She didn’t seem to notice or care that Wendy’s face was pink enough to be mistaken for a sunburn.

Unconsciously, Wendy shifted her weight in her other mother’s arms. With equal automaticity, Closet Mommy shifted Wendy and patted her bottom. “Hmm? She looked at Wendy’s diaper and twisted her mouth. “Howard!” she called. “Come in here, I’ve got to tell you something!”

Closet Daddy sauntered in, casually. “What’s up?”

“You forgot to put her shorts back on again,” Mommy said.

Back on? A lightbulb clicked in Wendy’s brain. She’d gone to the bathroom before crossing over. Had that translated to her getting her diaper changed over on this side of the rip?

“It’s a nice day out,” Daddy shrugged. “I know I wouldn’t wear pants if I could get away with it.”

“No shoes, either.”

“She’s gonna be in the stroller most of the time. Let her wiggle her toes.” Daddy smirked. “I know you said she’s a whiz at walking, but you’re not gonna make her jog with you? I don’t think she’s quite ready for that.” He smiled, warmly. “Did you really just call me in here because I didn’t put her clothes back on after changing?”

Mommy looked back in the mirror. “Oh yeah. No, I didn’t.” She placed Wendy back on the carpet and stood back up. “Remember when I told you about her walking earlier?”

“Yeah?” Daddy seemed dubious.

“I just came in,” Mommy gushed, “and you won’t believe who I saw staring at her reflection in the mirror!”

Daddy guffawed. “No kidding!”

“She was standing up, too! All by herself!”

“I believe it,” Daddy said, trying to sound nonchalant. “Ten months isn’t too young to start walking.”

“It’s not,” Mommy agreed, “but it’s still incredibly early. Very top percentile. And I swear she was looking at herself in the mirror. That isn’t supposed to happen until at least fifteen months! That’s super advanced!”

Even here, her mother was helicopter parenting and getting excited that her daughter was ‘advanced’. “Really?” Wendy rolled her eyes. At least on this side of the rip she could meet those expectations.

“Come on,” Mommy cooed. “Show Daddy! Stand up! Stand up!” She made a raising motion with her hands. “You can do it.”

Wendy rolled over onto her hands and knees. She could do it. Easily. She made to gather her legs up under her and push herself up And stopped. A terrible thought occurred to her: Putting together that baby puzzle so fast had resulted in her real parents thinking she was a super whiz.

It might be easy to meet expectations for a ten month old, but what would that mean for her later that day when she was twenty-two again? Best to play it safe.

She jerked her head upward and rocked back on her knees a little bit; doing her best impression of a child who had seen standing up but hadn’t gotten the hang of it.

Closet Mommy looked disappointed. “She was doing it just a minute ago. Maybe if I move her to her crib? Give her something to pull-up on.”

“She’s not even one and already you’re talking about Pull-Ups.” Daddy joked.

“Howard…”

For good measure, Wendy took the time to crawl away from her crib straight into the middle of the floor. Let them see her crawling. Let them be comfortable with her crawling.

Closet Daddy put his hand on Closet Mommy’s shoulder. “I know you’re excited,” he said. “I am too. But it’s perfectly natural for kids her age to get things on accident, and then go back. Two steps forward, one crawl back, or something like that. Nobody learns in a straight line; especially not babies.”

Mommy sighed. “You’re right.”

“As usual.”

“Don’t push it.” It didn’t stop Mommy from smiling. She stepped over to Wendy and picked the girl back up. “I’m sorry, baby. Mommy didn’t mean to pressure you,” she gave her a kiss on the forehead. “You do you in your own time. No rush. We’ll practice later, but it’ll be at your own pace.”

One universe or another, Jody Merts was still Jody Merts. “Now about her pants…”

“Let her enjoy being a baby,” Daddy said. “She only gets to do it once.” If only he knew the irony of that statement. Perhaps it was best that he didn’t…

Mommy looked back to the not-so-little girl in her arms and back to her husband. “It’s a good thing you’re both so cute and I don’t want to put pants back on a wiggly baby.” She gave him a peck on the lips and then strolled over to Wendy. “Come on, sugar booger,” she said. “Let’s go for a walk.”

Finally!

“Say bye bye to Daddy, Wendy.”

“Bye, Daddy,” Wendy said.

Mommy reached across and grabbed Wendy by the wrist. “Bye bye, Daddy,” she said in a cutesy high pitched voice, as if speaking for ‘Baby’ Wendy. “See you after our walk.” Wendy found her hand being waved for her.

Daddy gave both of them a kiss. Mommy again on the lips, and Wendy on the cheek. “I slipped the diaper bag in the back of the stroller and parked it in front.”

“Thank you, dear.”

“Of course.” Daddy replied.

Mommy didn’t reply, though Wendy sensed it had more to do with letting him get the last word in than out of anything remotely resembling negative vibes.

The garage door was open, and the stroller was already parked out in the driveway facing the street. Daddy had definitely done prep work. The only thing Wendy gained from being taken outside via the garage was a free peek inside Mommy’s car and the absolutely gigantic baby seat in the back of it.

The stroller itself was a jogging stroller, shiny black with a hot pink trim on the sides and cushions.There was a canopy overhead, but the reclined ramp for the legs stuck out in the sun. By Wendy’s reckoning, it was only slightly bigger than a regular stroller, and functionally was a modified wheelchair, or an infantilized version of something that a disabled person might sit in.

If it were to scale up completely, Wendy reckoned, her Mommy wouldn’t be able to reach the handlebar to push her. Same with the carseat. How’d anybody fit that behemoth in there?

This version of her mother wasn’t a middle aged greying school teacher. She was practically in her prime. She looked to be in her late twenties, early thirties at most. Wendy did some mental math. Twenty-nine. If everything was to scale, her mom was twenty-nine.

Point being even a twenty-nine year old woman couldn’t fit that giant car seat in there. Even if it were as light to her as Wendy the darn thing looked too bulky to squeeze in. It was a matter of volume. Not weight.

“Maybe not everything grows.” Wendy murmured to herself. Then she remembered how the pack of diapers her mom had brought in had started off as Size 3, then ballooned out to fit her. Technically she was still wearing Size 3 if the number on the diaper’s front could be believed. “Maybe the baby stuff grows just enough to fit me when I’m here and…shrinks when I’m gone?”

“That’s right,” Mommy cooed. “We’re goin’ on a jog!”

Closet Mommy was less adept at sussing out what Wendy said than her male counterpart. This might have been a blessing of sorts, since the next few words out of Wendy’s mouth were the kind of thing that her real Mom would definitely have scolded her for at the very least.

A jogger, an attractive one too, had run right across their path, and Wendy instinctively kicked and cussed in a futile attempt not to be seen in just a shirt and diaper.

She wasn’t seen, however. Or rather, she wasn’t noticed. The jogger didn’t even turn his head to the side. To everyone, not just her parents, Wendy was just another infant. And as this universe’s equivalent of her father said, who cared if someone saw a baby in just their diaper? “Oh you always get so excited when you see your stroller,” Mommy cooed to her while she buckled Wendy in.

Wendy exhaled and leaned back in the stroller and her Mommy’s legs disappeared out of view. The stroller started moving. “Just a baby here,” she told herself. “That’s it. Nothing to worry about. Back in the real world, I’m going jogging with my mother. This is the same thing,” she looked again at the Pampers she was wearing, “Only different.”

Experimentally, she poked at the release button on the stroller’s harness. It was big and bright and red; impossible to miss. “Hmm…” she said when it didn’t move. She’d tapped it lightly enough, not wanting to accidentally unbuckle herself, but the button didn’t so much as wiggle.

She pushed down harder. The big red circle between her legs didn’t so much as indent. Even harder, she tried again and got nothing. It was almost as if the release didn’t exist and someone had painted a red dot on solid tempered steel to make her think there was a button there.

Her hands slid up to the latch buckle over her chest. Silently, she grunted trying to press down on the release, pinching at the tops and bottoms to cause the harness to separate. She got nothing for her trouble behind slightly aching fingers.

Interesting. Evidently, the equipment was sturdy enough so that she could only interact with it on the level that an actual ten-month old child could. It made sense, in a way. It wouldn’t do to have a crib that she couldn’t tilt over or a changing table that collapsed under her weight.

Curiosity sated for the moment, Wendy leaned back in her stroller and absorbed everything going on around her.

With the sidewalk zooming past along her periphery, slowly, Wendy started taking in her surroundings. She knew this route. It led to a park with a decent fitness trail and a playground for little kids. It was only about half a mile from their house. The trip would be even easier now that Wendy didn’t have to walk.

The same houses that had been part of the background of her life went by. Same birdbaths. Same yards. Same street corners. Everything was the same, save for her and her parents.

“Hi Jody!” A neighbor waved. “Good day for a jog with the little one!”

“You bet, Kristen!” Mommy said. “Gotta lose that baby weight somehow!”

“Have a good one! I’m out here in the weeds. Maybe I’ll see you on your way back.”

“Maybe! Ta-ta!”

Remembering breakfast, Wendy started taking mental notes. Both her real and her Closet Mommy had gone grocery shopping first thing in the morning and for a jog soon after. Her father remembered having instant oatmeal for breakfast with her, even if she remembered it as her Daddy playing silly games with her in her high chair. It stood to reason that when she got back, Mom would remember the neighbors, passerby and such on her and Mommy’s stroller trip.

“Mommy?” Wendy called out. She got no response. “Mommy?” she called again. Only the light grinding sound of rubber on pavement and the pounding of Closet Mommy’s jogging footsteps came in reply. “Mommy!” Wendy kicked her feet bare, making the stroller jiggle beneath her.

Finally, the stroller slowed to a stop, and Mommy peered around the front. “Yes, Wendy?”

“Who was that?” Wendy thumbed back. “The neighbor? That you talked to? Working on her garden?” Best to find out now and hope she was a better study in this situation than in Law School.

“Hold on, cupcake,” Closet Mommy said. When she came back around, she was already nose down in the diaper bag looking for something. “Your father just changed you,” she said. “And he fed you breakfast. It’s still kind of hot out… So….,” she produced a bottle of apple juice. “Thirsty?”

Wendy wasn’t thirsty. Not at all. Yet her throat felt incredibly parched seeing the bottle of amber liquid slosh around in her Mommy’s hand. Or more accurately, her tongue desperately craved the sweet stuff spread upon it and the pleasurable sensation of it sliding down her throat. She reached forward and the younger version of her mother met her more than halfway. “Good girl! Drink up.”

Wendy grabbed the bottle and stared at it like it was a Rubik’’s Cube. Even that metaphor fell short for the ex-Gifted kid; she’d know where to start on a Rubik’s Cube. It had been decades since she’d last drank from a baby bottle; so far back that she didn’t actually remember. Not that she needed instructions, it was literally so easy a baby could do it.

It just seemed so…foreign to her.

Gingerly she slid the rubber nipple between her lips, taking a moment to half-chew the teat just to see what it felt like. She kept adjusting her hands, too, trying to get comfortable. Should she hold her hands parallel to each other or stack them along the edge of the bottle like she was playing a clarinet? Should she just hold it one handed and let the other arm droop to the side?

In a way it was less about the mechanics of the thing and more about getting comfortable with it, like slowly wading into a pool. The first genuine pull on the nipple was like cannonballing into the deep end! Just one squirt of sweet sweet juice made her shudder in surprise. In spite of herself, Wendy let out a nervous giggle. What was she so worried about?

It was just a baby bottle! She didn’t know whether to feel sillier for her hesitation or at her feeling of accomplishment once she’d taken a sip from it. Soon enough, she’d gotten over herself and was drinking in earnest.

A few more sucks, and the law student managed to work up a steady rhythm. Greedily her mouth gulped the delicious juice down without hesitation as though it had suckled all its life. It had an oddly calming effect on her. Meanwhile her eyes scanned the horizon and periphery, looking at neighbors and strangers.

Speaking of ‘strange’, Wendy thought it passingly odd that there were no other giant babies. No twenty-something’s in Huggies or teenagers being swaddled up. No people who looked like her Mommy or Daddy in Easy-Ups.

The package of diapers she’d seen had a picture of a regular baby on it, not one that looked like her. It might make sense, in that case, if she was the only baby her size here. She was the only person from the real world in this place; she was the intruder.

If the reality she’d come from was the real world? What did that make this one? Her dream world? Her fantasy world? Such an admittance left a taste in her mouth that even the apple juice couldn’t cover up. Was this a bizarre form of time travel or something? That still didn’t feel right. ‘Closet Universe’ would have to do.

“Hi Jody!”

“Hi Nick.”

Evidently, the jogger that had made Wendy squirm in the driveway was named Nick. He’d stopped jogging. They’d caught up.

“Lookin’ good, you two.” Sweaty and red faced he bent over and looked the babied girl in the eye. “Hey, Wendy!”

“Hi Mistuh Nick,” Mommy answered for her in a childish lisp and falsetto.

The jogger stood up. “You are in great shape,” he said, indicating the stroller. “Especially pushing that.”

“Natural weight training,” the younger version of her mother said. “Sort of. You know.”

“Gotta get me one of those,” he panted, hands resting on his knees. “Seems like great conditioning.”

“If you ever wanna take a turn,” Mommy joked, “just let me know. I’ll let you borrow her for an hour.”

“I might take you up on that offer.”
“Okay. But it’s only for a limited time. Wendy here toddled off to her bedroom so fast that I thought she was a tiny sprinter.”

Wendy finished draining the bottle of apple juice. “How old are you anyway?” she asked the jogger. This was born out of curiosity of multiple types. “And are you seeing anyone?” If he looked like this in the real world, he might be worth getting to know.

“See what I mean?” Closet Mommy said to the jogger. “Babies make great personal trainers. If the stroller stays still too long they let you know. The stroller started picking up speed again. “See you around Nick!”

“You too, Jody!”

And with that the exchange was done. Pure fluff disguised as human interaction. For something often referred to as ‘small talk’ it was the biggest people who tended to make it the most.

Wendy didn’t have to wait much longer to get to where Closet Mommy was taking her. There at the top of a hill, about half a mile away from her house, stood the park. It was a quaint little suburban thing. The perimeter was surrounded by a cool white metal fence arranged to look like the idealistic wooden white picket. It was short enough that anyone older than six or seven could peer over it with ease. Most adults could likely hop the fence in one go if they were even moderately athletic or properly motivated. The fence was mostly for aesthetics, if anything.

That and to keep wandering toddlers penned in. The catch lever on the front entrance meant that anyone could hypothetically go inside the playground. To get out, an adult would have to reach over from the inside and pull the lever again to make the gate swing open. “Adult” was something of an overstatement. That playground had been around for a long time, and Wendy had been able to reach the latch from the inside since she was six or seven by standing on her tiptoes.

Of course, she’d quickly lost interest in the playground by the time she was six or seven. That playground wasn’t built with elementary schoolers in mind. Amongst the grass and mulch scattered around, most of the play equipment was designed with children too young to be Kindergarteners in mind: Rainbow colored spring ponies, swings with baby bucket seats, crawl tunnels, sand boxes, and balance beams that were no more than an inch off the ground. The large tic-tac-toe board made of bright blue steel pipes and yellow cylinders that rotated based on whether a player wanted an X or an O got more use because little kids liked spinning things than anyone wanting to play an outdoor version of a scratch paper game. The most ‘grown-up’ piece of equipment was a purple jungle gym with a firepole, several ladders, and monkey bars. Even then, it was low enough that Wendy could likely pull herself up to the top of the gym with just a slight running start.

Anyone whose age was in the double digits had no business on that playground lest they were babysitting. That’s why the fence was so short. It was designed not to keep adults out but to keep curious wandering toddlers and babies in.

Wendy thought of her enlarged not-quite-undies and wondered, “If I walked over to the fence, would it get taller?”

She was going to get the chance to find out. “We’re heeeeere,” Mommy sang, interrupting her reverie. “Ready to play?”

“Play?”

On any other day in any other reality, Wendy and her mother would have made the jog this far, and then her mother, frustratingly competitive, would have them run along the red dirt fitness trail, stopping only to use the exercise equipment. The playground near the beginning of the trail was more of a landmark than any kind facility Wendy was meant to use.

Under normal circumstances it served as a marker. Seeing it once meant that the run was about to start in earnest. Seeing it twice meant the park trail was looping back around and the run was almost over. Under normal circumstances it wasn’t the reason Wendy or her mother came to this place. Under normal circumstances, people didn’t think Wendy wasn’t quite a year old.

Speaking of one-year-olds, Wendy wasn’t the only baby at the playground, but she was easily the biggest. Toddlers and preschoolers chased each other around a slide, giggling at the thrill of pursuit.

“Mommy! Mommy! Look at me! Look at me!”

A woman on a metal bench sat with a little blob of a newborn in her lap. “I’m looking! I’m looking!” she called back to her preschooler. “Very good Emily! Looks super fun!”

“It is!”

A few regarded the bigger than average stroller and its occupant’s approach, but just like with the jogger or the neighbors along the way, it was more of an unconscious reaction to movement on their periphery than seeing anything wrong.

“I know how much you love the playground!” Mommy chriped.

Wendy inhaled sharply. Logically, Wendy knew, no one would think anything would be weird about her showing up dressed as she was. Logically, Wendy shouldn’t have been in this situation to begin with. “Hm? No. That’s okay, Mommy. You can run on the trail. I’ll just stay here and you can push-”

Diaper bag slung confidently over her shoulder, Closet Mommy kept right on unbuckling Wendy out of the stroller. She had no trouble at all working the harness and buckles. The releases seemed downright flimsy and user friendly compared to Wendy’s earlier attempt. “Let’s go, babykins!” Inhumanly powerful hands scooped Wendy up under the armpits and swung her out into the grass. “Let’s play!”

Staring down at her feet, she wiggled her toes and took a step forward. She’d barely made it five steps when she heard her other mother exclaim! “Awww! You’re doing it! You’re doing it! That’s my girl!”

“Shit!” Wendy cursed. She’d forgotten she was supposed to be a crawler! Remembering herself, she splayed her arms out and started wobbling her knees, like she was pretending she was on a highwire and losing her balance. “Whoah-whoah-whoah!” she feigned.

The girl inhaled and closed her eyes. All she’d have to do is buckle her knees and let gravity and the pillow strapped to her hips do the rest. She could even just lower herself to the ground fast, keeping one leg beneath her and use her hands to cushion her fall even more.

A pair of impossibly strong hands caught her beneath the armpits instead. Her Closet Mommy’s incredibly fast reaction time and strength stopped her planned pratfall. “Ooops! Your little sprint back home might have tuckered your little leg muscles out.”

“Yeah,” Wendy grumbled. “Sure. Let’s go with that.” Wendy huffed. This wasn’t nearly as bad as her regular mother. Still off putting.

“Or maybe the ground is a little uneven,” her mother said. “Doesn’t matter! Mommy’s got ya.” Wendy sighed and braced herself, ready to be picked up and carried again. Instead her wrists were gently grabbed and sent skyward. “Come on. You can do this, baby!”

The young lady’s nostrils flared. Even on this side of the rip, her mother was trying to control everything. At least this would mean that her mother would remember having a perfectly average conversation on their jog back in the real world.

“Okay. Fine.” Like a puppet with its strings cut, Wendy tromped forward, throwing all of her weight into each foot step, practically throwing herself to the ground. She had to sell the idea that she lacked the balance, coordination or muscle tone to keep herself standing. Mommy added to the effect. Not letting her go, and still holding her up, gently by the wrists.

Wendy took another step. And another. And another. “Heh.” Wendy laughed. “Heh. Heheh!” The giggles started coming more freely. The excitement and happy feelings were starting to come with it. In a weird way it was kind of fun. She was getting to throw all of her weight around and it was having zero impact.

“That’s a girl!” Mommy cheered. “There we go! You’re doing it! You’re walking!”

“Look!” The woman with the newborn in her lap pointed. “That baby’s learning to walk! That’ll be you someday. Just like your big sister.”

Wendy sucked on her lips so hard, she felt her face practically implode. The woman pointing at her hammered home again exactly how she was dressed and what she looked like.

It was a young mother, too. Maybe only a year or so older than Wendy herself. Even more so than the attractive jogger, it was a reminder that Wendy should be changing diapers if she was thinking about them at all, not wearing them.

“Let me go! Let me go!” Wendy said, trying to drop all of her weight down to the ground. Had to crawl! Had to crawl! She could look smaller if she crawled. Picking up would be better, though. She could use her mother’s arms as a kind of shield. “Pick me up! Pick me up!”

The ground came away from her feet, and Wendy was back comfortably on Mommy’s hip. “Better?” Mommy asked. “Better.” Clearly, Mommy didn’t need a response. Wendy just hugged the woman with all her might, as if afraid she might slip and plummet to her doom dozens of inches below.

“Okay, baby!” Closet Mommy said. “You’re fine. You’re fine. Poor little thing’s legs must be getting tuckered out.” She clung to Mommy as if the playground were an ocean, the young mother with the preschooler and newborn was a shark, and the de-aged version of her mother was the single liferaft.

“Thank you,” Wendy mumbled, grimacing as the rustle of the Pampers filled her ears like the crunching of potato chips.

“Okay, baby! Okay! You’re fine!” Mommy soothed. “You did such a good job! Such a good job! Let’s do the slide!”

“Yeah,” Wendy nodded. “The slide. Nice, boring slide.” The fact that it was on the other side of the playground figured more into Wendy’s internal calculus than how much she’d enjoy it. In that moment, Wendy needed distance, quiet, and relief, more than she needed enjoyment.

Wendy was carried off to a toddler slide, bright yellow and made of thick sturdy plastic. The universe seemed to hold a magnifying glass up to it as they approached. It was more than just perspective, Wendy was sure, that made the baby slide seem to inflate upon approach. Like her stroller, it was bigger than the normal fair, coming up to Mommy’s shoulder, but not so much as to dwarf the adults. This universe’s natural accomodation for her size made exact scaling impossible.

If her crib and changing table back in her nursery were as big to her as a regular baby’s, they’d dwarf the parents too. Instead, things got just big enough to where they’d fit and accommodate.

Her crib. Her changing table. Her nursery.

Wendy shook the thoughts out of her mind. “I guess that answers my question about the fence…”

“Okay,” Mommy said, setting Wendy back down on her feet. “Let’s try climbing.”

Wendy huffed. “Really?”

Mommy placed Wendy’s hands on the slide’s ladder railing. “Go for it sugar, booger. Try it!”

Still pushing.

Always pushing.

“Don’t worry, you won’t fall. Mommy will catch you.”

The law student sighed to herself, and lifted her leg. One thing that had scaled decently was the size of the steps. Whomever had designed this slide didn’t want little feet getting caught in the rungs, and Wendy had to compensate by lifting her knee almost past her waist for each rung. Her movements were slow, deliberate, and exaggerated, just like a real baby. The light papery crinkle coming from beneath her with every rung she climbed didn’t make her feel any more grown-up.

“I’m glad none of my friends can see this.”

“Up-up-up!” Mommy cheered, giving Wendy a tiny nudge on her bottom. “That’s a girl!”

Wendy finished climbing the slide and sat down at the top. “Fine. I’m on the stupid slide,” she whined. On the plus side, the railings on the slide were high enough that no one could tell that she wasn’t wearing any pants from the side. Anyone from behind or front could plainly see what she was and wasn’t wearing, however. Best not to think about that, she concluded.

Closet Mommy wasn’t done. She went to the extra trouble of reaching up and positioning Wendy’s hands so that they were gripping the railing… “Now hold on tight while Mommy runs around.”

Wendy blew air out her lips like, flapping them like a horse as the younger version of her mother trotted around to the bottom of the slide. The woman’s eyes never left Wendy. “Come on, sweety! Push!” She bent her knees and squatted, almost like a catcher at a baseball game; or someone preparing themselves to catch a cannonball “You can do it! Mommy’s got you. Come to Mommy!”

It was just a slide. A plastic ramp with a few wavy dips in it. Super easy, barely an inconvenience. But for the less than two seconds it took for her to skid down the slide, Wendy felt a rush greater than anything she could remember. ‘WOOOOOOOOOOO!” She skidded, with the wind in her hair, plummeting safely into her Mommy’s arms!

“What?! The fudge?! Was that?!” Safely down at the bottom of the slide, she looked back over her shoulder at the top of the slide. Even scaled up slightly there was no way, no rational explanation as to why Wendy should feel as stupidly giddy as she did right now. She’d felt calmer, more bored, getting off rides at Disney!

She’d never done serious drugs, but Wendy didn’t think she was far off the mark if she drew parallels to cocaine or speed. How in the hell…?

Closet Mommy asked the question that Wendy had secretly hoped she’d ask. “Do you wanna do it again?”

“Heck yes I do!” Wendy shrieked.

For once Mommy understood. “Sounds like a yes to me!”

The thrill didn’t diminish the second time. Nor the third. Nor the fourth. It was so addictive that she momentarily forgot she was supposed to be embarrassed. Enough so that she had to tense and restrain herself to climb the ladder ‘like a baby’ and let her mother carry her back around to the beginning after she plummeted safely to the ground.

The law of diminishing returns wasn’t applying in his instance. It was the perfect mix of certain death and perfect safety.

Not so perfect that Wendy didn’t want to experiment. “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Closet Mommy had just placed Wendy at the top of the slide and let go when Wendy had decided to fling herself down once more, this time without Mommy at the bottom Her emotions spiked, her legs kicked in excitement. Her thoughts managed to steady herself.

As expected, the worst that happened was that Wendy went careening harmlessly down the slide and landed butt first in the grass, her oversized padding doing more than enough to cushion the fall. She really could have pulled off that pratfall. The sudden rush, the minute free fall and millisecond of airtime really added something to the experience, too. So pleased was she that Wendy let out a self satisfied titter. “Again!”

WOOMF!

Wendy was bowled over sideways, her ears ringing, her face planted in the sod and starting to tear up. She felt like she’d just been hit with a truck. “Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!” A high pitched little voice squealed apologies at her. “Sorry little baby!”

She pushed herself back up, more stunned than anything, and her eyes followed the voice. A chubby faced little boy with curly brown hair- couldn’t have been older than four-kept apologizing profusely to her. “Sorry! Sorry! I’m sorry!”

“Wendy!” Closet Mommy shrieked. She was on her knees and wrapping Wendy up in a hug not half a second later. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?” She started brushing off bits of dirt out of Wendy’s hair, and checking her for cuts and bruises like an ace paramedic.

“I…I…” Wendy stuttered. “I don’t know…?”

Another woman, the preschooler’s mother, dashed up. “Brennan! I told you you need to be careful and look where you’re going. You could have hurt this little girl!” She made eye contact with Mommy. “I’m so sorry, ma’am. Is she hurt?”

Mommy picked Wendy back up and finished dusting the girl off. The right side of her shirt was more than a bit smudged, but otherwise she was clean. “I think she’s just a little stunned, is all,” the strong woman replied.

A little stunned was underselling how Wendy felt. She was more than a little stunned. Physically she felt like she’d been sucker punched by a professional boxer. Intellectually she was completely rattled.

How had a child done that to her? He was literally small enough that Wendy was taller than him propped up on her knees. If she put her hand on top of his head, the kid’s arms wouldn’t manage to reach her face. But he’d plowed over her like he was a Great Dane and her head was just starting to stop spinning.

“It’s not just my parents who are stronger than me,” Wendy said to herself. “It’s not even just the adults…”

The conversation continued without her. “Brennan, did you say you’re sorry?”

The child hung his head in practiced shame. “Yes ma’am.”

“It’s true,” Closet Mommy said. “I heard him. It was just an accident.” She nuzzled Wendy. “Someone went down the slide without waiting for Mommy to catch her, too!” her voice took on that squeaky cutesy motherese quality.

“No harm done, then.” The other mother said.

Closet Mommy gave Wendy an extra hug. “No harm done.” She punctuated the moment by giving her daughter a kiss on the forehead. “Hugs and kisses. Hugs and kisses. Make the baby feel all better.”

Quite suddenly, Wendy did start to feel better. Her breathing was slowing and her nerves became less frayed. This kind of cuddly, hugging, kissing, unabashed unconditional affection wasn’t something that her mother normally did. Not in a long time. To be fair to her mother, women didn’t normally kiss their twenty-something’s boo-boos. Maybe they should, though. Sometimes kissing boo-boos really did make things better.

Wendy waited for the two figures in the distance to retreat. She didn’t want them to feel bad for what she was about to ask. “Mommy,” Wendy started to whine. “I think I wanna go back-”

“Do you wanna go on the swings?”

Wendy twisted around in her younger mother’s arms and took the swingset in. By her assessment, there was a nearly zero chance that any rowdy kids would accidentally bulldoze her. It looked safe. More to the point, the other babies-the real babies-seemed to be enjoying themselves. “Yeah,” she said. “Yeah. Alright.”

This might have been a good thing as the younger, fitter version of her mother had already started walking over to the swing set. “I can tell someone is gonna like the swings! Yes she will! Yes she will!”

Positioned as she was on her mother’s hip, Wendy got a good look at the retreating slide shrinking as she was carried away from it. The curly haired boy had gotten over the accident as quickly as Wendy and was back to playing. By the time little Brennan started climbing the slide, it was a mountain that even a three year old could scale with ease.

Conversely, the nearest empty bucket seat seat on the swingset seemed to engorge itself upon approach, the seat widening while the chains thickened and shortened themselves.

In no time at all, Wendy found herself threaded into a bucket seat harness with a chain just short enough that her feet didn’t touch the ground. She couldn’t remember the last time she sat in anything with her feet dangling so. Maybe at a carnival or theme park? The giant suspended swing rides came to mind, but this felt different to her. Those rides seemed big. This just made the young woman feel awfully small.

She wondered how her real mother would remember today. Would there be memories of a harmless collision with a fellow jogger on one of the exercise equipment, or just of a normal pass through the fitness trail? After all, babies falling over each other while on the playing ground was nothing out of the ordinary, if not even expected. Evidently, not every event translated perfectly from one world to the other. The lines were blurry, and the finer details easily lost in translation.

“Well,” Wendy said, looking down at herself “at least something’s covering my diaper.” It didn’t, not really. Now, it just looked like she was wearing one made of black leather. Even then, the little edges of her Pampers peeked out of all the edges.

Wendy’s quips lasted only as long as it took Mommy. “Here. We. Go!”

It was gentle, truth be told. She didn’t go more than a few feet away before reaching the apex of her first push, but in the moment Wendy felt like she was having the most fun humanly possible without threatening cardiac arrest! The first of many giggling screams rocketed out of the back of her throat just in time.

With every swing, she found herself weightless for a split second, her center of gravity shifting inside the bulky seat and in her shirt. With every swing, the sense of impending fall came back renewed, fresh and intact no matter how many times it had just been fulfilled. With every swing, she was still enough to cast a look down at her surroundings.

Save for the very end, the slide had been something of a roller coaster. Being pushed by Mommy was just this side of bungee jumping. Between spurts of excited chortling, Wendy started to greedily catalog the various bits of playground equipment. The simple push merry-go-round might feel like a high speed tilt-a-whirl. The spring ponies might replicate the rush of the Kentucky Derby as far as this universe was concerned. She was probably too little to effectively make use of the teeter totter…

She’d been thinking too small, Wendy decided. She could do more than bypass awkward conversations with her mother and make study guides. She could also get the rush of a theme park without having to pay a dime in either gas money or admission. Double the rush, actually. These sensations never seemed to quell down. No wonders playing toddlers always seem to run on stimulants.

Throwing her hands up to the sky, Wendy crowed “I’m Queen of the…” The swing backed up and Wendy felt the gentle yet strong palms of her mother’s hands on her back. . “Woooooorld?!” The last word came out as a piercing shriek.

Closet Mommy had started off slow and easy, but had built herself into a rhythm. Comparative inhuman strength, and Wendy’s own momentum sent her flying into the atmosphere; or so it felt.

More than the scream came out of Wendy on that push. From down below, Wendy felt a little trickle of urine spilled out. Shock and excitement compounded with surprise so that Wendy lost control and started wetting her pants. What began as a spurt became a trickle. Muscles relaxed and released and the trickle became a full steady stream. And all of it was happening below the waist. “Wah! I’m peeing!”

Quickly, very quickly, Wendy felt her seat become wet and soaking as her bladder emptied itself and her Pampers filled. “Mommy!” she shrieked. “I peed! I peed!” She’d barely felt it start, and had been too shocked to try and stop it.

At three whole pushes on the swing, the whole ordeal had both been relatively quick and excruciatingly long.

“Yay! Baby loves the swings! It’s her favorite part! Isn’t it?”

Something clicked in Wendy’s brain. She’d peed her pants, pissed herself, wet her diaper…and nobody noticed or cared. Oh yeah. As far as the people at the park were concerned there was nothing to be embarrassed about. Peeing themselves is just what ten-month-olds did. That’s why diapers were invented in the first place.

More importantly, despite her accident bringing her mood down, the swing was as thrilling as before. The diaper was doing a fair job of soaking up the moisture, too. A few more pushes and Wendy realized she didn’t notice the wet feeling unless she actively thought about it.

Wet pants? No one cares? Thrill ride swing set? Fair trade.

“Does baby love the swings?” Mommy repeated.

“Uh-huh!” Like a drunk in the bathroom, Wendy had looked down at herself, taken a mental inventory of everything around her and realized that she didn’t care overmuch at how embarrassed she should be. There didn’t seem to be enough brain time available to handle both her accident and the massive surge of dopamine the swing was giving her. Within two minutes of her accident she was completely over her embarrassment. As long as her normal mother didn’t remember her peeing her pants, everything would be fine. Chances are this would just be remembered as a bathroom break.

Just as Wendy was feeling like she’d gotten the swing of things-pun intended-another unexpected wrinkle presented itself.

“Hi Mrs. Merts,” an unfamiliar woman said. Wendy jolted a little at the voice. She’d been so caught up with the thrill of being flung through the air, the rest of the world had blurred out a bit, leaving only Mommy and her. It didn’t help that the new woman had circled around from behind and that Wendy was in a decidedly fixed location. Luckily, her mother absentmindedly dialed down the force she used, turning her pushes into gentle nudges as she turned toward the newcomer.

The newcomer approached with a baby boy, a real one, in her arms. Wendy wouldn’t have given either a second thought if she hadn’t called on Closet Mommy by name. The two grown-ups knowing each other made Wendy feel a tinge skittish; like she should know the other woman, too.

“Candice,” Closet Mommy laughed, “It’s Sunday. Jody’s fine.” Candice? Who did her parents know named Candice? Wendy quickly realized that as grown as she really was, she still mentally categorized all of her parents’ friends as ‘Mister’ or ‘Miss’.

Comfortably, the newcomer took the spot next to Wendy’s Mommy and slid her child into the baby seat. He looked like he was a year, at best. Probably younger. “You got my daughter through third grade. You’re always going to be Mrs. Merts to me.”

“Where is Missy, anyways?” Mommy asked.

Mommy’s friend started pushing her baby and waited for him to start making the exact kind of happy noises that Wendy had been making moments ago before answering. “She’s having a daddy daughter day with Maurice. So it’s just me and little Petey. Thought we’d get some fresh air.”

“Same with me and Wendy.”

Wendy’s face stiffened. “Petey? Like Peter? From college? How was that possible? It wasn’t. It just wasn’t.” She turned her head and tried to get a better look at the new child; to see past the baby fat and wispy hair, maybe find an identifying feature. Baby faces were so different from adult faces. All babies looked basically the same, though, with chubby cheeks and big eyes, and soft, short, fine hair. It wasn’t until later that bone structure started to define itself. If not for the overalls and lack of anything pink or frilly, ‘Petey’ could have very well passed for ‘Petunia’.

Did Peter- Wendy’s Peter-have any moles or identifying features? Not that she could remember. The constant motion wasn’t helping, either. She’d get a blur here or a blur there, getting barely a glimpse at the apex of each swing.

Her pleas of asking her mother to slow down or speed up so that she and the baby in the swing beside her could more sync up fell on uncomprehending, unlistening ears.

Baby Petey kept giggling and clapping his hands. The mothers kept talking. “Petey! Petey! Look at me! Look at me! Petey! Pete! Peter! Over here!” The baby in the swing turned his head and looked at her, but there was no further memory or recognition that she could see. He was responding to stimulus and a child’s natural curiosity, nothing more.

It took only one more push on the swing for the kid to completely ignore her.

“If I didn’t know any better,” Closet Mommy remarked, “I’d say Wendy is trying to get Petey’s attention.”

“Yeah,” the other mother agreed with a chuckle. “Sure seems that way. Missy is exactly like that at home, always trying to get him to play tea time. Too bad kids don’t really start to play together until they’re closer to two, though.”

“That’s true,”

Wendy kept trying to figure this out. Did Peter, Wendy’s Peter that is, have an older sister? She didn’t know! He’d never talked about his family or their names in depth either. What college kid did among peers? It was enough for her to want to yank her hair out!

“I think she might just be getting a bit overstimulated,” Mommy said to the other woman. As quickly as the fun had started, the swing started to slow and Mommy picked her up out of the bucket seat.

The young woman’s priorities and focus shifted as soon as the swing started to slow back down. “Heeeeeey!” Wendy whined. “I was just getting the hang of this! ”

Finally, Closet Mommy seemed to get the gist of what Wendy was trying to say. “It’s okay,” she cooed. “Mommy’s just gonna take a quick walk and then we’ll go back home for some cartoons.” She brushed aside a bit of wind swept hair out of Wendy’s face. “Maybe a bath too.”

Once again, she took Wendy’s wrist and gently made her wave goodbye. “Bye Peter!” Mommy said in what Wendy was quickly beginning to identify as her ‘baby voice’ see you tomorrow at school!

Wendy sat up and shifted on her almost-mother’s hips. “I KNEW IT!”

“Awww! She really did say goodbye!” Mommy gave Wendy a kiss on the cheek. “So smart!” Wendy blushed, feeling loved and praised despite the misinterpretation. She blanched slightly when she felt her mother’s hand patting and cupping her bottom. “And soaked! Come on missy, let’s go get you changed.”

Wendy forgot to breathe for a second. Between the thrill of the swing, the minor mystery of ‘Petey’ versus ‘Peter’ and the diaper doing its job, Wendy had allowed herself to forget just how wet she really was. Something that was supposed to be flushed down the toilet had instead been absorbed and pressed up against her.

And now Mommy wanted to change her, right then and there. Wendy didn’t have the words to express how this made her feel, but none of them were pleasant. “Mommy,” she tried. “We don’t have to do this. Not here. You can take me home. I don’t mind being in a wet diaper. Really. I don’t need to be…” she gulped. “…changed.”

Home is not where they were heading. A large brick bathroom with wide open doorways just outside the playground fence, was their destination. Above each threshold was painted in faded white a slightly different drawing of a stick figure. One wearing a dress, another a tie, and the middle one- the one toward which they were headed- had a stick figure leaning over a smaller counterpart lying prone and in a diaper.

“Is that why you were getting so wriggly in your seat?” Closet Mommy asked, her voice taking on that cooing sing-song tone. “Did you know you were wet? Are you gonna be an early potty trainer and an early walker?”

“Yes!” Wendy yelped in desperation. “Take me now! Let me use the toilet!” It was no use. She’d already used the toilet taped to her hips.

“Noooooo!” Closet Mommy’s voice bounced off the changing room walls before they were all the way in. “And that’s okay. Mommy likes taking care of you! It’s her job! Her favorite job!” Inside there was a changing station that miraculously grew and expanded as Wendy approached. Before it was pulled down, Wendy saw the underside had a picture of a cartoon Koala, holding its smiling, diapered baby.

This was happening. This was really happening.

Wendy trembled, while her mother laid her on the wall mounted changing table. Just like at home, this was big enough to fit her. Nothing creaked or groaned, save Wendy. “Mommy,” she grumbled, her voice echoing off the linoleum. “Can’t this wait? I’m only a little wet.” The cognitive dissonance she felt, begging to be left in pee soaked underwear, was nearly overwhelming.

Closet Mommy was preoccupied with the diaper bag, getting out the wipes, the powder, and of course the new diaper. Wendy couldn’t help but stare as the diaper scaled itself up once it was out of the bag. She’d never get used to seeing that, she knew.

“He didn’t even pack a change of clothes,” Mommy said to herself. “That man, your father. It’s called a diaper bag, but it can have more than that.” She clucked. “I suppose if I called it a baby bag, he’d try to stuff you in it.” she chuckled to herself. “He’s right though. It’s getting hot. Oh here’s something.” Right at Wendy’s feet a couple of mismatched scrunchies were placed next to everything else.

“If you don’t have any clothes,” Wendy started to plead, “maybe you could change me when we get home? Maybe after I go and find something in my closet?” It was worth a shot.

“I know I know,” Mommy tutted. “It’s no fun having to lie down and get your diaper changed.” She switched to her cutesy ‘baby’ voice. “You just wanna play and get cuddles!”

“You’re half right,” Wendy remarked. “Or three-quarters right…” The idea of the diaper change might have been more tolerable if Wendy had thought she’d get to go right back to the playground. “So uh…how long have you known Petey’s mom?”

Sadly, stalling with words doesn’t work when the other person can’t understand you.

The tapes of the wet Pampers came off with a scritch scratch as velcro came undone! “EEEEP!” Wendy accidentally bucked so hard that the old diaper partially opened itself, lazily flopping open, exposing its discolored padding and Wendy’s glistening mound.

Mommy pinned the young woman’s legs down with her forearm and took a wipe from the open packet by Wendy’s feet “Wow, you’re squirmy today! No wonder Daddy didn’t want to put your shorts back on!” That’s all Wendy’s shrieks and objections would be to her; a baby being squirmy. “Almost forgot this.”

With preternatural quickness, Closet Mommy reached over and pulled a woven strap over Wendy’s chest, pulling taught and pinning the girl helplessly to the changing station. Reflexively, Wendy tried to sit up, but the flat woven rope might as well have been made of rebar for all the good she was doing.

Pinned, helpless, and with a sopping wet diaper opened and cupping her bottom, Wendy could only lay there as her mother tended to her most sensitive of areas…

The twenty-two year old flinched when the first wipe touched her nethers and then…and then…

Something happened. Her muscles untensed. Her body relaxed. It was cold, sure; it was wet, yes, but it was no more unpleasant than a damp washcloth. That’s what baby wipes were, anyways: single use washcloths. And in the heat of the un-air conditioned public bathroom, feeling the moisture on her skin from both the air and the urine, a nice wet wipe felt very good indeed. “Oh…”

“There we go,” Closet Mommy sighed. “That’s not so bad, is it?” She removed her forearm and started gently cleaning between Wendy’s legs. “That’s my good girl! That’s my good baby girl.”

Wendy lifted her head and stared as her mother began gently cleaning her up. It was like a cool sponge bath in the heat of the morning. “That…” she whispered. “Feels so much better actually.” The wet diaper didn’t feel that bad to begin with, but the coolness of each wipe felt positively cleansing.

The attention felt good, too.

Other than to briefly aim or make sure she hadn’t missed a spot, Mommy made eye contact with Wendy the entire time. “You like that, don’t you?” The woman cooed. “Feels good?” It did. What felt better was the attention, the feeling that in those moments she was the center of Mommy’s whole world. Even when Mommy’s face disappeared behind Wendy’s raised legs she felt the love. If anything, it only increased Wendy’s sense of awe as her Mommy lifted both of Wendy’s legs towards the ceiling so that she could wipe her bottom for her.

Mommy hummed as she balled up and tossed away the used diaper. It sounded a bit like London Bridge Is Falling Down. Her mother never sang to anyone, but now this version was humming a little diddy to pass the time and keep her calm. It was working. She gave the inside of Wendy’s foot a tiny tickle, and instead of ‘My. Fair. Lady.’ she said, “My. Sweet. Baby.”

If Wendy melted any more on the inside, a diaper would have absorbed her.

Speaking of which, she was awed yet again as her mother crossed her ankles and hosted her legs all the way up so that even her bottom was off the changing station. It was only an inch or two, but that was more than enough for Mommy to slip the new Pampers underneath her daughter. Wendy found herself actually grateful at the strength of the restraints; it meant that Mommy wouldn’t accidentally dangle her like a fish.

As she was eased down into the soft, perfumed padding, the building tension inside her vanished again. The baby powder that followed was dry yet cold on her skin, somehow feeling colder than the discarded wipes. She moaned a bit while her Mommy took a moment to work the powder in, massaging it into every crease in her skin.

When the diaper was finally pulled up between her legs, Wendy smiled, managing to look past her breasts and down at Cookie Monster on the landing zone and feeling the diaper become taught while her Mommy secured the velcro tabs over Cookie Monster’s face. Mommy undid the restraint across Wendy’s chest and brought her up to a sitting position. “All done. I bet that feels so much better.”

Wendy grinned. It did, even if she hadn’t overly minded being in the wet diaper. She let out a yawn. “Yeah.”

“Gettin’ kind of tired after all that sliding and swinging.” It wasn’t a question.

Yeah, it was true. She’d felt so relaxed it might be easy to drift off. “No…”

“Lookin’ kind of hot and red too.” Mommy said. “Too much sun? Did Mommy push you to exercise too hard?” She finished putting the other changing supplies away and reached unbuckled Wendy from the table. Then she started reaching for the hem of her shirt. “This will help.”

“NO!”

There was nothing that Wendy could do to stop her mother from undressing her. She might have the body and dimensions of a fully grown young woman, but as far as this universe was concerned she didn’t so much as have the mass and strength of a one-year-old. Her arms flailed helplessly above her head while her Closet Mommy yanked the pink shirt up over her head.

The amount of blood rushing to the surface of her skin was only giving more credence in her mother’s notion that she was overheated. Babies didn’t get embarrassed.

Semi-instinctively, Wendy covered her breasts with her hands. “NO!” She was too shocked, and it happened too quickly to do anything else. By the time she’d thought to make a grab for it, Mommy had already stuffed the dirty, dusty shirt into the diaper bag.

“Much cooler,” Mommy said. “I bet this feels better!”

“I’m practically naked!” Save for specialized beaches, this did not cover up like a swimsuit, as it were. “Public indecency! Public indecency!”

“Enjoy this while you can, baby girl.” Mommy picked up the scrunchies and started fussing with her hair.

The babified woman’s arms were breaking out into goose pimples. “I don’t want to do this now!”

The little peck and nuzzle she felt on her scalp from Closet Mommy only made her feel slightly better, but it helped. She carried Wendy over to a bathroom mirror. “So precious.”

Wendy looked at herself. Topless, and with her hair up in pigtails. “Yeah…” Slowly, she took her hands off her breasts. “I am…”

“Keeping that hair off your face will help you, too.”

Wendy let out one more “EEP” when she was taken back outside, but quickly let the feeling go. “No one notices.” She reminded herself. “No one cares. I’m safe. I’m fine.” And cute. And loved. She didn’t say it, but she definitely felt it while her mother buckled her back into the stroller, disappeared behind it and undid the break.

“We’ll go home in a little bit,” Mommy promised, ‘but first Mommy’s gonna get her steps in.”

So Wendy did what she needed to do. She layed back, exhaled, and let her Mommy push her around in the stroller some more. It was relaxing, in a way, now that she was letting herself enjoy it, kind of like the old timey Model-T car ride at carnivals. The point wasn’t to scream and yell at the speed or the sudden twists, turns and drops. The point was to just enjoy the easy steady pace, appreciate the nostalgic aesthetic, and go where the ride took you. So she did.

To her own surprise, the whole topless thing ceased to matter within half a minute of the stroll start. Neither creeps nor prudes were gawking at her, and any who did would get an earful from Closet Mommy. Mommy took care of her. Mommy kept her safe.

She examined herself. Her skin really did feel much more comfortable, less grimy, with the dirty shirt taken off. The pigtails and keeping her hair out of her face was helping in that department, too. Too bad she couldn’t do something like that normally. Obviously she could still put her hair up in pigtails but…

“I wonder,” she mumbled to herself. “Could I get a tan here?” The idea of coming back in the spring and playing on the playground topless until she had a good and tanned beach bod back in the real world appealed to her. Briefly, she pictured trying to do that in a universe where she was twenty-two, but shook her head so that her pigtails waggled.

She ran a hand over her shoulders all the way down to her knees. “Wow. I really am baby soft.” It felt amazing. No wonder soap and shaving commercials made that the standard. “Too bad it takes at least one other person to help maintain it.” She took a closer look at her legs.

Funnily enough, it was easy for her to grab her legs and bring them up to her chest to inspect; good thing too, considering that she only had an inch or two worth of movement in her torso thanks to the stroller. “No stubble?” Wendy searched her recent memory. “When was the last time I shaved this? Fairly recent, right? Two days tops?” In truth, she didn’t know.

“You havin’ a good time, baby?” Mommy called from behind. “Just chatterin’ to yourself.”

A light, happy, slightly guilty expression bloomed on Wendy’s lips. “Yes Mommy!”

“That’s good!” Mommy huffed, picking up the pace. Did Mommy understand what Wendy had said, or was that just the answer she was expecting? Did it really matter?

“Guess not,” Wendy said. She reclined and just allowed herself to drift a bit. Not quite sleeping, but not even close to being cognizant of her surroundings. Better to get lost in the sensations: The cool breeze. The comfy cushions. The gentle, natural rhythm of the Mommy’s jogging footsteps and the subtle sound of the wheels turning.

Her mother added to the pleasantness, singing- actually singing- “Daisy Daisy, give me your answer true. I’m half crazy all for the love of you. It won’t be a stylish marriage. I can’t afford a carriage. But you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for twoooooo.”

Wendy breathed deep and exhaled. Other than wanting a bit more time on the playground, life was good. Next time, Wendy promised herself. Next time.

“Wendeeeeeee! Do you want ice cream?”

Still in her stroller, Wendy stirred and sat up as far as the restraints would let her. “Hmm?” she took her thumb out of her mouth, wiping the string of drool on her breast. Looking around with sticky eyes, she was surprised to see they were a whole block away from the park, despite still being near it a moment ago. Maybe she had done a little more than dozed off.

Closet Mommy was holding a push pop out to her. “Someone just missed the ice cream man!” She kept offering the treat. “It’s creamsicle! Orange and ‘nilla!”

“Oh… what the hell?” Wendy shrugged. Any self-consciousness Wendy had earlier had long since evaporated. She felt the need to say something about it out of habit more so than a need to preserve her ego. Life in this universe was something of a two way mirror and she was the one on the fun side of it.

Mommy didn’t leave. She stood there, watching, waiting expectantly. “Go on. Enjoy it!” She went so far as to reach in and push up on the bottom so that the popsicle lurched out of its paper tube like a cold orange lightsaber.

The diapered girl looked up and saw that her mother had her phone out, camera pointed directly at her.

“Baby’s first ice cream,” Wendy connected the dots. “Got it.” No reason to turn down free ice cream. She opened her mouth and started to lightly suck on it. “MMMMMMMMMMMM!” She shook so much that the stroller practically vibrated.

“Awwwwww! She likes it! She likes it!” Closet Mommy turned the phone around. “Sorry we didn’t wait for you, Howard, but we’re still about a third of a mile from home and this popsicle wasn’t going to last that long.”

Wendy was only half listening. “MMMMMMMM!” What was in this push pop? It tasted sweeter, more flavorful, more outright decadent than anything she could remember tasting. It was foie gras and kobe beef in frozen sugar form! “MMMMMMM!”

For the first time in her adult life she didn’t quite have the words to properly express herself. So delighted was she that she didn’t overly mind that the juices mixed with her saliva and started dribbling down her chin and past her breasts, dribbling down into her belly button, not quite reaching down below her waist. “MMMMMMM!”

“Let’s get you home, little miss sticky britches!”

The stroller moved back towards home and Wendy kept bouncing; the low papery rustling below her mixing pleasantly with the humming and chomping from her mouth. She didn’t squish; nothing lumpy either, so she likely didn’t need a change. That was good.

“MMMMMMM! MMMMMMM!”

“Mmm-mmm-good, is it sweetheart? Baby loves her ice cream!”

Indeed she did. She was willing to bet that when she got back to her own universe/timeline/reality/world/whatever that her mother wouldn’t have gotten any ice cream.

She’d been done about five minutes when her house came into sight. The rest of the trip had flown by thanks to sugar haze and an almost unnatural focus on the flavors. Wendy had missed at least a block or two trying to lick residue off her teeth.

The only thing left of the frozen treat was sticky film dribbled onto her front and a paper wrapper that had been torn apart licked clean, and Wendy wasn’t nearly flexible enough to lick her own navel. “Why couldn’t the food have gotten bigger?” Wendy asked no one in particular. “That would have been awesome!” She might still be sucking on it if she had.

“Looks like someone got more sweetness on her than in her!” Mommy teased, unbuckling her from the stroller.

“Surface area, maybe.” Wendy allowed. “Calories and taste? No.”

“That’s okay,” Mommy said. “You’re sweet enough as is!” She started blowing raspberry kisses into her displaced daughter’s tummy. “Eat the baby! Nom nom nom nom!”

“Noooooo!” Wendy howled with laughter. “No eat the baby!” She cackled and thrashed with all her might, safe and secure in the knowledge that there was no way she could harm her Mommy on this side of the rip.

“Come on, let’s go see Daddy!”

“Yeah,” Wendy repeated. “Let’s go see him!”

Daddy was waiting just inside the garage with a hug and a kiss for each of them. “Whoah!” he said. “Gotta peel this one off of me!” He went so far as to make a sticky peeling sound, pretending to rip himself away from his daughter. “Wow you got more of that popsicle on you than in you!”

“Did not!” Wendy giggled.

“That’s what I said,” Closet Mommy talked over her. “I think we need to go straight to the tubby tub.”

“That’s a ten-four, good buddy,” Closet Daddy agreed. “There’s plenty of Mr. Bubble in the bathroom.”

Wendy started bucking and bouncing again. “Bubble bath?!”

“I think she understood that one!” Mommy laughed.

“Who? Our little genius?” Daddy grinned. “Our filthy, sticky, yucky, messy, little genius?”

This time, Wendy beamed at the praise.

Overwhelmed in the best way possible, Wendy buried her head into Mommy’s neck, her shoulders shaking with a massive case of the giggles. “Just make sure to restock the diaper bag and take out her dirty shirt. Maybe put a clean one in.”

“Yeah. Sure. I can do that.”

Then Mommy rubbed Wendy’s back. “Come on, sugar booger. Let’s go for a bath.”

Wendy bobbed in the younger version of her mom’s arms through the house. On the way to the bathroom she caught sight of the family portrait in the living room. It was the same picture as before, same family portrait with her in a baby dress, white tights, and the big floppy bow. Something was different again, but Wendy couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Had her hair in that photo been as short or as light colored? She’d been so focused on the clothes the last time, she didn’t know.

Upon entering the bathroom, Wendy looked down at herself, wearing nothing but a recently acquired Pampers, with a smudge of dirt on her forearms and an orange trail leading all the way down to just below her belly button. She couldn’t see it, but she could feel the dust and dirt on the bottom of her feet, a twin to the dirt on her cheeks.Sun soaked pigtails wafted just on her periphery

Wendy didn’t have to pee, she soon realized. If she did her diaper would have been wet again at what she saw next. The dimensions of the tub folded outward, staying almost as shallow but twice as wide. Her very presence was turning their regular bathtub into a full blown jacuzzi!

Unphased and oblivious as ever, Mommy turned on the water, plugged the tub and added some bubble bath to the mixture. She sat Wendy down on the counter. “Who’s dat there?” Mommy cooed. “Who’s dat cute baby in the mirror? It’s you! It’s you!”

“Yeah,” Wendy nodded. “It still is.” She didn’t know why she expected anything different.

“Five little speckled frogs,” Wendy’s caregiver started to sing, “sat on a speckled log, eating some most delicious bugs. Yum! Yum! One jumped into the pool, where it was nice and cool, then there were four green speckled frogs. Glub! Glub!”

She took Wendy’s hands in her own and smiling all the while, kept singing.

“Four little speckled frogs, sat on a speckled log, eating some most delicious bugs.” On ‘Yum! Yum!’ she puppeted Wendy’s arms to rub her tummy. “One jumped into the pool, where it was nice and cool, then there were three green speckled frogs.” On ‘Glub! Glub!’ she plucked and flapped her own bottom lip so that the ‘glubs’ sounded like they were coming from underwater.

Wendy was absolutely enthralled. By verse three, she was singing along. By verse four, she was doing the hand motions with her Mommy, not needing to be puppeted. The last verse, for whatever reason, had her doubled over with laughter as if she was watching a comedian at the height of their career perform a new routine.

Closet Mommy looked back at the tub and keeping one hand on Wendy’s knee, reached back and dipped her pinky in. “Full enough and warm enough,” she said. Let’s get that diapee off.”

WIth a scritch and a scratch the tabs were undone and Wendy was lifted out of the extra large Pampers. Her shifting weight alone was enough to send it wafting down to the tile below.

Even though her mother had already changed her diaper and removed her shirt, this was the first time anyone had seen her in the buff. “I’m naked!” she almost shrieked. One hand crossed her top; the other darted downward between her legs.

Her mother didn’t comment except to say “Now somebody’s all chilly. Let’s get you in the tubby! In we go!”

Gently, a still tensed up and trembling Wendy was lowered down into the tub, her body retracting her legs so she did a kind of slow and gentle cannonball into the warm soapy water.

Looking at it from the inside, her jaw dropped open even as the rest of her tensed up. The inside was so big! Had the tub been drained she could have laid back and spread her arms and legs as though making snow angels and she still wouldn’t have touched the sides. Her mother towered above her, standing just to be able to see over the sides and reach her.

Despite all the space, Wendy stayed crumpled up into a tight ball. Manically, the naked girl gathered the bubbles around her, trying desperately to obscure the most strategic areas.

“Ooops,” Mommy said, heedless of her daughter’s discomfort. “Almost forgot to get those scrunchies off.” It took two easy motions for Wendy’s hair to fall back into her face. Wendy stayed still tied up in a ball.

Her Mommy took a washcloth and started gently caressing Wendy’s face. Still covering herself, Wendy’s muscles eased. Were she a kitten she’d be purring, she decided. She hummed, almost moaning in happiness. It was the closest she could get.

“Baby loves her bubbles!” Mommy chirped. She plopped a bright yellow toy duck into the water. “Does she like her ducky?!”

Feeling safer, the now sudzy girl quickly reached up and gave it a squeeze “Aaaah!” She squealed with joy. “It squeaks!”

“Oh she does!”

“I do!” She couldn’t remember the last time she had a bath toy. She couldn’t remember the last time she took anything other than a quick shower.

Bathtime came with a show. Mommy started singing “Rubber Ducky, you’re the one. You make bathtime lots of fun! Rubber Ducky I am awfully foooond of you!”

Wendy tiled her head so far to the side she’d got an ear full of soapy water. Had her mother really sang to her this much when she was little?

“Rubber Ducky, joy of joys. When I squeeze you, you make noise.” Wendy took the hint and gave the duck two prompt squeaks, giggling at her own cleverness. “Rubber Ducky you’re my very best friend it’s true!”

The girl squeezed the simple bath toy even more, providing a high pitched metronome for her mother’s bathtime solo.

“Oh, every day when I make my way to the tubby, I find a little fellow who’s cute and yellow and chubby! Rubber Ducky!”

The twenty-two year old was using both hands to make the duck ‘quack’ louder and louder as Mommy finished the song. The gigantic bathtub filled with waves as she rocked back and forth in time with her mother’s rhythm.

“Rubber Ducky, you’re so fine,” Mommy belted. “And I’m lucky that you’re mine. Rubber Ducky, I’d like a whole pond of…Rubber Ducky, I’m awfully fond of you!” Mommy stopped and lightly clapped her hands. “Yaaaaaay!”

Wendy applauded with her duck waving high in the air, being squeaked with both hands. “Yaaaaaaay Mommy!”
Mommy took the applause as a cue to pivot and reach under the bathroom counter. From it she pulled an entire basketful of bath toys out. “Ducky’s got friends!”

Washcloth in one hand, Closet Mommy dangled a toy shark up above her head, plopping it in with a tiny splash, sending Wendy scurrying to get it. Once Wendy managed to get a hold of it, Mommy started the show back up, singing ‘baby shark’
Even though Mommy couldn’t understand her in this universe, Wendy giggled and sang along.

And so it went…

Mommy would drop a toy in, Wendy would grab and play with it; dunking and diving it as the mood took her; Mommy would sing a song while gently scrubbing and rubbing her with washcloth and bubbles, and then the old toy would be casually pushed aside to float as newcomer entered the luxurious tub.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Literally.

The floating tub boat toy was heralded by Row Row Row Your Boat. The bathtime my little pony got introduced with Pony Girl. Deep Sea Diving Barbie splashed in with Barbie Girl; that last one was a bit of a stretch but Mommy hummed all the lyrics that were inappropriate for little ears.

Wendy loved all of it. The attention. The sensation. The singing. Objectively, her mother could sing well enough; good enough for karaoke or church; otherwise not much to write home about. In the moment, however, it was the most beautiful singing voice in the entire world. How could it not be?

Perhaps this is why people sang in the shower, the law student mused. When singing during bathing becomes second nature, but no one is around to serenade you, warbling to yourself becomes the only option.

Wendy felt all the tension leave muscles she’d forgotten about her mother slowly bathed and cleansed every inch of her body. Under her arms, behind her ears, between her legs. Everything done with the care and precision of a nurse and the theatricality of a Vegas stage magician. Special attention was paid wherever the ice cream leftovers had glazed themselves. Soon, her breasts were shining from all the soapy water. What captured Wendy’s attention, however, was the cleaning of her playground-dusted feet, as her Mom began to wash every single of her “tippy toes” as she called them, sending her into uncontrollable giggles.

With all the attention and love she was getting, this was a free trip to an amusement park, followed by a mini-spa day. There was something to be said about simple pleasures, Wendy was realizing.

Wendy scooped up a handful of bubbles and rubbed them on her face, fashioning herself a hat and beard. “Yar! Matey!” She growled playfully, reaching back for the boat. “This here be Cap’n Bubble Beard!”

“Ho-! Ho! Ho!” Her mother said, thinking she was on the right track. “Merrrrrrry Christmas.”

Wendy laughed. “Close enough, Mommy!” She gasped in realization. “Oh that gives me an idea! Wanna hear a story?”

Mommy leaned forward. “Mmmhmm.” It was the quiet, patronizing agreement of someone who didn’t actually understand what a child was saying but was encouraging them to keep babbling.

Close enough for Wendy’s liking. She reached for the boat. “Once there was the brave, brave Captain Bubble Beard.” She pushed and pulled the tugboat on the water while her free hand groped around in the soapy morass. “And Captain Bubble Beard was on the hunt for…” Her hand clasped around another toy. “A SHARK!”

“Oh that’s a shark!” Mommy beamed! “Uh oh! He’s gonna eat the boat!”

The girl was bouncing, sloshing the water all around. “That’s right! You’re getting it!” She’d found a way to entertain her Mommy and communicate! How clever was she?! She continued on with her narrative. “The brave Captain Bubble Beard slammed the meanie head shark head on!”

“Oh, they’re fighting!”

“Uh huh!” Wendy agreed. “And he would have won, too.” She let go of the boat long enough to reach for Deep Sea Diving Barbie. “Except then the shark changed directions and…!”

“Look out, the shark is gonna get Barbie!” Mommy pretended to sound scared.

Wendy started moving the bath toys in slow motion. “Noooooooooooooo! President Barbieeeeee!” Heroically, the tugboat sped in the way of the oncoming shark, tipping over from the force of the shark’s ramming attack (she hadn’t figured out a way to make the shark ‘bite’ anyone).

“Honey, do you see this?” Mommy called as Daddy waltzed into the bathroom.

“See what?”

“She’s playing pretend! That’s super advanced at her age!”

“Cool!” Daddy said. He walked over to the sink to wash his hands. “Gotta freshen up to make lunch.”

Only now noticing his entrance, Wendy sprung up to a standing position. “Daddy!”

Looking at her in the bathroom mirror, Daddy smiled. “Hi pumpkin! Enjoying your bath with Mommy?”

“Uh-huh!” Wendy nodded enthusiastically. “She’s singing me songs and giving me back rubs and arm rubs and leg rubs.”

“Uh huh.”

“I even figured out a way for her to understand me like you can!”

“That’s nice.”

Proudly she held up the shark and the Barbie doll. “Wanna see?”

“Oh really?” Dad dried his hand and nodded politely. “I’m glad you two are having fun. I’m gonna go prep lunch.”

“Daddy?” she called after him. “Daddy? Did you under-?”

“Daddy’s makin’ lunch, cupcake,” Mommy said. “Just enjoy your bath.”

Wendy fought back a strange feeling of confusion watching her Daddy leave. As she watched him leave, still standing, she was able to look in the mirror over to the sink and- for the first time in a good while- saw herself. Naked. Her face and hair bubbled. Holding bath toys like they were trophies or something.

“EEEEEK!”

She plunged back down into the water, trying to wipe the bubbles off of her face while moving others onto more ‘strategic’ areas. What had come over her?! She’d been completely naked and playing with bath toys and singing children’s songs? Doing finger plays to Baby Shark and Row Row Row Your Boat. Without a hint of modesty she’d stood up naked in front of her father. She had been acting…no…she had been thinking almost like a…she dared not finish that thought.

“Cold when you get up out of the warm water too fast,” Mommy said. “Isn’t it?”

Wendy closed her lips. Closet Mommy grabbed the wash cloth and started running it over Wendy’s hair… “Let’s make sure baby girl doesn’t get any owie soap in her eyes or yucky suds in her mouth. Blech!”

“I gotta get out of here,” Wendy whispered. “Something’s wrong.”

The bath ended soon after. Her body wasn’t tense, and Wendy didn’t blush anymore. Any damage to do had already been done. It was her mind that was on alert more so than her muscles. It took very little prompting or coaching for her to lean into the big fluffy towel her mother opened up for her and let herself be carried all the way back to her nursery.

“A little oil,” Mommy said after laying Wendy down on the changing table. “A little powder. Aaaaand done.” Wendy was snug and secure back in her fresh new diaper.

Mommy sat her up on the changing table and toweled her off a little more. That’s when she saw the faintly glowing rip in her closet. “Mommy,” Wendy said. “Can I get something back from my closet?” This was only supposed to be a jog.

Her mother’s doppelganger picked her up, oblivious to what her ‘baby’ was staring at. “How about we have some T.V. before lunch?” she asked, rhetorically. Wendy had no choice but to allow herself to be brought out to the living room.

Mommy turned on the television and sat down on the couch holding the diapered girl in her lap, one arm easily snaked around her waist. Wendy heard the rustle of her fresh diaper as she shifted in Closet Mommy’s lap, trying to get comfortable. No way was she getting back to her room from here. “How about some Peppa Pig?

The T.V. flickered on. “PEEEEEEPA PIG! PEEEEEEEEPA PIG!”

Like a dog hearing a whistle, Wendy turned her gaze to the television. “Peppa Pig?” Simple pastel colored cartoons; Flat and jerky like a cardboard cut out. Gentle, British accents.

Wendy stopped fidgeting. “Maybe just…one episode, she said to herself.” Her eyes checked a clock on top of the T.V. Over half an hour had gone by since entering the house… “Wow. Was my bath really that long?” It definitely hadn’t felt like it.

“Yes, baby.” Mommy said. “That is Peppa Pig!”

The law student did her best to think of an escape route. How could she get out of Mommy’s lap and back to her room?

Peppa’s snorting caught her attention, again. “Maybe just…one…episode…”

“Oh! Ice cream!” Wendy said out loud as a pastel colored one appeared on screen, bringing back memories of the delicious stop earlier in the day. “I’ll have to get Mommy to buy some more.” Drool began to fill her mouth as she let her thoughts wander while following the rest of the cartoon. “Does ice cream grow at the north pole?”

That episode of Peppa Pig had gone away for a while, but Wendy was doing her level best to recreate it with the barnyard animal toys in her lap. She only had the one plastic pig, but the flopsy bunny rabbit made for a good Missus Rabbit. She would make do and pretend the Cow was Daddy Pig. It wasn’t so much of a leap.

It was a shame, she thought to herself, that she couldn’t study for her History of Law exam with this much enthusiasm.

Exam?!

She looked again at the clock. It was half past noon! How had that happened? Where had the time gone? She was only supposed to have watched the one episode! She looked down at her lap. Where had the toys come from?

In actuality, she knew that answer: She hadn’t blacked out as much as just gone on autopilot, much like how one can get lost in their thoughts driving home on a familiar route. Mommy had seen her squirming and talking with the cartoons, and gotten up long enough to bring her toys…

And for whatever reason, Wendy hadn’t thought to make a mad dash for her bedroom. She’d waited patiently, staring at the screen, and continued recreating Peppa Pig episodes by playing with dolls in her other mother’s lap.

Daddy came in to check on her. “Okay ladies. Hope you like grilled cheese sandwiches!

Toys tumbled away from Wendy’s lap as Mommy stood up and carried her into the kitchen. “Finally! I’m famished!” Mommy said.

“Good grilled cheese takes time”.

“Um…Daddy,” Wendy started to say. “I think I need to go to my bedroom and…and…”

Daddy wasn’t listening either. “Up you go, kiddo!” he said, transferring her back into her highchair. “Let’s get some more num-nums in that tum tum.”

That’s how Wendy ended up having a highchair lunch of cottage cheese and potato salad while her parents munched on grilled cheese sandwiches; all in a wet diaper that she hadn’t quite remembered peeing in.

This. This was the trade off. She was getting loads more attention and lowered expectations from her parents, but she was also a prisoner. If an adult wasn’t holding her, a stroller or a swing or a changing table or a highchair was holding her still till they could.

Theme parks were fun because at the end of the ride the harnesses and safety bars came up and you could walk around the park freely.

“A picnic lunch indoors,” Daddy said. “Not bad, right?”

“Delectable” Mommy agreed. “Next time come to the park with us and we can eat it there.” After everyone was finished, Wendy went back into Closet Mommy’s arms. “I think someone needs a proper nap.

As if on cue, Wendy bellowed out a yawn. She really was tired. Maybe she’d feel better after a nap. “No!” the girl yelped. “NO! I DON’T NEED A NAP! I DON’T NEED DIAPERS! I DON’T NEED HIGHCHAIRS! I DON’T NEED STUPID BABY SWINGS OR SLIDES! I DON’T NEED ANY OF THIS!” It had been fun while it had lasted, but Wendy was quickly coming to the opinion that this wasn’t meant to last. I’M! NOT! A BABY! I DON’T NEED A NAP! I NEED SOME PERSONAL FUCKING SPACE AND FOR SOMEBODY TO LISTEN TO ME AND CLOTHES THAT DO MORE THAN CATCH PISS AND SHIT! I NEED A PAIR OF PANTIES AND A GODDAM BRA ! I’M TWENTY-FUCKIN-TWO!”

“Definitely,” Daddy agreed with Mommy. “She definitely needs a nap.”

An adrenaline surge burst through the girl. What the hell had she been thinking? She was naked. Her parents had seen her naked for the first time in forever. Her mother had bathed her. And the only thing that she’d been wearing for hours now was something that was arguably more humiliating than being seen naked!

Back in her room, Wendy was placed into the giant crib, and the railing was slid up.

“Nini, honey, “Closet Mommy said sweetly. “Pleasant nap. Do you want me to sing you another song?”

Fuming Wendy snarled. “No!”

“You always get this fussy,” Mommy said. “But you need your rest. That’s how you can grow up to be big and strong.”

“I am a big girl.” She went so far as to pound her fist on her other mother’s back. “I am! I am! I am!” Pounding her fist against the crib railing was hardly making her point for her, but it felt cathartic all the same.

Mommy turned out the lights and closed the curtain before leaving the door. Leaving Wendy alone with her thoughts, the dim glow of the afternoon sun leaking through the curtains, and the almost as dim glow coming from her closet.

The moment the door was closed, Wendy went for the release mechanism on the crib’s railing. Like everything else she’d encountered that day, it was baby proof which in this instance meant ‘Wendy proof’. Grimly, Wendy shook and rattled at it; but the damn thing wouldn’t budge.

Overcome with infinite fucking frustration from an entire day imprisoned, Wendy inhaled only once, and from there didn’t stop screaming. The girl screamed so hard that her throat started to gargle. She screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed; rattling the crib bars like the wrongly convicted on death row. “God damn it! Let me out! Let me the fuck out! Let me out! Out out ooooouuuuuuut!”

She didn’t let up. As tired, physically, emotionally, and mentally as she was, she was afraid that if she stopped screaming, she’d fall asleep. And more than anything, Wendy didn’t want to risk falling asleep here. At one point, she stopped screaming actual words, and just started seeing how long she could hold the same high pitched discordant note.

Scream-thousand-one, Scream-thousand-two, Scream-thousand-three…

After what felt like hours, (but was probably only five minutes) the door opened again. Closet Mommy speed walked in and lowered the railing of Wendy’s crib. “Wendy? Baby? Sweetie? What’s wrong?!” She checked her diaper again. “You’re not poopy. Just a little wet. Are you constipated? Does your tum-tum hurt?”

“I want out!” Wendy demanded, pointing to the carpet. “I want out! I want out! I want out!”

This universe’s version of her mother seemed to understand at least that much. “Honey, it’s your nap time. You need your nap so you can play later.”

“N-!” Wendy stopped herself. She did need a nap. Nap time could potentially be one of the few times where she’d be allowed to exist without her parents watching her every move. More specifically, she needed to be left alone long enough to get back through her closet, and without anything constraining or confining her… “No bars,” she said. She jiggled the back railing of her crib to help illustrate her point. “No! Bars! Do you get that?”

The younger Jody Merts squinted in the same way as her male counterpart had. “You don’t want the crib rail up?”

“NNNNO!”

“I’m sorry, sweetie, but I don’t want you falling out.”

A bit of inspiration struck the ex-Gifted child. “I want to sleep on the floor.” She grabbed the blanket and pillow inside her crib and flung them to the carpet.

“You want…to sleep…on the floor?”

“Uh-huh!”

Closet Mommy looked at the pillow and blanket and seemed to consider it. “Hmm…it would be only a nap….”

Wendy made her eyes go full puppy dog. “PWEEEEEEEASE MOMMY!”

Some things were universal. “Hmph…well…” Mommy said. “Okay.” While Wendy was laid down and ‘tucked in’ on a spot on the carpet of her own bedroom, she allowed herself a soft, satisfied smirk.

“Think like a lawyer. Argue like a toddler.”

The door closed, and Wendy immediately got up and ran back through the rip in reality. Her legs felt wobbly, shaky almost. She couldn’t let that stop her. Two steps out and she went to all fours, off balance. She kept going for the closet.

Freedom came in beautiful brilliant light!

Wendy checked herself after emerging through the light on the other side. Her tits were still out and uncovered, and she was wearing a giant diaper, but the style of the furniture in her room gave her all the confirmation she needed to know that she was back where she belonged.

“Come on, come on, come on.” She whispered, hoping against hope it would speed the process up. The diaper, however, stayed the same. “Screw it!”

Like ripping off a band-aid Wendy ripped the giant tabs off, sending the thing to the floor with a sodden plop. She hurried over to her dresser and opened up her underwear drawer. Her relief was palpable when she found it filled with actual underwear. Her heart rate didn’t slow down until she’d stepped into a pair of panties and pulled them all the way up her legs. For once, relief came when she found a bra and put it on instead of taking it off.

Sneering at herself, she looked down at the discarded Pampers. Like water leaking out of a pin-pricked balloon it was deflating, changing color, turning back into something an adult would be caught dead in (but never by her parents). “Taking you long enough,” she muttered as it continued to shrink. It had been wet too. “That’s definitely going in the wash.” No sense in chancing it.

Out of the corner of her eye, by the side of her bed, a plain top, sports bra, and shorts faded back into existence. Evidently this version of herself kicked off her jogging clothes to take a nap just after lunch.

What did her real mom and dad think had happened? Why was she taking a nap? “I don’t even wanna know,” she whispered to herself. “That was a close one.”

Wendy had no idea how close it was.

Going through her drawers, the law student got herself a new pair of pants and a shirt she was relieved to see sporting the name of a music band instead of some goofy smiling cartoon character. As hurried as she was to return to normalcy, Wendy didn’t even realize she hadn’t taken a serious look at herself until fully dressed. Reapplying her clothes, she went on combing her long dark brunette hair in the furthest way she could think from pigtails, unaware that it had just finished shifting from the short and light blonde of a baby hair.

And behind her, the rip glowed a little less brightly and seemed just a little bit smaller.

1 Like

Chapter 4

The remainder of that evening was excruciating for Wendy on both an existential level and one of survival. It hadn’t taken long at all for her to confirm her theory that whatever babyish things happened on one side of the rip correlated to something perfectly normal, adult, and satisfactory on the other side.

“Mom?” she’d asked.

Her graying middle aged mother looked up from a book she’d been reading on the couch. “Yes dear?”

“We went for a jog this morning, right?

Mom looked just a tad confused. “Yes…?” she said, as if expecting a trick.

“And we had lunch?”

Mom put her book down in her lap. “Uh-huh.”

“But before that I took a shower?”

“I assume so. It’s not like I followed you into the bathroom.”

Flashes of memory: A younger version of her mommy playing and singing songs with a very naked Wendy giggling and engrossed like it was high theater. Her standing up, stark naked in front of her father like it was the most natural thing in the world.

Wendy’s face flushed. “Yeah…I did. Trust me. I did. And then I said I was going to take a nap? Or study?”

“Where is this going?” her real mother asked.

Wendy inhaled through her nose and exhaled through her mouth to calm herself. “Nothing,” she lied. Then she decided her mother deserved at least a half-truth. “You ever have a dream that’s so realistic that it takes you a sec to sort out what’s real and what’s not?”

Mother stood up from the couch and felt Wendy’s cheeks and lymph nodes. “No fever,” she said. “Nothing swollen. Are you sure you’re feeling alright?”

Reflexively, the law student stepped back from her mother and was relieved to have the capability to withdraw and refuse the touch. “Yeah,” she said. “I’m fine. Just studying too hard, I guess.”

Mom cocked her head to the side. “I don’t see why. You sounded like a real legal historian when we were jogging.”

Another confirmation that infantile play on one side resulted in academic success in the other. “Yeah,” Wendy said. “I guess I’m just overthinking it. I’m going to go back to my room.”

Wendy should have been happy, or so part of her thought. Her little discovery and the subsequent experiment had proven immensely successful. She’d even discovered more about the other reality thanks to her prolonged exposure to it. At first, her clothes would change, but prolonged exposure would affect her mind as well.

Internally, she didn’t want to call it, ‘regressing’. Her mother being a teacher, Wendy knew ‘regression’ beyond the pop-culture hypno mumbo jumbo. Regression was when a kid learned their multiplication tables and then completely forgot them after a two week break.

That wasn’t what Wendy had experienced. “Though I did pee my pants,” she whispered to herself. It was less ‘regression’ and more ‘self-infantilization’. Overall, the experience was closer to being drunk or high. She’d been more whimsical; more open to pretend; and her emotions had been heightened to extremes. Likewise, things like a wet diaper or a naked body weren’t deal breakers when it came to fun, and it took some shocking realizations for her to sober up.

Safe on the other side of the closet in her own reality, Wendy was feeling hungover, metaphorically speaking. She was looking at the past few hours and completely mortified by everything she’d done and been seen doing. The fact that no one in this reality remembered it correctly only helped a little. Her remembering it was enough.

“I’m not doing that again,” she told herself. “No way.” At the rate things had been going a few more hours in that place and she would have been happily munching on her toes and pooping herself with abandon. That had to be the interdimensional equivalent of waking up in Vegas next to a strange guy with a new wedding ring and not knowing your last name.

The only problem with that declaration was that now that Wendy was back in the real world, she was well and fully herself in dress and mind. Which meant that she was back to being terrible at studying.

“Come on,” she said, staring at the study guide she’d magically conjured into existence. “Come on!” She closed her eyes shut and willed herself to know the facts written on the paper. Nothing. Yet when she read them over again, her brain went ‘oh of course’, promised to file it away for later, and then never did. If babies suffered from object impermancy, Wendy was suffering from information impermancy: As soon as the information on the paper was out of sight, her mind couldn’t recall it for beans.

Was this some terrible cosmic twist? She could create the perfect research aids in the world on the other side of the closet but couldn’t access the information she’d conjured in any meaningful way? Sadly, Wendy knew it wasn’t the case. This was exactly how she’d felt trying to study before she’d stumbled upon a discovery that should be rocking the scientific community. At least the interdimensional light leaking in through her closet wasn’t quite as bright this time; either that or her eyes had adjusted.

She tried different positions and locations: At her desk; standing up and pacing; sitting on the floor with her back against the wall, in the middle of the carpet with her legs crossed; dangling upside down from the edge of her bed. She just couldn’t get comfortable enough to focus. Or too comfortable.

A knock at her door caused Wendy to startle and sit up from her bed. Shit! She’d fallen asleep and hadn’t even realized it. Evidently, she’d gotten too comfortable trying to read in bed. Her body, anyways. Wendy’s dreams had been the restless half-awake variety; either that or they’d also been about her trying and failing to study.

“Wendy? I’m making pancakes this morning. Do you want them before you go to class?”

The girl leaned over in her bed and her fingers groped at the carpet, grasping for the accidentally discarded guide. It had fallen to the floor in her fitful non-rest. “Uh…okay…?” Jesus, even her voice sounded tired.

“Are you decent, honey?” Dad called.

Wendy looked down at her clothes and sniffed. She’d fallen asleep in yesterday’s outfit, on top of the comforter. “Yeah…”

Dad came in. “I just figured you were up early to see your mom off and…” he stopped and sighed. “Oh Wendy. Not again.”

“Sorry, Daddy…” She felt inexplicably embarrassed and ashamed for doing her best and failing.

“It’s not me you have to apologize to, kiddo,” Dad said. “You’re the one who’s hurting yourself doing these crazy all nighters.” Hearing her father call her ‘kiddo’ gave Wendy strangely happy bubbly feelings. Wendy was an alcoholic who’d just been given a sip of beer. “Get changed and come get some breakfast before your mom leaves.”

A few minutes later, Wendy was in an ankle length denim skirt and a pink button up blouse. She still felt kind of sticky; if her top sheet was any indication she’d broken out into a cold sweat, (at least she hoped it was just sweat). It was nothing a trip to the bathroom for deodorant and some light perfume couldn’t fix. She’d still need to take a shower after the test to get all the gross feeling off of her skin.

Just thinking about the test and what would follow it made Wendy’s stomach turn and she was thankful that she hadn’t had anything in it. “It’s just an exam,” she said to herself. “Who cares if I’m gonna fail it? Everybody fails sometimes.” Wendy hadn’t yet….but it was coming. As if to torture herself, she untangled the knots out of her hair and pulled it back into a tight bun, wincing with every hurried and painful brush stroke.

Wendy took her spot at the dining room table, where a fresh stack of pancakes was waiting for her; the butter just starting to melt. Mom’s plate was half cleaned, meaning she was likely three fourths of the way done eating; she never finished breakfast. Dad was just sitting down with his own massive stack. He’d probably shovel Mom’s leftovers onto his plate as soon as she was out the door. “Figured this would help you both fuel up for the day,” Dad said. “Don’t want you snapping at some kid or bubbling in the wrong answer on the test because your stomach was growling and your blood sugar was low.” He nodded to his wife and daughter respectively.

“I’m not complaining,” Mom said. “I got a hot meal first thing in the morning that I didn’t have to cook.” To be fair, Dad did most of the cooking in the house, but the compliment was well intentioned and received.

Wendy couldn’t quite find her appetite. She ate the flapjacks, but no amount of butter or syrup was doing the trick. It all tasted like ash and failure to her palette.

Her mother seemed to pick up on Wendy’s feelings. “Everything alright?”

Dad answered for her before she could swallow. “She was up all night studying. Again.”

“For the exam?”

“Yup.”

“That she’s going to ace?”

“Yup.”

For a fraction of a moment, Wendy had forgotten that her parents could understand her if she spoke up, so she just remained quiet and stared at the dripping pools of butter and syrup forming on her plate.

“Baby,” Mom said from across the table, “you’re going to be fine. You know this inside and out. You’re going to pass it.”

Wendy wanted to scream and break down and throw a tantrum. She wanted to cry and sob about how she couldn’t study and how she was going to bomb and that the test probably wasn’t going to even be multiple choice. She wanted her Mom to hug her and hold her and pat her back and tell her it was going to be okay. Unless her mother had developed telepathy, she wouldn’t be able to see past Wendy’s mask of calm.

“I know,” Wendy lied. “Just…” she shuddered. “You love me, right? Even if I do somehow bomb this test and fail this course?”

Well meaning, but unaware of her daughter’s distress, Mom dabbed her lips with a paper napkin. “Oh, Wendy. Of course I love you. We’ve always loved you and always will. We just want you to do your best.”

To Wendy’s brain, ‘do your best’ was the same as ‘be the best’. “But will you be mad if I fail?” she repeated herself.

Her mother got up, grabbed her keys and leaned over to give Wendy a hug. “You’re not going to fail,” she said. “You’ll be fine.” Neither knew it, certainly not Wendy, not consciously, but the way she answered that question sealed Wendy’s fate.

Wendy managed a few more mouthfuls of pancakes and shoveled the rest onto Dad’s plate. “Where are you going?” Dad asked.

“Gonna go read for a few more minutes,” Wendy said. “Test is at nine.”

Dad swallowed more of the breakfast. Since his wife and daughter tended to eat like hummingbirds at the best of times, there was the very real possibility that he’d made pancakes for himself just as much as his family. “Want me to give you a ride to class?”

Wendy stiffened and looked over her shoulder. “Why?”

“I’m not working today,” he said. “You’re tired. Figured you’d enjoy the company.”

“How would I get home?”

“I’ll pick you up after the exam.”

The law student nodded. A ride from a parent to school. Pick up after. That was a sign; had to be. “Okay,” she said. “Cool. Deal. Maybe sooner than later? I wanna get a good seat in the lecture hall.”

Dad laughed, good naturedly. “Want to make sure none of the other kids…I mean students… can’t look off your test?”

Wendy started back to her room. “Something like that,” she called back. If Wendy was being honest with herself, she’d admit that she was forcing herself to have less time to think about the objectively dumb thing she was about to do. If she had even two hours to wait and think this through, she might lie to herself and try studying some more. Or she might talk herself out of this crazy plan.

“Okay. Just let me finish up and put the dishes in the sink,” Dad said.

Daddy ate fast. That meant Closet Daddy did too. She didn’t have much time. She shuddered. What would happen if she changed her mind and asked her father to leave? Would she come out into an abandoned house on the other side? Or would she magically transport to a carseat?

Wendy didn’t want to find out.

“Just one more time,” she told herself, staring at the faintly glowing light coming out of thin air. “I’ll go through. I’ll go to daycare instead of college. I’ll take some dumb baby test and then Daddy will pick me up and bring me home. And everyone on this side will remember me acing my course exam.”

Good thing it wasn’t Mommy. She figured she had a better chance of getting back through with Daddy on guard duty. Little girls always had a way of wrapping their fathers around their pinky fingers.

She closed her eyes and huffed. “It doesn’t matter that I’ll probably pee my pants. No one will care or remember. Same with bottles. Same with strollers and carseats and highchairs and junk. Same with…” she gulped. “Just one more time. That’s all that I need to do.”

Wendy Merts was already walking towards the shimmering rip in her closet before she’d had a chance to re-open her eyes and rethink this gamble.

The first thing that hit her, even before her vision cleared, was the smell. The light citrus accents of her perfume and deodorant had faded out and been replaced by the strong lavender tones of baby powder. That made sense. Babies didn’t wear perfume, strictly speaking. Her nose wrinkled a bit. “That’s a bit quick…”

Then again, a change of smell was faster and more subtle than the entire wardrobe transformation. Wendy looked down at herself to see if there were any other changes happening. She was not disappointed. Her denim skirt was already busy shrinking, raising itself up over her knees and not stopping until it was just barely covering her underwear.

She lifted up the skirt to peek at her panties just as they started to thicken and bulge out, becoming panties no more. Panties didn’t have velcro tapes holding them up. The diaper didn’t stay visible long, however. The front and back of her blouse stretched down between her legs, fastening themselves to each other with an audible ‘Pop! Pop! Pop!” making her skirt flare out a little like a tutu.

The fabric on her blouse became more cottony soft, and the buttons blended and melted away while the sleeves shriveled up to just before her elbows. A smart blouse and conservative skirt had turned into an adorable onesie over her fresh diaper and a bit of decorative flare that didn’t preserve modesty or limit access to between her legs in any way but left no doubt that she was a baby girl in this universe.

She saw herself in the mirror. “Damn,” she whispered. “I really do look cute like this.” As if in reply, her hair started to shift and untangle itself from its bun, manifesting and rearranging itself into pigtails held aloft by tiny elastic bands. She squinted at herself. “Is my hair shorter?” No.
The hangover/alcohol metaphor wasn’t completely accurate. An accustomed drunk took longer to get a second or third buzz, needing more time and drinks to get to that same level. In this scenario, Wendy was some kind of miracle lightweight; with her clothes transforming to their babyish equivalent even faster than the last time.

Still transfixed in the nursery’s mirror, Wendy carefully lowered to all fours. Peeking out of the leg bands, her former underwear seemed to add five pounds to her backside, and what used to be her skirt barely grazed the carpet. “I’m kind of a crawler…” Wendy said. She sounded almost relieved despite herself. A diagnostic for a not-even-toddler would be loads easier than an exam for a law student.

Right as she was starting to get the balls of her feet out from under her, the door squeaked open and Closet Daddy came in. Wendy dropped immediately back to the floor, afraid that she might somehow break the imposed illusion.

“Okay baby gi-!” his eyes widened in shock for just an instant and Wendy was afraid that something had gone wrong. Was this somehow her real father seeing her in a onesie and a diaper? Impossible, considering how much younger he looked.

The panic passed when Closet Daddy’s eyes darted downward to the carpet. “Oh pumpkin. How did you get down there?” he asked. He bent over and picked her up like she was all but weightless and rested him on her hip.

The law student let out a relieved giggle. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, Daddy,” she said, certain that he’d only get the gist of it.

Right on the money the younger version of her father called out the open door. “Honey, you about gave me a heart attack! I thought you said you put Wendy in her crib after getting her dressed!”

Mommy’s voice came back. “Oh! Sorry! I was but then I changed my mind. Wanted to give her practice crawling around!”

“That’s fine!” Daddy shouted back. “My eyes just saw an empty crib for half a sec and I panicked!” His voice had lowered by the end of the second as a younger version of Mommy power walked in.

“Sorry about that, dear.”

“No harm done.”

The now young couple gave each other a quick peck on the lips, and then leaned into each other, sandwiching Wendy between their embrace. Little spots of happiness danced in Wendy’s brain at the feeling of warmth gently enveloping her.

She caught the sight of them in the bedroom mirror. An odd sight because of positioning and proportions, but oddly comforting nonetheless. The girl did a double take when she saw her hair. Had it always been that lightly colored? Did her parents dye her hair when she was a baby? No. That was ridiculous. Baby hair just tended to be lighter and finer. But she wasn’t a baby… Not really. Not in body.

The hug ended and Wendy blinked away her surprise. Still in Closet Daddy’s arms she did one last look in the mirror and frowned away her doubt. It was nothing. A trick of the light, or just looking at herself from the wrong angle. That sort of thing.

“Have a good day at school!” Mommy sang out.

School. Right. That was the point of this stunt: So she could have a good day at school. “You too, Mommy.”

“You too, Mommy!” Daddy said, echoing his daughter’s sentiment. He grabbed Wendy’s wrist and made it wave bye-bye, even though Wendy had started doing it on her own.

“And have a good day at work, Daddy!” Mommy waved back.

“I will.”

Mommy disappeared down the hall, leaving Wendy and a less-gray, more youthful version of the man she’d grown up with. “Bye…Mommy…” she said again. In that moment, Wendy felt a surprisingly deep sense of loss and longing. On one hand, Wendy knew her not-quite-mother was only leaving for the day. On another more emotional level it felt like her mother was getting on a plane and moving to the other side of the planet.

How silly was that? Her Mommy was just going to work for the day and would be back by the afternoon. But Wendy was planning on jumping back across to the real world before lunch. And never use this other world again, past this exception for the test. She might legitimately not see this version of her mother ever again. Needless to say that did not help to stave off the sudden melancholy.

A light squeeze and a gentle pat on the back brought Wendy back to the present instead of a future that wasn’t here yet. “Don’t worry,” Daddy said. “She’ll be back after school. You’ll have so much fun playing with your little friends that you won’t even notice.”

Just the promise of that made Wendy cheer up a little bit. He was right. She had a mission to accomplish.

“But first…” Daddy said.

“To the daycare!” Wendy pumped her fist.

Daddy spoke over her. “To the living room!”

“Living room?” Her carrier and caregiver took a wrong turn into the living room when he should have been making a beeline for the garage. “Daddy? Wrong way! It’s not a weekend anymore!”

Closet Daddy ignored her, not so much as giving a “Mmhmm” or a “Yeah.” Out of the corner, by the couch, he pulled a massive purple and green walker into the middle of the floor and positioned it so it was facing the television. Wendy let out an undignified yelp being lowered down into it, her legs threaded the harness’s holes. “Won’t be long. Ten minutes. Daddy’s gotta clean up in the kitchen before everything gets icky and sticky.”

He disappeared behind her and went to the couch. Half-instinctively, she tried to spin around and follow him in the walker but instead of carpet her feet came down on hard sturdy plastic that had no give or traction.

Calling the contraption as a walker was a misnomer. Baby walkers had wheels and let their occupants’ feet touch the floor so they could scoot around upright in a kind of silly highchair and office chair hybrid. This particular device had no such wheels and a floor of its own. It wasn’t a ‘walker’ as much as it was a ‘stander’.

Wendy grabbed the sides and pushed herself up to her feet. Miraculously (or frustratingly as the case may have been) the inside seat cupped her so that it barely moved when she stood. Functionally, it was closer to the feeling of getting up from a bar stool so that her feet were no longer dangling more than the motion of coming to a full standing position up from a chair.

How had Daddy managed to get her in this? It must have been a subtler form of in-the-moment alterations, much like how bathroom changing stations and otherwise normal sized Pampers inflated themselves to meet Wendy’s specific bodily dimensions. Just another perk of interdimensional exploration: Physics didn’t always make sense.

Standing as best she could, Wendy twisted and looked at her father digging through the couch cushions. “Found it!”

“Daddy! Stop! We need to get going!”

Remote drawn, Closet Daddy pushed a button and the T.V. flickered on.
Wendy’s ears were treated to a catchy tune. She turned around and faced the T.V. and caught sight of a family of orange and blue cartoon dogs dancing with each other.

“Mum!” The orange adult dog went off to the side.

“Dad!” Her husband kept dancing after the pause in the music then walked off to join the other dog. The music resumed and the two anthropomorphic puppies started dancing again. A game! They were playing a game!

“Bingo!” The tiny orange puppy joined what had to be her parents.

And finally, “Bluey!”

What was this show?

Not even thirty seconds in and Wendy had almost forgotten her impatience and hurry to leave. Only the sight of Dad sneaking around to the kitchen and the sound of silverware being rinsed in the sink brought her out of a mild entertainment haze.

The girl huffed and crossed her arms over her chest even though no one was around to see it. “Fine,” she called over to the kitchen, determined to be in a bit of a huff. Make it quick, though!”

She sat back in the device and let her feet dangle while the hammock-like seat engulfed her. What was going on with this show? Games in the park? A ‘shadowland’ game? It was rather like “the floor is lava” save that it was outside and the only safe spots were in the shade. And funnily enough, if it weren’t for the fact that everyone on screen was a cartoon dog, the dialogue and plot could just be from the slice of life of a fairly well to do middle class Australian family (at least she guessed they were Australian based on the accents).

It was so oddly compelling and engrossing that Wendy didn’t consciously notice the passage of time. Neither did she notice that she’d started playing with the various bits and baubles attached to the walker’s activity tray. As the cartoon went on, her hands busied themselves spinning and battling at things that blinked and wobbled and twisted and turned. The whirring and clicking and light grinding noises added themselves seamlessly to the living room’s soundtrack and soft electronic lights coming from this doohickey or that entered her peripheral vision while the cartoon dogs played their funny game.

Only a minor twinge in her bladder, the dullest ache, brought her blinking out of her couch potato trance. The feeling was hardly urgent and Wendy could hold it, she supposed, but why bother? It’s not like she was going to be going potty like a big girl before she got back home.

Deep breath. One…two…and she was going; the center of her diaper warming as it absorbed the pee then wicking it away from her skin and cooling it almost as soon as she was done. In just a few short trips across the dimensional divide, Wendy Merts had become a natural at wetting her pants; almost like she’d never been potty trained at all. To be fair, unless she specifically thought about it she couldn’t tell that she was wet. Her diaper was better than some of the top shelf menstruation products she used in terms of comfort and absorbency. Wet it and forget it was definitely a viable option.

“Maybe this is why some kids take so long to potty train,” she said to herself more than anyone else. “Hard to know what wet is when you never feel it.” That and there were so many other interesting, seemingly more important things to hold a baby’s attention. The cartoons were brighter and more vibrant than the boring real world was, and the toys were simple but easy distractions.

Not counting the suction cup mounting and the bright coloration, Wendy was certain she’d seen some of these in the hands of classmates and peers. The only difference was they were called “fidgets” when they were for older people and “baby toys” when they weren’t. Did that say more about babies or her classmates, she wondered.

A quick kiss to the back of her head made her jump in her seat a bit. As it turned out, Wendy’s bladder had a tiny bit more to give, too. “Daddy!” she squealed, half in annoyance and half in delight. “Don’t sneak up on me like that!”

“Almost ready to go,” Daddy said. “Daddy’s just gotta get dressed so he can go to work as soon as he drops you off.”

“You don’t need to tell me,” Wendy said. “Just do it.” She watched her Daddy walk into her parents’ bedroom and gently close the door behind him so he could get dressed. Just like with her Mommy she felt a bit of sadness start to creep up on her, like some primal part of herself was afraid that she was never going to see the man in any incarnation ever again.

Without thinking she tried to push ahead and follow him into his room. She didn’t want him to get lonely! Sadly, there was no escaping the activity chair she’d been plopped into. She couldn’t slink out the bottom of it and it was too high up for her to be able to disentangle herself and high step out of it. In the real world, she could have rocked side to side until she tipped over and crawled out without much problem, but just like the stroller and the highchair before it, there was absolutely no give. Throwing all her weight into it just made her feel tired and barely caused it to wobble.

She inhaled, feeling a mighty need to call out for him, just to make sure he was okay. “No,” she stopped and scolded herself. “Nope. Not gonna do it. Daddy will be right back. Just gonna watch some T.V.”

“Mum! Dad!

Oh neat! The show wasn’t very long but each short got the catchy theme song again!

Her ears and eyes were occupied by the charming animation and voice acting. Her right hand busied itself with more of the fidget toys. Her feet bobbed and lightly kicked, brushing themselves against the floor. All the while, her left hand busied her mouth while she sucked on her thumb and fingers. She wasn’t likely to scream out, but it felt good to have it there as a precaution, plus it felt like she was properly multi-tasking.

Her almost panic attack was pretty much forgotten two minutes later. Daddy came out dressed in a button up shirt and jeans, his hair neatly combed and parted. “Alright pumpkin,” he said. “Let’s get you patched.”

“Actually, Daddy,” she said, popping her hand out of her mouth and wiping the saliva on her sleeve. “Can we wait a minute? I want to see how this episode ends?”

Her Daddy’s doppelganger paid her no mind, lifting her up out of the walker. “Okay, almost ready to…” he stopped and patted Wendy’s bottom. “Never fails,” he chuckled. “But first…!”

“Hey!” Wendy yelped. “Where are we going?” A rather obvious question, considering she knew the path back to her room by heart. A better question might have been “Why?”, though that would have been silly to ask too considering how quickly the answer came.

“Never fails,” Daddy repeated himself. He laid Wendy back down on her nursery’s changing table. In one practiced fluid motion he secured her with a strap and started popping open the onesie between her legs. “Get them changed before breakfast and they’re wet again before you can even get them out the door.” He stared down at her diaper and nodded to himself in confirmation.

“What are you looking at?” Wendy asked. She got her answer when Daddy grabbed a fresh diaper off the stack. “The pee line!” These diapers had a color changing wetness indicator running right down the middle. No doubt Daddy had felt how much her diaper squished in his grasp when he’d lifted her up and cupped her bottom under his arm, and now that he had her onesie unsnapped he’d confirmed his suspicion by seeing the stripe between her thighs transform from a soft yellow to a bright blue.

Wendy looked up at the ceiling and placed her hands behind her head. “Okay. Fine. You got me. Just hurry up! We gotta get going! I don’t want to be late for dayca…er…I mean…school!” She kicked her feet in the air impatiently as if that might hurry her along to her adventure.

Daddy wasn’t quite ready to get started. Wendy lost sight of him, ducking down beneath the top shelf. “Hey!” she called. “Where are you-?”

“Boo!” Daddy popped up, his lips puckered out and his cheeks puffing like an orangutan. It was essentially the same thing as the peekaboo game he’d tried the other day….

Only this time, it worked. “Heee-hee-hee-heee!” Wendy kicked her legs and wriggled on the changing table, squirming in delight rather than impatience. Daddy’s silly trick made her cackle like she was seeing top tier stand-up comedy.

“There’s my happy girl!” Daddy cooed. “I don’t want to get the day started with you being a grumpy guts!” For good measure he dangled something just above. Wendy could tell that the little doo-dads were brightly colored- yellow, red, green, and blue- but Daddy was shaking it so fiercely that her eyes were having trouble focusing on what it was.

“OOOO!” The words shot out of Wendy’s mouth. “What is that? Give it! Give it here!” Her legs stilled themselves and her arms shot upwards towards the roof. “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!”

“You want it?” Daddy teased.

“Yes!”

“You want it?!”

In the back of her mind, Wendy was beginning to wonder how much this version of her father actually understood her. “Yes, I said!”

Daddy’s meaty hand stopped jingling the toy and lowered them down just enough so that Wendy could just reach them. The candy colored treats were in Wendy’s grasp almost to her mouth when her brain finally made sense of what the dangly bits were. “Keys?”

More specifically, toy keys. Plastic keys with blunted ridges on a plain white plastic ring. No sharp edges to cut tongue and gums on, and big enough so that it would be exceptionally hard for an infant- adult sized or otherwise- to choke on. Just in case, she licked them, and was slightly disappointed to find that they had no flavor besides.

“Okay,” she said. “You got me! Just hurry up and change-…” Her ankles were already crossed and her legs were already up over her head. In her near singular focus on acquiring and exploring the plastic keys, she hadn’t noticed Daddy using his free hand to untape her and open her diaper. Now without the toy keys, he was free to clean her up, wiping her bottom and between her legs with the greatest of ease.

One handed he balled the old diaper up and tossed it into the waiting pail. A flick of the wrist and its replacement was flapped open and slid beneath her. If diapers were spare tires, her Daddy could have worked as a racecar pit crew. She’d never changed a diaper herself, but with how easily and efficiently her parents did it, she could have sworn they’d been doing it for much much longer than however many months they thought she was.

He sniffed dryly through his nose. “No rash. Just a little wet. No stinkies. I don’t think you need any cream or powder.” That made Wendy a little sad. She really liked the powder! It made her smell pretty. Daddy glanced down at his watch. “Oh gotta get going!” Just like that, he finished pulling up the new diaper, securing it and then refastening Wendy’s onesie back together, and unfastened her from the table.

It was a little more than half a dozen simple movements but it was all done with such speed and automaticity that Wendy couldn’t help but let out an astonished ‘Whoah!” as her Daddy lifted her back up and speed walked out to the garage.

“On our way!” Daddy chirped to her. “We are on- our-way!”

Re-focused on her goal, Wendy smiled at her Daddy while he busied himself locking up the house and carrying her to his car. She was going to ace this non-test! And in the big scheme of things, this was just a quick bathroom break and waiting for her dad to get ready; something that would have had to happen regardless. No big deal! Everything was still going according to plan!

If it had been her first visit to this strange land beyond the rip, Wendy might have been distrubed at the giant car seat. How did it fit? How was there room for her? Did the car get bigger in the backseat? Would that affect how it steered and maneuvered? Having seen playground equipment modify itself to accommodate her fixed that. In near childlike faith, she stopped worrying about the physics of it all. She fit because she fit and that was enough.

Likewise, yesterday she might have futilely tried to slap her Daddy’s hands away while he slipped her arms through seat belt straps that connected in the middle of her five-point harness. She certainly would have said something about him reaching down and connecting them to the buckle between her thighs. Getting her diaper changed not two minutes prior had fixed that hesitation.

What was weird, she noted as Daddy closed the backseat passenger side door and walked around to the front was that she was facing the wrong way. Her car seat was facing backwards. Not even toddlers sat facing the wrong direction!

Also, calling it a car seat, specifically, was something of an oddity because Wendy wasn’t strictly sitting. Much of her weight was still distributed on her rear, true enough, but she was being cradled. It was more of a ‘car recliner’ than a ‘car seat’.

Positioned as she was, Wendy could see out the car’s back window, but because of the angle she was at she could only see the cloudless morning sky. If she leaned forward she could look out the passenger side window, but because of the restraints, she couldn’t sit up enough except to see more of the same. The mirror that hung along the actual back seat headrest directly in front of her made it so she could see Daddy’s rear view mirror; specifically his reflection checking up on her, but the rest of her world was confined to car upholstery.

“Comfy, Wendy?” Daddy didn’t wait for her to respond. He probably didn’t expect a coherent response.

Wendy said “Yeah” anyways.

The engine hummed to life, and Daddy leaned back and looked over his shoulder so he could back out of the driveway. Right as the car stopped to shift gears, he paused, spared a look down at her, and booped her on the nose.

An electric jolt, part adrenaline, part temptation traveled from Wendy’s nose to the base of her spine. If only she could bottle this feeling and take it home with her.

“How about some music?” he asked once the car started rolling forward.

“Sure,” Wendy said, looking into her back seat mirror like it was a television. “Do you have the Bluey Theme Song? Or maybe just turn on the radio? What about some-?”

She hadn’t finished speaking when Daddy turned the music on. He wasn’t even waiting for her to finish. A hard rock cover of The Itsy Bitsy Spider blared out; one of those albums of little kids’ songs done in non-nursery rhyme format so that the adults buying them wouldn’t be bored to tears. Wendy’s eyes bulged from her skull and she let out a cry with the first chord. A few minutes prior, she would have just winced and covered her ears, but plunged deep into baby brain the sudden volume shocked and discomforted her in almost unbearable ways.

The music had blared for ‘Itsy Bitsy’ and had been cranked back down by ‘Spider’ but tears still threatened and lingered in Wendy’s eyes.

“Sorry, baby!” Daddy said. “Daddy must’ve been jamming out to his music last time and forgot.”

And just like that it was better, and Wendy was able to enjoy the music, the skyline, and the motion of the car’s stops, starts, and turns. Closet Daddy’s warbling of ‘Bah Bah Black Sheep’? Not so much, but it wasn’t enough to make her cry in pain or panic. Her emotions were waves upon the beach: In, out, in again. Cresting and falling. Stunning and disturbing. Refreshing yet draining. At any given moment, Wendy was realizing, her feelings were either out and full force belting out of her or so tiny as to be inconsequential. On or off. No volume control. It’s why the playground trip had been so exciting.

Weird.

Thankfully time in this reality wasn’t decreasing her mental faculties. She knew how to walk and talk and feed herself and go pee pee in the potty and that sheep was spelled s-h-i-p, even if she wouldn’t get an opportunity to demonstrate those skills. She contented herself during the ride by singing “The Elephant Song”, even if Daddy only heard silly babbling in its stead.

It was a mixed bag of songs as far as recognizability went. For every ‘Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed’ and ‘There’s a Hole in the Bucket’, there was a ‘Sorry, Excuse Me’ or a ‘What Do You See?’. These songs were completely unfamiliar to her, yet it was easy enough for Wendy to figure out the pattern by the second verse and finish the song. This gave her an extra boost of confidence. If she could adapt to unfamiliar baby songs, she could handle whatever this side of the rip threw at her in place of her law exam. She didn’t have to remember things from her childhood as much as be able to adapt and do what came naturally.

Speaking of the memory, the unfamiliarity of some of the songs did beg the question: Were these older songs that never caught on or were these newer songs that were being popularized today? Was this side of the rip a true time warp or a complicated alternate reality where everyone in her life was born over twenty years later? Given the cartoons she’d seen, she was inclined to think the latter.

She was all but headbanging to ‘Baby Shark’ by the time Daddy turned the car off and announced “We’re here!” He came around and unbuckled Wendy from the monstrously proportioned car seat, picking her up while Wendy instinctively looked around.

The more and more information she took in, the more she was convinced that this was an alternate version of the here and now instead of a place out of memory. The parking lot was relatively compact with a little over a dozen spaces total, ideal for a place where the majority of vehicles would be there just long enough to drop off and then pick up their little ones. The only other cars in the lot were parked farthest away from the entrance, likely employees; well maintained but lower priced vehicles that were likely past their warranties by now: a classic hallmark of people who worked hard but weren’t paid well enough.

The building itself was only one story tall, but from the outside looked impressively big. Gray bricked with large reflective windows and an archway leading inside, the building might have at one point been an insurance agency or an accounting firm. The bright red shutters on the outside windows gave the exterior a more homey, school house look.

The various colorful letters and numbers that had been screwed and drilled into the wall continued to drive the point home. Where once Romanesque columns likely held up the walkway, a pair of giant crayons framed the entrance. Just in case there was any sort of confusion as to what this place was, the sign above read: “Bouncing Babies Academy” in bright white bubble letters. For extra emphasis, a cartoon baby, smiling and sitting in only a plain white diaper bounced across the sign from left to right; with playful bouncing arcs showing it’s trajectory.

“This is definitely new,” Wendy said to herself. “I would remember something like this.”

“That’s right,” Closet Daddy cooed. “We’re here at school!”

“You can’t understand anything I’m saying, can you Daddy?”

The only reply was Daddy’s quick and thunderous footsteps towards the front door. Across the threshold was a well air conditioned check in area with a heavy countertop. To the left and right of the countertop were closed doors, and the space immediately behind the countertops was occupied by bookshelves filled with files. Definite dentist office or doctor’s office vibes.

A heavyset woman with thick curly blonde hair looked out from behind a computer monitor. “Good morning!” she practically sang.

“Morning, Diane!” Daddy said. “Checking in.”

“Of course,” she clicked on her keyboard.

“Morning, Wendy!” A sudden blush rose to Wendy’s cheeks at being addressed so directly by a stranger. A nice looking, but unfamiliar person was giving her attention, and she didn’t quite know how to deal with it. Yet another grown-up that seemed to know her name but she wouldn’t be able to pick them out of a line up! How awkward! “Someone’s a little shy this morning.”

“Give her time,” Daddy replied. “I just think she’s still sleeping. Mama’s morning milk is finally kicking in.”

“We can put her down for a nap if she needs it,” the woman replied.

“I don’t think so. I think once she gets crawling along she’ll be fine till lunch.” Daddy bobbed her up and down as parents did when trying to keep a young child calm.

A few more mouse clicks, and the woman said. “Okay. She’s checked in. Do you want one of her teachers to come and get her or…?”

Closet Daddy shook his head. “No. I know Miss Donna and Miss Jay have their hands full. I don’t mind going back.”

“Okie dokie. You know the way.”

“Sure do.”

Daddy went to the left door and opened it. He took an immediate left turn down a hallway past a water fountain and a small room with a vending machine. It was quiet, but not silent. Wendy could hear faint laughter and coos mingled in with children’s songs and the sound of women talking. The sounds grew louder and intensified when the hallway opened up to a large pod area, with different doorways arranged in a semicircle.

The pod itself had tiny tables with tiny chairs arranged all around them, practically a hobbit’s banquet hall. The area was empty of any such whimsical fairy people, sadly.

From the second door on the left, a middle aged black woman with her hair in braids walked out, carefully stepping over a baby gate. “Hiiii Wendy!”

“Hi Miss Donna,” Daddy said. He handed Wendy over without hesitation. “She’s already had breakfast and I changed her just before we got in the car. So she should be good to go for a while.”

Wendy felt herself tense up when the woman gently patted her bottom. It was exactly the same way that Daddy had checked her less than an hour ago, but the same type of intimate contact coming from a complete stranger had thrown her off her guard. Her teeth grinded against each other unconsciously. “She seems good now.”

A toddler girl in jeans and light up sneakers ran out of a nearby classroom. “Miss Donna! Miss Donna! Jayden pooped his pants!”

Walking and talking? Wendy felt like her face started to match her onesie. From a physical standpoint she might be the biggest baby here, but she was far from the oldest.

“Oh? Did you tell Miss Cee?” the woman holding Wendy said, nonchalantly.

The girl nodded so enthusiastically her headband flew off. “Uh huh! He’s gettin’ his hiney wiped right now!”

Another adult stumbled out. “Emily!” she said, her voice growling but playful. “Get back in here!”

The toddler gleeful ran back, her feet stomping and her pants starting to sag to reveal her pink Pull-Up.

“Sorry Donna!” The new teacher said.

“Don’t worry about it, Kate!” The door closed behind them, leaving only the milieu of paper caterpillars decorated with children’s names in sight. Miss Donna regarded Daddy. “Some of the caterpillar kids are starting potty training. A couple keep tattling on each other whenever somebody has an accident.”

“Fun,” Daddy said, rolling his eyes.

“Yeah. Kinda at that awkward stage. Some are still in diapers, others are in Pull-Ups and a precious few are in big kid undies.” She grinned, ruefully. “Changing mats, training pants, and regular toilets all in one room. Such is the life of a caterpillar”

Daddy spared a look at the closed door. “All while having to teach shapes and colors and counting?”

Miss Donna nodded. “Mmmhm. It’s why I like the Ladybugs. Things are messier but simpler.”

“Amen.” Daddy agreed. He leaned in and gave Wendy one last kiss on the cheek. “Bye bye, pumpkin! Mommy will pick you up after work!”

Another surge of terror and melancholy loomed up in Wendy’s heart. Daddy was leaving. Going away. Maybe forever. The world became a big black raincloud and she felt as if she were at his funeral. Daddy’s retreating back might as well have been a closed casket. She would never see him. Ever again! Despite herself, her lips twisted and her face contorted as if to give a banshee’s mournful wail.

“Don’t worry,” the newest familiar stranger- Miss Donna apparently- told her. She gave a peppy little bounce. “You’ll see Daddy later today, after your Mommy pics you up.”

Wendy sniffed and wiped away tears she hadn’t consciously realized were starting to form. That was right. She’d see him again. Right after Mommy-

Mommy! With that single sentence, Wendy’s brain went on high alert: Mommy? In the real world it was her father who was supposed to pick her up from the exam site, way before lunch . After work? Mommy was still a teacher in this world. She wouldn’t be off work until at least three in the afternoon! Longer if she decided to buckle down and grade a bunch of papers. Wendy had only been planning on spending an hour, two at most at this place, now she would be in for a full day.

“Daddy!” she called out. “Wait! Stop! Come back! Waaaait!” But Daddy didn’t turn around. He didn’t so much as look back. The gap only widened as Miss Donna carried her further away into the daycare’s nursery. “WAAAAAAAAIT!”

“Don’t worry,” the stranger promised. “He’ll be back. He’ll be back.” She patted Wendy on the back to comfort her. It didn’t. Already a cosmic monkey wrench had been thrown into her plan. In and out had been the order of the day, but it might just be stretched out into a marathon.

Wendy was put on the floor bottom first, but wasted no time in shifting over to all fours, skittering toward the baby gate like a cat that had just been tossed in a bathtub. She could make it over and out, no problem. The baby gate was short. Shorter than even the fences at the park’s playground.

Just as with everything else in this reality, logic and proportion fell sloppy dead when she interacted with it. The wooden gate wedged feebly in a doorway sprung towards the ceiling as soon as she was within arm’s reach. In the real world, Wendy would have easily high stepped over it or even knocked it over with a well placed kick. At present, there wasn’t enough of a gap between the top of the gate and the door frame to slip her arm through and it had the strength of a wrought iron prison cell instead of a wooden gate. And of course, no one native to this timeline seemed any the wiser at the change or discrepancy.

“Daddy!” Wendy called out, even though her father’s doppelganger was long out of sight. “Come back! Get me out of here!” Tears dripped onto her face. She hadn’t mentally prepared herself to spend more than two hours like this and her emotions were still in full infant mode so that even minor setbacks felt like a death sentence.

Grunting, Wendy pulled herself up to her feet and shook the barrier with all of her might to no effect. “Let! Me! Out!” Her voice cracked and her throat swelled. She couldn’t spend all day like this! She didn’t belong here! She wasn’t really a baby! Just a law school student looking for a short cut!

A new hand wrapped itself around her waist and gently pried her from the baby gate. “There there,” a silvery haired woman with big glasses and well worn laugh lines on her face said. “It’s okay, baby girl. Just get all your feelings out.”

“I’m! Not! A! Ba-!” Wendy stopped herself, realizing that the outburst was having the opposite effect on her, making her feel more babyish, not less. Maturity was much like power, and having to declare it had the opposite perceived effect. Only babies insisted that they weren’t…

Leaning into the other woman, whom Wendy assumed was Miss Jay, Wendy started to slow her breathing and try to wrangle her emotions. The gentle back pats and rubbing motions that the grandmotherly woman was doing helped to. “That’s right,” she whispered. “You’re fine. You’re safe here. Everything’s fine. Little girl’s going to have a good day today. Isn’t she?”

Mutely, Wendy nodded. That was right. She was going to have a good day. Just like yesterday. Even better because by the end of it she’d accomplish more than the other had. Even now, in the real world some professor or proctor’s memory was being altered to remember giving a test and an encouraging word to a nervous but otherwise prepared young woman.

The young lady inhaled and held her breath before releasing it again. Then once more. Ragged breaths turned into peaceful sighs and the pounding of her pulse left her ears so that coos and babbles mixed with light nursery rhyme music could take its place. “There, we go.”

One small crisis averted, Wendy was placed back down on the floor, bottom first.

Just as quickly, more crying rang out, this one coming from an actual baby. “Miss Jay,” Miss Donna called out. “Lindsay’s leaked!” Wendy saw a chubby little girl, only identifiable as such, because of how lavender and frilly all of her clothes were- dress, diaper cover, tights, socks- everything screamed ‘little girl’. Wendy normally only saw kids in clothes like that during the Holidays or Weddings, and someone had dressed this childlike on a Monday morning. To ruin the effect a dark wet patch had shown up inside the kid’s dangling thighs and was spreading.

“I got the last one,” the older of the two caregivers said.

The black woman was busying herself laying the baby down on the nursery’s changing table and stripping the shoes and tights off the kid. “I know,” Miss Donna said. “I’m already on it. But we’re out of plastic baggies to put dirty clothes in.”

“Got it,” Miss Jay said. “I’ll pop over next door to get some. Does she need clean clothes?”

Miss Donna multitasked, grabbing gloves and a clean diaper out of a bin next to the table. “I don’t think so. I caught it in time to save the dress. Tights and panties just got wet.”

“So many layers probably made her leak,” the older of the two said. “Too much constriction down there.”

Miss Donna had already started changing the baby. “Preaching to the choir, there.”

“You’ll be okay here?”

“I think things’ll be fine for the two minutes it takes.”

Wendy joined the grandmotherly woman in scanning the room. The place was a dictionary level example of controlled chaos. Toy shelves laid barren, their colorful and soft contents strewn throughout the floor in a minefield. Babies, all of whom were decidedly less than a year old, played contentedly; some crawling, some stuck on their backs batting at shiny mobiles, others chewing on things that both were and weren’t meant to be chewed on. One particular kid sat and clapped his hands, yelling “YAH YAH YAH YAH!” at the top of his little lungs. The Ladybug Room might not have been for Newborns, but it was definitely not for toddlers, either.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Miss Jay said. “Need anything else while I’m out?”

“Coffee!” Both women let out a quick laugh. Then Miss Donna crooked her head over towards the cubby. “Seriously though, see if Morgan’s got any extra Luvs? We’re down to just one in her cubby.”

“That’s not gonna last the day with Morgan.”

“Nope. Gotta remember to tell her Mom to bring more.”

A little girl in a duck yellow onesie looked up curiously from their play mat. “Awww! Somebody heard their name! Don’t worry baby, we’ll take care of you.” Then to Miss Donna she said. “Be right back.” The older woman stepped up and over the retracted baby gate, on to look for plastic bags and spare diapers.

Meanwhile, Wendy found herself searching around the playroom saying names to herself. “Morgan…” she said to herself. “And Lindsay?” She was crawling over towards the changing table before even realizing it. Pretending to be only able to crawl had become like a second nature for her by now, she noticed, feeling a hint of pride at how skillful she was at deceiving the grown ups. Reaching the table, she looked towards the little boy. The same kid who’d shared the swingset with her. “Petey…?”

Carefully maneuvering in and out of stuffed blocks, board books, jack in the box style toys, and other kids, Wendy veered right of the changing table and crawled over to the cubbies. Mounted on the wall high enough so that the actual children had no hope of reaching, the square shaped holes were stacked with pacifiers, fresh diapers and extra clothes.

“Can’t. Quite. See.” Wendy whispered. Like a super spy in the movies, she waited just until the daycare worker finished re-diapering the actual child, picked her up and went to place her back in the middle of the room. Then she grabbed a table leg and climbed to her feet, staring at the names of the children.

Wendy squinted at the cubbies. Whichever woman wrote the kids’ names must have done it with their non-dominant hand or something. It was practically chicken scratch. Wendy leaned forward to get a better look, but thought better of stepping closer or release her grip on the table. The way things had gone so far, the very walls might stretch to keep the cubbies out of reach.

To the right of each name was a tiny photograph of the baby in question; some smiling, some not. Baby pictures could be tricky that way. She’d never met any of these children, but for some reason looking at the pictures next to the writing helped her decipher what was written. Much like the way that children can recognize the logos for McDonald’s and Disney long before they can actually read, Wendy decoded the names on the bottom row.

“Morgan. Lindsay. Peter. Tonya.” Just like the names of the children in her Law class! That sealed it! This couldn’t be a coincidence! Instead of fear, Wendy felt excited enough to burst! Now she was certain that at the end of the day people would remember her acing her History of Law exam! This was a good omen!

Her eyes skimmed up to the top row and froze. “Wendy…?” Wendy saw her picture. A giggling, eyes closed baby picture with a bonnet; a fairly standard shot for any baby picture. That wasn’t the problem. Just like at home, this was no chubby cheeked baby version of herself. That wasn’t the problem, either.

It was Wendy in that photo, but a younger version of her. Not much younger, the subtle difference between one’s early twenties and late teens, but Wendy was still sure that picture was dated. “How long have I been enrolled here?” She wondered. By her own reckoning she was only supposed to be nine or ten months old in this reality.

Like a drop of oil being smeared across it, the photo warped, bubbled and blurred. Just as quickly, the distortion cleared. “Huh?” Wendy dared to lean in further and stared, trying to sus out what, if anything had changed in the photo.

Acne.

Big, red rimmed, white headed, pus filled acne, dotted the girl in the photo’s cheeks. The same affliction of krakatoan sized craters had befallen Wendy back in highschool the year before Mom and Dad sprung for a dermatologist. It had been bad enough that Wendy had rushed to the DMV afterwards to re-take her driver’s license picture. “Why does it…?”

Without realizing it, Wendy released her grip on the changing table and brushed her cheek. Her eyes widened and her breath stuck in her chest.

Bumps!

Sore bumps!

Oily, irritated disgusting pustules ready to burst open and pour directly onto her skin like a geyer if she so much as pinched one with her thumb and pinky!

Pimples!

A surprised shriek leapt out of her. So surprised was she that she stepped back and felt her heel knock against something and caused her to lose her balance. The trip down to the floor was a short and soft one, cushioned by the extra padding on her rump, but it was no less startling. “Pimples!” Wendy cried out, flapping her arms. “Why do I have pimples?!”

Her heart back to thundering she patted along her face and felt…nothing. No soreness or irritation. No bumps. Her skin was smooth, baby smooth even. Had she been hallucinating? She tilted her neck to the ceiling, trying to get a better look at her so-called baby picture, but couldn’t see herself from where she was sitting.

“Wendy?” Miss Donna gasped and ran right in front of her, blocking her view. “How did you manage to stand up? Are you okay, hon?”

“Y-Yeah,” Wendy stuttered, even though she knew that the adult probably couldn’t understand her. Hopefully the tone still translated. “Yeah. I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m okay.” Miss Donna’s lip pouted out, and she picked Wendy up again, cradling her and turning her over this way and that, inspecting the girl for bruises. “I swear child, some of you are gonna be the death of me.”

She didn’t put Wendy back down, quite the opposite, actually. The changing table and cubbies with her and her friends’ pictures on them got further and further away in a matter of steps. “If you want to practice standing up, let’s be safe about it.” That is how for the second time that day, Wendy Merts ended up with her legs threaded through a giant sling, her body weight not quite supported and her unable to get out on her own.

It wasn’t exactly the baby walker: For starters she was more or less dangling from the ceiling. In her walker at home, the part that she sat in wasn’t the primary feature. Here, it clearly was, with only a bar with some spinning widgets on it above her head to whack at. It also had more give, allowing her to bend her knees and jump, but still supported her weight enough that she could dangle if she wanted or just didn’t have the coordination to land on her own two feet. Part bungee cord, part baby walker, part hammock. “Aw poop…”, she realized. “I’m stuck in a friggin’ bouncer.”

And so she was.

About a minute later the older of the two women, Miss Jay, stepped back in, a gallon ziplock baggie in one hand and a stack of three or four diapers in the other. The baggie went to her coworker and the diapers got shoved in a cubby. “I swear,” Miss Jay said. “I don’t know why they dress that little girl up like that…” They spoke with the kind of certainty and candor that people did when they knew no one would overhear them, (or rather that no one who did would be able to report)… “It’s not like the kid cares.”

“Yeah,” Miss Donna agreed. She slipped the leaked on tights and diaper cover in and then sealed the baggie closed. “You’d think her parents would at least spring for diapers that didn’t leak as often. Keep all those nice clothes clean.”

“She’s a fashionista!” Wendy hollered over the low babbling and ruckus. “Always has been.” Both women turned to regard Wendy, but showed no recognition that she’d done anymore than squawk. “Right,” Wendy sighed. “Forgot. You can’t understand me.” She bounced a little bit, fidgeting nervously. “It’s true though…”

The twenty-two year old in the bouncer kept scanning the room, mired in her own thoughts. She had already determined that what went on in this daycare today would somehow parallel to what was going on in her real Law School class. The trouble is with so many variables, present she didn’t know how things were playing out on the other side of her closet. She didn’t know or recognize half of these rugrats; which made sense in a way because she’d be hard pressed to remember half of her adult classmates.

What was the real Lindsay doing, Wendy wondered.

Lindsay, the real Lindsay, anyways, was always fashionable. On days when everyone else would be taking notes in t-shirts and jeans, she’d be dressed in something flashy and stylish. Lindsay dressed the way people in the movies thought women dressed, as if normal people their age had the time to get up before dawn every morning and perfectly style their hair, do their makeup and have perfectly pressed and dresses, skirts, blouses, and the like ready to go. Wendy couldn’t remember seeing Lindsay walking around without a pair of heels.

This Lindsay couldn’t even walk yet, but that was probably the only reason she didn’t have shoes on stilts with pointy toes. Wendy giggled to herself; first about the idea of a not-quite toddler learning to walk in heels, and then the idea of her college aged classmate getting the baby treatment. The image of Lindsay getting laid down first thing in the morning, and then diapered and then layered into ever more ridiculously feminine clothing was hilarious to Wendy; hilarious enough that she forgot to consider how she herself looked.

Looking at baby Lindsay busily smacking a stuffed rabbit, Wendy thought the grown ups had a point regarding clothing and functionality: Underneath her fancy baby dress was just an average disposable diaper; one that leaked when pressed too tightly against her by double layers of tights and covers. Honestly, if Lindsay had been dressed like that as a baby, Wendy wouldn’t have been surprised.

For a true one-to-one ratio, Wendy would have guessed Lindsay’s baby equivalent would have been in some top-of-the-line leak proof guarantee diaper; or a fancy cloth one with golden safety pins. How funny would it be to find out that beneath her stylish silks and cashmere sweaters that Lindsay wore plain cotton granny panties from Walmart?

The big girl pretending to be a baby giggled at the imagined irony. She resolved to ask Lindsay if she dyed her hair when she got back. A ‘yes’ to one might hint at the other.

Laughing as she was, Wendy thought she felt her bladder spasm, and sucked in her breath. She jumped and bounced a little bit in her harness, but felt no additional wetness or squish beneath her. “False alarm.” She didn’t know why she was afraid of wetting her pants; she’d done it several times already, but some ever shrinking part of her reminded that it was something she should be concerned about. Unlike the rest of this daycare’s residents, Wendy wasn’t actually an infant. She didn’t actually need any of this stuff, she was just here to benefit from a glitch in a cosmic system.

From her spot dangling just above the floor, Wendy looked at the babies; the real babies, that is. They crawled and rolled and laid on the floor. What were her classmates doing? Did Lindsay’s repeated abuse of a stuffed animal mean that she was stuck on a question? Did Petey’s babbling of “YAH YAH YAH YAH!” mean that Peter was celebrating a job well done?

Wendy watched a bald little thing, Morgan, crawl around and explore the room in just a t-shirt and Luvs. Was this the adult equivalent of flipping through exam papers to answer the easiest questions first or skimming to get a sense of scope? Wendy didn’t know. She’d planned to be out of here by ten, but might be stuck for longer if what Closet Daddy said held true.

The caretakers had mentioned something about Morgan needing additional diapers. Did adult Morgan constantly take bathroom breaks or something? If so, Wendy had never noticed. There were no hall passes or bathroom breaks at the collegiate and graduate level. Adults just slipped in and out of the lecture hall as needed and professors being offended and stopping class because someone was quietly standing up from their seat was nothing more than a product of cinema. It was a silly correlation to begin with, Wendy knew. Babies just went through several diapers a day and the kid was down to one.

Tonya, the baby one anyways, started crawling to the empty toy shelves. Right next to Wendy’s bouncer, they were mounted into the wall and as far as she had seen, barren; their contents already spilled out and spread around the floor. Curious, Wendy looked on as the child crawled over, grabbed a sturdy shelf and pulled herself up to a standing position.

Miss Donna, who was busy playing on the floor with one of the other kids, caught sight of it. “Jay! Look!”

“On it!” Miss Jay shuffled over and grabbed a clipboard and started jotting notes down on it like she were watching the story of the century. “Somebody! Is! Cruising!”

“Cruising?” Wendy echoed. “Cruising? What’s cruising?” Based on the context, ‘cruising’ must have meant shuffling from side to side using a bigger structure for support.

Baby Tonya let go. “Oh!” The women said good naturedly. She took a step back and her legs started to wobble. “Oh! Oh!” Tonya buckled and plopped butt first on the floor. “Ohhhhh!”

Miss Jay reached down and gave her co-worker on the floor a celebratory high-five, then walked over and patted the little one on top of her head. “Good job, Tonya! You’ll be walking in no time!”

“Hey!” Wendy scowled. “What about me! I did something like that too! You just weren’t looking when I did it!” She couldn’t believe it: Not only was Tonya starting to surpass her, again, but all of those feelings of inadequacy and jealousy were being directed towards a literal baby! “Let me try! I can do it!”

The old woman pivoted and stepped to the bouncer. “Well hello, Wendy,” she said sweetly. “We haven’t had much time to talk today! I hope you’re doing well!” Every sentence ended on an upward note, the same way people did when talking to a puppy or a small child. “Are you?”

Wendy bent her knees and bounced slightly. “Get me out of here! I can cruise too or whatever you call it! I was doing it just a second ago!”

Miss Jay’s face lit up. “Uh-oh! Somebody’s a bouncy girl? Are you a bouncy girl?”

A flip switched on in Wendy’s brain. “Heh. Yeah, I guess.” she said. She felt the corners of her mouth tugging upward, and didn’t resist. “I kind of am a bouncy girl, aren’t I? Heh-heh.”

The woman’s face went silly and googly eyed. “Are you my widdle kangaroo?”

Wendy tried to giggle out a “yeah”, but the “Ha-ha’s” overpowered it.

“Hoppin’ around like a bunny rabbit?” The snowy haired lady snuck two fingers behind her head and bounced quickly on the balls of her feet. The extra bit of physical comedy sent the hilarity over the top.

“Yeah!” Wendy’s voice cracked from laughter. She wasn’t being tickled physically but the sight of the kindly old lady playing pretend lit up the pleasure centers of her brain. “Yeah! I kind of am a bunny rabbit!” The Pampers and her onesie weren’t a true cotton-tail, yet her butt was certainly fluffier than usual. She did her best to settle her weight back down to the floor so she could plant her feet and wiggle her hips.

“Such a cute baby bun-bun!”

Spastically, Wendy started clapping her hands, absolutely shaking with joy. She really was a bunny rabbit! She used her whole arms to clap, and from the outside she knew she looked like a monkey banging cymbals together, but she didn’t much care. Neither did she care that her fingers were splayed wide open, accidentally missing and interclasping with each other with each clap. There were two year olds with more coordination that she was displaying at the moment. Good thing she wasn’t supposed to be two.

All of a sudden, Miss Jay was facing away from Wendy. She hadn’t moved otherwise; hadn’t walked away to tend to another baby or started up another discussion with her work partner. She wasn’t doing anything.

“Miss Jay?” Wendy asked. “You okay?” The woman wasn’t moving. She was a statue or an animatronic that had been shut off. “Miss Jay?”

Miss Jay pivoted back around and stared at Wendy. Just stared. No talking or movement. Her face was set in stone and neutral like the fancy guards at Buckingham Palace. Her eyes were unfocused. Trance-like. Looking past and through Wendy instead of at her.

“Miss Jay?” Wendy said. “Miss Jay?” Was the old lady having a stroke or something? Wendy reached out to try and tap her on the shoulder but couldn’t reach. “Are you okay, ma’am?” The woman remained stockstill, slack and frozen in place. Wendy looked back over her shoulder and had only plain brick wall behind her. She craned her neck and looked at the spinning fidget toys above. “What are you looking at?” She waved her hand in front of the woman’s face. “Hellooo?”

The caretaker came back to life. “Did you get that Donna?”

Miss Donna was jotting something down on another clipboard. “Yuh-huh. Definitely noticed the change in behavior. The diagnostic says it would be better if she tried to make you laugh back, but she definitely noticed.”

“We can try again later, just in case.”

Wendy’s jaw dropped. She was being tested?! She couldn’t believe it!

“Social developmental level: Average.”

“Average?!” Wendy screamed. “What do you mean average?! When I was a baby the first time I was ahead of everything!” She was so mad she was literally bouncing. She was so surprised her voice had gone up nearly an octave. “You want me to make you laugh? I can make you laugh!” She made her eyes go jiggly and puffed out her cheeks like her face was a balloon, but neither of the grown ups were looking at her.

“Okay, okay.” Miss Jay put the clipboard on the empty toy shelf and scooped the girl up by the armpits. By this point, it was practically second nature for Wendy to wrap her legs around the lady’s thigh. “Don’t want you to get too used to staying in one spot. Don’t want to turn you into a little couch potato.”

“Not a problem,” Wendy replied. “Not a-” She felt a hand pat her butt. “Hey!”

“Hmmm,” the daycare worker said. “A little bit, but not yet.” The comment seemed more to herself than anyone in particular. It certainly wasn’t loud enough for Miss Donna or anyone not right up against her to hear.

“Not what yet?” Wendy tried to ask.

Instead of a reply she got ripped away from the woman’s hips. They were about the same size, but the difference in universe might as well have made Wendy a kitten. She could claw and squirm but there was nothing much she could do to stop herself from being pried lose.

Her feet hit the floor first. Miss Jay seemed to slow down, like she was once again half remembering something. That didn’t stop Wendy. “Let me down already!” she whined. “Up or down! Make up your mind!” Her legs curled up next to her on the carpet.

“Don’t feel like walking yet, baby girl?” Miss Jay said. She bent over and fluffed out the faux skirt on her onesie so that it more resembled a ballerina’s tutu. “Okay. You don’t have to do it right now.” She stepped around Wendy to grab the clipboard.

“Walk?!” Wendy said. “I can walk! Look!”

It should have been easy for Wendy to stand up. From where she was sitting it should have been a simple matter of gathering her legs up underneath her, leaning forward so that her weight was on and then pushing with her legs to a standing position. The key phrasing here was: ‘Should have been’. She placed her feet flat in front of her and bunched her knees up to her chest but when she leaned forward, the girl just couldn’t do it.

Her center of balance wouldn’t shift from her backside to her feet. “Must be the diaper,” she muttered to herself at about the same volume that the older woman had used. “Throwing off my balance or something.” It felt like there was truth to that. She was having trouble making her knees touch and her back end felt slightly heavier, though not enough to weigh her down this much.

Grumbling and growling to herself, Wendy turned over onto all fours. “I got this. I can past this test. I can walk.” Deliberately, one at a time, she put her feet flat on the floor and straightened her knees.

“Awwww!” Miss Donna called behind her. “Look at her tryin’! You go girl!”

Wendy’s face was now closer to the carpet than her rear end, which was sticking up and out behind her. “I got this,” she said to herself. “I got this.” With a mighty heave, Wendy pushed herself upwards

“Oh-oh-oh-oooooooooh!” The adults cried out in unison. As quickly as she’d risen, Wendy fell, her knees locking for less than a second and then crumbling beneath her.

It was less a matter of strength and more one of coordination and balance. For the half-second she’d been upright she’d felt wobbly and uncoordinated; a novice learning a new complicated dance after only watching the tik-tok once. “What the heck?!” She slammed her fists on the carpet in frustration. She tried again, but with similar results.

“Nice try, baby girl! You’ll get it!”

“At least she didn’t bang the back of her head.”

Now the corners of her lips were pulling downward and her heartbeats was racing and her face flushing with exasperation. “Why can’t I walk? I was doing it just a little while ago!” She hit the carpet again, on the verge of a temper tantrum.

“Yah! Yah! Yah! Yah!”

“Shut up Peter!”

The little boy flinched. He might not have known the words that Wendy was screaming at him, but he definitely recognized the volume and tone. His lip quivered for approximately two seconds before tears and bawling screams shot in.

The Law Student jerked back on her hands and knees, starting to shut her eyes and lower herself into a submissive crouch at the sound of approaching footsteps. “Awww Petey,” she heard Miss Jay say. “Wussamatta baby boy? Are you wet? Thirsty maybe? Cranky? Just need a snuggle? Let’s figure it out.” The sound of the baby’s crying and the old lady trying to soothe him got farther and farther away.

Wendy opened her eyes and looked around. Neither of the daycare workers loomed over her, hands their hips shaking their heads in disappointment. Miss Donna was busy having Morgan stack blocks and Petey was on the changing table sucking down apple juice while Miss Jay unfastened his onesie.

They hadn’t made the connection, she realized. There was no infantile equivalent of “shut up” or any other insult. Babies her age…her perceived age…didn’t normally yell at each other. Not on purpose, at least. The kid had been crying his lungs out, but babies did that for anything. He’d been sitting upright and was neither bleeding nor bruised, so Wendy hadn’t been suspected.

There’d be no point in reprimanding her either, she realized. It’s not like she was suspected of knowing what she was doing. Being a baby meant literally never having to say that you’re sorry. To top it all off, the bottle of juice on top of the clean diaper seemed to be doing the trick. No harm, no foul, no guilt.

That settled, Wendy started crawling over to the empty toy shelves. If this reality’s equivalent of her teachers wanted to see some ‘cruising’ they’d see some cruising. If Tonya could do it, so could she.
A slight shudder of trepidation made its way through Wendy’s body. “Please don’t get bigger, please don’t get bigger, please don’t get bigger,” she prayed. With her luck today, Wendy knew, she could very well start to climb the toy shelf and steady herself only to have the top shelf rocket past her head and knock her off balance again. It’d be like writing an entire essay on the wrong prompt and having to start over.

With her right hand she stretched out and grabbed the top of the shelf. Nothing happened. Good. She scooted a little closer on her knees and leaned back on her heels so she could grab on with her other hand. The shelf did not warp or shift. Her fingers remained on top with her thumbs clasping underneath… Also good.

“One….two…three…!”

Pushing with one end and pulling with the other, Wendy surged upwards until she was standing up right. Her body almost betrayed her, but she managed to steady herself. Her gait was too wide and her knees wobbly and her knuckles were turning white from how hard she was holding onto the toy shelf, but she was technically standing. Wendy froze; nearly breathless and totally giddy. “I did it!” She screamed. “I did it!”

Pure excitement coursed through her veins. It didn’t matter that this was something that Wendy had done and been able to do for as long as she’d remembered, the girl was full over the moon. “I’m a big girl!” she beamed. “I did it!” She wanted to jump to the heavens, but settled for bobbing her knees.

“Pulling herself up,” Miss Donna noted. “Very nice!”

For her next trick, Wendy started edging along the sides of the shelf an inch at a time, scooting and awkward like a circus acrobat on a tightrope. All told, it took her approximately half a minute to move a foot, but the grown ups were suitably impressed. “Oh-ho!” Miss Jay said. “Looks like Wendy is cruising too!” The grown ups noticed her! They really did!

“Oh yeah!” Miss Donna remarked. She slapped her forehead and jotted something down on the clipboard. “I forgot to make a note of that. She was trying some of that earlier, I just didn’t get to jot it down.”

“Two times already?” Miss Jay mused. “Looks like Tonya’s got competition!”

Wendy was feeling brave enough to let go with one hand so she could point to the baby girl in with a bow wrapped around her noggin and a yellow dress that didn’t come close to covering up her sagging Huggies. “Ha!” she crowed. “Beat that, Tonya!” Tonya didn’t so much as turn her head, but Wendy felt good putting one of her rivals on blast.

The excitement didn’t last long. More accurately it was replaced with a very different type of excitement, one of shock and brief panic. With one hand off the shelf, Wendy felt herself starting to lose balance and strength. Pivoting wildly on one foot, Wendy swung around and grabbed the siding for dear life, accidentally bumping the small of her back. A jumper out on a ledge, Wendy did the one thing she shouldn’t have done: She looked down.

It wasn’t a far drop, even to Wendy’s nearly babied brain. There was no sense of vertigo or further loss of balance overcame her as she looked down past her chest to her feet. Wendy was in no danger of falling back down just then. In looking past her chest, however, Wendy was in danger of losing something more precious than her mere balance.

Her clothes felt baggier. Her clothes weren’t falling off, just ill fitting. For just a moment, Wendy had wondered if her onesie was made out of particularly flimsy material. Maybe she’d somehow stretched it out or something. Similarly, her diaper sagged on one side, a tiny bit loose in the hips. Had in all of her movement she accidentally loosened the tabs on her diaper?

And then her clothes contracted back around her body like a vacuum seal. She didn’t want to admit what she was seeing but the girl could not deny the evidence of her eyes.

“My boobs?” Wendy asked, incredulously. “What’s happening to my boobs?”

The girl wouldn’t have believed it if she hadn’t seen it happening herself, but she looked down at just the right (or wrong) time to watch her breasts start to shrink and recede like a zit right after it had been popped. The bagginess she felt in her clothes was caused by her losing body mass moments before readjusting to fit her new frame.

Not that she’d been afforded one in this reality, but she no longer needed any more support than a training bra. Her breasts were still there, and she still had the barest hint of hips, but they were severely underdeveloped. The first time she’d looked like this, she was in fifth or sixth grade and had been incredibly thrilled, proud even, that she was turning into a young woman.

“Oh no…” Wendy’s voice cracked. ‘Underdeveloped’ was the perfect word for it. “I’m getting littler,” she squeaked. “I mean younger!” Her voice was getting higher from more than just screeching in excitement. If not for the timing of her transformation, she might not have noticed. As quickly as her breasts had shrunken, her onesie had likewise reduced itself. The same force that made it so that ordinary baby clothes and furniture were adapting to fit her were continuing to do their job.

This alternate universe had done its level best to treat her like a baby: First others saw her as one. Then her clothes changed to fit the roll. Then her emotions. Then the environment around her. The only thing left was her very body. Those pimples on her face had been there. They’d just vanished after her form rewound itself to before that awful awkward year in her life. And judging by the sound of her voice and the receding curves of her body she was just barely on the other side of puberty: Fifth grade. Maybe Sixth. Seventh tops.

The first time Wendy had gotten really, truly, terribly drunk, It had been Wendy’s twenty-second birthday. Mom and Dad had given her run of the house and her friends had brought over enough liquor to tranquilize an elephant.

The first few shots made her feel bubbly. A few more and she was exceptionally silly and happy… Mixing in the ninety-nine proof banana liqueur with their chocolate shakes had been a stroke of genius. She didn’t know who she’d made out with, but literally thought she was invisible if she closed her eyes. As her blood alcohol content rose, the night got worse. Fun happy dizziness became disorienting. Lowered inhibitions became violent mood swings.

Less than four hours in, what was supposed to be a fun night became a nightmare. She’d vomited and been genuinely proud that she’d made it to the toilet. She’d been unable to walk. She’d literally cried for her mommy.

The parallels were undeniable. This was worse and much more sobering than the sun that morning had been. She was literally getting younger, her body being warped and twisted to fit this new reality. It was utterly horrific to her and yet so logical. How had she not seen it coming? Ever since her first step into the rip, the closet reality had been busy fixing Wendy like a spider weaving to fill a hole in its web. All the cuteness and innocence had led her to underestimate the extent of the changes, leaving her feeling like a frog suddenly noticing how warm the water felt.

If she didn’t get out of here immediately, she’d be reduced to practically nothing. No boobs. No butt. No bush. Barely any hair. Next to no teeth. No voice. Nothing more than a fleshy blob with arms and legs and a sack of piss wrapped around the middle. Barely able to get around. Squalling and crying and completely at the world’s mercy.

A ten month old baby girl.

The very notion sent shivers up her shrinking spine.

“No!” She screamed, fighting for words so that she didn’t just break down and bawl. “ Oh my god, I need to get out of here. Help!”

Without waiting, Wendy pushed herself up to her feet. She’d run! She’d run and leap over the gate and get home…somehow! She could see it all in her mind’s eye. She could do it! She could escape!

The spirit may have been willing yet her altered flesh was weak and adrenaline could only take it so far. The poor girl made it one and half steps before her body lost its balance and her nose smacked right into the carpet.

“No….” she whispered. Tears started to well up. Existential dread was nothing compared to the tears and pain magnified by a child’s out of control emotions. “Nnnn…” If she opened her mouth again, she knew that nothing resembling words would exit it.

Too late, help came, just not the kind she’d wanted. Miss Donna walked up to her and picked her up. “D’aww…somebody had a tumble!” She rubbed and patted the panicking girl’s back. Shushing and mumbling sweet nothings to her. Wendy started feeling better and hated herself for it.

After her breathing slowed, Wendy was put back down and the grown up held out both hands palms up. “Come on, baby. Take my hands.” Wendy did so, thrusting her palms out face down into

“Ma’am,” she blubbered, “you gotta help me! I’m a big girl!” This was said despite the fact that she was now shorter than the other woman. Oh fuck she was shorter! She was being guided deeper into the room, away from the exit. Impotently, she pulled against the woman’s grasp.

She might as well have been trying to fight gravity.

The black woman took a step back, her face all smile and her voice incredibly calm, contrasting against the mounting panic in Wendy’s brain. “That’s right, sugar. Follow me.” She stepped back, her footsteps slow, gliding and deliberate.

The regressing girl did her best to copy her but her legs wouldn’t cooperate. When she tried to move her feet low and to the floor, her feet barely scraped a centimeter. When she tried to take bigger steps, her legs went into wild bicycle pedal motions: Right leg up above the waist, kick out, stomp down. Left leg up above the waist; kick out; stomp down. She was trudging through a pit of invisible pudding. It was more than the scaled up Pampers doing this; her gross motor skills were completely shot.

“Such a big girl!” Miss Donna cooed at her. “You’re getting so big! You’ll be walking and talking in no time!”

The praise made Wendy quiver with joy. “That’s right! I am a big girl! I’m the biggest girl in the whole world!” Despite the slight hiccup, everything was still going to plan, she reminded herself. She’d ace these silly baby tests. Then Mommy or Daddy would come and pick her up and the teachers would tell them what a big girl she was and they’d take her home and give her ice cream and cuddles and let her stay up late watching cartoons. “What am I thinking?”

The next step did not land true. Wendy lost her balance and plunged face first towards the floor. Only the caregiver’s fantastic reflexes saved her from bloodying her nose on the floor. “Whoops!” Miss Donna said, leaning in to catch her by the armpits. “I think that’s enough walking practice for now. Got it logged, Miss Jay?”

“Got it! Moving on to Jayden and Connor!”

Gently, Wendy was set down and both grown ups moved on to other babies. She was disturbed by how natural it felt to be this low to the ground. More unsettling, she realized that she was thinking of these literal infants as peers and friends. “I’m not a baby,” she said. “I’m a big g-g-grown up. Only babies worry about whether they’re big or not.”

She maneuvered around to a sitting position and looked at herself. Soon enough she might be little in the most literal definition of the world. How old was her body now? Thirteen? Twelve? Younger? She had barely felt her chest pushing back against her body when laying flat against the ground the moment before. Patting her face, Wendy could tell her cheeks weren’t feeling the same, her face having grown rounder since crossing the rip earlier that morning. Her arms and legs looked impossibly skinny, and she suddenly got a flashback of her tween self modeling in front of her mirror, worrying if she would ever fill out like her friends. Those ages were awkward enough the first time around. Wendy didn’t want a second time.

Her breath started picking up speed. She was close to hyperventilating. She needed a bag or something to breathe into. Failing that, she settled for sucking on her thumb. The relief wasn’t instant, but as her lips worked over her digit, her breathing slowed and it became easier and easier to think calmly.

“Otay,” she soothed herself. “It’s gonna be otay.” Her body was changing, but that was no big deal. Her clothes had changed too but they’d changed back once she’d crossed over back in her closet. No lasting harm had been done. It might take a little bit for everything to kick in back to normal, but she’d be okay. She’d just rush through the closet and once on the other side, she would lock the door until her body was grown up again.

If she kept getting younger, that would probably be okay too. Everyone in this universe saw her as a baby no matter what. There was nothing in her experiments to suggest that back in the real world the opposite wouldn’t happen and people would see her as an adult despite a diminished frame.

She was a little overstimulated and high on baby brain, but she’d been like that in the bathtub the other day and she’d made it out okay. All she had to do was wait out the clock and go back home, and she’d be thinking more like her big girl self the second she crossed that threshold.

In the meantime all she had to do was pass some silly baby test so that…so that…why was she taking a baby test again?

“Schoo!” Wendy shouted so loud that she literally shaked. A couple of the other babies around her startled a bit and then went back to pounding wooden blocks and stimming…

That was right! School! Big fancy grown up school! If she proved she was a big girl here in daycare, the grown ups would think that she did super good at big girl stuff. And she’d pass the baby test super easy too! She knew so much big girl stuff that it would be impossible for her to mess up a silly baby test.

She knew how to walk.

Except her body wouldn’t let her.

She knew how to talk.

Except nobody could understand her.

She knew how to go potty.

Except nobody would ask if she needed to use it. She’d just be forced to go pee-pee in her diaper. Wendy frowned. Come to think of it, it was weird that she hadn’t pee-peed in her diaper yet. She hadn’t felt the need to. What did it feel like again? She searched back to earliest memories…something about a dance and hopping in place? Maybe it tickled? That would explain why people got potty trained if going potty tickled. Who didn’t like tickling?

Why couldn’t she remember?

At least she knew shapes.

Shapes like…like…

Okay. She sucked her thumb harder and thought so more. She knew all the colors!

Like red…and red…and…and…red…and…and…? Was her onesie red?

Panic didn’t rear its ugly head again. Confusion did. There was a puzzle to be solved here, but Wendy couldn’t quite figure out what the end result was supposed to look like. Even if she couldn’t remember all of her big girl stuff she knew she would do well on all the baby tests that Miss Donna and Miss Jay gave her. She’d always been smart, even when she was a baby. She only needed to do what came naturally until Mommy came to pick her-

Light harmonica music broke in on Wendy’s thoughts.

“Mum!”

“Dad!”

Had Wendy been a puppy she would have been wagging her tail. She knew that song! Up above the room, bolted high so that none of the babies could reach it, a television played. One of the grown-ups had turned it on and like any kid her age Wendy felt drawn to the happy music and bright colors.

“Bingo!” Wendy said in time with the song. “Bluey!” She felt super smart. Only her third time hearing it and she already had it memorized! She took a seat by Petey who had likewise been drawn in like a moth to a flame. “Hi Petey!” Her friend barely acknowledged her presence, hyper focused on the cartoon dogs playing on the T.V. screen. That was so Petey! She wasn’t even mad.

“Bottle time,” Miss Jay said after the first episode. She handed Wendy a baby bottle filled with apple juice. The way that it ballooned in her hands distracted her, but made her happy. It meant she was still a big girl…or bigger girl, anyways. It was just a waiting game by now.

The theme song repeated itself again. How many episodes were there and why couldn’t Wendy watch them all?! She laid back on the floor, drinking comfortably from her ba-ba, letting the juice flow freely and positioning herself at such an angle where she could see the screen. She reached back and borrowed the stuffed bunny that had been flailed around and used it like a pillow. Modern problems required modern solutions.

Still drinking she felt a strange, almost foreign pressure in her tummy. It wasn’t painful, just uncomfortable. Like a minor muscle cramp. Wendy wiggled a bit, trying to get comfortable. She rolled this way and that but it wouldn’t go away. Then she lifted her knees back up to her to her stomach and something happened:

Her face scrunched up and funny popping noises could be heard, though she couldn’t quite place it. Quickly, as if the discomfort were rushing out of her, she felt relief and she lowered her legs back down to the floor, smiling at the sudden nice warm feeling in her pants. Bonus! At the bottom of her peripheral vision, just around the bottle of juice, she saw what little remained of the little mounds on her chest vanishing beneath her onesie.

That explained the noise and the discomfort well enough. Her body was just experiencing the opposite of growing up. Ungrowing pains? It made sense that it felt a little funny; a little mushy. Speaking of her clothes, they were tightening again. The baggy folds and creases were being flattened as if someone was ironing her onesie while she was still wearing it. If not for the slight movements of the fabric shrinking and restretching itself, she would have barely noticed it. Earlier, it had left her diaper all droopy, but this time she didn’t have a big girl butt like her mommy to lose. Why were all the big girls having so big butts anyways, she wondered, giggling around her thumb.

A tiny bit of baby fat rippled to life, causing her tummy to stick out. It hadn’t been this way since her last years of Elementary school, when looming puberty kicked her metabolism into high gear and after school sports melted away the last of her chubby childish physique. “Muft be bak to gwade skool,” she mumbled.

Trying to think of what that meant in terms of years, she could only recall what it had meant to her back then : no longer using only one of those little scribble lines when writing her name, but two! Wow that was a big number!

The television clicked off as quickly as it had clicked on. “Okay, little ones.” Miss Donna said. “That’s enough T.V. time for today.” A couple of the kids blinked like they’d been in a trance and crawled away looking for new sources of stimulation and diversion. Tonya had nodded off to sleep on the floor. Lindsay had somehow managed to drool all over her pretty dress.

“Pffft,” Wendy said. “Babies.” She inhaled through her nose and sat up. “Ew!” she said. “What was that smell?” Her eyes wandered over to Morgan. She leaned forward and sniffed again. The stinky smell intensified.

“Miss Jay! Miss Donna!” Wendy sang. “Morgan needs changed! She’s stinky!” Of course she knew that the grown ups couldn’t really understand her, but they could still hear her making noise and recognize that she was pointing at her classmate. Their noses would do the rest.

“Peee-yew,” the caregiver said. “Yup. It’s about that time.”

Wendy smirked, feeling good about herself. These babies were lucky to have such a big girl among them. She was almost like a third teacher lady, really. In her own way she was doing a good deed, looking out for these little ones who didn’t know how to properly take care of themselves.

She went off the ground with a pair of hands scooping her up by the waist. “Up we go!” Miss Jay said. “Time for changies! Wendy first!”

A lump settled in the back of her throat. “What? No! I don’t need to be changed! I haven’t needed to go po-!” A sudden sense of sobriety overcame the girl. Speaking of lumps, she finally realized that there was a lump in her diaper and how it got there.

“Please, no!” She begged. “My Mommy and Daddy are the only ones who change my diapee! Nobody else!” Her words fell on uncomprehending ears. The clay-like lump smooshed a bit as she was first sat, then forced to lay down on the changing table. Under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t take much to force her regressed body down. With this universe’s physics still determined to treat her like a ten month old it took even less.

The table barely had to enlarge itself for her to fit. It was nothing at all for the older woman to shove her down and pull a strap over her deflated chest.

“I know, I know,” Miss Jay said. “You don’t want a diaper change.” She busied herself pulling on gloves and fetching a clean diaper. “You don’t want a diaper change.” No kidding! “You just want to play on the floor with all your little friends. You’ll feel much better and more comfortable when this is done.”

One by one the snaps around her crotch came undone. Her exposed, soaked and messy diaper sagged away from her body, tugging at the velcro tapes as if eager to be removed. She hadn’t even realized how many times she’d used the undergarment. Hadn’t associated the wet squishiness or the sticky lump with her going potty in her pants. She hadn’t even recognized a change in dexter. Law student? She couldn’t tell the difference between wet and dry or clean and dirty!

Wendy didn’t have the presence of mind or the confidence to be outraged! She was about to get her diaper changed! In public! Okay, maybe not in public public, but in front of all her friends from school and by a stranger that she’d known for less than a day!

In place of outrage, she tried pleading. “Please don’t change me!” She pleaded. “I’m a big girl! I don’t need to be changed! I’m super comfortable! I don’t mind waiting for my Mommy and Daddy to pick me up! They can change me! At least change the other babies first!”

Her crying and whining did her no good. The older daycare worker heard only the mewlings of a child who didn’t want to lay still long enough to be cleaned up. She opened the diaper and heard Wendy’s howling “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” as just the incoherent cry of a baby who didn’t like the feeling of fresh air chilling against her wet skin.

She didn’t flinch away from wiping down Wendy’s privates. For her perceived age, there was no such thing. Wendy still felt every bit violated while the residue of urine was dabbed off of her and solid fecal matter scraped off one wipe at a time.

Wendy had had that archetypal dream of doing a class presentation in nothing but her underwear… This was worse. There on the elevated table, with her legs forcibly crossed and hoisted in the air, her vulnerability and helplessness was on full display. Her classmates, such as they were, didn’t seem to notice or care. They were too busy and preoccupied with their own distractions to truly notice each other, let alone Wendy. Parallel play was just another word for being stuck in a bubble.

“Where did all this come from?” Miss Jay remarked, looking down at the mess piled up inside Wendy’s open diaper and the sprinkling of used baby wipes that was slowly- far too slowly- accumulating on top. “Were you constipated or did you just have a big dinner last night?”

Anyone who has worked with infants and small children can tell you that not all cries are the same. The stereotypical “wah” most commonly comes when a child is afraid; calling out for help. Sad little tykes who don’t have the words to express sorrow have sobs that come from their belly. Frustrated to the point of tears Wendy let out a bawling, almost feral cry; screaming her throat almost raw and her tonsils rattling.

“I’m! A! Big! Girl!” It sounded downright hypocritical coming from her. She hadn’t had this voice since her age was measured in double digits… “I! Want! To! Go! Hooooooome!” She didn’t know or care if home meant her nursery or her big girl room.

The grown up; the real grown up, kept on about her task, not minding the mid-change tantrum. For her, it was just another day. She rolled up the large (but not comically so) Pampers and stuffed it down in the Ladybug Room’s diaper pail. A clean one was slipped beneath her, yet remained open. Wendy’s angst and humiliation didn’t end there.

“Getting kind of rashy,” Miss Jay remarked. “Let’s take care of that.” That was the only preface Wendy got, the only warning. Cold, smelly cream was smeared all over and between her cheeks.

“Staaaaaahp!” Wendy bellowed. Miss Jay kept right on going, lowering her legs down so that she was resting on the new padding. “Make it staaaaaah-” She cut herself off, feeling something hot and wet drizzle against her legs, and hearing the hiss of liquid sprinkling out and hitting papery pulp. Wendy looked down by her legs. She was peeing! Peeing right into the open air mid change and hadn’t even realized it.

“Oooops!” Miss Jay chuckled. She pulled the diaper up but didn’t tape it on. When Wendy had finished, she let the urine christened nappy flop back open and reached for yet another diaper. “Guess I wasn’t fast enough. Good thing I’ve still got good reflexes.”

“You mean good thing it wasn’t one of the boys,” Miss Donna called out. She’d grabbed a mat and was changing kids on the floor.

“That too.”

The second change in as many minutes was just as humiliating as the first. It was practically second nature for Wendy to suck her thumb to keep the screams and tears at bay.

“There we go,” Miss Jay said, finally snapping Wendy’s onesie back up over the new fluffy white padding. “I bet that feels a lot better.”

“It doesn’t,” the girl lied. She crawled away, hearing the dry rustling of the fresh diaper fill her ears. How had she not noticed that before? Now that she was dry every movement sounded so crisp and precise. Was that going to be how she’d have to tell whether or not she needed changing? “No,” she realized. After today she wouldn’t have these kinds of problems anymore.

Based on their screams and yowls, both Morgan and Lindsay had similar opinions about getting their diapers changed. Having that in common only made Wendy feel less like the big girl she knew she was on the inside and more like the baby she was increasingly starting to resemble on the outside. “Mommy…” she whimpered. “Hurry.”

She crawled around the room, looking high and low for a clock. She had no idea how long she’d been in the daycare and how much longer she had to go like this. There weren’t any clocks in sight and neither of the caregivers could understand her to tell her what time it was. Babies didn’t need to ask what time it was.

A more chilling thought: What if there were clocks in this place and she just didn’t recognize them anymore? What if the squiggles and decorations on the walls weren’t just laminated lady bug drawings but also numbers and shapes that her brain couldn’t access the meaning to anymore?

Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw another child that was a little too big to be in this place. It was when she turned her head that she realized that she was looking in a mirror bolted to the wall. “What the…?” She looked like a kindergartener who had somehow managed to play dressup. She was running out of time!

As a last gambit, Wendy crawled over to some of her classmates. “Tonya?” She asked. “Do you know what time it is? Do you know what time even is?” The tiny little thing stared blankly at her and then released a stream of monosyllabic gibberish that could barely qualify as babble. Wendy slumped her shoulders and looked down at the carpet. There went the theory of there being some kind of secret baby language.

The carpet came a little closer to Wendy’s face. Wendy did a double take and looked at her elbows. Still locked. She looked at the babies and realized they all seemed a little taller. She was still shrinking. “Oh poopie…” Her voice came out even higher. A poor choice of words, too!

She experimentally wiggled her hips and crawled around in a circle. Unable to tell wet from dry she relied on the papery crinkling sound behind her to let her know she hadn’t had another accident. How old was she now? Five? The diapers and onesies might not have to stretch all that much to fit. Didn’t they make diapers big enough to fit kindergarteners and late bloomers?

A shadow moving over her interrupted Wendy’s train of thought “Hey sugar,” Miss Donna said. The woman seemed absolutely ginormous now, a true titan. The two grown ups seemed like members of a completely different, practically godlike, species!

Miss Donna, sat down and pushed some plain wooden blocks in front of her. “Do you wanna play some blocks with me?” Placed subtly next to her was a clipboard.

A test! Yes! Wendy was quivering with excitement. She’d seen this one earlier while stuck in the bouncer! “Uh-huh!” This might not help her get out of here any quicker, but surely it would make things easier on her when she did!

Her petite hand bolted out and grasped onto the first block and dramatically shot up in the air. With grace and aplomb and stacked it onto a second one…and watched it immediately fall off. “Huh?”

“Go on,” Miss Donna said. “Try again.”

She did. Much slower this time. Her legs, bladder, and bowels weren’t the only thing she was having difficulty controlling. Her arm was acting like one of those claw machines, getting the gist of where she wanted to go but lacking a great deal of precision. Was it her gross motor that was off? Or her hand-eye coordination? Both?

After much care and effort, she was finally able to stack one wooden square thingy on top of another. Hey! She still knew square! “ Dere!” She heard herself say. She had to grit her teeth and focus to correct herself. “There!” Now her tongue wasn’t cooperating.

“Very good!” Miss Donna clapped her hands. Wendy found herself following suit, bouncing on her bottom. “Another?”

“Okay!” She took the block from the lady’s hand and expertly…knocked the first block over. Cheeks puffing, she tossed the offending collection of splinters.

Miss Donna didn’t seem that bothered by it. It’s not like it went very far anyways. “That seems about right,” she said, moving the pen around on the paper.

About right? About right?! She was supposed to be acing this! Soaring high! Not…not average!

An electronic.beeping buzzed in the air. Miss Donna got up and touched a gray square to stop it. Was that a clock? A timer? “Lunch time everybody!” She scooped up Wendy and a baby whose big kid counterpart Wendy was unfamiliar with.

Wendy was carried over the baby gate, out into the collective pod area. Unlike before, it was now abuzz with activity. Toddlers and preschoolers waddled and toddled about, being seated at the tiny tables while the grown-ups maneuvered with machine-like efficiency between tables, microwaves and stacks of paper plates and plastic cutlery.

The pod doubled as the daycare’s cafeteria. Lunch boxes were being unpacked and children were being seated and handed sippy cups.

The law student was not among them. Miss Donna took her over to a U-shaped wooden table that was higher off the ground than anything the other little kids were sitting in. The seats were built in, too. No chair legs required with buckets built in; a communal centipede highchair. Wendy was threaded into the center seat. It was a tight squeeze, but not too tight. One big breath later and it wasn’t so tight. “Be right back!” Miss Donna promised.

Wendy saw her skin ripple and settle with additional baby fat. If her body wasn’t shrunken down to less than a year old, she was close. She reached up and touched her hair, gripping at the fine tufts on top of her head. No bald spots detected, so she had that going for her at least. She still sat taller than the nearest classmate. Maybe she was two? One and a half? Hard to tell.

Down on the floor, older kids shuffled about, almost as easily distracted but given so much more freedom. They were still trusted to sit down and eat their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and snack on their cut up grapes and apple slices.

Most weren’t potty trained from the looks of it. They had the same bulges along their midsections that Wendy had. The only major difference was when they leaned over or raised their hands over their head, someone got a look at the top of their diaper peeking out over the top of their pants, instead of out the bottom of their dresses or onesies like Wendy and her friends. A few of the taller ones had hints of pink or blue in their disposable underwear; Pull-Ups. But there wasn’t much difference.

It was enough to make Wendy feel ashamed and embarrassed. She didn’t even have shoes on. Compared to how she was dressed these one and two year olds were ready to go get their law degrees. How sad that she had reason to be jealous of kids because they got clothing that mostly covered their legs and backsides?

While the rest of her class joined her in the communal highchairs, Wendy noticed a couple of grown ups busily mixing formula and taking bottles off of heaters going back and forth into the leftmost room. Quiet, hungry cries just barely made their way out of the door, but it didn’t so much have a baby gate. That must be the room for the babies who couldn’t even move yet. Wendy suddenly didn’t feel quite as sorry for herself.

The class now plopped in their bucket seats, and a moment to tie terry bibs around the children’s necks. Miss Jay and Miss Donna started dishing out food into plastic bowls. Tiny, but still steaming bits of pasta… “Go on!” Miss Jay said. “Eat up. It doesn’t taste as good if you let it get cold!”

Wendy felt her mouth start to water just looking at the bowl. Peter’s crawler equivalent dug right in, smearing pasta sauce all over his lips and cheeks. “Careful!” Miss Donna said, her voice full of joy. “Don’t eat too fast!” She pulled the insulated bowl out of reach so that Petey wouldn’t accidentally choke himself.

The girl with the body of a two year old and the mental state of a…whatever…was about to follow suit, but she stopped herself. Was plunging in like an animal really the most mature, most big girl grown up thing to do? She was going to get out of here at the end of the day, but she had to make her time here count, just in case. She might be at a daycare, wearing a onesie and a bib and seated in a highchair, but the adage that there are no second chances rang true all the same.

She saw Tonya with her mouth open, patiently waiting to be spoon fed. Miss Donna gave the girl a bite and the baby girl ate it up, somehow chewing daintily and smacking her lips at the same time… “Good girl, Tonya! Eat it all up.” Tonya seemed the height of refinement and Petey the slob.

Hedging her bets, Wendy followed suit and opened her mouth wide, ignoring that she could easily reach the bowl in front of her.

Miss Jay was quick to notice. “Looks like Wendy needs some help too. Not ready for finger foods.”

“Help?” Wendy balked “Not ready?” She would have had a third utterance saved for the grown up’s timely intervention. A plastic spork half speared and scooped up the bit of ravioli and shoveled it into Wendy’s mouth.

Her jaw clenched down on it and…and…and…

Delicious! Just one bite and Wendy was humming and flapping her arms. Truly, this was the nectar of the gods! She opened her mouth for another bite, not caring that she’d taken a perceived step backwards in her level of care. The only thing that annoyed her was that Miss Donna and Miss Jay dragged the bowl away from her to more easily load the next spoonful from. Right next to her, others got to greedily shovel the tiny cheese-filled bits into their gullets and only got interrupted when Miss Donna or Miss Jay wiped their mouths for them.

She lurched forward towards the bowl. “Want! Want! More! Waaaaan!” The grown ups, as was their way, had already made up their mind and so she had to be patient and wait for more spoonfuls of the yummy stuff to be parceled out one at a time. Hers was the last cold bottle of milk to be given out and the biggerer kids were already being herded back for potty time, diaper changes, and naps. A few of the bigger ones had had accidents. That made her feel slightly better. One bawling two year old was led back knowing she was out of panties to wear and would have to wear a diaper for the rest of the day. Wendy could relate.

Sucking on the bottle, her teeth started to itch. Wendy ran her tongue along the inside of her mouth. She jumped when she tasted gum where her molars should be. She was losing teeth! Another suck and she felt her canines retract. The inside of her pants crinkled a little less than it should have at that.

Her eyes scanned the table and honed in on Morgan and others chattering away, saying nothing. They all had some teeth at the very least, so she needn’t worry about going all gums. That and the pleasant feeling she got from suckling calmed her down.

Besides making her tummy and pants fuller, the food was having an additional effect. Wendy droopily put down the ba-ba and let out a yawn bigger than her entire body. One yawn set off a chain reaction that spread through the entire group. Miss Donna and Miss Jay looked at each other knowingly and after clearing the plates and leaving them in a nearby sink off to the side, carried Wendy and her classmates back into the Ladybug Room one at a time.

“Here you go, hon.” Miss Donna whispered softly and gently to her. “For nap time.” She reached into Wendy’s cubby and gave the girl a light pink pacifier, it’s bulb now perfectly sized for her mouth, not shrinking or engorging required. Wendy accepted it and started sucking on it as she was laid back down on the changing table, her eyes fighting to stay open while Miss Donna started to change her.

Her eyes popped open at the coldness of the wipes, but immediately closed again once the diaper had been replaced and her onesie snapped back up. A cabinet was where all the nap mats were stored and Wendy was more than half-asleep when she was placed on top of the first one and covered in a light blankie. “Night night, baby girl.”

The world was hazy in the baby’s vision, her long delicate lashes like fluttering curtains. She caught sight of Miss Donna removing the baby gate. Miss Jay came in with another baby and did the same to them. Then another. Then another. Briefly, Wendy considered escape but just couldn’t find the energy or the willpower to make the attempt. Where would she go? She didn’t know how to get back home from here. She was just a baby…

“Nini,” she yawned.

2 Likes

Chapter 5

The first question on Wendy’s test was. “True or false: Common law has an exception to the battle of forms which allows for acceptance.” She didn’t know. Skip it. Come back to it later.

The second question was. “Why did Pope Innocent III abolish Trial by Ordeal?” No clue. Couldn’t remember. Come back to it later. Find the easy questions.

Her eyes skimmed down the test.

“Which Supreme Court case supported validation requirements for performance appraisals?”

Crap! The questions at the top were the easy ones!

She flipped through the exam to the long form essay part. She could bullshit an essay easily enough. “I am writing a brief. “The case of Erie R. Co. v Tompkins 304 U.S. 64. (1938). I understand the facts of the case, but I am not sure about the holding and reasoning. Please provide me a summary of the holding and reasoning as it pertains to this case.”

She read it three times and still didn’t know how to answer it. The first two times she read it it was in one eyeball and out the other. The third time it stuck, but she couldn’t even remember the case. But part of being a lawyer was knowing how to bullshit, or so Wendy reasoned. If she could stretch it out while saying very little, her professor might accidentally construct meaning and knowledge where none had been intended. Who knows. It was very possible that if she started writing something in her brian might turn on.

“Okay…” she whispered to herself. “You can do this. You can do this.” And she took her pencil and started to write. And write. And write. And write. And write.

It was actually getting pretty easy, even though Wendy was certain she was putting nothing of substance on paper. Soon her gears got to turning and her confidence built up. Oh yeah! She remembered that! And that!. She flipped back to the short answer part of the test and started filling things in. It was all coming back to her now!

Her Daddy had been right! She really had just been overthinking things and worried. In no time at all, she was done! Proudly she stood up, head and shoulders above Lindsay and Morgan and Tonya and Peter. Those scrubs were still toiling over their tests, sweating bullets!

Waddling over to the proctor’s desk, she proudly. “I’m dooooone!” she sang so loudly she almost shouted. Gifted Kid was back!

The professor arched an eyebrow. “You’re done?”

“Yup-yup!” Wendy nodded. “All done! I go home now?”

“Young lady,” the bald withered old professor said, looking over the test. “This is incredible!”

Wendy beamed. “I did good?”

The professor pursed his lips together, searching for the right words. “I feel you did a very good job choosing lots of different colors.”

The law student blanched. “Colors?”

“And you almost stayed in the lines on some of these bubble in answers.” All of the circles for the multiple choice segments were filled or otherwise scribbled in. All of them. But the professor was right. The colors were pretty. He flipped a page over. “And I really appreciate the detail you went into for the short answers. Is this a yellow bunny on a blue hill?

“It’s a brown bunny on a gween hill.” What was she saying?! The words were just coming out of her.

“Ah,” the professor said. “I see. I see.” He flipped over to the essay portion that Wendy had started out bullshitting on before her brain kicked into high gear. “Very good use of space and blending.” The entire back portion of the test was a mess of overlapping scribbles; calling them drawings or doodles would be an insult to drawings and doodles. “I believe this belongs on the refrigerator at home in a spot of prominence!” He looked over the rim of his glasses. “But not in my classroom.”

Wendy took a step back in surprise and found her shock doubled. Her gait was wider than it should have been. There was not-quite paper crinkle too. “No cwasswoom?” she gasped.

“I think you, my dear, are a little too, well…little to be in this class. A daycare or perhaps a babysitter seems more your speed for extra-curricular parental attention.” He pointed off to a far corner. “Why don’t you wait over there for your Mommy or Daddy to come and get you?”

Wendy had to pivot and wobble all the way around to see where her professor was pointing. In the corner of the exam hall was a pile of stuffed animals, rainbow colored bears and a giant tan stuffed bunny with an orange carrot dangling from its mouth, as well as the odd rattle and cardboard book. “How did…? Me no baby!” She barely registered what she was saying.

“Why don’t you go find a nice soft block to teethe on,” the old man said condescendingly. Then he called out to the rest of the college students, “Does anyone have any erm…baby care supplies? I don’t have any children, but it doesn’t take an expert to realize when one is in need of, shall we say, freshening up.”

Wendy looked down between her legs. She had no skirt or pants; nothing to cover her bare legs. No shoes or socks either. The only article of clothing below her belly button was the massive Pampers taped around her waist and sagging between her legs.

And based on the color changing line running down the middle, she was indeed very, very wet.
But she couldn’t otherwise tell that she was wet. Outside of a bathtub or playing in the sprinkler, she realized she couldn’t tell what wet was. Nor could she remember the name of the color between her thighs telling all the big people that she needed changing.

Boo? Was it boo? Or maybe rad?

No!

No no no!

She wasn’t a baby! She was a grown woman! She was going to be a lawyer!

Her legs wobbled and from up atop her perch of adulthood, little Wendy Merts plummeted to the ground, crashing down on her-

Wendy woke up with a jump. “Wah!” She gasped, her body jerking on the nap mat of the daycare floor. A dream. It was only a dream. Just a dream. She wasn’t back in the real world, yet. Just this one. In a weird way, that was good.

Being a little baby in this universe where she was supposed to be a little baby was infinitely preferable to being a grown woman in hers who had somehow been busted back to preschool.

She wasn’t back on the other side of the closet, and knowing that made it a little more tolerable when her brain finally caught up to reality.

The dimmed lights flickered on in the Ladybug Room. “Okay boys and girls,” Miss Donna sang. “It’s time to get up. Your Mommies and Daddies and Aunties and Uncles and Grammas and Grampas will all be here to pick you up in an hour or so.”

“And they’ll be very unhappy with us if you’re awake in your cribs all night because we let you nap too long,” Miss Jay added, cheerfully.

Miss Donna and Miss Jay. A black woman in her mid forties to early fifties at most; and an older though by no means frail white woman respectively. Her teachers. Her caregivers when Mommy and Daddy were away. They didn’t cuddle as good as Mommy and Daddy but they still fed her and changed her and played with her and made her feel safe.
In this reality…

In real life, Wendy had never met these two, and as far as she could remember neither of her parents had ever talked about this daycare or these women; and she had never seen a baby picture hinting at this place’s existence.

Some of the other babies had names that coincided with her real life adult classmates, but correlating a young twenty-something college student’s behavior with a crawling, babbling, pants pooping infant, was hard work. She had no way of knowing for sure if these rugrats were in fact the baby versions of her college classmates, or if the women who worked here had any connection to her past or present.

Considering the only reason she’d tried to go forward with this reality hopping scheme was because she’d noticed a direct and pleasant correlation between what happened in the closet universe having positive and much more adult appropriate echoes in her own- a baby puzzle in one resulting in a fantastic study guide, for example- the current dearth of parallels were most disturbing. Some annoying itch at the back of her brain made her want to see if this place existed back on the other side and if these ladies worked here or not. Regrettably they did not make a pamphlet for how to deal with this sort of thing or explain to a stranger that you were curious if they remembered wiping your bum when you were less than a year old in a pocket reality just the other day.

Some of the other babies sat up from their nap mats and started crawling around. Others contented themselves with staying seated or remaining on their backs and gazing up at the ceiling. One or two still snoozed, practically comatose in spite of the increasing noise and light.

Wendy stayed seated on the comfy mat and took the time to look herself over. Chubby fingers at the end of chubby hands and arms. Legs and feet that matched. No breasts and the only curves on her body was from her tummy and the padding around her butt. She patted at her head and felt only fine wispy patches of hair, so short that even looking up at the very top of her periphery she couldn’t see any strands.

Her hair wasn’t that short due to scissors, she’d just reached a point where it hadn’t grown enough. She felt a clump of it on the very top of her noggin in a Pebbles Flintstone type ponytail, but that was it.

Outside of that and the purple onesie with the crinoline tutu flare around her waist, it would have been very difficult for someone to know that she was a baby girl. A strange experience, feeling like a stranger in one’s own body. She looked down between her legs, but snaps kept even the diaper beneath her onesie out of sight.

She was dry and comfortable, at least. That was a relief. Unconsciously, her tongue started to work it’s way around in her mouth. On an academic level, she wasn’t surprised to feel her tongue sliding past mostly gums. That didn’t make it any more shocking. Only a few measly bumps at the very front. They weren’t even full fledged teeth! Not really! A slight itching sensation and her tongue moving closer to the gums as one of those tiny emerging teeth re-submerged back inside.

Yikes! Tiny nostrils flared and tiny lungs paced themselves and strained to stop from turning into full on wracking sobbing. Wendy rubbed her eyes to stop the tears from coming out and spilling all over her chubby cheeks. This was not time for a breakdown or a crisis. Not now. Not when she was so close! Mommy would be here any time now to pick her up, and take her home.

She just had to keep enough of her marbles in one basket until the chickens hatched. Then she could cross that bridge in her nursery back to big girl world and get on with the rest of her very big, very mature, very adult life.

A pair of hands hoisted baby Wendy off the ground. “Good afternoon Wendy,” Miss Jay asked. “Did you have a nice nap, pretty girl? Lots of sweet dreams?” Wendy made no effort to reply. One of the first facts about this universe was that no one could understand her, no matter how articulate she was. “Let’s get you changed into something dry and playing.”

A nearly toothless smirk framed Wendy’s rounded face. The joke was on Miss Jay. She’d be amazed at just how grown-up and advanced Wendy was for her so-called age. Wendy folded her arms confidently and laid there on the changing table while the granny unbuttoned her snaps and peeled back the onesie.

Nothing was said, though…

Miss Jay just went for the little velcro tabs on her diaper and ripped them loose. “Wait. What’s going on? What are you doing? I’m dry!” That’s what she’d meant to say, anyway. The words that tumbled out of her mouth couldn’t even be properly classified as words. Just pure baby babble. What Wendy had actually said, if put into prose would require the writer to smash a keyboard with their fist and then delete letters at random.

“Are you singing for me, Wendy?” Miss Jay asked, crossing Wendy’s baby ankles and lifting her legs towards the ceiling. “Is that what you’re doing, baby girl?”

No! It wasn’t what she was doing. Not at all! Trying to tell the grown-up that was only resulting in more of the same total gibberish. She couldn’t talk! At all! She could still think; she still thought in words as she understood the concept, but she had none of them available to use with her mouth!

She had jammed her fingers into her mouth to stop herself from babbling. Maybe all of her words weren’t gone. Maybe just the big ones or the very long sentences. Maybe she could still say the words if they were very very simple. Babies could do that, right? Right.

What was a simple word, though? Cat? Dog? No, too obvious. Wouldn’t something obvious be good, though? Simple? Oh! How about ‘boat!’ she could say ‘boat’!

Wendy took her fingers out and concentrated on making her mouth work as hard as she could. “Ga!” No that wasn’t it. “Meh!” Still no! ‘Meh’ didn’t sound anything like ‘boat’.

“Bobobobo!” No! That wasn’t even the same length. What about ‘cat’? “Uk!” That was wrong too! ‘Dog’? “Akka!” No! “Urgle!” She couldn’t even say ‘no’. Everything just came out as random syllables. Complete gibberish. “Caaaaaa!” That one was supposed to be ‘ga!’ Eeeeeem!” That had been another attempt at ‘boat’. She couldn’t even babble in a one-to-one ratio. No matter what word her brain tried to think of, her mouth was going to say whatever it wanted to.

“Cab-b-b-b-b-b-b-umpf-Gah!!”

All the while, Miss Jay just kept doing unnecessary cleaning to her back and nethers. “You are a soggy little thing,” the old woman clucked. “Nothing that can’t be fixed though with a little powder to dry you out and a fresh pamper.”

Her mouth hung agape and even more babbling cries of shock and disbelief poured out. She was wet? Impossible, yet the caregiver had no reason to lie. It was just like earlier, except she’d done it in her sleep and upon waking couldn’t tell the difference! Her dream had been right!

She’d completely lost her potty training. The only thing adult about her was her mind, now. Yet if she couldn’t even talk or tell the difference between having wet pants and dry ones, was she really that much of an adult?

All of this existential pondering, surprise and terror came out as more unintelligible baby talk that sounded foreign to even Wendy’s tiny ears. None of it stopped or dissuaded Miss Jay from finishing the job she’d started. She finished powdering and sealing the fresh diaper, oblivious to Wendy’s very adult existential crisis.

“You’re so talkative today!” Wendy wasn’t! She really wasn’t! “Maybe soon you’ll start saying real words that I can understand!”

A faint flash of hope flickered in Wendy’s mind. Miss Jay thought she’d be talking soon! That obviously wasn’t going to happen, today, that’s just not how this reality worked. Everything was backwards for her, not forwards. However, maybe it meant that she’d be remembered as saying or doing something impressive back in the real world. Maybe singing? Maybe that was a hint?
It was comforting enough to quiet Wendy down and ease her panic over the state of her body, mind, and words.

Miss Jay sat her down on the carpet and went to get another baby to clean up before their parents arrived. Wendy crawled away, babbling happily to herself, congratulating herself. More time in this place likely meant greater accolades when she returned to adulthood.

With those accolades in mind, Wendy crawled over to an unoccupied toy. A white plastic pole that was thinner at the top than it was at the bottom, but the difference wasn’t so vast as to call the shape a cone. Scattered around it- likely during her change by one of her friends- were several plastic rings of different colors and sizes.

The mission? Get all the rings stacked on top at once.

Super easy. Even a baby could do it.

Wendy reached out and grabbed the first ring, and by ‘first’ that is to say that it was the ring closest to her. She was having trouble describing the color; it was somewhere between grass or platypus; closer to unripe banana or grapes. All of those things went on the ground, so it only made sense that this would be the bottom rung.

She scooted closer to the pole, scooting on her butt and dragging herself forward with the heels of her feet until she was practically straddling the toy. Using both hands and still fumbling, she placed the ring on top of the stacking pole and pushed it as far down. Unfortunately, the farthest down it would slide was firmly in the middle.

No problem. Not a problem at all. Wendy just flopped over to her side, grabbed the second ring the color of grapes…the other kind…and pushed herself up to the side.

It landed on top of the first ring, the ring that looked like the other kind of grapes, and clocked against it. It was bigger than the first ring, too. Bigger was genuinely better. Heavier. It was a solid strategy.

Wendy concentrated, running her tongue in her mouth and feeling the tiny bumps that were the start of her baby teeth; waiting for the heaviness of the second ring to push the first ring stuck in the middle all the way down.

She waited, and waited…and waited…

Why wasn’t it going down?

Obviously it needed more heavy. Nothing left to do but to grab a third ring and get ready to slam it down with all the might her tiny body could muster. She couldn’t remember the name of the color, but it was the same color as Daddy’s orange juice. Oooooh! Maybe the ring tasted like orange juice! That would be yummy!

Hesitation long since lost, Wendy opened her mouth and bit down on the orange juice colored ring. Her eyebrows knitted together in consternation and disappointment. It tasted nothing like orange juice. It was closer in flavor to the plastic keys that Daddy had let her play with this morning, albeit much softer.

Her face suddenly un-scrunched itself. She kept chewing. The flavor wasn’t anything to talk about, but the feelings it gave her mouth were very very good! It was like scratching an itch she didn’t know she had and now that she’d found it she didn’t want to stop. It felt good, but putting it on the ring meant she’d have to stop. It’d be like getting out of a hot spring in the snow. From comfort to discomfort in a flash!

No thank you!

She opted instead to scoot away and over to get another ring, an apple one that was very tiny compared to either of the grapes. Gnawing on her orange juice ring, she took a moment to inspect it, and noticed that not only was it apple colored, but it had tiny tiny balls inside it that she could see by looking through the clear side. She did a double take. In fact, all the rings also had a clear side! Neat!

Wendy had very little confidence in her ability to get the balls out, but it might be fun to see if there was a noticeable difference between this ring and the one she was gnawing on. Tentatively, she shook the smallest ring and sent the tiny balls whirring inside, buzzing by skidding against the top and bottom of the hollow shell! How would that feel in her mouth?

She shook. She just shook and squealed around the orange juice ring, flapping her arms excitedly. She didn’t even care that more baby babble was burbling up out of her and around the plastic thing she had in her mouth. Too exciting!

Now, the real question was: Which ring should go back on top of the pole to try to make the grape rings go down, and which one should stay in her mouth?

Decisions, decisions.

Miss Donna came by with her clipboard and jotted something down. “Good job, Wendy,” Miss Donna said. “You keep trying, honey bunch.” She was doing it! She was doing it! This wasn’t going to be like in her dream at all! More happy baby noises came out of her!

Scritch-Scriiiiiitch.

Wendy’s ears wiggled at a sound that was becoming increasingly familiar to them. One she’d heard just a few minutes ago, and much louder because of how close it had been. Orange juice ring still in her mouth, she dropped the apple ring with all the delightful jangly bits on the ground so that she could pivot and scoot around with her feet and free hand.

“Whoof!” Miss Jay waid, fanning her nose. “Petey, what is your Mommy feeding you at home to make that?”

Oh. Petey was just just getting his diaper changed. Miss Jay was wiping him and tossing in the dirty wipes on top of the mess he’d made and quickly balling it all up and tossing it into the trash. Standard procedure. Petey was giggling and babbling something to himself between finger chomps.

The sounds she’d heard were just the velcro tapes on his diaper being torn off, just like when she got her diaper changed just a few minutes ago. The orange juice colored ring fell from Wendy’s mouth and rolled away from her. She didn’t go after it.

“Bubu?” Yes. Yes, her. She’d been on that very same elevated surface, getting one diaper swapped out for another, naked from the waist down in front of an old woman and everyone else who happened to look. She hadn’t been embarrassed at all. The thought of any sort of modesty hadn’t even occurred to her.

She’d wanted to die just a few hours ago, but her mind and emotions had already readily acclimated to the act that robbed her of so much autonomy, independence, and self-respect.

Even though she was busy trying to control her mouth, that was no excuse! For all she knew all the other babies were going through something similar, experimenting with words and language with their tops while someone else worried about their bottoms.

Other babies…

Oh crud! Only when she couldn’t really talk was she actually listening to herself! She needed to get out of here! Now! This time babble didn’t come. In its place was worried and fretful fussing cries. Balled up fists and scrunched up eyes followed.

Through her own screams she was aware of Miss Jay’s far off voice. “Awww, what’s wrong Wendy? Did you bite your tongue or something?”

Two very strong hands grabbed Wendy by the armpits and picked her up. Somewhere in the back of her brain, she knew it was Miss Donna. She knew her sitters by sight, sound, smell, and touch, now. At least two of those things would take more than a day to register so strongly. Her body immediately clung to the grown-up’s shoulder, with one massive hand supporting Wendy beneath and the other one steadying her behind her back.

“No,” Miss Donna said. “I don’t think so. Doesn’t sound like an owie cry. More like a scared cry or…” she paused and Wendy felt the grown-up carefully pat her backside and then stick her fingers through the leg cuffs of her diaper.

Wendy kept crying, anyway.

“I don’t think it’s that,” Miss Jay called over Wendy’s crying. “I just changed her.”

“Yeah,” Miss Donna confirmed. “It’s not that.” She started whispering and cooing to Wendy. “What’s the matter, honeybunch?” She started gently shushing Wendy and patting the girl’s back. More confounding, Wendy’s little body liked it, and little by little, even though she didn’t want to, she calmed down. Her emotions were quieted, if not under control; or more accurately, they were under control, just not Wendy’s. “It’s okay,” Miss Donna promised. “It’s okay. Whatever it is, it’ll be alright.”

Deep in her heart, she knew it wouldn’t be. Not until she could get home. Not until she saw her-

“Hello, hello!”

Wendy lifted her head up off of Miss Donna’s shoulder. She knew that voice! “Awwwwk!”

“Look who’s here, Wendy!” Miss Donna beamed. “It’s Mommy!”

Standing on the other side of the baby gated doorway, with a big toothy smile, and arms outstretched, back from a day of teaching and grading papers, was Mommy! Granted, Wendy already knew that, and had said as much…kind of.

“Hi Wendy!” Mommy squeaked. “Did you miss me?”

Miss Donna wasted no time in striding across the Ladybug Room and handing the baby girl over to her mother. “You bet she did, Mom!” A quick handoff, and Wendy’s position and mood considerably improved.

Mommy bobbed and rocked Wendy a little bit while repositioning her so as to hold her and they both be comfortable. “How was she today?” Mommy asked Miss Donna.

“Oh she was great,” Miss Donna said. “She played. She did some cruising. Ate all her food at lunch. Went right down for her nap.” She was ticking them off like a list on her fingers. “She was a little cranky just a second before you came in, but I’m thinking she just was getting a little homesick, y’know?”

Mommy gave Wendy a kiss. “Awww, I missed you too, Wendy.” Then she gave a couple more. “I’m so glad to have you back.” Wendy giggled furiously. She was happy to have her Mommy back too. Everything would be better now. Mommy redirected her attention to Miss Donna. “And…the test?”

“Test?” Miss Donna said. “Oh you mean the developmental screenings?”

“Yes, that one.” Mommy said. “How did she do?

“Caa!” Wendy burbled. She wanted to know too.

“Whelp. We’re not done yet,” Miss Donna admitted. “Our screenings are less like a pen and paper lab test and more just setting up circumstances and seeing how they react.”
“That makes sense,” Mommy nodded. Wendy was less agreeable. She squirmed uncomfortably in Mommy’s arms. Would this mean she’d have to come back tomorrow? Was her exam in the real world suddenly multiple parts or something?

“And we don’t do it all at once. We don’t want to stress the kids out.”

“Of course not.”

Wendy was starting to stress. If she left and didn’t come back, would her law school examination be mysteriously incomplete?

“So we just sit back and record. We encourage a little bit here and there, but nothing too intense. It’s all about what they can do and what they can show us. Not what they can’t do.”

“Well?” Mommy asked, biting her lip. “What can she do?”

Miss Donna waved off both mother and daughter’s anxiety. “Personally? I don’t think you have anything to worry about. We’re not seeing any signs of developmental delay. I think Wendy’s right where she needs to be right now.”

Mommy visibly relaxed. “Phew. Sorry. That’s good to hear.”

Wendy did not. “Caaagaa?” That had been baby for, “What do you mean right where I need to be? Like average? I’m not average! I’m advanced! Gifted! I should be acing this test!” Did that mean that she was getting a C on her law exam? If so, what did that mean for her? This reality was supposed to affect the real one, not the other way around!

There was a slim chance she could have bullshitted her way to a C and she wouldn’t have lost her boobs, butt, teeth, and toilet training for it!

Mommy bounced Wendy a little bit. “I’ve got a squirmy wormy on my hands,” Mommy said. “Better get her home.”

“Okie dokie,” Miss Donna chirped. “Bye Wendy! Bye Mom! See you tomorrow!” With what remained of Wendy’s adult brain, a defiant resolve started to brew. Despite being in her Mommy’s arms, she was metaphorically standing beside herself with indignation. She wasn’t ever going to see Miss Donna or this dumb daycare ever again! Incomplete or not, she’d definitely finished her test in the real world. Miss Donna didn’t know what she was talking about. …

The car road home was agonizing for Wendy. Mommy had the same rear facing car seat with a mirror set up in the back that Daddy did, but now Wendy barely recognized her own body. She was almost a blob now: Hardly any hair. Arms that barely worked. Legs that were even worse. A mouth that was only good for slurping, sucking, drooling, and making noise, and no control of her insides.

She was cute. Precious. Adorable. Loved. And just knowing that she was thinking that about herself alarmed her to no end. She was only now beginning to realize the full breadth and depth of basic skills that were evaporating out of her grasp. She had to get home. She had to go back to her real home; where she was an adult.

If she spent much longer like this, it occurred to her, she might very well have to grow up and learn everything all over again. How awful! Curse whatever fate or force had robbed her of vocabulary like the color of different grapes but left her with enough imagination to picture such things!

The car stopped, but the motor was still running. Where were they? Why were they stopping? Did Mommy have more places to go than straight home? Why weren’t they moving?! Without realizing it, Wendy let out a screech.

“It’s just a red light, honey. Mommy has to stop.”

Wendy balled up her fists and re-scrunched her face. No she didn’t! Which one was red?! So what if it was? She was scared and confused and just wanted to go home and anything that kept her from getting exactly what she wanted was terrible, and tragic, and scary, and needed to stop or go away whichever came first!

The car started moving again, and Wendy quieted down. Good. It worked.

Until it didn’t.

“Red light!”

Wendy let her displeasure be known until Mommy or the red light (whatever that was) listened and kept going.

At the third stop, Wendy saw Mommy rooting around in the passenger seat for something. She then leaned back and gave Wendy a bottle. “Here, honey. Are you thirsty?”

Automatically, Wendy’s tiny hands gripped the bottle and shoved the nipple into her mouth, downing the creamy milk. It was cold. It had probably been refrigerated all day while Mommy was working. “I know it’s not as good as just before bed, but Mommy made it just for you during her lunch break.”

Made? Made how? Did Mommy own a cow at school? Impossible! Also, there might have been something wrong with Wendy’s tongue. Something was different about this bottle. It was still very obviously milk, but it didn’t taste quite like the milk she drank since time immemorial. Not bad. Just different. Perhaps, she speculated, that infant tongues were more sensitive than grown-up tongues, and no one could tell. Every other part of her body looked and worked differently than as an adult. Clearly the tongue wasn’t an exception.

Different though it may taste, the milk was still very good. Comforting. Nostalgic and familiar, like opening up a tub of one’s favorite icecream after a long day at work. The lights and stopping were far far easier to cope with.

“You’re right where you should be,” Mommy repeated. She adjusted her shirt. “I guess that means Mommy should start weaning you more.” She smiled, more to herself than to Wendy. “But I think I’ll wait till you’re one. I like our special mommy daughter bond.”

Bodily, Wendy kept slurping down the milk. Internally, Wendy realized, too late, that it didn’t taste like cow’s milk because it wasn’t cow’s milk. She tried to stop herself, but her mouth and tongue weren’t under her control, and some ingrained habit or instinct kept her draining the bottle until it was dry.

All.

The way.

Home.

Wendy did not cry when she saw the reflection of her house. Rather, she was finally able to rip the rubber nipple from her mouth and let out a healthy belch. At least she could still do that on her own!

Mommy turned the car off, came around to the back, and got Wendy out of her carseat. “Come on baby. Let’s go play for a little bit.” Both halves of Wendy’s psyche smiled at that. Playtime meant an opportunity! For play! For attention! For freedom! She didn’t even mind when Mommy opened a snap on her onesie and stared at her diaper. “You’re okay for now.”

Wendy would take it! One less change meant one less babyish thing to go through. It was a bit concerning that she was declared ‘okay’ instead of ‘dry’, but she’d take the win where she could find it, no matter how narrow the margin of success.

The inside of the house looked familiar, and alien all at once to Wendy’s infant eyes. Everything was huge again! Not just the baby stuff that needed to stretch and inflate to accommodate her. The television was practically a movie screen. The bookcase in the living room was a tower. The couch was a bouncy castle!

And the family picture on the way to her bedroom no longer looked so out of place. In it, there was a Mommy, a Daddy, and a baby girl not even a year old sitting in a pretty pink dress and white tights, the big floppy bow was more wrapped around her head than weaved and tied into her wisps of hair . And she was smiling a big, goofy, innocent smile; likely because the man behind the camera had a squeaky toy or something. A perfect family moment captured in a studio setting. That more than anything else that had happened so far today made Wendy worry about how much time she had left.

Yesterday in the tub, her frazzled brain had almost completely forgotten that she didn’t belong here. The possibility of return had barely occurred to her until Daddy had seen her standing there naked. Now that she looked the part she’d been cast in and adult thoughts were becoming rarer and rarer, she might not even think to crawl back into her closet.

It wasn’t a problem, Wendy realized. Even in this state with her reduced vocabulary and gross motor skills, she knew enough about herself to still keep who she was on the inside. All she had to do was stay focused and be patient. Mommy would leave her alone in her room soon enough. All it would take was one minute leaving to talk to Daddy or fetch something from the kitchen or search for a toy that had been left in the living room and Wendy could crawl back to the safety and sanity of her big girl room and big girl life .

“Back in your room, safe and sound!” Mommy sang. She put Wendy down on the carpet and closed the door. Not a problem since the bedroom door wasn’t Wendy’s way out of this place. Mommy kicked off her shoes and started browsing the room. “Now what to play with what to play with?”

Wendy took a moment and sat on her bottom, her Pampers pushing her legs apart, and just took in the sight of it all. Everything was so big, now. So humongous. Knowing that nothing would change just made it all the more real. The changing table and the diapers wouldn’t warp because they already fit her. The crib railing wouldn’t need to rise to keep her contained. It wouldn’t be a mystical force keeping her from turning a knob and opening a door but her own physical limitations.

Mommy wouldn’t look ridiculous dressing or changing her, or holding her. Nor would she be particularly awkward looking. Nothing would be out of proportion. Wendy had been through this experience already at the daycare, but something about it being in her room made it all hit differently. She knew these four walls and this roof, even if the furniture was foreign to her.

And it was all so big.

Except it wasn’t.

She was just little.

A baby…

“Waaaaaa!” No! Those thoughts didn’t belong in her head! She didn’t belong in this place! This place, this time, this universe! She looked to the closet door, her gateway back home.

There wasn’t a shining flare of extra dimension light there anymore. Just a teen tiny mote, no bigger than the beam of a flashlight, shimmering like a mirage in the desert. The gears in Wendy’s mind began rotating fast enough to make sparks. Looking back in her memories, she realized that the light from the other side had been getting dimmer and smaller all along. She’d thought she was just getting used to it; that her eyes were adjusting; but really the cut in both realities had been slowly closing itself like a wound scabbing over.

She’d drastically underestimated and misunderstood something. This reality wasn’t just trying to get her to conform to it. This wasn’t some magical baby universe. She was a foreigner, an invader, and instead of trying to kick her out or destroy her, it was ‘fixing’ her. She was supposed to be a baby here, and that tear in her closet shouldn’t exist.

She was running out of time and had more than just her own dwindling focus to worry about keeping her here.

Screw patience! No time to wait! Even if it meant making a break for it with Closet Mommy in the room! With surprising alacrity, Wendy leaned forward and straddled past her splayed out legs, crawling her hands out towards the carpet and snaking over her own legs to plop over on her ber. Wow…she was…very bendable like this. No way was she going to take her eyes off that little winking beam. From her stomach it was minimal effort to gather her legs up underneath her and she shuffled and crawled to the open closet.

An arm scooped Wendy up under her belly. “Where do you think you’re goin’?” Mommy cooed playfully. She spared a look towards Wendy’s destination. “The closet? It’s not time to get dressed yet, silly goose!”

“Gaaaaaaah!” Wendy fussed. Ironically, that was the exact sound to express the potent mixture of fear and frustration that she was feeling.

“It’s not time to play hide and seek either,” Mommy replied with saccharine sweetness in her voice. Wendy had genuinely thought that her Closet Mommy was preoccupied with finding the right toy. It seemed that the now-giant woman had eyes everywhere and ears that could hear the slightest crinkle in a crawl.

With one impossibly long arm, Mommy put Wendy back down on the floor, facing away from the closet. With the other, she held a bright sunshine ball with a smiley face on it. “Let’s play with the ball. Can you say ball?”

“Caa!” What Wendy had meant to say was likely far cruder than what came out of her mouth.

“Baaalll!” Mommy said, enunciating each individual phoneme to the point of exaggeration. “Let’s play with the ball. She put the little rubber ball-just slightly bigger than a softball-on the carpet and gently rolled it to Wendy.

Wendy sat there, practically forced to catch it because the ball trapped itself between her legs, scuffing and slowing on the carpet, gaining even more friction on her tutu, and lightly bouncing off her padded crotch and coming to a rest just before her knees. With an exasperated, practically defeated sigh, Wendy bent over and used both hands to pick up the orb.

The younger version of her mother clapped excitedly “Yaaaay! Wendy did it!”

A spring of excitement bubbled up and Wendy couldn’t help it. She twittered and tweeted at the praise, not caring if it was relevant or deserved. A growing, near cancerous part of her loved it.

“Okay, Wendy,” Mommy said. “Now throw it back! Throw it back to Mommy!”

The very beginnings of an idea sprang to life in Wendy’s still big girl brain. Gripping the ball in both hands, she wound her arms up, hiked them over and behind her head, and catapulted the orb to the other side of the nursery! Then Mommy would have to go get it, and that would buy her the time she needed. Oooh, the crib would be better! Something to make Mommy have to crawl on the floor.

“Ooopsie!” Mommy said. “You dropped it!” Sluggishly Wendy turned around and looked behind her. In her excitement she’d dropped the ball and saw it rolling towards her closet. “Mommy’s got it!”

The grown up stood up and on long striding legs, stepped over to the closet. Just like her father on the other side, she paid no mind whatsoever to the faint rip in reality whilst she retrieved the ball.

LIGHT! BLINDING LIGHT! Like a curtain peeled back or a wound being reopened, that same spot light supernova dazzling light poured into the nursery when Closet Mommy’s head so much as brushed past the closet’s threshold. Better still, she didn’t seem to notice it. Everyone but Wendy was still totally oblivious to the rip. And being oblivious to it once again went on par with being unable to use it, her Mommy’s body passing through like it was just smoke. Meanwhile, Wendy could see it waver brightly, shining through the room even as it rapidly dimmed back.

That meant there was still a chance!

Mommy came back and sat down across from her little girl, holding the ball. “Let’s do it again!” Yes! Let’s! “One…two…threeeeeee!”

Through no effort of her own, Wendy obtained the ball, this time it lightly ricocheting off her thighs. “Yaaaaaay Wendy!”

Wendy focused through the chubby cheeked smile that was uncomfortably contorting her face. Yay, Wendy indeed. She grabbed the ball, wound back and-

“Ooops!” Mommy said. Wendy giggled loud and hard when Mommy had to get up and walk over to the closet again. There was no stifling or muting the joyful noise. “If I didn’t know any better,” Mommy said, “I’d say you were doing that on purpose.” She playfully shook her finger at Wendy. “If you do that one more time, you’re gonna have to get it yourself, young lady.”

So when the opportunity arose…she did.

“Uh oh!” Mommy cooed. “You did it again! Now you have to go get it!” Wendy flapped her hands and shoved her fingers into her mouth, she was so happy, and for multiple reasons. Not only had her plan worked, but Mommy liked how far she’d thrown the ball behind her! Mommy’s pseudo-stern voice turned into playful whispers, and urging for Wendy to “go get it.”

The law student trapped in a baby’s body was happy to oblige. Hissing and panting, she rolled over to her hands and knees and started crawling for her closet, her way home. There was still the tiniest sliver of light left. Still a chance that she could pull this off and leave all of this behind.

Head down looking at the floor, she crawled towards the nearly invisible portal, the rip in reality, and on her way home. The next moment, her little nose was nearly touching the void as she looked up with a gap toothed smile. Ever since discovering the damn thing, she had never been so happy to cross it.

Nor had she done so in front of someone else.

“Wendy?” Mommy said. Wendy’s body slowed. Stupidly, the girl looked back. “What’s that light coming from your closet?” Mommy frowned and started to get up. “Has that always been there?”

Mommy saw the rip! Wendy bolted! She wasn’t going to get another opportunity! Eyes closed she barreled through the threshold of the door, screaming and squealing, praying that the adrenaline would carry her that extra inch or two farther before it was too late.

With time seemingly going on slow motion, Mommy’s voice called out after her, “WENDEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” The last thing Wendy saw before the light of a million suns flash banged in her eyes was the looming shadow of her mother’s arm as she dove after her.

Wendy didn’t stop crawling, didn’t so much as open her eyes, until she’d pumped her head on something heavy and wooden.

Pain! Owies! Wendy sat back and drew in breath to scream. Scream for Mommy and Daddy to come and make it all better. She opened her eyes, though, and stopped.

She’d done it.

She was in her room. Not the nursery, but her room. Her big girl room! Her adult room! The heavy wooden thing she’d banged up against was her work desk! Over in the corner was her bed, not a crib! Goodbye changing table, hello dresser!

Her joy was almost cut short when she looked down at herself. She was still in the same chubby baby body with the same diaper on and the same purple onesie pulled over her shoulders and snapped up between her legs.

That was okay, though. She remembered the last time it took a bit for things to snap back to normal. Her body and clothes had to reacclimate as it were. Soon she’d be out of baby mode and back into a more ladylike style of dress and body.

Hey! She’d remembered the color purple! That was proof that it was working! The only thing that could go wrong now, is if her real mom and dad barged in. It wouldn’t do for them to see her in this state. Even that wouldn’t be so bad. They’d just zone out for a second and ignore it this time again, treating her like the adult she was supposed to be over on this side. It’d be embarrassing, but nothing she wouldn’t be able to get over.

“WENDY!” Her mother’s voice! Her real mother! Wendy gathered her feet up underneath her, already trying to stand. Any second now, Mom would open the bedroom door and congratulate Wendy on her doing so well on her History of Law exam.

Something was off, though. The voice was much louder, much more panicked than it should have been. “WENDY?!” It wasn’t coming from behind her bedroom door, either.

Wendy turned around and saw her Mommy, not her mother, barreling through the closet door and into Wendy’s reality. An elk caught on the train tracks of life, Wendy gaped up at Closet Mommy’s looming figure. Closet Mommy…was on this side…of the closet. She’d been followed!

Her feet already underneath her, Wendy tried to stand and run for her very adulthood. The only thing she succeeded in was pushing off with enough force to send her rolling back to the carpet, bonking the back of her head on the floor.

PAIN! BLINDING PAIN! A babyish yelp mutated into full on wailing. Her emotions were still wildly out of check and the minor bump she’d taken might as well have been a snapped limb. The panic and confusion of being followed through the portal only intensified her feelings of helplessness and anguish.

She was up and in Mommy’s arms in an instant. Wendy could only keep crying out, unable to form anything resembling words just yet.

Even if her mouth would cooperate, she wasn’t sure she could form a coherent sentence to describe everything that was going on; yet alone affect the situation. This was so frustrating, no longer be in a reality blurring her words and still being unable to spell one!

“What the heck is this place?” Mommy wondered over the baby’s howls. She slowly rotated in the middle of the room like she was taking in an art exhibit or if she’d just landed in a strange new world. In a way, she had. “This place,” she said. “I know this place.” Her calm tone belied equal parts wonder and anxiety. “ It kind of looks like your room, but…different.” Wendy pounded on the woman’s shoulder, trying to get her to let go.

“Muh! Gaaaaah!”

Mommy just ignored it. “These are definitely your walls. Same carpet. But the desk instead of your toy box? That bed is where your crib would be.”

Ironically enough, it was more physical pain that stopped Wendy from crying. Her gums stung and itched. Without thinking about it she started to gnaw on her lower lip. Teeth! Her teeth were starting to come back in! She was growing up! Slowly, weeks by weeks, her body was fitting back to the reality she was in. Just a little longer, and she would reach her first birthday.

“That’s where I was going to put your dresser after you didn’t need your changing table anymore…” She shifted her focus down to the baby in her arms. “Is this…? Is this your room when you’re older? Are we in the future?”

Kind of? Not really? Close enough. “Yyyyyy…” Her mouth! It was starting to obey her! She could explain this! Ten more seconds and she could literally talk her way out of this situation! And on this side of the rip, Closet Mommy could likely understand her!

A look of wonder twisted itself into surprise, then horror. “Your teeth?” A bit of hair drooped over the top of Wendy’s forehead, and Closet Mommy touched it, clearly trying to process what she was seeing as real. “Your hair! It’s growing!”

Not long now! Wendy smiled and felt another tooth click into place. “Mmmmmaaaaammmmma! Mama!” A word! A baby word, but still a word! A real sound that she’d wanted to make!

“No…” Mommy whispered, eyes growing wide. She about faced towards the closet. “No. No. Nononononono!” One person’s miracle was another’s horror. The fear and protective maternal instinct kicked into overdrive. “This place, it’s changing you. We need to get out of here!” Mommy said. She was dashing for the opening. There was still the faintest sliver to be seen. “Please make it work!”

Wendy prayed it wouldn’t.

It did.

The last thing Wendy said; the last thing that she might likely speak in a fairly long time, just when Mommy started charging back through the rip, was a booming, mournful “NOOOOOOOOOOO!”

A blink of an eye and they were back in the nursery. And over Mommy’s shoulder, Wendy Merts, now aged ten months, had to watch as the very last bits of this universe knitted itself back together. It was like a wound closing in time lapse photos. The last beams of near mystical light shrank and shrank into nothingness until the final mote twinkled out with an inaudible poof. No more light. No more tunnel.

“GAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” No more words. Only tears and screams were left to her.

Mommy bolted out of the room, clutching Wendy tight to her. Wendy started screaming her throat raw; equal parts panic attack and tantrum. “I know baby, I know,” she shushed. “That was scary!” She bounced Wendy up and down in her arms, cradling her, trying to distract and soothe the terrified infant to no avail. “I don’t know what that was, either!”

Yet Wendy did, and that made it worse. Over her own bawling, Wendy heard a door close and Mommy started running towards it. “Howard!” Mommy called. “There’s something in Wendy’s room!” Wendy didn’t bother to stop crying.

Daddy talked over her. Both of her parents were used to talking over a distressed and mewling infant. “What is it?” The worry in his voice was genuine.

“I…I…I don’t know. I can’t explain it! It was bright and…so…so…and Wendy crawled into…and…it’s in her closet. Go look in the closet.”

Wendy only screamed more when Daddy’s footsteps tromped away and faded into. Her Mommy stopped using words too, and just made quiet gentle, shushing noises in an attempt to calm the tsunami of emotions. Wendy was cradled with both arms, but lacked the wherewithal to act or thrash or otherwise try to escape.

Her one and only chance at real escape failed. Now she was stuck like this. She had a…a…she didn’t even know how long she had to wait to get back to her old age but it was probably a really long time like an hour! Her brain was still filled with memories from the other side, but her emotions were all wildly into overdrive and her vocabulary was shrinking by the second.

Daddy came back. “I don’t see anything in there,” he said.

“I swear there was something.” Mommy insisted.

“Can you show me?”

“No, I’m not taking Wendy back there!” Mommy hissed, barely maintaining her composure.

“Okay,” Daddy replied, “Let me hold her and you go look.”

There was a pause and then. “Fine.”

The sobbing and distressed ten-month-old was handed to her other parent while the first went to investigate. Daddly, sadly, used many of the same soothing and calming tactics as Mommy, and was no more successful than her.

Mommy came back a few minutes later. “I just don’t understand it,” Mommy told Daddy. “I could’ve sworn…”

Daddy gently said, “Well whatever you think you saw definitely spooked Wendy. She normally doesn’t cry this hard.”

“Yeah,” Mommy said, the doubt already creeping into her tone, “yeah. Let’s get Wendy settled first. She’s more important.”

“Agreed.”

They moved her over to the couch and laid her across so that she was partially in both of their laps. “Wow,” Daddy commented. “She’s getting so big!”

Not big enough! Not big enough, at all.

Through her bawling, and the snot, and the self pity, and the fear, and sadness, and fact that she very likely needed a new diaper and couldn’t recognize it, Wendy was still observing her parents. Watching them closely and listening through her squalling.

They looked at each other. Daddy started with a nearly silent count. “Two, three, four”

Mommy joined and they sang together, loudly, sweetly, but a little off key.

“We’ve got the whole world,
In our hands.
We’ve got the whole world,
In our hands.
We’ve got the whole world,
In our hands.
We’ve got the whole world in our hands.”

Wendy’s crying lessened. What? What was that?”

“We’ve got our itty bitty baby,
In our hands.
We’ve got our itty bitty baby,
In our hands.
We’ve got our itty bitty baby,
In our hands
We’ve got the whole world in our hands.”

She knew the tune, but the words had been altered. Altered so that it was all but them and her. She quieted and listened, watching while the absolute love and adoration that they had for her poured over her. Likewise, she couldn’t help but reflect it back up at them.

“We’ve got our wonderful Wendy,
In our hands.
We’ve got our wonderful Wendy,
In our hands.
We’ve got our wonderful Wendy,
In our hands,
We’ve got the whole world in our hands.”

Wendy couldn’t have screamed if she wanted to. She wasn’t in control of her emotions anymore. They were. And that was okay. They were Mommy and Daddy. They weren’t her original mother and father, but they were still essentially the same people. They loved her.

Unconditionally.

“There, all better now, right?” said Mommy while gently brushing through Wendy’s sparse baby locks.

“Seems like it is,” Daddy nodded. “We’ll be good with a switch to toys. Maybe the bucket, I think she could get the hang of it this time.” He looked at Wendy, then lifted his head to Mommy. “Oh, how about we try the learning board? It’s barely been out of the plastic”. Mommy gave an excited nod of approval in return.

Daddy, whose ‘closet’ designation seemed a moot point by now, shifted Wendy all the way over into Mommy’s lap and shuffled over to a small mass of toys in the corner. As he dropped to his knees, he rummaged through a box and picked up two toys. One was a plastic bucket that rattled with its contents; its lid filled with very specifically shaped holes. Obviously, inside there were different shapes inside the bucket and the object. Wendy liked shapes and colors, even if she didn’t know their names anymore. Very amusing!

The other was a white wooden board filled to the brim with doodads: Plastic gears; latches; puzzle pieces; and chain locks that secured absolutely nothing. Child experts would call it a ‘busy board’. To Wendy it looked kind of fun.

“You think she’s old enough for the board?” asked Daddy as he looked over the side, pointing at the little stickier with a cartoony character proudly saying ‘12+ months old’ in a bubble. “Might be a bit too soon”.

“Guess we’ll see,” Mommy said. “Remember that little test they were going to do today at the nursery? Miss Donna wouldn’t tell me how far exactly Wendy succeeded. You know how Donna is, she doesn’t want to set up expectations for parents. But she did tell me she did well, I bet she can do something more advanced by now!”

Knowledge had poured out of Wendy’s brain like an unplugged sink, but even in her current state, with more fingers than teeths, she remembered things. A lot of things. The little baby girl glanced past her Mommy’s lap with a frown of curiosity, ignoring the giant’s claim of how cute she looked when she did that little face. Those toys… They were slightly advanced and marketed towards bigger babies.

Mommy sat the girl upright just in time for Daddy to come back. He shuffled back over, still on his knees so that he was closer to Wendy’s eye level; board under one arm and bucket in the other.

“What do you want to play with, Wendy?” he asked. “This or this?” He jostled the board, then the bucket. “Which one?”

Still with Mommy’s hands steadying her at the waist, Wendy leaned forward and slapped the top of the plastic bucket. “Kap!” Which was supposed to mean. ‘That one!’

“This one?” Daddy asked, jiggling the bucket. “Not this one?” The only reply that he got was her slapping the bucket. This time, Wendy knew what she wanted and needed, and it had nothing to do with what used to be on the other side. “Okie dokie,” he said, before looking up at his wife. “Guess the board was too advanced. But the shapes are still months ahead!”

The lid came off temporarily, and shiny plastic shapes tumbled onto the carpet. Wendy was gently lowered so that she could sort them, while her two loving parents watched every single move, offering gentle words of encouragement.

“Go on, honey.” Mommy said. “Try it out. Take your time.”

Smiling to herself, Wendy proceeded to grab one of the plastic shapes, glancing at the similar hole on the bucket’s lid. She could sense her parent’s fidgeting with expectation as she holied up in the air…

“Hmph-pa!” she babbled as she threw it on the ground, earning raising eyebrows of surprise from the two adults.

“No Wendy, you’re supposed to place it here. See?” Her Mommy interjected, pointing at the lid of the little bucket.

Seizing it, Wendy pushed the lid open, before grabbing the shapes and throwing them one by one into the bucket. With how uncoordinated her little pudgy hands were, she had to try several times to get ahold of them all, but one of the good side of being a baby is that nobody is going to force a toy out of your hands when you’re playing with it, even if in the “wrong” way.

“Gaaaaaah!”

As her parents tried once more to explain to her how to use the toy, Wendy had shot them the most defiant look a ten months old baby could muster, and proceeded to shake the bucket.

The rattling of the pieces made such a unique sound. It was the sound of planes, sky colored planes, or maybe sky colored dogs. Either way, it was as delightful as she had hoped. Doing it again, Wendy felt a bubbling sensation in her mind as her lips twirled into a large smile. On the third rattle, a giggle punctuated it, soon followed by many others until both sounds filled the room.

Smiling down at the baby girl having the time of her life over a rattling bucket, Wendy’s parents exchanged a look, before bursting out laughing.

“Guess both are still a bit too advanced, eh?”

“Yes, Wendy decided it’s too soon for boring learning games, it seems.” Mommy said with a chuckle, as her giggling baby girl slipped from her steadying hands. “Could you fetch the rest of the toy box, dear? Looks like it’s going to be casual playtime, finally.”

As her mountain of a Daddy went back and forth to her room in a split second, coming back with a box three times her size, claiming there was still plenty of time to play before bathtime, Wendy beamed up at her parents. She was overjoyed, not only at having tricked them out of their budding high expectation, but of what it may mean for her future.

Yes. She would take her time this go round. Now there was nothing but time to start over again. But this time, it would be on her terms.

Maybe she wouldn’t be a law student again the second time around. Maybe she’d try to be a teacher like Mommy or a…she didn’t remember what Daddy did. Maybe she’d be an astronaut. She’d have to relearn everything again, she knew, walking, talking, toileting, reading, math, and more. But she had time now. Plenty of it.

Time to learn from her past mistakes. Time to do things right. Time to enjoy the temporary things. The little things. No more big picture planning and panicking. No more overestimating herself or her limits. Or her interests. She didn’t even like Law. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you like it.

This was the second chance she never knew she needed.

Either way, she was happy now. Looking back on it, she certainly wasn’t happy then. Happy people don’t jump dimensions or justify why it was okay to be put back in diapers and treated like a baby. Not unless that’s what they really wanted deep down.

“There,” Daddy said. “All better.”

Wendy agreed. She even gave them a little giggle.

“I think she thinks so, too.”

And thus, a new life ahead of her, Wendy decided to get down to the serious, serious, business of playing.

(The End)

2 Likes