When I open my eyes again, I’m floating in a sea of clouds. I try to sit up, and it takes me a few tries before I get my balance just right. I’m floating in a sea of nothingness. It’s dark and empty and lonely.
Out of nowhere I hear Alysa say, “You’re Mommy’s little boy forever,” and it echoes into my subconscious. It’s unnerving, and my goosebumps cover my arms. The little hairs that I have stand up. I shake my head.
No. No. No.
I’m not going to be her little boy. I’m not her little boy, I mutter to myself, and I hold onto that truth as tightly as I can. I’m going to get out of this, and I’m going to be the adult that I am who makes the choices that I want to make for myself. I’m going to smoke a cigarette, down a bottle of rum, and jerk off to whatever porn is still open on my phone’s browser. I might even punch a wall or two just to feel powerful and in control of my own life. I’ll feel like the man that I am and sleep off this weird dream.
My resolve doesn’t waver, not for one second, but the voices only get louder. You’re going to be Mommy’s baby and Daddy’s little boy forever. You’re a cute little baby boy. You’re a good boy. You go peepee in your diapers. You play pretend with your toys. You’re a good boy, a good baby boy.
“No, I won’t!” I stand and shout. I try to make it as convincing as I can to whatever universal power is trying to mess with me. “I’m a grown up! I’m not a baby,” my eyes cloud with tears, “I’m not a baby!”
I wrap my arms around myself, curl into fetal position and chant over and over again, “I’m an adult. I don’t belong here. I’m an adult.” I chant and chant for what feels like hours. I’m rocking back and forth trying to hold onto myself, onto who I am. Before long, the dream changes again. The blackness morphs into a gray sky, and I’m spiraling and falling back down.
I jolt awake, hyperventilating, and before I fully gather myself, I need to know where I am. I open my eyes, and I can’t believe it. I’m still in a crib. I take deep panicked breaths. I close my eyes again, offer a little prayer to whatever higher power and I open them one more time.
Still a crib. No fucking way.
The tears fall from my eyes. I bang my fist against the mattress. I just want to wake up. I want it more than anything. What do I have to do? Sell my soul to the devil? I’ll do it. This is torture that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
Fuck it. It’s time to take drastic measures.
Dreams always end before you seriously hurt yourself, right? I just need to take it far enough that my subconscious will have no choice but to fully wake me up. My hands tremble as I hold onto the wooden bars. I don’t know if I can do this, but I have to. I have got to end this.
I push my head into the wooden bar. Smack. Oh, god it hurts. I hit my head one more time. Smack. My vision flutters, and I grit my teeth. I push my head forward one more time, and this time my head connects with a much softer surface. I open my eyes, and I see Alysa holding her hand on my forehead.
I look up at her, and I can see the tears threatening to fall from her eyes, “Jason…” she says, her mouth opens and closes over and over again. I look down, and oddly enough, I feel kinda bad. I didn’t mean for her to see me do this. I guess I didn’t really think about how she would feel…seeing me like this.
Alysa pulls me out of the crib, lays my head on her shoulder. She rubs my back, “Mommy’s here, Jason,” she whispers, “Mommy’s here.”
The palpable compassion and concern in her voice makes me tear up, and my soft sniffles grow into loud, gut-wrenching sobs. I cry about how much it sucks to be stuck as a baby. I cry because my forehead hurts. I cry because I’m sleepy. So much of my sorrow releases through deep, pained breaths.
Alysa rocks me in silence, and when I’m mostly done crying, I relax my body and go limp in her arms. She cradles me in her arms, like I’m a newborn baby and sits on the rocking chair. We rock back and forth, and the motion is so soothing. She tilts my chin up and examines my forehead.
After prodding around from different angles, she seems satisfied and tilts my head back toward her. I guess that means I don’t have any serious injuries. My eyes close again. She hums a lullaby, and my eyes feel heavy. She runs her fingers through the curls in my hair, and I let the exhaustion win. My eyes close, and the last of my conscious breathing ebbs and flows in tune with Alysa’s.
When I wake up again, I’m in a completely different room. This time, I’m in an adult bed, and the inklings of hope swell only to be dash away as I turn over to my other side and see Alysa siting on the other side of a bed with a laptop cracked open.
“Jason,” she says, reaching over and rubbing my belly, “Did you have a nice little nap?”
I nod at her, and she rustles my hair. She puts her laptop to the side for a moment and leans over to close most of the distance between us. I notice that she has on glasses, I guess for reading. “Let’s see how this is doing now,” she says and touches the area where I smacked my head.
“Owie,” I say instinctively, and lean away from her touch.
“Okay,” Alysa lets go of my face. “Let Mommy finish up with this, and you’re going to get to watch some TV tonight,” she says, typing away on the keys.
I take it this is their master bedroom. The bed is soft, and the room has a low-lit atmosphere. There’s a big mirror on the wall. There’s a little sofa, a large dresser and I guess there’s a door to a walk-in closet. The room must be nice to sleep in, or I guess it was nice to sleep in since I didn’t have another nightmare.
Nightmare. As if that was the dream and this is reality. Ugh. I sigh and rub the sleep out of my eyes. How did I go from being a relatively normal adult to being someone’s kid. Is this some kind of glitch in the matrix? Did I die and get reincarnated or something? But why did I keep my memories?
None of this makes sense. I can’t make it make sense in my head, and I don’t really know what to do besides keep moving through Alysa’s never-ending daily routine. I don’t know if I can do that though. Every single hour of the day being whisked from one activity to the next, and everyone talking to me as if I barely have any cognizance or agency. If I talk back, it’s gibberish, and if I react, then I’m just a brat having a tantrum.
I’m just fucked.
Alysa closes her laptop and walks around the bed to my side. She stoops down to my eye level. “What do you say we give you a nice little bath before din din? Hm?” I shake my head. The changing thing is already embarrassing, and I’m already sure having a bath isn’t any better.
“You’re just a wittle grump lately, aren’t you?” she smiles, ignores my objection and pulls my shirt over my head and pants from my bottom.
While she piles my clothes and socks at the foot of the bed, I cross my arms and glare at her.
“Tut, tut, tut,” she walks toward me emphasizing each step with a soft stomp. “You know who shows up every time a sleepy little boy is being all grumpy?”
My eyes widen. No not again. Please no.
Before I can voice any complaints, she shouts, “Mr. Tickles!” and pushes me onto the bed.
I squeal and holler as she really attacks me this time. It’s like she knows where every single one of my weak spots is. Nothing is safe, not my pits, belly, sides, neck or feet. She stops for a moment and lets me scramble away, or at least I think I’m going to get away, until she pounces on me again and tickles some more.
I laugh until my eyes water and my skin is electrifyingly sensitive. I laugh until drool and snot leak from my face, and my limbs tire from the exertion. I laugh until I don’t think I can laugh any more, until Alysa finally stops and lets me catch my breath.
She asks again, “Now, is my baby boy ready for bath time?”
And this time, I nod my head emphatically and pray that it is good enough.
“Good boy,” she says, and I notice the twinkle of a smile still in her eyes.
Well, there’s the proof to the theory. Alysa’s method of parenting: compliance or tickles. Noted.