Wally laid in his big boy bed, clutching his special rattle to his chest. It had almost doomed him, even though for his entire life he’d been convinced that it would protect him and keep the Amazons from taking him from Mother and Father and treating him like a baby forever.
His relatively iron bladder had saved him. Being so young had probably played a role too, he’d heard his parents saying behind the closed door. Being at an age where even the Amazon kids could still have accidents or play with stuffies or nibble on their fingers had played a factor. If he’d been even a tiny bit older, -first or second grade- being caught with that rattle in his backpack might have been worse. When Amazons decided a Little was a baby, there wasn’t much more to be done about it.
“What’s so wrong with being a baby?” he whispered to himself. Diapers were yucky, sure, but the bottles didn’t look so bad; they were like the sippy cups he still used sometimes. Snuggles and hugs were nice, too, and Wally loved it when adults called him ‘cute’. People called babies cute all the time; and that was even when they’d gone pee-pee or poo-poo in their pants.
Would it really be so bad being a baby? Wally clutched his rattle to his chest. He couldn’t remember being a baby. He supposed it must be awful, that’s why people- especially Littles- stopped being babies as soon as possible. That was why being turned back into one was one of the worst things a Little could imagine.
Wally wasn’t going to turn back into a baby. The only way was forward. Always forward; never backwards; never resting.
“I’m sorry,” Wally whispered to his security object. “I’m so sorry. I can’t love you anymore. I have to be big.”
The pre-dawn light hit Wally’s eyelids, waking him. Had that been a dream or a memory? Wally suspected the former even if it felt like the latter. Memories from that far back might as well be dreams; they certainly weren’t accurate recollections of what happened.
The feelings from the dream were real, though. Feelings always were. He’d been so sure of how the world worked back then and in the course of a day he’d found out different. History was repeating itself more and more.
Just like in those good old days, he laid in his bed and raised his hand up so that he could gaze desperately at the sunflower wrist rattle. Like long ago, he felt ‘safe’ just looking at it.
Depending on one’s standards, Wally had been ‘safe’, for a month now. He was safe in that his world had become utterly routine and predictable and that all of his physical needs were met. For example, in just a few minutes, his Mommy- already up impossibly early- would come in and change his diaper, and feed him breakfast.
He needed a diaper change, too. There was no doubt about it. Not that he could feel it from the inside; the Koddles Dry-Nites he was wearing did a fantastic job of wicking away wetness and had enough room in the back to comfortably contain messes. As a diaper, it was really top notch. He’d have to reach his hand between his legs and press or squeeze his thighs together to really get a feel for it.
None of that was really necessary. Wally knew he’d gone in his sleep, the same way he’d known that he kept breathing after he closed his eyes. Wally was all but incontinent now, and much like breathing he only felt it when he made a deliberate attempt to control it. Just like the baby he was being treated like, he needed his diapers now.
Maybe the baby food Mommy fed him was being drugged to damage his bladder and bowel control. Maybe the cartoons he watched in Mommy’s lap were subtly hypnotizing him.
It was probably the rattle. Wally was an addict, not stupid. It obviously did so much more than just make him giggle and give him that sweet sweet rush like a beer that one never quite got a tolerance for. It was wrecking him, absolutely wrecking him. It was also the thing that made him happiest. How could he refuse himself a bit of happiness?
“I shouldn’t,” he whispered, looking at the rattle. “I really shouldn’t.” He did anyway.
The ting-a-ling sound pulled his lips back into a smile while in a fit and he spasmed happily on the mattress, infantilily kicking his legs in the air for no particular reason other than it felt good to stretch and move around in his crib.
Mommy took that as her cue to enter. “Good morning, baby Wally!” she sang out, flinging the door open.
“Morning Mommy,” Wally said with a yawn. He was already feeling that self-medicating buzz kick in. The jingly jangling sound was a balm to his brain, like a beer that he could never build up tolerance too. Calling the woman who’d kidnapped him ‘Mommy’ was but a minor concession for it.
“Did you have a good sleep?” Mommy asked him as she lifted him out of the crib and carried him over to the changing table.
“Mmm-hmm,” he lied. All of this was just part of the routine, by now.
“We’ve got a big day today.” Mommy said. Wally made sure to time his next shake of the rattle in time with the adhesive tapes being ripped off the front of his diaper. “I’m going to have to take that away.” That made Wally gasp more than the feeling of fresh air on his groin or the wet wipes that followed. He’d gotten used to those.
“Mmmmmm…!” His fists balled up and shook impotently. Mommy didn’t like it when he screamed or threw a tantrum.
“Just so I can wash it!” Mommy said. “That thing is starting to get filthy.” She didn’t even pause as she balled up the used diaper and unfolded its replacement. “Especially,” she added, “since you started crawling around.”
The rattle had done that too. Shake it a few times, and you’re liable to have an accident. Keep going and you can kiss your potty training goodbye. Go beyond that and you were reduced to a crawler.
Wally’s legs weren’t weak by Little standards but something had happened to his inner ear so that he couldn’t balance for anything. A flat plane might as well be a high wire act. The only time the flats of his feet touched the ground were if he had something to steady himself with like a piece of furniture or if Mommy put him in his walker.
Seeing his distress, she let out a good natured chuckle. “I’ll get you a couple more,” she promised. “We can rotate them out. Take turns. Maybe get you a couple that don’t look like a flower. Like an elephant, or a tiger or something. Wouldn’t that be cute?”
It would. It really would. The tiniest bit of self loathing creeped into his psyche. Oh to be the him of a month ago and have the iron will and hope from before. Oh to be an adult and to do more than just idly ponder escape or rescue.
Mommy put the new diaper on him and carried him out to his highchair. Escape to what, though? Constant worrying? Anxiety that he was going to be caught. The worry that any personal connection he might make would be snatched up and taken away forever?
The worst had already happened, hadn’t it? Everything that he’d feared had already come true. He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t keep his pants clean. All the snaps and tapes and buckle made it so he needed help getting dressed. He hadn’t bathed or fed himself in weeks.
No one in their right minds would consider him anything other than a baby.
“Whatcha thinkin’ about?” Mommy asked. She tied a bib around his neck and opened a jar of baby food.
“Nothin’,” he lied.
“Just thinking baby thoughts?” Mommy asked. She unsnapped the rattle from his wrist and put it off to the side, just out of reach. He knew it was coming. It wouldn’t do to get his favorite thing dirty. It still made him scrunch up his face like a constipated toddler.
Looking at his consternation only made the giantess giggle. Wally ate his baby food as fast as he could and chugged the bottle that followed. Doing so made sure that he’d get his beloved rattle back, the panacea to all of the pain that he’d kind of brought.
“We’ve got an exciting day,” Mommy teased. “My maternity leave is almost up and I have to go back to work. That means I’m gonna enroll you in daycare! Isn’t that fun?”
As a habit, Wally started shaking his wrist, even though the rattle hadn’t been attached. He knew this day would come. “Will I get to keep my rattle?” he asked.
“Of course,” Mommy chirped. “Why wouldn’t they let you bring in your favorite toy?”
That made him feel a tad better.
The daycare was pretty standard fare as far as Wally could be able to tell. Not that he’d been to one, before, but as far as pastel padded prisons went it was about what he’d expected.
“Here’s the changing tables,” a Tweener whose name tag read ‘Marjorie’ said.
“They’re out in the open,” Mommy noted. “Interesting.”
It was true. Four thick oaken platforms were placed end to end along the far walls. It was less private than even the changing station in a public restroom. Every kid in the wide open play floor would only have to look up from their toys or pop-up books, or silly games to see someone on their back with their diaper open and their legs up.
None of the other kids really did, though. All were too engrossed in whatever they were doing. Wally noticed a Little girl press her hand between her legs and blush while looking over her shoulder before going to joining in a pick-up game of Simon Says. Another Little boy was so engrossed in making a castle out of cardboard bricks that he didn’t notice the Amazon creeping up behind him and pulling back his diaper to look down inside. He started audibly whining while being taken over to the changing table.
“It’s a matter of efficiency, ma’am,” Marjorie said. “Let the babies play, change them when they need it, and then get them right back to playing, or transition them to lunch or naptime or what have you.”
“I want my blocks!” The Little boy screamed. “Blocks! Blocks! Blocks!”
The grown baby was loud and adamant, but his caregiver spoke softly that Wally could only hear the gentle tone, but not the specific words. She spun a mounted mobile and the boy’s screams turned into giggles and some light jingling made its way to Wally’s ears. Marjorie’s mouth twitched, nervously.
“Efficient?” Mommy asked. “Is that why I don’t see any cubbies for extra clothes or diapers?”
The Tweener nodded appreciatively. “Very perceptive ma’am,” she said, as if reading from a script. “All our kids wear Monkeez here as a matter of policy. That way we can just lay them down on any table, check the size, grab the right one, and get to work. Same with replacement clothes. We’ve got extra onesies and t-shirts for any accidents. It’s all included as part of the service.”
Right on cue, the Amazon and Little on the far changing table showed how well it worked. She didn’t even need to take her eyes off him, being able to find the correct diaper just by feeling for the right size stack.
“Monkeez,” Mommy noted. “Aren’t those the diapers that come in almost all sizes?”
Marjorie nodded. “Yes ma’am. That’s why we prefer them.”
“Don’t they have sizes small enough for…” Mommy chose her worse carefully. “Very very small and young Littles?” It wouldn’t do to call them ‘baby’ Littles, since Wally was technically a baby, too.
Wally scanned the room. There were no babies big enough to be considered ‘Tweener’, a few bulky or brawny Littles that could have pulled it off with some elevator shoes, but that was it. The only Tweeners were the handful working there, including their tour guide.
Their tour guide noticeably stiffened. “Hypothetically, yes,” she said. “We don’t have any Tweener charges at the moment, but if we did, we’ve got a stack that would fit the adorable baby just fine.”
Wally barely registered the nervousness creeping into their guide’s tone. His attention was instead drawn to a cluster of play mats on the floor, all with the same delightful and dangling toys like he had at home. He wriggled in his Mommy’s arms, almost as if he thought he might stretch his arms fifty feet and be able to bring himself across the room. All he got for his behavior was a gentle pat on his backside and slight shushing noise.
An unexpected bonus of being treated like a baby was that empathy was not a major requirement on his part. The worst thing possible had already happened to him, so what did he care if one of the big people got uncomfortable by one of the bigger people? He had other things to worry about. It was almost like when he really was a kid. He’d come around to it in a weird way, but it was the same end result.
Meanwhile Mommy and the Marjorie had gone over the rest of the tour: A kitchen with highchairs, a television room, and so on. There was no place to sleep, instead the Littles had to clean up their toys and staff would lay out nap mats and turn out the lights. Nothing too surprising. Wally’s eyes never strayed far from the toys. It was the longest time he could remember where he wasn’t actively thinking of shaking his wrist.
“So what do you think?” The Tweener asked Mommy.
“I think this could work,” she said. “What do you think baby?”
“Um…Ah…” Wally said. Now he was being asked? Now? Other than to ask the state of his pants or maybe (maybe) the fullness of his belly, the giantess had never asked Wally anything.
“Oh he’s just shy,” Mommy said. The relief he felt was immense when she spoke for him. “I think he’ll like it. Sign us up.”
“Great! I just need to check one more thing,” Marjorie said. She reached up and over. “I need to do a quick diagnostic assessment with him. To see what kind of level he’s on.”
Reluctantly, Mommy handed him over. “Okay…be careful”
Wally was taken back past the colorful and pleasant decorations into what could only be a back office. Plain white floors. Fluorescent lights. A desk with a computer. In a strange way, Wally was almost reminded of his setup back home…his real home…when he was an adult.
“Can you walk?” The Tweener asked. She turned around and locked the door.
“No,” Wally said. “I’m just a…I’m…I’m too Little…” Even admitting that felt like a struggle.
“That sucks,” Marjorie said. Waly held his breath. People didn’t talk to him like that anymore. For the first time in nearly a month, Wally was getting the feeling that he was being talked to instead of talked at. “I’m sorry she did that to you.”
He blinked in confusion. This was completely unexpected. “Wha…wha?”
“Look,” Marjorie lowered her voice. “You’re Walter right? Walter Klammer?”
Hearing his full, actual, adult name was like a bucket of ice being dumped over his head. “Yeah….”
“I can’t tell you everything right now, but I’m going to get you out of here.”
Walter felt gobsmacked. “You are?” How did she know his name? Why was she telling him this?
“I am,” she nodded. “Your file came in with registration. You haven’t been captive very long. I can tell that there’s still a chance to save you.”
Walter started tearing up. These were words he’d wanted to hear, that he’d been waiting to hear for a small eternity. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” The Tweener affirmed. “You’re going to get to grow up again.”
Wally felt his jaw clench “Grow up?”
“Yeah,” she said. “It’ll take a while, and lots of work, but we’re going to undo the damage that monster did to you.”
He’d be an adult again. “Mommy?” For some reason he didn’t like hearing Mommy called a monster out loud. She really had been rather nice all things considered.
“Yeah,” Marjorie said. “We’ll start by potty training you. You might have accidents at first, but you’ll figure out how to clean up after yourself.”
Wally pictured himself wetting his pants with a dark stain spreading and then running down his legs. It’d be just like the first time…with no one to change him or coo at him or tickle him.
“We’ll get you a cane so you can balance and re-learn how to walk.”
Him with a cane would just make him look ‘old’ instead of ‘grown-up’. Honestly, it was easier to crawl. It’s not like he could reach most things, anyways.
“You’ll be able to do things like go to work, cook for yourself, go wherever you want.”
With nowhere to go and no one to look out for him. He’d just be alone and scared that another Mommy would come along and adopt him again if that was even a thing. Did he really want to spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder? The first half was bad enough. Was using a playpen for its intended purpose really that bad in retrospect?
Marjorie reached for the rattle. “People will treat you like an adult instead of making you play with-”
“Don’t!” Wally shrieked! “No!” He clutched the sunflower to his chest like it was his own baby. “Please!”
“It’s just a rattle,” the Tweener said. “Only babies play with rattles.” Her hand loomed closer. “Here, let me help.”
“I’m a baby!” Wally yelped. “Baby needs his rattle!”
She cocked an eyebrow. “What was that?”
“I’m a baby! I don’t want to grow up!” The tears were flowing freely now. “I want my rattle!” For emphasis he shook it, and saw the Tweener wince. His giggles came out closer to hysterical sobs even as he felt the relief like morphine kicking in. He shook the rattle again and again and again.
He already couldn’t walk. Maybe if he shook it hard and long enough he’d stop being a crawler, then they wouldn’t take him. Then he’d be safe. Safe with Mommy.
The Tweener crossed her arms and smirked. “Good baby.” She patted him on the top of his head. “You passed.”
The baby stopped. “Passed?”
Marjorie bent over and picked him up. Wally noticed she had flesh colored earplugs in. “Yup. Just wanted to check and make sure you were really a baby.” Wally blushed. A fakeout. He should have known. Only a baby would have fallen for such a transparent trick, even for a second. Good thing he was a baby.
“That and…” she patted his bottom. “Nope. No lumps. A little wet, but still good. You’ll have to try the changing table tomorrow on your first day.”
Just as quick, if not quicker, the daycare worker carried Wally back out to the noisy and colorful playroom. Mommy waited, looking apprehensive. “So…?”
“He’s fine,” the Tweener said. “He said he wanted to be a baby and stay with his Mommy.”
That wasn’t quite how it went, but close enough. Mommy looked absolutely over the moon. “I knew it!” She leaned over and hooked her baby underneath the armpits. “Give Mommy some sugar! Mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah mwwwwah!”
The battle was finally over and Wally had finally given in and lost. He closed his eyes and smiled as Mommy nuzzled him and gave him a million tiny pecks. For the first time in a long time he felt safe. No more struggle. No more fretting. No more worrying about going on dates. As for friends, he had an entire daycare full of them potentially, all guaranteed to have at least a couple things in common with him.
Mommy’s ‘mwah’ mixed with the jingling of his rattle and his giggles. He even heard Miss Marjorie giggle a little bit as she let him go and he made his way completely onto Mommy’s hip. “Awwww!” she said. “I love seeing…” she cut herself off with a gasp.
Wally looked down and had an Amazon’s-Eye-View of a dark patch spreading and dripping down the Tweener’s legs. Her smile turned into a frightened scowl. The girl reached for her ear, feeling for something that wasn’t there. Helpfully, Wally pointed the spot on the floor where her earplug had fallen out. In his joyful thrashing he must have accidentally jostled it loose or something.
“Oh no, one of the Amazons,” -one of the real adults- said. “Marjorie? Again?!”
“It-it…it was..my ear plug fell out. The new baby’s rattle…and the mobile…and just…” The soon to be ex-tour guide didn’t look all that confident in herself. There was only so much confidence one could muster with wet pants and an unpadded bottom.
So this is what it looked like from the outside.
“I hear those silly baby toys all day too, and I don’t have accidents like that. I just think someone’s Maturosis is expressing itself and they don’t want to admit it.”
“Come on baby girl,” the Amazon said. She grabbed the Tweener by the wrist. “Let’s get you sorted out.”
Wally giggled, looking over Mommy’s shoulder. He might be laying on that changing table tomorrow, but Marjorie was getting to try it out right now. Just as advertised, the daycare workers were able to spring right into action, easily bending over to get a Tweener sized diaper on the bottom shelf while another co-worker stripped her wet clothes off of her.
She didn’t put up much of a fight. What would have been the point? They’d made up their mind for her. Maybe she’d get to have a fun toy to play with now, too.
“Probably for the best,” Mommy sighed. “With Tweener’s it’s a fifty-fifty shot at best.”
Wally agreed, not feeling the least bit guilty. He gave the rattle one more shake, giggling all the while.