(Updated August 19th with Chapter Eight!) Viridia is a novel-length work inspired by Sebtomato’s Parkdale stories, which are based in a town where AR is used by the powers that be to keep the populace happy and peaceful. This tale imagines a similar village set in America’s Pacific Northwest and follows what happens to Will (a young, disenchanted lawyer) when he stumbles upon Viridia and ends up staying in the sleepy burg much longer than he expected. New chapters every Friday, link to the full eBook version below! https://www.amazon.com/Viridia-Regression-Novel-Noah-Kidd-ebook/dp/B0B5FH6W37/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1656622812&refinements=p_27%3ANoah+Kidd&s=digital-text&sr=1-1&text=Noah+Kidd
Chapter Description: On his way to his new life in Seattle, Will stumbles upon the sleepy town of Viridia and the secret it holds.
“How's the coffee?”
“It's...pretty bad, actually.” Will chuckled. “Sorry.”
“Don't be.” The woman behind the counter chuckled as she put away the pot. “I appreciate that a tourist is willing to be as honest about this stuff as the regulars are.”
“Am I that obvious?”
“Nah, it's just that you get used to a set clientele when you're serving a town this small. Name's Abby, by the way.”
“You're pretty far from the freeway, Will. Getting away from something?”
“You could say that. There's a job waiting for me in Seattle that I'm in no hurry to take, so I left Los Angeles going north and went down whichever roads seemed the most interesting.” Will leaned back on his stool and looked around the small, ancient, meticulously-maintained restaurant. Though but a few of the twentyish seats were occupied, those sparse souls within the Cascadian Café looked utterly satisfied with their decision to come. “Led me to a lot of neat little places like this.”
“You're too kind.” Abby smiled. “I suspected that you’re just passing through, it's a shame that you won't get to see more of Viridia.”
“Seems lovely from what I have seen, but yeah, I've dawdled enough as it is.” Will frowned as he got his stuff together. “They're expecting me in the office first thing Monday, so if I make it there tonight that'll give me the rest of the week to steel myself and get settled in my new place.”
“Well, let me freshen your lousy coffee and I'll send you on your – ”
A high, desperate cry rang out through the restaurant as a small boy burst through the swinging door separating the kitchen from the dining room. Though everyone in attendance was startled by his shout and by his sudden appearance – Will in particular nearly falling off his stool – nobody did anything but roll their eyes or chuckle at the unexpected outburst. The boy (who Will guessed was seven or eight) only cared what one person thought, though, making a beeline right for the stranger and clamping his small, shaking hands on the stunned man’s knees.
“We have to go. We have to go right now.” He hiss-whispered, his amber-colored, almond-shaped eyes darting between Will and Abby as the unamused owner put a hand on her hip and glared at the boy. “Please.”
“Liam, what have I told you about bothering the customers?” Abby chided him as she came out from behind the corner. “I'm so sorry, Will, my son is just upset because I – ”
“That's not my mom! THAT'S NOT MY MOM!” Liam shouted as he started tugging at Will's arm. “I'll explain as soon as we leave, but please, we have to go NOW!”
“...I don't think I'm comfortable leaving this boy alone with you.” Will said quietly to Abby. “I'm not accusing you of anything, but he's obviously in a panic and I think it'd be best if we call someone who can help.”
Abby waved her hand dismissively. “I appreciate your concern, but it’s really nothing to worry about.” She put a possessive hand on the boy’s head, grabbing him by the arm and trying to drag him forcefully away from the customer. “Come on Liam, no more silly games.”
The boy refused to listen, however. He immediately wriggled away from her invasive grasp, clamping desperately on to Will, and staring fearfully up at his supposed mother, little legs quivering and eyes glistening with terrified tears. Will studied the boy’s face, struck by the strange intelligence behind the boy’s desperate, pleading expression. He put a cautious hand on his phone, drawing it carefully from his pocket like a pistol emerging from its holster.
“Please…” the small boy begged, hiding his face in Will’s chest.
“Come on you.” Abby tutted, tugging at his arm – but Will put up a warning hand.
“You better tell me what the hell is going on.” He demanded, brandishing his phone. “Or I’m going to call the police.”
Abby let out a flustered sigh. “It’s just...a silly prank!” She offered, letting out a forced chuckle. “Isn’t it, honey?”
The boy didn’t reply, but with his head still buried in Will’s belly, the young man detected a vigorous shake to the contrary. He put a protective hand on his short cropped black hair, regarding the café owner with suspicion. He was sure that she was lying, or at least not telling the full truth – but then again, perhaps she was simply embarrassed?
“I’m sorry. He just gets a kick out of bothering people.” She crossed her arms sternly, looking down disapprovingly at the boy still whimpering into Will’s chest. “It’s very immature of him.”
The boy let out a mewl of fright and sniffed, drying the wreckage of snot and tears on his face on Will’s checkered shirt.
“Please….” he repeated, looking briefly up to lock his streaming amber eyes with the young man’s own stern emerald pair.
With that glance, Will made up his mind. He liked to think that he was a pretty good judge of truth - it was a necessary skill in his line of work. But you didn’t need to be a prize-winning attorney to tell that there was something off about this situation. This was no act. This was no game. Something was very, very wrong.
“I’m calling the police.” Will declared, grabbing the teary boy by the hand and moving towards the doors. He had just begun to dial the number into his phone, however, when he felt Abby’s hand fall on his shoulder.
He turned gruffly around, anger flaring. “I’m warning you, lady, I – ”
His thought was interrupted as she pulled out some kind of aerosol can, spraying it directly into his face. He tried to shout, but all that came out was a tired moan – his legs turning to jelly beneath him as he collapsed down onto the linoleum floors. Will's nostrils flared as blackness overtook his vision, groaning at the intense and sudden scent of cotton candy and spring sunshine. That oddly nostalgic smell - along with Liam's horrified expression and the look of regret on Abby's face – was the last sensation to register with the young man before unconsciousness smothered him like a warm, heavy quilt.
Will was all too glad to wake from what felt like years' worth of vivid dreams, horribly immersed in a Sisyphean effort of trying to swim to air with an iron ball chained to his ankle. He murmured and rubbed his eyes as the rich sunlight of the early morning – as opposed to the flashes dancing perpetually out of his reach upon the surface of the sea – gently guided Will out of his slumber. For a moment he felt light and happy, as though he'd just emerged from the best night's sleep of his life.
Then Will opened his eyes.
He could tell the instant he did so that he wasn't in his new apartment in Seattle, nor had he returned to his old place in LA. That's because neither contained a fully furnished bedroom designed to cater to the interests of a preteen boy. The sky-blue walls were adorned with Minecraft and Fortnite posters and the surfaces of the simple stout wood furniture were covered with advanced, completed Lego models meant to challenge the dexterity and patience of a young adolescent. When Will's eyes dropped to the bedspread, he saw that he was wrapped up in a Star Wars themed blanket, the bold silvers and blues and golds evoking the franchise's beloved droids.
Utterly baffled by his surroundings, the explanation came when Will let his eyes fall a little further – when he saw the smooth, skinny chest of a boy poking out from under that blanket.
Will's scream was cut off when he clamped his hands over his mouth, eyes bulging and heart rate leaping upon hearing the sheer, shrill height of his cry. His throat tightened into a knot dry as he hesitantly pulled back more of the blanket with his small, shaking fingers, too stunned by what he saw to utter another peep. His scrawny, muscle-free torso perfectly matched the slender legs covered in but the barest whisper of peach fuzz – perfectly matched the pathetic excuse for a package nestled shyly between those legs. Bottomless burning humiliation joined the total confusion and mounting terror churning in Will's gut as he forced himself out of his shock, looking around desperately for clothing and an avenue of escape when the door to his room suddenly opened.
“Oh good, I thought I heard you getting up.” Abby chuckled as Will squeaked and pulled his blanket tightly around him. “Relax, sweetie, who do you think got you into bed in the first place?”
“What is this?!” Will demanded even as he cringed at his whiny soprano. “What did you do to me?!”
Abby's expression turned somber as she strode into the room and sat on the edge of Will's bed, locking eyes with the boy as he shrank back against the headboard.
“Please believe me when I say that I absolutely did not want this to happen.” Abby quietly began. “And I'm so sorry that it was your concern for a child's welfare that got you into this mess. No matter how pure your intentions were, I couldn't let the outside world know what happened to him – so I did the same thing to you.”
Though the terror-struck boy struggled to comprehend what Abby was saying to him, one fact got through loud and clear – Liam had once been an adult as well, and it was her that had robbed him and Will of their manhood.
“Turn me back!” Will demanded, still half-believing that this was all some strange, twisted nightmare conjured from his road-weary brain. “Turn me back right now!”
“Oh, sweetie.” Abby cooed, patting him lovingly on the smooth skin of his heaving tummy. Will cringed, hating how tiny his bare little belly looked in comparison to her outstretched hand. “We’re well past that.”
The boy jerked away, firmly rejecting her motherly comforts and sitting up straight with the blankets pulled up high against his chest – trying to salvage some semblance of maturity.
“What is this place?” He demanded. “What the fuck kind of crazy shit are you doing here?”
“Language, William!” Abby scolded, shooting her hand under the blankets to deliver a sharp slap to his thigh. “You’re not too big for me to put you over my knee!”
Will bared his teeth aggressively, almost shooting off another string of curses. The woman’s patronizing tone was infuriating, but in the end, he held his tongue. He had to contain himself. He was an attorney, an officer agent of the court, an adult - not some petulant preteen. Besides, Abby looked serious.
“I apologize.” He said tersely, trying to sound more like Abby’s temporarily embarrassed grown-up peer than her scolded child – but his bubbling fury gave the game away. “I lost my temper. That was impolite of me.”
“It was very immature.”
“Yes.” Will conceded, although he winced at the implication. “Immature. I’m sorry.”
“Apology accepted.” Abby smiled graciously, moving to envelop him in a maternal embrace. Will tried to wiggle away in a vain attempt to maintain his professional demeanor, but it was hopeless – soon finding himself secured snugly betwixt her arms as she patted him reassuringly on the small of his back and planted a single kiss on his naked shoulder. “Good boy.” She lauded, his foray into respectful negotiations treated as no more than the forced faux courtesies of a well-trained polite little boy.
The sickening saccharine praise was too much for Will. He pushed urgently away from her embrace, locking eyes with the overbearing woman as he tried desperately to reassert himself once again. “I’m sorry.” He repeated, although his tone was far from apologetic. “I’m sorry, but you can’t possibly think that you’re going to get away with this.”
Abby didn’t say a word, simply sitting back – a faint air of amusement visible in the upturned corners of her lips.
“It’s immoral.” Will asserted, the frightful sense of fear he felt soon overtaken by nearly half a decade’s experience in law school moot courts. “It’s illegal – kidnapping, forced medical procedures….you are going to be in a lot of trouble.” Will paused, suddenly feeling very unsure as he wracked his brain for some kind of binding legal precedent analogues to the bizarre situation he had found himself – but it was a futile task. Meanwhile, to his annoyance, Abby looked entirely unmoved by his threats, regarding him with a patient smile. Will let out a frustrated huff. The details would have to wait.
“Now, I realize you might not have known this,” he said, “but I actually am a lawyer. I am quite willing to bring a suit detailing – ”
“Don’t tire yourself out, dear.” Abby interrupted, putting a condescending finger to his lips. The would-be attorney trailed off, taken aback by the woman’s nonchalance and the newest invasion of his personal space. “I’m afraid that’s not how any of this works.”
Will fought back the urge to slap her finger away, seething as she withdrew it and regarded the boy with a sort of performative pity.
“Your attention to detail needs a little tuning, sweetheart.” She calmly explained. “It's not as though we were alone when I did what I did – a smart boy like you can figure out why nobody in the café thought anything of Liam's outburst, why none of the fine citizens of Viridia came to your rescue.”
Though it was difficult for Will to focus with his anger threatening to flare out of control at any second, that anger disappeared suddenly into the cold, empty pit that had once been his stomach. Abby's expression only grew warmer as Will went white, the boy frozen in realization as the woman tenderly stroked his wavy, sandy-blonde hair.
“I know it's difficult to accept, but what's happened to you and Liam is just the way we do things around here.” Will's despair found new depths to plumb as Abby casually revealed the true horror of his situation. “This isn't something you can talk your way out of, not with me nor with anybody else in town. You are not a man anymore, Will. No more than Liam was. You are eleven years old. You go to fifth grade. You are my son and Liam's big brother. The sooner you learn to accept all of that – like so many before you have – the happier you'll be.”
Will shivered as Abby regarded him with a silent smile, shaken to his core by the idea that he could be so thoroughly stripped of his identity, that it wasn't enough for her to rob him of his strength and eliminate him as a physical threat. She was determined to shape his mind until it was as though he'd never been an adult in the first place. Desperate thoughts of his real mother – of the friends and loved ones who would never see him again – added an unbearable sadness to the tumult of emotions raging within him.
“I'm sure you have a million questions, and I'll be happy to answer them once you get home from school.” Abby declared as she stood from the bed and made to leave. “If you want to prove your maturity, you can do it by getting ready without a fuss – I was very happy to bring an older sibling into Liam's life and I'd like to keep it that way.”
Will shuddered at the thinly-veiled threat, forced out of bed once Abby was gone by the terrifying idea of becoming even smaller. His head spun as he stood and acquainted himself with an eye level a foot and a half lower than usual, walking stiffly and dizzily over to his dresser on chicken legs that wobbled beneath him. The clothes found within, thankfully, weren't especially immature. The boy found and threw on solid-colored boxer-briefs, a pair of jeans and a short-sleeved button-down shirt, the vaguely adult outfit helping Will feel somewhat mature right until he turned and saw himself in the mirror.
It was one thing to look down and study some of his preteen features – it was another entirely to see the fifth-grader in the reflection and know it was him, recognizing in an instant a form he hadn't occupied in over a dozen years. His breathing wavered at the freckles splashed across his rosy baby-smooth cheeks, at his slight and willowy frame, at the huge emerald eyes shimmering with tears at the unescapable sight of his old self. Memories of being eleven – ones he hadn't thought about in years – flooded his mind so strongly that he swore he could smell the rubber tires of the bike he got for Christmas that year, could hear the delighted screams of his friends as they drenched each other with squirt guns, could taste the mountain of chocolate he'd scavenged in his last trick-or-treating Halloween.
It was several seconds before Will could steady himself, before he could tear his eyes away from the mirror, step out his room and follow the sound of breakfast being made on the other side of the house. The scene he found was a picture of domestic bliss. Abby was humming softly to herself as she prepared sandwiches in the kitchen, birds twittering softly outside over the sound of the radio turned down low. A veritable cornucopia was laid out on the breakfast table; toast, crispy bacon, scrambled eggs, a library of cereal boxes – it was certainly more food than was necessary for a single woman and her two boys, but it seemed that Will’s self-appointed new mother wanted to give him a big welcome.
The little boy who had started it all was sitting sadly amidst the feast. Ignoring the heartier options set out before him, Liam had opted for nothing more than a now rather soggy bowl of Lucky Charms. He chased his spoon dejectedly through the stagnant pool of cereal-stained milk, pouting down petulantly at the table. He only looked up when he heard the sound of Will scraping away a chair to seat himself directly next to the sullen eight-year-old. The two locked eyes for a moment, just as they had in the café - but where before there had been the slightest glimmer of hope in the younger boy’s eyes, now there was only a horrible self-hating hopelessness.
I’m sorry, Liam mouthed, not even daring to fully sound out the words.
He didn’t need to say anything, however. Will tried to look stoic for the younger boy’s sake, putting a comforting brotherly hand on Liam’s shoulder. He didn’t say a word, the determination in his shining eyes enough to communicate the slightest revitalizing spark of hope. This wasn’t over. They would escape. They would fix this.
“Strawberry or mango, Liam?” Abby asked, interrupting their silent conference by slapping two tubes of GoGurt down onto the table. There was a beat of silence as Liam offered nothing more than a sour glare before she turned to the older boy. “Will?”
“Err, strawberry I guess…” he chose at random, having little interest in the intricacies of their packed lunches. He had more important things on his mind. Besides, with a little luck he’d be out of this crazy town by noon.
Abby nodded, beginning to pack away various items into two lunch boxes. One was themed with a garish cartoon rocket ship, while the other was decorated with simple blue and green stripes. “That’s Liam’s favorite as well.” She remarked, ruffling the younger boy’s hair affectionately. He tried to wriggle away, but there wasn’t much room to maneuver so long as he stayed obediently seated at the breakfast table.
“I don’t really mind.” Will backtracked, not wanting to deprive his fellow victim. “He can have strawberry if he wants.”
“That’s very sweet of you, Will – but it’s quite alright.” Abby tittered as she prodded the younger boy playfully on the sides. “Serves Liam right for being such a Grumpy Gus.”
“Leave me alone!” The second-grader growled, but his protests were in vain.
“Don’t yell, sweetie.” Abby scolded. “When mommy asks you a question, you answer. If you’re a good little boy, next time you might not miss out on your favorite treat.”
“I don’t have a favorite!” Liam shouted. “I don’t even like GoGurt!” He railed on, finally getting up from the table and grabbing his lunch box. “And I’m not a little boy!” He added almost as an afterthought, slamming the front door behind him.
“You can see why I think it’d help him to have a big brother around.” Abby chuckled, shaking her head as she put together a breakfast sandwich of bacon, eggs and cheese. “I hate to rush you on your first day, Will, but if you eat on the go you can probably catch up to Liam before he gets too far.”
Will nodded numbly as he took the sandwich in a paper-towel sleeve – there wasn't much point to pressing Abby any further right now, and if he hurried he and Liam could get a few minutes to talk on their way to school. Still, the boy had to force himself to pick up his lunchbox, to not pull away from Abby when she sent him off with an affectionate peck to the forehead. He gasped the second he stepped out the front door, not realizing he'd been holding his breath until exposed to the cool, fresh air of the brisk May morning. Catching movement out of the corner of his eye, Will looked to the right to see Liam about a block away, walking briskly and stiffly towards the center of town.
“Liam! Wait up!” Will shouted, shooting the sulking child a smile when he did just that, kicking at the ground as the bigger boy jogged to the corner Liam lingered on. It wasn't until Will reached the spot that he realized he had no idea what to say to the boy, the adorable features of his 'little brother' souring into a frown as he struggled for the words. “...I, um...I want you to know that you have nothing to be sorry about. What happened to me isn't your fault - it's the fault of Abby and everybody who stood by and watched it happen. Okay?”
Liam nodded sullenly. Though he winced at Liam's unconvincing response, Will let it go for the moment as the two of them had bigger fish to fry.
“How long ago did she, um...” Will awkwardly posed the question while the two of them continued walking in the direction Liam had been going.
“This is my third day.” Liam robotically answered as the bigger boy fumbled for the words. “Three or four more before I'm gone for good.”
“So it's true.” Will trembled as his fears of erasure were confirmed. “Listen – we're not going to school. We're going to find my car, snatch the keys I keep hidden in the spare tire, drive to the next town and blow this whole thing wide open.”
Liam laughed for the first time since they'd met, a hollow and empty bark that made the second grader sound like a cynical teen.
“You're talking like a kid already.”
“What do you mean?” Will rebuked, a little hurt that Liam was mocking him so openly.
“The town mechanic's stripped your car for parts by now. And even if we found some other way to get out of here, you think anyone would believe a single word of our story? Best case scenario, we’re brought back here and get another whiff of the gas as punishment for running away. Worst case, we’re stuck in the foster system and separated. Either way, we're doomed to forget everything about our past lives – so you can count me out of whatever silly escape fantasy you dream up.”
The pair walked in silence as they reached Main Street, the tiny ancient businesses that lined the avenue coming to life as Will and Liam passed, more and more boys and girls of every age joining them on the sidewalk as they approached the school.
“...I'm sorry.” Liam mumbled before the concrete grew too crowded to talk privately. “I didn't mean to snap at you like that.”
“Like I said – you have nothing to be sorry about.” Will grinned at Liam's tiny smile, putting on a brave front even as he quivered within at the reality the smaller boy had laid out. “You hungry?”
“...starving.” Liam admitted as he took the offered half of Will's sandwich. “...thanks.”
Will was going to ask Liam more about different ways out of town, thinking perhaps that they could hitch their way onto a public bus or something, but the sound of a high-pitched electric buzzer emanating from the school building cut him off.
The younger boy gave a yelp of panic, sprinting off down the street as he stuffed the remnants of his sandwich into his mouth.
“Liam!” Will shouted, stomping after the boy “What’s the big rush?”
“Can’t stay!” He stammered through mouthfuls of bacon and egg. “Gonna be late!”
“So?” Will said incredulously, amazed that the seemingly adult mind he had been conversing with moments earlier was so easily cowed by the sound of a school bell.
“I’ll get in trouble!”
“Meet me at recess!” Will shouted as Liam barged his way through the crowded doors, but the boy was already gone. He kicked his feet at the sidewalk as he slowed down again, a little frustrated with his younger companion. What did it matter if they were late anyway? What would the teachers do, put them in detention? He scoffed as he thought back to his first childhood, realizing that he’d been just the same when he was a kid. Even in elementary school, he had always been a goody two shoes – terrified even by the slightest idea of breaking the rules. Will allowed himself a private smile, thinking back with a mixture of nostalgia and embarrassment at how he’d lived in fear of the elusive ‘permanent record.’
It was only when he arrived at law school that he’d realized that the world and its rules were more complex than he’d been led to believe. There were caveats, exceptions, exemptions even – and often it was more about who you knew than what you did. It was the same reason that the frat bros snorting white powders in student bar bathrooms often found themselves presiding in black robes ten years down the line.
Will stood on the threshold of the school, thinking things over. Liam was probably right. If he ran now, they’d hunt him down by the end of first period – and depending on how far he got he’d be lucky to find himself reciting his ABCs in a Kindergarten circle time. He certainly wouldn’t be allowed to simply waltz back into the fifth grade – Abby had made that clear enough. No, if he was going to get out of this, if he had any chance of restoring his adulthood, he would have to play it smart. He’d have to be conservative, play things safe – at least until he had a better idea of what was going on.
He took a deep breath before barging through the double doors. One thing was for certain – this time he wouldn’t be playing by the rules.
Deskie · Jul 3, 2022This read was fantastic, so much so that I bought the book and devoured it within the same day. And I'm a cheep bastard so the fact that I bought this is a testament to how well this was written. I hope to read other works from you in the future!
Noah Kidd · Jul 15, 2022Viridia has been updated with chapter three - just wanted to make everyone aware as the story wasn't bumped to the top of the page for whatever reason.