Viridia

by: Noah Kidd | Story In Progress | Last updated Aug 19, 2022


Chapter 6
Chapter Six


Chapter Description: Will gets caught snooping and faces the disastrous consequences.


A creak in the pipes jolted Will fully awake again. He blinked in confusion, sitting up rigidly in his bed and pawing around in the darkness in search of the switch for his bedside lamp. When he finally located it, the piercing bright light made him wince and prompted another jaw-unhinging yawn. As his eyes adjusted, he hatefully regarded the preteen decor that adorned his room. He’d almost fallen asleep, almost done as Abby had told him – almost allowed his brain to sink into the cheery childish quicksand which seemed to be lurking in every corner of this god-awful town. He thought back queasily to the scene he had overheard just a few minutes earlier. Liam already seemed to have at least partially fallen victim to the mind-numbing stuff, chortling along to his adopted mommy’s silly jokes like a perfect little cherub.

 

Will swung his feet out from under his covers as he remembered the vow that he’d made that morning. He would be different. He couldn’t let them get him. He couldn’t let them win. He had to fight! He rose to his feet, shaking half with adrenaline and half with unadulterated bone-chilling fear. He made for the door, intending to scour the house for a car key, or cash, or anything he could use to get the hell out of here, but a hacking cough from somewhere deep in the inky abyss beyond his room stayed his hand. It couldn’t have been five minutes since Abby had left him alone. He’d have to bide his time, at least for now.

 

Reluctantly he made his way over to a bookshelf, rolling his eyes as he regarded the sorry collection of childish chapter books sandwiched between two long-forgotten stuffed animals. He tried to find something that looked at least vaguely sophisticated to pass the time but came up empty handed.  He even searched desperately through a pile of uninteresting old magazines, hoping to come up with a copy of Highlights, but that endeavour too proved unsuccessful. Frustrated, he glanced back at the digital clock on his bed side table – but it was still only just past ten pm.

 

The boy groaned as he balefully eyed the teddy bears on either side of the pitiful selection of simple novels, fantasizing over how good it would feel to work out some of his frustrations on the soft stuffed toys. Looking at their tiny perpetual frowns just made Will sad, though, the boy having to fight off the urge to crawl back under his covers and close his eyes until the bad feelings went away. Desperate for something to distract him, Will was struck by inspiration when he spotted the worn wooden desk installed next to his bookshelf. If I don't have anything mature enough to read, Will reasoned as he sat and pulled out paper and a pencil. I'll just have to write it myself.

 

Enthused as the boy was by the idea, his excitement was tempered when he drew a blank on what he should write about – and was tempered further when his wandering imagination came up with ideas that were as exciting and awesome as they were utterly childish. Though Will eventually managed to rein his mind back in, it took a somber realization for that to happen – he knew what he needed to put to paper in that moment and yet it took every bit of his strength to pull his small, trembling hand to the top of the page and scrawl out the first two words.

 

Hey Mom -

 

I don't know if you'll ever read this - the odds of that happening are frankly pretty low. Just the same, there's a few things that I want to get off my mind while I still can.

 

You'll know what I mean by that if I ever make it out of here.

 

I don't blame you for being frustrated with me when I came out of law school disheartened by the whole system and swearing to never put my degree to use. You worked so hard to help me afford that degree, to say nothing of putting up with my smart ass when I was growing up. Because you were there, though, you should know better than anybody that I've never been one to just accept what life has in store for me. Becoming an attorney would've made me absolutely miserable, and I think deep down you know that too.

 

I wish you could've visited me at the summer camp - even if we'd been speaking by then, it's not like they let parents of counselors come out to the grounds. But I've got summers' worth of memories to go along with the pictures I took and the journals I kept, all of which I can't wait to share with you when we next meet. I'd be at that camp right now if it were up to me, playing with some lonely child or tidying up the cabins or helping cook a huge meal for kids and grown-ups alike.

 

Things aren't up to me anymore, though, not even before what happened to me happened. It wasn't until I'd been given this time to think about where I am that I really realized that. One positive to take from all this, I guess. Reminds me of what I admire the most about you, Mom - you've always looked on the bright side of things. I wish I could say the same.

 

I'd do anything to see you again. I miss you so much.

 

Love -

 

Will

 

The boy was shaking when he finished the letter, putting the pencil down as he wiped his misty eyes with the back of his arm. Freshly motivated, Will carefully slipped the letter into the desk for safekeeping before turning to his clock, exhaling with a relieved shudder when he realized that half an hour had passed. He tiptoed to his door and slowly creaked it open, wincing at the squeak of the hinge as he peered into the darkness. Will's eyes adjusted and revealed to him a still interior cast in shadows, no sound to be heard but the persistent chirping of crickets in the distance. Hours seemed to pass before he could force himself out into the hall, moving with small and timid footsteps as he crept down the stairs.

 

Padding through the pitch-black corridor, even the slightest little sounds made Will freeze in fear like a skittish cat. Soon however, he adjusted to the midnight rumblings of the little cottage, attuning to the fizz of rusty pipes, creak of expanding floorboards, and distant hum of radiators in the same way that his searching alert eyes adapted to the murky darkness. Making out the vague form of Abby’s office door looming a few feet in front of him, he put a cautious hand against the doorknob and slid carefully inside.

 

The room was abandoned, a single beam of moonlight piercing through the blinds illuminating a shiny mahogany desk laden with forms, files, and binders. Will rushed hastily towards it, certain that he would find Abby’s handbag nearby – and within it all the adult paraphernalia necessary to make a daring escape. As he slid around the desk however, he barged painfully into a hard obstacle – the noisy squeaking of hinges and the feel of soft leather and cold metal revealing it to be a beautifully upholstered executive office chair.

 

The seat let out an ear-piercing skidding sound as it wheeled slowly over the hard wood floor, prompting Will to drop prone in fright. He was certain he heard the sound of movement somewhere in the house above, crawling on all fours into the little cavity under the desk. His heart in his throat, he gathered his legs together into the fetal position – ears pricked up and breath bated in expectation. Soon however everything was silent once more, all except for the same familiar rhythms of an old house at night.

 

Bundled up in his hidey hole, Will’s eyes soon locked on the prize he coveted – Abby’s black leather handbag stashed beside him under her desk. He unfastened it greedily, feeling every bit a naughty little boy as his stubby fingers pawed through the woman’s purse and pulled out a few large notes. He pushed the guilty feelings to the back of his mind as he seized up the car keys, quickly justifying the theft despite his nascent qualms. He had been kidnapped, he was being held against his will – desperate times called for desperate measures.

 

As he rose to his feet again and made for the door however, another nagging thought made its way to the top of his mind.

 

What about Liam?

 

Yes – what about the boy who he’d gone out of his way to save in the first place? What had he been planning? To run back upstairs, stash the sleepy younger boy over his back like a firefighter and storm past the gates in Abby’s four-by-four like some kind of B-movie action hero? No – that hadn’t been what he’d had in mind at all. He’d planned to slink out the door and disappear silently into the night, to hightail out of town at the first opportunity, quivering in his boots like a frightened little boy. And what about him? Even if he did make it out of Viridia – an unlikely feat from what Liam had told him – he’d still be eleven years old. No, he couldn’t leave yet. He needed to find something, anything that might help restore him and Liam back to adulthood. Then they could make their true escape.

 

He tossed the money and keys onto the desk, using the sparse light of the moon to sort meticulously through the documents. Will had never really been one for natural sciences – and with his reduced facilities his abilities were even more questionable – but he still knew what he was looking for. Big words, science-y words, the kind of words that when applied were powerful enough to turn grown men into children – or hopefully the other way around.

 

To his annoyance, Will found nothing of the sort, trawling through stack after stack of plastic portfolios each labeled with various names. The boy looked over the files with sadness, hoping the documents were nothing but basic administrative papers – but knowing in his heart that they were likely something much more sinister than that.  Still, he didn’t open any of them. He had his own problems. He didn’t have time to indulge in futile melancholy for the sake of strangers. He was just about to give up and look through a nearby filing cabinet instead when he came across a file labeled with a very familiar name – his own.

 

Will swallowed as he plucked out the manila folder and quietly opened the blinds, unfolding the file in the gush of ghostly moonlight that came flooding into the room. Eyes that narrowed as he struggled to make out the small print of the first document went wide as saucers when the boy realized what he was looking at. From the top center heading there boomed the words REQUEST FOR RECLAMATION on a form that at first glance looked as banal as a job application. As Will studied the piece of paper, however, he realized that the details were not those of whoever filled it out – they were his.

 

Name, address, height, weight, the details of his job in Seattle, his passport info and the registration and title for his vehicle...the boy went cold in wondering how they could've gotten this information until he realized that they of course had come across his driver's license and important documents in their search of his car, which had been stuffed to bursting with everything he held valuable. Indeed, Will discovered that there were scans of his papers and a picture of his car within the folder, though he didn't linger on either for long – it just made him angry and miserable to look at his smiling grown-up face, to know that Viridia had disposed of everything he held dear. More interesting to him was the fact that the request form with his name on it was incomplete – the boxes that asked for information concerning his upbringing had been left blank, as Will realized with a deep stab of guilt that he hadn't been carrying anything to tie him to his lone surviving parent.

 

The form wasn't just missing information, however, as what was there had been written in a fast and sloppy hand. Whoever had filled it out had seemingly hurried to do so, and it came as no surprise to Will when his eyes fell to the bottom of the page and found Abby's name scribbled across it alongside four other, neater signatures. Eager to confirm her haste – and to see what a completed form looked like – Will went looking for another to compare it to before realizing whose folder he needed to find. Doing so was difficult as they weren't in any order that the boy could discern, and though he knew he was pushing his luck by spending so much time in the office there was no way he could leave without his file and that of his foster brother.

 

Will swallowed the yip of triumph that nearly slipped out when he finally came upon Liam's folder, which was significantly bulkier than his own. The same form greeted him right at the top, written in the same handwriting though in this case considerably neater and containing the personal info of the former adult's deceased parents. Abby’s signature was on this piece of paper as well, but here it was just as neat as the four others that joined it – the same four he’d found on his own file. The boy frowned as he realized that that space on the page was for the members of the council to approve the request by lending it their signature. His regression, which had been spur of the moment, had only initially been approved by Abby, whereas Liam's – presumably planned for some time – was lent the support of presumably every member from the outset.

 

The pride the preteen felt at discovering all of this was dampened by the personal photos he came across in reviewing Liam's files. Snapshots of the boy during his first childhood illustrated the happy kid socking a baseball, swimming in a lake, celebrating a birthday, braving a roller coaster. It disturbed Will to find not a trace of his parents in these pictures, as though the woman who had taken their place was determined to never be reminded of their existence.

 

What he did find – way in the back behind all the other pictures – was a single snapshot of Liam as an adult. It appeared to be his profile picture from whatever service the streamer had called home, a semi-professional picture that caught the best side of the somewhat scruffy young man. Will was surprised to find himself smiling as he studied the portrait – he was charmed by seeing how his foster brother’s boyish features would develop and was reinvigorated by the broad grin of a goateed, twenty-seven-year-old Liam. The reminder that he wasn’t Abby’s only victim helped Will to keep at bay the fear and dread that mounted within him the longer he lingered in the office.

 

Speaking of, Will set aside the two files before putting everything back the way he'd found it, not wanting to give Abby even the barest reason to suspect he'd been snooping. The boy worked quickly but carefully, and as he gave his efforts a once over he was certain she'd never find out – a certainty that vanished when he turned around and found her in the doorway.

 

“Oh, Will.” Abby sighed. “What am I going to do with you?”

 

“I wasn’t!” He squeaked out desperately. “I didn’t!” But the evidence was as clear as day. Abby shook her head in disappointment, holding out an inviting hand for him to hold as if he might go meekly to his fate.

 

“Come on.” She instructed. “Let’s get you sorted out.”

 

Will’s primal screech cut sharply through the silence as he charged head on towards his captor, clumsily trying to wiggle through the gap in the doorway. Abby grabbed him authoritatively by the scruff of his neck, using one arm to gather his vicious flailing limbs into a consoling cuddle even as she confined him in a tight inescapable headlock with the other.

 

“No! No!” The boy squalled tearfully, wiggling in her grasp like a misbehaving kitten. “Get off me!”

 

“Don’t shout.” Abby instructed calmly. “You’ll wake your brother.”

 

“I don’t care!” The boy spat, letting out a further tirade of incomprehensible howls, yowls, and sobs. His adopted mother soon lost her patience, adjusting her grasp so that her rough meaty hand was positioned over his mouth – silencing him. There was nothing Will could do but listen to Abby’s horrible soothing hushes as she dragged him forcefully, but not too roughly, over towards her office chair. As his haggard breathing instinctually calmed to the rhythm of her soft motherly coos, the boy felt a stab of terror. He would have preferred anything to this - cruel victorious laughter, mocking villainous monologues, even physical punishment. But Abby’s soothing comforting hushes, entirely indistinguishable from a real mother’s, were too much to bear. By the time he saw her pull the aerosol can from out of her desk drawer, he was already bawling out huge helpless tears.

 

“Oh sweetie.” Abby fussed over him, pulling his ragdoll body awkwardly up into her lap and rocking him gently back and forth. “Don’t cry. It’ll be better this way, I promise.”

 

She finally removed her hand from his mouth, but Will was far too emotional by this point to even think of a coherent protest – let alone vocalize it. Instead, he let out a piercing babyish wail, channeling all his energy into a last desperate lunge for freedom. It was pointless however, all his efforts only rewarded with an even tighter grasp constricting around his abdomen.

 

“Breathe deeply, honey.” Abby commanded, holding the nozzle up to his mouth. Will clammed his jaws shut, shaking his head indignantly as his foster mother smiled down adoringly at his feeble resistance. “It’s for the best.” She reassured him, pinching his nose shut as if he were an uncooperative infant who refused to take his medicine.

 

Eventually, exhausted and defeated, the boy opened his mouth for a desperate gasp of air. A choking mass of strange tasting gas overwhelmed his senses, flooding the inside of his mouth and rushing down into his lungs. He quivered in fear, almost grateful for Abby’s reassuring pats on his back and tousling of his hair –and as the gas took hold, he could only wonder with throat-clenching dread just how little he was going to get this time.

 

The shrinking boy's breath came in hitching sobs as he teetered on the precipice between sniffling and bawling, his adoptive mother's gentle touch and calming whispers the only thing keeping Will from bursting into tears. He realized shortly after being dosed that there would be no sweet veil of unconsciousness to slip beneath this time, that the man turned preteen would be horribly lucid for every instant of his newest demotion. Abby, in fact, seemed to be directing Will's gaze downward as she stroked his increasingly soft and curly locks, subtly encouraging him to watch as his regressing form deflating into her embrace. The miserable boy wouldn't have been able to tear his eyes away anyway, fascinated as he was horrified by the cuffs of his shirt and sweatpants swallowing his dwindling hands and feet – feet that had touched the floor a moment ago but now dangled helplessly above the hardwood.

 

“This is my fault,” Abby murmured as she kissed the rounding cheeks of her whimpering son. The mere idea of struggling free of her massive arms became increasingly ridiculous as those arms enveloped more and more of him, as they gradually drew him closer to her warm, soft bosom. “I knew you were spirited the second you stood up for Liam – not someone we would usually let stay in the double digits because they're just too much of a handful at that age. But I felt sorry for you, Will. I didn't think it right that you be punished so severely when your intentions were good. The only thing I can do now to make up for that is to get you to an age where you'll be a little happier – where I can give you the protection and care you deserve.”

 

Will certainly didn't feel very happy as he squirmed and whined in Abby's lap, the slightest of movements reminding him how baggy – and progressively so – his nightclothes had become. Though he shuddered in relief when his shrinking came to a stop, that relief vanished when his tiny, trembling hands fought their way out of his sleeves, the dam of tears that had been threatening to burst finally failing when Will realized that they were just as small as those of his formerly little brother. Bawling uncontrollably, Will was numb to everything but the knowledge that Abby was standing with him in her arms, that she had lifted him as easily as she had Liam earlier in the evening.

 

“It's okay, baby, it's okay.” Abby cooed, rocking the disconsolate eight-year-old as she carried him out of the office. “You're going to share a bed with Liam tonight so he can help keep you company, all right?”

 

“NO!” Will cried, barely able to get the word out between his heaving sobs. As lost as the boy had been in his despair, the thought of Liam seeing him like this only made the former preteen (and man) all the more inconsolable. “Please!

 

“Don't be silly, darling, it'll be fun.” Abby reassured the defeated lad as she knocked on the door to Liam's room. “Hon? We're coming in, okay?”

 

“...okay.” A tiny voice peeped back a moment later, barely heard through the wood but clear enough that it seemed Liam had already been awake. That much became obvious when Abby entered the room and flipped on the light to show him sitting up straight as a board, skin turning moon pale and eyes going as wide to match when he saw a miserable, eight-year-old Will curled up in their foster mother's arms. The last thing Will wanted was to meet those eyes, and so he stared straight at the floor as Abby put him down and hooked her thumbs into his loose undies and sweatpants.

 

“Please step out of those, sweetie, I've got to get you into jammies that fit.” Abby instructed, drawing another pathetic whimper from the newly-minted second-grader.

 

“Can't I just sleep in this?” Will whined, desperate to shield the humiliating details of his younger form from sight.

 

“No, Will, that won't be comfortable at all for you. Come on now, out you hop.”

 

When the boy stayed motionless, still staring obstinately down at the ground, Abby had no problem going right ahead. She pulled the oversized articles gently down to his ankles, leaving them abandoned at his feet while she sorted through the drawers for something more appropriate. As Will continued to sob and shudder, he was at least grateful for his t-shirt – which was acting now more like a dress.

 

Abby soon produced his new outfit. With Liam having carefully selected the least immature option from his childish pajama collection, Will was left with an even more juvenile get-up than his space themed jammies. He cringed as his adopted mother held up a heart-breakingly adorable blue button up short set, the fabric displaying a repeating pattern of a little yellow puppy dog chewing playfully on a Ffrisbee. Keen to at least have something covering up his bottom half, he had no choice but to step out of the comparatively grown-up duds pooled around his ankles as Abby approached with the skimpy cotton shorts in hand.

 

“Can I put them on myself?” He bargained.

 

“Of course, honey.” Abby agreed. Will snatched the garment greedily, quickly negotiating the shorts up his all-too skinny legs. “Just let me do your buttons, okay?” She continued, easily pulling his t-shirt off from over his head. “You’re shaking like a leaf.”

 

Will looked down hatefully at his short slender fingers, the tiny digits still trembling uncontrollably with pathetic juvenile terror. Try as he might to steady them, it was impossible for the boy to get a handle on his reduced motor control while in such a devastated state. . Feeling useless, he sank back into an emotional husk, staring back down at the ground as Abby got to work negotiating him into the button up pajama top. She threaded his noodle-like arms through the holes before getting to work on the buttons, tickling playfully at his squidgy soft tummy on her way up and drawing naught but one final shivering sob from her overwhelmed son. When she was finished, she gave him a final reassuring rub on his shoulders and a little pat on his bottom.

 

“Go cuddle up with your brother. There’s a good boy.”

 

Will did as he was told, toddling the last few paces hastily across the soft carpet and diving hurriedly under the covers – as if the thin layers of fabric might offer some kind of supernatural protection from his horrible new reality. As silly as the thought was, the snuggly feeling of the blankets on his skin did make him feel better – awakening a long-forgotten feeling of innocent security. He was like a cozy polar bear cub cuddled up in a soft fluffy cocoon while a wintry blizzard blew outside.  As long as he kept his head buried under the blankets, he felt sure that they couldn’t hurt him anymore.

 

“Good night boys. Sleep tight.” Abby whispered as she shut off the lights and glided from the room.

 

TA million questions ran through Liam’s mind as he regarded the vague shape of the tiny eight-year-old breathing haggardly beside him under the covers in the darkness. He didn’t ask them, however. Instead, he simply extended his own slim arm and clasped his own little hand around his brother’s balled up fist, hanging on tight.

 

“...Liam?” Will peeped as his clenched, shaking fingers were held, so caught up by his need to block out all the bad feelings that he'd all but forgotten about his foster brother. Firm and reassuring as Liam's grasp was, Will could see even in the near-pitch beneath their blanket the fear and confusion in the boy's eyes – which would have been enough to get him crying again if he had any tears left. All he could do was shudder and hiccup as he buried his face in the scrawny chest of the stunned boy, heaving miserably between every gasped word. “Liam...I'm so sorry...I...she...”

 

“...it's okay. It's okay, Will, really.” Liam managed despite not at all feeling that way. The boy was on the verge of crying himself and it was only because he didn't want Will to get more upset that he managed to hold back his tears. He swallowed the hot knot in his throat as he wrapped his skinny arms around his new peer, Will shivering so badly that Liam couldn't tell where his shaking began and Will's ended. Those shivers calmed as Liam held the boy in the still dark of his room, Will's breathing steadying as the overwhelmed child slipped into blissful sleep. Slumber was not so quick in coming for his brother, however, Liam's gut churning and his eyes shimmering at the sight of the rebellious older boy reduced to a snoozing tyke in too-cute jammies. But try as he might to stay awake – to consider their situation from every angle in hopes that a means of escape would come to him – Liam soon too gave into his exhaustion, still  sleepy despite what he had just witnessed.

 

As his eyes fluttered shut, the last image that floated into his mind was that of he and Will playing in the forest, laughing and shouting, neither burdened with so much as a flit of an adult thought.

 


 

End Chapter 6

Viridia

by: Noah Kidd | Story In Progress | Last updated Aug 19, 2022

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