Chapter Description: Inevitable.
Daniel pried himself away from the moment and staggered up the stairs. With each flight, his legs grew longer, though the experience quickly drained him. By the 13th floor, he could feel his grown-up self returning. He cleared his fifteen-year-old throat and pleased that his more manly vocal chords had come back. Hair started resurfacing in all the right areas, though now Daniel lacked pants to cover any of it up. All he had left was his trusty work shirt, and he wasn’t about to head back to the 8th floor to retrieve the bottom half of his wardrobe. With Sara gone, he wondered whether there was any point in staving off the inevitable. He would have to join her in babyhood sooner or later. Approaching the 20th floor, Daniel marveled at how tall he now felt. How many people get to know what it feels like to grow up in a matter of minutes?
The shirt no longer covered much and Daniel was left with a frigid breeze drifting between his legs. Still, he received some measure of relief knowing his genitalia had returned to its previous adult proportions, even if all was dangling in the wind. The long walk to the 33rd floor felt like a real trek as his muscles grew larger yet older at the same time. He’d almost gotten used to the strange sensation. Finally, after hundreds of steps and a significant boost in maturity, Daniel reached the 33rd floor and his office.
The task was clear: see what else there is to know about Ms. Madhat. But with his partner in crime reduced to a crying babe on the first floor, he no longer had much reason (or the energy after the climb up the stairs) to pour through his files or run more internet searches. Still, the words “modus operandi” teased him. He kept the hope alive, and in the back of his mind he knew a secret needed to be unlocked. After all, Daniel practiced law. He was schooled in loopholes. Everything has a loophole, he thought, reclining in his leather chair. A technicality, something. Rules were meant to be broken. Chewing on a pencil, Daniel thought. And thought hard. But nothing came.
Somewhere on the 6th floor...
”You what?” Devra said into her cell phone.
”I found them... both. Daniel, err.. your husband got away. They were both kids. I don’t know, maybe nine or ten,” Stephen explained.
”Well, where are you now?”
”I’m on the first floor... Yeah, I have Sara with me...”
”And she’s quite adorable.”
”So it worked! It actually worked! She’s a baby!” Devra said, delighted.
”I know. I can’t believe it either!”
”But where is Daniel?? Is he still little?”
”He ran up the stairs...”
”Do you know where he was headed?”
”No, but if I had any guess, he’s back up at the office. I don’t think he’s going to give up quite as easily.”
”Well, he will eventually. He’s leaving this place a three-year-old whether he likes it or not.” Devra hung up.
One down, one to go.
Things had not gone exactly as planned, but she felt satisfied knowing the old lady’s curse had indeed succeeded. Clearly, Daniel knew enough to run from Stephen, so the jig was up. He knew she was out to get him, not help him. Now the only task was finding her little husband.
On the 33rd floor...
Unclothed from the waist down, Daniel rifled through the stacks of papers in his office in search of some clue he knew didn’t exist. He would have remembered anything strange showing up on Ms. Madhat’s file, and it wasn’t likely she had left any hints as to how he might break the spell. Every line in that note had come true. And now the walls were indeed beginning to close in on him, or so he imagined. The office no longer seemed quite as dark. Maybe his eyes had simply adjusted or morning was starting to break. Either way, the night had zapped his energy. The last thing Daniel felt like doing was solving some ridiculous riddle. He sighed. All he had left to do was surrender to his implacable wife.
In a last ditch effort, Daniel booted up his computer once more time and located the webpage he and Sara had visited earlier. Pages and pages of the same obscure language. What hope did Daniel have of solving the puzzle before the next day was up? By the next time midnight rolled around, he and Sara would most likely be too small to even reach a door knob, much less mount an effective opposition.
”How could this happen?” he asked out loud.
The 35-year-old lawyer examined himself as he sat in his sticky leather chair. Status, wealth, family, car, job: these are all the things one might expect to lose in life. Yet his wife had somehow chosen to rob him of the one thing that’s virtually guaranteed in life - his age. Staring down at his hairy legs, Daniel knew nothing could prepare him for the ride down. He survived the night’s previous regressions knowing they were merely temporary, but the last trip down would, by all indications, prove quite permanent. And once he reached the bottom, there would be no turning back.
Almost as if by divine providence, the elevator doors opened and Devra stepped out. In a matter of moments, she spotted the open door to Daniel’s office and the blue glow of his computer filling the room. She walked, then broke into a jog, as she headed toward it. Inside, she found her bewildered, lonely-looking husband sitting at his desk.
A excrutiating silence followed. Neither knew exactly how to proceed.
Daniel started. “I know what you’re doing. And I know your plans... or I can guess anyway. I just want to know what you’ve done with Sara.”
”Your girlfriend, you mean?” Devra snorted.
”She’s just fine, Daniel. Although I doubt you’ll be going out on many dates soon.”
”If you do anything to...“
”Worried about your mistress, huh? What about me, Daniel? Ever worry about me... you know, your wife?!” Devra fumed. “How long were you planning on cheating on me with that little slut? Did you think I wouldn’t find out?”
”You didn’t seem to care much what I did.”
”So that gives you license to go screw women on the side?”
”Look, I’m not proud of what happaned, but the fact is... you don’t love me and you know it.”
”Oh, and that little hussy does?”
”More than you ever did.”
Devra’s eyes lit up. “Well, she’ll have plenty of time to prove her love for you, Daniel.” She scowled. “That’s right. She can give you little pecks on the cheek all she wants from now on.”
”Why, Devra? Why did you do this to us?!”
”You thought you could do anything you wanted and get away with it. You thought I would just divorce you and everything would be fucking peachy! Well, you deserve more than a clean, easy divorce, Daniel. That’s why I hired Ms. Madhat. In fact, she suggested the idea of turning you into children. And it just made sense. If you want to be together so bad, then that’s just what you’ll get.”
”Together forever. With just one little twist.”
”You’re crazy! Why go this far? Why??”
”You knew I wanted kids!”
”You thought wrong. I wanted kids, Daniel, and you just ignored me!”
”But...“ Daniel said, standing up, instinctively.
Devra stopped mid-sentence. She couldn’t help but crack a smile.
”Why, Daniel. It seems you’re missing something more than your girlfriend,” Devra laughed.
Daniel blushed, moving to cover down below.
”It doesn’t matter anymore, honey. None of this matters. Because once you go down that elevator, this whole thing will be over. We’re going to start a new life. And I dare say, you won’t be cheating on anyone this time around.”
Daniel closed his eyes. It must be a bad dream. As he stood, holding his manhood in his hands, he quietly wished that he would finally wake up. Not only did he have to endure such torture at the hands of his wife, but endure it without a pair of pants. He swore he could hear a baby crying below, warning him of his fate.
”You don’t have any choice.” Devra crossed her arms. “You’re coming with me.”
Bowing his head, Daniel conceded defeat. What point would there be in running? The chase was at an end, and he had nowhere else to hide. It was time to leave the Fairfax.
Sullenly, Daniel walked from behind his desk and out the door with Devra following behind him. Being naked was hardly an embarrassment compared with what lay ahead. The procession to the elevator felt like a march down death row. Resigned to his destiny, Daniel gave no fight. Instead, he walked silently down the row of vacant cubicles that seemed to watch him, like solemn observers, from the sidelines. I can’t believe I’m giving up, he thought. But it had been a long, long night and the honeymoon, as they say, was clearly over.
Once inside, Devra wasted no time pressing the button for the ground floor. Daniel’s heart sank along with his stomach. As the elevator began rumbling down, the same gratifying tingles spread over his body and he knew the transformation had begun. One by one, the floors dropped and the electronic voice above called out the numbers. Both Daniel and Devra remained quiet as the ride slowly peeled the years away. Several floors passed by before the changes became evident. At the 25th, any difference was difficult to discern, although Daniel’s hair seemed a shade darker and a few wrinkles had vanished. Devra couldn’t help but gaze at her youthening husband, the image of which took her back to the happier days of their marriage. She had forgotten how handsome Daniel had been in his mid-twenties.
”Floor 21,” the automated voice announced.
With a curious expression, Devra approached her stud of a husband. She grasped his broad shoulders and massaged them. This was around the age that Devra and Daniel had first slept together, over a decade earlier. The experience made her momentarily sentimental. Without warning, she placed a kiss right on Daniel’s lips, then pulled back and grinned.
”I’d forgotten how sexy you could be,” Devra said, tugging at his already-loose shirt. “Better enjoy it while it lasts, honey.”
The elevator continued its swift descent toward the first floor. By floor 18, Daniel felt more serious changes coming on. His arms began thinning as the hair on them became less coarse. As the shirt sank a smidgen lower, Daniel remembered his watch, still tucked away in the pocket. For no good reason, he fished it out, if only to stare at it as the dates flew by in reverse. January... December... November... With the time speeding so quickly backward, the numbers were nothing but flashing digital squares. But this time, Daniel noticed something that had escaped him before. The tiny box above the time, which usually displayed the mode, was flashing. It read “SETTING.” Huh?
Meanwhile, the car moved closer and closer to the ground floor. Daniel’s teen years were quickly running out. By floor 13, the work shirt started to creep ever downward. In mere seconds, the bottom mercifully covered Daniel’s lower regions. By age fourteen, reverse-puberty began. Devra’s mouth hung open as she observed her husband, now a short, harmless middle schooler. Innocence began stealing his face, starting with his ears, which shrank into those of a child, then his nose, which became smaller and less pronounced. With his shirt now more of a poncho, Daniel continued to study the watch, trying to ignore how tall his wife was becoming. By floor 10, the twelve-year-old stood only shoulder height to Devra.
”Well, Daniel, you’re growing down quite nicely.”
Daniel didn’t answer.
Devra drew near to the boy, whose maturity was rapidly dwindling. She now loomed over the fifth-grader. “What is that you’re looking at?” she asked, yanking his playtoy away from him.
”Just my watch,” Daniel said with unmistakable tenor of a pre-teen.
With an almost malevolent laugh, she tucked the timepiece away in her purse.
”It won’t be long now, Daniel,” she said, eyeing the de-aging man in front of her. Kneeling down to his level, she continued, “Or should I say Danny?”
”Floor 8,” the voice chimed.
”Ten years old now, Danny. How does it feel?” Devra said, smirking at her lover. From Daniel’s perspective, she looked so old, so big. Judging from the grin plastered on her face, it was clear Devra was reveling in the moment. With each passing floor, her authority grew and grew.
”What a little cutie pie you are!” she exclaimed, pinching his eight-year-old cheek. “Sara’s just going to love you now!”
”Stop it!” he said, pushing her hand away.
”My, my! What a little fighter,” Devra said, grabbing the edges of his oversized shirt. “I don’t think we’ll be needing this anymore.” With that, she stripped the shirt off, but not without some effort. Daniel wasn’t about to give up the only possession he had left, but as his limbs grew slimmer and bonier, his strength disappeared. Once again, he found himself hiding behind his hands, though that duty became more pointless as the floors ticked by. Daniel’s mind remained fixated on the watch and that curious flashing word.
”Awww, is the little boy embarrassed?” Devra said. “Come on, honey, I don’t think you need to worry about that much anymore. Mommy’s seen your wee-wee.”
”Oh, did you hear that, Danny? Fourth floor. You’re a kindergartener!” She tickled his stomach. “Not too big down there anymore, are we?”
Baby fat started appearing on young Daniel’s face. His defined features gradually dissolved into those of a small child. His silky white tummy began to bulge. All the symptoms of babyhood started to appear, with cheeks filling out and features becoming supple and round. He could feel his penis shrinking into a useless stump behind his hands. Except for the stuff on his head, all his hair had disappeared floors ago, leaving nothing but the smooth, pink skin he’d known as a child.
”Almost there, Danny!” Devra said, watching Daniel lose another inch. He was left staring up at her torso. A small cowlick sprung up on his little mop of hair.
She towered over little Daniel like a schoolmaster now, and he felt vulnerable in just about every way imaginable. Not a hint of his former stature remained.
Daniel hung his head. The unimaginable had just become reality. He was three years old. An excitement filled Devra’s eyes as she knelt down and examined the fruits of her labor. And, with an amused tone, she spoke to her new baby.
”You look so sweet!” she said, a she lifted his head and looked into his eyes. “I’m sure all the girls will like you... now that you’re so cute.”
Daniel lower lip jumped out; the only natural thing to do was cry.
”Awwww. Don’t be sad. Your friend is here.”
The elevator doors opened. There stood Stephen holding a naked baby in his arms.
”Hey there, little man,” Stephen said. “I’ve got your girlfriend here. You want to say hi?” He bent down so Daniel could get a good look at Sara. Seeing her beautiful, innocent face, he let a tear slip. Their worst fears had come true. They would have to grow up all over again. With Devra and Stephen as parents.
”Looks like you need some clothes there, buddy,” Stephen said, pinching Danny’s side. He jumped back unexpectedly.
”Awww, don’t be afraid. You’ll be seeing a lot of us from now on.”
Danny kept his hands clinched over his crotch, as if anything needed concealing. He looked past Stephen to the first floor entrance. The lobby seemed so large and spacious without his adult height. The ground floor alone felt like a gym from his vantage.
”Does he need, like, need diapers?” Stephen asked all of the sudden, realizing he didn’t know much about babies and toddlers.
”Well, we’ll see,” Devra said. “By our predictions, he should be roughly three years old. Most three-year-olds are pretty well potty trained.” She picked Danny up, quite suddenly, taking him by surprise. “So, do you think you can go the bathroom with the big boys?” she asked him, laughing. She commenced tickling his tummy as well, which forced him to use hands for something other than modesty. The change from adult to child had been traumatic enough without his own wife taunting him. It appeared she was going to milk the situation for all it was worth.
Devra and Stephen went on chatting as they carried their two new children through the lobby and out the front door. Without a stitch of clothing, Danny and Sara found themselves immediately gripped by the cold, so much so they started shivering the instant they met with the outside air. In their only act of mercy so far, the victorious spouses pulled off their jackets and wrapped the kids in them until they arrived at Devra’s car, a Chevy Cavalier buried under a drift of snow. Before they began any scraping, they pried one of the backdoors open and placed their shrunken partners inside. A prominent children’s car seat indicated Devra had planned ahead, at least somewhat.
Once again, Danny and Sara saw their meager clothing removed, this time so that Devra and Stephen didn’t catch frost bite while they cleaned off the mound of snow encasing the car. So, they sat, cold and humiliated, buckled in the backseat. Afraid of how little she might be able to mutter, Danny didn’t dare talk to Sara. Instead, he merely wondered. Why did the watch read “SETTING”? Again, the website’s caution rolled through his head. The modus operandi... From nowhere, a thought popped into his mind. And, as ideas often do, it initially make no sense whatsoever. Then again, nothing that evening had made any sense. Solving the curse, the note’s riddle, required a paradigm shift. Maybe it was nothing, but still he wondered...
”All right, kids, we’re on our way home,” Devra sang from the front seat.
Stephen turned around to check that all was nominal. He was greeted by the sight of two downtrodden children in their birthday suits. “We’ll get you some clothes when we get home, OK?” Messing with Sara’s thin wisps of hair, he added, “And you, little pumpkin. We’ve got some Pampers in the trunk all ready for you.”
More predictable persecution followed as Devra drove them all “home.” Danny tried to distract himself by peeking out the window, but he discovered that even that was too high for him. Even the seatbelt now felt like a prison around his diminutive body. All he had left was to stare nervously at his new superiors, his new guardians, while contemplating how he might endure a second childhood. The car ride alone, though it lasted a mere fifteen minutes or so, constituted a millennium for Danny. How would fifteen years feel? Diapers, preschool, wet wipes, school plays, Sunday School, kindergarten... the list went on forever.
Once they arrived at 1243 Hawking Lane, the couple extracted their new son and daughter from the car. Devra unlocked the front door, as Stephen pulled the box of fresh Pampers from the trunk as promised. Inside, the expectant parents, as it were, had already fashioned the den into a makeshift baby room, complete with crib and changing area right where Danny’s coffee table used to sit.
”Well, Sara, we need to get you all set,” Stephen said, setting her on the changing table. Devra hoisted Danny up, so he could watch the show. Sandwiched between her arm and side, he made no move to get away. It was futile.
”So how do you two like being naked now?” Devra mocked as Stephen started powdering his wife’s naked tush. “Not quite as fun as before, huh?”
How surreal it felt to be held like a baby, he thought. Meanwhile, Sara experienced the scene from an even more embarrassing angle as Stephen held her butt aloft and slid the white plastic diaper underneath. Her husband’s hand felt so huge and powerful now. She watched as the three faces peered down at her, Devra and Stephen with smiles so wide they frightened her, and Danny - poor kid - looking like he was about to cry. He couldn’t believe how small and undeveloped she had become.
”She’s just adorable,” Devra cooed. Soon, Sara found herself fully diapered and lying in a massive crib. It seemed the only option left was acting like a baby.
”Should we put one on Danny as well?” Stephen asked again.
”No, I think Danny is a big boy,” Devra said. “We’ll have to go out and buy some clothes for him. I don’t think I have anything here.”
Danny started to snivel. Devra set him down gently.
”Oh, I’m sure he won’t mind running around naked for a while.”
Stephen laughed. “You sure?”
”Oh, his mom said he used to do it all the time,” she chuckled. “Besides, he’s only three. No big deal, right sport?”
No answer from Danny. Despite the agony his wife was inflicting, his mind was still working. And one tiny ray of hope remained... if only he could find that watch.