This is a sequel of sorts to Status, which takes place on the same day using a character who was mentioned briefly in the original story as the springboard. All parts have now been posted.
Chapter Description: Awake. (Note: This story assumes readers are familiar with the basic premise of the original story.)
[quote][quote][quote][size=2]Dana Parker had been nursing a lukewarm mug of Folger’s for what seemed like an eternity Thursday morning when the statuses began popping up in the newsfeed. She disregarded them at first, assuming an unusually far-fetched albeit persistent hoax was making the social media rounds. No doubt Snopes would quash the ridiculous rumor before the day was out. In the meantime, however, friends and relatives on Facebook - even her arch-skeptic cousin Devon - seemed to be entertaining the possibility that the viral story might have a grain of truth to it.
"Oh please," she muttered, returning to the coffee and her morning thoughts.
A dated copy of Woman’s Day stared back at her from a forgotten trash basket below the computer desk, the cover announcing that "The Perfect Family Is Only Three Steps Away." The number seemed overly optimistic, even for rag like Woman’s Day. Still, the words were enough to remind Dana just how many cracks had appeared in the foundation of her home.
Once upon a time, she and Chris had envisioned a big family. His appliance repair shop would take off, and combined with the inheritance and income from her secretarial work for the city, the couple would be primed to afford a larger house and the small brood of kids they hoped to welcome into the world. But with the business eventually faltering, Chris out of work, and the savings rapidly drying up, the idyllic image of a busy household full of life was whittled down to just her and Chris - and, of course, Mackenzi.
Her daughter had been a doll growing up. Obedient and polite, she put many of her classmates to shame. No foreboding calls from the principal’s office. No major emotional crises. No parenting magazines required. But that miracle had a half-life as well.
Adolescence did a number on Mackenzi, mentally and physically, and seemingly overnight. Always singled out for her dimpled cuteness, puberty transformed her offspring from a camera shy youngster into an aspiring actress and model. While neither Dana nor Chris were slouches in the looks department, Mackenzi appeared to have won the genetic lottery and walked away with the best of both worlds. Though cause for some small amount of pride for her parents, as so often happens, beauty came with a price. Mackenzi’s academic ambitions faded, leaving behind a headstrong but superficial 20-year-old who spent most of her time obsessing over her appearance. A fact that became more evident each time she visited home from Calgary Community College.
As for Chris, well, that was an even longer story...
Well, let’s see what cleavage-heavy selfie is currently gracing my little princess’s Facebook page today, Dana thought, typing in her daughter’s name in the search bar.
Surprisingly, she instead discovered an old elementary school yearbook picture. Memories immediately began flowing, but were soon cut off by an uncharacteristically terse instant message from her cousin.
"Can u believe this," it said, sacrificing some clarity for urgency.
"What?" Dana typed back.
"What’s happening with Facebook. Haven’t you been watching the news?"
Eyes already rolling, Dana leaned back in her chair. This had to be a viral joke, some publicity stunt cooked up by smartass geeks in some dark corner of the internet.
"It’s REAL. People are changing," Devon responded, resorting to the rare all-caps exclamation.
"Devon, give me a break. Don’t you have better things to do with your time?" she wrote, turning off the monitor and heading to the kitchen to freshen her drink.
Damn, people are gullible, she mused, the belt on her ratty bathrobe untying itself with each step.
Yet at some point before she reached Mr. Coffee, a subtle curiosity took hold and she found herself, almost unwillingly, shuffling toward Mackenzi’s bedroom. Lights still low and no signs of life, she gingerly eased the door open. As expected the puffy purple comforter had completely enveloped her notoriously rough-sleeping daughter during the night.
Ridiculous, she thought to herself, as she carefully tugged at the blanket, pulling it back. What she witnessed underneath almost sent her empty mug tumbling to the floor.
"Oh my god," Dana whispered, reflexively covering her mouth in shock.
There was Mackenzi. Only now a child, untouched by the last fourteen years.
In the place of her beautiful college student lay an equally beautiful, but far more innocent, little girl. Designer pajamas barely clinging to her miniature form, Mackenzi appeared like a facsimile of the blonde angel seated atop her Facebook profile. Dana stood motionless, trying hard to process the sci-fi plot occurring in real time right before her eyes. Every last detail of Mackenzi’s childhood self - the ruddy cheeks framing her popsicle-licked lips, the wispy blonde locks that would become sandier as she aged, and the missing tooth she was so proud to show off on her first day of first grade.
Against every known law of the universe, the rumor was true. The real world now aligned with Facebook and not the other way around. Holy shit. The revelation lasted at least ten minutes for Dana, as she stared in disbelief at her newly-regressed daughter. That is, until she noticed the pulsing glow of the power light on Mackenzi’s MacBook Pro sitting on the nightstand.
The idea couldn’t help but materialize in her brain. If it’s for real, then...
Dana quietly acquired the laptop and danced silently back to the living room.
Opening it, a duck-faced Mackenzi with breasts spilling out of a low-cut halter top greeted her from the desktop. Momentarily distracted by her instinctual motherly drive to investigate, Dana clicked on iPhoto and prepared for the worst. One well-angled selfie after another, each taken at what appeared to be an increasingly illegal party. She scrolled. Drinking. Making out. She scrolled further. More drinking. Her baby stripped down to a sports bra and panties. Still scrolling. It was at the appearance of a nipple that Dana closed the computer.
"Damn it, Mack-," she started to sigh just as her daughter rounded the corner in tears.
"Mom? What... what is this? I’m..." the six-year-old sobbed out the beginning of a sentence before her quivering lower lip took over.
"Honey!" Dana began, rushing to comfort the confused grade-schooler, now sufficiently covered by the top half of her pjs.
"I just woke up and I’m... I’m confused," she pleaded. "My voice and I... everything is so big."
"Baby, something’s happened with Facebook. All over the world people are becoming the ages of their profile photos," Dana explained, perhaps a little too matter-of-factly. "And right now you have an old picture of yourself on there, so you grew younger sometime during the night."
"Younger? It was Retro Week and..."
"That’s right. You’re a little girl again, honey. From the looks of things, close to first grade. But everything’s under control. Don’t be scared, all right?"
Tearducts growing wetter by the second, Mackenzi started frantically assessing what the night had so graciously left her. The answer: not much. Just freeing her hands from the billowing sleeves proved challenging.
"No, no, my..." she patted at her unweighted chest, feeling nothing. "This isn’t real. This isn’t real. This isn’t real."
"I’m afraid it is, sweetie," her mother answered, knowing what question would come next. She stood back up and returned to the desk.
"Can we fix it? You said Facebook is causing it," Mackenzi begged, a glint of hope returning to her round, young eyes. "So why don’t we-"
"Why do you have my laptop?"
Trying for a soft, reassuring smile but hardly succeeding, Dana waited a moment to collect her thoughts.
"Mom. Why do you have my laptop?" Mackenzi repeated, her tone sharpening.
"Baby, I know things haven’t been exactly ideal between us lately," the sermon began. "It’s been especially tough having your father unemployed for these past three years. The money gets tight. We don’t have as many opportunities to be together as a family anymore. So I know that’s taken its toll."
The truth, Dana knew full well the Facebook effects were easily remedied with a few simple clicks. At least that’s what the rumors said. Replace the profile photo with a more up-to-date image and the owner of the account would return to something like his or her old age. But life was presenting her with an opportunity.
"Mom!" Mackenzi stamped her foot, nearly sending what remained of her modesty slipping to the floor.
"Just imagine it, honey," Dana suddenly struck a hopeful, confident posture. "We could start over. You could live a whole second childhood. Be our little cutie again, running around the house."
"I can’t even believe you’re considering this. I am not a little girl," Mackenzi commanded as much the authority as her new soprano would permit.
"Stop calling me that," she snarled. "I’m a grown-up, Mom. I’m taller than you. I drink sometimes. I’ve smoked marijuana. I’ve had sex, okay? And you know what. It’s my choice. You can’t do this to me!"
The litany of concerning but predictable revelations prompted a change in Dana’s demeanor. Gone were the warm smile and enthusiastic overtures. She pulled Mackenzi’s laptop closer and opened Facebook.
"Wait, what are you doing?" her daughter’s tone suddenly became desperate and conciliatory. "Please, whatever you’re thinking about..."
"I could use this to make you younger, honey," Dana said. "I know six might seem little right now, but you could be in diapers. An infant, sweetie. Is that what you want?"
Creeping closer to her mother, Mackenzi sniffled only jumbled sounds in response. Fragments of apologies, each more calculated than the last. The thought of winding up permanently reduced to a grade-schooler sounded nothing short of mortifying, and her mind struggled to produce the right words.
"Or I can just type a few words into your status and you’ll really be six again," Dana recited what she’d read about the rumor online earlier that morning. "You won’t remember anything about being grown up, so it’ll be just like a blank slate. So no need to be embarrassed."
"But what about... all my friends?" Mackenzi moaned.
"Baby, I’m looking at your friend list right now and, if this Facebook event is affecting everyone else, I think a lot of them are children again just like you. Retro Week, remember? You might meet some of them again in school. It won’t be so bad."
"I really think it’s for the best, sweetheart," Dana soothed. "I promise I won’t make you younger, okay? Just my proud little first grader. I can just see you now with that adorable My Little Pony backback. Who was your favorite... it was Sundance, right?"
Looking alarmingly resigned and content, Dana quietly typed "I’m looking forward to turning seven" into Mackenzi’s status bar.
"It’s okay, honey. It’ll all be okay."
"Mom!" Mackenzi yelled, lunging at her mother in one last futile protest.