Fifteen Steps Down: An AR Anthology

by: nico | Complete Story | Last updated May 19, 2018

Chapter 6
Mr. Crocodile

Chapter Description: Content Warnings: Nudity

“I’m terribly sorry, sir, but – ”

“You’re sorry? Oh, you’re sorry. Well, I guess that makes it all right then. I guess there’s nothing wrong with incompetence so long as we’re sorry about it.”

The young man working the counter paled and tightened beneath Lyle’s vicious smile. Though the businessman took little satisfaction from berating him – his tirades were always more enjoyable when launched against a worthy target – he simply would not allow himself to be inconvenienced. He hadn’t gotten to the top of his industry by being kind and forgiving. He had gotten there by demanding what he deserved. And right now, what he deserved was for the hapless boy working the desk to give him the first-class upgrade he may or may not have already paid for.

“What seems to be the trouble here?”

A pleasant older woman appeared at the boy’s side, beaming at him and then at Lyle. His smile soured.

“This gentleman says that he booked a first-class cabin…” The young man took a deep breath to keep himself from crying. “…but I just can’t find his reservation anywhere.”

The older woman did not, as her colleague had done, delve into the records to try and dig up Lyle’s phantom reservation. She simply kept her eyes trained on the businessman, studying him with a cheerful bemusement that only deepened his frown.

“My apologies for the inconvenience, sir.” She chirped. “We can certainly accommodate you. Please follow me – I’ll take you to our finest cabin.”

“Well.” Lyle harrumphed. Though pleased by the capitulation, part of him wished to continue screaming at these peons until his bloodlust was satisfied. “It’s about time.”

Lyle ignored the dagger glares other passengers aimed at his back as he was led away from the counter and onto the train. He had learned long ago that there was no sense in letting one be affected by the petty bitterness of those so far beneath him. If anything, their envy served as perpetual proof that he was on the right path.

That certainty was only reinforced by the chaos that surrounded him and the woman as they moved briskly through the coach cabins. Lyle made no effort to hide his disdain for the layabouts, bleeding hearts and – ugh – family men who had so clearly taken their eye off the ball. A lush, private space was but one of the many rewards he’d earned for his hard work and determination. The rabble deserved their cramped quarters and threadbare seats.

“Here we are, sir.” The woman paused by a pale turquoise door laid into a wall of rich, fine wood. A sort of hush had settled around them now that they’d reached the back of the train, the sweet silence signaling the serenity of this new sanctuary. “The Hebe Suite.”

“Fine.” Lyle muttered. Truthfully he’d been taken a bit off guard by how relentlessly cheerful and helpful she’d been, to say nothing of the fact that this cabin – if the outside was any indication – was even more luxurious than he’d hoped. “When can I have a drink?”

“There are complimentary refreshments inside the cabin, sir. I hope you have a pleasant trip.”

She turned and left the car without another word, leaving Lyle within the suddenly-intimidating silence. He grumbled something about the worthlessness of service workers as he pushed his way into the suite and eyed his opulent surroundings with suspicion. A massive, spotless window framed the picturesque countryside that rolled before his eyes as the train pulled away from the station. The plush, oversized bed had been adorned by sheets and comforters of clear quality and understated elegance. Above a small cherry cabinet stretched a sleek widescreen television whose dimensions rivaled those of the most massive screen in Lyle’s obscenely expensive high-rise apartment.

He sneered at how perfect it all was.

Denied a target for his complaints, the businessman instead focused on the tall frosted glass that sat on the ornate and elegant side table. Though the drink within the polished cylinder looked a bit fruity for his tastes – the peach-hued liquid appearing almost illuminated from within – he was thirsty enough to, for the moment, give the staff a pass for not anticipating his beverage preferences.

Lyle furrowed his brow as the carbonated drink fizzed over his tongue. Though its sweetness was almost overwhelming, there was a complexity to the cloying saccharinity which rivaled that of the world’s finest wines. His well-trained palate detected notes of fruit, chocolate, cream, and…cotton candy? Whatever this drink was, it was good – even if Lyle was disappointed by its lack of alcohol content.

“Good morning, Mr. Robinson.”

Lyle jumped, nearly spilling the rest of his drink. The TV had come on so suddenly that the woman on the screen may as well have burst into the room for how badly she’d startled him. Though dressed in the same uniform as the rest of the staff, there was something about the buxom beauty that clearly set her apart from the rank and file. Maybe it was the confidence in her eyes or the straightness of her back. In any case, Lyle – immediately intrigued – kept his eyes glued on the screen as he sipped at his beverage.

“Welcome to the Hebe Suite.” She recited. “This is a very special cabin that we make available only to our most valuable of passengers. In addition to being provided with magnificent accommodations and world-class refreshments, guests of this suite may also make use of the cabin’s live satellite uplink for immediate personal service. My name is Amanda and I’ll be your concierge on this trip.”

“…I see.” Though he had been looking forward to some solitude, Lyle figured he could make an exception for a woman this gorgeous and accommodating. “And how far do your, ah, services extend?”

“I’m afraid I can’t offer much in the way of a peep show, Mr. Robinson.” Though rebuffed, Lyle was only further enticed by her playful and straightforward response. “Mainly, I’m here to assist with any issues you may encounter. I can also go into further detail on the features of your suite – such as the complementary gifts waiting for you in the cabinet below.”

Lyle grinned as he finished his drink and set it aside. Like all rich people, he loved free shit.

“We hope you appreciate our selections.” Amanda continued as she watched Lyle move towards the cabinet. “They’re hand-picked to make your Viridian Railways experience as pleasant and memorable as possible.”

Lyle threw open the cabinet and eagerly peered inside. His face fell and his excitement vanished.

“Is this a joke?”


“Is. This. A. Joke?” He pulled the basket from the cabinet and shoved it accusingly at the monitor. “I don’t appreciate being mocked. If this is how you treat your ‘most valuable passengers,’ perhaps I need to have a word with your higher-ups on the level of service your company provides.”

“Mr. Robinson, I assure you that our selection is in no way meant to be insulting. Though the items within the basket may be unconventional, each has been proven by our team of researchers to provide much-needed comfort and amusement to high-functioning individuals such as yourself.”

Amanda’s tone was so nonplussed – her smile so reassuring – that Lyle started doubting himself. He frowned into the basket, wondering what kind of hack researchers thought a man like him would have need of sweets, stuffed animals, or cheap plastic toys. Still…he had to admit that there was something appealing about the bright colors and inviting textures of the childish junk he’d been offered, something that made him feel more and more relaxed the longer he stared.

“Are you starting to feel it, Mr. Robinson?”


“The beverage left out for you contained a proprietary compound designed to ease the anxieties of rail travel.” Though Amanda’s smile was as stoic as ever, Lyle swore he saw a genuine twinkle in her eye. “If you allow them to do their work, I believe you’ll find that the soothing qualities of said compound will assuage you of any silliness you might feel when interacting with these items.”

“I don’t feel silly.” Lyle went red as the declaration petulantly popped out of him, as though he were a pouting child trying to be taken seriously. “An…anyway, I didn’t give my permission to be drugged! I want you to get a doctor to my room this instant so I can have my stomach pumped of whatever you put into me. I want…I want…”

Though he tried to stare Amanda down with the fiery eyes that had won him so many negotiations, his gaze was repeatedly and inexplicably drawn back to the basket stuffed with fun and goodies.

“I know what you want, Mr. Crocodile.”


“That’s your name, isn’t it?” Amanda’s smile widened as she leaned closer. “Mr. Lyle Crocodile.”

A giggle tickled at Lyle’s ears.


Was that him?

Had he giggled?

“Don’t…don’t talk to me like that,” Lyle murmured. “I’m not a child.”

“No?” Amanda’s gaze turned piercing and critical. Lyle squirmed beneath it. “You’re certainly acting like one. No adult would be so rude as to criticize and refuse such a nice gift.”

The Lyle of a few minutes ago would have laughed right in Amanda’s face, would’ve made no effort to hide his disdain towards the idea that adulthood was defined by gratitude and acceptance. The Lyle of the present, however, was too busy trying to suppress the giddiness that was bubbling up inside him. That happy, effervescent feeling had been growing and growing ever since he’d finished his drink – now it was like a great big balloon that made him feel lighter and lighter as it expanded, its staticky surface tension tickling his suddenly-sensitive skin from within. The task of keeping it from popping – of obeying his cruel and suspicious subconscious, which screamed bloody murder of the consequences of allowing that to happen – grew increasingly difficult as the sweet fizz bubbled within him, as the carbonation corroded his consciousness.

“Anyway…” Amanda lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “If you ask me, a real adult would be confident enough to have fun without worrying about feeling silly. Do you know what my favorite quote is, Mr. Crocodile?”

Lyle dug his teeth into his lower lip and jammed his eyes shut.

Don’t listen.

She’s trying to trick you.

Just push it all down.

Notta crocodile.

“To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish...these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence.” The words danced and floated around him in an ethereal hush. “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

Don’t listen.

“I know what you want, Mr. Crocodile. You want to show me that you’re not afraid of being thought of as silly or childish.”

Don’t listen.

“You want to show me what a big grown-up boy you are.”


“You want to have lots of fun with all this neat stuff.”

Hee hee.

Lyle Crocodile.

“It’s just you and me here, sweetie. You don’t have to be ashamed. Just open your eyes and pick out your very favorite thing.”

They opened as though pried apart. Trembling fingers moved of their own accord towards the basket. Every bit of Lyle was shaking and warm and excited and scared. Every bit felt on the verge of being ripped apart from within. The balloon was so big, so happy, so warm and nice that he just couldn’t keep it inside anymore, that something had to give or he’d –


The needle, as it were, had been provided by the brush of cotton fur against his fingertips. Lyle’s eyes widened as his suddenly-still hands closed around the waist of a fluffy little teddy bear – as all the conflict and distrust and fear rushed out of him like air escaping a balloon.

“What a wonderful choice.” Amanda beamed. Lyle looked goggle-eyed up at her, having almost forgotten that she was there. “What’s his name, sweetie?”


“A proper teddy bear has to have a name – especially if he’s your very favorite thing.”

Lyle was quiet as something rushed to fill the vacuum within him, something simple and familiar and lovely and kind. A warm bed. A kiss to the forehead. A best friend cuddled beneath his arm, a friend that he’d never forget as long as he –

“Mortimer.” A gasp of a name plucked from decades’ past. “His…his name is Mortimer.”

“Mortimer.” Amanda mused for a moment as though trying it on. She favored Lyle with the brightest smile he’d ever seen. “I think that’s a perfect name, darling.”

Lyle squirmed and grinned as he hugged the stuffed animal to his chest, delighted by her praise.

“So – what sort of fun stuff are you and Mortimer going to do?”

“Umm…” Lyle was suddenly at a loss. He wanted to say that the teddy bear couldn’t really do anything, but he feared that Amanda might again disapprove of him acting like some little kid afraid of being thought childish. He cast his eyes around the room for a hint and got his answer when they settled on the bed, when he was suddenly struck by another memory – that of the most fun thing he used to do with his first Mortimer. “We could…jump on the bed?”

Amanda said nothing. Terrified that he’d said something silly, Lyle started to backtrack – only to frown and peer curiously at the screen when the woman looked around as though making sure no one was watching.

“It’d be real naughty to jump up and down on the bed, wouldn’t it?” She grinned as she brought her eyes back to Lyle’s, as she conferred with him in the unbearably excited way children do when they know they’ll get in trouble for what they’re planning. “You’d get in soooo much trouble if someone saw you messing up those nice sheets.”

Lyle hugged Mortimer a little tighter, nodding in rapt awe as though Amanda were reaching the climax of a fairy tale.

“But you don’t have to worry, silly!” Amanda laughed and broke her spell over the man. “Only a little boy would get in trouble for that. You’re a grown-up, right?”

Lyle beamed.


“Well then, Mr. Crocodile. Your trampoline awaits.”

Lyle was on the bed in an instant. He bounced timidly at first, having not quite shaken the fear of being caught at something so naughty. Amanda’s encouragement was all he needed to let loose, though, and within seconds he was giggling his head off as he bounced up and down, up and down, up and down, springs squeaking in protest with every jump and Mortimer cuddled securely against him at every moment. Lyle marveled at how something so simple could make him so deliriously happy, his entire world now contained within the exhilaration of this secret thrill.

Then he took a tumble.

“Oh no! Are you okay, sweetie?”

“Uh…uh huh.” Lyle was more confused than anything else – he hadn’t even fallen off the bed and didn’t hurt anywhere. It had felt like his feet had slipped out from beneath him, and when he looked down at his shoes he saw that that was essentially the case. He frowned at the new looseness of his Italian leather loafers and silk socks, knowing that there was something wrong about their imprecise fit but unable to put a finger on what the actual issue was.

“Ah, so that’s the problem.” Amanda sighed in relief. “Were Mrs. Shoes and Mr. Socks being mean, Mr. Crocodile?. Did they trip you because they were jealous of how much fun you were having?”

Lyle snickered at Amanda’s silliness and raised his feet as though presenting the perpetrators of the crime.

“Well, they can just have a time out then if they’re going to be like that. Why don’t you kick those spoil sports off and play in your bare feet, sweetie? That’s more fun anyway!”

“Yeah!” Lyle grinned, caught up in her enthusiasm. Two good kicks sent the loafers flying across the room, and soon they were joined by a pair of plucked and flung socks. Lyle got back to bouncing as Amanda gushed that he could probably jump over a tree if he wanted to.

“Nuh-uh!” He breathlessly countered. “I could jump over a mountain!

“You could jump to the moon!”

“I could jump to Jupiter!”

Lyle’s free hand held up his waistband as their hyperbole flew higher and higher. His tailored slacks had grown oddly loose and his cheeks turned tomato at the thought of a lady as pretty as Amanda seeing him in his underwear. Eventually overtaken by exhaustion and silliness, Lyle fell back onto the bed in an elated fit of giggles, twisting the sheets this way and that as he rolled about on the mattress.

“Look out Olympics – the best jumper in the world is coming for all your gold medals.” Amanda declared. “You’re gonna need some food to fuel your championship performance, though. Why don’t we take a snack break?”

“Okay!” Lyle chirped as he rolled off the bed, still holding Mortimer with one hand and his pants with the other. He let them go only when he plopped down cross-legged before the basket, perusing the selection of snacks for the one that’d best satisfy his sudden craving for sugar. Eventually he settled on a cup of chocolate pudding, his grin cheek-splitting as he plucked it from the basket – and then disappearing as he stared into the sweet goop.

“What’s the matter, sweetie?”

“Don’t gotta spoon,” Lyle murmured. As minor an inconvenience as the utensil’s absence was, he still felt as though his fun had been brought to a sudden screeching halt.

“Ah, I see.” Amanda’s solemn tone was confirmation that Lyle was right to be so worried. “Well…a spoon is good for most times, but you know what the very most fun way to eat pudding is?”

Lyle shook his head and stared in slackjawed awe, stunned by the enormity of the knowledge he was about to receive. His expectations were met and then some when Amanda grinned at the screen and wiggled her fingers.

“Nooooooo!” Lyle squealed out a gasp, as though a helium-huffing debutante had just found something scandalous. “You’re being silly!”

“So what’s wrong with being silly?” Amanda shrugged, still grinning. “Even grown-ups get silly sometimes. It’s how they take a break from all that boring responsible stuff they gotta do.”

Amanda’s logic was flawless. Still, Lyle couldn’t bring himself to do more than frown at the tantalizingly shiny foil that topped the trapped treat. Bouncing on the bed was one thing, but this felt like a downright infantile thing to do.

Even if the pudding looked really good.

Even if Amanda said it was okay.

What’s more, Lyle had found himself shaken by what she had said about grown-ups needing to take a break from the tedious trials of adulthood. He thought of how he had yelled at that poor man at the counter – of the way he’d trembled and shrunk beneath Lyle’s outrage – and suddenly he was so sad that tears began welling behind his eyes.

Grown-ups certainly didn’t cry, though, and so he managed to sniff them back – doing so as he ripped the foil from his pudding cup. If being silly would get him to stop being such a grump…if it would fulfill his new lust for sugar and show Amanda that he was just a grown-up taking a break…then what reason did he really have to stop himself?

It was a fingertip of fudged-flavored feast at first, a tentative swipe attempted as Lyle smiled bashfully beneath Amanda’s encouraging smile. He popped that tip between his lips and just about melted. No four-star restaurant or heralded vintage could compare to the pudding’s sublime sweetness – to the thrill of chocolate that lit up his overclocked taste buds.

All restraint disappeared. Soon Lyle was cramming sloppy scoops of the stuff as fast as his fingers could carry it, his chin and lips and cheeks and chin becoming as smeared as those of the subjects of a million embarrassing baby photos. When he finished off the first cup, he reached for another. And then another. His efforts were stymied somewhat by the way his cuffs had somehow crept over his hands – by how baggy, in fact, all his clothes suddenly seemed. None of that meant much in the face of his rapture, however, and soon his stylish slacks and silk shirt were irreparably stained by his need of something to wipe his hands with.

“That looked so yummy!” Amanda declared. “Are you all full now, Mr. Crocodile?”

“Uh-huh.” Lyle giggled as he rubbed his tummy.

“I bet what you’d really like after all that chocolate is a nice cold milk.” Lyle nodded fervently. “Lucky for you, I’ve got some waiting for you in the minifridge. Go ahead and get it, sweetie.”

Lyle didn’t need to be told twice. He popped to his feet then peeped in surprise when his pants didn’t come up with him, when he was left standing in a shirt that stretched all the way to his shins.

“Oh no!” Amanda cried in mock distress as Lyle frowned curiously as his flappy sleeves. “It looks like your clothes got too silly!”

As Lyle puzzled over his state of under and overdress – over the stubby little fingers that poked their pink little heads out of his cuffs, over the wiggling tootsies attached to his tiny bare feet– there raged within his thoughts a fierce debate.

Now. This has to stop right now. You can see what she’s doing, right? You must. An infant could figure it out – and that’s just what we’ll be if you don’t stand up, run out of this cabin, and –




Lyle squealed at his suit’s silliness as he took big cartoonish steps out of his puddled pants. Thusly freed, he scrambled over to the minifridge and threw the door open – only to be frozen once more.

“Sweetie? What’s the matter?”

Lyle stared sorrowfully into that frozen space. It was some time before he pulled out a baby bottle filled with milk and presented it to Amanda as though it were a sick puppy.

“My gosh, you haven’t even spilled any milk yet! Why does that bottle have you so upset?”

“It’s for babies!” He cried, astonished that she didn’t see the horrible injustice of it all. “Now I can’t have any mil-il-il-illllllllk.”

“I think you’re being a little dramatic, darling. What about a bottle makes it for babies?”

“’Cause! They gotta suck on this thing like it’s their mommy’s – ”

Wide-eyed, Lyle stopped himself before he said a word Amanda would certainly not be happy to hear him say. She must have known what that word was, though, because her playful demeanor suddenly shifted to something far more serious.

It was with complete sobriety that she undid her blouse and bra.

The bottle of milk nearly dropped from Lyle’s stubby fingers.

“Nipple is not a naughty word, Mr. Crocodile.” Her hands performed a flourish before her breasts. “See? They’re just a part of the body like anything else.”

“Uh….uh-huh…” A thin string of drool dribbled from Lyle’s chin. There was nothing – for reasons that escaped him – he could do but stare.

“And I’ll let you in on a little grown-up secret.” Amanda leaned close, which only brought her totally not a big deal nipples closer to the camera. “A lot of big boys really like them. Big boys like you, Mr. Crocodile. They’re not just for babies at all.”

“They’re…not?” Lyle’s peep flickered with the hope that what Amanda was saying was true. It would make him feel so much better to know that it was perfectly natural for him to be staring, perfectly natural to be interested, perfectly natural to fantasize about wrapping his lips around them and suckling away until –


Lyle, snapped back to his senses, wriggled in embarrassment beneath Amanda’s indulgent smile.

“Your milk’s getting cold.”

He looked down at the bottle as though seeing it for the first time, his criticism now influenced by the excited grown-up secret Amanda had let him in on. And, in any case, all he really wanted was the milk – suddenly he was so thirsty that the method of conveyance mattered very little. Just the same, he hesitated as he brought the nipple to his lips, the glimmering pearl drop that beaded at the tip so torturously tantalizing that all of what remained of his pride was needed to resist.

Lyle raised his eyes to Amanda for help.

What they locked on laid a little lower.

He jammed the nipple between his lips and started to suck.

“There we goooooo.” Amanda’s coo soothed him like a song, eyelids fluttering as the creamy sweetness splashed over his tongue. His lingering concerns were meaningless in the face of this pure, heavenly flavor. “I’m very proud of you, darling.”

Lyle grinned around the bobbing nipple at that lovely hit of praise. His gaze never strayed from those particular parts of Amanda’s, not even when they seemed to slowly pull away from him. On the contrary – it was great fun for Lyle to take an uncertain step forward, watch her pull away again, then giggle madly while taking another step forward as though he and her were playing the world’s slowest game of tag. The contest came to an end, however, when Lyle’s legs suddenly spasmed beneath him – when he plopped back on his bottom in a surprisingly short fall.

“Careful, sweetie! Did you hurt yourself?”

Lyle blinked. He looked at his now-empty bottle and frowned.

“No more milk.”

“Well, I think you’ve had enough for one day anyway.” The rerobed woman remarked. “You might turn into a cow if you drink any more!”

Though Lyle squealed at this deliciously silly image, it served as but a temporary distraction from a new and pressing concern. Tiny whimpers dribbled from lips that suddenly felt purposeless. He couldn’t wrap them back around the nipple – that’d prove that it wasn’t really the milk he’d been interested in. Conflicted and confused, he squirmed on his bottom and sniffled in distress until Amanda intervened.

“Why darling, what’s the matter now?”

The words wouldn’t come. All Lyle could do was shove the nipple in Amanda’s direction as though that would explain everything. Somehow, she got his meaning. Somehow she was so smart – so pretty, so wonderful, so nice, so everything – that she honed right in on the truth.

“Ahhhh. I see.” She donned the wise smile of a self-satisfied elder. “I want you to do me a favor, Mr. Crocodile. I want you to think about alllllllll the stuff you have to do every day that you don’t like doing.”

Though Lyle focused as hard as he could, the details of his day-to-day life escaped him. Even the broad strokes, however, were enough to remind him of everyday adult hassles – pretending to like people he didn’t, stewing in traffic, waiting in lines and going to meetings and generally spending every moment of every day doing what he was “supposed” to. Merely thinking about it made him quiver.

“You don’t want to do any of that stuff, do you?” Lyle shook his head with the slow, expectant humility of a student learning at the feet of his master. “And yet you do it anyway because you’re a fine, proper grown-up. You’re so good, in fact, that I think you’ve earned the right to do what you want for a change.”

Lyle wavered and whimpered. Though encouraged and thrilled by Amanda’s permission and praise, he wasn’t sure that any amount of explanation could convince him that what he had in mind was an okay thing for him to do. Amanda, seemingly sensing this, put on a smile so sweet and sympathetic that Lyle went all woozy and warm just from looking at it.

“It’s okay to be confused, sweetie.” She cooed. “Right now, I bet your head is just swirling with voices telling you that what you want doesn’t matter – that being a grown-up means pushing down those desires and doing what’s expected of you.”

“How you know?” Lyle peeped. Amanda chuckled.

“Well, I feel that way sometimes too. All grown-ups do at one time or another. Do you want to know a little trick that helps?”

Another awed nod.

“It’s very simple – just don’t listen, sweetie.”

Don’ listen?

“Those voices aren’t who you are. You are who you are.”

Don’ listen. Like before.

That’s not what I meant! THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT!

“You decide what makes you happy.”


Please. Please stop. I’m sorry for everything, okay? Just…just let me back in and I’ll –

“Do what makes you happy, darling.”

Lyle jammed his thumb in his mouth.

He was so happy.

“My darling Mr. Crocodile.” The adoration in Amanda’s voice swaddled Lyle like a warm blanket. “How do you feel?”

Lyle raised his eyes to answer but became distracted by Amanda pulling away from him once more. This time, however, he didn’t feel the need to chase after her – the thumb between his lips and the smile on hers was enough. It was with giddy giggles that he sank ever deeper into his swamping shirt, that he reached out with a pudgy arm to grasp fruitlessly at Amanda’s beaming visage.

That too soon gave way to an even more pressing matter. Though Lyle couldn’t give a name to the sensation, that didn’t keep him from whimpering in confusion and concern at the sudden rumble that reverberated from deep within his tummy. That fear and uncertainty lasted for only a moment, however – it lasted only for as long as it took to for him to look up and remember that Amanda was still there, still smiling, still making him feel safe and warm and happy and whole through her mere presence. He didn’t have to be someone else with her. He didn’t have to do anything but that which felt right. Instinct was king. Happiness was all. It was that sentiment that allowed him to relax – that allowed his body to react to the rumble in whatever way it saw fit.

“Sweetie? What are you – ” Amanda stopped as though she too had caught wind of the scent that filled the cabin, an unpleasant yet nostalgic stench that made Lyle’s nose wriggle out of pure naughty delight. There was a bit of awe in her own eyes as she watched him giggle around his thumb, as he wiggled his bottom in the growing mess he was creating for himself. The rewards Lyle had already received for doing what felt right – an instant full-body relief paired with a strange sense of accomplishment – were nothing compared to the all-out euphoria that washed over him when Amanda’s awe gave way to unmistakable adoration.

“My goodness. Even I couldn’t have expected that things would turn out like this.” Her chuckle was warm and good-natured. “Not everybody takes to these trials as well as you have, Mr. Crocodile. Though they all find peace at the end, some have a heck of a time getting there. But not you, my darling. After all – you’re the kind of person that gets what he wants, aren’t you?”

Though Lyle understood very few of the words washing over him, her demeanor was so kind and her tone so encouraging that he didn’t really care about missing their true meaning. It also didn’t matter that nothing but babbling came out when he tried to express his gratitude and love for her. The sentiment, if the grin on her lips was any indication, came through just the same.

“Yes you are! You’re my little go-getter, aren’t you Mr. Crocodile? I think you’ll find this new life much more suited to that indulgent nature of yours. No obligations but that of doing what makes you happy. And the best part is that you’ll no longer have to hurt anyone to get what you want – not when the highlight of your day is, well, doing what you just did. The person changing you might not be thrilled, but you’re just so darn sweet that I don’t think they’ll mind too much.”

Lyle blinked and squirmed, attention waning. Though he knew that what Amanda was saying was important, his inability to understand most of it – combined with the distraction of the growing, cooling itchiness all over his bottom – made it difficult to fully concentrate on her.

“Ah – looks like our time is up.” Amanda sighed as she studied Lyle’s discomfort. “Such a shame – I’d play with you all day if I could. There are plenty of others out there like you that need my help, though, and besides…I think at this point that you’d prefer a more personal touch.

“It really was lovely getting to know you, Mr. Crocodile. Be good. Oh…and thank you for choosing Viridian Railways.”

With that, the screen went blank.

She was gone.

She was gone!

Lyle’s soul may as well have been snatched for the sudden emptiness that opened up within him, the cavernous grief that pushed out every other feeling but that of cold and dispiriting shock. Desperately he cast his eyes about for any evidence of her – find evidence of anyone that might save him from his sudden solitude. He whimpered and sniffled and shrunk away when his gigantic and suddenly-intimidating surroundings stared back in solemn suspicion. He had been stripped of his sun. His reason to be. Fear and confusion swarmed and swam within him as he whimpered in growing distress, as he felt something wet trickle from his chin, as he jammed his eyes shut and threw his head back and –

“…but this has to be our suite, we’ve been to every other cabin and – ”

Lyle turned in the direction of the new voice that had snatched him from his suffering. In the doorway stood a pair of young, professionally-dressed women who stared agape at the lone, messy infant all but swallowed by the elements of a very expensive (and completely ruined) men’s suit.

“Uh…” The blonde on the left said after a minute. “Yeah, pretty sure this isn’t ours, either. Let’s go find an employee and – ”

“Oh wowwww.” The brunette on the right seemingly hadn’t heard a word. In an instant she was kneeling at Lyle’s side – in an instant he was up in her arms, swaddled in his shirt and giggling his little head off as she tickled him beneath his chin. “Who would leave such a sweet little guy all alone like this?”

“Someone with functioning nostrils, no doubt.”

“Oh, stop. I bet he’ll smell like honeysuckle and sunshine once we get him cleaned up.” The brunette pulled back just enough to lock her eyes on Lyle’s. Her smile filled his field of vision, filled up all that emptiness within him. “How ‘bout it, buddy? Would you like to come with us?”

Lyle responded by beaming around his thumb and snuggling up against his new friend’s bosom. He didn’t know where they were going or what would happen when they got there, but that was okay – matters like that were no longer his concern. All he had to do was relish the warmth of her embrace…all he had to do was whatever felt right.

All he had to do was be happy.



End Chapter 6

Fifteen Steps Down: An AR Anthology

by: nico | Complete Story | Last updated May 19, 2018


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