Chapter Description: Clark and his wife, Cassie are searching through conspiracy theories online.
Chapter 6: Down Rabbit Holes
That evening, Cassie and I were indulging in one of our favorite couple’s past times. Scouring the internet in our room and talking shit. Both of us were in our bedroom: Me at the desktop, Cassie on her laptop. Only the soft glow of our screens illuminated us.
She sat propped up on pillows on the bed; a glass of wine sitting next to her nightstand. Likewise, I click-clacked away with a sugary energy drink sitting on top of our printer. I really should have poured it in a glass. The can was too big for me to finish in one sitting if I wanted to get to bed at a decent hour. I’d probably just drink the room temperature leftovers the next morning when I checked my email. Oh the pitfalls and advantages to living in a world that is too Big for you. Both of us were naked for no other reason than it was our house and we had the privacy and freedom to not wear clothes.
Naked in a house that was darn near a mansion to us with food and drink in portions that was just this side of gluttonous.
Life was good.
But not too good.
“Oh here’s one,” Cassie said. “Billionaire’s success depends on adopted Little. Some kind of programming genius.”
“What does her being a programming genius have to do with who she adopted?’
“The Little’s the genius.”
“Fake news,” I said without even looking back.
“You don’t think a Little can be a programming genius?”
“Not what I mean,” I said. “I mean that if a Little computer genius got caught, there’s no way an Amazon would let them take credit for it.”
I heard Cassie set her wineglass down after a sip. “This one is supposedly hacking and leaking stuff from inside their crib.”
I looked at the thread. Hmm….maybe. Unlikely. But maybe. “Why would an Amazon give a Little that good at computers their own computer?”
The bedsprings creaked a bit as Cassie shifted around. “Maybe they think the Little is mind fucked enough where the Little is trusted.” Cassie and I didn’t use words like “regressed” or “infantilized” around each other. We definitely didn’t use terms like “maturosis” or “developmental plateau” or any of the other bullshit words used to justify or cushion what the Amazons did to their Baby Dolls.
Mind fucked was mind fucked. End of discussion.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Could be a weird reverse psychology ploy.”
I prepped my best mocking tone. “Oh look,” I said. “There’s a brave Little who gets captured and mindfucked, but look how much she’s appreciated and needed and ALMOST an equal in this mega corporation. It’s putting a positive spin on mind fuckery.”
And we let it drop. Next link.
“How about this?” I said. “It claims an Amazon etiquette school is an equal opportunity mind fuck factory. Even having Amazonian teens and college students regressed to the delight of their parents.”
“That’s bullshit,” Cassie said. “More equal opportunity bullshit.” Now it was Cassie’s turn to do the mocking voice. “Oh look. See? We diaper and mindfuck EVERYBODY. That makes it okay and all the Littles who we take and imprison clearly deserve it.”
We were on MistuhGwiffin.web. A not quite-dark-web-site run by and frequented by Littles. There, Littles anonymously posted and leaked bits of news, trends, and rumors as warnings to others.
The name was an in-joke from an old black and white horror movie: The Invisible Littles. Three Littles got into their mad-scientist “Daddy’s” stuff and turned invisible, wreaking havoc and causing worry to the entire town.
The iconic image from the movie involved the three pretending to be an Amazon “adult”, standing on each other’s shoulders and hiding in a trenchcoat with bandages and sunglasses on the top Little’s face. Their alias? “Mistuh Gwiffin,” because of course a Little in a work of Amazonian fiction is going to have a babyish speech impediment.
MistuhGwiffin was how Littles in the know stayed ahead of the game. Amazons kept innovating ways to take us and mindfuck us, so we had to innovate ways to warn each other. Cassie and I visited at least once a week just to see the gossip and follow links down the rabbit hole.
The rumors were usually poorly sourced and suspect, often only linking back to a “legitimate” piece of Amazonian news propaganda, and the threads and suppositions therein rambled to the point of going around in circles, but just thinking about it kept us sharp. It made us paranoid, but that paranoia kept us free. If not for MistuhGwiffin, something like the training chocolates might have gotten me.
As for this particular night: It was helping me keep my mind off of the coming Friday.
And as a final note, it was fun to laugh at the more ridiculous ones. “Shrink ray?” Both me and Cassie had a good laugh at that one. If size changing technology was really a thing, then there would be no difference or justification between Littles, Tweeners, and Amazons. If size were an option, everyone would be on equal footing from the get go...at least nearer.
There was no chance that Amazons would even pursue that route. Lunatics or Dictators, it would undermine so much about their place in society. And if they did stumble into that, they’d bury it deep and dark; deeper and darker than even MistuhGwiffin could dive.
“Oh look look look! Rumors of de-aging tech!” Cassie almost shrieked with laughter. “Yeah, Amazons discover immortality and they use it on each other to make permanent Baby Dolls instead of..y’know..LIVING FOREVER!”
Not all Amazons were brilliant scientists or master manipulators. Likewise, some Littles were either very very paranoid or very very dumb. Most claims of that magnitude- shrink rays and youth serums and body swappers- were done by Littles seeking attention or Tweeners and Amazons not clever enough to come up with a credible lie. MistuhGwiffin was a well guarded secret, but it would have been naive to think that it was impenetrable.
On a more sinister note, sometimes Cassie and I entertained the idea that a lack of credibility was the point. Flood the net with enough ridiculous stuff, and the real threats seemed less believable. Sew discord amongst the ranks so that Littles didn’t trust each other.
Right then, though, we were just perusing and looking for a way to pass the time before bed.
Cassie called over from the bed. “Nanny-Bots?”
“What about them?”
“They’re popping up everywhere. Link, link, link. Thread thread thread. I thought they’d be a fad along with all those mechanized nurseries, but they’re still catching on.”
I ground my teeth. Robo nurseries had been a thing a few years ago. Studies showed that they were harmful to a Little’s Developmental Plateau. Really, I think the Amazons’ baby crazy just outweighed their tech crazy. Nevermind the hit to their economy.
Robo nannies? Very real, sadly. Still a thing. There was nothing I could add to the conversation. “Yeah.” I said, “Sucks, doesn’t it?”
“Not something we have to deal with, right? Not in Oakshire?” I could hear the anxiety rising in Cassie’s voice.
I turned around in my chair. “Actually…” Oakshire was a little podunk town, relatively speaking. Still. Couldn’t keep “progress” from marching on.
“There’s not one at your work, is there?!” Cassie legitimately sounded panicked.
I rattled my head. “No-no-no-no...it’s still just Beouf and Zoge. I’ve just heard them talking about a used one being donated to New Beginnings.”
I watched Cassie shiver and down the last of her wine. “Fuck that.”
I got up and hopped in bed next to her, letting her lean into me. “It’s okay.”
“It’s not okay.”
“I mean, it’s not okay, it sucks. But we’re surviving.”
We nuzzled, rubbing our heads into each other like two cats. “Yeah,” she said. “Yeah. You’re right.” We held each other for a few minutes, laying naked in the darkness until my computer monitor went to sleep.
Cassie sat back up and I scooted over, each of us sharing half of her laptop.
We kept digging farther down various rabbit holes. “Little convicted of murdering her Mommy sentenced to experimental new treatment?” I read.
“Might be real,” Cassie said.
“The new treatment?” I scrolled down. Yikes. Shit about plastic surgery to mindfuck the Little into thinking they were really an Amazon child.
“Not that,” Cassie said. “Violence against an Amazon. Could be a real thing.”
I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t had certain power fantasies involving at least giving a throat punch to Mrs. Brollish or biting Miss Forrest’s finger. Part of me wishes I could have slammed Bankhead’s hands inside her laptop after her quip about “childish mindsets”. “Probably an exaggeration or an accident,” I said.
“Or a cover up made to look like an accident.”
“Amazons wouldn’t ever admit to us being able to hurt them,” I said. “That’d mess with their worldview too much. To try someone for murder would make them think that we’re adults.”
Cassie gave me a side eye. “They already think that.” One of the few fundamental disagreements my wife and I had was at the nature of Amazonian culture. I subscribed to the idea that they were crazy. She subscribed to the idea that they were purposeful, if gentle, tyrants.
“But why broadcast that with a trial?” I asked. “Even if they’re not baby bonkers-”
“They’re bonkers,” Cassie interrupted, “just not as bonkers as you think and not in the same way.”
I sighed in irritation. “Not my point. If they do the baby thing to stay in control-”
“Which they do-”
“-why would they broadcast that someone rebelled so openly? You don’t prevent rebellion by showing how harshly you punish it. That just makes for smarter or nastier rebels in the future. You prevent it by not admitting to rebellion. Rebellion isn’t an option if people don’t know it exists.”
Cassie pouted out her lip. These conspiracy rabbit holes were typically the closest we got to having an actual argument. “Fair point,” she finally said.
We kept scrolling.
“Hypnotizing DVD’s?” Cassie asked.
“Illegal as fuck.”
I rolled my eyes. “Like that stops them.”
“Good point. Does Beouf use them?”
I hemmed and hawed for a second. “I don’t think so. Those are almost always cartoons, aren’t they?”
“As far as I know.”
I shook my head, feeling a little more than just relief at the thought that Beouf wasn’t a complete monster. “Then no. I’ve never heard her talk about cartoons. At least not the same exact ones that I have in my own class.”
Her hand reached up to my chin and maneuvered me so that I was staring into her eyes. Dark eyes. Sad eyes. Scared eyes. “If you ever hear them talk about cartoons, I want you to quit.”
This wasn’t a question. “They wouldn’t do that.”
“Promise me you’ll quit.”
I paused, wrestling with my own cognitive dissonance. “I promise, hon.” She gave me a peck on the lips.
We sat there again, in relative silence, arms draped over each other and laptop on our laps, scrolling through the rumors, the rants and the pleas for help.
Help! My plane did an unexpected layover, and Customs wants me to go to the airport nursery. Damn. Brace yourself, I guess. No replies. If you can’t say anything helpful...
Alone in Big city and seeking companionship. Looking to meet other Littles in public. Also no reply. Everybody smelled a trap there.
Do NOT go to the Cherub Arms Hotel! Wife and daughter missing for weeks! Noted. Thanks. Sorry for your loss.
Stole A’s phone! No longer continent! Safe place to hide? No clue. Not in the area.
I’m being naughty and took Mommy’s phone and ran away. Where can we play? Really? Screw you, Amazon. The screen name was even “Ima Widdle”. Ugh.
Product Warning: King Fisher Rattle generates pleasure stimulating frequency that only Littles can hear. Used for conditioning and mind fucking. A bit far fetched, but not completely out of the realm of possibility, knowing Amazons.
We kept scrolling and other than the occasional “ugh” or “oh boy” or “oh no” it was quiet. We checked and sent out a few PM’s to far away friends to make sure they were still safe and not “adopted”. So far everyone was safe. Good.
It was about fifteen minutes till I’d need to go to sleep and the energy drink was fading fast when conversation catastrophe struck. “Littles from other dimensions,” Cassie read. “We are not alone.”
We read the entire rambling vine of links, messages, and conspiracy theories. There was some particularly twisted stuff. “As if.” I yawned.
“Makes sense, though.” Cassie stretched and set the laptop aside. “If you think about it.”
“You think that Amazons have interdimensional portal technology and are using it to abduct Littles from other dimensions?”
“Not literally,” Cassie said. “Just metaphorically, y’know?”
I climbed under the covers. “What metaphor?”
She joined me. “Amazons are invaders. It’s in their nature.”
“I thought I was the one that argued about Amazon nature,” I said, glibly.
Cassie gave me a light punch on the shoulder. “You know what I mean.”
“Ow!” It didn’t really hurt. The sense of being admonished had shocked me more than the physical contact, and even then not so much. “No I don’t.” In the darkness I sensed Cassie tense up. “I’m not trying to be obtuse,” I said. “Explain what you mean.”
She breathed in. “You know how there’s Littles and Tweeners and Amazons?”
“Why aren’t Amazons called ‘Bigs’, instead?”
I opened my mouth and shut it almost immediately. Shit. I hadn’t thought of that. “I...don’t know.” I finally answered.
“Because the Amazons are invaders. They’re not from here.”
I propped myself up on an elbow. Now I wasn’t going to sleep. “Maybe not here-here, but archeological evidence suggests that Littles and Amazons lived in different parts of the world, and now we’ve just mixed to the point where every place has Littles and Amazons. Hell, that’s where we get Tweeners from.”
My wife was still staring up at the ceiling far above us. Amazonian scaling. Some days our bedroom felt like part of a mansion. Other times, it was a deep dark cave. “There are still a few countries where Amazons aren’t allowed. Places they haven’t gotten to yet.”
“Yeah,” I said. “But there are Amazon only countries, t-”
“No there aren’t.” Cassie cut me off before I could finish the thought. “There’s just places where Littles have no rights at all and they don’t need an excuse to snatch us up and mindfuck us. We can exist without them,” she said. “Not the other way around.”
I had nothing in reply, but Cassie wasn’t done.. “Why are we measured in pounds?”
“As opposed to kilograms?”
Cassie was sitting upright again. “No I mean, why is our weight measured in pounds instead of glorbitz?”
“Made up word,” she clarified. “Why am I a hundred and twenty pounds instead of...I dunno...twenty-something glorbitz? Why are most Amazons damn near ten feet instead of...I dunno...five to six remulons or whatever?”
I sat up, too. So much for sleep. “You’re losing me, hon.”
“It makes sense for us to measure things in inches and feet. The scale is relevant to us. Made for us.” There was a weird, almost manic excitement in her tone. She was having a brainstorm and wouldn’t be able to sleep until it had run its course. I’d seen it before, usually when she had an idea for drawing or painting something. “Not counting really small or super gigantic quantities, our everyday units of measurement tend to be sized for us; for Littles. Right?”
I had no idea where she was going. “Sure...I think.”
“Like would roaches have the same scaling units of measurements for their furniture?”
“Did you just just compare us to roaches?”
“Stick with me, Clark.”
My head was beginning to hurt. “Okay okay. I get it. But there ARE other units of measurement that people use.” I said. “Metric doesn’t exactly scale with us, either. I sound much taller and much heavier in metric.”
“Why do I feel like you just agreed and disagreed with me at the same time?”
“Why isn’t there an Amazonian unit of measurement?”
The wheels were finally starting to turn. “Because then they wouldn’t seem as...big?”
“Exactly!” Cassie sounded like she’d just solved a murder. I was half expecting her to magically break out a pin board and bits of yarn.
“But if Bigness or whatever is so important to Amazons,” I countered, “why don’t they call themselves ‘Bigs’?”
“Because then we wouldn’t seem as little to them. We’d all be on more equal footing.”
“Losing me again.”
“They call themselves Amazons. What are we?”
“Little what?” She paused for me to answer. I couldn’t. I didn’t know. “Little Amazons. They’re the default, everyone else is just the spin-offs.” The edge in her voice was getting more pronounced by the syllable. She was getting angry and telling her to calm down would have had the opposite effect. It didn’t help that I agreed with her on that one. Amazons thought of Littles as babies that wouldn’t grow up. Baby what? Baby Amazons of course.
My eyes were adjusting to the dark. I could see every little jerk, every agitated movement, every little flick of her wrist while she talked with her hands, working herself into a frenzy. “They came here,” she said as much to herself as to me. “They invaded. And they labeled us Littles, and when they...they...when we had kids with them, they got called In-Betweeners, but it was always about them.”
“So you think Amazons came from Grease? You think they opened a portal and invaded us?” I was playing dumb. Dick move, I know, but I’d gotten used to playing dumb as a diffusing mechanism. Force of habit. “You do realize that Grease is a mythical land; like Narnyah, or Auz, or Ohiyo, right?”
I couldn’t see Cassie’s eyes, but I could feel her glaring at me. “I don’t literally think Amazons came from some fairy tale land.” She slugged my shoulder again. “Jackass.” At least the “jackass” sounded a little less angry.
“We probably named them Amazons,” I thought aloud. The story of Heracleese and the Amazons was one of the few stories I could think of where the Little was the hero instead of the victim needing to be saved. There was a painting of Heracleese tying up the Amazonian Wunder Woman just above our bed. Cassie had painted it back in college and brought it with us when we’d moved into our house together.
I miss that painting.
“We named them Amazons, and they named us Littles,” Cassie said. Her temper was boiling over and she was starting to sulk. “How is that fair?”
I leaned over and gave her a hug. “It’s not. Not at all.”
She was still holding onto me. “You know, in Leutekan,” she said, “they’ve got an entirely different set of fairy tales.”
I knew this. We’d had this conversation before. I had some distant relatives in the Little countries, myself. But like a dance, the steps still had to be played out for the song to end. “Yeah? Like what?”
“Like Little Red Riding Hood isn’t rescued and adopted by the Amazon Woodsman.” she whispered. Then added, “I think I just threw up in my mouth a little saying ‘adopted’.”
“Yeah,” I said, rubbing her back. “My mother used to tell me a story where it was Three Little Pigs, instead of Two Little Pigs and their Mommy. Story was supposed to be about not taking shortcuts and being prepared. Not that Littles don’t know how to build stuff.”
Cassie squeezed me. “I’d never heard that one before you told me about it. Nobody in my high school knew that one either. Not even the other Littles.” We sat there. The pause growing pregnant; the fight draining out of both of us. “I heard that in the original Little Mermaid, she dies and becomes a wind spirit instead of going back to the ocean and wrapped up in seaweed diapers by King Daddy.”
“That one’s kind of depressing. She died.”
“Yeah,” Cassie agreed. “But at least she got to go out on her own terms.”
The dance was almost over. We’d both be drifting off soon before the alarm clock woke us up and I got ready to go back to work. Then, my brain betrayed me and I went off script. “Hey,” I asked, “what do they call the people of Leutekan? Since there’s no Amazons or Tweeners and everybody is the same size?”
Cassie got quiet. Finally, she said, “Littles, I think.”
“Not Leuts? Or Kans? Just Littles? Just like everywhere else?”
Cassie sighed. I felt all the fight go out of her. “Damn. They got us there, too.”
“Or maybe we just don’t know everything…” I said. The competitive part of me wanted to feel like I won our debate...but I didn’t want to hurt her.
We laid there, waiting for each other to start snoring so that the other one could drift off.
It wasn’t happening.
Finally, she rolled back over to me.
I smiled. It was the way she’d said it. “Hey.”
“I can’t sleep.”
“Worked yourself up too much?”
“Kinda…” she said. “But I’m not angry. Just...worked up. Heart racing. Feel hot.”
I reached out and caressed her cheek. We could see each other perfectly in the darkness, now. “Want me to hold you a little longer?”
My wife shook her head and peeled back our bedsheets. She kissed me, slowly, deeply on the lips. “No.”
I shuddered in anticipation as her mouth worked it’s way down my neck, pecking at my chest and continuing it’s journey past my belly button. I let out a low moan while I reached up and grabbed at her hair, twisting the strands of it around in my fingers. She loved it when I yanked hard enough to hurt her scalp.
No more talking.
We wouldn’t be snoring right away, either.
Tomorrow was gonna be a rough morning. We’d both be up late.