by: Personalias | Complete Story | Last updated Aug 12, 2021

Chapter 2
Part 2

Chapter Description: Part 2

Melissa Darling woke up in a hospital bed.  Gone was the luxurious feather bed she’d fallen asleep in, her modest silk pajamas replaced by a pink hospital gown. She tried to look around, to figure out where she was and how she’d gotten there, perhaps jog her memory (one too many mimosas last night, obviously).  

But she couldn’t properly look around, there was a mound of blankets piled on top of her.  More than a mound, there was definite weight on her.  It was like a panther had pounced on her and curled up, thinking itself a house cat.  Why was it so heav-?


It couldn’t be!

“Good morning, Mrs. Darling.”

Electronic, motorized whirring grinded its way into Melissa’s ears.  The world was going vertical, and she could finally see past the bulge on her belly.  No, she thought, the bulge IN her belly.  She couldn’t stop smiling at that.   “Doctor?  Doctor Anguis?” 

To her left, clad in dark green scrubs, was her physician, his medical uniform flecked with bits of bright pink...something.  He smiled softly at her.  “Right here, ma’am.  I wanted to be the first to congratulate you.”

“Congratulate me?”  Melissa knew exactly what Dr. Anguis was hinting at, but she needed to hear it.  She looked around, hoping and praying that this wasn’t some cruel joke.  “Where’s Lily?”

A strong, steady hand patted the bulge on her stomach.  It patted the bulge on her stomach and she felt it!  She felt it as easily as if it were her own!  “Right here, ma’am.”

“You mean?”  Say it. Say it!  She had to hear it!  The pregnancy wasn’t REAL until he said those five magic words.

“Congratulations, Mrs. Darling.  You’re pregnant!”

Hot tears of ecstasy and joy ran down from Melissa’s eyes, dripping down her face and landing joyfully at the corners of her upturned mouth.  Never had she been so happy in her life.  “And Lily?”

“Went in as easy as pie.” Dr. Anguis said.  “Didn’t even have to wake you.” He paused a moment, as if in thought.  “She thought you might like that.  You might feel more like a mother if it was unexpected.”

It was true.  She did.  And, she admitted to herself, she might have felt the tiniest bit guilty if she had to look Lily in the eye before they both became joined.  Lily didn’t know that she’d be going in an adult, but coming out a baby.  An adult sized baby, but a baby all the same.

But Lily, the wonderful child, had spared her all of that.  Now this whole ordeal felt less like a procedure and more like a miracle...which it was!

Melissa shifted in her bed, groaning despite herself as she tried to adjust her weight.  Lily was heavy! 

“Careful,” Dr. Anguis warned, gently.  “Most mothers have much longer to adjust.  Their new bodies come along gradually.  You? Not so much.”

“No one told me that carrying the baby would be so much...strain!”

“You just got out of a major surgery, so there’s going to be more than a little soreness.” He patted her shoulder.  “The artificial womb does have a kind of biological support rigging in it.  You’ll be able to walk around well enough.  And for what the surgery won’t help, we’ve got more than enough medication and mimosas.”

“It still hurts.”

The doctor shrugged.  “Would you have gone through with the procedure if you’d known?”

“Yes.”  There wasn’t even the slightest hint of hesitation in her voice. A slight jostling, wiggling sensation inside her. The baby was kicking!  She let out a shriek of happiness. “Ah!  Someone knows we’re talking about her!”

“Good!” the doctor laughed.  “Good!  That means everything went well on her end, too.”

Melissa frowned a bit. “I...really have to pee.”

As if on cue, like the nurse was waiting just beyond the threshold, a nurse in pastel pink scrubs came in with a bedpan.  “Sounds like someone is giving your bladder a little kick too,” the doctor said.  “That’s to be expected.  Perfectly normal.”

“Maybe I should be the one wearing a diaper!”  With help, she lifted her hips, allowing the stainless steel pot to be slid under her.  “For the next three months, anyway.”


“Womp wump womp womp womp, wump-ump-ump.”

Three months.  Lily had been made to endure this nightmare, this living hell, for the last three months. When she’d gone under, fully submerged, in fact, part of her had hoped that if she survived this, she’d at least regain consciousness just as she was being “reborn,” or whatever this little cult called it.  

No such luck. By her figuring, she must have woken back up soon after she’d been implanted into that old hag.  That explained the steady heartbeat that wasn’t her own, pulsing in the background.  She’d been cocooned in here so long that it didn’t even register to her anymore.

Nothing much registered to her anymore, and that was by far the worst part.  Either from a surgically broken spine, or just lack of proper circulation, she could barely feel anything anymore.  It was all numb. 

She couldn’t see anything.  She was completely submerged in the sludgy gray ichor of the artificial womb.  It invaded her senses, replacing every bit of input from her brain with null.   Eyes open, or closed, Lily couldn’t tell the difference. It was all the same.  At least it didn’t sting.

The sludge had filled her mouth and nose and lungs, too.  It didn’t taste bad, but it didn’t taste good either.  It didn’t taste.  Water had more of a taste than this tuff.

Speaking of taste, that was another thing that Lily had missed these past three months, something that she was darkly looking forward too. 




She’d done none of it for the last twelve weeks. All of her body’s needs had somehow been met via tubes running into her.  Mrs. Darling, that cunt, had been her sensory deprivation chamber, jailor, and life support system.   

Lily’s nutrition was completely taken care of with or without Lily’s consent.  Food pumped in, waste pumped out, and the only evidence that either of these was happening was the fact that Lily wasn’t dead. 

 She never felt hungry, but she never felt satisfied either.  She tasted nothing.  Perversely, she’d gone through a period of time where she tried to swallow the slime that was encasing her, forcing it to be pumped out.  They’d have to cut Lily out then, wouldn’t they?

Days of trying it had yielded zero results.  Not even feeling full.  Only the contracting muscles of her throat gave her any indication that she was swallowing.

She’d have screamed, did scream, but again, there was no air in her lungs to make a sound.  At one point, Lily had made an effort to stop breathing, to hold her breath and pass out. She spent the better part of two days doing it, counting the seconds into hours and hours into days.  


Whatever was getting oxygen to her brain did so with or without her ichor-filled lungs’ consent.
So much for holding her breath and turning blue until she passed out. 

That was another thing!  If Lily could lose consciousness, she hadn’t experienced it yet!  Or if she dreamed, she wasn’t aware of it.  Instead, she’d been left alone with her thoughts, doing her best not to go crazy from isolation and loneliness.

All she could really do to pass the time was count the muffled womps of people talking outside her. It was like Charlie Brown or bad dub-step. 

“Urrr! Cmmmm tay uh eh-man!”  

Mrs. Darling. Lily still had no idea what the woman was saying, it was like trying to translate through a pool, but she could tell the difference and hear subtle little distinctions in her tones and words.  Her so-called Mommy’s voice was unmistakable at this point, even when being heard from the inside out.

Lily struggled in her bonds, squirming, doing her best to “kick” the old bat.  And by “kick,” she really meant bobbing her head through the viscous muck in an attempt to shift her body weight to the very edge of her prison.  The slight feeling of resistance when she pressed up against the edge of her cage was one of the few pleasures allowed to her.  Minor acts of rebellion.  Microtransactions of revenge.

Every now and then, she’d sing little ditties to herself to pass the time, and rub her tongue over her surgically deformed mouth, counting how many teeth she had left in her jack-o-lantern mouth.  But neither activity lasted more than an hour by her reckoning.

She could barely hear.  Saw nothing. Tasted nothing.  Felt nothing.   A stinging eyeball, or hunger pain,  or the feeling of looming suffocation...anything would have been a welcome change from the big NOTHING that had gobbled her up.

This was death.  She was technically alive, but this was almost exactly what death had to feel like.  Nothing. And  Lily had been not-quite dead for close to three maddening months.

For three months, she’d been stuck in this living Limbo.

“Not really,” a voice assured her. “Limbo is a LOT different from this place.  It’s very similar to what you’ll be experiencing, though.  Close enough in the long run.” 

A VOICE!  In here!  It was too clear, too crisp to be anything but a voice right next to her. That meant that it was time.  They were cutting Mrs. Darling open!  Lily was being reborn! 


 Lily tried to open her mouth and talk, or at least gurgle something. Nothing came out.  Not even air bubbles.

No air.

“Welcome to the end of day one.” The voice whispered. “Still eighty-three more to go.”

One day?  

One day?  

She’d only been in here for one day?!


Melissa Darling lounged in the courtyard, mimosa in hand.  The sun was warm, and she was already getting that pleasant little buzz on her face as the alcohol worked its way into her system. Not bad for 9:30.

A jiggle from the inside.  The mimosa must have been working its way through Lily’s system, too.  “You’re welcome, baby.”  She patted her stomach, a mismatch of different skin tones all quilted together.  At least she wouldn’t have stretch marks.

Pacobel’s Canon in D played through the speakers of the courtyard and Melissa laid back, reclining in the deck chair.  She inhaled the fragrant air, taking in all that her senses had to offer her, before taking another sip of mimosa.  

Three days.  Three glorious days in and the glow hadn’t worn off.  She hoped it never would.  It was rather like a cruise, her pregnancy. Lay around in the sun, relax, maybe read a good book, and sobriety was one hundred percent optional, if not actively discouraged.  

Just like a cruise. Except there was no chance of sea-sickness.  No chance of morning sickness either, according to her fellow expectant mothers.  It was one of the many benefits of being a member at the Institute.  

“Mrs. Darling.”  

The proud mother-to-be removed her sunglasses and looked toward the voice.  “Oh, hello Doctor!  What can I do for you?”

The doctor was out of his medical gear, and now wore a suit, the very same type of plain, conservative, but respectable suit that he’d worn the day she’d gotten Lily to sign on the dotted line. Clad in his oddly ostentatious snake-skin boots, the older fellow squatted down beside her.  “Actually, it’s more about what I can do for you.”  He passed her a clipboard.

Melissa put down the mimosa and looked at it.  “What’s this?”

“I just wanted to go over a few things with you and finalize some details about Baby Darling.  It will help let us know what medications to prescribe you.”

“I’m not in any pain anymore.”  She gestured to her glass.  “Thanks!”

“It’s not for the pain.”

Melissa made herself sit up a little straighter.  She took another breath, focusing herself in the way that only a drunk person can.  The mimosas must have been stronger than she realized. It took genuine effort to read the information and keep it in her brain for longer than a moment.  Biting her bottom lip, she looked to Dr. Anguis’s coke bottle glasses for guidance.

“Age twenty-three.  Ninety-nine pounds?  Five-foot two?  What’s all this?”

“Baby Darling’s chronological and biological information.  It was part of the paperwork when she agreed to be your surrogate.”

The mother-to-be nodded and kept scanning the document. “Baby teeth so she can have some solid food.” In her mind, Melissa paid a trip into the future.  She imagined herself enjoying a grilled caesar salad while Lily munched on chicken nuggets in her highchair.  She saw herself playing with the spoon like it was an airplane whilst feeding her baby girl applesauce.  She thought of taking sips of Chardonnay while Lily chugged down apple juice.  She looked forward to cold, snuggly nights when Lily would nuzzle into her breasts, needing extra comfort.   “Would she have to be completely weaned?” she asked.

“Thinking of breastfeeding?”

“It might be nice to try.  A bonding moment.”

“A regimen of hormones it is,” Dr. Anguis said, taking out a blue pen and scribbling notes on Melissa’s paper.  “What else?”

“Crawling? Good.  Wouldn’t want anyone mistaking her for an adult after this.”

“I don’t think anyone will be assuming that.”

They both had a shared laugh, hers more genuine than his.  Obviously he used that line a lot around here.  “What is…” she squinted, as if narrowing her vision would make the word more understandable.  “What is maximum allowable cognition?”

“That’s how old they’ll be, mentally, when they’re done.”

Melissa frowned.  “Thirteen months?  That’s not too old, is it?”

He laughed again, this one more real.  “Oh you really are a first time mom.”  She laughed too, but her expectant glare made it clear.  “Thirteen months should be fine based on your wants and needs.”

“I think thirteen months is a little old…like don’t one year olds start walking?”

“We can make it so that she, at most, crawls,” Dr. Anguis explained.  “One of the benefits of this model of parenting is customization.  So she’d be a one-year-old in mind, but a crawler in body.”

“I was thinking six months…”

The doctor shook his head.  “She won’t be able to crawl at six months.  She’d barely be able to sit up with support.  Imagine having to carry her everywhere you went.”  Melissa didn’t like the sound of that.  “And she’ll know her name, but pretty much everything will be crying.  Everything...hunger...wetness...lack of sleep...too much sleep...everything.  You’ll have to spoon or bottle feed her everything.  At her size, less independence for her means less independence for you.”

He was right of course. The doctor always was.  “It’s just a thirteen month’s fine, I guess.  It’s fine.” 

Something on her face must have shown her doubt, because the doctor kept talking.  “She’ll know a word or five, and will be able to communicate her wants and needs in the most basic of ways.  She might say ba-ba, or diaper.”  She bit her lip, unconvinced.  “And mama.”


“And she’ll be able to splash in the tub and play with rubber duckies, or to dig around in a sandbox.”

 “And call me Mama?”

“And call you Mama.”

Melissa nodded.  “Okay.  Thirteen months sounds good.”  She kept looking down the list of particulars.  Reading all of this was a chore, but it was a fun chore.  When else would someone get to custom build their own baby?  She stopped reading near the bottom and wrinkled her nose. “Oh, I want this part here changed.”  She let out an involuntary chuckle.  Definitely still tipsy.  “Ha! Changed.”

“Which part?”

She stabbed the bottom with her.  “Disposables only.  I am NOT washing any diapers when I take her home. Besies,” she slurred,  “she’s never going to be potty trained anyways, so I see no point in letting her feel wet.  I read that part in a parenting magazine once.”

“That’s a checkbox, ma’am.  We just want you to select your preference.”  He handed her the pen.

“Oh.”  Then she checked the section marked “Diapers: Disposable” 

“Very good, Mrs. Darling.  I’m positive that Baby Darling has a wonderful mommy that is looking out for her.”  He rose from his squatting position and turned to leave, snakeskin boots and all.

She called after him.  “Why does everyone keep calling her Baby Darling?”

Dr. Anguis called back over his shoulder.  “Because she’s not Lily anymore.  You’re her mother, you can name her anything you want.”

“Ooooh, I’d never thought of that.”  She picked the mimosa back up, took a sip, and leaned back in her chair, determined to spend the rest of the morning napping and thinking up cute baby names.


“Lily. Chen.”  The announcer’s voice was stilted and formal, over enunciating every syllable of every graduate.  The on-loop recording of Pomp and Circumstance blared, surpassed only by the announcer’s amplified voice.  So loud, that Lily couldn’t hear the cheering of her parents in the audience, wherever they were.

Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Right.  One step after the other.  She was walking, but she was trembling.  How could she possibly be so nervous? She’d done the work.  She’d gotten her degree in art history.  She was already graduating. 

Then why was she so anxious?  Almost tripping over her own feet, Lily climbed the stairs onto the stage.  “Congratulations” the dean (or whomever he was) said, handing her the diploma and shaking her hand. Lily kept walking.

The first time around, she’d only met this guy a total of three times in her entire collegiate career, so why would she remember what he looked like, let alone his name?  Where were her parents?  


Still walking across the stage, she searched for waving arms, or two standing figures amongst the facing masses, clapping for her. She listened for airhorns and looked for a banner (as if her parents were the banner-and-airhorn type).   Nothing.

There were no air horns or banners the first time.


Why would she be remembering something that was happening right now?

As her foot fell on the first descending step, Lily felt her stomach lurch and the basketball stadium spun around on its axis.  Falling down the stairs, there were no gasps or exclamations of surprise from the audience this time.  This time, she was able to push herself off the ground before a stream of vomit rushed up her throat, out of her mouth and onto the polished wooden floor; staining her graduation gown with the back splash.

This time?

That’s because she hadn’t actually fallen the first time she graduated college.  She obviously hadn’t vomited.


Pomp and Circumstance stopped abruptly, record scratch and all, replaced with trashy synth-skate-pop-punk.  “All the world is gettin’ with, I say.  Consequences are a lot, but hey!  That’s the way it, that’s the way things go!”

Lily found herself being lifted by her armpits, her legs unsteadily pushing up against the floor.  “She drinks the mimosas but you get the hangover,” the voice said.  “Ain’t that a bitch?”  That voice?  Where had Lily heard that voice before?  

Her feet firmly beneath her, but her head hung low, the first thing that registered to her was a pair of snakeskin boots.  “You mother fu-!” she spun around, striking at Dr. Anguis with inhuman speed.

Just like before, her hand was caught; a perfect fastball straight into a catcher’s mitt.  It wasn’t Dr. Anguis behind home plate.  He was younger than the surgeon, but older than Lily; late twenties at best, mid thirties at worst.  White, like Dr. Anguis, and with those same dark green eyes.  He might have been the man’s son, but he wasn’t the man himself.

His hair was pulled back tight in cornrows.  His chin and cheeks were covered with scruffy, scraggly facial hair.  He almost looked like James Franco in that one weird movie he was in... “Sorry about the record scratch,” he said.  “I just couldn’t take Pomp and Circumstance any more. Canon in D is bad enough.”

That voice!  There was something about that voice! Lily gasped.  She knew that voice!  She knew that voice fr-!

Lily screamed but no air left her lungs.  Surrounded by the darkness of the artificial womb, Lily was trapped.  Feeling nothing. Seeing nothing. Smelling nothing. Tasting nothing.  Barely able to move and only able to hear the distorted voice of her captor, Lily panicked.  This was no Limbo, but the deepest pit of Hell.  

 “Ooops.  I guess I shouldn’t have done that.  Broke the little fantasy you had goin’ on… bad.”

Lily remembered.  She was back in the artificial womb, waiting to be spat out, just so she could be diapered, bottle fed and thrown in an incubator.  How long had she been stuck here? 

“Not even a week, sugar tits.  Not even a week and already you’re crackin’.”

The voice was right.  Though to call it a voice was a misnomer.  She didn’t hear it as much as imagined she’d heard it.  This was all in her head.  How else could it respond to her innermost thoughts just as they were forming?

“Ding ding ding! Got it one!”

It wasn’t real.  It wasn’t real.  This was just her, talking to herself.  This was boredom and isolation and imagination.  Nothing mo-

“You don’t sound like me, kid,” the voice interrupted her thoughts. “And your imagination isn’t good enough.  No offense. And what do you mean ‘not real?’” it demanded.   Not just a voice anymore, but a man.  A man with dark green eyes and snakeskin shoes.  “Theeeeeere we go.  Now you’re getting it.  Just because it’s in your brain doesn’t make it not real.”

She’d been dreaming. Not quite dreaming, truthfully.  Over the past three days (only three?) Lily had yet to feel sleepy or exhausted.  Her mind never drifted off quietly.  She never got the luxury.  She’d just start thinking about her life and what had led her to this point and...and...and..

“It’s sleep psychosis.  You don’t sleep, and you go a little crazy, my dear.  Oops!  I guess I meant ‘Darling.’”

Lily did her best to ignore the voice in her head.  But other than the thrum-thrumming of Mrs. Darling’s heart, there was no other sensory input to latch on to.  She kicked and wriggled and jiggled inside of her captor.  Maybe she could at least make the bitch piss herself.  She wanted to go back.  She wanted to go back to her college graduation so she could at the very least-

“You’re never gonna see your parents in that memory, kid. They weren’t there the first time.  You didn’t even get a text from them that day.”  

Who was this voice in her head, anyway? Lily was now convinced that this voice was telling the truth.  She’d never met anyone so coarse. So vile.  So punchable. No way could she have imagined it.

“Name’s Levi.  But I can see you’re real busy, goin’ crazy and all.  We’ll talk later.”

And then she was alone.


“What exactly do the little pink ones do?” Melissa asked.  For weeks the doctor and his staff had had her doped up on pills.  They were fantastic, but she still had no idea what they were.    “At first I thought they were for my stomach or something, but those were the green ones.”  The nurse smiled mysteriously and continued holding the tray with little pink pills on them.  “Then I thought they were to help me sleep, like benadryl.  But I take them a couple times a day and I don’t feel the least bit drowsy.”

“Blue ones help you sleep,” the nurse said.

“But what about the pink ones??

“They’re for your baby.”

“How?  Like prenatal vitamins?”

“They’ll help your baby’s development.”

Melissa finished her lunch margarita. Strawberry.  Extra sugar.  The sweetness didn’t wipe the sour expression off her face.  “But I don’t want my baby to develop.  She’s going to stay a little girl forever.”

“I’m sorry,” the nurse said.  “Poor choice of words.  What I mean is they’ll help move her along to a more desirable state.”

The wheels in Melissa’s head started spinning.  She had another life in her.  Whatever she ate went into the baby, meaning the baby was drunk as a skunk. But that alone wouldn’t have made her big baby act the part.  She’d assumed that some kind of brain surgery happened before implantation,  and for some reason, call it instinct, she’d been avoiding the pink pills, taking them sparingly.  They gave her a kind of manic, giggly buzz, but there was something about them that made her reptile brain think of poison.  “You mean…?”

“The more you take, the farther along your baby will be to being like a chronological baby.  Why do you ask?”

The woman reached onto the tray and took an extra paper cup filled to the brim with the little pink pills.  “No reason,” she said, downing the things like they were tic-tacs.  “Just curious.”


Lily looked up from her desk.  “Yes ma’am?”


“Um...eighty three?”  The other children laughed.  Stupid Lily! Stupid!  Always a step behind!  They weren’t even in math, right now!  She glanced back down at her paper.  She hadn’t even been taking notes.  Instead, a doodle in charcoal, a leftover from art class- and not a very good one- was beneath her black smudged fingers.  “I meant uh..eighteen eighty-three?”

“WOMP-WOMP!”  More laughter from the other children. She looked around for help, or just sympathy from her classmates.  A sea of polo shirts and plaid jumpers, all smiles but none of them friendly, stared back at her. Our Lady of Perpetual Disappointment never was a particularly welcome place for dreamers.  Or lovers.  Or her.

It was the best school in the county, though.  That’s why Lily’s parents had invested so much money into her tuition and insisted that she attend, even though all of her real friends went to the public school a few blocks from their house.  “Please don’t tell my parents!” she blurted out.  


More laughter from the surrounding Peanuts Gallery.  This was a mean-spirited, soul crushing place.  It was hard enough making friends without being shipped off to a private school.  Something was stuck in her craw about that idea.  Lily chewed on her tongue as the laughter continued.  Why was she so much taller than the other kids?   “Can I please go to the bathroom?”


“What do you mean I already went?”


“Um...I’m on my period?” She lied. The classroom became a mass of confused furrowed brows, twisted disgusted grimaces; each child’s knowledge (or lack thereof) of puberty shown clearly on their faces.

“WOMP-WOMP-WOMP!” The teacher laughed.  “WOMP!”

  “Oh yeah,” Lily said.  “I’m too young for that…aren’t I?”  She always was a crap liar.  “Can I still go to the potty...err...bathroom?!  Again?”


Lily’s gaze traveled down the perfectly arranged isle of desks that the classroom was arranged into.  The teacher was gone, or had she (he? they?) never been there?  In the teacher’s place at the front of the class for all to see was a pink plastic potty, decorated with a My Little Pony theme based on the drawing on the inside lid. 

She pointed to the bowl. “You want me to…?”  

“WOMP-WOMP-WOMP.”  The teacher’s voice permeated the air.  As if on command, she felt her bladder fill up like a balloon attached to a spray-hose.

“Or you’ll tell my-?”


Lily didn’t dare call the teacher’s bluff.  On shaky legs and a full bladder, she stood up.  Titters and jeers, dares and bets, snuck behind Lily as she waddled to the front of the class.  This wasn’t right.  This wasn’t right.

She wasn’t a kid anymore.  She was an adult!  Fuck. Even doing this to a kid was wrong.  Still, a strange force flowing through her veins compelled her to continue this bizarre performance piece.  The script had already been written, and it wouldn’t stop until she heard the sound of urine emptying out into a tiny plastic bowl.

As she sat down on the plastic potty, cotton panties around her ankles, she looked up to an empty classroom.  The children were gone.  The teacher, who was never there to begin with, was gone. 

It was just her, the plastic potty, and someone- something- else.

“Ooof…” A voice said.  “This took a weird turn.”  The classroom door opened.  Wearing a dark green teacher’s uniform, leather patches on the elbows and all, the scuzzy looking man with the snakeskin boots entered.  “Most people just end up naked in these kinda things.”

A surge of modesty and embarrassment rocketing through her, Lily yanked up her clothing and stood, pointing to the door.  “Get out!”

“ Most people are just naked in these kinda things,” the man ignored her.  “But you?  Your brain went all out.  There’s a lot to unpack here.” He looked around.  “Not completely your fault, though.”

“Get out!” Lily repeated.

The faux-teacher turned his back to her.  “Fine, fine,” he called back over her shoulder.  “I’ll just let you get back to…” he motioned around the room, which was rapidly becoming a mixture of the worst elements of a private Catholic and a public nursery school, “whatever THIS is.”  Lily was certain that there hadn’t been Alphabet Block banners running around the length of her old classroom.

“Wait!” she called out.  He stopped.  “Don’t leave.”  He took a seat at an empty desk. She took her seat, not even caring about the dry rustle of her undergarments- wasn’t cotton softer than this?- beneath her.  “I’d rather talk with a hallucination than just to myself.”

“Fair enough.” He leaned back in his chair, propping his feet up on the desk.  He cocked his mouth to the side.  “This,” again he motioned around the room.  “This never happened, right? The toilet thing?  Cuz it seems a little messed up, even for Catholics. But I can never tell with them.”

Lily shook her head, her bangs swishing a half second behind her. “No.  Not all at once. I had a teacher back in Elementary school who liked to embarrass students up in front of the class...and in pre-school we had communal potty training, where we all had to sit with our pants down around our ankles.  I was so embarrassed that I never went, even if I had to.”

The intruder scratched his patchy beard.  “Ah! A mis-mash of memories. That tracks, all things considered.”

“Considering what?”

Her question was ignored.  “My money was on a spanking, what with the whole school girl thing.”

A rueful laugh came from her.  “Probably.  The Principal was a fan of corporal punishment, but only he was allowed to dish it out.  In his office,” she added.  “I vaguely remember spanking being allowed at daycare. If you hadn’t interrupted things, I’d probably have ended up over someone’s knee but with a wooden paddle to boot.”

“The worst of all possible worlds.”  Snakeboots nodded knowingly.

“Hardly,” Lily said.  “I can count on one hand the number of times I actually got punished at school.  The real hurt came from my parents.”

“Whooped ya good, huh?”

“Naw.  Just more talks about what a disappointment I was being.  How I was wasting my potential.  How I was too impulsive and didn’t think things through and needed to grow up and they didn’t work so hard so that I could yada-yada-yada.”  Lily made a yakking motion with her hand.  “And then they’d go quiet...”  Even in her hallucination, Lily couldn’t stop from going teary eyed.  “My father once went a week without talking directly to me.  And he did it on purpose.  Just because I got a B on a math test.”

“It sucks not being able to live up to your father’s expectations, stated or otherwise, doesn’t it?”

“Mom’s too.”

He shrugged. “I guess.”

“Who are you?”

“I already told you.” he said.  “I’m Levi.”  Then he pointed at the hem of her skirt.  “Your hearts are faded, by the way.” 

 Lily flipped back her skirt and examined her panties. Sure enough, the dry cotton had been replaced with a warm wet squish between her legs, and the fade-when-wet designs on the crotch had gone the way of the dodo. In place of the familiar white cloth of her normal panties was a cartoon face smiling up at her. Minnie Mouse.

And then all was darkness. Alone and naked and almost toothless.  Floating in the void of her artificial womb.


As the cold gel was squirted onto Melissa Darling’s pregnant belly, she shivered involuntarily, causing her water bed of a belly to jiggle.  It jiggled a bit from the inside too, she felt.  “Someone’s a happy baby.”

“At this stage in her development, it’s probably just an unconscious reflex.”  Dr. Anguis told her, smoothing the blue goop around, spreading it like jam.  “At this stage of her development, she’s lost conscious awareness of her immediate surroundings.”

“But her kicking, it’s getting harder and harder,” the expectant mother said, starting to fret.  “It's starting to hurt.”

Dr. Anguis readied the sonogram wand.  “That’s because she’s starting to regain the use of her limbs.  She actually IS starting to kick.”  The woman looked down at her giant pregnant patchwork belly.  What had the girl been hitting her with before?  “But,” Dr. Anguis interrupted her worried thoughts, “they’re getting less frequent, too, aren’t they?”  They had been.  “That’s because as her body is regaining strength, her conscious thoughts are receding more and more into the background.  It’s more of an unconscious reflex at this point.”

“Kind of like tickling a sleeping person’s foot with a feather?”

“You could say that. Speaking of which,” he flipped a switch and put the wand to her gut,  “this may tickle a little bit.”

A black and white image popped up on the screen.  Melissa let out a wordless whisper of astonishment.  It had been nearly two months since she’d last seen the girl.  Still curled up in a ball, eyes closed, the baby was just as adorable as she’d remembered.

“She has her thumb in her mouth!  She’s sucking her thumb!  Just like a real baby.”

“She is a real baby.” Dr. Anguis said.  “Your real baby.”

“My real baby….”  It sounded so right hearing those words coming out of her mouth. “OOOOF!”  Melissa exhaled, as in real time the big little girl squirmed and kicked against the edges of the artificial womb.    Not once did her eyes open or did her thumb come out of her mouth, however.

“Bit of a tickle…”
Where was that god-awful noise coming from?  Lily shook the railings of her crib with her free hand.  Sucking on her thumb, she rattled the side of her crib and stomped her feet, and screamed around her thumb.  She was grumpy and wet and wanted a change and wanted to play and wanted num-nums, and she wanted it NOW!

It was her naptime, she knew, and she was having the most wonderful dream about being a grown-up like Mommy and Daddy, and painting the sky pretty purple and green colors.  Mommy was explaining how the sky can’t be green and it’s almost never purple, but then the strangest noise woke her up.

It was this ugly, high-pitched drilling sound, like at a dentist (though little Lily couldn’t remember exactly what a dentist was), and it hurt her ears and made her terribly cross.  She cried and screamed and stomped and jiggled the railing on her crib, but Mommy and Daddy didn’t hear her.

They probably could hear her, though.  They just weren’t coming.  It was her scheduled nap time, and so Mommy and Daddy wouldn’t come until the routine and schedule dictated they come.  Schedule and routine and order and planning were important to Mommy and Daddy.  It was supposed to be important to Lily too, and she heard them talking about how she’d “grow out of it,” whatever “it” was supposed to be.

To calm herself, she sat down in her crib and kept sucking her thumb. Mommy and Daddy called it “self-soothing.”  She didn’t want to self-soothe, however.  She just wanted to BE soothed.  Let someone else take the burden for once in her long, long, short life.

The bad noise kept going. Lily did her best to drown it out, moaning into her thumb and covering her left ear with her hand.  Her right hand was busy, so she made do by leaning her head against her right shoulder and squishing her ears down that way.

It didn’t work.  The sound seemed to be moving, too.  At her feet one moment and at her belly button the next, before traveling it to her ears.  It tickled in a way.  A bad tickle.

“Why not just take your thumb out of your mouth?” a voice said.  A boogeyman slid out from under her crib.  “Or use a pillow?”

“Wevi!” she shouted over her thumb. “Geph ow!”   The girl laid down, head and feet touching opposite sides of the crib, trying to yank the covers over her head so that Levi couldn’t see her anymore.  

Levi ignored her.  “Or hell, climb out of your crib, and go find them.”

Lily looked at herself, past the fuzzy red pajamas she was in, over the bump in her crotch from the swollen diaper, paying attention- really paying attention- to just how far away her feet were from her head.   She was five foot two; no giant, but she could get out of a crib this size.

Her right thumb still dripping with saliva, she gripped the sides of her crib, rose to her knees aaaand... aaaand...nothing. 

 “I can’t…”

“Oh yeah,” Levi said. “You can’t-slash-won’t.” 


“It’s complicated.  So what now?”

“I...I don’t know…”

“How’s your trip down memory lane been goin’?” 


“Is this even a memory?  I didn’t think anybody could remember being this little.”  He pointed at Lily’s pajamas, bulge around her hips still obvious. “That’s a good look for you, by the way.”

Lily ignored him and scanned the nursery.  “You know how there’s memory, and then being told stories so much that the stories become the memory?”

“Not really.  I’ve never been this young.”


“I’m your hallucination, remember?”

“Oh...yeah….” Lily felt a strange disappointment at that.  “My parents would tell stories about how fussy I was when I was a baby. How I’d scream and whine in my crib for hours when I didn’t want to take a nap.”


“And then they’d always end with how they broke me, how they ignored me everytime I did something they didn’t like and I grew out of it.”

“Story of your life, huh?”  Levi went over to the changing table. He pulled out a bizarrely large diaper, one that could fit Lily, and turned it over in his hands.  “They didn’t like how you did in school so they withheld their love and gave you the silent treatment.  They didn’t like your choice of major, so they cut you off and didn’t even show up to your graduation.”

“That’s why I’m big, but still in a diaper.” Lily realized. “I’m unconsciously drawing parallels.”

“Sure...that’s why.”  Levi unfolded the diaper, leaving it open on the changing table.  “Come on,” he grabbed Lily by the armpits, lifting her out of her crib.  “Let’s get this over with.”

“Get what over with?” Lily rode on the man’s hips, looking down at the floor, looking down at his snakeskin boots.  

“I doubt they’re looking for you now, are they?”  Levi said.

“Yeah,” Lily agreed as she laid down on the table, oblivious, as Levi unpopped the buttons on the inseam of her pajamas.   There was that drilling noise again.

“That’ll be over soon enough.”  Lily felt her legs raised as the foot coverings on her jammies were maneuvered out of the way. Where was that annoying noise coming from?  She hated it.

Refocusing, she craned her neck and saw the discoloured yellow that had creeped all the way up to the front of her Pampers.    “You’ll have new parents soon, or at least a new mommy.”  The clean diaper was already unfolded and beneath her, a little trick to minimize changing time.  “Let’s get all of these nasty old thoughts and memories out from under you and start you over with a clean slate, yeah?”

As he reached for the tapes on her diaper, Lily managed to come to her senses.  The sounds of tapes being ripped off caused her to scream out.  


She was alone again...and only the high pitched drilling noise was there to keep her company.

Melissa ripped open the box, and a chorus of ooohs and awwws accompanied it as she pulled out the frilly pink dress.  “Awww!  It’s just too precious!” she said.  “Thank you Marissa!” 

It wasn’t really a dress, not functionally. The hem was too short to hide much below the waist. The shoulders were so wide that it would slip right off anyone small enough to want to wear it. It was sized for an adult, but no adult woman in their right mind would choose it. The bright pink color with frilly trimmings along with the picture of a lamb on the front didn’t exactly add sex appeal either. 

It was perfect.  

“Keep digging!” Marissa urged.  “There’s more.”

Another friend, Clarissa, obliged and picked the discarded box up off the floor, handing it back to Mrs. Darling.  The expectant mother had all but lost the ability to bend over for the past two months.  She dug into the box, rifling past several more layers.  An adorable pink bonnet and matching rhumba panties came out.

More ooohs and awwws.  “She can be your Little Bo-Peep,” Alissa offered.  Melissa, Clarissa, Marissa, and Elissa all tittered good-naturedly at Alissa’s joke.

It was a party; a baby shower, of course.  The words “It’s a Girl!” hung on the well-used banner that the Institute kept, with enough pink balloons to blot out Melissa’s window.  Some of her oldest, closest, and most jealous friends came to support her.  

Baby showers at the Ponce De Leon Rebirthing Institute were heavily vetted and widely encouraged.  It was good for morale.  It was good for normalization.  It was good for business.

 Today, the ladies would be celebrating all night long with luxury spa treatment, especially decadent food (all bite size and baby themed in some way), and of course, bottomless mimosas.  Enough to give them a taste of what the Institute could offer them.  Alissa, Clarissa, Marissa, and Elissa would all spend the night in actual guest suites, and the notion of having their very own adult-babies would be subtly reinforced so that their longing for children would be redirected towards Dr. Anguis’s program.  Not every woman who attended an Institute baby shower would immediately go looking for their own surrogate, but almost every expectant mother staying there had attended a friend’s baby shower first.

All around the room bibs, onesies, and rompers and dresses short enough to crawl in had all been unwrapped, admired, and then neatly folded  An adult-sized highchair had been unwrapped, but not unboxed and leaned in the far corner of the room, stapled to gift receipts for a changing table, diaper pail, play-pen, and crib, all to be delivered at a later (but not too much later) date.  

And of course the floor was littered with packs and packs of what any new mother would gladly welcome- diapers. Thankfully, all of it would fit Baby Darling once she was welcomed back into the world.

“Where did you all manage to get these wonderful gifts?” Melissa asked, already knowing the answer. 

“The Institute has a registry,” Clarissa volunteered.  “We were able to get everything you and your baby needed there.”

Elissa spoke up.  “I got the diapers from a fetish site.” She pointed to a pack of adorable baby diapers sized for an adult, indistinguishable from the other packs.  “It was cheaper.”

The color drained from Melissa’s face.  “A fetish site?”

“Yeah,” Marissa agreed.  “There are perverts who get off on dressing up like babies.”

“But...but why?”

Eyes turned to Marissa and Elissa, suddenly the experts on deviancy. Elissa shrugged. “Who knows why people get pervy…”  

Maybe Melissa WOULDN’T recommend that those two be admitted to the Institute.  

An uncomfortable silence filled the room.  Eyes and doubts were cast.  Then Mrs. Darling felt a blow from within that almost knocked the wind out of her.  “Ooof!” she said.  “Someone’s restless this afternoon!”  She looked down at her tummy and gave it a pat.  “I think she just woke up from her nap.

“Oh my god, let me feel!”

“Me too!”


They all scrambled around her to get a feel as the baby churned and squirmed and kicked.  

“I can feel her!” 

“She’s kicking!” 

The glow in Melissa rose up another three watts.  Oh, how lovely to be a mother and the center of attention!  Oh, to be the envy of every other woman in the room!  How lovely to be a vessel of life and to be able to feel the little angel inside of you kicking.

Her artificially attached tummy jiggling like a water balloon, Melissa gave the belly a pat, pressing the palm of her hand lightly but firmly to give her future daughter something to push up against.  “Someone must know we’re talking about her.”

Giggles and awwwws ensued.  “That is so cool!” Marissa exclaimed. “Just like a real baby!” 

Melissa gave a wry, knowing smile.  At least one of them was hooked.  “That’s because she is a real baby.”

Lily was alone in the darkness.  What day was it?  The third?  The fourth? An eternity?  Time had lost all meaning for her.

“There are worse hells to be in,” the now familiar voice chimed in.  “But yeah.  Anything going on forever can be turned into torture.”  He walked out of the darkness, a thug in a garish green suit.  Like a cartoon mobster; some kind of Batman villain.  He even had a matching green fedora.  But, just as always, he wore those snakeskin boots.  “It’s why Heaven has gotta suck.  Forget Hell by fire, try Hell by boredom. When you’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun... you’ve probably run out of shit to do.”  Pure darkness, but he shown like a beacon of light.  “Knowing you don’t have any less days except to warm up your singing voice...that’s gotta suck.”

Lily rolled her eyes. “You again…”

“She talks.  Not bad, kid.”

“I’m hallucinating again, aren’t I?”  She rolled her tongue along her full set of teeth.  Definitely hallucinating.

“You could say that.  Just like you’re hallucinating that you’re here this time. All out of flashbacks.  All out of time.”

It was less that she was in the darkness now, but in a well lit room painted completely black.  Standing out in a starless outer space, yet still able to see perfectly.  “What do you want?”

“I just came to say my goodbyes.  It was nice getting to watch you relive your regrets.”  He smiled softly.  Awkwardly.  “We’re about done here.”

A tremor ran through her.  “Done?  What do you mean, ‘done?’”

“You’ve been here for about three months, give or take.” Levi said.  “Back’s all healed up, your veins pumped full of booze and you-don’t-even-wanna-know.  You’re about cooked.”

No further explanation was given.  He just stared at her.

And stared.

And stared.

“So...what happens next?”

For the first time, the hallucination of a man broke eye contact.  “They cut you out, make sure Lily Chen is dead and then you spend the rest of your life as a really, really, REALLY, realistic facsimile of a baby.”

Lily shook her imaginary head.  Was she hearing this correctly? “But you just said I’ll be dead...”

“Not technically, but-”

“You just said-”

“I mean, you’ll still be  ‘alive.’  You just won’t be you.  Lily Chen will be dead.  But Baby Darling will be re-born.”  Then he flashed her a thumbs up.  “Congrats.  You’re a bloodless human sacrifice.”  Another silence as Lily’s jaw hung open.  “Yaaaaaay….”

“What are you?”

“I’m Levi.”

“But WHAT are you?”

Levi took his fedora off and did a little bow. “Please allow me to introduce myself.  I’m a man of wealth and taste.”

Lily caught the reference.  “You’re just a hallucination.”

“Then why’d you ask?”  Lily didn’t have an answer for that.  “To be fair, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.  I can be both.”

Lily had the sudden urge to turn her back to the amalgamation of every sleazy guy that’d ever hit on her.  Years of being forced to go to church gave her the sudden reflex to tell him to get behind her.  Instead, she maintained eye contact, defiant to her own fears. “You’re not real,” she said. 

“Then what’s the harm in making a little deal?”  He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out the reddest and shiniest of apples.  “C’mon.  Take a bite.  Just one little bite.”  He offered it to her.

“And then what?”

“You’ll be born.  But not re-born.”

“And what do you get?”

“Please allow me to introduce myself…”  He winked.

Lily reached out and took the apple from Levi.  “This is just a hallucination.  This is my brain making up fantasies.”

“Sure it is.  Take a bite.”

“Souls don’t really exist.”

“Not at all.”

“And if they do, they’re not something that persists after you die.  They’re just a metaphor for personality...or consciousness.”

“So I’m making a really bad deal here. Ooops.  Joke’s on me.”

“And biting into this apple- which doesn’t really exist- won’t change anything.”

“Makes sense to me.”

“I don’t even know that you’re telling the truth.”

“Nope.  This is all something you imagined. Everything.  Even what I’ve told you so far.  Even what I’m saying now.  It’s all just false hope.” 

“But what’s the harm in a little hope?”


With a full set of imaginary teeth, Lily crunched into the apple...

“So I told Jack-” Melissa began to tell Jolene.  She stopped mid-sentence.  That kind of hurt.  It almost felt like a crunch.  Like something was taking a bite out of her.

“What?” Jolene asked, taking another sip of her margarita.  “What?”  Melissa Darling felt a trickle down her leg, like she was peeing herself.   “What?”  Jolene pressed, sitting up in her deck chair for the first time all morning.  “You told Jack what?  Hurry up.  I’m gonna get induced before you finish this story at this rate.”  Jolene was less than a week away from her scheduled due date, and wouldn’t shut up about it unless she was dead drunk.

Just because Jolene had introduced her to the Institute and had managed to get her step-daughter implanted a whole two weeks before Melissa had gotten her surrogate inserted, she liked to act so superior.  As if two weeks were really that big a difference.

Not anymore.

 A smile spread out across Melissa’s face.  “My water broke!”  She screamed in a perfect mix of panic and exultation.  “MY WATER BROKE!”

The look on Jolene’s face was priceless.

The word was shaking, the darkness itself shuddering.  Lily felt herself, her actual body, sloshing back and forth.  The water level was draining.  Her skin wasn’t touching open air, but it wasn’t completely encased anymore.  Her long lost sense of touch was returning to her.


“Go go go go go!”  the medical team shouted as they wheeled Melissa into the operating room.   “This is not a drill!  We have a live re-birth on our hands!  Let’s go!”


The walls were collapsing in, folding down in on her like deflating airbags, smothering her. She gasped for air and nothing came. Lily tried to exhale and only a thin trickle of mucus dribbled out past her lips.  She couldn’t breathe!

Surgeons crowded around Melissa.  A nurse with smiling eyes looked down at her as she was all but slammed onto an operating table, her legs forced into stirrups.  “We’re going to get your baby now, Mrs. Darling. “ 

“Not enough room.  Not enough time.” One of the medical staff said.

Dr. Anguis was there, his great green eyes peering down past her and between her legs.  “I agree.”  He held out a hand.  “Scalpel.”


“We don’t have time for anesthetic.  This is going to hurt.  It’s to be expected..  Nothing to worry about.”


Air!  Air!  Lily couldn’t breathe, but she could sense it.  She felt the rush of air on her body.  LIGHT!  Covered in muck as she was, she could still feel the bright beautiful light through her closed eyelids.  Desperately, she reached up, her arms brushing against a fleshy sack before her fingertips tasted open air.


Melissa saw the wretched black hand shoot out of where her bellybutton used to be.  She felt shoulders and arms muscle their way out of her.  It was like a clutch of wasp eggs had hatched inside a caterpillar.  And she was the caterpillar.

The pain of the blade that cut her open was nothing compared to this.  This wasn’t birth.  This wasn’t even a C-Section.  This was a live dissection. 

Only now did Melissa Darling realize that she was the frog.

Sound!  Glorious sound!  The scream of victory sounded far away, but it was there as strong arms lifted her out and placed her on a hard flat surface.  No more floating.  No more mumbling.  No more womp-womps of bad dub-step and Charlie Brown cartoons.  The only heartbeat Lily felt was her own.

Out….finally out...but she still couldn’t breathe…


“Baby’s out!” Dr. Anguis yelled. “I repeat! Baby’s out!”  Nurses and doctors rushed in, crowding around Melissa like petals closing in on a flower.  Dead, useless flesh was cut away as the last remnants of her false uterus was yanked out of her.  She’d never be able to have children again.  There was a very real possibility that she’d just cut her own lifespan short with all the pressure and abuse that her internal organs had been put through.

 She didn’t care.  It would all be worth it if she could just...  “Mrs. Darling, you need to lay down, we’re still-”  Melissa shoved the man’s head out of her way.  Damn quack was blocking her view.  She might have been asleep when her baby was put in her, but she was going to see her new daughter, damnit!   

She’d paid for at least that much.

Paid for it with more than just money.

Grayish black, curled up into a ball, and slimy to boot, the form that was being lifted and uncoiled on the gurney seemed more like a giant tar baby than a real one. That?! That was what was inside her?! 

That was afterbirth, not re-birth. 

Dr. Anguis leaned over the form as it was stretched out, nurses already beginning to wipe away the muck with clean white towels, revealing that yes there was human flesh there on the gurney.  His back to her, Melissa could only make out a few phrases as he was violently shoving a tube down the thing’s mouth, if it had a mouth.  “Don’t panic!  We’ve got several minutes until brain damage kicks in!  And even then…” he let the thought trail off.

Melissa didn’t have to wait several minutes.  Moments later, he watched as black goo spilled out the tubes and into a waiting bucket.  She didn’t even notice as the doctors were shoving her own organs around, stitching here, sewing there, clamping and packing.  

What she did notice was the petite little thing turning its head to the side and quietly vomiting up the rest of the pollution inside its lungs, and then laying still.

Very still.

Too still.

Oh god, please n-


Melissa Darling started crying.  She was alive!  Her little girl was alive!  She was a mother! Hallelujah to the old gods and the new, above and below, she was a mother! 

“Congratulations, Mrs. Darling!” the good doctor said. “It’s a girl!”

“It’s’s a girl!”  The energy started draining from her.  Things were starting to slow down now that ordeal had passed.   She was tired now.  So tired.  Why?  Where was her energy going?  The presence of a morphine drip jabbed into wrist answered her question.

“Lay back, Mrs. Darling,” Dr. Anguis said, his voice a soothing balm. “You’ve got your own healing to do.  Both you and your baby have been through a lot.”

“My baby…”

The gurney started moving, moving away from the operating table. Away from her!  Her baby! Where were they-?... On the verge of delirium, Melissa weakly called out. “Please!” She called out. “Please help!  They're taking my baby!”

“It’s okay,” she was shushed, “it’s okay.  Baby Darling is just being cleaned up.  You’ll get to see her after we’ve patched both of you up.”




Ceiling lights rushed by, strobing across Lily’s face.  Squeaky wheels kept a steady uptempo marching beat as a pit crew of nurses cleaned the sludgy muck off of her and checked her vitals from stem to stern.

“Blood pressure normal.”

“Pulse fast but within normal parameters”

“Breathing resumed. Normal”

“Removing uterine tube.”

“Only minor scarring on the achilles tendon.”  

“No obvious signs of infection.”

All the while, wet rags were being raked across her skin, and one nurse in particular- one with oddly smiling eyes, her face covered by a pink surgical mask- kept cooing to her in sweet, yet menacing whispers.  “Welcome back to the world, little one.  It’s okay.  It’s okay.  Nurse Lucy is here.  Just a little longer and you’ll be alllll done.”

Two double doors opened and a chorus of mewls and whines mingled with the smell of stale urine. The nursery!  “How’s it lookin’?” That voice!  The voice that had been inside her head!  No way could be here.  No way could it be-

“Dr. Anguis,” a male voice said.  “One of the babies is acting up!  We just got her out of the incubator and she’s calling for her husband or something.” Then he added,  “Hard to tell with no teeth.”

“Booster shot,” the voice- Levi- ordered.  “Extra-concentration.  Dial up the regression, dial back the cognition.  Mommy might have to settle for a big 9-month old.”  

“Yes Doctor Anguis.”

Over at the far side of the room, over the horde of nurses clamoring over her like ants on a carcass, Lily heard the cries as another victim was drugged to the point of overdose.  

Tapes ripped.  

Then, “Hewwwp!  Hewwwp me!  My huphand!  Get my huphand! Hewwwwp!”  Then, “Ow!”  Then the words stopped, and only babyish wails could be heard where once there was a woman calling out desperately for help.

A diaper was placed beneath Lily.  She weighed so little by now, it was easy to just lift her legs and slide it under.  The diaper didn’t come up between her thighs, though.  Not that it needed to.  Lily was so weak that just leaving one unfolded beneath her would likely be enough to catch any dribbles from her overtaxed and underutilized bladder.

From her place on the gurney, Lily spotted the nurse, the one with the smiling eyes.  Once again clad in those pastel pink scrubs , she was holding a syringe.  It was filled to the brim with pink.  Neon Pink.  Pepto Pink.  The same eery pink that had been pumped into her veins during her forced implantation surgery.

Only this batch glowed.  There was something dangerous in there, Lily sensed. 

“One more booster shot,” the nurse said.  “Just in case there’s any big girl left.”  Somehow, deep inside her, Lily knew that though it might not technically kill her, whatever was in that needle would be a lethal dose.  Her body might remain, but Lily was dying today.

“Just a moment, nurse Lucy.”  It was Dr. Anguis’s voice.  A pair of disturbingly familiar dark green eyes, now amplified through lenses so thick they could double as magnifying glasses, looked down at her.  They peered into her eyes, staring right deep down into her very soul. 

Please.  Please don’t do it.  Find some humanity.  Please, please, please, please! Just leave me be!  The poor girl didn’t have the strength to say any of these things.  The most she could do was think them.  

Pray them.

The doctor’s head swiveled to the nurse.  “There’ll be no need for that,” he motioned to the booster shot. 

Putting away the needle, the nurse started to complain.  “But Doctor-”

“She’s too far gone already. She broke on the inside. Any more chemical supplements and she’ll go braindead.  Our client isn’t paying for a blob.”

Lily heard a sigh.  She sighed too, as the diaper was pulled up and safely fastened around her hips. 

 No shot today.  

Not ever.

Deal well struck.


All sewn up where she could be sewn up and packed to the gills with gauze in the places where she couldn’t be, Melissa Darling  waited impatiently for the baby she’d paid so much money for.

They say that unconditional love first comes into existence when a mother lays eyes on her child.  Melissa had read that somewhere. She knew it was true, however, once she saw her baby, freshly cleaned up, wheeled back into the room.  

Still naked, save for the diaper, eyes squinting at the world, and mewling and moaning at having been taken from her nice and cozy womb, the adult sized baby was a site to see.  The baby wasn’t pretty, not in the same way that Lily had been.  She was too skinny now, almost malnourished.  Her skin was pale, as if she’d been locked away for too long. 

The woman had been warned ahead of time that all re-borns looked like that at first, and she was assured that the baby would be brought back to an acceptable weight and complexion before the two of them went home, but she was objectively repulsive.  Yet when Melissa saw that nearly toothless mouth, and heard that mumbling little cry, her heart melted.  It might be a face that only a mother could love, but wasn’t it fortunate indeed that she was now a mother?

Through the stinging of the pain, and of the fuzziness of the pain medication, Melissa had the nurses wheel her baby over her, and, against all advice, plop the fragile, mewling thing in her lap.

The girl flopped her head onto her new mother’s shoulder, nuzzling at the nape of her neck.  The poor thing was already exhausted. 

 “You came out of me, full grown,” she whispered to her baby.  “But you’re still my daughter. And you’ll always be my baby.”  She kissed the dozing girl on the forehead.  “My little Athena.”

Minutes later, the glass sides came up and the tanning lights came on, leaving Lily on full display in that incubator with nothing but a diaper and her thoughts. 

 Her muscles atrophied and skin palid from months of being put into a conscious coma and locked inside a living box, it wasn’t hard for Lily to close her eyes.  Blinding light shined down on her, irradiating her flesh.  Finally, there was a difference between light and darkness, between her eyes being open and closed.  

It was a strange relief.  Lily kept her eyes closed, not even wanting to look at the wretched thing she’d become.  A feeding tube running down her throat via her nose dripped in high fat nutrients while an IV kept her hydrated. Some clinical part of her brain figured that steroid shots and other reconstructive treatments would be in her near future.  No, it wouldn’t be long before they tanned and fattened her up, putting her in the open air and bundled up like a newborn, but right now she didn’t even feel remotely human.

But somehow, she was still Lily.  They hadn’t beaten her, yet.  Not where it counted.

There was only one question:  What now?

Pumpkin spiced latte.  Lily was drinking a pumpkin spiced latte.  What a lovely invention, the pinnacle of the human culinary experience: a warm milkshake that you can drink in the middle of the day.

So good.  So filling. It felt so good to eat again. Thank the gods above and below that she could eat again.  Three months of darkness; not seeing, barely hearing, and not being able to eat a damn thing.  That was the worst part.

All better now. 

Lily’s eyes fluttered open.  What a weird, lovely dream.

“Hello.”  It was a soft cooing voice.  “Good morning,” it said.  Still not quite awake, Lily kept sucking on the straw. She kept drinking from the little nub, enjoying the warmth.  This was the weirdest Starbucks ever, she imagined.  “Good morning,” the voice repeated, as dripping with honey as-

There was something off about Lily’s pumpkin spice latte.  It was sweet, and creamy, but not pumpkin spice.  She suckled more.  Definitely not pumpkin spice.  

And what was this balloon in her face?  

Her gaze drifted up and she made eye contact with Mrs. Darling.

“Thass right!  Good morning!” Only serendipity, the fact that Lily had chosen to swallow right as she looked up, had prevented her from screaming.  “Do you know who I am?” she asked, clearly not expecting an answer.  “I’m your Mama.  Can you say Mama?”

Lily didn’t dare.  It was a good choice.  “Not yet!” Mrs. Darling cooed.  Not yet you can’t!  But soon, Athena.  Soon.”  

Athena?  Lily must have been unable to hide the shock on her face.  

“That’s your name!  Athena!  Yes it is! Yes it is!”  

It all came back.  The delusion that she was a free woman was a little gift that she’d given to herself, a dream fading back into the aether.  She wasn’t at Starbucks.  She was here.  In the pseudo-hospital, with her pseudo-mother, in nothing but a very real diaper, and sucking very real milk out of a very real breast.  She hadn’t gotten away.  Not by a long shot.

Two pairs of hands grabbed Lily by the waist.  “Excuse us, Mrs. Darling, but it’s time for your daughter’s physical therapy.”

“Physical therapy?”

“She was cooped up for a long time, Mrs. Darling,” the second voice explained.  “That means that if she’s going to be able to crawl, we’ve gotta work her out.”

“But I just-”

“We can practice having her crawl to you.”

That changed her so-called-mother’s tone in an instant.  “Oh my! Yes!”

A thick mat, like the kind gymnasts used, was already on the floor where they placed Lily.  Head down and to the side, she could only stare at shoes and slippers. 

“Come to Mommy, Athena!  Come to Mama!”

 “Mrs. Darling, she can’t even lift her head up yet.  She’s pretty much a newborn.” 

Like hell she was, but Lily would play the part.  “Aaaaaaghaagaa,” she let herself yell, mimicking the sounds of the poor souls stuck back in the newborn ward.  “Aaaaaagh!”

“She’s trying to say Mama!”

“You bet she is, Mrs. Darling…”  The therapist didn’t sound like they believed it.

Her captor was so in love with the idea of being a mother, Lily could probably get away with a lot.  But Darling wasn’t her only captor.  If she didn’t look the part, didn’t act the part to a tee, Lily could very well end up getting that booster shot.

Going along with the program, Lily lifted her head just enough to make sure she could, before plopping it down.  

Or tried to.  

She tried to move her head.


 She couldn’t lift her head.  It was a rock. The poor girl tried to move her arms, to try and just slide them along the floor.  They were lead weights screwed onto her torso. She struggled, feeling herself break out into a sweat.

Lily grunted and groaned in earnest.  “Look how she’s trying!  Such a good girl!”  Lily ignored the cooing.  How would she ever be able to escape if she couldn’t even crawl?  

Push.  She had to push.  She had to try!  She groaned.  She started to moan.  FUCK ACTING!  She had to...she had to…

That’s when Lily did something else that she hadn’t done in three months...

"Awww… Baby made her first boom-booms!”


One Year Later.

Melissa and Jolene clinked glasses in the kitchen of her spacious townhouse.  Today was Tuesday, meaning “Chardonnay and Play”.  Chardonnay for the grown ups.  Play for the babies.  These little playdates were vital, Melissa had long concluded, to Athena’s happiness as well as to her own.

It was so good to just reconnect with her old friend, as well as watch her little girl play with a peer.  And, of course, there were things that only Mommies could talk about; the little stories and cutest things that non-Mommies just didn’t get.

Like when Athena figured out how to squirt water up in the air by cupping her hands in the tubby and squishing them together.  She’d giggled when a spout of water hit her in the face.  It wasn’t so funny the second time...or the third...or the fourth.   A sound spanking had put an end to that, but it had been the cutest thing, anyway.  Every day with Athena was a blessing and an adventure. 

Melissa had always heard that one of the joys of parenthood was watching your child learn and grow.  With Athena, she got to see the joy of discovery everyday, because Athena never really learned.  She was content to be her Mama’s little rugrat, crawling on the floor, picking her nose, and watching cartoons from her highchair.  It might have been the alcohol transferring to the milk, but Athena especially liked breastfeeding on those chilly January nights before bed.

The little angel had never even bit her, not once, unlike some of the horror stories she’d heard while pregnant.  And she’d been worried she’d have to remove Athena’s teeth.

Other parents in the community got it. It was those kind of stories and experiences that no one else could relate to.  You had to be there.  You had to be in it.  You had to be part of the community.  You just had to get it.

Jack didn’t get it.  He was appalled and disgusted to learn that his estranged wife had gotten surgery to have a child of her own.  He’d thought he was signing off on in vitro fertilization or a professional gigolo or something.  Not this “monstrosity.” 

The nerve of that man!  Imagine, calling a sweet little cherub like Athena a monstrosity!  Fortunately, the NDA that Dr. Anguis had gotten him to sign as well the prenuptial agreement would keep Jack well out of her and Athena’s life for the rest of his days.

Dr. Anguis had even hinted that there might be people interested in older babies, too. Babies that were cute and cuddly, but that people could care for and outlive.  Jack might find himself with a new outlook on life in a year or two, should the movement pick up speed.  It could be the next and final phase of Elder Care: Late Onset Infancy.

 The poor man really did have no idea what he’d signed.  Neither had Athena, though, and look how happy she was!  

Mirroring their parents,  the children guzzled down bottles of grape juice while Melissa and Jolene sipped from their wine glasses.

“I’m so glad that Tiffany and Athena are such good friends.”

“They are, aren’t they?”

“Just like us.”

The two clinked glasses as they always did when making such statements, the clink drowned out by the banging of wooden spoons on pots and pans.  Those were the only uses those pans ever got; it’s not like anyone in the kitchen ever cooked.

Looking at her baby girl on the floor, knowing that she would be just as precious today and tomorrow as she was yesterday and the day before, Melissa took another sip and smiled.  She never had lost that glow from her pregnancy.  She really was the luckiest mother in the world.

Lily (not Athena) was playing on the floor with Tiffany.  Play-acting was a more accurate description.  Having managed to maintain her sanity and somehow avoid the dreaded booster shot, she understood every word that was said to her, about her, and around her. 

Friends?  Ha!  These weekly meetings were more of a chore.  The darkness of the womb didn’t seem so bad compared to having to both babysit Tiffany and make it look like she was being sat as well.  Lily really had no idea how the poor girl was going to survive.

Tiffany wasn’t nearly as cognizant as Lily was.  The girl was completely out of her gourd.  Lily’s nose wrinkled as the other girl giggled mindlessly, clapping and banging on the pots and pans for good measure.  Tiffany had shit herself at some point and badly needed changing.  Lily wondered how the girl didn’t have a rash from front to back, let alone an infection.

Comparatively speaking, she’d gotten lucky.  Mrs. Darling at the very least changed her regularly, and attempted to interact with her, even if it was only on an infant’s level of interaction.  Tiffany was close to being neglected, a beautifully gift-wrapped box with nothing inside.  But Lily didn’t dare bring attention to the mountain of shit caking her fellow prisoner’s backside.

Did mental one-year-olds care about the smell of other one-year olds’ diapers?  Lily wasn’t sure.  She’d spent the last year pretending to be a big baby, enduring bathtimes, highchair, bottle, and breast feedings, diaper changes, and photos, all while trying to look distant and cute.

For the time being, she had no recourse other than to play the part, and wait for an opening.  That opening wouldn’t come anytime soon, however.  She still couldn’t bear weight on her feet, thanks to her Achilles tendon being surgically altered.  Crawling was her fastest way of self-propelled locomotion.  

Even if she dared to pull herself out of her crib in the middle of the night, where would she go?

Mrs. Darling had stolen her away to a bizarre gated community run by the Institute.  Adults babbling in diapers were the norm here, not the exception, and the families who didn’t have a big baby didn’t seem to mind.  Most were in the market for them.  Stroller walks through the local park and shopping cart rides in the local grocery store had cemented that notion.

Lily was as trapped as any of the other Pamper pushers in this place.  The only difference was that she knew it.

Perhaps that’s why the devil in the snakeskin boots had made her that deal.  All she’d really managed to do was damn herself twice.  Hell in Hell and Hell on Earth; it was all the same to her.

Lily frowned as her gut started to rumble.  Time to poop.  

That had been a hallucination, hadn’t it?  She hadn’t really sold her soul for a devil’s deal.  That was the crazy and the isolation talking in harmony with booze and pills being fed to her via Mrs. Darling.  Lily had just managed to fake out the doctor into believing that she didn’t need that mind numbing booster shot.  She was an awesome liar, after all.

She’d become one, anyway.  The poop came out easily, sliding into the back seat of her diaper as it had hundreds of times before.  She wasn’t un-potty trained, or incontinent.  She still knew all the intricacies of a flush toilet, and was always very aware when she was peeing or pooping her pants.   But after a year of wetting and messing her diapers, combined with the atrophy of not using her bladder and sphincter muscles for three whole months, the whole thing just came so easily to her as to be second nature.  She didn’t even try to hold it in anymore.  She probably WOULD need to be re-potty trained once she escaped...if she escaped.

Load fully settled in, Lily crawled over to the kitchen table where the two Mommies sat drinking Chardonnay at 10 A.M.  She smiled and cooed, putting her head in Mrs. Darling’s lap. “Mama.”

“Oh, she’s so affectionate!”  Mrs. Darling’s friend commented.

Lily gummed her tongue, avoiding the few rocky teeth jutting in her mouth as Mrs. Darling lovingly stroked her hair.  “And I think I know why,”  Mrs. Darling said.  “Athena always gets cuddly right after she goes number twosies in her onesie.  Sometimes,” she added, “it’s like she thinks Mama means poopie.”  Bitch had no idea how right she was.

“Awwww, did somebody make a boom-boom?”  Tiffany’s stepmother pinched Lily’s cheeks. “Yes she dids! Yes she dids!”  She looked at Mrs. Darling.  “Good thing too.  For a second I thought it was Tiffany who needed changing.”

Mrs. Darling stood up and put down her wine glass. “It still might be.” 

“I’ll check her when you two get back.  Mama’s gotta find the bottom of this glass.”

As she was led away for yet another diaper change, Lily wondered if her parents, her real parents, were worried about her, still looking for her...or had they given up on her again?

Maybe ignorance really was bliss. 

(The End)



End Chapter 2


by: Personalias | Complete Story | Last updated Aug 12, 2021


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Ambrose · Aug 13, 2021

An amazing read! Love the "realistic" take of it and how well the experience is described. Really gripping!

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AuntieFrost · Aug 28, 2021

Lily's flashbacks and treatments hit way too close to home. Excellent writing as ever, you do awesome

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