Chapter Description: Last hopes.
Danny craned his head to look at the fortress-like walls of Sara’s crib. His own home seemed like a giant prison. Even doorknobs were a reach. He detected faint gurgling noises coming from inside the crib, but nothing intelligible. The paralegal, now in a pair of crunchy plastic diapers.
And he, a one-time law partner on his way up the social ladder, stood no taller than his wife’s waist. Alone now, with Devra and Stephen hatching plans in the next room, he slowly uncovered himself; the time for shame had long past. Stripped of his stature, maturity, and clothes, Danny had few options available. He might as well have become a baby like Sara - at least she would be somewhat pampered. Still, curiosity overcame him and he put his ear against the door:
”Oh, I still can’t believe it! The old crone wasn’t lying,” Devra said.
”Now that they’re little, what exactly should we do with them?”
”We’ll work out the specifics later. Right now we should celebrate. I think I have some champagne in the cabinet here...”
Danny scowled. We were saving that. Now he was certain just how little his wife really cared. If she was willing to exact such revenge on him while rubbing an entire salt mine into the wound, surely she had some secrets of her own to hide. She’s probably having sex with Stephen, he imagined. After all, they had undoubtedly become close over the course of their conspiracy. The cold realization sank into his stomach. These were his new parents. He was the child. Sara was the baby. An entire lifetime lay ahead of them, possibly more than one if Devra continued to find new ways of shrinking them back down.
”Did you... ummmm...?” Stephen muttered under his breath.
”Yes, of course,” Devra said, popping the cork. “You seem tense. Have some bubbly.”
”I mean, Ms. Madhat. She said it was important.”
”Yeah, I told you I got it. Something bothering you?”
”No, no. Not really. I just want to make sure we’re in the clear.”
”Of course we are. Relax,” she said, pouring a glass for her partner in crime. “We’ve got kids!” she chuckled.
Danny’s suspicions were slowly being confirmed. A piece of the puzzle was still in play and he knew he had to redouble his efforts to snag the watch. Only where the hell might they have stashed it? He closed his eyes and tried to imagine where his wife would hide something valuable. Christmas presents were usually crammed into a dusty corner of the attic, while her jewelry always went inside the box in her underwear drawer. But a new variable had been introduced, one that might limit his search capacity: his size.
She sounds cocky, he thought. Maybe cocky enough to assume I won’t even be looking for it.
”Maybe I should hold onto it,” Stephen said.
”What, you don’t trust me?” Devra laughed.
”It’s not that. I just... want to make sure nothing happens. I know it’s a long shot, but what if...“
”Stephen. Forgive me, but you sound a little paranoid. Look, Danny is three and Sara can’t even walk. It’s not like we’re dealing with adults here.”
”I know, I know.”
”Then calm down. As long as we’ve got a grip on matters, there’s nothing they can do anyway. They’re little kids. We... on the other hand...” Devra said, moving closer to Stephen and placing her hand on his thigh, “can do whatever we want.” A very adult smile crawled over her face.
Danny couldn’t make out what else was happening, but he had a good idea. Devra was engaging in exactly the behavior for which she had condemned him, only now she hit the jackpot while he got another round of pre-school. Anger bubbled up inside him once again, just as the door started to open.
”Danny?” Devra said, looking down at the little eavesdropper. “What were you doing, honey? Listening in on Mommy and Daddy? That’s a no-no.”
With little warning, she picked Danny up under his arms and carried him over to a nearby chair and situated him on her lap bottom-up. Before Danny could hardly apprehend what was happening, he found himself being spanked repeatedly on his already-bare butt. The sting made him wince.
”You’re going to have to learn. We’re your new parents, Danny,” Devra instructed. “Forget about being a grown-up, OK?”
”OK,” Danny cried. Still the blows came, one after another.
”You’re three years old, you got that? And little boys don’t disobey their parents.”
”Now, this doesn’t have to be painful, all right? You can keep acting like this, or you can be a big boy. Which will it be?”
”I’ll be a big boy!” Danny sniveled, his face now bright red.
”OK, then,” Devra said. With that, she sat him up on her knee and saw that he was close to tears. “Oh, baby. Don’t cry. I know this is a big change for you and things didn’t work out quite like you had planned, but it’ll be all right. You’ll see. We’ll have fun together - me, you, Stephen, your little sister. We’ll be a family.”
”OK,” Danny mumbled.
”OK... Mommy,” he said reluctantly.
Devra then checked on Sara, whose crib had offered her a good view of the proceedings. She marveled at how easily the spell had transformed the pair into what appeared to be regular, everyday children. Even if Sara broke into tears, who would know the difference? The trap had succeeded. The perfect crime, Devra thought. With her two biggest problems shrunk down to a controllable size, a great weight seemed to lift from her shoulders. She watched baby Sara with a sweet, albeit unmotherly, amusement. No more fooling around. No more fights. Just some diapers and a few PTA meetings, she mused. She pictured their first trip to the park or the mall, as a family... and the normality of it all enticed her.
”Baa baaa,” a confused Sara gurgled.
”Oh, are you hungry?” Devra said, fetching a pre-made bottle from her bag. “Here you go.”
Danny watched Devra feed his girlfriend and again the depression washed over him. A new humiliation arose at every turn. His tender rear continued to throb, even a few minutes after the episode. The spanking had taken him by surprise. He never imagined Devra would go this far, especially after making him suffer so long with the inevitability of the Madhat curse. Part of him wished had become a senior citizen instead; anything would beat being treated this way, spanked and scolded like a little boy. But, he conceded, that’s what I am. He again appraised his body and discovered the shock of his own appearance had yet to wear off. Even though the night had wreaked havoc on his physique, taking from his mid-thirties all the way to toddlerhood and everywhere in between, he couldn’t stop his jaw from hanging open in amazement. Had he ever been this young, this immature?
”Just think of all the fun we’re gonna have - the four of us,” Devra said, pulling the bottle from Sara’s mouth. “Just think of it as our little adventure, OK?”
The door opened again. In walked Stephen, his face beaming. “Lookie what I found!” he said, holding up a pajama suit about Danny’s size. Baby blue with Pooh bear gracing the front, the ensemble sent shivers up Danny’s spine. Well, at least it’s something... he admitted.
”Lets see if it fits,” he said, pulling the three-year-old over to him. “Now, don’t struggle, Danny. No need to be modest.”
Oh, to be even twelve again, Danny thought as he begrudgingly uncupped his hands from their strategic fig-leaf position and stepped into the pants, which had a small flap in the front.Where are the buttons? he wondered. The shirt slid over easily and though it hung a bit loose around the neck, it was an overall fit. Pooh bear it would be, as least for now. The design almost made him feel younger than he felt naked. At least some adults were nudists. How many wore Pooh to bed? But considering the circumstances, he decided anything was better than a diaper.
Later that night...
Finally night fell on the longest day of Danny’s life. With Sara asleep in her crib, the three-year-old remained more awake than ever. By this time, the circumstances had already driven Danny to borderline desperation. If that day had seemed long, what would another ten or fifteen years feel like? Escape once again preoccupied his mind; one way or another, he decided, they would have to break out. After studying the sounds coming from outside the door, he tried to guess where Mommy and Daddy, as they now insisted on being called, might be hanging out. Hours passed with little or no detectable movement, so he decided to seize the chance. Praying the door would not release some horrible squealing noise, Danny grabbed the knob and slowly turned it. Luckily it remained silent and Danny was able to scurry into the dark hallway. He could hear chatting along with an occasional laugh coming the living room, but the master bedroom was unoccupied.
Danny’s height did not improve matters. Even looking through a drawer meant hard work, so he had to pick his battles wisely.
”The closet... or her underwear drawer...or...” Danny pondered his choices, trying desperately to string together old conversations and hints in his young mind. She’s probably got it in her pocket, the crazy witch, he thought. Valuables usually ended up in one of the dresser drawers, so he elected to rummage through them first. The bottom drawer, the easiest, yielded nothing but some silk garments, a number of which he had bought Devra for anniversaries and birthdays. Somehow, he felt he should avert Pooh bear’s eyes.
Then, from the corner of the drawer came a clunk. After fishing around, he exhumed the watch from underneath a stack of Devra’s lace panties.
”Yes!” Danny whispered instinctively. His only chance at escape now rested in his hands. Just as he had calculated, the watch read 11:00 PM, December 24, 1970. Now there was only the matter of testing his larger theory. Danny sucked in a deep breath and held it as he grabbed the watch between his thumb and forefinger and squeezed the SET button.
Meanwhile in the living room, Devra and Stephen found themselves in the throes of passion. While the curse had effectively rendered their former spouses defenseless, the transformation had also emboldened them in a way neither had intended. Revenge was sweet, to be sure, but somehow their past lovers’ dramatic reduction in age had made both Devra and Stephen keenly aware of their adultness. Not only would Daniel and Sara no longer be able to continue their affair; they were left incapable of any affair.
”I didn’t know you could be this frisky,” Stephen said as he quietly reached underneath Devra’s blouse and began to run his hands up her sides.
”You’re no slouch yourself, big boy,” she answered. “Ohh, that feels good. Sara doesn’t know what she’s missing...”
”I’ll bet Danny’s not too happy either,” Stephen replied with a delighted smirk.
As Devra unhooked and shed her bra, she grew serious for a moment. She looked down at her rather ordinary bosom with a sigh. ”Daniel always teased me about the size of my breasts,” she said. “One night, when we were watching The Three Tenors, he joked that Pavoratti probably had me beat.”
”Well,” Stephen said, working her boobs with both hands like an attentive sculptor, “he hasn’t got much of a comeback now, does he?”
Devra’s lips parted as they met Stephen’s. After a lingering, hot-blooded kiss, she pulled back again, grinned, and reached down into his pants. “You’ve certainly got Danny beat.”
Ironically enough, their sex became all the more exhilarating when they invoked the names of their ex-hubbies. Just thinking of them, lying in the next room, devoid of their sexuality, naked and immature, turned the vengeful pair on more than anything else. That they had robbed their cheating spouses of even the slightest sexual pleasure made the evening doubly erotic. As Stephen played with her breasts, Devra couldn’t help but picture baby Sara’s bare body, breastless and young, absent even the tiniest trace of her womanhood. And Danny, her little beau, now reduced to an everyday toddler. All of it added up to a unique feeling of gratification.
”You know, Stephen, I’ve been thinking,” Devra interrupted.
”About what?” Stephen asked.
”That Madhat lady.”
”What about her?”
”Well, haven’t you wondered like me... I mean, if she can make people young again,” Devra said in a suddenly sultry voice. “Just imagine.”
”What do you have in mind, baby?”
”Oh, don’t play dumb with me, Stephen. You know what I’m thinking. I bet you’ve thought about it too.” Devra’s speech slowed and she drew out every syllable like a phone sex operator. “Wouldn’t you like... to be... younger?”
”Depends on what you mean by younger.”
”I’ll bet you were a real hunk at sixteen, weren’t you sport?”
Back in the bedroom, Daniel could feel his heart pounding inside his chest. With each click of the SET button his arms and legs lengthened as his body expanded, proof that his hunch had been correct. From the first regression the night before up until that night, elevation had been nothing but a cover for the spell, a clever front meant to hide the real source of the curse. All along the solution had been, quite literally, just under their noses, and attached to their wrists no less.
”Son of a bitch,” Danny mumbled. Not only did Devra plan their ultimate descent into childhood, but she had retained control of a device that could keep them as young as she wanted. He gulped. A lifetime stuck in a three-year-old body, or even worse, she could set the date back even farther and turn him into an infant like Sara.
Sara! he suddenly remembered. Surely if the watch had the power to control his age, it would affect her as well. Already his Pooh bear outfit had grown achingly snug. On his way toward the door he peeled the childish thing up over his head and tossed it to the floor. His miniature blue pants soon followed.
As he quietly tiptoed back toward his room, he detected the inimitable moans Devra used to make when they had sex - only now Stephen appeared to be at the helm. While an affair might have ruffled his feathers a long time ago, now it only seemed appropriate. Devra deserved her victory sex, he thought, because it wasn’t going to last long. Once he returned to the kids’ room, Daniel immediately began advancing the years on the watch: 1972, 1973, 1974. And, as expected, his body slowly matured right along with them.
But something was still missing..
Without hesitation Daniel climbed onto the chair next to the crib and peered down inside. To his amazement Sara had not aged a day. Though the watch had propelled him well past kindergarten age, she remained a baby, just as nondescript and androgynous as she had been for the last twenty-four hours.
”Oh God, no,” Daniel mumbled as he feverishly clicked away, sending himself up through elementary school and into early puberty. “What’s wrong? Why isn’t this working? Grow up, Sara! Grow up!”
But no matter how many times he reset the watch, Sara stayed behind. Tears began forming at the corner of Daniel’s eyes as the watch added decades to his age. Under any other circumstances the rapid growth spurt would have made him leap with joy. But he couldn’t stand the thought of being an adult again without Sara by his side, without returning her to her rightful age.
In a matter of minutes Daniel aged himself thirty years. But his sudden change in stature only seemed to magnify how young Sara remained. From his adult perspective she appeared even tinier than she had when Daniel had occupied the body of a child. Suddenly feeling more like a father than a lover, he plucked the squirming infant from her crib and rocked her gently back and forth.
”It’s gonna be all right, Sara. You’ll see,” Daniel said affectionately. “There’s got to be a way to change you back. God, there just has to be. You can’t stay like this.”
The baby girl’s lips curled into a curious smile. “Mmmm, mmm,” was the only sound she made.
”And if there’s not, well...” Daniel gulped. “You’re in good hands, Ms. Rayne.”
Sara reached to touch Daniel’s face with her chubby hand.
”You’ll grow up a happy little girl, I promise.” He nearly choked on the word “little.”
For the next hour Daniel sat alone, rocking his little girlfriend and wondering what piece of the puzzle has eluded him. Then it finally dawned on him. Of course, he thought. It wasn’t just my watch that controlled our ages. Sara’s watch must have operated in the same fashion.
But where was her watch? Did she even wear one to work that day? He couldn’t remember. What if some other clock was responsible for Sara’s regression? Everything about that first day had become a fog, a tangled mess of memories he would likely never sort out. But the more he pondered that question - the location of Sara’s watch - the clearer it became. That first ride down in the Fairfax elevator. The walk back upstairs. And then the moment that everything began to go awry. Their little sex romp.
”That’s it!” Daniel muttered under his breath. The sex on the floor. The elevator noise and the unexpected arrival of Stephen and Devra. The small details of the episode came back to him one by one. That was the first instance in which they left behind articles of clothing and never retrieved them. I just hope it’s still there, Daniel thought.
Now his task was clear. Return to the Fairfax or leave Sara stranded in diapers.
By now the commotion from the living room had died down. Daniel heard only the noise of the TV - some late night infomercial for “The Jesus Diet” - and assumed the spouses were probably asleep. Two problems immediately confronted the regrown man and his infant sweetheart. First Daniel needed to find some adult clothes. Undoubtedly Pooh bear would no longer suffice. That didn’t keep the image from popping into his head momentarily: a thirty-six year old man wedging himself into a tiny set of children’s pajamas. He thought of the little penis flap in the front and almost chuckled for a second.
But there was work to be done.
Again Daniel ventured outside the room. His pulse throbbed rhythmically like a muffled drumbeat as he held a half-naked Sara to his chest and snuck back into the bedroom. Luckily some of his clothes still hung inside the master closet. Placing Sara gingerly on the bed, Daniel grabbed the first pair of pants he saw. After dressing as quickly and silently as possible, he reclaimed Sara and went to work addressing the second problem.
He would need keys. The Fairfax was much too far to walk. A car was the only option. And Devra always left the keys on the dining room table. Daniel had a challenge ahead of him if he was to snag the car keys without stepping on a loose floorboard in the dining room. Perhaps the sound of the TV would drown out any random creaks or cracks. Ideally, Daniel could escape with Sara without even waking the two sexed-out fiends in the living room.
Carefully, as if his life depended on it, Daniel quietly moved down the hallway and toward the dining room like a CIA agent. On the way he passed several framed photos of Devra and himself neatly arranged on the walls - one from La Jolla back in ’92, another from their five-year anniversary at Niagra Falls, a snapshot from their first apartment in New Jersey, all of them bearing the imprint of ingenuousness. The pictures meant nothing now, as they all seemed dimmed by the bitter residue of betrayal.
As predicted the keys sat directly in the center of the table. Daniel removed them with all the care and attention of Indiana Jones seizing a priceless artifact from a booby trapped cave. A snore from the next room nearly broke his concentration. Sara remained quiet with a look of equal concentration on her face. After much ado Daniel retrieved the keys to his freedom and stealthily made his way back into the bedroom. The only hurdle left: finding a way out of the house.
All paths to the front door led right by the living room and Daniel wasn’t about to chance an encounter with his would-be captors. The backdoor was an option, though it often made a loud squealing noise every time someone opened it. And so the choice was obvious. Daniel immediately ran toward the nearest window.
”It’s going to be all right,” he repeated. “Just hold on, Sara.”
Warily, Daniel slid the locks away from the edges of the window and gently pulled. A whiney creaking echoed through the room as the he raised the glass. It’s probably the first time anyone has even opened this window since it was installed, he thought, struggling to keep the whole affair as silent as possible. At that moment he realized just how little living he and Devra had done in that house. From the time they had moved in, virtually every day had been indistinguishable from the last. With the possible exception of a few holidays, their lives had been become a case study in banality. No wonder both of them had secretly journeyed outside of the marriage in search of some fun, some variety.
Daniel crawled out the window first, and then reached back in to recover his infant girlfriend. All of this achieved without giving their spouses the slightest hint that anything had changed. For now, they were free.
At just about the same time, Devra awoke in the living room to find herself nuzzled next to her new lover, her left arm draped across his naked chest. The TV had gone silent with only a picture of an eagle and the American flag along with a message that broadcasting would resume at 5 a.m.
God, how late is it? she wondered. How long had they been going at it?
Devra had to remind herself how much had changed in the last day and a half. The man she woke up beside was no longer her husband, and she now had two young children to look after. The thought of changing Sara’s diaper or giving her a feeding had not even occurred to her, probably because, on some level, she still considered them adults. I’ve got to some stop thinking of them as grown-ups, she told herself. Daniel and Sara were kids now and they deserved to be protected and taken care of despite their cheating past.
Without waking Stephen, Devra maneuvered her way off the couch and trudged down the hallway toward the kids’ room. Already something seemed amiss. The door was not completely closed.
Daniel worked fast to affix his shrunken friend to the car seat. She seemed so impossibly light, like a small grocery sack in his arms. All the while her doughy little face and big brown eyes stared back at him. Though the years had been erased from her body, Sara still retained an inkling of that former charm. And Daniel was determined to see it fully restored.
Though the weather had warmed considerably overnight, the gusts of cold air chilled them both.
”Hold on tight, OK?” Daniel coached his diapered darling. “I think there’s an old blanket in trunk. We used to keep one for emergencies.”
He couldn’t help but talk normally, as if Sara could respond in any meaningful way.
After uncovering the dusty relic from the base of the trunk, Daniel placed it delicately over Sara so that only her head showed. Satisfied that she was safe and secure, he closed the door, ran to the driver’s side, and stepped in. The first thing he noticed was how close the seat seemed to the steering wheel, a problem easily remedied. Damn, it feels good to move the seat back, he thought, turning the key in the ignition. As the wipers cleared a view, he was struck by the image of his wife, illuminated by the headlights of the car as she rushed onto the front porch in her bathrobe.
”Daniel!” she cried, running into the yard just as he backed hastily out of the driveway. “You come back here! Shit!”
Realizing she could not catch up with a moving vehicle Devra immediately turned around and galloped back into the house.
”Stephen, wake up!” she screamed, shaking her lover’s shoulders violently. “Get up! We lost the kids! We lost them!”
”What? How?” the disoriented man on the couch said.
”The fucking kids! They found out somehow! Shit!”
”That’s impossible! How did they know? That Madhat lady said it was foolproof. No one ever figures it out...“
”Well it looks like we underestimated them, Stephen,” Devra tone quickly turned sarcastic. “So while you were in here feeling me up, they put two and two together. Now our little bundles of joy are gone - and they took my car!”
”Wait, wait, we can still find them. This could still work...”
”How? What do you propose we do? Track down the witch and demand a refund?”
”Well, yes, for starters.”
”Shit,” Devra repeated. “Shit, shit, shit!”
”Calm down, Dev. Did you see both of them in the car?”
”Well, no, just Daniel actually...”
”Of course you did. Remember Ms. Madhat said she would retrieve the second watch...Sara’s.”
Devra’s eyes widened. “Then...”
”My wife,” Stephen said, almost matter-of-factly, “is still a baby.”
”But for how much longer?”
Not since transporting his pregnant cousin to the emergency room ten years ago had Daniel driven at such reckless speeds. Weaving in and out of traffic like stunt driver, Daniel was a man on a mission. In a matter of minutes the Fairfax Towers would come into view and Sara’s emancipation would be within their grasp.
”Damn it, move!”
As Daniel flew in and out of the interstate lanes, his mind returned to Maximillian Madhat and his online obituary. With the link between the watch and the curse unveiled the information on the web began to fall into place. Mr. Madhat had been a master magician who specialized in sleight of hand, a skill rooted largely in distraction. The spell itself seemed so simple that Daniel could have kicked himself. Why didn’t I think to reset the watch? All of it - the elaborate set-up, the cryptic poem, the dilemma that seemed so insoluble - was designed to mislead them. But why put on such a sophisticated show, just to torment them?
”Hold on, Sara. We’ll be there in a couple minutes I promise,” Daniel assured his passenger.
”Danwul!” she spoke the first half-intelligible word he had heard from her.
Though frigid winter winds buffeted the sides of the car, Daniel swore he could feel tiny beads of sweat slide down his forehead. He took Exit 114 off the interstate and immediately the Fairfax came into full view. As he approached the building grew higher and higher and he found himself nearly breathless. Inside, Daniel would discover the final piece of the mystery and the answer meant the difference between life as a happy couple and life as a single dad.
Wasting no time with a few superfluous stop signs, Daniel raced directly to a metered parking spot just outside the Fairfax main entrance. The building itself remained conveniently deserted. With sticky palms and an expression of near-panic, Daniel hoisted his little love out of the backseat. He kept Sara, still naked except for her diaper, wrapped underneath layers of the moth-eaten blanket.
”Time for you to grow back up,” he said with a halfhearted smile. “Won’t it feel good to be back in your old clothes?”
Ignoring the meter, Daniel rushed down the sidewalk toward the entrance. Holding the baby in one hand, he fumbled with the Devra’s keys. About six months ago Daniel had given her a copy of the security key required to enter the Fairfax after hours in case of an emergency. Never would he guess this was the emergency that would arise.
Finally he uncovered the right key and inserted it into the security box to the right of the main entrance. The screen lit up with a message: “Please enter personal access code.” Daniel had to think for a moment before he remembered. My birthday, he thought as he punched in 11-15-67. No irony there.
Once inside the beleaguered lawyer and his infant companion made a bee line for the elevator. As the shiny metal doors parted, Daniel swallowed hard.
”Well, this is it,” he said solemnly. “Are you ready, Sara?”
She babbled a response.
Daniel stepped inside and scanned the buttons for the right floor. Where did we stop when...? He replayed the scene in his head. He and Sara had initially agreed upon floor 20, where she would still be of legal consenting age. But that was not where they stopped. Instead she had pressed an even lower floor number, he remembered, sending them both back to high school age.
”Sixteen,” he mumbled as he pressed the button. “It was sixteen.”
Again, when the doors slid shut, an ominous feeling crept over Daniel. The Fairfax elevator had become a symbol of vulnerability for the both of them. Soon the familiar computerized voice announced: “Floor 2.”
Did Sara seem heavier? Daniel readjusted his weight and cradled her on his other arm. He studied her face with a growing sense of optimism. Just as it had before, the elevator was, slowly but surely, adding the years back. Already toddlerhood had begun to take over and her appearance shifted from that of a roly-poly infant to the more defined features of a young child.
Sara continued to gain weight, so much so that Daniel placed her gently on the floor in the corner. Though she could hardly be called a heavy toddler, he felt weaker somehow, as if something were zapping his strength. He glimpsed his watch.
”Oh damn, I forgot!” Daniel yelped as he saw the months speed forward. The curse had not expired and so both of them remained subject to it. As Sara’s limbs expanded and she inched closer and closer to kindergarten age, Daniel worked furiously to reset his watch.
”Daniel!” Sara finally spoke in her soprano voice. “I’m getting owder! It’s working!”
Happy to see her body returning from the cusp of infancy, Sara stood up, the crusty old blanket tumbling to the floor along with the diaper that had surpassed its usefulness two floors before. Ecstatic with her lengthening arms and legs she hardly took notice of her nudity. And still, at five-years-old, there was little to be modest about.
”Daniel, thank you,” she said, running to hug her hero. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Gradually Sara started to look more like herself - her hair grew thicker and darker, her face moved into proportion, and a neat row of baby teeth lined her gums. Still clinging to Daniel’s waist like a barnacle, the young girl could hardly keep back tears. To be able to talk, to stand up, or even to recognize her own body, Sara appreciated every little change. She could barely contain her enthusiasm.
”Daniel! Daniel!” she continued to shriek, tugging at his sides like an excited first-grader trying to get her parent’s attention. But Daniel was fixated on his watch and the relentless chore of resetting it to the proper date. A few times the curse leapt ahead faster than he could click the tiny button on the side. Luckily he was able keep the unyielding march of time from advancing his age too far. Occasionally a whisp of gray hair would sprout on his temples, only to return to its original brown in seconds.
”I - I thought I was going to stay a baby forever,” Sara said, gasping with excitement. “And we would have to be kids again.”
Daniel reached down and mussed her hair with his free hand. She looked up with a gap-toothed smile. “I knew I would get you back.”
By this time Sara’s growth was remarkably rapid, transforming her from a baby-faced tot into a beautiful young girl. A few teeth went missing momentarily, only to be replaced by more substantial adult ones. Her height shot upward as her facial features developed into the more defined looks of a pre-teen. In a matter of a few floors Sara began to grow breasts - first, only small buds, then the more conical type that seemed to point off her chest.
Despite all this, Sara’s exhilaration overruled her modesty. Her attention rested squarely on Daniel and the appreciation and love she felt for the man who rescued her.
The monotone elevator voice announced: ”Floor 13.”
All the signs of adulthood steadily reappeared as Sara entered puberty. Curly russet pubic hair materialized and her hips broadened. Her breasts, though petite, began to fill out, giving her a much more womanly figure.
”We’re almost there,” Daniel said as they approached the 15th floor.
”We aren’t going to back to thirty-three?” Sara asked, confused. “I don’t want to stay young...“
”Trust me.” Daniel winked at his favorite girl, one who was coming up on sweet sixteen. “We’re almost there. From the looks of you.”
Unexpectedly, as if she had just awoke from a dream, Sara realized just how grown up she had become. Glancing down at her budding body she gathered how abruptly the changes had arrived. She had boobs again! And pubic hair! And she was naked!
Without a second thought, she grabbed the ratty blanket and covered herself up. Daniel had to admit he enjoyed the sight of young Sara bending over to collect her makeshift clothing. It reminded him of their short-lived romp that first night, when their new youth seemed like a blessing. Since then they had both come to learn exactly what “too much of a good thing” meant.
On floor 16, all was quiet. Quickly Daniel went to work hunting for their lost bits of clothing.
”What are you doing?” Sara asked.
”Your watch, Sara. If mine can control my age, I assume your watch will do the same for you,” Daniel explained coolly. “If we can’t find it, then we’re right back where we started and you won’t be able to leave the building without becoming a baby again.”
Sara shook at the words “baby” and “again.” The last couple days had proven more horrific than she had imagined. She would happily give anything not to feel Devra’s cold hands lifting her bottom into the air and powdering her again. And she couldn’t get over how fabulous it felt to be grown up once more, to feel two breasts protruding from her chest, to have something worth covering up.
”Found it!” Daniel yelled from inside a nearby cubicle. He soon came jogging over.
”That’s it!” Sara exclaimed. “Now what do we do?”
”I’ll reset it and we’ll see what happens,” Daniel panted. “Ready?”
”Of course I am!” Sara laughed, nearly losing her grip on the blanket. “Just make sure you don’t set it farther back. I’ve had enough kiddy time.”
”Well, you know,” Daniel said, smirking, “you were really cute at eight...”
Much to Daniel’s surprise, she opened the blanket for a second and flashed him a full view of her naked teenage body. “You really want to say goodbye to this?” she asked, skeptically.
Daniel was stunned for a moment.
”Quit fooling around,” Sara exhorted, closing the blanket. “Grow me back up please.”
”OK, OK,” Daniel said, still savoring that image in his head. Taking great pains to make sure he didn’t accidentally send Sara back down through another negative growth spurt, he carefully manipulated the watch’s settings and began clicking them forward, year by year. Currently, it read 1986. Then 1987 and so forth.
Much to Sara’s satisfaction, the effects started to take hold. With each click she advanced another year. She could feel the changes taking place underneath the blanket. Her bust size increased along with her height and weight. In mere seconds she reentered her early twenties and began to truly look like herself again. Then came her thirties. Both heaved a great sigh of relief.
”Welcome back,” Daniel said, as he made the final adjustment, bringing the year up to 2004. Again she embraced him, though this time she was tall enough to give him a kiss on the lips.
”God, I can’t tell you how good it feels.”
”Neither can I,” Daniel said, noticing something moving behind her. “Hey, what’s that?”
”What - what is it?” They both turned to look.
”Someone is back there.” In the dark, it was difficult to tell just who or what was moving toward them. Neither could make out the strange silhouette.
”Devra?” Daniel called out. “Is that you?”
”Oh, darn it all.” The shadowy figure spoke with a familiar raspy sneer. “Darn it all to heck.”
”Ms...... Madhat?” he ventured a second guess just in time to see the old woman emerge from the dark like a character in a horror film. “What in the hell are you doing here?”
”Precisely the question I would like to ask you,” she said, hobbling toward the aged couple with her knotty cane.
”I don’t understand.”
”You wouldn’t, would you?” the elderly witch replied with a hint of sarcasm in her gruff voice. “I was just sitting at home, minding my own business, knitting a new shawl, and along you two come. Think you’re so clever, do you? Saw through the old woman’s little spell, eh? Well, I hope you’re happy. I had a stew cooking too.”
”Hey, we’re the ones who were a little inconvenienced here,” Daniel snapped back. “Your curse turned us into little kids, for godsakes. If anyone owes anyone an apology, I think it’s you.”
Sara leaned over and whispered into Daniel’s ear. “Uhhh, baby, it might not be wise to piss off a witch...”
”I don’t care,” Daniel said. “We deserve an explanation.”
”What’s to explain?” Ms. Madhat remarked indifferently. “You’ve obviously figured out just how my curses work. Congratulations. I didn’t expect you to put up such a fight. But I guess I miscalculated this time.”
”This time?” Daniel asked. “How many times have you done this to people?”
”A woman’s got to make money however she can, sonny.” Ms. Madhat’s eyes sparkled - a distinct contrast from the rest of her. As before she was clothed like a traveling gypsy with some black carnival. She seemed both powerful and ineffectual, a strange match to be embodied by one person. A conjuror of dark magic and a shawl-knitting old woman.
”So what about us? What about the curse?”
”Well, it’s very simple, kids. Now that you have returned yourselves to normal by your own means, the curse has been broken,” Ms. Madhat spelled it out like an elementary school math teacher. “And it’s up to me to defer the effects.”
”What do you mean defer the effects?” Daniel said, wrapping his arm around Sara.
”The other party,” Ms. Madhat said. “Curses don’t just fly away into thin air when you break them, honey. Once you start a spell, you can’t go back.”
Still unclear, Daniel eyed the wrinkled old lady suspiciously. He wasn’t sure if he could ever trust a woman who so obviously lacked any scruples whatsoever. What’s to keep her from doing it again? he thought. She clearly possessed the power to shrink them right there on the spot. With both of them reduced to infancy or god knows what else, her secret would once again be safe.
”You two can run along now. There’s nothing more to tell you,” Ms. Madhat snorted.
Daniel and Sara decided it was best to let the perturbed old woman alone before she turned them both into toads or something worse.
”Let’s go, Sara,” Daniel said, moving toward the elevator for what he hoped would be the last time.
”Can we please take the stairs instead?” Sara asked shyly.
”I just - I don’t know. It scares me a little.”
”Of course we can,” Daniel said tenderly. The newly aged couple held hands and walked silently toward the other exit as the early morning light began to shine through the windows. “This time I’ll follow you down.”
Meanwhile, on the first floor...
”Good thing you kept Daniel’s keys,” Stephen said.
”They’re already here though. We’re too late. Damn it!” she said, pushing the “up” button.
Devra and Stephen, both looking haggard and depleted, examined the flashing floor number above the elevator. Noses still red from the cold, the worried “parents” exchanged frantic glances.
”The sixteenth floor. Why would they go there?” Stephen asked.
”Don’t you remember? That’s where they were making whoopie just before we stumbled on their clothes. Our little underage lovebirds.”
After a prolonged wait, the panicked pair boarded the elevator and selected “16.” On the ride up, they remained curiously mute. Occupying opposite sides of the elevator, the two of them could sense their plans unraveling. Both began to wonder in their separate ways just how their plans had gone so painfully awry. The walls were caving in and they knew it. Without a single word, Devra and Stephen effectively ended their relationship right then and there. As the elevator voice read off the floors, they both felt the distance between them increasing; it was as if the mechanized counter was ticking off the number of reasons why they could never be together, why this whole scheme was destined for failure. Though, at the moment, one seemed the most obvious: they had both misjudged their spouses.
As the elevator doors separated Devra and Stephen were met by the very woman who had instituted the disaster. Looking noticeably impatient and irritated, Ms. Madhat stood hunched over her cane like she was desperately in need of a chair.
”I expected you wouldn’t be far behind,” she wheezed.
”What happened? Have you seen Danny and Sara?” Devra asked, the aggravation already showing through in her voice. “Tell us, you old witch!”
”Oh my my, in a hurry, are we?”
”Yes, if you don’t mind. Since your little curse blew up in our faces, we’ve got to get matters under control ourselves,” Devra began to shout. “Now, tell us where they are and if we can salvage this.”
A creepy air came over Ms. Madhat. With her face pinched into a funny leer, she replied, as if Devra’s comments had provided her with no small amusement, “Oh, I assure you. It’s manageable.”
A long, uneasy pause followed.
”Well.....” Stephen said.
”Look, you two asked me to devise a way of ?minimizing’ your problems. I did that. You asked me to make the process a challenge for those involved. I did so. You signed a contract and I’ve fulfilled my obligations.”
”Fulfilled your obligations?” Devra pouted. “They were supposed to stay children! I should be diapering them and putting them in their jammies, not chasing them around downtown!”
Ms. Madhat seemed wholly unaffected by the criticism being leveled at her. In fact, her unconcern only served to further infuriate Devra. After all this trouble, all the time and money spent on this venture, Ms. Madhat would not own up to the slightest measure of culpability. Daniel and Sara had discovered the one loophole, even after Madhat had assured them that her curses had a one-hundred percent track record.
”Perhaps you would like to know where they’ve headed?”
”Yes, yes! Of course we do!” Devra snarled. Three months salary. Out the window.
”They’ve gone back downstairs,” Ms. Madhat informed them. “You can catch them if you take the elevator.”
”Finally,” Stephen said. “Let’s go, Dev.”
The riled partners again boarded the elevator. Even if they managed to catch their cheating spouses, the jig was up. Daniel and Sara had retrieved the watches and aged themselves. There was no way either would be coaxed into an agreement, much less submit to a second childhood. Devra’s blood boiled.
”You’ll be hearing from me!” she exclaimed as the doors sealed.
”Oh, I highly doubt that,” Ms. Madhat mumbled to herself.
In the stairwell...
Daniel held Sara as they descended cautiously. Despite assurances the curse was null and void, both harbored a queer new fear of elevation. With each step they couldn’t help but wonder if their bodies were changing, slowly inching backward in time. It was a Pavlovian response that would, no doubt, take some time to eliminate. By the thirteenth floor, it was clear that no such transformation was taking place. Sara and Daniel maintained their correct ages - he 35 and she 33. The world outside was once again theirs to explore. The curse had indeed dissipated.
”Oh, thank god,” Sara sighed, relieved the walk down would not strip away her maturity as it had two nights before. “I don’t think I could take another minute being young.”
”You sure?” Daniel said.
”Well, yeah...” Sara replied with an obvious tone. “I went through childhood once for real, you know. That’s enough for me.”
”But if you ever wanted to again... for some reason...”
Sara’s eyes widened when she realized what Daniel was hinting at.
”We have to make sure those watches never get lost,” she warned, a dire expression crossing over her face. “And I better not wake up some morning to find you playing around with mine.”
”You wouldn’t!” she cackled, pretending to hit him on the shoulder.
”Better watch out,” Daniel joked. “Didn’t you used to say you wanted to go braless...?”
”Braless, not boobless,” Sara giggled. Already the last two days started to fade into memory. Now that they had their old bodies back, they were free to be themselves again - both mentally and physically. It felt good to relax.
”You know I was thinking maybe we could move to LA, maybe get a...“
”Oh shit!” Daniel said, staring at his watch. “My watch. It’s running backwards again!”
”But that’s impossible. We’re on the tenth floor and nothing’s changed!” Sara said, feeling her pulse suddenly shoot up again. Alarmed, she started patting down her body to make sure everything was still in place. Then she checked her watch...
”Daniel, mine is doing the same thing!”
Meanwhile, in the elevator...
Devra and Stephen had traveled to the twenty-ninth floor before they began to notice an odd sensation enveloping them. It began like an itch or a tingling. Unusual but at the same time pleasurable. Neither had experienced anything quite like it. Gradually the phenomenon spread through their entire bodies like a wave or current.
”Dev, are you feeling this?” Stephen asked with an almost stoned expression.
”You’re feeling it too?” Devra was surprised she wasn’t alone in noticing the weird reaction taking over her limbs.
”Floor 27,” the voice chimed.
”Dev, man, you look... really good,” Stephen blurted out, rather awkwardly.
”Not so bad yourself,” Devra answered, feeling a gratifying surge of undiluted pleasure surround her breasts and groin. “Oh my god, this is fantastic!”
As the trip downward progressed, both began to notice the orgasmic tingling was not all that affected them. Stephen was the first to notice that Devra seemed different somehow. Her hair was cropped differently and her face seemed far less plagued by wrinkles. And the longer he watched the more conspicuous the changes became. If he didn’t know better, he would have guessed she was growing... younger.
Oh my god, he thought. It’s happening to us!
”Devra, Devra, honey!” he cried. “Look at yourself.”
Still reeling from the tide of bliss that had washed over her, Devra took a moment to respond, but when she did everything changed. First she held her hands before her eyes and marveled at the smoothness. The veins that normally shown through her skin seemed to have disappeared along with the flabbiness that had invaded her arms over the past two years.
Devra and Stephen looked at each other in amazement. Both looked no older than college seniors. That, coupled with the uncontrollable impulses racing through their bodies, filled them with a powerful lust. But that alone was not enough to distract them from the reality of their situation.
”Quick!” Devra hollered. “Hit a floor button. Now!”
Stephen hastily pressed the button for the nineteenth floor, but the number would not even stay lit. He tried again and again, but the elevator continued its descent uninterrupted. Even the emergency stop button failed to slow the car as it careened down the shaft.
By now the alterations in their physiques were dramatic. As the two revisited their high school days, the sexual sensation reached its peak. But neither could fully enjoy the experience because they knew full well what was happening. Devra’s clothes began to shift as they grew looser and looser. As she approached sixteen, her cheeks suddenly became puffier and rounder like her old yearbook photos. She no longer cast that imposing glare that used to make Daniel jump to attention.
”Do something!” she hissed. “We’re getting younger!”
”I can’t!” Stephen said, his voice cracking into a higher register. “None of the buttons work!”
Already Stephen’s dense, broad shoulders were shrinking into his shirt. He gulped as the sleeves began to slink down his increasingly skinny forearms. His face felt as if he had achieved the closest shave of his life - when in fact the hairs themselves were disappearing.
As the numbers closed in Devra’s really started to feel the effects. Her already-baggy pants sagged, then finally dropped to the floor altogether. In astonishment she grabbed her voluminous top, pulled it out, and peered down at her shrinking breasts. She panicked at the sight of her boobs as they reformed themselves into the mounds of a young teenager and eventually into measly bumps with erect nipples.
”We’ve got to stop this!” she yelled in her girlish voice.
”It’s useless!” Stephen repeated, fighting his own losing battle with time. By the fourteenth floor his arm hair had vanished, leaving the slick unembellished limbs of a boy.
Glancing at Devra, he received an even bigger shock. Gone was the forceful, well-defined woman that had orchestrated the grand revenge plot to take her husband down and in her place was a pleasing, modest little girl no older than twelve with buck teeth and fair sampling of freckles painted across the bridge of her nose.
”D-Dev?” Stephen stuttered in his new tenor.
The little girl looked up for a moment, with tears in her eyes, and surveyed what had become of her partner in crime. Stephen would do well to pass for an eleven-year-old. His sterling chest and impressive muscles were reduced to the flimsy appendages of a kid, and an adorable innocence had stolen his former manly charms. A shirt was now all the clothing he needed.
Devra started to cry, an entirely unnatural act for her. The once tough, uncompromising career woman had crossed the threshold of puberty - going the wrong direction. Now her assets were dwindling right before her eyes. What remained of her breasts finally gave way to an absent, bare chest, no longer that of a woman’s or even a teenager’s. As her development ran counterclockwise, Devra ceased to be anything but a scared little girl.
”This can’t be happening!” she sobbed. “I planned everything. Everything!”
But the inexorable decline continued, sucking the years away from the two of them like a time warp.
Stephen looked to be kindergarten. Devra appeared only a year or two his senior.
No way around it. The tables had turned and they were now the children. Somehow the spell was reversed and the perpetrators had become the victims. Just as Daniel and Sara had suffered the loss of their maturity, so would Devra and Stephen - only now it seemed there was truly no escape. They no longer had ally in Ms. Madhat and in a few brief moments they would find themselves downgraded to infants, pink, fleshy, uncoordinated poop machines that could only express themselves through high-pitched cries or contented coos.
Devra studied her partner as the elevator ride steadily erased his maturity.
Now a small, unexpectedly tubby little boy, Stephen was awash in a mountain of his own clothes. His pale cheeks inflated like two chewing gum bubbles. “Soft” and “cuddly” were two words that came to mind as she analyzed her former lover’s appearance. And she could hardly boast. The time reversal had made her into a dumpy, pug-nosed four-year-old.
”Pwease, noo!” she cried out, immediately regretting the sound of her pre-school voice.
”Floor 2,” the voice said.
Finally, Daniel and Sara set foot on the first level, though their entire walk down had been spent wondering aloud about the mysteriously resetting watches. Like most everything that had occurred over the last few days, it made little sense and the exhausted couple had learned not to question it all. Perhaps some things were better left unknown. The bottom line was: they were safe and back to their old ages.
”God, doesn’t it feel great to finally walk out of this building?” Daniel said.
”Better than sex,” Sara replied, still smiling.
”Wait, what’s that?”
The memorable dinging sound filled the empty lobby.
”The elevator,” Daniel said, pointing to the still-clasped steel doors. “Someone’s inside.”
Not able to resist the curiosity, Daniel and Sara turned back and watched as the doors slid open. What followed was more than either of them knew how to process. The elevator sported two young children, a boy and a girl, both swamped in adult clothing. The boy appeared to be the youngest, only about a year old, while the girl looked to be around two or thereabouts.
As Daniel and Sara drew nearer, the unbelievable truth dawned on them.
”Oh my god, Daniel. It’s them!” Sara exclaimed, getting a closer look at the boy. “It’s them!”
”It’s impossible... incredible.” He looked at his watch, which had reset itself yet again to 1970, and suddenly it clicked. The curse had come into balance.
Sara reached down into the crumpled stack of garments and picked up the chubby little boy, a men’s pair of underwear still dangling from his foot. And like the baby that he was, Stephen started to bawl, his squeals echoing in the vacant lobby.
”Oh my, Stephen,” Sara said, resting the bare child over the shoulder. “What’s happened to you?”
Daniel repeated this gesture with Devra, only the girl would not go so easily. After fending off much kicking and screaming, he managed to unearth the toddler from the remnants of her wardrobe. Her expression spoke volumes - a pronounced grimace reminiscent of her famous adult frown. But placed on her baby face, it did nothing but provoke an amused chuckle from Daniel.
”Awwww, she’s such a cutie-patootie!” Sara said, finally catching a close-up glimpse of the woman who had diapered her only hours before. Pinching her beet red cheek, Sara felt a strange motherly tug inside her.
Almost as magically as she had appeared before, Ms. Madhat rounded the corner, still shuffling along at a turtle’s pace.
”Wait,” Daniel said. “What do you expect us to do with them?”
”Oh, these things always work themselves out,” the decrepit old woman replied.
”But they’re babies now.”
”I gather you already have quite a bit of experience with that,” she said, shambling toward the entrance.
”What are we going to do?” Daniel asked again.
This time Sara answered, with a startlingly note of certainty in her voice, “I say we raise them.”
”What? Are you serious?”
”Care to start a family?” she asked cheerfully.”I don’t think we really have a choice.”
”Well,” he admitted, “this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.”
The morning sun, magnified by the reflection on the night’s snow, lit the Fairfax lobby with a bright, almost blinding white light. As Daniel and Sara stood scratching their heads, a mumbling Ms. Madhat slowly made her way out the front door and into the early morning cold. Daniel strained to make out the old woman’s ramblings but only caught one bit as she exited the building...
”Blast, doesn’t anyone read the small print?”