Written by: Personalias
Dante stared at the toothless boy who was shamelessly breastfeeding from the wet nurse. A lump formed in the back of Dante’s throat. Now he knew why Lysa, despite close to 60 years being treated this way, had never tried to escape. This place might not be Hell, but it was looking close enough the more Dante learned. For all it pretended to be a daycare center, Limbo still couldn’t change the fact that it was a prison for lost souls.
“Thanks for showing me that,” Dante said to Lysa, as the stroller started moving again. Midori had settled down after her brief, Lysa-trained tantrum. “These guys don’t mess around,” he added.
“Don’t worry about it,” Lysa responded, “I benefit just as much as you do.” Dante’s eyebrow cocked.
“What?” Lysa asked casually, as though Dante were asking a stupid question. “You think I’m trying to help you just out of the kindness of my heart? I’m a survivor, kid, not a savior. Dori cracked and went full baby years ago. Now she makes a good pet, but she’s a lousy conversationalist. If I don’t have an intelligent conversation every once in a while, I’ll go full baby too.” Dante’s feelings should have been hurt by this confession, but they weren’t. If anything, it made him like Lysa more. Greed and self-preservation were emotions that a man could trust. Ideals and sentimentality made someone unpredictable.
The ruthless, reptile part of Dante’s brain definitely liked Lysa. She was aggressive and obnoxious, but knowledgeable, and ruthless in her own way as well. She knew when to recognize emotions, and when to disregard them and go with logic.
It’s a shame she had ended up here, really. If she had gone to college like she had intended, she could have had a very productive life. Once Dante got the swing of things around here, this could turn into a beautiful and mutually beneficial friendship. The fact that Lysa was being so brutally honest about her reasons only cemented the partnership in Dante’s eyes.
“The Judy’s are getting better and better at their jobs every year.” the girl went on as the Newborn Room doors whirred open and the big babies were wheeled back into the main nursery, “and because of that I’m getting fewer and fewer people to shoot the poop with every year.”
“So if you train my mind up,” Dante finished her thought, “we can keep close by and keep each other from ending up like Dori.” Midori had heard her name and started babbling nonsensically from the Judy‘s back. Dante called back, “Love you too, Dori!” The babbling quieted.
“Exactly,” Lysa said, a small show of pride on her face. “You know, Dante, you’re pretty smart….when you’re not crying like a wimp or throwing a complete temper tantrum.” she giggled. She balled her hands into fists and placed them on her cheeks. She started rotating her fists to make the classic “cry baby” pose “Wah wah. I’m dead. Wah! Why didn’t they draw on my face?” Even Dante had to laugh at himself, remembering that performance earlier this morning.
“Oh yeah?” Dante said good naturedly, “You’re pretty good at getting sophisticated, and thoughtful, and deep….until you wet yourself.”
Lysa laughed, nodding her head. “Yeah, that’s the problem with getting philosophical around here: the more you talk, the better chance you have of peeing your pants right in the middle of it, and ruining the whole mood.”
“Then it’s a good thing neither of us are wearing pants, isn’t it?” he grinned. Lysa burst out into a full hysterical cackle. If she hadn’t been buckled in so tightly, she would have definitely been doubled over in laughter.
“Good one,” she said once she had regained enough composure to talk. She stuck her hand out for a high-five and Dante obliged her.
“So,” Dante asked. “How’d you and your sister end up here, on the same day no less?”
“Huh?” Lysa said, caught off guard. “Oh right, that. I figured you were gonna ask that. I’d rather not talk about it right now.” She looked away to avoid Dante’s gaze.
“Come on,” Dante gently nudged, “I’ll tell you my death, if you tell me yours.”
“You,” Lysa said pointedly, still not looking at Dante, “probably died acting like a party animal and a hot dog after drinking too much.” Damn. She had him in there. “Probably at some stupid early birthday party to celebrate your ‘man hood’”, she added. Ouch. This was the problem of having emotional breakdowns and ranting in front of smart girls. Against the better part of his valor, Dante still tingled with curiosity. Time for another tactic.
“Oh come on, Lysa,” he persisted. “It’s not like you murdered your little sister.” Lysa’s head whipped around and looked him dead in the eye.
“Her name is Caroline,” she spat, “and I did not murder her.”
“Well, what else am I to think with you doing the whole silent and guilty thing?” Dante asked, trying to sound innocent and failing miserably. “I mean, if you tell me the truth, there’s no way I’d think that you were responsible for Caroline’s death.”
“You want the truth?!” Lysa hissed. “Fine.” She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and then opened them.
“My father wasn’t what you would call a good man,” she began. “He drank and had a temper. Even when he was sober he had a temper, but especially when he drank. He used to beat my mother all the time. I was lucky to get even one baby sister, from all the miscarriages he caused. But the cops never looked into it. Damn sons of bitches” she cursed. Dante felt horrible and it must have shown. Lysa’s face softened, as did her tone.
“It was a different time,” Lysa said in explanation. As if that could explain it. “Anyway, soon after Caroline was born, he came home VERY drunk one night. More drunk than usual. When I woke up, he was shouting at my mother. Caroline was crying her head off. Something about the new baby ruining everything.
“Then,” she kept talking, “I heard my mother screaming; telling him to let the baby go. To stop shaking the baby.” The lump in Dante’s throat reformed. He had a sinking feeling about what was coming next. But he let her continue. He had asked for this after all.
“My mom’s screaming only got louder when the baby stopped. Dad decided to try and shut her up, so he started swinging on her too. Then she got real quiet.”, Lysa whispered. “I ran and took his hunting rifle from the fireplace mantle. Then I went and splattered his brains all over the silly clown wallpaper.” she shuddered.
“I had wanted to go to college, mostly so I could get out of that place. But after that, I knew there was no going to college. So I ran upstairs, took out his shaving razor,” Lysa took two fingers and raked them across her wrist, “and ended it the only way I could bear.” Through all this, Lysa didn’t even shed one single tear. Only the slightest tremble in her voice gave hint at any emotion resembling sadness. Poor girl had gone numb from the ages.
“Happy?” Lysa asked.
“No.” Dante answered.
“Good.”, she said.
“Man, that’s fucked up,” Dante exclaimed.
“Yeah, it is.” Lysa confirmed. They rolled on through twists in turns in silence for a few moments. “Oh look,” she said, her tone brightening as the grayish blue carpet gave way to checkered linoleum. “Lunchtime!”
They came upon what looked like a kitchen set-up. A white refrigerator sat in the corner. In the middle of the floor, about a dozen high chairs- most of them already occupied with babies of various ages- sat in a semicircle. Three more Judy’s: A ginger in a green dress, a tow-headed Judy in jeans and a white t-shirt with colorful handprints on it, and dark haired one in a cardigan sweater- had already begun spoon feeding their kids.
Dante hadn’t spotted this area yet either, but considering there were bottomless trashcans and magical supply cabinets, he supposed it was possible for the floors and play areas to change as they needed. This might have been like a giant “Room of Requirement” geared specifically for big babies.
“Sorry, we’re late gang,” the Judy in the scrubs said. “We just got done with a visit to Caroline.” The other Judy’s just nodded and said the equivalent of “don’t worry about it.” as their Judy walked over to three empty highchairs and began detaching the holding trays. They were the modern style high chairs, the kind designed to cradle the occupant as they were being spoon fed.
Dante’s eye was drawn to a group of three high-school age kids, two guys and a girl. This was partially because unlike the other children, they were locked into the old-fashioned style of highchairs, with a straight back and a hard seat.; their arms were all pinned to their sides. Mostly though, this was because they were all stripped naked save for their diapers. (What could he say? Dante’s eye was drawn to a decent rack.) Not even bibs adorned their persons, and their torsos were covered with some kind of glop. Baby food. All the Judy’s had plastic bowls full of the stuff placed on the trays.
“I just got them yesterday,” the redhead Judy in the green dress said to her cohorts. “They’re such fussy eaters that I don’t even bother to dress them for meal time. I just strip them out of their little outfits and redress them when they’re done.” The other Judy’s nodded their approval.
“Dante’s new too,” the blonde Judy in the scrubs said, “but he’s been a little angel all day.” She unbuckled Dante from the stroller and hoisted him up into the highchair. He could feel one of the boys staring at him. He swore he heard the word “freak” muttered as the tray was clicked into place. Fuck that guy. He was on the fast track to complete babification at this rate.
The three topless prisoners struggled against their bonds to no avail, as one at a time their Judy tried to spoon feed them. They twisted and turned their heads, resulting in most of the glop getting smeared on their cheeks instead of in their mouths. The fire in their eyes looked less threatening once you took in their current state of dress. One of them, not realizing that the stain would disappear on contact, spat food right at the redheaded Judy. The Judy did not even register it. She just persisted in trying to spoon feed the young man.
Suddenly, the girl wailed out, “NOT AGAAAAAIIIIN!” as she stared down between her legs. “Why can’t I go potty anymore?! I just wanna go home!” She broke down and started sobbing. The Judy in the green dress assured her that if she was a good girl and finished all of her num-nums, then she’d get changed into a nice, dry diaper before nap time. The girl nodded meekly and allowed herself to be fed. The other baby teens either pretended not to notice these goings on, or were really too far gone themselves to care.
Dante’s Judy went over to the refrigerator and brought out three bowls of much. It looked like it had the consistency and texture of applesauce, save that it was rainbow colored. Dante was worried, but a quick glance at Lysa showed her to be unconcerned. He thought about fighting it- he didn’t really want to be spoon fed, after all- but one look at the other three new arrivals made him think otherwise. Besides, his stomach reminded him, he was hungry. Other than the bottle of milk, he hadn’t eaten anything since he got here.
The Judy tied a bib around Dante and his two companion’s necks. Midori’s read: “Spit Up Happens.” Lysa’s had “Lunch is on ME!” written on hers. He looked down at his own, and read it upside down. His own bib said, “SIMH L Stuck In My Highchair.” Great. These were angel moms with a sense of humor.
The Judy took out a rubber tipped spoon and dipped it into the rainbow colored glop. Dante opened her mouth and she spooned it right in. Thank goodness she wasn’t doing the stupid “here comes the choo-choo train” routine. He was feeling too hungry right now to want to wait on some stupid game.
The glop wasn’t bad at all. It was chilled from the refrigerator, and actually tasted a little bit like an applesauce slushy. What caught Dante off guard, though, was how the stuff expanded in his mouth a moment after touching his tongue. His cheeks puffed out as his mouth became more crowded, and Dante swallowed the stuff down as fast as he could. A little bit of the stuff burst from his unprepared lips and dribbled out onto his chin, sliding down onto the bib.
“Whoops!” the Judy cried out, not actually sounding surprised, as she used the baby spoon to scrape some of the food off of Dante’s chin. “Good thing we put that bib on you, huh Dante?” Instantly Dante realized that this food was designed to make him need a bib and thus feel more dependent, more helpless, more babyish. Rather than losing his cool, Dante just smiled, nodded, and pretended he was giving her the middle finger.
“Thassa good boy!” the Judy praised. “Now give me just two more bites, and it‘ll be Lysa’s turn, then Midori‘s turn, then yours again.” Dante accepted that he couldn’t do anything to make this situation better, and accepted the two spoonfuls, mouth exploding applesauce and all.
Then, their Judy went to Lysa and did a similar routine. Three spoonfuls, then switch. Then to Midori. Then back to Dante. This routine continued till the Judy was scraping the bottom of the bowl and Dante was feeling good and full. The other babies were finishing up at about the same time.
“All gone,” Dante’s Judy proclaimed as she spooned in the last of the expanding glop past Dante’s lips. There wasn’t even enough left to leak out of his mouth, so Dante just gulped the stuff down. “Now, time for a milky ba-ba and a niiiiiice nap.” the Judy said as she collected the bowls, threw them down a bottomless trashcan, went to the fridge.
Dante shot Lysa a look. “I thought you said…?” he began.
“I said they feed us the milk AT LEAST twice a day.” Lysa interrupted. “Sometimes they do more. I’m guessing it’s because of those three.” she said, indicating the three struggling prisoners in nothing but their diapers. “They wouldn‘t calm down enough.”, she said.
The ginger Judy in the green dress had already managed to force the nipple of one bottle past the lips of one of the struggling boys, and his eyes had gone vacant. The Judy let out his tray enough so he could move his arms and hold up the bottle himself. The broken girl in the wet diaper accepted hers without struggle and was just starting to smile from behind her bottle.
“When someone makes a lot of trouble here,” Lysa said, “they make it harder on all of us. Just let it happen,” she sighed resignedly, “and it’ll be over with before you know it.”
Dante did his own sigh, as the Judy in the scrubs handed him a bottle filled with the milk of human kindness. He accepted it and drank in the creamy liquid.
Instantly, his cares melted away as his thoughts became more infantile. He was engulfed in a sense of peace and serenity. He was so lucky to be here, he reflected. It was as if everything was going to be okay, no matter what. Dante could literally do no wrong here. He could play all day, or laze around, even pee himself, and no one would scold him. No Mrs. Applegate to quiz him. No parents to lecture him. This ruled!
Even though in the back of his mind, he knew this was all a lie, honestly, it wasn’t that different from being drunk. When you’re drunk you can rush to the bathroom, puke up the 5 rum and cokes you just power chugged, clean up a little bit, look in the mirror, and say “Damn, I look good.” Then go back to the party for more rum and cokes. You know you don’t really look that good, and you know it’s all a booze induced feeling of euphoria; but right then, you don’t really care because you’re euphoric. This was even better though, because there was no hangover, guaranteed. This milk got rid of hangovers.
Mama Judy took his empty ba-ba away, wiped his face with the bib, and unlocked the tray. She had been so good to him today. She checked his diaper and told him that he was dry (though he likely wouldn’t be for very long, not that it mattered.)
He could pee-pee in her arms right now, and she wouldn’t get mad. If he was really lucky, maybe Mama Judy and her friend in the green dress would have another race using him and the topless girl. That way he could “accidentally” cop a feel on her while he was having his penis wiped and stroked by Mama Judy. Dante’s padded crotch crinkled a little as his nether regions readjusted themselves at this thought.
Still dry, Dante made Mama Judy proud by giving two loud burps as she patted his back. Then she carried him out of the kitchen area and around a corner into an area with extra-large cribs. Mama Judy laid him down on his back in one of the cribs.
Looking up, Dante could see a mobile hanging over him. Stars, the sun and the moon, and the a comet all hung over Dante‘s head. Even better, they all had smiley faces painted on them. They were all happy celestial bodies! (Weird that Dante could remember the term “celestials,” but still couldn’t think of a synonym for potty.) Still tripping, Dante reached up for the plastic bodies, not even thinking to sit up. It was comfortable in this crib, and he didn’t want to sit up anyways. His hand didn’t even come close to grasping them.
Mama Judy reached up and flicked a switch. The mobile started turning, a soft mechanical whirring the only indication that it wasn’t magic. Dante had never been to a Pink Floyd concert, but he assumed it must be a lot like this. He was in awe.
“Sleep tight, little Dante,” Mama Judy cooed. “See you after your nappy nap.”
Entranced by the mobile, and high as a kite from the milk, Dante didn’t even hear Mama Judy as she left to go get his friends. Instead, he drifted off into a dreamless slumber just after popping his thumb into his mouth.
To Be Continued…