Written by: Personalias
Dante immediately told Lysa the next morning about the horrible nightmare he had had the next morning. “Don’t let it rattle you,” Lysa had told him. “It was just your typical survivor’s dream. We all have it from time to time. It’s perfectly natural.”
“But it seemed so real,” Dante had said to her.
“Homesickness is a bitch.” she smiled sadly. “Anyways, let’s just focus on you getting used to this place.”
It had been a little over two weeks since then. Much like spending two weeks at summer camp, where you’re kept constantly busy and away from everything and everyone that was familiar, it felt much longer. Two weeks of constant babying- the scheduled feedings, the naps, the stupid activities and playtime, and of course the diapers- made Dante feel like he’d been there for a month, not half of one.
After a rough first day, Lysa and Dante had really hit it off. They did everything together. They played, ate, and bathed together, but mostly they just talked. And talked. And talked. And talked. Dante felt as if he already knew more about her than he knew about any other girl he had ever met. (Not hard, considering his past, but still cool.)
They knew each other’s favor color, (Him: Blue Her: Purple), favorite book, (Him: I am the Cheese. Her: Frankenstein) favorite movie (Duck Soup for both of them oddly enough.) and favorite song (Him: Gotta’ Keep ’Em Separated. Her: Paper Moon). For her part, Lysa was fascinated on what had been going on in the living world when last Dante left it. So intense was her questioning, that at times it felt more like an interrogation at times.
“Who’s the president, now?” she asked one day.
“Barack Obama.” he answered.
“Of America, I mean.” she clarified.
“No, that’s his name. He’s black…er…Negro” he replied. Lysa rolled her eyes.
“I know what ‘black’ means, you big dope.” Lysa informed Dante. “I’m lost to current events, not language. Wait. Black President? Seriously?”
Lysa thought about it for a moment then tilted her head sideways. “Huh…neat.” That was pretty open minded for a girl who had died the same year Brown v. The Board of Education was decided.
“What kind of music do people listen to, now?” From president and straight to top 40. That was how Lysa’s mind worked.
“Um…let’s see,” Dante began. “There’s a lot. There’s Alternative, Punk, House, Acid House, Metal, Hip-Hop, Folk, R&B, Blue Grass, Pop, Blues, Electro, Dub-Step, Fusion, Ska, Gangsta Rap, Grunge, Goth, Industrial, Goth-Industrial, Alternative Hip-Hop-”
“Stop!“ Lysa cut him off. “What I really wanted to say was, ‘Is Rock n’ Roll still around?’”
“Yeah, that’s what I just said.” Dante remarked. “Rock n’ Roll kind of evolved and split off into a bunch of different branches and some new styles were invented and thrown into the mix. Your Rock n’ Roll is all on the oldies stations now.” That that had him a playful shove that knocked him flat. Playful. Yeah. At least she had been smiling that time. Consult mental note made on first day.
The only thing that interrupted their long talk sessions, was Lysa’s visits to the newborn room. She visited Caroline once a week. Unlike the first time, she visited her baby sister alone, leaving Dante and Midori without her presence.
That didn‘t mean Dante was ever truly unsupervised though. Another Judy always came to watch over Dante while Lysa and the Judy in the nursery scrubs had been gone. One time, the Judy with the green dress had babysat him, and brought over her wards. Dante had tried to explain things to the other kids- as an act of kindness- but none of them seemed to buy it or even want to talk about it. They had completely rejected any and all outside help. By then, they had all also developed an unconscious need to have something in their mouths at all times. Dante didn’t bother to learn their names. Soon enough, he figured, they wouldn’t need them anymore.
As Dante sat in the highchair today, awaiting his next dose of mush and milk, he couldn’t get Lysa out of his head. All and all, she was pretty damn cool. Not just for a girl, for anybody. If only. Crap. Was he starting to crush on a dead chick? Worse yet, was he starting to get a crush on a girl who- were she still alive- was old enough to be his grandmother? Was Lysa a G.I.L.F. ? One thing at a time, Dante. One thing at a time.
The Judy’s had also caught on to their blossoming relationship…friendship. The Judy who watched over them regularly had dressed them similarly every day this past week, usually modifying them so Lysa’s outfit was decidedly more feminine. When Dante was put in a green onesie, Lysa had been dressed in a pink one with a completely pointless skirt attached.. When he had been dressed in a blue romper with a baby bee on the front, she was put in a pure white romper with a violet on the front. When she was clothed in a frilly purple dress with puffy sleeves, they dressed him in Navy Blue Shortalls with a baby polo shirt (Yes, something resembling pants!)
This morning, as Midori chomped away on her not-quite-baby cereal in her bib and yellow checkered sun dress, Dante and Lysa were wearing solid, blue and purple baby t-shirts and diapers. What sicko invented these, anyways? The shirts didn’t even pretend to cover their diapers. The hemline of the shirt literally stopped centimeters from the diaper’s waste band. There was literally no concealment whatsoever. If he and Lysa had been wearing shirts like that as teens, he would have been called gay and she a slut. Right now, they were “adorable”. Stupid fucking backwards double standards.
That was another thing- the weird backwardness of babyhood: As an adult, (or at least close to one), Dante would go to a special table to eat all his meals. A while later, when the food worked its way through his system, he would go sit on a special chair designed to get rid of the mess that his body produced. Now, as a giant baby, Dante went to a specially designed chair to eat all his meals, and later, after the food worked through his system, he would go to a special table designed to clean up the mess that his body produced. All he needed right now was a bad Russian accent, and he could be a big baby Yakov Smirnoff. (In Soviet Russia, Diaper Change You!)
Hmmm, maybe that was Dante’s anchor, social commentary and ironic inner monologues. Heh. An ironic anchor. Word play. Loved it. That was another obstacle: Dante had yet to find an anchor; something he was so passionate about that it made up a piece of his adult identity that he could cling to instead of regressing.
He tried painting, but it did nothing for him. He just wasn’t any good at it.
“It’s not about talent,” Vivian the painter girl had told him. “It’s about loving what you’re doing. I couldn’t paint for beans when I first got here. I had always wanted to try though. This is what a decade of practice will do for you.” she held up a finger paint recreation of Van Gough’s “Starry Night”.
“It’s not even about improvement.” Kevin the play-doh kid added later that day. “I’ve been here for about 18 years, and this stupid doll is the best thing I can make.” He pointed to the Mr. Bill look-alike, as well as several more identical versions on the plastic play mat. “The thing is, every day, this junk gets torn apart, rolled back into little balls, and stuffed back into the containers. My goal is to see how many I can make in a given day. Maybe eventually, I’ll make so many that the nursery will run out of play-doh, or the Judy’s will get tired of cleaning up after me and leave these creepy little things be. I know it’s a Sisyphean task, but it keeps me going.
“What? I died as a nine-year-old, so I can’t know the meaning of the word ‘Sisyphean’ ?”
Even Jamal had added in his two cents. “Look man, find something to pass the time besides cuddling with teddy bears and pissing in your britches. This place is like any joint; you can make it if you just find a way to pass the time without losing your mind. Oh yeah, and fuck you.”
Dante had tried everything with little to no success. Forget learning sign language. Playing with blocks has the exact opposite effect on him as he felt especially juvenile with those. He must have played with blocks a lot as a real infant. He had never had any little brothers or sisters, so playing with actual babies just felt awkward and bored him to tears. Even his walker was losing its initial thrill. Playing pretend car just didn‘t compare to the genuine article and made him seem more infantile. He needed something real to hold onto.
Speaking of “pretend”, playing “Dress up” seemed asinine to Dante. He was already dressed up like a baby, why did he need to dress up even more? Oh look…he put on a hat, now he’s a baby policeman. Oh joy, a white coat, now he’s a baby doctor….woooooh. (Thank goodness he hadn’t regressed too far, so he could still maintain a difference between “dressed as a baby” and just “dressed”.)
But Dante had regressed, anyway. Not as fast as some had, though. The three rebels from his first day now sat comfortably in cradling high chairs, dressed in baby clothes and bibs and behaving well. When they talked at all, it was in short bursts with infantile language and pronunciation, such as “Pwease” and “Fankyou”. Dante swore he saw the Judy in the green dress mouth the words “Not long now” to her fellow angel nannies.
Dante was slipping, still. He could feel it. On more than one occasion, Dante had been genuinely surprised when a Judy checked his diaper and found it wet. Originally, he had enough warning from his bladder to know that the dam was bursting. That was happening less and less.
Now he was constantly worrying whether or not he was wet or dry. He literally had to rub the front of his diaper to be able to tell. Hell, he was beginning to be unable to tell the difference between wet and dry at all! Even the smell of a wet diaper didn’t register to him anymore. It was like when you’re in a chain smoker’s house so long that you don’t notice how everything in there smells like smoke until you step inside into the clean fresh air.
Yesterday, he was sure that he had pooped his diaper and not realized it. He had just zoned out for a moment- no more than a daydream- and when he came to, he was sitting in his own mess.
What was creepier; strange, alien thoughts were creeping into his head. Thoughts like: “What would that taste like if I put it in my mouth?”, or “If I cry loud enough, mommy will pay more attention to me.”
He kept most of this from Lysa as much as he could. She didn’t need to worry about this. She needed him for companionship, just as badly as he needed her for staying sane. She already knew he was looking for an anchor and hadn’t found it, yet. (She being as close as he got to an anchor right now.) No need to worry her with some kind of countdown clock
Oddly enough, immediately following breakfast, Dante and his friends did not get a bottle of milk. Instead they were taken directly to their playpen while the Judy in the nursery scrubs bustled around, making herself look busy. That was weird, normally right after breakfast was bottles and burping, following by trip time as the angel milk affected their minds.
“What’s going on?” Dante asked Lysa once they were set down in the pen.
“Must be communion day,” Lysa whispered back.
“Like with the wafers and grape juice?” Dante asked.
“No.” Lysa smiled. It was a sad smile, nervous too. “It’s where they take us to right outside the gates of Heaven and we visit with our relatives that made it in.”
Really? Dante would get to see someone who wasn’t in diapers that wasn’t a Judy? “Don’t get too excited though,” Lysa cut off Dante’s train of thought. “They still see and talk to us as if we were babies. Personally, I think it’s just another elaborate form of brainwashing.”
Meanwhile, the Judy was busy stuffing two diaper bags full of supplies.
“Let’s see,” the Judy said to herself, “Wipes? Check. Bottles of Juice? Check. Bottles of Milk? Double Check. Baby food? Check. Pacifiers? Check. Toys? Check. Book? Check. Changing mat? Check. Extra clothes in case of an accident? Check. What else? Oh my God!” The Judy laughed at herself. “Diapers! I almost forgot the diapers. How silly of me, they would have killed me if I hadn’t packed any diapers. Helllooooo Judy!” she smacked herself lightly in the forehead.
“It’s the closest thing a lot of these Judy’s get to a day off.” Lysa told Dante. “Not that they really need one.”
“Huh,” Dante remarked, “Why is she only packing two diaper bags, then?”
“Midori’s not going,” Lysa said quickly.
“She doesn’t have any ancestors that are in Heaven?” Dante asked.
“Well,” she thought for a moment, “she’s been dead for only a little over 11 or 12 years. Her parents are probably still alive. Her grandparents might be too.”
“What about other ancestors?” Dante asked.
Lysa shrugged. “For some reason, they never introduce you to people in your family who died before you were born. Same thing goes with family members that never knew you existed.”
Dante scratched his head at that. “I guess long lost relatives are too much of a hassle.” Dante chuckled at a thought. “Heck, if you take the Bible literally, we’re all descended from Adam and Eve.”
“Yeah,” Lysa allowed herself a smirk, “I guess there’s something to be said against extended families. Besides, wouldn’t it suck to find out that you and I were somehow distantly related?” She winked at him.
“Uh huh,” Dante nodded, starting to drool slightly. “Wait, we’re not related, are we?”
“No.” Lysa laughed. “At least you don’t look like anyone from my family.”
Speaking of which…“Wait, why are you going?” Dante questioned. “I thought you said your father killed your family.”
“Yes,” Lysa rolled her eyes, “and we all know that murdered people don’t go to Heaven.”
Before Dante could ask any more questions, their Judy came, scooped the two rugrats up, and buckled them into the twin stroller, diaper bags loaded. Midori waved goodbye from her playpen, as the Judy in the green dress wordlessly approached and they strolled off. As their stroller was wheeled around the corner, Dante and Lysa were pushed out a door that definitely hadn’t existed until right before that moment.
After weeks indoors, the blast of sunlight, tyrannical sunlight…barely did anything to Dante. It was actually surprisingly gentle. He wasn’t blinded at all. Dante winced from expectation, more than from anything else.
Dante looked around from the stroller. Below his feet, was what looked like smoothed blocks of paved concrete, like a sidewalk. It wasn’t very wide, either. Dante estimated that maybe two strollers of this size could fit on it, but not much more. The Judy was walking on the right side of the sidewalk, and since Dante’s baby blue half of the stroller was on the left, he was on the inside of the track.
Looking outward, on the left and right of the floating sidewalk, Dante saw a ten foot drop, and only clouds after that. No ground or sky below, only clouds. You couldn’t see anything else. It was like all of those cartoons of the afterlife, where angels walked on clouds as easily as if they were solid. Only difference here, no on was walking on these clouds.
“Where is this?” he finally asked Lysa.
“They call it the narrow path.” she said. Well named.
“Aaaand, what happens if you go off the narrow path?” he wondered.
“You fall.” Lysa told him flatly. “Very. Very. Far.” Dante didn’t need to ask any more questions on that.
About twenty feet ahead, Dante could see another stroller, with a Judy pushing it. Ahead of that stroller in the distance, was another stroller. Beyond that was another stroller. Dante was pretty sure that behind them, soon enough, would be another stroller. They moved steadily for about 15 minutes of relative silent.
“So,” Lysa broke the silence, “who do you think you’re going to meet here? Why are you coming along for communion?”
Dante shrugged and searched his memory. “I dunno” he said finally. “My parents aren’t dead yet. I hope. Maybe they died in a car crash coming to try and save me. Maybe they committed suicide. Probably not, though. I hope.” Dante didn’t like the idea of talking about his mom and dad being dead. It felt like he were wishing death upon them. Then again, it wasn’t so bad if you ended up in Heaven. Limbo or Hell though…Dante shuddered.
“If they killed themselves and were older than us, they probably wouldn’t have gone to Heaven.” Lysa added. “But don’t’ worry. You’re young to be dead right now. So it’s probably not them.” Lysa was probably right. Who could it be though?
What must have been Heaven came into view in the distance. Tall spires and glorious palaces rose on the horizon. Bright lights and auras shone forth. There were two suns right now. Dante didn’t know how he knew, but this was Heaven. It’s like how one knows Disney World as soon as the giant Mickey ears come into view. There was something hardwired into his brain to recognize this place and know what it is. This though was the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, Disney World, and the Emerald City of Oz all rolled up into one and multiplied times infinity. Since the Tower of Babel, no human language has been able to accurately describe Its grandeur.
Just as it came into sight, the strollers ahead of Dante seemed closer. Just like at Disney, the line was starting to slow down and condense. Dante heard the crying of other babified Limbo inhabitants as the line grew more packed, their Judy’s doted on them as if they were just fussy infants, which most were- in mind if not always in body.
“Sooo…” Dante asked to break the silence. “You ever been in?”
Lysa smirked. “Nope. Never will either. They’ll let moms, dads, uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents come out and play with us, but we never get to go in. At least the walls aren’t too high so we can see some- Turn your head!” She cut herself off as her eyes widened. Dante immediately snapped his head around the other direction. Lysa was peeing.
A few minutes later, their Judy checked their diapers and declared both of them wet. She pressed a button on their stroller and their seats tilted back. Then she came around and changed them. Dante and Lysa held each other’s hands while the angel did her work. Proclaiming both done and “aaaalll better”, she balled up the used diapers and tossed them over the side of the floating sidewalk. Dante watched as the clouds swallowed them up.
“You know you could have told me you were wet too,” Lysa chided Dante. “I would have looked away while you were going.” Dante looked ashamed. Dante hadn’t even realized he was wet. “Typical boy,” she giggled nervously, “you’ll go anywhere in front of anyone.” Her giggle didn’t hide anything. She knew he was starting to lose it. She knew.
As they got closer, the clouds rolled up next to the sidewalk and were replaced by green grassy fields. Lush, green grass rolled around with big shady trees. It looked a lot like an old fashioned park. All around, Dante saw families playing with children. As expected, regardless of actual physical age, each “child” was dressed as though they were no more than a year old. Dante even saw some actual newborns being cradled. Sad to have died so young, but at least they were with their parents now.
“Let me guess,” Dante said turning his head to Lysa, “Elysian fields?”
“Got it in one.” Lysa confirmed. “Though I’ve heard the Judy’s refer to it as ‘The Garden’ before. Probably Eden.”
“Either way,” Dante added, “it’s the archetype of a natural paradise.”
“Yeah,” Lysa agreed, “I can think of worse places to spend time away from the nursery at.” Dante couldn’t argue with that.
The sidewalk ended at a patch of grass. The gates of Heaven were still far off in the distance, but Dante saw no further strollers. There was a small tent labeled “Limbo Stroller Parking” that Dante saw another Judy push an empty stroller into it. Looks like he was now at the front of the line.
Two figures walked up to the stroller. A man and a woman; vaguely familiar. The woman had her gray hair put up in a bun. She had laugh lines on her face and silvery gray eyes. Her blue blouse and ankle length gray skirt complimented her sandals and unpainted toe-nails. The man kept his white hair trimmed short and close cropped. His blue eyes didn’t match his red and white checkered shirt. Nor did the shirt go particularly well with his blue suspenders, gray pants, and black loafers. Still, he had a self-assured smirk that Dante had inherited and a nose that unmistakably belonged to his father.
He remembered! His Grandparents! It had been over a decade since he had seen either one alive. His grandfather had died of cancer when he was a little over two years old, and his grandmother had died from a stroke two years later. As a result, most of Dante’s memories of them weren’t actual memories, but stories that his parents had told him so often, that the stories had become the memories.
They looked almost exactly like they did in his baby pictures. Old, but fit, strong, and healthy. If there was such a thing as being “in their prime” and “elderly” at the same time, these two looked it.
As soon as he recognized them, Dante’s hands shot down to cover his diaper. “Don’t bother,” Lysa told him flatly. “It’s not like they recognize you as anything other than a baby, anyways.
His grandma ran towards the stroller. “My grandbaby!” she squealed as she repeatedly pecked his cheeks and forehead with kisses. She smelled of lilacs. His grandpa strolled up and knelt down; he smelled of tobacco and peppermint.
His grandpa took Dante’s hand in his own and said, “Well hello there, grandson.” before dramatically grasping his arm in mock pain. “Ow, ow, ow!” his grandpa said, withdrawing his hand and shaking it in the air as if it had been in a vice. Dante hadn‘t even squeezed. “Quite a grip yah got there. Yer gettin’ strong, yessir.” Dante wasn’t sure what to do, so he just stared. “Hmm,” his grandfather said when Dante didn’t respond, “he used ta love that one. “
“Frank,” Dante’s grandmother said to his grandpa, “he was two back then. Now he’s too young to get that joke.” So they did remember him being older. For some reason, they only thought he was a baby now. Did senility develop and carry on after death? Grandma unbuckled Dante from the stroller and hoisted him up on her hip with nary a groan or grunt. She shouldn’t have been able to do that.
Maybe the Judy’s weren‘t actually super strong. Maybe something had been done to Dante and the other “babies” do make them easier to move and pick up. Or maybe this was all an elaborate disguise and attempt at deception. Who says that angels couldn’t shape shift?
The Judy handed his grandfather the blue diaper bag. She started talking to them. “I made sure to pack everything you’ll need for the day. Diapers, wipes, bottles, toys-”
“Thank you kindly, Miss Judy.” Grandpa said cutting her off. “But we’ve had yungins before, ma’am. We can handle ol’ Dante for a couple a’ hours.” The Judy smiled graciously and nodded. The three of them turned away and began to walk through the fields. Dante looked back and saw another elderly couple approach the stroller and pick Lysa up. They looked about Grandma and Grandpa’s age. They must have been her grandparents.
Grandma carried Dante as easily as any Judy. Grandpa was constantly shifting the diaper bag from shoulder to shoulder, never comfortable. “Geez Molly,” he joked, “I think they packed enough stuff in this baby bag to make a whole ‘nother baby.”
“I offered to carry the bag, Frank,” Grandma replied, “but you insisted.”
“I did.” Grandpa confirmed, giving Grandma a smirk, his eyes gazing lovingly into her eyes.
Grandma returned the smile and patted Dante’s bum. “His mother and I had just managed to get him out of diapers when I last saw him.” she sighed, “Now he’s right back in them.”
“Why do you s’pose they’re turned back into babies anyways?” Grandpa asked.
“Some things we weren’t meant to know.” Grandma answered. “Maybe it’s to lessen the pain from being separated from the Heavenly Host. Maybe things are just simpler at this age.”
“I’m not a baby,” Dante jumped into the conversation. “Seriously, I’m not. I’m just dressed as one.”
“That’s right, Dante!” Grandma cooed at him. “You’re just our little man, now. Oh but you’re soooo cute!” Great. They acted as though he were a baby too. Maybe these two really were Judy’s. The Judy’s ignored his speech and treated it as baby babble. Then again, the Judy’s refused to acknowledge that he was ever anything other than a baby. When he had first arrived in Limbo, one had looked at his soiled briefs and insisted that they were a ruined cloth diaper. Grandma remembered him being potty trained at one point. Fuck. It was getting harder for Dante to remember being potty trained.
“How do you think Bob and Julie are holding up?” Grandpa asked, continuing the conversation.
“Not well I’d imagine,” Grandma said.
“Nope. I reckon not. We’ll have to pray for them- see if we can convince an angel to watch over them for a while.”
They came to a shady oak tree. A checkered picnic blanket that matched Grandpa’s shirt and straw basket waited for them. There were even some backless benches nearby to sit on.
“Here we are.” Grandma announced. “And it looks like everything is where we left it.” She set Dante down in the middle of the picnic blanket.
“Course it is, Molly,” Grandpa chuckled, “who ‘round here would steal anything?”. He set the diaper bag down by the edge of the blanket.
“Oh quit picking on me!” Dante’s grandmother slapped Grandpa playfully on the shoulder. “Anyways, it’s time for Grandma to play with her grandbaby!” She sat down in front of Dante and covered her eyes. “Wheeeere’s Grnadma?” she said. She uncovered her eyes. “There she is!” She repeated the game. “Wheeeeere’s Grandma?! There she is!”
Dante just stared at his grandmother and shook his head slightly. “Seriously Grandma? Seriously?”.
If she didn’t understand the words, Grandma obviously understood the tone. Her face drooped a little in disappointment. Then she tried covering his eyes. “Where’s Dante?”
Dante felt a little guilty. It wasn’t her fault that he wasn’t actually a baby. A normal baby would have found this entertaining as all hell. A very small part of him that he was fighting was enjoying the attention, even if he did know where Dante was. He decided to humor her a little bit.
“There he is!” she squealed as she uncovered Dante’s eyes. Dante made his eyes widen in surprise and a big stupid grin spread across his face as he giggled and clapped his hands. Grandma’s face lit up, and she covered her eyes again. “Wheeeeeere’s Dante?”
Dante rolled his eyes, while his grandmother’s She was getting more of a kick out of this than he was. This must have been what it was like for Lysa when she faked baby to get something from the Judy‘s. This time though, it wasn’t to manipulate someone as much to make them happy. This process repeated itself for lightning rounds of “patty cake”, “got your nose”, and “bouncy bouncy“ as he was bounced up and down on Grandma‘s knee. It’s a good thing he was already dead, because Dante’s overriding thought was “Somebody kill me.”
Dante’s grandfather took Dante off of Grandma’s knee when she was done. “Oh come on Molly, he might be a baby again, but he’s not a baby baby. He‘s too old for most of this stuff.” Grandpa paused for a moment. “But you know what he’s not too old for?“ He flashed Dante that inherited smile of his. “A piggy back ride!”
Dante was almost immediately slung over his grandfather’s back, his hands hanging on for dear life, while his legs were supported. Grandpa took off running and Dante bounced along for the ride. The wind whipped through Dante’s hair as Grandpa dashed through the field at incredible speed. For an old, dead guy who died of lung cancer, Grandpa had the stamina and speed of an Olympic athlete. Heaven must have a heck of a health plan and Grandpa had cashed in on the gym membership.
Now THIS was fun! Other families pointed, smiled, then quickly became blurs in the distance as Grandpa long distance sprinted past. Dante couldn’t help but shriek with delight. This was the closest thing he had had to a thrill ride or roller coaster since he had died. This was a rush!
Much too soon, the ride stopped, and Dante was back at the picnic blanket with Grandma. Grandpa was panting heavily, though maybe a little too heavily to be real.
“Strained yourself, didn’t you?” Grandma smiled.
“Jest a little,” Grandpa panted. “I’m too old to be a good piggy.” he said, Dante still on his back. “Buuuut…I’m a terrific horsie!” Grandpa dropped to all fours and started trotting around the picnic blanket.
“Hahahah!” Dante laughed. This was hilarious. This was great. The weird part was, Dante didn’t feel like this was causing him to him to regress. He was enjoying this, but it was because of pure nostalgia. They were treating him like a baby, sure, but for some reason, it felt like they were treating him like a baby person, not just some dumb pet.
“Careful now!” Grandma warned, as Grandpa bucked and Dante rolled right off of Grandpa’s back, tumbling to the blanket covered ground.
“He might be a baby again, Molly,” Grandpa said. “but he’s still all boy.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Grandma agreed
They started talking about bringing a push cart on his next visit, something to really get momentum. Dante started to zone out. He felt like something was off. He felt plugged up, like something was blocking his own personal feng shui. Like he was a clogged up pipe. All it would take would be one final blow. On instinct, Dante decided to blow. He imagined himself blowing air through his entire body, and moving all of the negative energy out. His cheeks puffed out like he was holding his breath.
Grandma and Grandpa stopped their conversation to look at Dante, on all fours with his cheeks puffed out. “Awww, look at that, Frank,” Grandma said, “ just like when Bobby was that age.”
“You know what that means,” Grandpa chuckled and shook his head.
“I know. I’ll get the diaper bag.”
There. All done. All cleared. Dante felt great now. His Grandma had already spread out a changing mat behind him and pushed Dante back onto it.
“Hey what gives?” Dante yelped in surprise. Then Dante felt the mess spread in the back of his diaper as he was laid down and the smell his nose. Oh. Oh. She had already laid aside a fresh diaper and a tub of wipes.
Dante hid his face in his hands.. He had already accepted the Judy’s as basically nanny robots. But his grandparents seemed like actual people. Not only had he pooped himself without realizing it- again- but now actual people were going to wipe his ass for him.
He grit his teeth, as Grandma opened the diaper and used the front of it to wipe the bulk of the poop off of him. He felt a lump form in his throat as his gag reflex kicked in- a mixture of the smell and his own humiliation. “Wheeeeere’s Dante?!” was all his Grandma said, his face behind his hands, as she dragged cold baby wipes across his backside.
“Heh,” his grandfather smirked, looking over Grandma’s shoulder, “must take after his mother‘s side of the family.” HUH?! Was his grandfather laughing at the size of his penis?! Now that’s just plain messed up! Dante uncovered his face just long enough to give Grandpa a complete and total death stare.
“Oh Frank, hush.” Grandma shook her head as she finished wiping Dante. “Bobby was the same way at this age. Most babies are. You’re so bad!” Grandpa just shook his head and smiled.
“Now hold on, Molly,” Grandpa interrupted as Grandma was about to unfold the new diaper and slide it under Dante, “don’t wrap him back up just yet. Why not let him crawl around and be a little jaybird for a while?”
“But Frank,” Grandma asked, still keeping an eye on Dante’s privates, (she had already raised one baby boy, an unguarded penis could be a dangerous thing) “what if he has an accident?”
“Nothing we can’t clean up.” Grandpa said. “We’re outside anyhow. ‘S not like there’s any furniture around for him to ruin. Besides,” he added motioning to the balled up diaper that Dante had just made a deposit in. “I think the worst of it has passed.”
Grandma thought a moment. “Well all right,” she finally said, pulling Dante up into a sitting position and yanking his shirt off of him. “Besides, he‘s probably kept in diapers 24/7 in the nursery. Kids need a little personal time every now and then.”
“And,” she added as Dante rolled over, “he does have the cutest little tushie.” She gave it a playful smack on his but. Dante braced himself. Nothing happened: He didn’t fall down. He didn’t go limp. He just kept crawling. Interesting. So anyone could pick him up and tote him around, but only Judy’s could spank him.
Dante should have felt embarrassed, but after pooping in front of his grandparents, and being on the receiving end of a size joke, being naked in front of them didn’t rank that high. That and after two solid weeks of padding between his thighs, and nothing but indoor/outdoor carpeting and padded playpens to craw on, being naked and rolling around in the grass was too much of a highlight.
It was positively electrifying. Every blade of grass tickled his bare skin. Sweat trickled down his skin as he crawled through the blades and dug his fingers and toes into the sod. He felt alive. All the while, Grandma and Grandpa followed close behind him, talking about nothing in particular, and laughing as Dante experienced the simple joy of being naked in a field. This must have gone on for what was at least an hour.
“Let’s walk with Grandma!” she said as she hoisted him up by the armpits. Rather than picking him all the way up, though, she supported him under the arms and let his feet brush the earth. She was helping him walk! The soles of his feet came alive as he trod upon the earth. All the while, his grandmother encouraged him.
“That’s it, take another step big boy.” she said as he clumsily put one foot in front of the other, only her support keeping him from falling. “That’s a big boy! Walkin’ for Gramma!” Grandpa, started walking backwards, coaxing Dante closer with each step, only to take a step back as Dante grew closer.
“That’s right, feller!” Grandpa coaxed, “Come an’ get me! Come an’ tackle yer ol’ Grampa!”
They were definitely no Judy’s. Real parents encouraged their kids to grow up and become more independent. The Judy’s did everything they could to remind you that you were still a baby to them. Right then, Dante knew he loved his grandparents, and regretted them dying when he was so young so that he never got to know them. At least now he had a chance to get to know them, even if they would never actually meet the real him.
Suddenly Dante felt something wrong. Floodgates were about to open. He was about to pee! Reflexively, he reached down and grabbed his penis, pointing it away from his grandfather. A stream of urine gushed out, just barely missing Dante’s grandfather.
This was weird. He felt the surge of relief come upon him as he emptied his bladder on the grass, but not the accompanying feeling of warmth or wetness around his crotch. He was doing an open air whiz, and it was wonderful!
“Ha ha ha!” Grandpa laughed as he moved out of the way to avoid a golden shower. “So you and Julie managed to potty train him, huh?! Looks like the ol’ boy still has some moves left!” Dante felt a surge of pride well up inside him. Grandma giggled behind Dante as he finished his wee.
Then he remembered! This is what going potty was like! You had to stand in front of the potty, use your hand to aim your pee-pee towards the water, and then go tinkle! It was all so simple! How had he forgotten how to do that? “What next?” he wondered as his stream slowed to a drip.
Then the bridge to a Good Charlotte song came to his mind. “Shake it once, that’s fine. Shake it twice, that’s okay. Shake it three times, you’re playing with yourself.” Dante took his penis and shook it twice before letting it drop.
“Bwahahahaha!” Grandpa about fell over as he saw this. “I’m tellin’ you Molly, the kid’s a natural!”
Dante grinned from ear to ear in victory. He had remembered how to potty! Timing, aim, and bladder control were still an issue, but it was a step in the right direction. Wait till he told Lysa about this!
“Okay, I think that’s enough close calls for one day” Grandma laughed, as she picked Dante up and carried him back over to the blanket. She laid him down on the blanket, and unfolded the diaper she had set aside earlier and slid it under Dante’s bottom as she lifted his legs.
“Still,” she went on as she re-diapered her eighteen-year-old grandson. “Maybe we can stop by the preschool next month and pick up some Pull-Ups or a practice potty.”
“You think we could find any training pants small enough for him?” Grandpa asked as Grandma finished fastening the tapes “Or a seat that won’t swallow him?”
“Oh, I doubt we could REALLY potty-train him again.” Grandma said, reaching for the baby t-shirt. “But I bet if we timed it right, we could teach him to go whenever we sat him on a potty.” Dante let this run through his mind, as he was re-dressed.
Him. Sitting on a potty. Maybe even with a pair of blue Pull-Ups around his ankles, their learning designs not yet faded. His hands up in the air in victory as his urine splashed against the plastic bowl instead of into padding between his legs. To dream the impossible dream.
“Time for a little lunch,” Grandma said. Grandpa walked over and picked up the picnic basket, getting out sandwiches and some bottled waters. Grandma sat on the blanket, and spread her legs into a “V”. She sat Dante in between her legs and held him gently. Grandpa rummaged through the diaper bag and brought out a jar of baby food, a baby spoon, and two bottles; one juice, and one milk.
Dante’s stomach growled loudly and both of his grandparents smiled. “I think he’s all empty ,” Grandma said, dipping the spoon into the mush, “so it’s about time we fill him back up.” Still sitting in her lap, Grandma offered spoonfuls of the mouth exploding baby mush to Dante. Dante gratefully accepted every spoonful. Grandma was right there to catch all of the spill-out and didn’t miss a drop. She was an old pro at this, after all.
While he ate, Dante’s grandfather chomped into a baloney sandwich. Every now and then he would stop long enough to lean over and hold another sandwich to Grandma’s lips and let her take a bite. Grandpa was feeding Grandma, and Grandma was feeding Dante. None of this wasn’t an act of babying, an act of establishing dependence and dominance. This was all an act of love. This was one of the few moments that Dante could remember since coming to Limbo, that Dante felt good, instead of just not bad.
A thought occurred to Dante: Maybe his grandparents could be his anchors. They didn’t make him feel especially like an adult, but they definitely didn’t make him feel much like a baby. Not the way the Judy’s did anyhow. But could he last and keep his sanity if he only got to see them once a month?
When Dante had finished his mush, his Grandma picked up the milk filled bottle and offered it to Dante‘s lips. Ohnononononono! He was enjoying this moment too much to want to trip out on angel milk.
“It’s too warm for milk anyways,” Grandpa said when Dante violently shook his head “No!”. Grandma put the bottle down, and instead offered him a bottle of apple juice instead. Dante greedily grabbed the bottle, and washed down his meal, allowing himself a satisfied sigh as Grandma rubbed his tummy.
Two weeks of supernaturally enforced conditioning can’t be counteracted with just a few hours of genuine parental love, however. So within a few minutes of finishing. “Looks like Dante’s about ready to check out on us.” Grandpa observed
“Oh let him sleep,” he heard Grandma say as he drifted off to sleep, a relaxed smile on his face.
Dante was moving when he woke up. He was being cradled in Grandma’s arms as they walked back towards the narrow path back to Limbo.
“Days like this make me wish we had had more when we could,” he heard his grandmother say.
“Yep,” his grandfather agreed. “So, how do you think he died so young? And not baptized?”
“Hush now”, he heard Grandma say, “he’s woke up. We’ll just have to ask Bobby when he gets here someday, God willing.”
The Judy in the nursery scrubs was already waiting with an empty stroller when Dante and his grandparents approached.
“Here you go,” Grandma said as she handed Dante back to his captor. “I think he’s a little wet. We can change him here before you go if you’d like. The Judy placed him back in the stroller and checked his diaper.
“Don’t worry about it,” the Judy said to Grandma as Grandpa loaded the diaper bag back on the stroller. “Like you said, he’s only a little wet, and these things can take a lot of punishment.” She patted the front of Dante’s diaper. “I’ll just change him when we get back to the nursery.”
“Did you have a good time with your grandparents?” the Judy cooed. Dante nodded “yes“; for their sakes, not for hers.
“Bye Dante, see you next month!” his Grandma said as they both waved goodbye and walked back towards the shining city in the distance.
“Bye Grandma! Bye Grandpa! I love you!” Dante shouted out, even though he knew, it would only come across as baby babble. “Love you too, Dante!” Grandpa’s voice came echoing back. Was this what Midori went through for real?
The two elderly people who picked up Lysa came back with her soon after. “We’re not late, are we?” the old man carrying Lysa on his hip asked.
“Nope,” the Judy said, “you’re just in time.” Lysa’s grandfather placed Lysa back in the stroller and buckled her up himself. Her grandmother gave her a quick peck on the cheek. Lysa for her part, seemed very nervous. “Bye bye, Lysa. We love you.”
“Love you too,” Lysa mumbled, as the old folks walked back towards Heaven. Then the Judy ruined everything.
“Wave bye bye to Mommy and Daddy, Lysa!” she said. Mommy? Daddy?! Something was not right, here. Dante knew it. He didn’t want to, but felt compelled.
“Lysa, what’s going on?” Dante asked as the stroller turned around and started heading back to Limbo.
“What do you m-m-mean?” Lysa stuttered, her eyes darting around. She started chewing on her lips.
“The Judy called those two old people your mom and dad.” Dante told her.
“Yeah, and…?” Lysa took a big gulp.
“You told me that your dad killed your baby sister and your mom. Then you killed him, and then yourself. If that’s true, what is your dad doing in Heaven? Why are your parents so old? From your story, they couldn’t have been more than in their 40’s when they died; probably younger. Why are they so old? And why isn’t Caroline with us visiting your parents with you?”
Lysa looked away. In a tone that Dante could barely hear, she said “Because of the rules. They never knew about her when any of us were alive.”
“Your mother and father never knew about the existence of your baby sister? Of Caroline?” Dante couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Then it all clicked.
“Yeah,” Lysa said, still looking away. “I’m not really Caroline’s sister. I’m her mother.”