Sitting in his beat up old car that night, watching the train go by, John thought about why he had come back home. It had been 8 years since he left. Now 26, John thought he had put the past behind him. As the dull clatter of the train repeated in an endless rhythm, he remembered how things used to be. This town reminded him of how alone he was. His parents had been killed in a car accident when he was 16. He remembered how his old baby sitter, Mary or "Miss Mary" as John used to call her when he was little, took him in. She was more of a mother figure to him even before the accident. So why would he come back to face those old memories? John had already planned on visiting his parent's old house, but his real objective was to see her one more time. John had just broken up with his girlfriend of 3 years right after loosing his job. Now all alone again, he was coming home -- a failure and a sad excuse for a human being as far as he was concerned.
Driving over the railroad tracks, John spotted a bar on the side of the road. It hadn't been there before. Curiously, he stopped in to rest a bit. It had been a long drive. Upon entering, he noticed that hardly a soul was in the bar. A few were passed out at their tables or the bar. Some were watching late night on the bar's TV. It seemed like sad, pathetic losers were welcome here.
"What'll ya have?" grunted the bartender as John sat down.
"Just a Coke." sighed John.
"Huh? You're ordering a Coke in a bar like this?" the bartender laughed. "Not to be rude or anything, but most people order a beer or something."
"Yeah, well, most people drink to forget the past. I've got things I never want to forget."
"You're a rare guy." the bartender said with a confused look. "Here you go." John paid the bartender and began sipping his drink. He looked around the room again at the drunken humanity.
"How long as this bar been here?" John asked the bartender.
"About a year now. I tell ya, this place is going down the tubes. Almost everyone has moved away, and those that are still here are afraid to leave their houses."
"I guess that's what happens to small towns. I grew up here. It was a much different place so many years ago."
"Well, welcome back. I doubt you'll be staying long."
"Excuse me." came a voice out of nowhere. "Don't degrade this town so much! I happen to live here and I think it's fine." She was a tall, brunette bombshell. She looked as if she was in her late 20s. Her deep, blue eyes held some sort of secret. Her face looked familiar, though John couldn't place it.
"Ah, come on Lydia." complained the bartender. "You know as well as I do that this town will be wiped off the map soon. Replaced by industry or highways."
"Lydia..." John thought. "Now where have I heard that name. So familiar..."
"Who might you be stranger? Can't say I've seen you around." Lydia asked with a smile.
"Oh," he blushed, "my name's John. I used to live here. I left about 8 years ago. Looks like the condition of this town matches my own. I feel like everyone has deserted me as well."
As John talked, Lydia couldn't help but notice something familiar about him. Something she couldn't quite place at the moment. She got an odd feeling when she had first laid eyes on him. She wondered if he would be the one.
"Aww... you poor thing. Girl troubles?" When John nodded in agreement, she continued. "I could tell. I see them come in all the time, looking the way you do."
"You look familiar. Have we met before?" John asked, looking closer at her.
"We may have. It's possible. I've been here most of my life. I don't plan on leaving any time soon."
"Going to go down with the ship eh?" said the bartender.
"There you go again Max." sighed Lydia. "Stop being so negative. I have a feeling things will turn out all right in the end. Just wait and see." She turned her attention to John. "So John, what brings you back home?"
"It's a long story. I really just came back to see someone. To try and catch up. I only hope they haven't moved."
"I'm sure you'll find them." She felt sorry for him. He had the aura of a hurt and lonely little boy. She decided to put a plan into action to see if her suspicions were true. "Do you need a place to stay for the night? You look tired. There aren't any hotels around here worth the money. You're more than welcome to stay at my place."
"Thanks, but I don't want to impose. Besides, I have someone I have to find first. I don't want to rest until I do."
"Suit yourself honey. If you change your mind, here's my address." She got a napkin and wrote on it, then folded it up and gave it to him. He pocketed it without looking at what she had written. "I'll see you around." she said as she left.
"Wow." said Max. "She's never done that before. Most people who ask her for her address or phone number get the cold shoulder."
"Why is that?"
"I don't know. She once told me that she's waiting for someone. Looks like you're it son."
"I'm it?" John thought as he was driving away. "I wonder who she was. Am I the one she's been looking for? Why? I'm nobody." He passed by his parent's place, but saw that it had been leveled. All that was left now was a vacant lot. He hoped he would not find his sitter's house in the same condition as he sped onward to find out. He had just pulled into the neighborhood where it was when his car radio's signal began to fade. The music that was playing became nothing but static. John tried to adjust the radio, but none of the stations came in at all. As he got closer to where his sitter's house was, a haunting tune came on, barely audible.
"Go to............little ba..... Go....sleep......" It sounded like a haunting melody, but the words were garbled. It was odd, but that song was on every station. It was as if someone were broadcasting it. John could see that most of the houses on the street were either gone or silent. He could see his sitter's house in the distance, and what looked like a car sitting in front. His heart raced at the thought of seeing her again. She would be old now, but surely she would remember him. His hands were cold and clammy as he pulled in next to the car. He looked up at the house and discovered that lights were on inside. It was a strange feeling. This had been the place John had so many fond memories of, but now it looked dark and gray. There was no more grass on the ground. Just patches of dirt and rock. The beautiful garden that had once been there had withered and died. It was almost like a scene from a horror movie. Still, John walked up to the house and knocked. He looked around at the brick porch and saw all the cracks and holes that abounded now. Just then, he heard footsteps coming from inside. He turned his attention to the door as it opened.
"Hello?" came a familiar voice. John saw that it was Lydia from the bar.
"Lydia?!" he said with surprise.
"John?" She knew he would come. "Heh, changed your mind?"
"No, I just...the person who lived here was..."
"My mother?" she asked. He paused and looked at her.
"Your what? Miss Mary is your..." John stopped as he realized he had just called her "Miss Mary" for the first time in years.
"Mother. She...used to live here."
"Used to? What happened?" John prodded.
A sad look crossed her face. "She died. She had a heart attack about 5 years ago." John felt his heart sink. It was as if it had just happened.
"Oh, I'm sorry. She used to be..." he said, trying to block the tears. "I mean, before I left, she was..." They couldn't be stopped as they rolled down his face now.
"John? Are you alright?" She cooed to him instinctively. "Do you want to come in and talk about it?" John nodded meekly and followed her inside. The changes were noticeable immediately. New carpeting, new paint, new everything. It wasn't the house he remembered. Plus, it was empty of her presence. Lydia led him to the familiar kitchen area and they both sat down next to each other.
"I'm sorry, but I had all but forgotten she had a daughter." he sniffled and wiped a few tears away. "Now I remember who you are. You see, your mother was my babysitter." John shifted in his seat a little. "More than that, she was more of a mother to me than my own mother was. I actually lived here until I was 18."
"Yes, and I remember you." Of course she did. Now she knew what the feeling meant when she first saw him.
"But, how is this possible? You were in college by the time I was in kindergarten. You look like you can't be much older than me!"
"I...had a face lift." she said, averting her eyes. She was hiding something.
"No way could a mere face lift do that." John challenged.
"Well, let's just say that I underwent some alterations to take the years off and leave it at that."
"But why? The last I heard, you had a husband and were doing quite well for yourself."
"My husband was...abusive." she said, looking away. John's face showed a look of pain and anger. He couldn't stand the idea of anyone hurting Lydia. "A drunk. He wasn't at first, but he began drinking more and more when he found out that I couldn't have children. He and I wanted to have a child, but being denied natural childbirth, the only way we could get one was through adoption. He wouldn't have that. It got so bad that I had to leave him. I came back here to live with mom for a while. When you left this place, it was as if she had lost a son." John's feelings of guilt overwhelmed him. "She talked to me about you several times, but the last time I saw you was when you were about 8. That's when I found that job upstate and moved out. Mom and I never got along when I was young. We parted on bad terms." she frowned, "You probably remember all the yelling. Dad left us when I was born, so I never knew him. After my divorce I came back to try and make things right, but she was sick. She died soon after."
"I'm sorry." John put his head in his hands. "It seems we both lost someone special. This place isn't at all what I remember. Everything around here has changed so much."
"It's odd, but everything started going sour about the time you left. It was as if the light had gone out in this town. I came back to visit from time to time, and every time I did, things seemed more and more barren. Mom lost interest in keeping up the place. She stayed in the house most of the time." Lydia continued to lay all this on John and watching his reactions.
"Did my leaving really upset her that much?" he asked, confused.
"I guess it may have. You and I both left her, and she was alone. She thought the world of you."
"And I thought the world of her, but I had to leave. I couldn't stand the memories." Lydia showed concern. "Don't get me wrong, not memories of her. The memories of my parents and this town. Knowing that I could never go back or have that kind of peace again. This place was my paradise. My parents were almost always gone on a business trip or just too busy to take care of me. Even before I started actually living here, I pretty much lived here."
"You really loved this place, didn't you? It must be terrible seeing it now. After mom died, I redecorated a bit. She wanted to keep things the way they were, but then it became my house."
"Yes, I understand." He looked over to the living room with a longing expression. "I remember the light green shag carpeting in the living room and the smooth, green hard floor in the play room. The many mornings, before I even started school." John closed his eyes as if trying to see the picture clearer in his mind. "I was very young and would run barefoot outside in the dew covered grass. I remember her garden and all the beautiful flowers she had growing in it." This had often been the source of stress relief for John. A paradise lost. "Many times I would run around, playing outside, and pick a mint leaf to chew on. To this day, mint is such a comfort to me. On rainy days, I would stay inside and play board games with her. She always let me win. She sometimes would make macaroni and cheese or Spaghetti-Os for lunch and we would eat while watching our favorite game shows. You may find it odd that I can remember back this far, but I've been coming here since I was about a year old. She even helped potty train me." John blushed. "I adored her. She let me stay in my pajamas all day if I wanted to. Now she's gone. I just wanted to see her one last time." The tears began welling up again.
"It sounds like you loved each other very much." Lydia thought now that the love between her mother and John could have been deeper than her own. "I had no idea you felt this way." She paused then looked into his eyes. "It's no wonder that I picked you."
"Picked me?" John said with wide eyes. "What do you mean?"
"Before she died, my mother told me that I would find the right man one day, and that our love would go beyond most." Lydia reached out and put her hand on top of his.
"You think that I'm the one?" John asked, noticing her hand on his.
"I do indeed." She looked deeper into his eyes. "There could be no other person she was talking about." John felt himself becoming a little dizzy. "You look tired, perhaps you should go lie down. I think you'll find your old room is still there. As per mom's request, I left it alone."
John got up and staggered to the room. Sure enough, it was still like it was. Blue and yellow shag carpet, sky blue walls, that old familiar toy chest, the window that faced the back yard, and the bed. The bed looked a bit small, but very inviting. He found that it still had the familiar Star Wars sheets and pillowcases he loved. The only thing that could have made it more right would have been his favorite teddy that he lost when he was 10. Taking his shoes off, he lay in the bed, looking at the stucco ceiling. Lydia came in soon after.
"Is it to your liking?" she said with a smirk. "Do you need anything else?"
"Everything is just as I remember it." John said with surprise. "I can almost hear her singing that lullaby that Miss Mary would use to get me to go to sleep." Just then, Lydia perked up and began singing.
"Go to sleep you little baby. Go to sleep you little baby...."
"My god! She's singing the lullaby." thought John, "Perfectly too. It's almost as if...." John stopped thinking about it and continued listening, getting sleepier with each word. It had always been oddly hypnotic.
"Your momma's gone away and your daddy's gone to stay. Didn't leave nobody but the baby." As she sang, she moved slightly as if almost dancing. Swaying back and fourth. By the time she finished, John was quietly sleeping. Lydia smiled, and left the room, making sure to leave the door cracked just a little. She knew it's what he wanted.
The next morning, John woke up in the familiar room, not too sure what had happened or if he had been dreaming or still was dreaming. He sat up and looked around for a minute, then looked out of the window. It was still dark outside and there was now a dense fog. It was early morning, yet for some odd reason, he wasn't still sleepy.
"What's going on here?" John thought. "Why is it still dark outside? What's going on?" He looked outside and saw the lights on a garbage truck. He could hear it moving from house to house. John felt more energetic today. He remembered what happened before with Lydia and suddenly became aware that he was wearing pajamas that he hadn't worn since he moved out. "How did those get there?!" he wondered. They were a bit tight, but still fit. His old navy blue, checkered PJs with the button up top and snap up bottom. Just then, Lydia came to the door.
"Good morning sleepy head!" She grinned from ear to ear. "About time you woke up. You've been asleep for two whole days and nights."
"Two days?!" John exclaimed. "How did I manage that?"
"Got me honey." She eyed his pajamas. He looked embarrassed and then suddenly remembered.
"Oh yeah, these. Where did I get these from?!" he asked, tugging on them.
"Oh, you uhh..." She didn't know quite how to put this. "had a little accident last night." John looked confused. "You wet the bed sweetie."
"I what?!" John blushed horribly.
"Don't you remember?" she asked. John shook his head. "I checked on you a few times. One time, I noticed that you had wet the bed. So I woke you up to change the sheets. Come to think of it, you were a little out of it." she smiled. "I didn't have anything else clean for you to wear, so I got you those. You didn't seem to mind."
John didn't quite know what to make of it. Any evidence of her story had been cleaned. He wondered if she was lying, but if she was, why? "Wait a minute. Honey? Sweetie? Bed wetting? What are you trying to pull? I'm not some little kid okay? I find it hard to believe that I wet the bed."
"Well, think about it. You were asleep for two days right? You've got to empty your bladder somehow or it'll burst right?" Her logic seemed correct. John looked at the floor in deep thought. "You should also need to... you know." Suddenly John's stomach cramped terribly. He didn't say another word and rushed off to the bathroom. A little while later, John stumbled out in search of Lydia. He found her in the kitchen making something that smelled wonderful, and oddly familiar.
"What is that delicious aroma?" John asked excitedly.
"Cream of Wheat." she said with a smile. "Your favorite." John's mouth began to water at the thought of the buttery, salty treat he had not had in years. Not even minding the pajamas now, he sat down at the table as Lydia brought him a bowl full.
"Thank you Lydia!" he said as he inhaled the creamy substance. The taste and texture brought back full color memories of cold winter mornings when Miss Mary would make him a nice warm bowl for breakfast. He smiled the broadest smile he could while he ate. Lydia just beamed at his apparent happiness. When he was finished, he decided to get dressed. He felt better than he had in a long time.
John opened the window in his bedroom to see a bright, cheery day. There were still patches of gray dirt around, but a little grass seemed to be coming in. In the garden were a few sprouts promising fruit and vegetables soon. As the day passed, John walked around the house lost in memory. He and Lydia browsed through old photo albums. Surprisingly, she seemed to be absent from them. They laughed together at the pictures of John as a baby. Wearing nothing but a diaper and with ice cream all over his face and hands. That night, Lydia made hot soup and they sat on the couch watching classic reruns on Nick at Nite. Lydia yawned and stretched out.
"It's getting late. Ready for bed?" she asked.
"Not really." John smiled. "I slept pretty good last night."
"And the night before." Lydia winked. John suddenly remembered what had happened and looked down at the floor.
"I'm sorry I wet the bed...and got angry with you. I know you were just trying to help." he said sheepishly.
"Hey, it's okay. It is a bit odd for someone as old as you needing his bedding changed, but it's also odd for you to sleep that long. Have you had irregular sleeping patterns before?" she said with concern.
"No, not really. Except for..." he paused, "when my girlfriend left me."
"Oh." Lydia said leaning away. "Sorry to bring it up."
"It's alright. It's all over between us now. When she left me, I couldn't sleep. I would toss and turn all night." John tried to ignore an emotional lump in his throat. "Most nights, I would just cry myself to sleep."
"Well, there's no shame in crying when there's good reason." Lydia reassured him. "Sounds like you really liked her. What happened? If you don't mind my asking."
"She said I was 'too needy.' She basically never had time for me. I tried to get her to go to the movies with me or just sit down and talk, but she was always talking with her friends on the phone or going out with them." John sighed, "I would get dragged along with her on some of her shopping sprees. I felt like a little kid, being led around by the wrist."
Lydia nodded. "No wonder you left her."
"Well, she left me...but yeah." John rubbed his forehead. "It wasn't working out. That's not all it was. She also told me that I acted too childish. I like to draw and color in my spare time. It's very comforting. I even colored in children's coloring books sometimes." John didn't know why he was admitting this to her, but somehow he felt he should. "It was a way to relieve stress. She didn't like it. She even showed her friends a few of the books I colored in. They just laughed and went on ignoring me like always. I don't know why, but I guess I just pretended everything was fine. Then when we broke up, my world shattered."
"I'm so sorry." Lydia stopped and then looked at John as if she had just solved a puzzle. "So that's why."
"Why you came here." she said with a smirk. "You wanted that affection." John just kind of blushed. "Don't be embarrassed. Most men are children at heart and want to be cared for. They're just scared to admit it."
John smiled and odd smile. "Heh, I'm not. I don't know why most men act the way they do. I think you're right. Hey, I know you're right."
Lydia wasn't sure what to say. She wasn't expecting him to say that. "Why shouldn't I want that?" he asked. "Now that I look back, I see that I was much happier as a child." He sighed again and leaned back in his chair, folding his arms behind his head, "It's just too bad you can only do it once."
Lydia smiled at his last comment. "If you could, would you go back? I mean, would you want to go back to those days? To be little again?"
"Indeed I would."
"Even if it was permanent?" She leaned in closer.
"Yes." John answered, looking into her eyes, in the most serious tone he could. The moment his answer left his lips, John felt a bit funny. He got up off the couch, but felt like he was being pulled down. He immediately fell back to his seat. The dizziness was making him a bit sick. If he wasn't tired before, he sure was now.
"Are you alright John? You look a little pale." she said, feeling is forehead. "I think you should get to bed." John could only nod in agreement. She took his hand and pulled him up to his feet. She led him once again into his old bedroom and pulled his covers back. Once in the bed, she began singing again.
"Don't you weep pretty baby. Don't you weep pretty baby. She's long gone with the red shoes on. Gonna meet another lovin' baby." The words flowed in the same hypnotic tone they had the first time. John shuffled a bit in the bed. It felt a bit different now. Somehow it was even more comfortable. It seemed to fit him a bit better now. He snuggled up under his covers and was soon peacefully asleep. A peculiar smile crossed Lydia's face as she exited the room.
The next morning, John woke up to yet another surprise. He had been sucking his thumb in his sleep. He looked over and saw Lydia standing outside of his door looking in. He immediately removed his thumb trying to hide it. Lydia just chuckled.
"Aww... you looked so cute sucking your thumb."
"At least I didn't wet the bed this time." John said, but suddenly realized the tone of his voice was much higher. "Wait...what? My voice. It's..."
"That's not all." Lydia said walking over to his side. She seemed a lot bigger than he remembered. She sat on the edge of his bed and rubbed the top of his head. "You're such a cutie!" John just looked up at her confused. "Just go take a look in the bathroom mirror." He got out of bed and realized just how big the bed was now. Not only that, but when he stepped off the bed, he discovered that he had left most of his clothes under his covers. He was only wearing what appeared to be an oversized version of his pajama top now. Still in an early morning haze, he stumbled to the bathroom. Everything was so much bigger now. Even the doorknobs seemed much higher than they should. He stood in the bathroom, gazing into the full-length mirror at the 10-year-old he had become. "How in the...?" He cautiously lifted his pajama shirt to see if the rest of him had shrank too. "I'm...I'm little." It had indeed. He heard Lydia coming and quickly recovered himself.
"Well?" said Lydia, appearing in the bathroom doorway. She towered over him now. "Isn't this what you wanted?"
"Y-yes." John stammered, looking at his stubby hands. It seemed like a dream. "But...how?" He asked, looking up at her. She seemed beautiful before, but now she was kind of intimidating.
"You wanted it with all your heart."
"Yes, but just wanting things doesn't make them happen." the 10-year-old tried to explain.
"Sometimes it does, but let's just say it's a kind of magic." Lydia winked. John put his arms down by his sides and the large opening at the neck of his PJs slid down his small frame, leaving him nude. He quickly pulled them back up in embarrassment. "Why don't we find you some proper clothes?" Lydia suggested. John nodded and they went back into his room. Lydia went over to the closet and pulled out proper fitting clothing. Red shorts, white T-shirt with a picture of Scooby Doo on it, underpants and socks. She quickly jerked the pajama top off of him. He tried his best to conceal his nudity.
"Hey!" he yelled at her.
"Oh, sorry sweetie." she apologized, "I just wanted to help you get dressed." John quickly took the underpants and slid them on and got dressed in short order. "Aww... you look so cute!" Lydia smiled.
"Yeah..." John said, looking down at himself. "It's all so hard to believe."
"Believe it John! You're a kid again!" John looked up at Lydia, unable to hide his smile any longer. "I've got an idea. Let's go for a walk."
"Yeah!" little Johnny said with gusto. She held out her hand and John grasped it as they walked outside. The scene there was completely different from before. All that was dead was alive again. The grass was green and covered in dew, the flowers were in bloom, the birds chirped, the sun was peaking out over the horizon, and all was right with the world. It was then that John noticed a mint plant growing. He stooped down, picked a leaf, and began chewing it happily. Lydia looked down at him and smiled.
"You're a rare man John."
"Don't you mean I'm a rare 'boy'?" he winked.
"Yes!" Lydia laughed. "Most men would really freak out at the sudden realization of being little again. You seem to be taking it in stride."
"Well, it's like you said, I wanted this with all my heart. I admit it with every fiber of my being." he stopped and looked up at her. "I truly wanted this. No regrets."
"Yes, and it's because you wanted it that the spell worked." Lydia admitted.
"Spell?" John asked, confused.
"I might as well tell you. I'm what most people would consider a witch." she said. John's look of confusion turned to one of interest. "I know it's hard to believe, but people like me exist. My mother was one, and her mother before her, and her mother before her, and so on. I'm sure you probably guessed it."
"I kinda figured." laughed the 10-year-old. "It's apparent by the way things have changed. By the way things changed when I left and how they are now back."
"Yes. My mother was actually quite old and powerful. When we get that old, sometimes our emotions over power us. In this case, her increasing loneliness caused the house and surrounding area to wither. I tried to stop it, but wasn't strong enough."
"Then, how is it happening now?" asked the inquisitive John.
"Because of you." Lydia answered looking directly into John's innocent eyes. "My mother's spirit still resides here. It is the house, the grass, the trees, the birds, everything. Your return has rekindled an old flame. A flame that will only grow so long as you are here."
Lydia and John continued their long walk. John was in deep thought at the idea that he could have caused Miss Mary's death. Tears began flowing down his young cheeks. "John?" inquired Lydia. "Oh John! Don't. Please don't. It wasn't your fault. You had your own life to deal with. If anyone is to blame...it's me. I was her own daughter, and I deserted her." John sniffled, wiping away his tears. "Come on. Let's go back in." John nodded silently and they ventured back into the house.
Over the next few days, John became more and more accustomed to being a kid. He was finally reliving his lost past. It was everything he dreamed it would be, and yet, he wanted more. Something still felt unfinished. One afternoon, Johnny walked into the living room where Lydia sat reading a book.
"Miss Lydia?" John inquired. Lydia looked up from her book, somewhat surprised that he'd call her "Miss."
"What's the matter John?" she asked with concern.
"Where's Miss Mary?" he asked in a sad tone. "I miss her. She was supposed to play a game with me."
"Oh, John, sweetie, my mother is dead. Remember?" Lydia realized what she said and who she just said it to after she said it. Johnny's face became beet red and he soon began sobbing uncontrollably. Lydia ran over to comfort him. She realized that his mind was beginning to regress too. He had already forgotten about Mary's death and was reliving the pain all over again. "Now now. It'll be alright."
"No! No!" John yelled, shaking his head. "She's gone! She's never coming back! I'll never see her again!" John struggled free of her grip and ran towards the door. "I just need to leave!" His adult mind began to return as he remembered that he had a car. He rushed outside only to see his car had vanished. "Where's my car?! I wanna leave! Now!" As he said that, the sky grew dark and patches of dirt showed up within the grass.
"John! Come back in here!" Lydia yelled. John just sat down on the porch and cried into his small hands.
"She's gone." he sobbed. "My girlfriend is gone. My parents... Everyone is gone. Anyone I ever love leaves me. Miss Mary...she left me all alone. I'll never see her again."
"Come on John. I'll draw you a nice hot bubble bath." Lydia offered. John sniffled and joined her inside. Leaving now certainly wasn't an option. Once inside the bathroom, Johnny stripped himself of his clothing while the tub filled. He didn't seem to be embarrassed to be nude in front of Lydia anymore. He was just silent in deep thought. Lydia offered to help, but John insisted on bathing himself. Soon after, she led him back to his room and his bed. His eyes widened with delight as he saw his old teddy bear sitting on the bed waiting for him.
"Teddy!" he yelled as he rushed up and hugged the toy for all it was worth. "Miss Lydia! Look! Teddy's back!" he said as he turned and showed her the bear. He was just as John had remembered him. Dark brown, with black button eyes, and fleecy soft fur. He continued to hug it tightly as he climbed into bed. Lydia just smiled and began softly singing as she tucked him in.
"Go to sleep you little baby. Go to sleep you little baby." John's eyelids became heavy as he felt warm and safe. "Everybody's gone in the cotton and the corn. Didn't leave nobody but the baby." Her hypnotic voice soon put little Johnny to sleep once again.
Johnny opened his eyes to discover that the room seemed to have grown overnight. The bed, which had once seemed too small, now seemed too large. Even Teddy seemed to have grown. All at once, Johnny became aware of a cold, clammy situation around his mid section. He reached down and felt the wetness and instantly knew what it was. He had wet the bed. He knew now that he had shrunk, becoming even younger, but this didn't concern him as much as letting Miss Lydia down. He knew that she would be disappointed that he had another accident. Just then, Lydia came in.
"John!" she said in shock as she eyed his now closer to 5 year old frame. "You've gotten even younger!"
"Sowwy Miss Wydia." he said, still not concerned with his shrunken stature. "I wet the bed again. Pwease don't be mad. I can't hewp it!"
"J-John?" she asked looking at his chubby face. "You do remember being older right?" John sat in his wet bed for a moment and scratched his head.
"Yeah, I wemember. Miss Mawy is gone gone. You my babysitter now?" Lydia wasn't quite sure what was going on. John's mind seemed to be regressing more and more. He wasn't supposed to get this young. That is unless he really wanted it. That's how the spell worked. It would only regress the victim if they were willing and to whatever age they truly wanted. As she looked at his face, she realized just how helpless he had become. A true child. She also realized that this was his inner self. He looked so innocent sitting in his once again oversized clothing. He looked down and felt of the wet fabric on his bed.
"You poor thing!" she said, close to tears. "Come on. Lets get you cleaned up. I've got some more stuff that should still fit you." Once again she led him to the bathroom. He was quiet while she bathed him off in the warm water. He blushed a bit when she got to his reduced manhood. He tried not to laugh, but it did tickle. She noticed him smiling. "Am I tickling you Johnny?"
"Haha! Yeah!" he giggled. Lydia finished bathing Johnny and helped him out of the tub. When she turned to get a towel, he bolted down the hallway, stark naked and dripping wet.
"Johnny! Get back in here!" she demanded. Johnny just laughed happily and ran through the house. Lydia looked out of the door only to see his bare cheeks round a corner. Bringing the towel with her, she gave chase. She knew he couldn't have gone anywhere, because he turned and entered the living room. He was hiding from her. "Come out, come out wherever you are!" She looked all over and behind the furniture. His giggling gave him away. Not to mention his bare feet sticking out from behind the couch. "Aha! Gotcha!" she said as she grabbed his ankles. He squealed as she ticked his stomach and finished drying him off. However, as soon as she let go to get his clothes, he was off again. This time for the back yard. His first stop was, of course, a mud puddle. Lydia walked to the sliding glass window and stood with a look of defeat on her face. He just looked at her, grinned, and splashed mud everywhere. She let out a deep sigh as she walked out to retrieve him.
After yet another bath, Lydia managed to get him dry and dressed. She was upset that he ran, but couldn't stay mad after seeing his grinning face. There was no sign of the adult that had entered her house. Only the happy child he once was. Lydia gave him a few toys to play with and sat him down in front of the TV. He played happily for a few minutes, but soon got bored and ventured outside. Lydia was in the kitchen preparing lunch when she noticed him running around through the window. The situation wouldn't have been odd if there hadn't been a dog playing with him. She knew that the dog could be none other than Scruffy. He was a small gray haired Scottish terrier, but had also been dead for about 20 years.
"Miss Wydia! Wook! Ith Scwuffy!" John lisped. Now Lydia was really confused. She didn't have the power to bring animals back from the dead, and she knew John didn't either. The honest truth was, Lydia was a bit frightened.
"Uhh.. John? Maybe you should come inside now." she suggested. "I think Scruffy needs a rest."
"No!" Johnny yelled back. "Wanna pway!" With that, he and Scruffy ran around to the other side of the house, each trying to outrun the other. Suddenly, Scruffy ran into Johnny's little feet causing him to fall face forward. Rather than crying, Johnny just rolled over and allowed Scruffy to lick his face. He giggled happily as he and the playful pup rolled around in wet grass. Lydia could only think of one thing that could have caused the resurrection of the pooch. Obviously her mother had more power than she originally thought. Even it death it would seem. Lydia decided to let John have his fun in the sun, despite how eerie it was.
Later on in the day, the playful sounds coming from without ceased. Lydia, afraid something bad had happened, ventured outside to investigate. She called both John and Scruffy, but neither answered. Now in a more serious predicament, she pondered calling the police to report a missing child. Her mind immediately thought of the worst-case scenarios. Almost in tears, she called one last time. Still no answer. It was then that she noticed the wooden board covering the entrance to the area beneath the house had been removed. Upon further investigation, she saw little Johnny inside lying in a patch of soft dirt with the also sleeping pup cradled in his arms. Lydia let out a big sigh of relief and allowed herself a pleasing smile. Gently, she picked up Johnny from where he slept and brought him inside to the couch to continue his nap, deciding to leave the phantom dog outside for now.
John awoke a while later, confused and groggy. "Scwuffy? Where's Scwuffy?" he asked, rubbing his eyes.
"He's outside sleeping sweetheart. Best leave him out there for a while. I think you both exhausted each other." Lydia then noticed the dirt traces John had left on the couch. "Looks like you need another bath." she sighed. John sleepily agreed and soon he was in the tub again. He shook his head when Lydia tried to bathe him.
"No. Want Mista Bubba!" he said, pointing to a bottle of bubble soap.
"Mr. Bubble?" Lydia asked, reaching for the bottle.
"Yeah! Bubba bath!" he said excited. She poured the sweet smelling liquid into the bath and mixed it with her hands, then she helped Johnny into the warm water.
"Sit tight. I've got a surprise for you." Lydia told the child. His eyes lit up upon hearing the word "surprise." Soon she came back with John's favorite bath toys. Among them were a few plastic boats, a rubber ducky, and a few army men. For almost half an hour, Johnny played happily in the suds. Building mountains and landscapes with the bubbles and letting the boats run through them with the army men on the back. Of course, Johnny felt that he hadn't had nearly enough time to play once Lydia returned.
"Aww! A widdle bit wonger? Pwease?!" he begged.
"I don't know." she said looking down her nose. "Lets see those hands." Johnny held up his tiny fingers so she could see them. "They're awfully wrinkled. I think you had better get out before you turn into a prune!"
"No poon! Wanna pway!"
"Oh, alright." Lydia laughed. "A few more minutes then." Johnny cheered and continued his playtime. "It's surprising what will keep a little kid entertained for so long." she thought to herself. She was really beginning to enjoy John's company, even though it had its scary moments.
After a little while longer, Lydia once again entered the bathroom and got Johnny out of the tub. He was ready this time as the water had grown cold. He was shivering a little as she dried him off. "See why you need to get out when I say?"
"Y-ye-yes." he stuttered. "C-co-cold!"
"Yeah, that's right. It's cold isn't it?" she cooed. Lydia wrapped the towel around John and led him to his room. Once she began dressing him, she pulled out a Goodnights pull up. She had no idea where they came from. They were suddenly just lying there in place of his underpants.
"No! No twaining pants! I'm a big boy!" he complained
She looked in the boy's closet, but found no underpants besides the disposable kind. Pull Ups for day and Goodnights for night. "Sorry honey, it looks like this is all I have that will fit you now." He reluctantly agreed to wear them. He decided that he wouldn't wear them any longer than he needed and formulated a small plan. As he walked down the hallway, he could hear the Goodnights crinkling, reminding him of his embarrassing condition. He tugged at it in an attempt to "accidentally" pull it off.
"Now John, don't do that. It's better that you wear those anyway in case you wet the bed." she reminded him. John just looked down, then began part of his plan. Quickly, he ran down the hall and into the living room.
He began jumping around on all the furniture. The short nap he had earlier had recharged him. He made a special attempt at moving his legs in such a way that would possibly tear his Goodnights, rendering them useless. As he did so, Lydia attempted to catch him to no avail. Suddenly, Johnny forgot all about his plan to rid himself of his absorbent underpants and started a new game where he tried to keep away from Lydia. With a large grin on his face, he giggled loudly whenever she would grab for him and miss. Lydia had to admit that she was enjoying it too. She had never had a child of her own before, and she was beginning to really enjoy it. The excitement was a bit too much for little Johnny, as he soon felt a warmth spreading inside his Goodnights. He looked down and to his horror discovered that the stars on the front had disappeared, indicating that he had failed to make it to the bathroom in time. Realizing this, he began to cry. Lydia finally caught up with him. He looked up at her with his lower lip quivering. Lydia wondered what was wrong, then she too noticed the missing stars.
"It's okay Johnny. I'm not mad at you." she said, patting his head. "Lets go get you cleaned up and get you to bed." She led him around to the bathroom and removed his wet Goodnights. She grabbed a tub of baby wipes that were suddenly there and began cleaning him up. Johnny sniffled a bit, but stopped crying. Then she motioned for him to step into a dry pair. He did so and she pulled them up, making sure they were comfortable. Johnny looked at Lydia then held up his arms to her.
"Hold me?" he asked meekly. She smiled and picked him up. He rubbed his nose into her shoulder and closed his eyes. She held him for a little while, and once he had fallen asleep, she placed him in bed for the night.
The next few days went unhindered. Both John and Lydia seemed to be settling into their new roles. Both loving every minute of it. Lydia decided to make a trip into town with John and noticed that the rejuvenation had not only affected John and the house, but everything else as well. The air seemed cleaner. The people were out and active. There was no sign of urban decay anywhere. All the stores had reopened and the bar was gone. Lydia had no idea the depth of her mother's power, but had an odd sense that she knew everything would be this way upon entering. She decided to get a few groceries, but Johnny had other plans. Once inside the store, he smiled and ran off. Lydia called for him, but it did no good. She knew where he was going. The toy isle.
Johnny walked up and down the isle looking every toy over. He spotted some toy trucks that made noise and immediately pressed every button. He then spied a Superman action figure in a box. His eyes grew wide and mouth dropped open. Not only was it a reaction to it being a very cool toy, but the adult in him realized that it was also a rare one. This, however, was beside the point. He grabbed it and ran off to find Lydia.
"Can I have this? Pwease?! Pweety pwease?!" he begged. She looked it over and saw the price.
"Well, okay, but don't pick up anything else okay?"
"K!" he said happily. He followed Lydia around as she did the rest of her shopping. He never let the toy out of his sight. He would stop every now and again to look at it and imagine the joy it would bring as soon as he could play with it.
Upon arriving home, Johnny immediately freed Superman from his plastic cell and began carrying out the usual superhero scenarios with him. It was one of the classic Mego style figures with a realistic cloth costume. Occasionally, the cape would become ripped, but Lydia would lovingly sew it back like new. Things seemed to be nearly perfect. That is until one day.
Little Johnny was out playing with his Superman and Scruffy as Lydia watched from the garden. Suddenly, the toy Johnny had seemed very appealing to the dog and was snatched away from his tiny grip. Johnny yelled and gave chase causing Scruffy to become confused and run off. Lydia could see it before it happened. Scruffy ran out into the street just as a car sped by. The once dead pooch was dead once again. Johnny stood for a moment looking at the still animal lying in the street. It was still registering in his mind.
"John! John are you alright?!" Lydia asked as she ran up to the traumatized little boy. As soon as she touched his shoulder, he began to wail loudly. His body collapsed onto the ground as he inhaled air and exhaled scream after scream. Not knowing what else to do, Lydia picked him up and carried him into the house.
"Scwuffy gone! He's gooooone! Noooooo!" he wailed over and over. The pain of loss was too great. Now his adult mind began to kick in again reminding him of how once again something he loved was taken from him. Lydia tried to calm him down but nothing seemed to be working. She finally sat in a rocking chair with him and found herself singing once again.
"You're a sweet little baby. You're a sweet little baby. Honey in the rock and the sugar don't stop. Gonna bring a bottle to the baby." As she sang, Johnny became quiet. He had cried himself to sleep. Lydia just continued to rock him and hum the tune. Suddenly, he began to feel lighter in her arms. She had to readjust her arms to keep him comfortable. Then she felt a warm sensation on her stomach and realized that Johnny had wet his Pull Ups until they began to leak. Without much concern about this, she stood up and began walking back to his room. When she got up, his little shoes fell off his shrinking feet. Upon entering his room, she put him in his bed. It was then that she noticed how small he looked now.
"He can't be more than 2 or 3 years old at the most." she thought. John's adult memories had come back and once again given him the desire to become younger. This time he would be too young to care about loved ones dying. Nothing else mattered anymore. Lydia noticed that his room had changed. Now, in place of his Goodnights and Pull Ups were disposable diapers. His action figures had been replaced with large toddler toys. The clothing in his closet was replaced with footed sleepers and otherwise tiny infant wear. On the top of the dresser was a powder blue pacifier. His eyes fluttered a little and he gazed up at Lydia.
"Miss Mawy..." he managed. "Me wuv u." Lydia was a bit confused. Apparently now he thought that she was her mother. She didn't give it much thought, and stripped him of his oversized, wet clothing. While he lay there, she cleaned him up with a few baby wipes and strapped a disposable diaper on his tiny frame. A slight smile crossed his face one he was in a dry diaper. She placed the pacifier in his mouth and he instinctively began sucking. He clutched his teddy bear and was soon in a deep, peaceful sleep.
Lydia felt a bit odd as she walked down the hall from Johnny's room. Something was happening to her body. She stepped into the bathroom and looked in the mirror only to see what looked like a younger version of her mother staring back at her. She was shocked at first, but only at first. Now she realized what was really going on. It was Johnny who was causing everything to happen all along. He was somehow in tune with her mother's powers. She knew she had felt something special about him in the bar. While her mother's spirit and the regression spell had sparked the magic, it was really Johnny who had been in control. She ventured back into his room, smiled with motherly love and sang.
"Go to sleep you little baby. Go to sleep you little baby. You and me and the devil makes three. Don't need no other lovin' baby." She walked over, picked him up, and cradled him in her arms. "Go to sleep you little baby. Go to sleep you little baby. Come lay your bones on the alabaster stones and be my ever lovin' baby." Johnny let out a tiny coo and snuggled his face into her chest. She brought him into her bedroom and lay him down on her bed. Soon both he and she were sleeping peacefully.
From then on, little Johnny and Lydia lived happily. They would play together on the living room rug in the afternoons and go for strolls outside in the garden. John had found his Paradise Lost at long last. He was truly home again.