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“Cody and the Baby Start Over Program”

 

By: Ron564339

 

E-mail: wbigner@hotmail.com

 

 

Summary: Luke Cody Stephens is a rebellious, violent 14 year old who has already committed many crimes. His parents don't know what to do with him, so they enroll him in a new program. Luke soon finds out that this program aims to revert troubled youths back to their state of baby-hood and re-train them correctly. As "Cody" suffers through his baby treatment, he experiences more humiliation than he ever has before, but he manages to find an unlikely friend through all of his trials. Will Cody's rebellious nature lead him to fight the system, or will he give in and become a helpless baby again?

 

Warning: This story contains profanity.

 

 

Part 11

 

            We must have just sat there for about ten minutes. I just continued to cry, unable to stop myself. Johnny didn’t really say anything, but he didn’t let go of me either. It just was too much to take in; I had just been subjected to the worst treatment in my entire life, and I couldn’t get over it.

 

            Finally, I managed to calm myself down. Having Johnny there was a huge help, and I don’t think I could have done it without it. It was just nice to, well, have a shoulder to cry on. And I knew from the look that I had seen on Johnny’s face that he really did care about what I had just been through. Because of that, I eventually stopped crying, and wiping my eyes, I pulled away from Johnny.

 

            He looked like he was about to cry himself, but he was able to keep in control and soon he was relaxed again. As we looked at each other, he suddenly had a quizzical look on his face.

 

            “Wait a sec…if you went through level 5…that means…it’s only been about three days since you jumped on me…that means…you went through levels 3…4…and 5?!”

 

            I simply nodded, still unable to find words. As I did so, a look of pure horror crossed his face. He started to move towards me as if you embrace me in another hug, but he stopped himself. He then just let out a sigh with a bewildered look on his face.

 

            “I…I never would have EVER dreamed that they’d go that far. That’s just…it’s just…fucked up.”

 

            I had to wait another five minutes while Johnny got shocked. It startled me at first. But for some reason…it made me feel better. If what I had gone through was bad enough to make Johnny cuss, then I know that I truly had survived a lot.

 

            When Johnny finally recovered, he said, “Sorry. Anyways, I just…I still can’t believe it. I mean, I knew you were gonna be in trouble, but I thought they’d only spank you again or something. The most I ever woulda dreamed was level 3. Man, all three of those levels? It’s just pure wonder that you can still talk. I bet any other kid here would’ve been driven insane or been automatically broken down and decoded. Kid, that’s just stunning. Uh…you can still talk, right?”

 

            Managing to find my voice, I said, “Yeah.” Then, I said the first thing that was on my mind.

 

            “You told them I hit you,” I said. “You lied. You acted like a baby and told them I hit you. You’re the reason why I had to go through all of this.”

 

            I wasn’t really angry with Johnny. I was in much too weak of a state for that, and right now I knew he was the only one who was truly on my side (well, other than Tammy). But still, I couldn’t help but feel he was more responsible for this than I was.

 

            He just looked extremely ashamed for a second, and after taking a breath, he said, “You’re right kid, I am. And I don’t know how I can apologize for all of it. I don’t know, I just kind of got caught up in the moment. I’ve talked to a lot of kids who have gone through here, and many have gotten angry or frustrated at me. Many have cussed me out or yelled at me, and some have refused to talk to me until they became completely decoded. But not a single one has ever jumped on me like you did. I don’t know, it’s just as soon as you did, I just automatically got kind of angry. It’s one of the reasons I was sent here in the first place; I was always fighting with people. And when you jumped on me like that, I was so filled with anger, just like I used to before I came here. And my only natural reaction was to get you back in whatever way I could, and I got caught up in the moment. Again, kid, I’m sorry. Like I said, I never would have dreamed that they would go so far with you. Kid, one day, honestly, I’ll make it up to you. Somehow, I will. ”

 

            I don’t know if I really wanted to accept this explanation or Johnny’s apology, but I really didn’t feel like holding a grudge. Maybe I’d get pissed at Johnny later, but for now, I just needed a friend. That footage shown of me was just so horrible, and…

 

            I suddenly jumped. “Johnny!” I said. “You’ve gotta stop talking to me! They’re taping us here, and...”

 

            To my surprise, Johnny just smiled. “Oh that,” he said in a calm manner. “I’ve known about that for years. Right now they’re not taping us. Or at least, not in this spot right now. I memorized the taping schedule a long time ago. That was really hard to do, but eventually I got it down. Anyway, like I said, the nannies have gotten really lax in recent years, and they only tape certain things. That’s why I haven’t talked to you all the time, and you’d only see me every few days. Luckily, you crawled over to the right spot on your first day, and they weren’t taping you, at least not when I talked to you. And even if they ever did catch us, they’d only think we were talking baby talk. Like I said, I’ve got these nannies so fooled, they have no idea.”

 

            I still had my doubts about all of this, but I was also really eager to talk to Johnny. So I trusted his judgment, since it had apparently worked for him so far.

 

            “But weren’t you extremely surprised to find out that they were taping you?” he asked. “I had no idea about it ‘til I went through level 5. I almost fainted when I saw footage of me sucking a pacifier being projected onto a huge screen in front of a huge group of girls.”

 

            It felt really, really good to hear Johnny describe level 5. I felt better knowing that he knew how I felt, since he had gone through the same thing at some point.

 

            “Well, it was pretty shocking to see it,” I admitted. “But I found out about the taping right before.”

 

            “How?”

 

            I hesitated, not sure if I should mention Tammy. Deciding it couldn’t hurt, I went for it. “Do you know Tammy?”

 

            “Yeah, she’s just a regular nanny here. She’s kinda young, and she’s always been kinda nice to me, but that’s all I know about her.”

 

            I couldn’t believe it. For these last few years, Johnny and Tammy had no idea about each other. He had been doing his act, and she had been doing hers. She had no idea that there was still a kid here who wasn’t a baby, and he had no idea a nanny could have helped him out.

 

            I quickly told Johnny about my encounter with Tammy and how she had told me about the cameras and her past. He was simply stunned to find out about this.

 

            “Wow, that’s amazing,” he said. “Very, very interesting. Well, not like it matters. I probably would have never gotten a chance to talk with her. I barely see her, and they do tape quite frequently. Besides, I got my own plan.”

 

            “Ok,” I said. “Come on Johnny, please tell me, who are you? How long have you been here? Why haven’t you been decoded? What’s your plan out of here?”

 

            Johnny just looked at me for a second. He then sighed and said, “Well, kid, you’ve been through more than any kid has ever been through in such a short period of time. I thought you were impressive before, but doing levels 3, 4, and 5 and still being sane is an all time record. If anyone deserves to hear my story, it’s you, especially since I’m responsible for your punishment. I know you’re ready to hear it now, and I owe you that much. So let me start from the beginning and I’ll tell you everything.”

 

            After letting out another sigh, Johnny said, “Well, I guess it’s best to begin at the beginning. You’d be surprised at how much of my past I remember; I guess that’s one positive trait that I have, an excellent memory. Anyway, I’ve been here in this program for just about ten years. The only way I know that is that I’ve overheard the nannies talking about how the program is about ten years old, and I was among the first group of kids who entered into the program.

 

            “That makes me twenty-five years old, because I remember that I was fifteen when I first came here.

 

            “I was probably extremely similar to the way you and all the other kids who have come through here were before you got here. I hated school so I skipped often and failed most of my classes. I went out and got drunk all the time, and I smoked marijuana quite a bit too. I even used cocaine and heroin. I fought with people all the time; little things would make my temper rise, so I’d go and beat up anybody who I didn’t like.

 

            “My parents always worried about me, but they never had the guts to truly discipline me. If I ever got in trouble with the law, they’d find a way to get me out of it. I guess they loved me; but if they really did, they probably would have disciplined me more.

 

            “I always hung out with kids who were just like me. The guys were my best buds, and even though I had friends who were girls, I mostly just used them for sex. I did have a girlfriend, and I do think we truly loved each other. We were both really bad kids, and we were constantly having sex with other people. But I still think we felt we had a connection.

 

            “Well, this went on for a few years, with nothing really changing. Then one day my parents heard about some kid in our neighborhood who overdosed on heroin. This totally freaked them out because they knew that I was always using drugs. They were so scared of me dying too that they felt they had to do something.

 

            “But they couldn’t bring themselves to send me to military school or rat me out to the cops or anything. I don’t know exactly how they found out about the Reconstruction Program, but apparently it was some new type of program that promised to straighten out kids by raising them correctly. I guess it sounded good to them, so they signed me up and told me that I would be going off to a special program. I wasn’t crazy about the whole idea, but they told me that if I didn’t agree to go, they’d get some of my friends in big trouble. See, they hated my friends, and because of their connections and money, I felt like they really could have made life really bad for my friends. I was so worried about my friends that I agreed, although now that I think about it, my parents were probably too weak-minded to follow through.

 

            “Anyway, it looked like I’d be going to this ‘special program’. Before I knew it, I found myself on a bus with a bunch of other boys. By the looks of them, they seemed to be just as bad as me. None of them looked happy about going into this program, and I still remember the cold stares that they all gave each other on our bus ride. I didn’t really feel like talking to any of them, so we remained silent for the whole ride. I counted and figured out that there were exactly twenty of us.

 

            “Our arrival was probably very similar to the way yours was, considering that’s one of the few things that has remained the same throughout the years. As we all got off the bus, about forty big men grabbed us (two guys to each one of us) and forcefully led us into the huge building that you are currently in. I went along calmly, but they really had to wrestle a couple of the other kids in there. Once inside one of the nursery rooms (it was empty and the walls were blank at that time), the wonderful Doctor McPherson gave us the traditional welcome.”

 

            “McPherson was there then, too?” I asked.

 

            “Oh yeah,” Johnny said. “And he was just as much of a greasy haired slime ball as he is now.

 

            “Anyway, the big guys pushed us all down to the floor while McPherson placed collars around each one of our necks. A bunch of the kids yelled at him and the guards and cussed them out too. Well, until the collars were on. Then they’d receive shocks every time they cussed. I remember hearing their howls of pain as it happened. Once we all had collars on, McPherson began to talk to us. He told us about our collars and how they would shock us every time we cussed, and he then gave every one of us a shock just to let us feel it. Like the first time you were shocked, it made our bodies go limp, and I felt myself being drug into another smaller room all alone.

 

            “I was completely full of fear as I was strapped down to a table and stripped naked. I was helpless and I knew that there was nothing I could do. And I didn’t even know what these crazy people were going to do to me. I pictured them physically torturing me or locking me in a tiny cell or something.

 

            “Had I known what was coming up, I might have preferred the torture. You can imagine my anger and anxiety when I saw a nanny (they didn’t have those nurse ladies back then) come in the room and take out a diaper. I had never been around babies much, but I knew a diaper when I saw one. I yelled and struggled to no avail as she smiled at me and proceeded to tape it around my waist. She shocked me to calm me down and talked to me like I was a baby. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed, and there was still nothing I could do about it. Things only got worse as she put a onesie on me and pinned a pacifier to the front of it. After telling me that from now on I would be treated like a baby, she warned me not to resist or I would get another shock. The shocks were so painful that I decided to just go along with her. But I still felt about two inches high as she picked me up and carried me in her arms. There I was, dressed like a baby, diaper and all, and now I was being carried like one.

 

            “For a few horrible minutes I thought I would be shown in front of the other boys and I would be the only one treated this way. So I was shocked but extremely relieved when I saw that the rest of them were also dressed as babies.

 

            “We were in another nursery, although this one had twenty huge baby cribs in it. All of the other boys were also being carried, although some continued to struggle despite the shocks. Nonetheless, the nannies put each one of us into a crib. As I was laid down, I heard one of the nannies say, ‘Ok, change all of their collars to just roll over status now.’

 

            “With that, I was left in the crib. I tried to stand up, but as soon as I did, I was shocked. I couldn’t move for a few minutes, and when I recovered, I tried again. The same thing happened. I began to panic as I realized that the only thing I could do was lay there and roll onto either one of my sides.

 

            “As I looked through the bars of my crib, I noticed the other kids were coming to the same realization. The nannies had left the room; we were just left there in our cribs and baby clothes, unable to do anything but roll over like infants. The other kids were all yelling and I could here the panic in there voices as well. It felt like some horrible nightmare; we simply couldn’t believe that this was happening.

 

            “Thankfully, one of us had some sense and was able to keep his cool. I looked over and saw him; he had spiky black hair and looked to be about sixteen. He looked frustrated but also very calm. After the yelling died down, he yelled out, ‘Ok, everyone shut up!’ He was shocked, but once he recovered, he said, “Ok, everyone calm down. I know this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to us, but we’ve gotta keep our heads.’

 

            “ ‘How are we supposed to do that?!’ I heard one kid yell. ‘They’ve put us in cribs and damn baby clothes…’ His voice trailed as he got shocked.

 

            “ ‘I know that!’ the first kid said. ‘But if we panic we won’t be able to do anything except continue to get shocked!’

 

            “ ‘So what are we supposed to do?’ I asked. ‘I can’t do anything but roll over!’

 

            “ ‘Just don’t think about it!’ he responded. ‘Ignore the fact that we’re all wearing diapers. Don’t think about moving; just lie there and relax. Here, let’s talk about something to keep our minds off of it. My name’s Ricky Rawson. How ‘bout you guys?’

 

            “Most of us introduced ourselves and talked about where we were from. We explained our pasts and tried to avoid talking about our current situation. Eventually, though, we ran out of subjects. Sensing this, Ricky began to talk again. ‘Well, the one thing I know is that we’ve gotta stick together. That’s the only way we’re ever going to get out of this!’

 

            “Everybody agreed, but yet again we had nothing else to say. We all still felt demoralized and ashamed, and didn’t feel like talking much more. After a period of time, we heard the nannies come back in.

 

            “I saw one come over to me and lift me out of my crib. I still couldn’t move without being shocked, so I didn’t. But I could still see that the other kids were also being taken out of their cribs. Soon after, the nannies all began to shove baby bottles in our mouths and forced us to drink the milk that was inside them. Again, most of us resisted, but in the end we had to consent. Again, I felt extremely ashamed and humiliated.”

 

            “Once they were done, they put us back in our cribs and left. It was only a matter of time until we realized something; we couldn’t move, but we had to pee or poo. One kid pointed this out, and everybody began to get worried again. Eventually all of us had to go, and after a while the nannies came back to check on us and change our diapers.

 

            “My first diaper change was horrible. I couldn’t believe that I had actually gone in a diaper and that I needed to have one of the stupid nannies change me (she did so in my crib). But once it was done, I was put right back into my crib, and it was only a matter of time before I fell asleep.

 

            “Over the next few days everything went basically the same way. We were taken out to be given baths, fed, and changed, but other than that, we were always left in our cribs. I truly began to get worried, and it was only through forced conversations from Ricky that I managed to stay calm.

 

            “Then one day, the nannies came back in and took us out of our cribs. They sat us down on the floor, and I noticed, to my great joy, I could move again! I found out I still couldn’t stand and that I could only crawl, as did the other kids. After we got the chance to move around, the nannies told us to sit still or we’d be shocked.

 

            “Once they got us to stay still, they told us about what was happening. They explained that five of us had gone mentally insane due to our treatment. I looked around and noticed we were down to fifteen. They continued and told us that we would still be treated as babies, but that we’d be allowed to crawl around under their supervision. With that, they took us out of the room and into another nursery.

 

            “This one had a bunch of baby toys in it and some chairs and tables. The nannies put us down and let us roam about freely. We used our chance of freedom to interact with each other. The news of the others going insane really scared us, and we knew that now, more than ever we’d have to stick together.

 

            “A few of the kids panicked. I saw some automatically race to the door or try to rip off their baby clothes. It was actually kind of funny at first because they couldn’t figure out how to do it. They kind of did look like babies as they struggled to figure out how to unbutton their sleepers or onesies. But it didn’t last long because the nannies shocked anyone who showed any sign of resistance.

 

            “Eventually we all settled down and began to talk. You might be a little surprised that the nannies allowed us to do this, but remember, they still didn’t really know what they were doing; remember, they had just driven five kids insane, so they decided to be a little bit nice to us. If we were all driven insane, the program would be deemed a failure and they’d all be out of jobs, especially since a lot of money had already been poured into the program. So they basically just let us be and decided to watch how we acted.

 

            “One we all settled down, we began to seriously talk with one another. It was so much nicer to be able to see each other and start putting faces, voices and names together. We started to get to know each other and get along.

 

            “Over the next few days we were still put into our cribs to sleep, bottle-fed, given baths, and had our diapers changed. But we were still allowed to talk with one another, and we all started to become friends.

 

            “The nannies were in a bit of an awkward situation. Remember, the directors, who gave the nannies their instructions, still didn’t really know what they were doing. They didn’t want to risk driving any of us insane, but they also knew they had to do something; at the current rate, we were still acting completely like teenagers despite our forced baby state. So the directors began to experiment with us.

 

            “Different groups of us were forced to do certain things. Some kids were forced to suck pacifiers or be subject to shocks. Some were made to hold and cuddle teddy bears for hours. Some were put down for naps during the day. Some were made to play with baby toys. Some were only talked to in baby-talk. Some were spoon fed, some were bottle-fed, and some were both. Some had baby powder used for changing, others baby oil or baby lotion. Some were made to cry when they were hungry or wet.

 

            “It was really embarrassing for us to go through all of this, but after weeks and weeks the nannies still had no luck. Despite our humiliation, we were still allowed to talk to each other, and we all still had teenage mindsets.

 

            “During this time I got to be really good friends with Ricky and a couple of other kids, named Andy Higgins, Jamal Houston and Ryan Peterson. We became really close, and despite our conditions, we managed to actually enjoy ourselves. We shared stories about our pasts and we talked about what the nannies had done to each of us. We began to gain confidence.

 

            “It looked like everything was going to be fine. The nannies became more and more stressed about their failed attempts, and the program was going nowhere.

 

            “But then we made our first big mistake, even though we didn’t know what we were doing. There was one kid named Scotty who was having trouble fitting in with everybody else. He couldn’t get over his baby treatment, and even though a lot of us complained and even cried a few times, Scotty just simply couldn’t take it. We started shunning him because he always seemed to whine a lot, and he was often left out.

 

            “One day, he started uncontrollably crying. We thought he was just whining again, but then we saw that he was crying the way that babies do. Before the nannies came over, we managed to calm him down. But when we tried to talk to him, he only let out gurgles. We couldn’t get him to talk to us, and at first we thought he had been driven insane. But then Ricky realized what had happened. Scotty’s mind had been reduced to the mind of a baby.

 

            “The nannies quickly realized this, and they were overjoyed. They began to get excited and treated him just like a real baby. His reactions were exactly the same as a baby’s and they knew that they had had their first success.

 

            “This was terrifying to us. We simply couldn’t believe that all of this baby treatment had worked and that they had successfully turned Scotty into a baby. The nannies began to gain confidence and continued to their various experiments on the rest of us.”

 

            “Wait,” I said. “You said you guys made a mistake. What did you do?”

 

            “Ah,” Johnny said. “You see, kid, even though neither us nor the nannies realized why Scotty had been decoded at that particular time, it was really us kids’ fault that it had happened. Ok, listen up, because here’s the secret to the decoding process. A kid has to be treated exactly like a baby by EVERYONE. You see, that’s why we had lasted so long; we were still talking to each other. By doing this, we reminded each other that we were really teens, not babies. But we had been shunning Scotty and had stopped talking to him. The only interaction he had was with the nannies, and they all simply treated him like a baby. Given enough time, his mind started believing that he really was a baby, since that was the only thing he was ever told.

 

            “Anyway, despite their success, the directors still didn’t know why Scotty had been decoded, and for that matter, neither did us kids. But about a year passed, and the fourteen of us were still there. We could tell that the nannies were becoming frustrated again.

 

            “Unfortunately, we began to get worried that we wouldn’t escape. Some of the kids were still worried that they would suffer Scotty’s fate, and before we knew it, another one of us did.

 

            “It was a Hispanic kid named Marco. I think it happened because he had been forced to spend a lot of time alone in a playpen. Thankfully, there were also a lot of other things the nannies had only been doing to him, ranging from burping him to rocking him to sleep. They still had no idea that his isolation from us had caused it, and neither did we.

 

            “Our lack of knowledge caused terror and panic among us. Before we knew it, three more kids had become babies. It’s hard to know exactly why, but I have some ideas. These three kids were kinda weird, and I think they got decoded more for other reasons than simply being isolated.

 

            “I think Chris, the first, just gave up. I think he got tired of fighting, because one time he told me he started to like being treated like a baby. He said he felt truly loved for the first time in his life, and said that if he had to be a baby to be loved, he would be a baby.

 

            “Tyrone, the second, found an interest in baby toys. Despite being able to talk to each other, we still got pretty bored. Eventually we started playing with the toys we were given to pass the time. Tyrone got so into it that I think it started eating away at his mind, and eventually he started acting just like a baby.

 

            “Richie, the third, was really weird. He started getting a thing for baby food. He once told me he loved the way it tasted, and like Tyrone, he got in so deep that he just began to act like a baby.

 

            “But these are only my guesses. But for whatever reason, we were down to ten. Despite the nannies joy at having three more baby boys, they couldn’t get the rest of us to crack, and they were still clueless as to why they had been successful with the other five.

 

            “More time passed and we were still teenagers mentally. We started to gain a lot of confidence, believing the first five were just weak. Since we had each other, we felt fine with our situation. True, we were now diaper dependent and couldn’t walk or do much else physically, but we were so used to our baby treatment that it wasn’t embarrassing anymore. Yeah, in small ways we started acting kind of weird. Most of us often sucked our pacifiers and carried around stuffed animals and blankets, but we weren’t really embarrassed about it. And bottle-feeding, baths and diaper changes were just normal, everyday activities.

 

            “But then we made our second mistake; we started to get too cocky. Remember, we were all rebels, part of the reason that had gotten us in here in the first place. We began to get extreme satisfaction in the nannies’ frustration, and we started to push them even further. We’d make the other five babies (who were still with us) cry. We’d knock over cribs and changing tables. We’d throw our pacifiers at the nannies. We always laughed about it afterwards, and it was pretty fun to make the nannies’ tempers boil over.

 

            “However, they finally had had enough of it. This is when they came up with the ideas of punishing us. One day one of the nannies told us that since we were babies, we would be punished like babies. One by one, we were held down and spanked. Not only did it kind of hurt, but it was very humiliating. A couple of us even broke down and cried.

 

            “They saw us humiliated for the first time in a while, so they continued to do it whenever we stepped out of line in the slightest bit. Oh, they still shocked us, but most of us had built up a pretty decent resistance by then. The spanking was far more effective, and it seemed like no matter how many times it happened, it was still very degrading.

 

            “Casey eventually cracked. He couldn’t take it anymore; he told me that it reminded him of when his dad used to beat him. He started to find comfort in his teddy bear and pacifier, and before we knew it, he was a baby.

 

            “This inspired the nannies to new punishments. Even though the rest of us had stopped being bothered by the spankings, they introduced new punishments. The first was level 2, where we were all shaved. This successfully decoded Jason, and we were down to eight. They hadn’t yet come up with levels 3, 4, or 5 yet; they still had no connections with the surrounding town. However, they had other ones that they don’t use anymore.

 

            “One of these was the use of enemas. My first one was truly horrible, but all of us except Stevie were still OK after four or five of them given to us over a few days. But now we were down to seven, since this punishment effectively decoded Stevie.

 

            “Next, they refused to change our diapers for days at a time. That was horribly nasty, but only Corbett was decoded. Now there were only six of us.

 

            “Next came forced crib naps. They strapped us in our cribs for weeks and weeks, changing our diapers and feeding us while we were still strapped in. Thankfully, they still left us together in the same room, so we could still talk to each other. However, when we were finally taken out, Shawn was a baby.

 

            “There were now only five of us remaining: Ricky, Andy, Jamal, Ryan, and me. Now more than ever we knew that we’d have to stick together and fight the decoding as hard as we could.

 

            “Thankfully, we were all extremely good at this. It helped that we were such good friends. Whenever, we saw one of us faltering, we got him back on track. The nannies still didn’t know what was going on, but we figured it out. We knew that as long as we reminded each other that we weren’t babies, we could stick together and fight the system.

 

            “This gave us a newfound confidence. The nannies repeated all of the previous punishments over and over again, but none of us cracked. They tried, even more ideas, ranging from making us talk stupid baby-talk and gibberish to singing lullabies and little kiddie songs to us to even (Johnny let out a shudder as he talked)….BREASTFEEDING us. But nothing worked.

 

            “On top of this, one day, a few new kids arrived. Like us, they felt extremely humiliated. We tried to comfort them and tell them how we had last so long, but it didn’t really work. The other fifteen babies seemed to scare them because they felt that the same thing would happen to them. Due to the nannies’ treatment of them, and the fact that they believed that they would eventually turn into the babies, all of the new kids were eventually decoded.

 

            “Every now and then more kids would come, but the same thing happened. Eventually, there were about fifty teenage babies crawling around. It seemed like the more babies there were, the easier it was for the new ones to give in and be decoded.

 

            “Since the system was working extremely well, the directors really began to expand and improve it. They painted the walls with baby designs, bought new furniture, and started to gather more baby toys. They hired more nannies, and the nannies began to spend more time with the babies, such as doing things like reading stories and playing games. It was probably around this time that they started to use cameras to make sure that the babies didn’t get hurt. They began to come up with schedules so that there were always nannies there to take care of the babies and give them attention.

 

            “They also were able to start reconstructing the kids, and we noticed that some appeared to be acting older. They began to speak words, walk, and drink from sippy cups. After a while, we noticed that Scotty and a few of the other earlier babies had grown up to be like little kids, and soon after they left.

 

            “The directors had basically given up on the five of us, however. They still treated us like all the other babies, but they knew we weren’t really decoded. They also began to worry about us; they didn’t care if we talked and interacted with each other, but they were worried that we would start to be a bad influence on the other babies, especially the ones that were acting older. The directors thought that maybe we might break the decoding and turn them back into horrible teenagers again. They knew something had to be done about us, especially since they still didn’t know how we had managed to fight the decoding.

 

            “So one day, while we were all sitting down and chilling, one of the nannies came over, picked Andy up, and carried him out. We didn’t think anything of it, thinking he was just getting a nap or a bath or something. But a few hours later, they carried him back in and he was crying uncontrollably. It took us about an hour to get him to stop, and we worried that he may have been decoded. But finally, he managed to talk to us again, and told us what had happened. He had been through what is now punishment level 3. We just stared in awe as he described being rolled around town in a stroller, being gawked at by the people in the city, and being baby-talked by a bunch of Catholic school girls. We couldn’t figure out why these people had gone along with it, but it truly scared us.

 

            “Over the next few days, the other four of us had to go through the same thing. We were a little bit better off than Andy since we knew what was coming, but it was still one of the worst experiences of our lives. I especially remember how embarrassed I was to have girls younger than me act like I was a real baby. There was something about public humiliation that was about a hundred times worse than anything we had experienced in the nursery.

 

            “We were all still OK though, so they proceeded on to putting us through level 4. We went through probably all the same stuff you did; we were the baby for the home economics class, and we were used as examples for bottle-feeding, spoon-feeding, diaper-changing, pacifier-sucking, crying, and a whole bunch of other stuff.”

 

            “I was only bottle-fed, spoon-fed, and changed,” I replied. “But they had a diaper changing contest, and I peed on one girl.”

 

            Johnny laughed as I told him the story, and he then said, “Well, we had it a little worse than you, but not by much. Anyway, what was really bad about it was that Ryan didn’t make it. He was the first, and when he came back, he was so distraught he couldn’t talk to us. Soon after he became a baby, and we had to wait for Ricky to go through the punishment before we knew what it was.

 

            “But there were still the four of us. But then came the real killer; level 5. Tell me, what was it like for you? I know it’s really hard, but if you can, I want to know.”

 

            With difficulty I recounted my story for Johnny. Even though he shuddered over some details, for the most part he just nodded.

 

            “Yeah, ours was just about the same. I still can’t believe they use that stupid bonnet and jacket. Anyway, I had to go first, and I almost fainted when I saw footage of myself on that huge screen. When it was finally over, it took the other guys hours to get me back on track. I pulled through, but unfortunately, Jamal didn’t. It was simply too much for him. Ricky, Andy and I couldn’t believe it; it was now down to just us three.

 

            “We formed a completely tight bond. No matter what, we swore we’d get out of here. We tried as hard as we could to get any new kids on our side, but eventually they all got decoded. Some managed to make it pretty far, and even a couple made it all the way to level 5. But none lasted longer than that.

 

            “But the directors still wanted Ricky, Andy and me. After a while, they stopped letting us talk to the new kids. They also had developed all kinds of new techniques, and during this time, the program became basically exactly like it is today. They had perfected their methods over the years, and Ricky, Andy and I were the only three people who kept the program from being a one hundred percent success.

 

            “They decided to go with extreme measures for us. They got rid of all of the punishments except for current levels one through five. But they came up with new ones. And all of the punishments beyond level five were made specifically because of us three.

 

            “It’s been so long that I mix up which one is which. But I remember them all.

 

            “One involved the people of the town treating us like teens. This doesn’t sound bad at all, but what made it so horrible is that they made fun of us due to our babyish state. I remember a nanny rolling my stroller in front of a crowd. They trash-talked me, laughed at me, and jeered me. Then they started saying things like ‘The big bad thug is now going pee pee in his diapers!’ or ‘Not so tough now, huh? Can’t fight anybody when you need a pacifier to go to sleep!’

 

            “The next one will blow your mind. Get this; they injected this drug into us. This crazy injection made us get turned on by our baby treatment. Whenever we wet our diapers, we would get erections. Whenever we were bottle-fed, the same thing would happen.

 

            “This was unbelievably enticing. We hadn’t gotten turned on in years. I remember when I first wet my diaper after I had the drug. I was so excited that I flipped over on my stomach and immediately rubbed the front of my diaper against the carpet until I climaxed. It was the most powerful one I had ever had.

 

            “It was very effective, though. It forced us to love parts of our baby treatment. Somehow, Ricky and I managed to continue to fight, but Andy couldn’t help it. He enjoyed it all so much that he decided to become a baby again.

 

            “Now it was down to just Ricky and me. Oh they made us show off our sexual pleasure from our baby treatment in front of the crowds, who then called us pedophiles and freaks (again, they were sent propaganda to make them think this). They put us through levels one through five numerous times. They made us stay in real day care centers with actual babies to further enforce our babyish treatment. They publicly spanked us.

 

            “But we hung in there. I thought we were gonna lose it on the next one, though. They invited our old friends over to the nursery. They paraded us around in front of them in our baby clothes, and then they told our friends that we LOVED being treated like babies (of course we had pacifiers in our mouths so we couldn’t argue). To prove their point, they injected us with the drug and showed our friends how we got turned on by our baby treatment. I still remember crying when I saw guys that at one time were my closest of friends laugh at me and call me a sick freak for being aroused by my condition.

 

            “But even that didn’t break us. And then it came. Ricky was taken away one day, and when he came back, he was only barely able to recount what had happened to him.

 

            “He told me that he had been taken back to his old house. His parents were there, and so were his friends. He said his parents were overjoyed to see him as a baby, and his friends just laughed. But he said the worst was his girlfriend; she burst into tears and tried to save him from his condition, but both he and his girlfriend couldn’t do anything.

 

            “Once he finished his story, he tried to talk to me rationally. But as I tried to will him on, he just simply started to slip away. He shoved his thumb in his mouth, grabbed a blankie, and began to make gurgling noises. For the next few days I tried to get him to come back, but it was useless. Like all the others he had been decoded. It was horrible for me, especially since I had to go through the same thing with my old friends and family the next week…”

 

            But I cut Johnny off. I simply couldn’t believe what he had just told me.

 

            “Johnny,” I said. “I just realized something; Ricky is Tammy’s old boyfriend.”

 

            “What?!” he asked.

 

            I repeated the story about Tammy’s past to Johnny, and he looked just as stunned as I am.

 

            “Wow,” he said. “I don’t believe it. That’s…really sad.

 

            “Well, to continue my story, I was now alone. Everyone else had been decoded, and I felt like I was destined to the same fate. Part of me just wanted to give up; I had lost everything. My original friends, my parents, my dignity, even the only friends that I had had here. What was the point in fighting?

 

            “But Ricky’s condition fired something up in me. I wasn’t just sad or depressed anymore; I was angry. I felt like a fire was burning inside me, and I wanted nothing else but to kill everyone involved with any of this.

 

            “I was able to keep cool-headed, however. I knew the helplessness of my situation, but I was able to channel my anger into logical thoughts. I knew that the only way to get out of here was to be decoded and reconstructed. So I knew that’s what I had to do. Only, I would only make them think they had succeeded.

 

            “By now, I know they realized why Ricky and I had lasted so long. They had made efforts to separate us in the past, but through clever, secret discussions we were able to talk to each other. But now that he was gone, I knew they’d think I would be decoded in a heartbeat.

 

            “So I decided to fool them. I acted like I was decoded. It was very hard to act like a baby, but I eventually got it down to an art. And like I said before, I was able to pick up all kinds of information because they didn’t think I was listening.

 

            “Now you’re probably wondering how I managed to keep from getting decoding. It’s hard to say for sure why that’s true; at the time, I couldn’t think of any other plan, and if I didn’t do something, I would be decoded anyway.

 

            “I guess I had built up quite a tolerance. I had gone through seven years of baby treatment and some of the worst punishments imaginable. Plus, I had bee interacting with Ricky for seven years as well. Due to all of this experience, it was much easier to keep my head and fight the urges to be a baby. And I did exactly what I’ve told you to do; I stayed calm.

 

            “In addition, a lot of times when a new kid would come in, I’d talk to him. I didn’t just do this to comfort him; it also gave me the interaction I needed to continue to fight the decoding.

 

            “So for the past three years that’s what’s been going on. I memorized the camera schedules and figured out basically how everything works around here. New kids come in, and some have even managed to make it past level 5. But except for you and a couple of others who are partially decoded, I’m the only one who doesn’t have the mind of a baby. They reconstructed me for the most part, and get this.”

 

            He pulled down the front of his pants to reveal…

 

            “Pull-ups,” he said. “They’ve started potty training me. Soon, I’ll be completely trained, and I’ll be ready to move on.”

 

            With Johnny’s story finished, we both just kind of stared at each other for a little bit. I then said, “So what now? What’s your plan? When you ‘move on’, won’t you have to keep the act up in the next place they send you two?”

 

            But Johnny just laughed and said, “No way, kid. You see, here’s the thing. I’ve tried to escape this place in who knows how many different ways. So have the kids who have come through here. But the one thing that’s stopped all of the plans is this.”

 

            He pointed to the collar around his neck. “Even though it doesn’t hurt me anymore, the shock still keeps me from moving while it’s going on. No matter what I do, they’ll be able to stop me as soon as I put one toe outta line. This thing’s even got a homing device in it, so even if I did escape, they’d just shock me until they used it to find me.

 

            “But remember what I told you; once I move on, they take the collar off. And remember, they all think I’m just a sweet little two-year old. As soon as this thing is off, I make my move. I’ve regained most of my physical abilities, and I’m as mentally sharp as I ever was. I’ll catch them completely off guard and make my escape. They’ll have no way to stop me.”

 

            “But what if you fail? Or if you do escape, what do you do then?” I asked.

 

            “Well, if I fail, I’m right back in here, and I guess I’ll just finally throw the towel in and be decoded. And if I make it out, I’m sure I’ll figure out something. I know I can get a job somewhere. Anything’s better than being stuck here.

 

            “But the real question is, kid, what are YOU gonna do?”

 

            “What do you mean?” I asked.

 

            “Well, you heard my story. The only way to fight the decoding is through interaction with people who don’t treat you like a baby. They’ve perfected their methods now; they’ll make sure no new kid who comes through here gets anywhere near you. They don’t want the two of you to get together since they’d be afraid of you two talking and fighting the system together. If they knew I wasn’t really decoded, I would have never gotten the chance to talk to you in the first place. No matter what you do, you can’t fight the decoding process.”

 

            Johnny’s words hit me hard. I couldn’t believe that he was going to get out of here but that I was going to be decoded no matter what. I had always believed in the back of my mind that Johnny was always gonna be there helping me through this.

 

            Sure, Tammy was trying to help me, but she said I’d have to fight the decoding process for a long time before I’d get the chance to tell my parents I was really a baby and get a chance to start over outside of this place. And if what Johnny said was true, how could I fight the decoding process much longer?

 

             I just sat there and looked at Johnny, unable to believe that I was doomed to be a baby. But then I said something that changed the whole direction of our conversation, and by the end of our conversation, Johnny, the only person who truly knew what it was like to go through what I had gone through, would hate my guts.

 

Part 12

 

            “But Johnny,” I said. “I’m different.”

 

            Johnny just let out a soft laugh and said, “Kid, I keep tellin’ you, that’s what every kid who comes in here thinks. No one thinks they can be decoded, they all think there’s something special…”

 

            “No, Johnny, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m different because of…you.”

 

            Johnny just sort of paused for a moment, and then quizzically said, “What?”

 

            “Johnny, you said yourself that the decoding system can be fought as long as someone can talk to someone who doesn’t treat them like a baby. And that’s what you’ve been doing to me. Think about it, we can fight the system together, it’ll be just like you and Ricky! We’ll keep talking to each other, fool the nannies ‘til we can get out of here together…”

 

            But Johnny stopped me. “Kid, do you got wax built up in your ears or somethin’? Haven’t you been listening? I’m outta here. I’m gonna be going in a just a few days.”

 

            I was a little bit surprised to hear him say this. I knew he was going to escape, but I thought he’d make some kind of change to his plans now that he realized that I hadn’t been decoded. I mean, he could have escaped somehow, I’m sure. He’d just have to wait a little longer.

 

            “But Johnny, you can’t do that to me! I’ll never make it without you! They’ll never let another kid near me until I’m decoded. And there’s no way I’ll be able to trick the nannies like you did, I’m not that strong! I just can’t do it! I need you here! You just can’t leave!”

 

            “And why not?” he asked, with that same calm tone that he always seemed to use. It started to get on my nerves, especially since I was becoming more and more anxious as I realized my predicament.

 

            “Because…” I stammered. “Because…I don’t deserve this!”

 

            Johnny just sort of stared at me for a moment. He didn’t say anything for about thirty seconds. And then, with a calm, rigid tone, he said (more to himself than to me), “You know, I don’t know why I even bother anymore. I honestly don’t know why I even talk to you kids. Because all of you are the same; selfish, conceited no-good punks.”

 

            I just kind of stared at him as he continued, now talking to me. “Take a look around you, kid. You’re surrounded by what used to be the scum of this earth. Kids who are lucky to be alive. Filthy, vile, criminals who would be better off left just robbin’ and killin’ people ‘til they died. You, me, that’s what we all are. We’re no-good, snot-nosed brats who don’t know what’s good for us.”

 

            I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but he kept going. I could hear anger rising in his voice as he spoke (although he was careful to keep his voice a whisper so that the nannies didn’t hear him).

 

            “You just don’t get it, do ya kid? Again, look around you. Had it not been for this program, every kid in here would either be dead or in jail. We’d all be getting anally raped and bullied around in a prison cell or just left cold and rotting in a gutter somewhere. Either that or we’d waste away our lives hurting and killing innocent people while we suffered every single day under our own self-loathing. Sure, we’d love our immoral lifestyles for a little while longer, not thinking about our futures while we’re out drinking and having sex. But then one day the bottom would fall out and we’d realize what a waste of human flesh we truly are.

 

            “But again I ask you to look around you. Is that what you see? Do you see kids lying in the street with heroin needles stuck in there dead carcasses? Do you see rapists who get away because their mommies and daddies don’t have the spines to let them go to jail? No, you see harmless, innocent little teenaged babies.

 

            “But it’s not just society who is lucky. The real lucky ones are these kids. Look how happy they are! If they weren’t here, they’d be wondering how they’d find food for the next day or whether or not they’d be sleeping on a park bench the next night. But no, they don’t think about that here. They get to feel true love. They get to be nurtured for and cared for in a way that they have never experienced before. They laugh and giggle as they play games with the nannies. They contently drift into soft, peaceful sleeps with their teddy bears and pacifiers to give them comfort. They get gently cooed and rocked if they feel sad or lonely. There only worries are whether or not they’re hungry or need a diaper change, and when that happens, they have a nanny right there to fix the only worries that ever cross their little minds.

 

            “This is their second chance. So many people in this world would trade anything to get a second chance in life. These kids get a chance to go back and live the way they would have had they gotten a proper upbringing. They get the love and discipline that they need to be the happy, law-abiding citizens that they should have been in the first place.”

 

            He then said in a mock voice, “ ‘I don’t deserve to be here’.” Switching back to his rigid tone, he looked directly at me and said, “You’re right about that, kid. If you got what you deserved, you’d be rotting in a jail cell, lonely without any friends. But instead of realizing how lucky you are, you’ve been complaining ever since you’ve been here. ‘Waah waah waah, I have to wear a diaper. Waah waah waah, I have to drink a baby bottle. Waah waah waah, they held me and loved me like their own child. Waah waah waah, they actually care about me.’ That’s all I here from you and every other kid who comes through here. You really do sound like a bunch of babies. You have too much pride to realize how truly fortunate you really are.”

 

            After saying his piece, Johnny just looked at the ceiling, shaking his head and muttering to himself.

 

            But Johnny’s words had a strange effect on me. As much as I resented his words, I had trouble finding them to be false. But at the same time, they angered me. Who was Johnny to tell me what was good for me? Who was he to tell me what I deserved?

 

            I now spoke to him. “And what about you?” I said, careful to keep my voice down. But anger also rose in my voice as I continued. “What makes you so special? You admitted yourself, you were just like us. You never were a goody little two shoes yourself, either, were you? You were just as horrible as the rest of us. You think you’re so much better, sitting back and only talking to kids to keep yourself from becoming a baby. Messing with our minds, only telling the kids that you choose how to fight the system. You’re just as selfish as anyone else. So why don’t you just get decoded if it’s so good for us? Why do YOU get to escape from here, while everyone else turns into babies?”

 

            As these words hit Johnny, I got a sense of satisfaction, feeling like I had made a huge point. I gave him a sly smile as he took in what I had said.

 

            But then his face changed. For the first time, I saw a pure look of hatred across his face.

 

            In a very dark tone, Johnny began to speak again. “Kid, you DO NOT want to go there. You have NO IDEA what I’ve been through. You don’t have the slightest clue what it’s like to experience what I’ve experienced here.

 

            “Think about it kid. You’ve been here a measly two weeks. I’ve been here TEN YEARS. You don’t think I felt the same way you did? Think about how many times I’ve had to wet and mess a diaper. It’s a wonder I even remember what a toilet is. I haven’t had anything but baby food and milk for ten years. I’ve been cooed and baby-talked to no end, I can hardly remember what it’s like to be called anything but ‘baby Johnny’.

 

            “But that’s the easy part. I told you kid, things are different now. When I came through, it was a WHOLE different ball game. YOU didn’t have to lie in a crib for weeks, only allowed to roll over while you heard the screams of the only other kids in the room. YOU don’t know the terror I felt when I saw kids go insane, afraid I would be next. YOU don’t know what it’s like to watch a kid mentally break down directly into a baby right before your eyes. YOU don’t know what it’s like trying to will other kids on while they cry into your shoulder for hours, fearing being turned into babies. YOU don’t know what it’s like to lie in your own fecal matter for days on end. YOU don’t know what it’s like to be confined in a crib for weeks and weeks. YOU don’t know what it’s like to have four enemas shoved into you each day for a week. YOU don’t know what it’s like to be yelled at and spit upon by a whole crowd who love seeing you being treated like a baby. YOU don’t know what it’s like to be filled with disgust as you push yourself to orgasm rubbing your penis up against a diaper.”

 

            A few tears began to come out of Johnny’s eyes as he shook with emotion, continuing by saying, “YOU don’t know what it’s like to see your friends one by one having their lives stripped away from them as they dissolve into simple babies. YOU don’t know what it’s like to hold your best friend of seven years in your arms while you have to witness him finally give up his struggle. YOU don’t know what it’s like to cower with fear as you realize that you are left completely alone, with only nannies, babies, and a few punk kids left to comfort you.

 

            “You don’t think I considered giving in and being decoded? You don’t know how many times I’d lie awake at night, telling myself I should just give in. I still wonder if that’s what I should have done. Because, the decoded kids are the lucky ones. They LIKE their diapers. They LIKE being bottle-fed. They simply LOVE their whole experience here. But for three years, I had to go through all of it from a teenage/adult perspective. But I learned the truth. I realized that I deserved just that. I understood that before I came here, I was an evil hearted kid who deserved to be sent to jail.

 

            “But after ten years, three of which I was all alone here, I’m still here. I proved that I could do it. I showed my will, my refusal to give in. And THAT is why I deserve to finally get out. If anyone deserves to get out, I DO.”

 

            Johnny wiped the tears out of his eyes and just gave me a cold stare, before saying,

 

            “So YOU make it three years here, kid. You see how much you can take by yourself. Then maybe I’ll be convinced that you know what you’re talking about. I get out of here in two days, kid. So all I have to say is, good-bye, and good riddance, LUKE.”

 

            While I just sat there stunned, Johnny crawled away out of my view.

 

            Not much happened for the next few minutes; I just continued to sit there, having trouble taking in everything I had heard. Once my mental gears started running again, I thought and thought for what felt like hours.

 

            So much had just happened during this one single day. Not only were images of punishment level 5 still running through my mind, but the result (me breaking down like I did) mystified me. It was almost as if I had lost total control of myself and was unable to regain control without Johnny’s help. I didn’t even know something like that could happen; on the other hand, I would have never thought it was possible for me to be paraded around as a baby on a stage in front of hundreds of teenage girls, either.

 

            But then of course I thought about everything Johnny had told me. His past was remarkable; it was hard to believe that he had been here ten years, and that he witnessed everyone besides him fall to the decoding process. And I was horrified by some of the things he told me he went through; I had it pretty bad, but I didn’t think my experience could slightly compare to his.

 

             But my mind was mainly focused on Johnny’s sudden change of emotion towards me. I couldn’t stop thinking about how he had told me that I and everyone else here were lucky to be here. The mere thought of it made me hate Johnny; he had no idea who I was and he had no right to tell me what was good for me. Yeah, so I did some pretty bad things; I wasn’t the most well behaved kid in the world. But to say that I deserved to be degraded and treated like I was a one year old kid was an insult. This program was inhumane; no one on this planet was bad enough to have this happen to them. Compared to this, prison seemed like heaven.

 

            This was how I felt; or at least, how I wanted to feel. But for some reason Johnny’s words made my stomach feel weak. I thought about what I had done before I got here. I thought about all those nights my mom had cried because I had gotten into a fight. I thought about all the times I felt angry or sad and my dad hadn’t given a damn about me. I thought about all the times my mom looked out for me or bailed me out when I had done something bad in school. I thought about all the time my teachers had invested in me trying to get me to learn, and how I had just thrown everything back into their faces.

 

            Johnny thought I was a selfish, snot-nosed brat. The insult meant little to me by this point; countless people, including McPherson, had referred to me as such. But it was different coming from Johnny; he was someone I had truly felt was on my side. He knew what it was like to be a delinquent teenager. He knew the shame I felt from having to wear diapers. He knew what it was like to be publicly humiliated in front of crowds of people. And despite all of this, he praised the program. He said that I was lucky to be here.

 

            I looked around the room. I had never really thought about the kids here; I really viewed them in the same way that I had viewed real babies. To me they were nothing more than babies. But they were all once just like me, law-breakers who would probably have grown up to be criminals who would die or be thrown in jail before they were thirty. But now they were harmless. They were innocent kids who were happy just to be held and loved.

 

            Was the program really fucked up? Was it really that bad? I had already gotten used to wearing diapers and being bottle-fed; after a while it wasn’t really all that embarrassing. Had Johnny been right all along? Was it my pride that was the problem? Should I be thankful to be here?

 

            I tried to find a flaw in Johnny’s logic. It seemed like there must be something that I could say that would prove that this program was just morally or ethically wrong. But was it if it really fixed kids? Johnny had told me that the system worked, and that a few criminal kids who had been through the program were now happy citizens.

 

            Did the ends justify the means? Or did that still not mean the program was right?

 

            But the real question was my own personal role in all of this. My life had been a rollercoaster ride of emotions. I would get huge thrills out of going out, drinking and fighting. But once it was all over, I didn’t really feel satisfied. I felt empty inside. I had no one to tell about my, well, my feelings. None of my girlfriends wanted anything more than a good screw. My friends all would have laughed at me and told me to stop being a faggot. My dad probably would have said the same. And my mom…I think she just wanted to form me into someone I wasn’t rather than listen to what I truly felt.

 

            Had I ever really been loved? Had anyone really cared about me? Did this program really offer me that? Should I start over from scratch and get the attention that any human being deserves from the beginning?

 

            Was I really just a baby who needed to be nurtured and cared for?

 

            I still didn’t know what to think about all of this, and I was rocked out of my deep thought by someone picking me up. It was of course another one of the nannies but I couldn’t see her face. I then noticed that I was wet again; I guess all of my thoughts had distracted me. Preparing myself mentally for a diaper change, I just let out a sigh.

 

            But the nanny didn’t carry me to a changing table; instead she carried me out of the nursery. I was puzzled about this until I heard a voice.

 

            “Shh…I’ve got something to tell you. I’ll change you in one of these tiny rooms without cameras.”

 

            I was a little surprised to realize it was Tammy. Everything that had happened had almost driven her out of my mind. And now she had something to tell me. I just waited patiently as she slipped into one of the tiny changing rooms.

 

            She quickly put me down on my back and began to change my diaper. As she did so, carefully keeping her voice down, she said, “Ok, I don’t have much time. It’s time for your nap and I don’t think they noticed me taking you in here. But they’ll notice you’re gone soon. So let me fill you in.”

 

            She removed my wet diaper and started to wipe me. I began to speak, since I wanted to tell her about Johnny.

 

            “Tammy, I’ve got something to tell you about too…”

 

            “There’s no time!” she hissed. “Cody, listen. I know you’ve just been through hell and I’m extremely relieved that punishment level 5 didn’t reduce you to a baby. But now that it hasn’t, I need you to help me out. You have to passively fight the decoding. I don’t know how you made it through level 5, but if they make you go through it again, or worse, put you through a higher level, I don’t know if you’ll make it. So you have to promise me you’ll be good and not push their limits!”

 

            “Why?” I asked as she took out a new diaper and placed it underneath me. It felt like she was my mom and was telling me to just be a good little boy. After all, I hated being told what to do. “What difference does it make?”

 

            “A lot!” she said as she started to tape my diaper around my waist. “Because I’ve just had a major breakthrough. It looks like I’ll be able to get you out of here in just a few days, but it won’t matter if you get decoded between then and now.”

 

            A rush of excitement filled my body. I couldn’t believe it; I’d be leaving this place intact in a matter of days! I excitedly asked her, “What have you found out? What’s the breakthrough?”

 

            After she fastened my sleeper back on me, she began to say, “Well, I’ve recently found out…”

 

            But the door to the room slammed open. Standing in the doorway were two nannies, and they didn’t look happy at all.

 

            “Tammy, what are you doing?” asked one of them.

 

            As Tammy stood there surprised, the other nanny rushed past me and grabbed me into her arms.

 

            Tammy just said, “I was just taking Cody here, and um, changing him before his nap…”

 

            “And you had to take him here to do so, huh? I’ve been watching you lately. Took Cody out to the park yesterday, did you? Was it just to show him off? Or is there some other reason you’ve been so interested in him?”

 

            Tammy just responded, “Look, you know as well as I do that Cody’s just a filthy little brat who needs to be babied to set him straight. Ask the kids in the park, they made fun of his diapered state.”

 

            Before I could hear anymore of the conversation, the nanny who was holding me carried me out of the room. The last bit I caught was the other nanny saying, “Well, I think it would be best for all of us that you stay away from Cody from now on. I think you believe that you’re a little bit above the system, don’t you Tammy? You had better watch yourself, or you might find out that conceited little girls might need to be reminded that just like babies, they are not in charge. Speaking of which, why did you not just change Cody back in the nursery instead of bringing him here?”

 

            But I wasn’t able to here Tammy’s response. I struggled to escape, but a shock kept me from doing so. The other nanny carried me into a crib room. After feeding me a bottle while rocking me in a rocking chair, the nanny strapped me in a crib for the night.

 

            I was left there in thoughts again. Now another piece of information was lodged in my brain. On top of everything else, now I was thinking about Tammy. She had said that her “breakthrough” could get me out of this place in a few days. But now she had been caught sneaking me out of the nursery. Would she be punished? Would she be fired? Was it even possible that she could be shipped away and forced to be in a start-over program?

 

            It seemed like one thing was for sure; I wouldn’t be seeing her for a while, considering what the nanny had said. But I still had the faint hope that maybe she would still be able to get me out of here in the next few days, despite our encounter with the nannies.

 

            My mind was so overwhelmed that I drifted off to sleep in no time. As I did, I knew one thing was for sure; it had definitely been one crazy day.

 

Part 13

 

            I still remember that night very well. Once again, my sleep was filled with dreams. Most of them I forgot, but not one. I don’t know if I’ll ever forget this dream, because it was the thing that changed my entire life.

 

            I was walking down a street in my neighborhood. I was in normal clothes and it was just like any other time that I had walked down that street. Suddenly, all around me, a bunch of guys that I had known had appeared. These were guys that I had fought many times and I knew they wanted to beat me to a pulp.

 

            But I had a knife in my hands, and before any of them could do anything, I slashed and slashed. A few of them fell to the ground bleeding and screaming in pain. As the rest closed in, I dodged their attacks and sank my knife deep into their bodies one by one. I felt a rush of triumph and joy as I did so; I had slain my enemies and their bodies were left twitching on the ground before me.

 

            Then the mood changed. Because as I stood there, each one of the guys stood up. But now, they weren’t themselves anymore; they had each transformed into one of the nannies in the center. Each had a smile on their face, and one said, “Naughty wittle Cody needs to be punished for being a bad boy!”

 

            They closed in on me, and as they did so, I noticed that each one had a baby item in their hands. One had a container of baby powder, one had a diaper, on had a pacifier, one had a teddy bear, one had a baby bottle…the list continued.

 

            Each one let out a triumphant laugh as they knew they were about to have their way with me. But I was ready this time; I didn’t cower before them as I had in my previous dreams. I was pissed; all the anger and hatred I felt inside because of all of the times they had taken control of me and forced me to drink a bottle or wear a diaper filled my entire body. Now I had no collar around my neck, and they had no control over me. Especially not when I had a pistol in my hand, as I did now…

 

            Before they could step any closer, I pointed my gun and pulled the trigger, lodging a bullet right in the forehead of the nearest one. As she screamed and collapsed, I turned and shot another one in the stomach.

 

            The others began to realize the danger they were in, so they each dropped their baby item and turned to run. But as they did so, I picked them off one by one and laughed heartily as I heard their squeals of pain.

 

            I then shot one in the leg and watched her grasp it and crash into the pavement. I walked over and turned her over so I could see the look of terror on her face. It was the nanny who had first taken me to see the girls at the Catholic school. Hatred burning inside me, I shot her four more times in the legs just to torture her as much as I could. I finally ended it by putting the barrel right up against her forehead and firing, feeling not the slightest sense of remorse as her brains splattered against the pavement.

 

            There was one left, however. As she tried to make a break for it, I caught her in the leg as well and watched her hopes of escaping me drift away. I ran over and turned her body over. It was the nanny who had taken me to punishment level 5, the one who I had hated the most. In seeing her face I was filled with a rage that I had never experienced before, and the only thing I wanted to do was inflict as much pain as possible onto every single inch of her body.

 

            I took the pistol and beat her with it. Blow after blow struck her head and I blanked out her terrified yells as bruises formed on her face. I was in control now, and I was going to make her pay for every bit of humiliation she had forced on me. I took my fists and pummeled her stomach, and then I stood up and stomped her as well. I then decided to end it; I grabbed a nearby knife and stuck in directly in her throat, feeling deep satisfaction as her body finally went limp.

 

            Standing up, I let out a triumphant yell as I stood there in my glory. An insane laughter took over me, and I felt on top of the world.

 

            But then I heard a sound; it was the sound of someone crying. Looking around, I noticed that there were now children all around me. There were boys and girls, ranging from age five to age ten. Each one was kneeling beside one of the nannies, and tears were pouring down their faces as they let out loud sobs. They were shaking with grief and their high pitched cries hurt my ears.

 

            Realizing what I had done, I fell to my knees and buried my face in my hands, forcing myself not to look at them. But then they started speaking to me, yelling at me with grief and anger.

 

            “YOU KILLED MY MOMMY!” one girl screeched. “How could you?! She was so nice!”

 

            “MINE TOO!” yelled a boy. “You’re a monster! She’s dead because of you!”

 

            They all yelled out similar things and I broke down into tears, wishing they would stop.

 

            As I looked up, more people had appeared. The bodies of the guys I hated were on the street now as well, and their were older couples around each one of them, also crying uncontrollably.

 

            “My little boy!” screamed one woman. “You took my little boy away from me!”

 

            A man yelled, “You little brat! You’ve destroyed my boy’s life! You’re worse than the dirt on my shoe! You deserve to be tortured to death!”

 

            “You’re nothing!” yelled a woman. “I should stomp you like the bug you are! You don’t deserve to breathe the air of this world!”

 

            “STOP!” I yelled out, tears still running down my face. “I didn’t mean to! I..I’m sorry!”

 

            “That doesn’t take back what you did!” yelled a man. “You’re worthless! You’re an evil, selfish little punk and no one on this earth gives a damn about you, because they shouldn’t! You think only about yourself and what you want! You don’t care about anyone else!”

 

            “SHUT UP!!!” I screamed. “It’s not my fault!”

 

            I then heard my dad’s voice. Standing right in front of me, he yelled. “Yes it is, you little piece of trash! We did our best for you, tried to make you realize that you were throwing your life away! But noooo, you continued to be a selfish little wussy, and because of that, I’ll never admit you’re my son!”

 

            I felt his spit fall upon my face. I screamed again, grasping my head with my hands. I felt as thought my head would explode.

 

            I then heard my mom’s voice, crying. “Cody, what happened to you?” she said through her sobs. “You used to be such a sweet little baby! Now look at you! You’re a horrible person! We really tried to make you listen! We tried to get you to do right! But you still act like a selfish baby!”

 

            “NOOOOOOO!!!!!!” I screeched. “That’s a lie! I’m not a baby! I’m a fourteen year old boy!”

 

            “You’re an excuse of a fourteen year old!” my dad said. “You should have never been born, because you just made this world worse! Don’t you get it? We hate you. We all hate you. No one gives a damn about you!”

 

            “He’s right,” my mom said. “We used to love you, Cody, but now we all hate you.”

 

            Everyone in the crowd said the same thing, screaming “WE HATE YOU! WE HATE YOU!”

 

            I collapsed onto the ground in a heap, curling myself up into a ball. I tried to block out there voices. Eventually, their voices started to fade. As I kept my eyes closed, the voices eventually disappeared. I opened my eyes, and was shocked at what I saw.

           

            I no longer was on a street, but now on a never ending patch of grass. The sun was bright and the sky was blue. And standing right in front of me was Tracy, with a big smile on my face.

 

            I was still crying, and this prompted Tracy to say, “Don’t cry, Cody. I’ll make it all better!”

 

            “But…but…no one likes me! They all hate me!” I said through sobs.

 

            “Well, Cody, you see, that’s because they want you to be something that you’re not!”

 

            “W…what?” I asked.

 

            “They want you to put others before you. They want you to be responsible. They want you to think about your actions. They want you to understand and do what they say. But you shouldn’t have to do that…you can’t do that!”

 

            “Finally, someone understands!” I yelled happily. I was so happy that I didn’t care that Tracy was now much, much bigger than me and that I now lying down naked on a big white cloth.

 

            “That’s right!” Tracy said with a smile. “Because they want you to be fourteen. They don’t understand that you’re not fourteen, you’re still a baby!”

 

            She leaned over me and smiled, gripping the edges of the white cloth and pulling it over my waist.

 

            “You see, Cody,” she said. “Babies can’t listen to adults. They are selfish. They don’t think about their actions. They aren’t responsible. And I know that you are just like that…you’re a baby!”

 

            I began to cry again as Tracy took two safety pins and pinned the cloth tightly around my waist.

 

            “No, I’m not a baby!” I yelled at her.

 

            “Yes, Cody, you are,” Tracy said as she tied a baby bonnet around my head. “You’re still a baby. But that’s ok! I don’t hate you like everyone else does. They don’t know you’re a baby, but I do. So I will treat you like one and love you like one. Until you’re ready to grow up, I’ll treat you like a baby!”

 

            “No,” I said as she tried to put a baby bottle into my mouth. “No…no…no…”

 

            I then woke up and found myself in my crib again. It was still night, and I was shaking, sweating, and breathing heavily because of my dream.

 

            It took me a few minutes to calm down and think about it. It had been extremely scary and disturbing. All I could think about was how I had killed those nannies, how everyone was crying, how everyone viewed me as a waste of flesh, and how Tracy had said it was because I still acted like a baby.

 

            I remembered how Johnny had told me I was lucky to be here. I remembered all of the attention and care the nannies had given me. I remembered how happy every one of the other kids here had been.

 

            I couldn’t really figure out why, but I had a bit of an epiphany; they were all right. I realized that for all those years I had been wrong; I had been acting like a childish, disobedient little two year old. I didn’t listen to what the people who looked out for me were trying to tell me. I had made them all hate me. That’s why my parents sent me here; it was for my own benefit, not punishment. They wanted to give me a second chance, a chance to grow up and do everything right. I was still a baby and I needed this program to force me into my true role and then get me to go through and grow up, something I had never done before.

 

            This change of outlooks may have happened very suddenly, but the dream had been that powerful. I felt like a blindfold had been lifted from my eyes and I now saw life the way it really was. I had painted this false image in my mind of who I was and why I did what I did, and now I realized how wrong I had been. It was amazing and hard to believe, but I had been through a lot in the past few weeks that was amazing and hard to believe as well.

 

            I couldn’t get back to sleep. My dream had been too scary, plus the fact that I couldn’t stop thinking about what it had made me realize. Hours passed, and eventually a nanny came in to get me up.

 

            I was almost in a daze as she changed my dirty diaper, gave me a bath and spoon-fed me. I complied without the slightest since of resistance as I continued to think about everything.

 

            Eventually I was plopped into a nursery again. I didn’t feel like doing anything, so I just leaned against a wall and stared at the floor.

 

            Hearing someone come over, I looked up. To my great surprise, it was Johnny. As he crawled closer I noticed the look on his face; it wasn’t angry at all, but kind of solemn.

 

            As he got close to me, he looked at me, let out a sigh, and in his calm, normal voice (minus the sarcasm) said, “Look, kid…I just wanted to say…I’m sorry.”

 

            I was puzzled by this, so I said, “Johnny…”

 

            But he put up a hand and said, “No really, kid, I mean it. I blew my top yesterday. I had no right to yell at you like I did. It was uncalled for, low, mean, and just petty. I’m in no position to tell you what you deserve. This place is rough, and I know more than anyone how hard it can be here. I know that you’ve done some bad stuff, but it was wrong of me to say that you belong here and that you’re a no-good brat. I’m sure you’ve got a lot of positive qualities about you and that your friends and parents do love you…”

 

            “No, Johnny, that’s the thing,” I said. “You were right yesterday. You were exactly right. I’m…I’m just a baby. I’m a spoiled, pampered (literally) little brat who only thinks about himself. If I ever get out of here, I’ll change my ways. I’ll do things right. I’d grow up and stop being a baby. But until then, I should be treated like what I am…a little baby.”

 

            Johnny started to speak again, a small smile crossing his face as he did so. “Kid, no, really, you’re not a baby, I was wrong in saying that…”

 

            “No, Johnny,” I said firmly. “I was a horrible little punk. You were right, I’m lucky to be here. I don’t deserve the love and care that they give me. Everyone else hated me, and rightly so since I didn’t act like I was fourteen, I acted like I was one.”

 

            Johnny reacted strangely to this. For a few seconds, a huge grin crossed his face and he let out a small laugh. But then suddenly, his face went really serious again, and he looked almost depressed. He looked into my eyes for a few more seconds, and then asked in a depressing tone, “Well, kid, what are you gonna do now?”

 

            I just stared at him blankly. What was a I gonna do? If I really did believe what I was saying, then I should just give up and be decoded, right? If I really thought I was a baby, I should just let them treat me one and completely become one, right?

 

            So why was it that I still couldn’t make myself think that this was the right answer? Why did I still dread the thought of being turned into a helpless, mindless baby?

 

            Then it hit me; I didn’t need to be decoded to realize that I was a baby who needed to grow up. The program had already taught me that; I knew now that I had wasted my whole life acting like a baby. But I also knew that if they let me out, I could turn around my life and show them that I can grow up on my own without being decoded.

 

            But I knew they’d never buy that. The nannies would just think I was lying and causing trouble in order to make them let me go and end the baby treatment that they knew I despised. So what WAS I going to do? Once I had the answer, I told Johnny.

 

            “Johnny, I’m going to fight.”

 

            “What?” he asked.

 

            “I’m going to fight this system. I know that I’ve been wrong my whole life. I know I’ve been acting like a baby. But I also know I can make myself change. I don’t need to be decoded to realize either one of those things. So I’m gonna fight, and through this I’m gonna prove to the nannies and the creators of this program that I have a strong will that can’t be broken. I have a will to change my entire life, to grow up and live it like I should. And I will make them see that will in an unstoppable resistance to this decoding process. I will make them realize that I have the power to change!”

 

            Johnny just fixedly stared at me for a little bit, and then calmly said, “Well, kid, no one has ever done that before. There were a couple of kids who told the nannies that they knew they were babies and were willing to admit it in front of their parents and friends, and they got a ticket out of here. True, they did still have to be babies in front of their parents for a bit…”

 

            “No, Johnny, I’m not doing that,” I said. “My parents would never take me back in; they don’t really love me, they just put me here to make me grow up so they wouldn’t have to do it. I know it’s my fault that I never grew up, but if they had helped me out instead of just yelling all the time, I probably would have been different. No, I’m gonna do this on my own.”

 

            “Well, kid, it’s like I said, no one has ever done it. Donny had a record of five years, and even I only managed to fight for seven, and I had friends with me. But, kid, if anyone can do it, you can. You’ve already broken all sorts of records here, and if what you’re saying is true, I believe you can do it.

 

            “Well, kid, my time here is almost up. Tomorrow’s the day that I get out of here, so today they’re gonna do all sorts of tests on me to make sure I’m ready. So I have to be going, and I don’t think I’ll be seeing you again anytime soon, if ever. So, kid, good luck.”

 

            “You too,” I said. “I hope your escape plan goes the way you want it to.”

 

            “Me too, kid,” he said. Then, he crawled very close to me and gave me a hug. I gave him one too. After he let go, he waved bye to me and crawled over to a nanny. As she picked him up and carried him out of the room, I waved again and felt a tear fall down my cheek.

 

            It was hard to believe that Johnny was really leaving. I had gotten so used to him being here; even if I didn’t always see him, I knew he was still there and I always felt that I’d get a chance to talk to him in the near future. But with him gone, I was now on my own.

 

            This was even more accentuated by the situation with Tammy. I really had no idea what was going to happen to her. Was she gonna keep working but just be prohibited from seeing me? Or was it something more serious? Would she be punished somehow? Would she be fired? Was it even possible that they would go so far as to put her in a program like this one for girls?

 

            And what about Johnny? Would his escape plan work? Would he be out on his own and become the first kid ever to successfully fight and escape the program? Would he be able to do OK in the real world?

 

            Or would he be caught? I shuddered to think what would happen to him if he failed. He had already been through so much here, and they even thought that he had been decoded for three years. They sure would be surprised when they found out he had fooled them. But they would also be extremely angry, so if he failed, he would be so deep in shit he’d be swimming in it.

 

            Suffice to say, no matter what happened, it didn’t look like I’d be seeing Tammy or Johnny for a long time. Just how long it would be was a complete mystery.

 

            With that in mind, I began to think about what I would do now. Without Johnny or Tammy to talk to, I was doomed to spend my time here with no one to talk to who didn’t treat me like a baby. According to Johnny, because of this, I had no chance of fighting the decoding. But I had to try; my desire to prove them wrong about me was too strong.

 

            I didn’t know what the best strategy was, but I decided that the first thing I would do is take the collar out of their weaponry. Even though there was no way I could get it off, I could build my resistance to it. Under my breath, I uttered a cuss word. Like always, I received a five second shock. It was horrible, but I knew that I could take it. Over the next few minutes, I kept saying cuss words and getting shocked. It started to wear me out after a while; it was harder than I thought, and the pain was still pretty excruciating. Nonetheless, I pressed on, knowing that it would pay off in the end.

 

            I only got about another thirty seconds before it was time for a nap. A nanny took me away to a crib, and with the pacifier in my mouth, I was unable to continue to build my shock resistance. Besides, I was exhausted, so in no time I was fast asleep.

 

            I slept very peacefully; “like a baby”, I guess you could say. But after a quick bottle and diaper change, I was once again left by myself in the nursery. Careful to make sure the nannies weren’t watching, I continued to fight against the collar.

 

            I continued to do this for the next few days. It was one of the hardest things I had yet to do here, especially because eventually the shocks became longer with each curse. It only took a certain number of shocks to bring tears to my eyes, and I had to struggle to keep myself from screaming in pain.

 

            But I refused to give in. I was partly motivated because I could tell that little by little I was getting used to the pain. In addition, I timed it so I could give myself breaks.

 

            During these breaks I would think more about how I would fight the system. I knew the number one rule was to stay calm and not lose my cool, no matter what the nannies did to me. I decided to just make myself completely swallow my pride and not let the baby treatment bother me. Johnny was right; so what if I had to piss my diaper? So what if I had to suck a pacifier? It wasn’t really that bad once you got used to it.

 

            But at the same time, I didn’t want to get too into it. If I let down my guard and let myself drift away in my baby treatment, I knew there would be a huge risk of turning into a baby. I knew I had to keep on fighting the system and do whatever I could to make the nannies forget their positions and talk to me like a teenager rather than a baby.

 

            This line of thought led me to strive to keep a balance; I would press the nannies just enough to make them irritated with me but not angry. I would act like a good little baby for a few days, and then all of a sudden do something bad. I decided to show them that the shocking wasn’t affecting me; I felt this would help to make them get more frustrated with me and slip up. However, I didn’t want to push them too far; I thought it would be best if I could make them stick to the first couple of punishment levels.

 

            A few days in I began to implement my strategy. It was difficult to pass the free time, but I tried to look for ways to amuse myself. At first I managed to just do stupid things, like picking at the carpet or counting ceiling tiles, to pass the time. This was really boring, but I knew it would help me keep my teenage mind. However, those toys and stories became more and more tempting.

 

            Still, I was a good little boy for a few days. The nannies seemed to be happy as I giggled during diaper changes and eagerly sucked down the milk in my bottles. But after those few days, during a diaper change, I un-strapped myself and tried to roll off of the changing table. I got a shock, and I faked a cry to satisfy the nanny.

 

            I continued this same routine for a few more weeks, sometimes pushing the nannies further than others. I tried to be creative in my ways of defying them; it gave me some laughs if nothing else. After a few weeks I managed to get a full resistance to the shocks; they hardly affected me at all. Once I reached that state, I decided to push them a little more.

 

            The spankings weren’t really a big deal at all; they hardly hurt compared to the shocks, and it wasn’t really all that embarrassing. However, I didn’t want to press my luck; I screamed and thrashed in fake humiliation when I got spanked, just to make them think they were getting to me.

 

            Weeks passed and passed. So far, my plan was going very well. I managed to keep my head and make sure I didn’t lose my teenage thoughts. I managed to enjoy myself enough to pass the time without becoming too bored. I wasn’t phased at all by any of my baby treatment. I shifted my behavior enough to frustrate the nannies and keep them on their toes. I hoped I would confuse all of the people in charge my making them think they were doing a good job on me but then make them realize that I was still fighting. My acting really seemed to confuse them; for all I knew they thought I was becoming subject to mood swings.

 

            Either way, I was cruising. I had managed to make it really far without being decoded. But it was becoming harder and harder to keep this pace up.

 

            Johnny was right; you did lose track of time in this place. After a while I was completely oblivious as to how long I had been here. I also began to get anxious because I had heard nothing from Tammy; as more and more time passed, I began to doubt whether or not she would be able to help me. After all, for all I knew she was being treated like a baby right now. And there was still no sign of Johnny, either. I still lay awake at night sometimes wondering what those two were doing as I was still stuck here.

 

            I was sure that new kids were being introduced into the program, but like Johnny had said, I never saw them, since the nannies knew that I still wasn’t decoded. Without anyone to talk to, I really had to work hard to keep my head on straight.

 

            I began to get sick of the baby food and baby bottles. I began to get more and more tired of having to get my diaper changed or be given baths. I couldn’t resist the urge to play with baby toys to keep me entertained.

 

            I slipped up a few times and pushed the nannies too far, meaning that I had to go through punishment levels three, four and five again (although each one at separate intervals). The second times weren’t nearly as bad, especially since Johnny had made me feel better about it before. But still, they definitely put a dent in my resisting process.

 

            Slowly but surely, it was becoming more and more difficult to keep up my fight. Sometimes I would just zone out, and before I knew it, I would have been playing with some blocks for hours. More and more often I would let out a cry when I was hungry or wet and not even mean to. Babyish giggles would slip out of my mouth when being changed. I would slip into states of bliss when sucking my thumb or cuddling a teddy bear. I still managed to snap myself out of it whenever I began to slip up and act like a baby, but it started happening more and more frequently.

 

            Time continued to pass on and on and I really began to get worried. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to keep this up for much longer. It became clear to me that the nannies and creators knew what they were doing and were completely unrelenting in keeping up my babyish treatment. To make matters worse, one day one of the nannies told me that my parents had heard about my bad behavior in the program, and that they refused to take me back until I had been completely decoded and reconstructed. Although I knew that it was possible that the nannies were lying and just telling me this to make me give up, but at the same time, it sounded exactly like the kind of thing my parents would do.

 

            I truly became desperate, and I lost all hope in Tammy. She surely would have done something by now. I knew that I was completely on my own, and that my only hope was to fight the process until they gave in. It was either them or me. But I still had no clue as to how long I had been here, and I knew that the record was five years. I tried not to think about the time as I continued to struggle to fight.

 

            Eventually I wasn’t even myself anymore. I would just black out for minutes at a time and realize that I had been a baby during that time. But I was still able to regain my composure and remind myself of who I was. But I was so mentally and emotionally exhausted by all of this that I needed a nap to get back my strength. After even more time I got to the point that I was surviving day by day. Each day I told myself ‘Just one more day…just one more…they’ll give up if you keep fighting just one more day…’

 

            But give up they didn’t. In fact, they seemed to notice that I was cracking, and they seemed to have an extra skip in their step when dealing with me. I was truly disgusted by the fact that I was in a state that I couldn’t really defy them the way I wanted to anymore.

 

            One night after being put in my crib, I just burst into tears. I guessed that it had been about a year since I had entered the program, and I was just a shell of the person that I once was. ‘What’s the point?’ I asked myself. ‘What’s the point in fighting? Nothing’s gonna change. I’m doomed to this fate. Everyone has decided that I need to start over. Maybe Johnny was right. Maybe I just need to start over. It’s a second chance, right? That’s it! I’ll just throw in the towel. It’s not worth it anymore. It’s too hard to keep this up. I can be happy again by giving in. I can suck my thumb without feeling bad about it. I can cuddle my teddy bear with no one telling me I’m a wussy. I can start over, make everything right, and most importantly….be…happy…for the first time in my life…’

 

            I drifted off to sleep just thinking that it was the only way. I can come to the end. It was time to just admit that they were all right and that I should accept what I truly was; a baby. But at least I could be a happy baby.

 

            When I woke up in the morning, these thoughts were still in my head. I prepared myself to just be happily held in one of the nanny’s arms and let her change my dirty diaper without a struggle. It really was the only way…

 

            But when the nanny did show up, I found out that I was wrong; apparently, it wasn’t the only way after all.

 

Part 14

 

            It was just one of the same old regular nannies, so at first I just sighed and decided it was finally time to just give up. But then I realized there was something different about this nanny; it was her face. I had never seen any of the nannies ever look as angry as she looked. I mean, they had definitely gotten frustrated with me and been very strict, but this nanny looked exactly like she hated me with all of her might. The scowl on her face was just frightening. She leaned over and began to un-strap me out of my crib violently, not caring how rough she was with me. After she got me free, she yanked my pacifier out of my mouth and said in a very angry voice, “All right, you stupid little punk, get up, let’s get this over with!” She then grabbed me and threw me over her shoulder and began to walk very quickly.

 

            I just let her carry me because I was too scared to do anything. Her actions had been so shocking that I wasn’t even thinking about everything I had the night before; I was too curious to see what was going on to give in at this moment. But I only nervously thought, ‘What the hell could I have possibly done this time? What is it now?’

 

            The nanny carried me down the hall and into one of the bathrooms. She laid me down and proceeded to change my diaper like the nannies always did, except she wasn’t gentle with me, but rather very firm, a look of anger still etched across her face.

 

            After I had been changed into a new diaper, I expected just the same normal baby treatment. So that’s why I was completely shocked when the nanny whistled and two men walked into the room.

 

            It was two of the strong guys who had carried me in this place on my very first day; I hadn’t seen any of them since. In their arms they were carrying some clothes. Once the nanny took them and unfolded them, to my surprise, I realized that they were actually parts of a dress suit!

 

            While the two guys held me up, the nanny took a white dress shirt and slipped my arms through the sleeves. I just stood there mystified as she then put my legs through a pair of black dress pants, tucked my shirt in, looped a belt tightly around my waist, and tied a black neck-tie around my neck. Next, she put some black socks and a pair of shoes on my feet. Finally, she combed my hair and brushed my teeth.

 

            I had never been the least bit crazy about dress-up clothes, but it had been so long that I had worn anything that wasn’t baby clothing that frankly, I welcomed the change. But why?

 

            The two guys put my arms over their shoulders and carried me out of the bathroom with the nanny leading the way. It felt so weird to be carried like this, with my feet being dragging along the floor; I had gotten so used to being carried in the various ways someone carries a baby.

 

            All of this made me realize something; for some reason, they weren’t treating me like a baby, at least for the moment. I wasn’t being talked to like a baby, I was wearing a suit, and I was willing to bet the only reason I was being carried at all was because my legs didn’t have the ability to walk. But what the hell was going on?

 

            I was still curious as the guys followed the nanny down the hall. Eventually, we reached a set of double doors. After the nanny opened them and went in, the guys proceeded to carry me in as well. My mouth dropped open at what I saw.

 

            We were in what looked like a very, very dark courtroom. I could just barely make out what was going on. On either side were rows of seats separated from the path me and the guards were on by a thin barrier. The rows were filled with people, and to my great shock, I recognized most of them. I saw my parents, my old friends, my old teachers…it seemed like almost like everyone from my past was here. Their faces were all expressionless, almost as if they were made of stone.

 

            The guards carried me down the little passageway for about twenty feet. There was a huge spotlight where the rows came to an end, and a tiny little chair with chains attached to its arms. In front of it stood a huge counter-like structure; it rose about ten feet up. As we got closer, I looked up and saw about twenty people behind the tall counter. I could only just make them out through the light.

 

            Finally, we reached the little chair, and the two guards lowered me into it. They then chained my arms down to both armrests. I could feel my heart beating with anxiety; I still had no clue as to what was going on.

 

            After I was in the chair, I looked up to see the people before me. The spotlight almost blinded my eyes, but I could still manage to make out the people. There were men and women, and they were all wearing dark, black robes. To my surprise, I even recognized a few of them.

 

            McPherson was up there, and he was the only one not wearing a black robe. Instead, he was wearing another damn tight, black leather suit…I still don’t understand it. I also saw Mrs. Walker, the head of the Catholic School, the woman who had displayed me in front of all of those girls. But most of them I didn’t recognize. However, I realized who I must have been sitting in front of; these were the creators of The Reconstruction Center for Troubled Youths. I glanced around at the some of the ones I didn’t recognize.

 

            Right in front of me was the only one who’s face I couldn’t see. It was a large figure, and I assumed it was a man. I couldn’t make out his face, but he had long hair that came down both sides of his head and I could tell he was smoking a cigar.

 

            I saw a thin old man with tiny spectacles and thin, grey hair. He was so wrinkled he reminded me of a prune. I saw a black woman with curly hair and thick glasses. I saw a young, sharp looking man with streaky blonde hair and bright sparkling teeth. I saw a black man with dreadlocks. I saw a tiny Asian woman who kind of looked like a mouse.

 

            After I got a good look around, I hear a voice to my right, “Session for Luke Cody Stephens beginning. Judge Vincent Rhines will be in charge of the hearing.” I recognized the voice; it belonged to the woman who had narrated the video package of me as a baby that was shown in front of all of the girls.

 

            “Very well, very well,” Judge Rhines’ voiced boomed out. His voice was incredibly low and it felt like it was echoing off of the walls it was so deep. “Luke Cody Stephens, is it?” Somehow I knew he was directing this question at me.

 

            I had trouble finding my voice. Maybe it was because I hadn’t talked to anyone normally in so long, or maybe it was because I was so nervous and I felt like my voice was lodged inside my stomach. I opened my mouth but no words came out.

 

            “The honorable Judge Rhines asked you a question, boy!” yelled out the old man with spectacles. “Answer him this instant!”

 

            Before I could respond, Rhanes let out a deep chuckle. “Ha ha ha…calm down, Mr. Mitwick. Give the boy some time. It’s obvious he’s frightened. Just look at him cower!”

 

            As much as I didn’t want to admit it, Rhines was right. There was something extremely intimidating about the man, and every word he spoke made me even more nervous.

 

            “It’s ok, little boy,” Rhines continued. “You probably don’t even have any idea why you are here. So I’ll let Mrs. Friedman explain.”

 

            The black lady with the curly hair stood up and began to speak, “Luke Cody Stephens, you have now currently been enrolled in The Reconstruction Center for Troubled Youths for three full years to the date.”

 

            Three years?! I couldn’t believe it; I truly had lost track of time! I almost felt as if I had been in a time warp! But what the hell was going on? Why was I here now?

 

            “Most children enrolled in our program are successfully decoded in a matter of weeks…”

 

            “You do know what decoding is, don’t you boy?” asked the dude with dreadlocks.

 

            “Silence, Rolivio!” yelled Mitwick to the dreadlock dude. “You cannot give away our secrets to the boy! What if he catches on? Then we shall never succeed!”

 

            “Mitwick, buddy, it doesn’t matter at this point,” said the young blonde guy in a drawling, almost bored voice.

 

            “And why not, Hale?” asked Mitwick.

 

            “Mr. Mitwick, again, calm yourself,” said Rhines in a calm voice. Even though it was so calm, it was still very loud and bass filled. “Mr. Rolivio and Mr. Hale are correct. There is no harm in telling the boy. Besides, he already knows about the decoding process anyway, don’t you, boy?”

 

            Before I could answer, the Asian lady said in a high pitched squeak, “What?! How could he possibly know?”

 

            “Because, Mrs. Pepperdine, he has been informed. There have been infiltrators into our system and Mr. Stephens was warned about our methods almost from the beginning.”

 

            “What?!” yelled Mrs. Friedman in a dignified voice. “Excuse me, Mr. Rhines, but how is that possible? It’s preposterous.”

 

            “It is not, Mrs. Friedman,” Rhines said. “Our nannies failed to do their jobs properly. My methods were perfect, but their execution was highly flawed. They allowed these infiltrators to slip through the cracks and influence young Mr. Stephens here. He has been aware from his first day what our program does and how it works. He has even received tips as to how to fight the system. That is the only reason he has lasted as long as he has.”

 

            The people on the panel in front of me began to murmur as they heard this information. Apparently they did not know this beforehand. My head was still swimming with so many thoughts that I continued to remain silent.

 

            “But Mr. Rhines,” began Mr. Rolivio. “If you have been aware of this, why did you allow it to continue? Why didn’t you stop it from the beginning?”

 

            “Because, Mr. Rolivio, it matters not. All of the boys who come through here are weaklings, and my methods are flawless. I knew it was only a matter of time before Mr. Stephens gave in. He was cuddling his teddy bear and sucking his thumb for comfort in a matter of days…he obviously did not have the will power to resist such inner temptations for long.”

 

            He let out a deep booming laugh as he said this, and many people in the audience laughed as well. This seemed to break me out of my trance, so I began to speak.

 

            “So why am I here?” I asked nervously.

 

            “Silence!” boomed McPherson. “You will not speak unless spoken to!”

 

            “Let the boy speak, Mr. McPherson,” Rhines said. “So you want to know, do you son? Well, as Mrs. Friedman was saying, most little boys like yourself cannot truly resist their inner desires to become babies for long. Oh, you look surprised when I say that. But I don’t know why. It’s obvious that you, Luke, have internal desires to be a baby again. That’s why you acted like one before you even stepped foot inside our program.”

 

            “Hear hear!” I heard my dad yell from the back as Rhines said this. I wanted to punch him.

 

            “All our program does is give you what you truly desire and deserve, boy. And as I predicted, you almost collapsed under your desires in a matter of days, once you got over the shock of it. But things didn’t go as planned; you had help and were led to believe that you in fact did not want this. But I did not interfere, knowing that it would not matter in the end. I decided to just watch you and see what you did, Mr. Stephens. I knew from the beginning that you were an interesting one. Why, you burst into tears on your very first day here! I laughed when I saw how easily you bent under the pressure of embarrassment. But I knew that you would be special, and once you had been informed of the system, I knew you would be a very interesting study.

 

            “Normally, when a boy fights our system for a long time, he eventually either gives in or decides he has learned his lesson. I study our tapes of the boy’s activities, and if I feel he is suitable, I give him the chance to redeem himself. As you have been informed, in order to be given release from our program…”

 

            “Mr. Rhines, you can’t tell him that!” Mrs. Walker said.

 

            “My dear Mrs. Walker, he already knows. As I was saying, to be released from our program, a boy must admit to his parents that he is in fact a baby, continue to be treated as one for a month, and then gain a proper position in society. If he fails to perform any of these steps successfully, he is re-enrolled in the program and does not get another chance to leave.

 

            “In your case, this option was impossible. From day one your parents told me that they did not even want to see you again until you were a complete baby. This made my study of you that much more interesting. So I continued to watch you.

 

            “But now, after you have fought our system for three years, there has been an unexpected detour.”

 

            “That’s right,” said a voice behind me. As I turned my head to look, I saw the most beautiful sight that I had ever seen. There was Tammy right behind me to my right, standing behind a desk.

 

            I couldn’t believe my eyes; there she was, decked out in legal attire with her hair tied back in a ponytail and wearing glasses.

 

            “Yes, I am here to vouch for Mr. Luke Cody Stephens’ release from this program.”

 

            There was a murmur of laughter from everyone in the room, including the people behind me in the rows and those in front of me.

 

            “Well look who it is,” said Hale. “The good ol’ bimbo Tammy Reynolds.”

 

            “Poor wretch probably couldn’t get another job after she left our program,” said Mrs. Pepperdine.

 

            “That’s enough,” said Rhines. “Now, for those of you who do not know, Mrs. Reynolds was once employed as a nanny in this very program. She had been working for us for a brief period of time before Mr. Stephens arrived here. However, she felt the need to alert Mr. Stephens about certain aspects of our program as well as potential ways of escaping it, in addition to other acts that she was not authorized to do. Once again, I blame our nannies for not detecting her ulterior motives from the very beginning. Even I did not see her for who she was until she had already attempted to liberate some of our other subjects from the program.”

 

            “You mean to tell me SHE is one of the ‘infiltrators’ who is part of the reason why this boy fought the decoding process?!” asked Rolivio.

 

            “Yes,” Rhines said. As he said this, many of the people on the board in front of me murmured in outrage.

 

            “Quiet,” boomed Rhines. “Yes, Ms. Reynolds succeeded in notifying many of our subjects about our system and the possibilities of leaving. She is well trained in legal expertise and has worked diligently to fight for the boys’ freedom. But you have always come up short, haven’t you Ms. Reynolds? You could never outwit one such as I, you did not have the intelligence or the power. Because you see, I was aware of your motives from almost the beginning, and you did not have the slightest clue. I was even aware of that stunt you pulled the day Mr. Stephens went through the fourth level of punishment. I had you followed and was aware of everything you told him in the park that day.”

 

            Tammy looked shocked and nervous to hear that, but she kept her composure. I sure was glad she did, because now I knew what was going on, and all of my hopes of escaping were now riding on Tammy’s shoulders.

 

            Rhines continued. “Due to Ms. Reynolds’ interference, Mr. Stephens had hopes of leaving our program, and these hopes helped him fight his decoding for even longer.”

 

            “So you mean to tell me that the only reason this little boy was able to stop the decoding was because of this silly little blonde?” Mitwick asked.

 

            “No,” Rhines continued. “He would have never even met her if he was left on his own. No, Mr. Stephens had help from another source. Another troubled youth enrolled in our system, one John Wyatt.”

 

            There was definitely a small uproar on the board as Rhines said this. “What?! Baby Johnny?!” asked Mrs. Walker.

 

            “The very same,” said Rhines. “Mr. Wyatt was one of the experimental group. He outlasted them all, making it seven years without giving in. Finally, he was clever enough to resort to tricking our imbecile nannies. I was well aware of this, and continued to allow it. I was so proud of Johnny; he was a boy with some strength in him. No matter what was thrown at him, he managed to fight it off. Loss of friends…extreme humiliation…complete loss of hope…but he did not quit. No, Johnny was the most resilient of them all.

 

            “I was most interested in Johnny. I was curious to see what was different about him, and how he succeeded where all others failed. I was also determined to make him give in; I was the creator, he was the experiment. I tried as many different methods to get him to break…I knew I was more clever and powerful than he was, and I knew I could do it…

 

            “But Johnny never gave in. I was proud of him. He even managed to fool our highly trained nannies…”

 

            As I listened to Rhines drone on about Johnny, an immense anger overtook me. I no longer felt nervous or scared. This jackass, Rhines, was talking about Johnny as if he were some lab rat. I had heard all of Johnny’s tales, I listened to the horror stories and immense pain and humiliation that he has suffered. But this was just a game to Rhines, playing with Johnny like a puppeteer does with a marionette.

 

            I couldn’t take it anymore, so I yelled out and interrupted Rhines’ speech. “But you couldn’t do it!” I screamed, shocking everybody. “You failed! Johnny was too smart for you! He made it all the way through! He managed to fight your system until you were forced to let him move on to the next stage!”

 

            “Shut up, you insolent boy!” yelled Mitwick. “Unless you want your sorry behind back in baby clothes and a crib you will shut your mouth right now!”

 

            But Rhines was just chuckling deeply, a sound that once again drove fear into my heart. “Foolish, boy,” he said calmly. “You don’t get it, do you? I knew what Johnny was doing! I even knew about his escape plan. I was proud of the boy. He had devised a clever plan and strategy and implemented it to success.”

 

            Once again this was shocking news to the board. “Wait,” said Hale. “Mr. Rhines, you knew about Johnny’s escape plan? None of us suspected a thing, and that’s why he was able to slip through our fingers once we took his collar off!”

 

            “Of course I knew about it,” Rhines said. “I knew everything about Johnny.”

 

            “Then why didn’t you tell us?” asked McPherson. “Why did you let him escape?”

 

            “Because it did not matter, Mr. McPherson,” Rhines said. “What was Johnny to me? He was just one of my original guinea pigs. At the beginning, I did not know how make sure our system would work. I needed a group of boys to test it on. And that’s what Johnny and his little friends were. Once I used them to perfect my system, they had served their purpose. What was it to me that Johnny left? He had learned his lesson and had enough willpower to get out. Besides, I knew he wouldn’t make it in the real world, so it mattered not.”

 

            So Johnny had escaped. But that had been a long time ago. Almost three years ago…

 

            “So you just used him!” I yelled. “You never did care about him! All you wanted was to use him to perfect your system so you could make money off of these kids! You didn’t care what kinds of torture you put us through! You didn’t even care that you used Johnny, your most prized kid, and then threw him away like a lump of coal!”

 

            “SHUT UP!” yelled McPherson.

 

            “Calm yourself, Mr. McPherson,” Rhines said. He then let out another low chuckle, and for the first time I saw his face. To my surprise, for some reason he was wearing a dark, black mask. Maybe he had been burned or something, but it made him that much scarier.

 

            “You still do not understand, Mr. Stephens,” he said. “I will not deny that I used Johnny. It matters not to me that one suffers in order for the group to benefit. You see, Mr. Stephens, my program benefits society in unimaginable ways. What is it to me if I have to sacrifice one boy in order to benefit society in these ways?

 

            “But what you really don’t understand is how naïve your perception of Johnny is. You view him almost as a hero who suffered indefinitely and valiantly escaped right under the noses of the ones persecuting him. But in fact, Mr. Stephens, Johnny is just like me. He used all of his friends. He was secretly happy when they became decoded. He caused them to stumble. He would convince them to be decoded and turned into babies. He would comfort them only so that he could convince them they wanted to be babies. Maybe a few of them were his friends, but he only kept them around to keep from being decoded. And you! You probably think he cared about you as well! My boy, he only told you about the whole process to keep himself from being decoded. He told you lies so that you would trust him, but he only wanted to keep you close enough so that he could have human contact. And what happened when he escaped almost three years ago? He turned and fled, leaving you here to become a baby again! Johnny was not some honorable hero; he was a boy who was clever enough to save his own skin before anyone else’s.”

 

            I couldn’t believe it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized Rhines was right; Johnny had used me.

 

            “So,” Rhines continued. “With that out of the way, let us hear what Ms. Reynolds has to say about what happens to you now, Mr. Stephens.”

 

            Tammy got herself together and then began to speak. “As I mentioned before, I am here to request the release of Luke Cody Stephens from this program. As you are all aware, it is legally allowed for a youth to exit the program if he is not decoded. He must be willing to admit that he truly is a baby and that he completely deserved every bit of treatment he received. He then must spend a month being treated as a baby by his family for a full month, and then he must re-enroll in school or become employed.

 

            “As you have seen, it is clear that Mr. Stephens does not have the mind of a baby, and he is fully capable of going back into society with his current mind. He is also prepared to admit that his treatment has been just and that he truly is a baby.”

 

            I could hear the growls of the people across the board as they heard this news. It was obvious they did not want me to exit the program.

 

            But it was Rhines who spoke. “You speak the truth, Ms. Reynolds. Mr. Stephens is not decoded. However, I have my doubts as to whether he truly believes his punishment has been just. In fact, I have many tapes of Mr. Stephens recently claiming that his treatment is unfair.

 

            “However, I am not an unfair man. I will allow Mr. Stephens to present his case in front of his old friends, teachers, and parents. If he can do so correctly, we will proceed to further processes. Gentlemen, if you will.”

 

            The two guard guys came over to me, picked up my chair, and spun me around so that I was facing the audience. I saw a large group of faces all around me, and once again I became nervous.

 

            “Well, Mr. Stephens, what have you got to say for yourself?” Rhines asked.

 

            This was it; this was my chance. Finally, after all of these years, I was going to get the chance to end this torture. It was simple really; I just had to lie and tell these people that I was a baby and deserved everything I got.

 

            But as I opened my mouth and began to speak, my throat went dry. I tried to make a sound, but nothing came out. I didn’t understand it; it was so simple, why couldn’t I do it.

 

            I looked out and saw a bunch of my friends. Some had their head hung low, not wanting to see me like this. Others looked at me like I was a little wussy. Others just scowled.

 

            My parents and teachers all had large grins on their faces. This is what they wanted to hear; they wanted to hear out of my own mouth that I was nothing but a little baby who needed “grown-ups” to tell me what to do.

           

            As hard as I tried, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Looking into their faces, I couldn’t tell the lie. I know it sounds stupid, but at that moment I felt like I would rather be forced to be a baby again than to admit that Rhines and his fucked up system were right and that just like my parents had thought, I was just a little baby.

 

            After about a minute of silence, I could hear the board laughing behind me. The guards picked my chair back up and turned me around. I hung my head low; I had lost my only chance.

 

            Rhines let out a deep laugh and with a very smug look, said, “It is as I suspected. Mr. Stephens is not ready to leave our program yet. He has not truly embraced his role in society and his overall selfishness and immaturity. I think he needs more baby treatment before he is ready to make that step. And besides, everybody knows ‘Baby Cody’ is still in love with his precious teddy bear, Timmy!”

 

            The whole room burst into laughter as Rhines let out another deep chuckle. I couldn’t believe it; Rhines knew I couldn’t admit it! And now he had won; all the work Tammy did was for nothing, and I had blown the only ticket out of here that I had. Feeling like my life was over, I felt tears run down my face as I heard Rhines say,

 

            “Ok, gentlemen, I do believe this hearing is over.”

 

            “Not so fast, Rhines my friend,” I heard a very familiar, sarcastic voice say. “I don’t think I’ve had my say in this yet.”

 

            I couldn’t believe my ears. Could it be? Jerking my head around, I managed to get a view of the still open double doors in the back of the courtroom. And there he was, in a snappy business suit, with a video tape in one hand and a briefcase in the other, with a devious grin across his face…the one, the only, Baby Johnny.

 

            As Johnny walked down the aisle, I heard audible gasps from everyone on the board. “What are YOU doing here?” asked Hale.

 

            “You filthy little gremlin!” yelled McPherson.

 

            “The pleasure’s all mine, McPherson old buddy,” said Johnny. “Hey, nice suit there. Quite kinky for all your various dominatrix lovers, I’m sure, but if you’ll excuse Mr. Rhines and I, the grown-ups have to talk.”

 

            McPherson looked furious at his remark, but Rhines forced him to be quiet. “Ah, the infamous Johnny. Looks like the coward finally makes an appearance.”

 

            “You’ve grown, soft, Rhines,” Johnny said. “You used to be able to map out all of my moves. I would have thought for sure you’d be expecting me today. You disappoint me.”

 

            “Well, now that you are here, I must ask why?” Rhines said.

 

            “Well, I do believe I have a very interesting piece of evidence right here,” Johnny said.

 

            “And you know as well as I do that all evidence must be presented in this hearing before it can over,” Tammy added.

 

            “So if you please,” Johnny said. “I have a tape to show you all.”

 

            Johnny handed the tape to the woman who spoke at the beginning. I could hear angry murmurs coming from everyone in the room, but Rhines kept his composure. Once the tape was ready to play, it began playing for all to see.

 

            I couldn’t believe my eyes; there I was, decked out in a footed sleeper in one of the nurseries, and I was talking. I watched myself speak, the camera lens focused on me:

 

            “No, Johnny, that’s the thing,” I watched my taped self saying. “You were right yesterday. You were exactly right. I’m…I’m just a baby. I’m a spoiled, pampered (literally) little brat who only thinks about himself. If I ever get out of here, I’ll change my ways. I’ll do things right. I’d grow up and stop being a baby. But until then, I should be treated like what I am…a little baby.”

 

            On the tape, we heard Johnny’s voice saying, “Kid, no, really, you’re not a baby, I was wrong in saying that…”

 

            “No, Johnny,” I said firmly on the tape. “I was a horrible little punk. You were right, I’m lucky to be here. I don’t deserve the love and care that they give me. Everyone else hated me, and rightly so since I didn’t act like I was fourteen, I acted like I was one.”

 

            Johnny then stopped the tape. I saw scowls cross the faces of the board, and Rolivio screamed out, “Where did you get this tape?! If you stole it I will have you arrested for larceny!”

 

            “Rolivio, buddy, I think you’ve got your dreads tied a little too tight,” Johnny said sarcastically. “There’s no proof to say that this tape does not belong solely to me.”

 

            “That’s right,” Tammy said. “And you know as well as I do, Mr. Rhines, that it makes no difference where the evidence comes from. In addition, it does not matter when Cody said this; it only matters that he did indeed say it.”

           

            “But he must admit he is a baby in front his friends, teachers, and parents!” screeched Mrs. Pepperdine.

 

            “My dear Pepperdine, do use your head,” Johnny remarked. “It is written that the defendant’s friends, parents and teachers must only here this admission. It is written nowhere that it must be done in person. So if we may, I’d like to move on here, Rhines.”

 

            There were more angry murmurs from the board, but Rhine managed to quiet them down. “He is right,” Rhines said.

 

            “But Mr. Rhines…” Mrs. Walker began.

 

            “HE IS RIGHT!” boomed Rhines. “This part of the matter is settled. Mr. Stephens has met this criteria; he has admitted he is a baby.

 

            “However,” he continued. “My dear Johnny, I regret to inform you that this is not enough. You know as well as I do that in order for Mr. Stephens to exit the program, he must continue to be treated like a baby by his family for a month. And we have all heard many times that Mr. Stephens’ parents strongly refuse to have anything to do with him until he has been decoded. So I see no possible way for Mr. Stephens to exit our program at this point.” He spoke very matter-of-factly.

 

            For a minute there was silence. I felt my heart drop to my stomach. For a few brief minutes I thought I had won; Johnny had come in and saved the day, given me proof enough to get out of here. But what good was it if my parents wouldn’t baby me for a month? It had all been in vain; I was doomed to be decoded.

 

            But when it looked like all was lost, Tammy spoke. “I think you may want to read the writing a little bit more carefully, Mr. Rhines.”

 

            “What are you talking about, you little tramp?” Mrs. Walker asked.

 

            “Whoa, calm down there Walker,” Johnny said. “I know that a very old woman such as yourself must feel extreme grief that no man ever loved you enough to bear children, which is of course why you love seeing teenagers babied, but that’s no reason to take it out on Tammy here…”

 

            “Shut up, you insolent little thug!” yelled Mitwick.

 

            “Whoa, don’t have a heart attack there, pops,” Johnny responded. “What are you now, ninety? I bet Cody’s not the only one in here who’s wearing diapers again, is he?” he added with a smirk.

 

            “SILENCE!” Rhines yelled out. “What are you talking about Ms. Reynolds?”

 

            “Well, Mr. Rhines,” Tammy said. “The paperwork only says that ‘a’ family must take in Cody and baby him for a month, not necessarily his original family. That’s what we call a ‘legal loophole’.”

 

            “What are you talking about?” Hale asked.

 

            “Well duuuhhhh,” Johnny said. “I know how you made it through the seventh grade, Hale. Mommy and daddy paid off those teachers, right? And it STILL took you three years! Think about it, man. Tammy’s talking about herself.”

 

            “That is correct,” Tammy said. “I am proposing that I be Cody’s new mother. I am well trained in his baby needs, and I have a steady enough income to make sure he is raised correctly. Of course I will adhere to the policy in all ways.”

 

            There was more angry murmuring. Then Mrs. Friedman yelled, “You silly little girl, you know that the law says TWO parents constitute a family. So no matter how qualified you are, you are not enough to take care of Cody on your own…”

 

            “Whoa, don’t hurt yourself there, Friedman,” Johnny responded. “You see, my curly-fry haired friend, that’s where I come in. I myself am also qualified in taking care of Cody’s baby needs. And I have here in my briefcase my paperwork, certifying that I am an employed responsible adult. There are also papers proving that we have payments down on a house, and we are both fully prepared to take care of Cody.”

 

            Now it was Rhines’ turn to get angry. “Preposterous!” he yelled. “Mrs. Bines, investigate this supposed paperwork.”

 

            The woman whose voice I had heard on the tape at punishment level five took the briefcase from Johnny. After sorting through the papers for a few minutes, she said to Rhines, “Sir, all of the paperwork checks out. These two adults are both fully qualified to be Luke Cody Stephens’ new family, and it is perfectly legal.”

 

            It sounded as if an explosion had gone off on the board. Everyone was yelling, and even Rhines growled and banged his fist in anger.

 

            “Impossible!” he yelled. “No, there must be some reason why these two…cretins are not allowed to take care of this little piece of filth!” He had totally lost his cool.

 

            “I’m sure you will see, Mr. Rhines, that there is no legal reason why we cannot take Cody in. And if you have a problem with that, I can notify the government officials responsible for keeping this program running, and if they hear about you denying Cody from us, you can be sure that this program will be immediately shut down with all of the boys’ parents getting full refunds.”

 

            Even behind his mask I can tell Rhines’ was irate. As Mrs. Bines nodded in nervous agreement with Tammy’s statement, Tammy added, “Of course, Cody’s collar will stay on him until the first month has passed and he is done with baby treatment. And I also believe that the program is responsible in supplying both myself, Mr. Wyatt and Cody with free baby supplies and furniture until Cody is ready to move past his initial baby treatment…”

 

            As Mrs. Bines confirmed this, Rhines exploded in anger. “FINE!” he yelled. “But mark my words: if I here that Cody is not babied for a full month or that he is unable to stay in school or get a job afterwards, I will PERSONALLY ensure that he will come right back into our program IMMEDIATELY!”

 

            “Can I get that in writing?” Johnny asked with a smirk. “You know, you should layoff the donuts, Rhines ol’ man. I’m sure your blood pressure and cholesterol are already off the charts, and you don’t want all of this stress, too…”

 

            “GET OUT!” Rhines yelled. “Out of my sight! Guards! Get this nasty little thing and his two idiot caregivers out of here this instant.”

 

            “Allow me,” Tammy said. She ran over to me, and after the guards undid my chains, Tammy then picked me up and held me in her arms, just like a baby (which was kinda weird considering I was still in a suit).

 

            As she was doing so, Johnny said with that same sarcastic tone, “Ah, Rhines old buddy, you never did give us enough credit. I have to admit, you were quite genius to develop this program and you did always know how to stack the deck in your favor. But you should know, ol’ Johnny always has an ace up his sleeve. So to you and all of your wonderful creators, I say, ‘Have a Nice Day’”

 

            “GET OUT!” boomed Rhines.

 

            With that, Tammy carried me down the aisle in her arms. Johnny caught up with us, and Tammy shifted me so that she was carrying my legs and he was supporting my shoulders.

 

            It was like some crazy dream. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I didn’t know if I could take much more of this. It was all impossible. Was I really getting out of here? Was I really going to live with Tammy and Johnny? It had to be a dream. I pinched myself, expecting to wake up and find myself back in my crib. But to my immense relief, all I felt was a small pain in my cheek.

 

            “Well, Cody,” Tammy said. “It looks like we’re finally going home. Isn’t that right, honey?” she asked Johnny.

 

            ‘HONEY?!’ I asked myself.

 

            “That’s right,” Johnny said. “It took us thirteen years to do it, but we’re finally on the right track. Now let’s go home.”

 

            With that, he leaned over, and Tammy and Johnny locked lips and deeply kissed each other while still holding me. That was about all I could take; I just fainted in their arms as they walked through those double doors and down the hall.

 

Part 15

 

            When I woke up, I was in a house. My mind still felt kinda fuzzy, and it took me a few minutes to remember everything that happened before I fainted. For a second I thought that it had all been a dream, but when I saw that I was no longer at the center for the program, my heart leapt; I really was free, Johnny and Tammy were really going to take care of me.

 

            I was lying on a couch; I guess they hadn’t had any other place to put me down for the moment. I was in a living room; it looked pretty ordinary, with a coffee table, a few easy chairs, some lamps, some paintings, a TV, even a fish tank. Not an extremely nice living room or house, but a decent one.

 

            But what the hell had happened? How had they done all of this? How did they even know each other? My head was spinning with questions. Thankfully, after I lay there for a few minutes, Tammy walked in. Realizing that I was awake, Tammy smiled and said, “Johnny, he’s awake!”

 

            As she walked over to me, I heard footsteps signaling that Johnny was coming, too. Tammy smiled at me and gave me a big hug; I was pretty bewildered, but I can’t deny that it made me feel good. “How are you doing?” she asked.

 

            “Uh, I’m okay, I guess,” I said, still feeling pretty groggy. It felt really weird for someone to talk to me NORMALLY…not referring to me as a baby or a piece of filth. In fact, it was one of the first times in my whole life that someone other than my friends treated me nicely.

 

            Besides, I had been feeling like I had been going crazy for a long time now, so I was still recovering from the fact that my world had been turned upside down in a matter of hours.

 

            Johnny walked in the room wearing a sweatshirt and jeans. It was really weird seeing him. He gave a small smile and said, “So how you hangin’ in there, kid?”

 

            Leave it to Johnny to be calm and sarcastic in any give situation, and he still resorted to calling me “kid”.

 

            “I’m alright,” I muttered. But even though I was feeling kinda funny, this wasn’t exactly a true statement; I was much better than all right. I felt happier than I had been in a very long time.

 

            As Johnny sat down in one of the chairs, Tammy said, “Oh, you must be starving! Let me get you something!” Before I could say anything else, she rushed out of the room.

 

            “Well,” Johnny began. “I don’t know about you kid, but I’ll completely worn out. What with doin’ your trial thing and movin’ in all your stuff and…”

 

            “My stuff?” I asked.

 

            “Yeah, your crib and changing table and…”

 

            “When did that get here?” Looking out the window, I realized the sun was setting. “How long have I been out?”

 

            “Oh, just for the day. I guess about seven or eight hours,” Johnny responded. “Anyway, some guys from the program came over and we moved in all your stuff. We just finished. I’ll let you see it after you’ve had a little bit to eat.”

 

            At that moment, Tammy walked in carrying a plate with a sandwich on it. As she set it down on the table that was right in front of me, I could tell that it was peanut butter and jelly.

 

            “I know,” she said. “Peanut butter and jelly isn’t much, but it’s all I have right now. We didn’t know for sure that you’d be coming here, and I didn’t have a whole lot…but I’ll go to the store tomorrow and…”

 

            “But wait,” I said. “I thought you had to treat me like a baby.”

 

            “Well, we do,” she responded. “But they gave us a set of rules, and they’re not quite as strict as the ones imposed within the program itself. They have some people they’ll be sending over here to check on us for hours at a time, just to make sure we’re not cheating.”

 

            “Yeah,” Johnny said. “You see, in the program, they’re trying to decode kids, so they have to follow very strict rules in order for the process to work. And besides, they’re just asses. Rhines can say all he wants how he just does this for scientific reasons, but you can bet the other creators and nannies get a joy out of humiliating and torturing the kids there. Why else would they apply for jobs there? Anyways, go ahead, eat up.”

 

            I sat up on the couch and picked up the sandwich. It looked so good; it had been three years since I had had anything but milk and that baby food slop, so a good ol’ PB and J was mouth-watering.

 

            Unfortunately, I had a hard time eating. It was really difficult to bite and chew; I had gotten so used to being spoon fed. I was kind of embarrassed when Tammy had to help me some, but I couldn’t deny it; the sandwich was so good, and I didn’t care that much if I needed a little help.

 

            As I ate, I asked, “So what exactly is gonna happen over the next month?”

 

            “Well,” Johnny began. “We still have to baby you, but like I said, it’s not gonna be as bad as it was in the program. They just want to make sure you don’t forget your position in life, or something like that. Basically, you have to sleep in a crib, suck a pacifier for a certain amount of time during the day, play with baby toys for a given amount of time, and carry a teddy bear and/or blanket with you at all times. You have to wear baby clothes and of course diapers; but since you’re still incontinent, you’d be kept in those anyway. And for the first few weeks you have to drink a bottle.”

 

            “Oh, that reminds me!” Tammy said. She then got up and left.

 

            Johnny continued. “But other than that, there aren’t many rules. You can talk normally, watch TV, read books or newspapers, go outside and play…just about anything. You’ll probably want to stay here though…if you go out in public, you still have to wear your baby clothes and be pushed around in a stroller. But we don’t have to do that.”

 

            Tammy then returned carrying a baby bottle, but it wasn’t filled with milk. Instead, it has orange juice in it.

 

            “Again, it’s not much, but it’s all we’ve got right now,” she said, setting the bottle down on the table.

 

            It looked so good that I instantly grabbed the bottle and put the nipple in my mouth. Even though I sucked nothing came out. I rolled onto my back and began to squeeze it and suck it; still only a few drops came out. I realized why; my hand had already gotten extremely tired.

 

            Tammy and Johnny laughed a little at first; I guess it did look kind of funny. But after about a minute I got frustrated, sat up and put the bottle back on the table, looking discouraged.

 

            “I’m sorry, Cody,” Tammy said, stifling her laughter. “It’s just that you just looked extremely cute. But unfortunately, a lot of your muscles are still weak.”

 

            Before I could stop myself, I found myself asking, “Well, uh, could you, uh…”

 

            Tammy just smiled and said, “Of course.”

 

            As she came over to the couch and sat down, I asked Johnny, “So what happens after the first month?”

 

            Tammy took the bottle and told me to put my head on her lap. As I did, she put the bottle in my mouth and I found it extremely easy to drink; it was just so much more natural since I had been doing it for three years. But the juice tasted so good; I found it a little difficult to pay attention to Johnny because of that, since he was talking while I drank.

 

            “Well,” he said. “As you’ve seen, your body isn’t exactly what it used to be. You see, normally when a kid gets out of the system like you have, he’s only been in there a few weeks, so his muscles are still pretty strong. In your case, it’s different. Don’t worry about your mind; you may feel a little funny right now, but we’re not going to be talking to you like you’re a baby. In no time you’ll feel just like your old self mentally.

 

            “After the first month, we’ll let you sleep in a bed, eat and drink normally, not force you to play with baby toys, and take you out of baby clothes. You’ll still have to wear diapers since you’ll still be incontinent, and you’ll be very attached to your pacifier and bear or blanket, still.

 

            “However, physically, it’s going to be pretty hard. Expect to get very frustrated. Even though we’ll be treating you as normally as possible during the first month, you still will be pretty limited physically. For the first month we can’t really do much about that; you can only crawl and a lot of simple things will be hard to do.

 

            “After the first month, though, that’s the first thing we’ll have to work on. The program will be sending a few physical therapists over here. Not only will you learn how to walk again, but a lot of your other physical functions will have to be worked on. Once your collar is off, though, it won’t be all that bad. It will take a few months, but eventually your body will be back to normal. We’ll also limit your sleeping hours and get them back to about eight a day, and completely drive your natural instinct to cry out of you. In addition, we’ll potty-train you and get you off of your pacifier…yeah, like I said, your body’s gotten so used to it that you won’t be able to sleep without one at first, and during the day you’ll find it’ll calm you down. So we’ll work to change that. However, it’ll be up to you when you stop carrying around your bear or blanket; but you’ll find that eventually you’ll get tired of it, that’s the way it worked for me, anyway.

 

            “Again, be prepared to get frustrated and discouraged; it’s not going to be easy to get back to normal. However, that’s just something you’ll have to deal with. But we’ll be there helping you the whole way.

 

            “And that brings me to the next thing, Cody. Both Tammy and I are very attached to you, but remember, we will more or less be your parents until you are ready to get out on your own. That means we’ll be there for you and help you along the way, but it also means that you have to listen to us and obey us. We will be in charge and will discipline you if necessary. If you start to go back to the way you were before you came to the program, after some initial warnings and discipline, they will have no choice to put you back in the program. Not only is this an official, legal, thing, both Tammy and I agree with it; although you’re out of the program, we do not want to be responsible for a kid who acts just like you used to.”

 

            As he finished saying this, I was already done with the bottle; like the sandwich, it had been extremely good. I began to ponder what Johnny told me, and even though I wasn’t crazy about everything, it sounded like a really good deal. All of this still seemed too good to be true.

 

            “So then what?” I asked as I sat up.

 

            “Well,” Tammy said. “Then it’ll be up to you. You can either get a job, since you’re of legal age to work. Or you can further your education; don’t worry, you won’t have to go back to public school. Either Johnny or myself will home school you. We’ll be doing some of that anyway; the program says you need to go back over a lot of things you learned in grade school and middle school. But after that, we only have to do enough to either get you ready for a job or get your diploma. But all of that will be worked out later. You should think about it a little bit, but don’t worry about it too much for now.”

 

            Everyone was quiet for a little bit. It was still a whole lot to take in, and my head was still bursting with questions.

 

            “But how are you guys paying for all of this?” I asked. “What are you doing now? How did you get me out of the program? In fact…how do you two even know each other, much less live with each other and KISS each other?”

 

            “Whoa, kid, slow down,” Johnny said. “That’s a lot you’re asking. And it’s probably too much for you to take in right now. We’ll tell you all about everything over the next month…”

 

            “NO!” I said. “Tell me right now!”

 

            “No, kid, I’ll tell you when I think you’re ready.”

 

            “JOHNNY!” I said. “Remember what happened last time you said that?!”

 

            Johnny’s face fell a little bit. Then after a few seconds, he said, “You’re right, kid. We do owe you a big explanation, especially since we haven’t been 100% truthful to you so far. But it’s getting pretty dark, and I know that you’re going to be getting pretty tired soon. However, as long as you can stay awake, we’ll tell you everything.”

 

            He took a deep breath and said, “Hmm…where should we start?”

 

            “How about telling Cody how we met?” Tammy asked.

 

            “Ok, then,” Johnny said. “Well, it has actually twenty years or so since Tammy and I met. It doesn’t matter exactly how it happened, you just need to know that we met in grade school and became good friends.”

 

            “TWENTY YEARS?” I asked.

 

            “Yeah, twenty years,” Johnny said. “But don’t interrupt me, kid. It’ll be easier if you just listen.”

 

            Trying to keep my mouth shut, I listened as Johnny continued.

 

            “Like I told you a while ago, kid, I was a pretty horrible kid. I did badly in school, got drunk, and did drugs. And the main bad thing I did was fight; like I told you, kid, I used to get in fights all of the time. My parents didn’t like what I was doing at all, but they never stopped me…too spineless, I guess. Or maybe they just didn’t care enough; I don’t think they ever truly loved me. But I didn’t care; I had my friends, and they were all just like me. Besides, I had a girlfriend that I loved; Tammy.”

 

            “Wait, that doesn’t make any sense at all,” I said. “Tammy was Ricky’s boyfriend.”

 

            Tammy laughed upon hearing this. “What, that kid? The only time I’ve ever seen Ricky is since he’s been acting like a baby.”

 

            I thought they must have been playing a joke on me or something. But then Johnny started to explain.

 

            “What did I say about interrupting me? Anyway, no, kid, you’ve got it all wrong…Tammy didn’t even know Ricky. Well, except as a baby. While I was in the program, she only knew him as another kid that she had to take care of. It wasn’t until I got out that I explained everything to her.

 

            “But you when I told you they must have been girlfriend and boyfriend, you agreed!” I said, forgetting I wasn’t supposed to interrupt.

 

            “Well, I didn’t deny it, but I didn’t ever really say you were right, so technically I didn’t lie to you, I just let you assume it. Anyway, I’ll get to that later.”

 

            “You see,” Tammy said. “When I told you about my boyfriend, Cody, I was talking about Johnny, I just didn’t tell you it was him. I was aware that you knew him and what he had told you. Johnny and I were still able to keep contact with each other in the program.”

 

            “But that’s getting ahead a bit,” said Johnny. “Anyway, so me and Tammy were both bad kids and were going out, that’s the gist of it. But when my parents decided to put me in the program, everything changed.

 

            “I already told you my side of the story, and Tammy’s told me she told you how she worked to get involved in the program. She was talking about me when she told you about her boyfriend, and I was talking about her when I talked about my girlfriend. I would have told her and my friends about it when I was shipped off to the program, but I never got the chance…my parents told me that if I told them where I was going, they’d figure out a way to get my friends in jail.”

 

            “That’s right,” Tammy said. “And while I was getting information out of John’s parents, he was suffering through the program.”

 

            “I had of course lost all hope of her ever contacting me,” Johnny said. “I underestimated her…uh…persuasive skills.”

 

            “Anyway,” Tammy continued. “It was about seven years before I saw John again. I loved him so much that I wouldn’t give up my quest to find out where he had gone. Finally, like I told you, his parents contacted me and I was forced to see him in a huge stroller surrounded by his friends and parents who all laughed at him.”

 

            “Yeah,” Johnny said. “When I told you that Ricky had to go through the punishment, you assumed that Tammy had been talking about him when she told you about the encounter. But remember, kid, I told you I had to go through it too, and in reality, she was talking about me. As far as my parents, they showed their true colors; I don’t think they really cared how embarrassed I was, just that I wasn’t doing ‘bad’ stuff anymore. Besides, they loved to torture Tammy. And my friends? Like Tammy said, I guess it had just been too long… seven years is a long time.

 

            “It almost killed me when it happened. I was so relieved to see that Tammy was still on my side, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I was strapped in a stroller and my pacifier kept me from talking. Besides, she was quickly escorted out soon.”

 

            “Like I said,” Tammy began. “This gave me a completely new desire to get John out. So in a matter of months I became qualified to be a nanny, passed the test, and entered the program.”

 

            “As for me,” Johnny said. “Seeing Tammy also gave me a new energy as well. I told you that I managed to fight the system and trick the nannies on my own because I was inspired by Ricky and knew how to fight the system by talking to people. But what I didn’t tell you was that if I hadn’t seen how much Tammy still cared for me, I probably wouldn’t have made it. Funny, when you think about it; their punishment for me that was intended to humiliate me backfired because when I saw Tammy I had an even stronger desire to fight the system.

 

            “I still wasn’t sure if she would be able to do anything, though. So I fought the system on my own for a while and tried to act like she would never come, because if she didn’t make it, I still wanted to be able to trick the nannies and get out on my own. Who knows, maybe I still would have succeeded. But I still was extremely inspired by Tammy.

 

            “You can’t imagine my pure joy when I first saw her in the program. I knew that it was a possibility that she would break though, but I had convinced myself that she would fail. I had already managed to fool the nannies into thinking I had been decoded, so I was acting like a baby.”

 

            “Don’t you remember?” Tammy asked me. “I told you when I saw my boyfriend again, he had already been decoded and that I was heartbroken. Well, technically that was true; when I first saw John, he acted like a complete baby, and I thought he was one.”

 

            “That was probably the hardest, most frustrating thing I’ve ever had to do,” Johnny said. “When I first saw Tammy, I wanted nothing more than to run (or crawl) over to her and tell her everything that had happened, or at least show her that I was happy to see her.”

 

            “So why didn’t you?” I asked.

 

            “Think about it, kid,” Johnny said. “Remember, the nannies thought I had been decoded, so I would have completely blown my cover and all the work I had done for months to fool them would have been for nothing. Besides, even if I hadn’t been able to fool them so long, they would have immediately fired Tammy if they realized that we knew each other. Anyway, it was extremely difficult for me sitting there and acting like a baby while I could tell she was heartbroken. And it was hell for a few weeks since I didn’t see her much at all, and I was afraid that she would give up and leave the program.”

 

            “And I almost did,” Tammy said. “Good thing I didn’t. And good thing I didn’t faint when I finally realized John hadn’t been decoded, because I almost did. When I was putting him in his crib one night, he winked at me. When I looked at him funny, he did it again. Over the next few days, I got a chance to sneak him into a room without cameras and we were able to speak to each other, even if it was only for a few minutes.”

 

            “It was very difficult to communicate at first,” Johnny said. “But we were persistent, and after we got through all of our heartfelt greetings and all that, we began to talk about how to get me out of here without Tammy getting fired and me blowing my cover.

 

            “The two of us made a great team. I had gathered tons of information from the nannies’ casual conversations, and Tammy poked around and asked the other nannies and the creators all kinds of questions. Finally, we began to strategize, and I knew how to start off; the cameras.”

 

            “You see, Cody,” Tammy said. “It was extremely frustrating not being able to talk with John casually, plus I didn’t get many chances to talk to him at all. So I started to volunteer for more jobs involving the cameras. I became extremely trustworthy, and eventually they put me in charge of them quite often. I even managed to convince them to turn them off more often; the need for them was small since bad situations rarely happened and it cost money to run them.

 

            “Eventually they put me in charge of the camera schedule, and even though Johnny had a pretty firm grasp on them anyways, I helped him out further. Soon we were able to have casual talks in the evenings in the crib rooms since the cameras were off. If another nanny walked in, he would just pretend to be asleep and I’d just act like I was reading or something.

           

            “It was great; being in charge of the schedule made things so much easier. By the way, that’s how I was able to go get you after you went through punishment level 4. Remember how I told you that I let the kids out into the hall? Well, it never would have worked had I not turned off the cameras when I let them free.

 

            “Anyway, even with this new power, we still needed to figure out a way to get John out of here. We couldn’t just turn off the cameras and make a break for it; he still had his collar on. It seemed best just to stick with his original plan; we’d wait until it was time for him to move on, and as soon as they took his collar off, he’d make a break for it. It was pretty easy to make sure he didn’t get decoded until then; I talked to him quite often, which was plenty of human interaction.”

 

            “My escape plan would be even better now,” Johnny said. “Now I had Tammy on my side. So when it came time for them to remove my collar, she would turn off the cameras. That way, the only people who knew I was escaping were the ones who took off my collar. In addition, Tammy would race in and help me subdue everyone who was there. Together, we would both have a clear runway to my freedom.”

 

            “Turns out the plan worked flawlessly,” Tammy said. “Smoother than I could have imagined. But, something had complicated the situation.”

 

            “What?” I asked.

 

            “You,” Johnny said.

 

            “That’s right,” Tammy said. “We knew we couldn’t just leave you there.”

 

            “You see,” Johnny said. “Tammy and I were pretty confident about our plan. We were a perfect team, and there was never any hint that anyone knew what was going on…”

 

            “Except for Rhines,” I interrupted.

 

            To my surprise, Johnny then let out a laugh. “Ha ha…I had forgotten about old Rhines. Yeah, he knew about our plans. But it wasn’t a big deal.”

 

            “What?” I asked. “Why not?”

 

            “Because he told me that he didn’t care if I escaped.”

 

            “You KNEW about Rhines?”

 

            “Of course I did,” Johnny said. “You see, Cody, in my seven years of fighting the system, the creators were completely baffled and worried that I would never give in. Remember how you had a ‘talk’ with McPherson after you got in trouble? Well, I had chats with all of the creators at one point or another. That’s why I made fun of them in the hearing today; Tammy gave me a little inside info on them and since I’m ever the opportunist, I made the most of the situation.

 

            “Anyway, after seven years of frustration, I was finally sent to the man in charge, Vince Rhines. I was terrified when I first saw him…yeah, he still wore the mask. But right from the get-go, I knew he was different than all the other creators.

 

            “Whereas the other creators just yelled at me in the same way McPherson did to you, Rhines just talked to me normally, in a similar calm tone that he did at the hearing today. By the way, I heard everything he said from the moment you were drug in there; it’s just nobody realized I was listening. Anyway, in my first talk with Rhines, he told me all about the system, how he knew everything that had happened to me, and how he was so proud of me. He explained to me that I was different than all of the other kids, who he thought were ‘idiots’. He even made fun of the nannies and other creators a little bit. He then told me he knew I was planning to escape and how I was going to do it.

 

            “Don’t ask me how he knew…I still will never figure that out. Rhines is a freaky person…I know I was terrified when he knew about my escape plan. Rhines may be cruel, soulless, and just a plain jackass, but he is definitely smart. He’s almost like the god of the program, really…he was one of the original creators of the whole idea of Reconstruction. And his center was the first one built. When that first kid I was with became decoded, it was a major breakthrough…Reconstruction centers starting popping up all over the country.

 

            “I knew Rhines was extremely proud of his success, but he was mystified at how I had managed to fight. He was so proud of me…it was weird, at that moment I actually kind of liked the guy. Anyway, he told me that he knew that I was trying to escape, but that he would allow it to happen. He was just curious to see if I could pull it off…he said he wouldn’t tell anyone about it, but that if I got caught, he would force me back into the program.

 

            “At first I doubted his word, but I figured I had nothing to lose anyway. Of course he hadn’t counted on Tammy, and I was a little worried that since she was now involved, Rhines might tell everyone our plans. When I told Tammy, she almost got cold feet and said she couldn’t go through with it.”

 

            “But in the end,” Tammy said. “I decided that I would rather be caught and forced to be a baby than live with myself knowing that John would be trapped there. So I decided to keep going.”

 

            “But Rhines was true to his word,” Johnny said. “The time passed, and he still did not interfere. I was extremely nervous when the actual day came, but like I said, the escape plan worked perfectly.

 

            “I guess it’s like Rhines said; he didn’t care if I got loose as long as I could pull it off, and he was so proud of me that me being able to break free that it made no difference that I would never be decoded. Besides, he knew that I was in contact with you, and he thought I was a coward who chose to save his own skin. On top of that, even with Tammy’s help, he never dreamed that I’d be able to make it on my own. You can bet he was shocked as hell when he saw me in there today…he had only known that Tammy was trying to get you free, and he knew that she would never succeed without you having two parents and having your confession of your state of babyhood.

 

            “But like I was saying before, even though Tammy and I were finally free, our job still wasn’t done; there was still the fact that you were here.”

 

            Johnny then took a deep breath and said, “Well, kid, I think that’ll be it for tonight. We’ll tell you the rest later.”

 

            Even though I was really tired, I just had to hear the rest at that moment. “No, Johnny, please, tell me the rest.”

 

            Johnny looked at Tammy, and when she nodded, he sighed and said, “Ok, then. Now, remember, at the beginning, you weren’t part of the plan at all. I had already met Tammy and had been fooling the nannies when you arrived. You only got there a few weeks before it was time to escape, and I had no idea you were coming. By the way, that’s why I always managed to stay so calm around you; I had almost full confidence that I would be escaping, so I didn’t see any need to worry about anything.

 

            “Now you have to realize, Cody, Tammy and I had been waiting for almost three years for my escape, basically doing nothing new on any given day. However, the whole program really bothered Tammy; she was disgusted at seeing all of these kids being treated like babies. I, of course, was completely used to it; I had seen and experienced it for seven years, so I didn’t care about anyone escaping other than me. Any time a new kid came in, I didn’t really have to talk to him to keep from being decoded.

 

            “You see, Rhines was lying to you today. He said that I used other kids to keep from becoming decoded during those seven years and that I only continued to talk to kids like you to make sure I didn’t become decoded. But remember, he knew as well as I did that I was talking to Tammy constantly, so of course he knew that I didn’t need to talk to you kids to keep my head. So he was obviously lying to you just to torment you. Besides, he didn’t really expect me to come back for you….he thought I was selfish, but he knew I wasn’t selfish enough to just use you kids to fight the decoding…he was just screwing with you.

 

            “Anyway, during the three years that I was faking my baby state, I began to just talk to the new kids for fun. Tammy was always really concerned for them, so she managed to convince me to try to help them. I tried many times with varied results; some just told me to get lost as soon as they met me and became decoded soon. Some tried to squeeze as much information out of me as possible, but they also became decoded. Over time, I began to think about the kids who came to the program and their reactions, and I came to a conclusion; they deserved what they had gotten.”

 

            “What?” I asked.

 

            “It’s just like I told you that day, kid,” he said. “As much as some of the creators and nannies are messed up, I agree with the system. I don’t see how it’s possible to argue with Rhines; he’s a genius. His program works; it fixes the problem of bad teens who grow up to be criminals. Tammy, of course, disagrees with me. But after seeing the way all of the kids who came in treated me, I decided to just leave them in the program and let them be decoded. I had managed to see what an evil little punk I used to be…but I knew that this program was the only way these other kids would, and that I would be doing society an injustice by freeing them.”

 

            It was hard to hear this from Johnny, but I forced myself to keep listening.

 

            “So when you first arrived, I had no intentions of freeing you, either. But it’s like I told you, kid, you were different than most of them. You definitely caught my interest by crying on your first day, and then going through those first two punishment levels so fast.

 

            “But I was almost out of the place myself, so I didn’t give it much thought. I did tell Tammy about you, but it didn’t seem like it would matter. When you jumped on me that day, I just figured you were just like the rest of them, so I decided to get you in trouble. But like I said, I never dreamed they would go as far as they did. Tammy tried to help you, and she got some information on your punishments after I told her you jumped on me.”

 

            “So, Cody,” Tammy said. “I was actually working to get you free even though Johnny didn’t agree with me. I probably shouldn’t have, but I tried to give you hope that you would get free. I knew that if one kid was going to escape this, it would be you. Your strength so far had made you the most likely candidate. Johnny told me I shouldn’t, but I did anyway.”

 

            “But,” Johnny said, “When you told me that you have gone through levels 3, 4, and 5, I was genuinely shocked. I really did start to think that you were different, and that maybe I should give you a chance. But then you told me all about how you didn’t deserve to be here. And I got extremely pissed off. I wasn’t angry with you because of what you were saying; I had heard it a hundred times from all of the new kids. But I was extremely hurt and disappointed; I realized that you weren’t different at all. At that moment all of my disappointment turned to anger, and I exploded at you, and I shouldn’t have.

 

            “But despite that, I still had hope in you. I knew that I now only had a few days left here, and I wanted to give you one more chance.”

 

            “You see, Cody,” Tammy interjected. “Do you remember that day I told you I had a major breakthrough for your escape? Well, that breakthrough was that I was named as the head person of camera security. So I was completely in charge of when they were turned on and off. So, I figured that I’d be able to mix you into John’s escape plan. Of course, I hadn’t gotten the chance to hear about the fight you two had gotten into, so I didn’t know that at that moment he would have completely disagreed. And when the nanny caught me when I had taken you into the tiny room, I didn’t really get punished. I’ve always been good at getting out of tight spots, and I managed to convince the nannies that I was still completely trustworthy, even if they didn’t let me talk to you anymore.

 

            “So, with my new camera power, John and I agreed to give you one more chance. He arranged to talk with you the next day, and I was the only one watching the tape. I even had to turn the sound on, something that the nannies stopped doing years and years ago. I still wanted to include you in our escape plan, but John didn’t. However, we were both extremely surprised when you told John that you deserved to be here.”

 

            “That’s right,” Johnny said. “You probably don’t remember kid, but a grin flashed over my face when you first told me you thought you deserved your treatment. Because I then knew that you were indeed worthy of escaping the program.”

 

            “I knew the tape would be important,” Tammy said. “So I kept it. But unfortunately, we were still unable to include you in our escape plan.”

 

            “Why?” I asked.

 

            “Rhines,” Johnny said. “I knew he’d let me escape, but no way was he going to lose you. He was interested in seeing if he could still decode you even though I had given you so much information. You had managed to fight a lot so far, so he wanted to see how much you could take.

 

            “However, the night before my escape, I thought of another plan. Both Tammy and I wanted to get you out of the program, and now we had a tape of your confession. We knew that the two of us could be your parents once I got back to an adult state. So, after my escape was successful, we knew we still had to get you out. And we knew we could do it right underneath Rhines’ nose, and he would never see it coming.

 

            “So that’s why I never told you, anything, kid. I didn’t want to get your hopes up on escaping. I didn’t tell you that I knew Tammy, I didn’t tell you about a lot of the stuff I knew. I knew Rhines would never let you go. And to be honest, I didn’t know for sure if our plan today would work.”

 

            “You see,” Tammy said. “We knew it would be a while before we could try to get you out. We had the tape and I was fully qualified to be your mother, but Johnny was in no state to be your father.”

 

            “Yeah,” Johnny said. “Even though I’m further along than you are now…I had been partially reconstructed, remember…I still wasn’t an adult. I still sucked my thumb, for crying out loud! So Tammy had to work to get me back to 100% normal. Then I had to go out and get a job. This was really hard; I had spent ten years as a baby, and on top of that, I didn’t have much education.

 

            “I was also extremely worried about money. Even after I got a job, which was only some grunt work at a fast food restaurant, Tammy and I both weren’t making enough to support more than just the two of us, so we knew we could never legally get you out of the program. It looked like you’d be trapped in there after all.

 

            “But then luck struck us; as an ironic twist of fate, both of my parents died in a car crash. They had written their will a long time ago and they left everything to me…I was an only child and we didn’t have much other family. They did this before I even entered the program. They procrastinated and never got around to changing it after they realized that I would become a baby. But, since they never did, I was still entitled to the large amount of wealth they had accumulated. With this new power, Tammy and I knew we could finally break you out. And today, finally, we were able to do so.”

 

            I just stared at Johnny as he finished. Although it had been so much information to take in, I felt deeply satisfied in knowing the whole story. It had been probably the biggest day of my life, and I was still overwhelmed by everything. It seemed like my whole life was a dream.

 

            Exhausted, I let out a huge yawn.

 

            “Alright, kid, that’s it,” Johnny said. “Time for you to go to bed.”

 

            “Here, let me get you dressed,” Tammy said. “Looks like you need a change anyway!”

 

            I blushed at this remark, but since it was true, I couldn’t deny it. Tammy picked me up and took me into a bedroom, which turned out to be…a nursery.

 

            It was pretty weird…it looked a lot like a real baby’s nursery, complete with changing table, crib, and a rocking chair. The walls were even “baby” blue and had nursery patterns on them.

 

            “Yeah,” Johnny said. “That’s part of the rules…you have to spend the next month in an actual nursery. Sorry.”

 

            But as Tammy laid me down on the changing table and began to change my diaper, I found that I didn’t really mind the nursery. Maybe it was just because I had been so used to being treated like a baby, or maybe I had actually turned into what my dad would have called a wussy (which for some reason didn’t bother me anymore), but I realized that I actually liked being in a nursery. It seemed so comfortable and cozy, and unlike the program’s nurseries, I actually felt happy here.

 

            After I was changed into a new diaper, Tammy put a footed sleep on me. She then carried me over to the crib and tucked me in. Then to my great surprise and delight, she gave me something, or rather, someone, that I recognized…none other than Timmy.

 

            Johnny and Tammy just stood over me for a minute. Then, Tammy said, “Oh, I almost forgot, your pacifier. But don’t worry; we don’t have to tie it on you, you just have to suck it. Besides, you probably won’t be able to sleep without it, anyway, Cody.”

 

            As she went to get a pacifier, Johnny said, “You know, I guess now that you’re out, we should stop calling you Cody and refer to you by your real name, Luke.”

 

            But as Tammy walked over, to my real surprise, I truthfully said, “No, I think I like Cody better.”

 

            Johnny and Tammy just smiled as she put the pacifier in my mouth. I closed my eyes and smiled as I drifted off to sleep and they turned out the light and closed the door.

 

Epilogue

 

            As I sit here writing this, seven years have passed since I was freed from The Reconstruction Center for Troubled Youths, which makes me about 24 years old if you’re keeping count. Quite a bit has happened since I got out.

 

            A lot of it was just like Johnny had described. For a whole month I was treated like a baby as far as the aspects Johnny mentioned; I wore diapers (Tammy usually changed me, although Johnny was often willing to as well) and baby clothes. I could only drink from baby bottles for a few weeks, although I was able to drink anything, not just milk; again, I had to be bottle-fed. Thankfully I could eat a variety of foods, and Tammy was a great cook. Unfortunately, I was unable to use utensils very well, and since I wasn’t allowed to learn how to use them for the first month, Tammy or Johnny has to feed me anything that I couldn’t eat with my fingers (although thankfully I didn’t have to wear a bib and I never made a mess). I had to spend a little bit of time playing with baby toys, and I still had to suck a pacifier and carry around Timmy, but this actually comforted me more than it annoyed me. And of course I still had to sleep in a crib.

 

            There were definitely frustrations, though. Almost every day someone from the program studied me for hours and scribbled down notes (it was a different person each day). Tammy and Johnny both worked part time; Tammy still worked at her government job (she said she couldn’t tell me any details about it) and Johnny actually learned to be a pretty good car mechanic since one of Tammy’s friends knew how and Johnny always loved messing around with cars. They had to work in order to fulfill the requirements to take care of me, and it helped them to feel active and earn some money in addition to the Johnny’s inheritance. Because of this, even though one of them was usually around to watch over me, sometimes I would have to be taken care of by someone from the program, which kinda sucked.

 

            Also, I could still only crawl, and I basically had to stay in-doors all of the time. I also had trouble eating and doing simple activities due to my lack of strength and coordination.

 

            But life was good; I loved living with Tammy and Johnny, and it seemed like they loved having me around. Their house was great, although they had to carry me up and down the stairs. They would often spend time with me, and we often talked for hours and hours exchanging stories or just sharing opinions. Johnny often read the newspaper or magazines and we would talk about topics in them. Sometimes we would watch TV, although there were certain things I wasn’t allowed to watch (I also wasn’t allowed to cuss…the collar still shocked me). I started getting really into watching sports since Johnny was such a fan. And sometimes Johnny or Tammy would take me outside to play.

 

            Eventually, the first month passed, and my collar was taken off. The people from the program stopped coming over, and Tammy decided to quit her job in order to help me get better.

 

            It was a long and grueling process, but eventually I returned back to my normal self. I slowly learned to walk and be potty trained, and I was allowed to sleep in a bed and wasn’t required to play with baby toys. I also had to do a slew of exercises under the direction of a physical therapist to regain my strength, balance and coordination of all of my muscles.

 

            I also got used to sleeping a lot less and a lot of my natural baby instincts like crying were driven out of me…it was surprising how difficult this was. I had gotten so used to these things that only through intense discipline and tests was I able to shake off the habits. I also eventually fought off my need to suck a pacifier, although I still carried Timmy around a lot…Johnny and Tammy didn’t seem to mind.

 

            Despite the extreme difficulty of this process, I continued to enjoy life in ways that I never had before. I had a lot of activities to do, and I got really interested in getting on the internet and listening to music. Also, for the first time in my life, I really began to enjoy reading.

 

            I also still had long talks with Johnny and Tammy. My relationship with them was kind of weird. For the first month, they treated me just like I was their own son. This was nice because I truly felt loved, but it was also irritating sometimes, since I was under their control. They had to discipline me sometimes, and since I had always fought authority in the past, I had to fight the urge to rebel. But because I liked them so much, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.

 

            However, after the first month, our relationship changed a little. They still acted a lot like my parents, but also kind of like my friends. They were still in charge of me and helped me return to my normal state, but sometimes they would talk to me just like they would talk to any of their other friends that were their own age.

 

            Sometimes they would invite some of their friends (who they usually met through work) over. This was after I had driven most of my baby traits out of me, and none of them ever said anything about my physical difficulties…Tammy and Johnny had told them I was recovering from a physical injury. I was a little embarrassed sometimes because I still carried Timmy around, but most of them just thought it was cute, even if it was a little on the weird side.

 

            When I finally returned back to my normal state physically, it was the most satisfying feeling in my life. Not only did it feel excellent to have a normal body again, but I felt as though I had truly received a proper childhood; Tammy and Johnny truly had cared for me, and I felt I had gotten something that my real childhood had lacked.

 

            In addition, because of this, to my great surprise I was different. It was like I was a completely different person than who I was before I ever entered the Baby Start Over Program. I had trouble believing that I had ever been the delinquent teenager that I once was. True, I did start cussing again and I regained my sexual functions, but I was completely disgusted with who I used to be. This may seem really remarkable, but when you’ve been through what I’ve been through, you kinda grow to believe a lot.

 

            However, now that I had basically returned to normal, it was time for me to either get out and get a job or get back into schooling. Turns out I actually did both; since Tammy wasn’t working anymore, she stayed home, and I decided that I wanted her to home school me. At the same time, I got a job at a local grocery store, and I did my studies around my work schedule. It was extremely difficult for me to do well in school as well as keep my job, but I was determined to prove that I could do it. It took a few years, but eventually I received enough education that it was equivalent to a high school diploma, and my job went extremely well.

 

            Then, one day, things got really interesting. Johnny came home one day, and he told me he had a crazy idea.

 

            “Cody,” he told me. “I’ve been talking to some different people I’ve met through my friends, and we’ve come up with a proposal. But, it is really going to disrupt the normal flow of our lives, so I want to see what you think before I make a decision.

 

            “Basically, I’ve been thinking about you, me, and Tammy, and how stupid we used to be way back when. We used to live lives that were horrible, and one way or another the three of us have changed our lives. Well, an offer has come up; we have the opportunity to travel around the country going to high schools and speaking to them! They want us to talk to kids and tell them how we used to be and how we realized what big mistakes we made.

 

            “Of course, we won’t tell anyone about The Baby Start Over Program or any of those experiences. But we can still tell them all of the things we’ve learned. What do you think?”

 

            This was a really crazy idea, and I needed a few days to think about it. Could I really do it? Tour the country? Tell kids about how they should clean up their lives? Although it truly would be a major change of pace, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it would be a great idea. This was my chance to go back and try to keep kids from becoming what I would have become. It was my chance to make a difference.

 

            Once I had made up my mind, the three of us decided to go through with it. We actually sold the house, and between that, the inheritance money, and the money from our three jobs combined, we were able to buy something equal to a tour bus and a driver.

 

            We usually ate out and slept on the bus. It was pretty weird at first, and I had to get used to being mobile all of the time. It was also difficult speaking in front of all of the kids, and at first it seemed like it wouldn’t make any difference.

 

            But as we did it more and more, life became amazing. I really think we made a difference in at least a few of the kids’ lives, and it was exciting to visit places all across the United States. Besides, Tammy, Johnny and I had each other, so we were very happy.

 

            We had a lot of free time on the road, so one day Johnny and I had an idea; we’d write a fictional book that would take ideas from our experiences in the Baby-Start Over Program. We had enough money to get it published after we finally finished writing it, and although it wasn’t a bestseller, we were happy with the success that we got from it. We’re planning on writing more in the future at some point.

 

            So that’s what life has basically been like for me. I have to admit, it’s been a really crazy ten years, and my whole life has been like one crazy roller-coaster. It’s hard to believe, and as I look back now it’s like one huge dream sequence. Sometimes it’s hard to remember my life as a messed up teenager, and even harder to remember life as a baby. But I still remember very clearly how scary it was in that place, and how at one time I feared I would never get out. I also remember what Johnny told me after I went through punishment level 5. He told me that he would do something to make up for the fact that he was responsible for putting me through it, and I realized that he did that by freeing me from the program…funny how things work out sometimes.

 

            I still think about the whole idea of the program a lot. I wonder if the one I attended is still operating, and if teens are getting their diapers changed as I write this. I wonder how many of the programs there are, and if they’re still achieving the desired results.

 

            Johnny and I often discuss the matter in deep detail for hours on the bus. We strongly disagree about the program; I still think it’s fucked up and that there are better ways to handle the problem of the teens of today, but he thinks the program is a good idea and that the results and successes of the programs speak for themselves. We often stay up for hours late into the night discussing the matter, and Tammy, who doesn’t involve herself in the arguments, often has to tell us to shut up and go to sleep.

 

            But there is one thing that Johnny and I still agree on; whether or not these programs should exist, we hope that through our efforts one day we will live in a world where there is no longer a need for such programs.

 

FINALLY…….THE END