Volunteers: Chapter 5
I really like bugs. I like looking at them. I like watching them crawl in the dirt. I like how they feel crawling on my skin. So I don’t mind it when the ants crawl over my feet. I squat down to look at them closer, wiggle my toes in the soft dirt.
I’m exploring the front yard again. It’s one of my favourite things to do. Even though I’ve done it more times than even a grown-up could possibly count. I can’t count at all though, that’s for big boys. I know I have ten toes, but I can’t count them without help. I got distracted again, that happens a lot now, cuz my head is so silly, so fuzzy.
I’m exploring the yard because I can pretend I’m an adventurer. I’m hunting for lions and tigers and monsters! But the buggies are cool too. I poke at one. Squish. Ha-ha! I like squishing stuff too. It’s all so interesting, and the sensations are nice too. But then a new sensation pushes aside all the others. I need to tinkle.
No need to stop playing though, no need to abandon my exploration of the bushes along the fence. I just stand back up and let go, pee-pees arcing out from my doodle, splashing across the fence, watering the bushes and also my own feeties. No need for the potty since I’m nakey. That’s one of the best things about being little, even better than getting to play, getting to explore every day. As soon as we got home from daycare I stripped my clothes off, left them for the adults to clean up. I want to be all free, I want to feel the sun on my skin.
When the tinkles are done, I run back to the driveway because I want to play another game. I’m going to drive the ambulance. I know what an ambulance is. They help people who got boo-boos, really bad ones. Boo-boos that can’t get fixed with a kiss and a cuddle and maybe a plaster. I like the ambulance people, cuz they help people. I want to help people too. When I’m big, maybe I’ll drive the ambulance for real.
I’m sitting down, playing with my ambulance, imagining it racing to help a boy who fell out of a really big tree, when I get this funny feeling. I don’t know what it is, I have no words to describe it. I just… I feel so strange….
It’s kind of like waking up from a really good, really deep sleep. Except that I’m not in bed. And it isn’t morning, it’s mid-afternoon. But that’s the only sensation that I can compare it to. Suddenly I feel so alert, so awake, so aware of my situation.
The plastic toy ambulance in my hands had been so absolutely captivating only moments ago. It had been my entire world. Now it’s just a dumb toy, sitting on the pavement between my legs.
I can feel the pavement under my bottom. It’s warm and gritty. Yes, I’m sitting naked in the driveway. At least the fence and the gate give me some privacy. But it’s not perfect. Anyone could peek over the fence or between the wooden slats. What a sight I would be. A fully grown man, naked and playing with children’s toys.
My skin was dirty, a plaster on my arm from a cut I got climbing a tree, my knees scabbed from a tumble at the playground where Chris and Ken took us late in the evening, after the families had gone. I reached up and felt my hair. Ugh, it was cut so short. I used to spend half an hour getting it just right in the morning, using gel, styling it. Now I had a buzz cut. My feet were bowed out in front of me. I pulled one closer, looking at the blackened bare sole. Even scrubbing in the bath wouldn’t remove all that dirt, it was like my skin was permanently stained. I poked at it, feeling the skin. It was tough as shoe leather, callused all over from constantly running around barefoot.
How long had I been dumbed down for? I remembered my time as a grown toddler, but not perfectly. Would my memories fade with time, like with a dream; so clear when you first awoke, but forgotten by mid-day? There was no sense of time, except that it had been lengthy. I recalled too many events, too many separate days for it to have been just a couple weeks or even months.
We weren’t at our old flat anymore. Chris and Ken had moved us long ago. I remembered the journey, seeming like a huge adventure at the time, exciting and fun. But really they’d stolen us away, to a place where no one we’d known before could find us. Here everyone simply knew us as three intellectually impaired men and their two doting caregivers. No one would begin to imagine we were once independent, intelligent university students.
But now I was back, I was me again. My thoughts felt both strangely foreign and comfortable and familiar at the same time. It was like visiting your childhood home as an adult.
A shadow fell across me and I looked over at a new pair of bare feet standing on the pavement to my right. Benny gaped down at me, a finger jammed deep up his nose, picking away, his other hand idly toying with his soft penis.
“I wan’ da twuck,” he stated, pointing at my toy.
“It’s an ambulance,” I told him, though I felt silly even trying to correct him.
“My twuck,” Benny insisted, oblivious to his error. “Mine!”
He squatted down, grabbing the toy ambulance away from me, smiling at his successful theft and then pushing it along the driveway, mooning me with his big bare bottom as he went.
No sign of any recovery from Benny, so why was I suddenly thinking so clearly? Did it really matter though? I had my mental capacity back, at least for now. A part of me was terrified it would be short-lived though. I needed to act, needed to get a move on. But for the moment I was overcome by the torrent of memories washing over me.
I had these clear memories of my time as Chris and Ken’s dumb little tot, but suddenly all those memories had new meaning for me. There was so much that I’d seen but not understood. So much that had seemed normal, seemed perfectly acceptable, now horrified me. So many people had seen me in that diminished state. So many pitying looks from strangers.
I touched my wrist, feeling where the harness attached when we went somewhere public, the leash that kept me from running off, from getting into trouble because I didn’t know any better. How had I accepted that without a word of complaint? Now I recalled the shaking heads, the sad looks from people we passed in the mall, seeing me being led along barefoot and leashed, sucking on a binkie or picking my nose as we went, obviously incompetent.
I couldn’t go back to that. I wondered if I should simply run right out of the yard, try to flag down a passing car. No one would likely stop for a naked man, they’d think I was crazy or dangerous. But they probably would call the police and that would be just as good.
There was no time to waste. In seconds I was on my feet, making my move. The pavement was hot, scorching really, but it didn’t bother my thick soles. I guess I should be thankful, I didn’t need to go back for shoes to make my escape. As I hurried past Benny I felt a little guilty to be leaving him behind. But it’s just for a little while, I reminded myself. The cops would come, they’d save Benny and Liam. Then we’d find some way to fix them, give them their minds back too.
“Where goin’?” Benny called after me.
There was no time to explain. Chris and Ken couldn’t be too far away. They wouldn’t leave us unsupervised for long.
“I’ll be back soon,” I told him, reaching the gate.
But when I looked down at the latch, something strange happened. It was a simple latch, it wasn’t locked or anything. But when I looked at it, when I reached for it, I couldn’t recall how to work it at all. There was this growing blank space in my head. And this voice telling me good boys stay in the yard.
Fuck it, I’d just have to climb over. That wasn’t so bad. I’d been climbing trees and playground structures often, after all. Little boys love to climb and explore the voice reminded me, bringing a pleasant smile to my face.
I shook my head, knocking the voice away. Time to climb. I grabbed the top of the gate, starting to pull myself up. A wave of tingles and giddy confusion swept over me. Why am I climbing the gate? I know it’s super important, that it can’t wait, but why? I’m supposed to stay in the yard. I let go and dropped back onto the pavement. Mmm, it’s so warm under my feeties. Little boys love being barefoot. I stand there and wiggle my toes, enjoying the rough, solid sensations under my soles. My doodle begins to slowly jerk upwards, filling with nice tingles as well.
Then I remember, I was climbing the gate to escape, to get away from Chris and especially Ken, who have stolen my entire adult life, my identity from me. It’s crystal clear in my mind again. I need to go, right this second.
I grab the top of the gate once again, but instantly I feel the fuzziness returning so I let go. I release the fence like it was electric, like it had burnt my hands. Mercifully the rush of fuzzy tingling recedes as quickly as it came on. But it’s replaced by a growing sense of fear and horror. I’m trapped. Whatever they did to my mind, only part of it has come undone.
I almost screamed out loud when a hand grabbed my own. But it was just Benny, the toy ambulance abandoned now.
“Lez pway hide ‘n seek,” he declared.
Poor Benny, so utterly reduced, and I’d helped him accept that, I’d encouraged his regressed mentality, his toddler behaviour. No more of that.
“Ben, you aren’t a toddler,” I told him, taking his hands in my own, looking him in the eye. “You’re a grown man Ben. You’re smart. You go to university. You just need to remember.”
“Dun wanna pway pwetend,” he whined. “Wanna pway hide ‘n seek Ewic!”
“It isn’t pretend Ben. I want you to try and remember the time before you got all little. You remember that you used to be big, don’t you?”
I could see the cogs turning in his simple little head. It took some effort, but it looked like he still had those memories.
“I was big boy,” he agreed at last.
“That’s right Ben, you were big and smart and you did stuff all by yourself. You can do that all again. You can drive a car, go to big school, wear the clothes you choose for yourself…”
Benny frowned. “I wike nakey!”
I shook my head. “No Benny, you just think you do because Ken told you that.”
Benny was clearly confused. This was all much too complicated for him. He shook his head, yanking his hands away from me.
“Dun wike dis game. Gonna pway wid Wiam.”
“It’s not a game,” I pleaded. But Benny was done listening. He had turned around and raced off into the house to find Liam, leaving me defeated and alone.
I couldn’t bring him back on my own, the hypnotic programming was much too strong. The only solution was to get help, and if I couldn’t leave, I’d have to bring them here. And that meant going into the house and finding a phone. My pulse quickened at the very thought. Chris and Ken probably had plans ready in case the hypnosis wore off. They could probably just play my trigger again on their phones.
The idea of losing this all again terrified me. Now I knew what was truly at stake. The vacant expression on Benny’s face, the utter confusion in his empty eyes when I tried to explain things to him reminded me how crippled my own brain had been, how I must have looked to everyone else. No wonder they pitied me. I couldn’t let that happen again, and I couldn’t leave Benny and Liam in that state. I owed that to them, especially to Liam.
The inside of the house looked like a place where small children lived. Toys were abandoned helter-skelter on the floors, on the stairs. I could hear Thomas the Tank Engine playing on the living room TV. I peeked into the room, spotting Liam there, climbing along the top of the couch. He leapt down onto the cushions, bouncing and somersaulting down onto the floor, giggling his head off, then quickly jumping back up and climbing to the top of the couch to repeat his game.
It looked a bit dangerous to me, and again Liam was apparently unsupervised. I wasn’t going to bother trying to snap him out of it though. It was too risky and likely futile. Focus on finding a phone instead. I just had to hope Chris or Ken had left their phone lying around somewhere. At least I wouldn’t need their pin code since emergency numbers worked without one.
I snuck along the hallway to the kitchen, edging my nose around the corner. No one was in the kitchen. It was a mess, with dishes piled up in the sink, a bunch of toy cars on the floor, scribbled crayon drawings displayed on the fridge door. But most importantly, there was a phone just sitting on the table. My heart leapt and my eyes went wide the second I spotted it.
“What are you looking for Silly Billy?”
I hadn’t heard Chris come up behind me, but there he was. Shit, I had to decide what to do fast. Did I punch him in the face, try to incapacitate him? Did I make a beeline for the phone, grab it and run? No, it was too risky when Ken could be in the next room over. I couldn’t face them both and if one of them managed to play my trigger it was all over, maybe forever.
“Pay hide ‘n theek,” I replied, putting on my best little boy voice and diction.
It felt strange to speak like that, even though it had been my norm for so long. Now it was an act and I wasn’t sure I could get it just right.
“Are you the hider or the seeker?” Chris asked in the bright, lilting tone people used with small children.
“I hide,” I answered quickly.
“Well then, you better find a good spot. I don’t think there’s anywhere good in the kitchen though,” Chris said.
Damn, I was so close, the phone was just lying there. I pointed at the table.
“Under dere,” I chirped as brightly as I could, forcing an idiotic grin onto my face.
Chris chuckled. “Oh sweetie, they’ll spot you right away under the table.”
Shit. I had to pull out the toddler stubbornness.
“Under dere!” I almost shouted, stamping my foot and pouting.
Was it too much? Would he know something was off?
Chris put his hand on my back, rubbing it soothingly. “Hey now, let’s take a breath and use our inside voice. Okay Eric?”
I kept pouting, but I at least gave him a nod.
“Imma good hider,” I told him more quietly.
“I know, you’re a very good hider. But I need to do some work here in the kitchen, so why don’t we find you a better hiding place somewhere else, okay?”
God this was infuriating. He was being too reasonable, and then even worse, he walked right into the kitchen past me and picked up the phone. Now I would actually have to hide somewhere. I was so close!
“Just remember to stay out of the office. I don’t want you hiding in there again,” Chris warned.
The office. As soon as he said it I knew there was another way. It wasn’t actually an office. It was the room where Ken and Chris brought strangers, usually young men, and subjected them to their special treatments. I only got glimpses of a couple of them before they went into the office. They kept us boys out of sight before that. But when they emerged from the office we were all there to see it.
The men invariably walked out naked, either sporting impressive erections or shiny tummies that showed they’d already had their ejaculation. And then they would play with us for the rest of the day. I loved it of course. We would suddenly have a brand new playmate. They had big bodies but little minds, just like us. Sometimes they’d stay the night, and we’d share a bed, which usually resulted in curious fingers probing my penis until we ended up doing stickies together. But in the end, usually late in the evening, some man would come and take them away. They never stayed more than a day.
It had all seemed like lovely innocent fun at the time. A regular procession of new playmates for us. But now I understood what was really happening. Ken and Chris had perfected the hypnotic methods they had experimented with for months at the university. They had taken what they learned and gone freelance. Now they were trafficking helplessly dumbed down men. Were they regressing them to order? Were they selling them to the highest bidder?
I felt physically sick. I was sure I was going to vomit. But I managed to hold it in, to keep from drawing Chris’ attention again. I had to get out of his sight, so I hurried down the hallway and up the stairs. I rested at the top of them, breathing hard, sweating as I came to grips with what was happening. This was how they were paying the bills. This was how they could afford to clothe and feed… no, just feed, three grown men who were incapable of earning an income.
Nevertheless this did present me a new opportunity to escape. If they had a programming room, it must be able to do the reverse as well. I felt a sudden swelling up of hope for the first time since I’d regained my awareness. Liam and Benny might not be lost after all. Maybe I could bring them back and reverse whatever was left of my own programming.
I crept along the carpeted hallway to the forbidden room. The door was closed, but was it locked? No, the door opened easily, thankfully without any creaking. I stepped inside and closed the door behind me, being as quiet as I could.
There was a projector hanging from the ceiling, pointed at the far wall, which was bare and white. The other walls were covered in soundproofing material. A comfortable looking chair sat in the middle of the room. At the back was a desk with a computer on it, connected to the projector. Other than that the room was bare. I looked more closely at the chair. There weren’t any restraints on it at least. Maybe they drugged the men first, so they wouldn’t look away, wouldn’t squirm.
I stepped over to the computer. It needed a password of course. Ken had once told me his, a year or so ago, when he needed me to find a file on his computer. I just hoped he hadn’t changed passwords, and that it was his computer and not Chris’. I typed it in and hit enter.
Damn it. I tried it again with the first letter capitalised. Same result. I couldn’t keep going much longer or it would lock me out for too many failed attempts and then they’d know I was aware again.
But I didn’t get another chance anyway. As I stood there with my hands on the keyboard, the door swung open without warning and I found myself face to face with Ken.
He looked surprised for a moment, then asked, “Eric, what are you doing in here?”
I bashed at random keys, putting on my biggest, dumbest smile once again.
“Ewic work in da office. Imma big boy!”
I cringed at the idiocy of my statement, certain I’d overdone it again.
Ken frowned. “Eric, you know very well you are not allowed in this room. You get your butt away from the computer this instant,” he ordered firmly.
Pouting, I stepped back from the computer, waiting as Ken came over to check it.
“I hope you haven’t locked me out of my own account,” he said with a sigh, typing his password and hitting enter.
This time the password was accepted and a home screen loaded.
“Well at least that’s not messed up. Now come on Mr Office Worker, we have things to do,” he declared, taking my hand and leading me out of the room.
“Where we goin’?” I asked.
“We need to get something for dinner at the supermarket. Chris needs quiet while he works, so you and your brothers are coming with me,” he explained as we headed down the stairs.
We were heading out in public. This was perfect, now I just had to bide my time and then I could alert people to our situation. I had to fight the urge to smile as I thought about how Ken would react when I suddenly spoke in full adult sentences and blew his cover.
The other good thing about going out was that Ken had to give me some clothes to wear. It still felt weird to me when my penis just swished back and forth all free and dangly with every step. So it was a relief to step into the undies Ken provided, even if they were covered in dinosaur prints. I got shorts too, baggy cut-off jorts. They were certainly not what I would have chosen, but they were better than nothing, quite literally.
To be concluded...