Was there a law against driving a car under the influence of depression? Sure, it wasn’t as obviously dangerous as, say, drugs or alcohol but there was something to be said for the way that a sad state of mind had trouble reacting to the world around it. Still, perhaps, that was the point. If things were to end right now, on the highway at night, it’d be a lot easier than having to face life tomorrow.
The White Ribbon. She must’ve seen the sign a million times. Ever since she was a little girl, driving up this road with her parents, she had seen that sign. It was a bar…or something. At least, that’s how she remembered it being described to her once. She liked the idea of it being a “something” more than she liked it being a bar. Bars were just dimly lit smoke-infested pits of self-despair, and she could get enough of that at home. Hell, that’s why she left home.
“Let’s see what ‘something’ looks like,” she said pulling her car up the driveway and into the small parking lot. There were four or five other cars in the lot now, filling about half of the parking places. There probably weren’t many bars that were expecting a max of about 10 cars worth of patrons. This place was definitely a “something.”
The building was quaint in a way that an old small church was quaint, or maybe one of those little wedding chapels was on television. It was a small simple white building, devoid of any windows. Just a few lights and the large sign attached to the top of the roof reading “The White Ribbon.”
“What the hell.”
She walked in, finding herself in a well lit waiting room of sorts. There was a bench set up against the wall and a few folding chairs, currently folded up and stacked up in another corner. On the wall directly facing the entrance where she now stood, there was a large receptionists desk. To the left was one door with a placard on it reading “1.” To the right of the desk was another door, predictably numbered as “2.” The room was mostly white, with some light blue trim along the baseboards.
“Good evening,” the woman at the desk said. She looked to be in her mid-30s, with short brown hair and thick plastic glasses. She was smiling widely. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you here before.”
“Well, you haven’t.”
“Welcome to The White Ribbon then, friend! What brings you in today?”
“That’s usually what brings most of our guests here at first.” She flipped through a few papers on her desk. “I suppose you’d like to learn a little more about what we do?”
“Maybe. Though, I think I’m already getting the feeling that this isn’t what I thought it was.”
“Oh? What did you think it was?”
“Like a bar or something.”
“Ah, I see. Well, no, it’s certainly not a bar. But…I’d like to invite you to stay. Maybe there’s still something for you here.”
“Okay then. Like, what is this place?”
“Well, to begin, The White Ribbon prides itself on being…wait. Could I have your name please?”
“Okay, thank you Ariel. My name is Samantha, by the way. So, anyways, we specialize in offering specialized psychotherapeutic experiences for our clients. And, possibly, some entertainment as well.”
Ariel pondered this for a moment. It sounded ridiculous, whatever that was. At the same time, what else was she going to do? She wasn’t going to go home tonight. She had nowhere else to be and nowhere to go.
“That’s incredibly vague,” Ariel said.
“It is, I suppose,” Samantha responded. “But most of our patrons would agree that its for the best that way. When you have expectations, it’s easier for you to find the overall experience to be disappointing.”
“I suppose that’s reasonable. Is it like…hypnosis?”
“No, dear, it’s nothing like that at all.”
“Well, as you can see, we offer two possible ways for you to enjoy our services. I’m not able to disclose to you what the differences between them are, though, as that’s part of the experience. The only difference that you would need to know about right off the bat is the price. Door 1 will only cost you $25, while Door 2 will cost you $50.”
“Oh.” Back when Ariel had thought of this place as a bar, she had only thought of dropping a few dollars total on some drinks. $25, or even $50 seemed like a much more committed investment than anything she had considered. “I’m not sure, that seems like a bit of money for something so vague.”
“I can understand your hesitation,” Samantha said in her soothing calm voice. “How about if I offer you a discount tonight?”
“Maybe. How much?”
“You can have Room 1 for $12. That’s less than half. Seems reasonable, yes?”
“I suppose, yes.” $12 did seem much more reasonable to her. Even if this did end up being a total waste of her time, she could imagine herself blowing $12 on something as trivial as lunch tomorrow anyways. “Okay, I’ll do it.”
“Very good! Why don’t you have a seat on the bench over there and I’ll let them know to get things ready for you.”
Ariel did so, sitting on the wooden bench. She was curious about what had to be “set up” and how long that was going to take.
The answer to the latter question, it seemed, was not very long at all.
“Okay, Ariel, everything seems ready to go.”
Ariel stood up and started making her way towards the white door labeled 1. She wondered, for a moment, where the other patrons of this business were. Who belonged to the other cars? Perhaps they were already in one of the two rooms. Maybe she’d see some of the other guests when she opened the door.
“You just need to remember one thing, Ariel.”
“Some things may seem awkward at first, but if you stick with the experience, you’re going to open yourself up to some very exciting feelings.”
“Okay…thanks.” That did nothing to ease her nerves. In fact, it made it sound like she was about to walk onto the set of a porn film.
She opened the door. There were some shelves and cabinets lining the walls. In the middle was a large chair. The room looked a lot like a doctor’s office. There was another woman standing next to the chair. She was tall and beautiful, probably about as old as Samantha was. Her blonde hair was bound at the back of her head and she was wearing something resembling she imagined old nurse uniforms looked like before they all started wearing scrubs.
“Ariel, is it?”
“My name is Leah, and it’s a pleasure to meet you tonight.”
“Thank you. It…it’s nice to meet you too.” She wasn’t sure if it actually was nice or not, but it seemed like the nice thing to say.
“Now, the most important thing about your experience here, Ariel, is that you need to be open to anything. We offer experiences you cannot get anywhere else, but you need to be open to it. Do you think you can do that?”
“I mean…maybe? It’s so hard for me to commit to anything like that when I still have no clue what I’m committing to.”
“Of course, well that makes sense. How about we start things off like this: What is your home life like?”
“My life at home? Well…it’s…”
“Yes. To both. You might be scratching just the service though.” Ariel took a seat in the big chair, as Leah had beckoned her to do so.
“I thought so. You can sometimes tell these things, you know? How old are you? 23?”
“Okay, I see. What do you think the biggest problem at home is? What makes it such a complicated place?”
“My mother,” Ariel said without hesitation. “We don’t get along. Or, at least, I don’t like who she is.”
“Who is she? Tell me about her?”
“Well,” Ariel began, thinking that this was starting to feel like a therapy session, “she’s never been a great mother. I mean…that’s a terrible thing for a daughter to say, but it’s the truth. She drinks, she sleeps around, she steals things…she just isn’t a good person. I love her, don’t get me wrong…but only because she’s my mother.”
“Right. And she’s always been like this?”
“Yes. For as long as I can remember.”
“Was that hard when you were a child?”
“I was mostly raised by my aunt and my grandmother…my mother never seemed to be around when I needed her. Everyone always tells me that I had to grow up way too fast.”
“Of course, of course. I’ve seen this time and time again,” Leah said.
“You’d be surprised by how many times I’ve met someone in this room who says something similar. Of course, this is actually good for us.”
“Absolutely. See, we at The White Ribbon want to offer you something that you can’t find anywhere else. We want to give you an experience that we know you’ve been missing, even if you didn’t know that you were missing it.”
“At what point does everyone here start telling me what we’re doing, instead of just hinting at it?”
“That’s a fair question,” Leah said, laughing a little. “What if I told you that I wanted to give you a chance to be the little girl that you missed out on being?”
“I…I don’t know. Are you going to give me a coloring book and let me watch Barney or something?”
“I could if you wanted. But I’m being completely honest and serious with you. There is nothing but privacy here. What goes on in this room, stays within this room. Nobody ever has to know about anything. This is for you and for you alone to get to experience something you never would’ve thought possible.”
“I’m confused, honestly,” Ariel said.
“I figured you would be. This is a hard concept to grasp. Here, let’s try something. Are you willing to try something for me?”
“It’s not going to hurt.” Leah walked away from the chair and over to a mini fridge sitting atop a shelf in one of the corners. She opened the door and pulled something out and carried it over to Ariel, holding it behind her back.
“What is that?”
“You’re going to laugh when you see it, but I want you to have it.” Leah revealed her hand. It was holding a plastic baby bottle, filled with what appeared to be an amber liquid.
“What…what is this?”
“Apple juice,” Leah responded with a smile.
“No, no. A…bottle? What are you giving me a bottle for?”
“Just hold it, Ariel.”
Ariel did so, taking it from Leah’s hands and holding it in her own. She couldn’t remember the last time she had held a baby bottle in her hands. Maybe when her cousin had a baby a few years ago? Still, this was a different feeling. She felt a strange heaviness in her body as she held the bottle.
“How does it make you feel, Ariel?”
“It’s…just a bottle.”
“Well…am I supposed to feel any sort of way?”
“You tell me, Ariel.”
Ariel held it in her hands, tossing it from one hand to another. She was becoming more aware of something, but she couldn’t quite place it.
“I feel something when I hold this, but I don’t really understand it. It’s like…comforting in a way.”
“Try something else now, Ariel. Try…drinking from it?”
“What? No! It’s a baby bottle. I’m not going to drink from that.”
“Why not? Why would it matter if it was a baby bottle or not? Like I said, there’s nobody around who is going to know about it. Try it for yourself, if for nobody else. At the very least, you’ll go home tonight with the memory of trying something strange and different. That, in itself, can be an accomplishment.”
“I am an adult,” Ariel fussed.
“Nobody is disputing that.”
“Fine…but…don’t tell anyone.”
“My lips are sealed.”
Ariel brought the bottle up to her mouth. She hesitated for a moment, pulling it away from her mouth. She struggled with own will, before finally closing her eyes and bringing it up to her lips again. The soft rubber nipple touched her bottom lip, sending a jolt through her body that she didn’t expect. Was there any precedent in her life for a feeling like this? None that she could think of. In some bizarre way, this was exciting. She let the nipple completely enter her mouth. She ran her tongue around the smooth surface. As new as this was, there was something familiar about it as well. With her eyes remaining tightly closed, she began to suck through the nipple, allowing the apple juice to spurt into her mouth.
Moments turned to minutes, and Ariel seemed completely content drinking from a bottle. She was enthralled by it.
“I imagine that you like this?” Leah asked.
“I…I do,” Ariel said, removing it from her mouth. “I didn’t think I would, but I do. There’s something about it that’s just so…I’m not sure what the word is. But it’s good.”
“What would you say about elevating this experience further?”
“H-how would you do that?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“With some clients, it takes them a lot of prodding and effort to get them to this stage, but there’s something about you that tells me you’ll take to it quite well. Essentially, we’re going to do some role playing. We’re going to introduce an environment to you that, like the bottle, is both new but at the same time very comfortable and familiar.”
“I…well…okay.” She took another sip out of the bottle. She couldn’t believe what was happening. She had gone from just pulling into a parking lot on a whim to being captivated by drinking out of a baby bottle in just about a half hour.
“Good. I’m impressed with how open you’re being.”
Leah opened up a larger cabinet and began pulling out supplies. She placed a few bins of various items that Ariel couldn’t see aside before pulling out a large blue blanket. She opened it up and laid it out on the ground. She looked over to Ariel smiling, waving for her to come out of the chair.
“Come over here and sit on the blanket, Ariel.”
Ariel did as she was asked, hopping off the chair and taking a seat in the center of the large blue blanket. It was an amazingly soft fleece blanket. The kind she could imagine herself snuggling up in on a rainy day while she watched a movie. Or…cartoons, maybe.
“This is where things might get a little awkward, Ariel. So I need to remind you one more time – I’m not going to do anything to hurt you. I’m not going to do anything to embarrass or humiliate you. I’m just trying to create a mood here. I’m developing the stage in which you can feel at your most comfortable.”
“If you don’t like anything, please just tell me. We won’t go any further. Agreed?”
“Very well. Now, Ariel, why don’t you lie down on your back here on the blanket. You have your bottle with you still, right?”
“Yes,” Ariel replied, holding up the baby bottle of apple juice. She lied down on her back and eased the bottle’s nipple into her mouth again, and began suckling. It was then that she became aware of something soft to her side. She looked to it and found that a stuffed brown bear had been placed there. She smiled at this and took hold of it, squeezing it tightly against her while she continued suckling from the bottle.
She became aware of two hands near her waist. Ariel did not understand what they were doing at first, but then realized that the hands were unbuttoning her pants. She almost dropped the bear to reach over and stop it, but she held on even tighter, deciding to let whatever was happening take its course. After all, she had enjoyed everything that had happened to her so far.
Her pants had been completely unfastened now, and there was some gentle tugging on them. Before long, she realized that her pants were slowly sliding down her legs. They were at her thighs and then they were at her knees. Then they were sliding down her calves and then off of her feet. She was now very aware of the fact that she wasn’t wearing any pants.
Leah looked down at Ariel and smiled warmly. Ariel smiled back.
“These are very pretty panties,” Leah said.
“Fank you,” Ariel replied from behind the nipple of the bottle with a slight giggle. Her face had blushed a little. They were cute panties, there was no denying that. Bright yellow with a little cartoon frog on them.
“They’re going to have to come off too, however.”
“You just drink your juice and enjoy Mr. Bear’s company. I’ll take care of the rest.”
Ariel did not fight this idea, as she just nodded and squeezed the plush bear tightly again. She could feel her panties being tugged away from her skin and being pulled down her legs, just as her pants had been. Even now, being fully exposed and vulnerable to Leah, she didn’t feel nearly as nervous or as humiliated as she thought she would’ve been.
She could hear Leah rummaging in one of the bins now. Ariel’s heart was racing. Soon, there was another strange feeling, as she felt something cold and light gently falling on the exposed area between her skin. The foreign, yet completely familiar scent of baby powder hit her nose.
“Don’t worry about this,” Leah said assuringly, “this is just to prevent rashes.”
Rashes? Ariel thought. What kind of rashes?
“You’re going to have to lift your little bottom for me,” Leah said.
“I’m trying to get you read, Ariel. You need to lift your bottom for me a little for a moment.”
Confused, Ariel did so. As she did, she could hear something being slid under her.
“Okay, lie back down now.” She did so.
Something was being pulled up between her legs now and soon it covered her front as well. It wrapped around her and contained her like a pair of underwear. But much more thick and…well, underwear didn’t have to be folded through your legs. In fact this was very much like a –
“Is…that a diaper?” Ariel said, removing the bottle from her mouth.
“I…I don’t know about this. This is a little weird.”
“Any weirder than the comfort you received from suckling on a bottle of juice?”
“You’re being very good, Ariel. Just bare with me here.” She fastened the sides of the diaper to each other, sealing her into the thick disposable plastic garment.
“Now sit up.”
Ariel did so, bringing the bottle and teddy bear with her. Immediately she could hear the crinkle of the diaper’s plastic, and feel its bulk between her legs and between the blanket and her bottom.
“Now look at you. A little girl. How do you feel?”
Ariel shrugged. Leah smiled and pulled some hair bands out of the bin. She stood behind Ariel and began playing with her hair, braiding it into ponytails. When she was finished with that, she took out a storybook and sat on the chair.
“Come over here, Ariel,” Leah said.
Ariel began to stand up.
“No no, Ariel. Come crawl to me.”
Hesitantly, Ariel sat back down onto the ground, and the padded bottom of her diaper, before getting onto her hands and knees. Even she could not believe how willing she had become to do these strange things. She began crawling to Leah, her diapered bum wagging in the air as she did.
“What a good little girl! Why don’t you come up onto my lap, Ariel? I want to read you a story.”
Ariel did as she was asked, standing up long enough to ease herself on to Leah’s lap. It was a little awkward at first, as she was probably about the same height and weight as Leah…not to mention the strangeness of wearing a diaper while sitting in the lap of another adult. These things were nothing more than brief thoughts, quickly ignored and sent to the back of her mind. Instinctively, and without being asked to, Ariel cuddled against Leah, pressing her face up against her endowed chest.
“Are you ready for the story?”
“Yes, Mommy,” Ariel said, before gasping at herself. She had not even intended to say such a thing.
Leah had begun reading to her.
A gentile shake woke Ariel. Groggily, she looked around the room, searching for something familiar, though at first she couldn’t find it. Then she saw Leah’s face, looking down at her. She realized she was still in Leah’s lap.
“I…I’m sorry. I must’ve…I didn’t even know I was that tired.”
“Oh, don’t be sorry, Ariel. That’s how you know you’re comfortable, when a good story can put a little girl to sleep.”
“Wait,” Ariel said, glancing around the room again, “what time is it? I…do have to go home at some point.”
“Oh it isn’t too late, yet,” Leah said assuringly. I promise, I wouldn’t have let you sleep too long. Let’s get up."
Ariel nodded and slid off of Leah’s lap and back down to the floor where she sat back down on her diaper. There was something different about the feeling of the diaper now, however. It was warmer and heavier feeling than it had been before. Just as she realized what was different, Leah chimed in.
“It looks like you had a little accident in your diaper, Ariel.”
“What? But…I…I haven’t peed my pants in years! Not since I was a little girl…”
“Don’t be upset, buttercup,” Leah said softly. “Thank goodness you had your diaper on, yes? What do you say we get you changed?”
“Come lay over on the blanket again, Ariel.”
Ariel did not argue this and she crawled back to the blanket. When she reached the blanket, she realized that she had crawled on her own free will. It sent a wave through her body that was both strange and comforting.
She could feel the diaper’s tapes being peeled away now, and soon the diaper was being lifted off of her skin and back down through her legs.
“Lift your bottom again, sweetie.”
Ariel did so, and the warm soggy diaper was pulled out from under her. After a little rustiling from her bin, she felt another sensation, as a damp cloth slid between her legs. It’s smooth touch caressed her skin and reached into every crevice in it’s path, sending more strangely comforting waves through her body. A small moan escaped her mouth as she stared up at the ceiling.
The cloth was gone now, and she became aware of something being slid up her legs again. It was her panties. When they were in place, she felt her pants sliding on next.
“You’ll come back again, won’t you?” asked Leah.
“Of course,” Ariel said with a wide smile. “I think…I think I’d live here if I could.”
They both laughed at this, and Leah helped Ariel back onto her feet.
“Thank you so much for this,” Ariel said.
“You don’t have to thank me. Honestly, I’m just delighted that you came. You took this a lot better than others do.”
“It was just so…natural.”
Ariel hugged Leah tightly, and Leah happily embraced her back. She then escorted Ariel back out to the lobby.
“How did it go?” Samantha asked with a smile on her face.
“Incredibly well,” Ariel said with a wide smile.
“You’ll come again soon, yes?”
“I think I have to,” Ariel said with a smile. She turned and began walking towards the front door. Suddenly, the 1 door opened again and Leah ran out, clutching the brown plush bear.
“Hey, Ariel, take this with you.”
“Y-you mean it?”
“Of course I do.” She smiled and handed it over. Ariel gave the toy a quick squeeze before waving goodbye and exiting through the door.
It was only 11:30 PM when she got home. She could’ve sworn it was later than that. At least it felt like it should’ve been later. She tried to remember when she had gotten to The White Ribbon. 10, at the earliest.
“Hey,” hollered a voice from another room.
“Hey, Mom, I’m home.”
“You’re home early for a Saturday night.”
“I had a big night…it peaked early.”
“Yeah? Want a sandwich?”
"No…maybe just a glass of water. She walked into the kitchen where her mother was assembling a sandwich at the counter. She was wearing her purple bathrobe, seemingly the only thing she wore anymore.
Her mother stopped and turned towards Ariel, sniffing the air.
“What are you wearing?”
“You smell like…baby powder or something.”
“I…I don’t know why that would be.”
She had gone there at least five more times in the few weeks. Both times, she was greeted by the always sweet Samantha and then whisked into Room 1 with Leah, where she again sacrificed her adulthood for the sake of donning diapers and cuddling in the warm lap of her surrogate mother.
Was there a law against driving a car under the influence of complete happiness? Sure, it wasn’t as obviously dangerous as, say, drugs or alcohol but there was something to be said for the way that an overly stimulated happy state of mind had trouble reacting to the world around it. Still, perhaps, that was the point. If things were to end right now, on the highway at night, she could at least say that she had finally found the happiness she had been seeking for so long.
The White Ribbon. She must’ve seen the sign a million times. It was once described to her as a “bar or something.” It certainly was a “something.”
She walked into the front door and right up to the front desk.
“Good afternoon, Ariel! It’s always a pleasure to see you again.”
“Likewise, Samantha,” Ariel replied with a wide smile.
“Shall I let Leah know you’re here?”
“Well, I was thinking. I had the pleasure of Leah’s services quite a bit since I’ve started coming here. I kind of think I want to try Room 2 now.”
“Oh? Room 2, you say?”
“Yeah. Just for something different. I’m in such a good mood today…I have been for a while now. I think it’s time to try something new. Worst case scenario, I’ll go back to Room 1 next time I come.”
“Well,” Samantha said, losing a little of the smile, though Ariel didn’t quite seem to notice, “that’ll be $50.”
Ariel handed her the money, which was already in her hand.
“Have a seat and I’ll make sure the room is ready for you.”
A few moments passed and the door to Room 1 opened and Leah stepped out.
“Hi, Leah!” The two hugged in the middle of the lobby.
“Trying Room 2, eh?”
“Yeah, no offense to you, of course.”
“No, not at all. None taken. This is usually what happens. I think you’ll enjoy yourself,” she said with a warm smile.
“You think so?”
“I know so.”
“Okay,” Samantha said, “the room is ready!”
Ariel got up and waved good-bye to Leah and smiled to Samantha. They both smiled and waved back. She turned the knob, opened the door, and stepped inside.
It was dark, and she couldn’t see anything. The room smelled a little like mildew. She tried to take a step further into the room, but her foot just met something hard that didn’t budge. Confused, she reached to the wall where she searched for something like a light switch and found none.
She turned back to the door behind her and opened it. As the light spilled into the room, she could see that the room was filled with nothing more than loose piles of wood and various rusty cans and empty milk crates. She rushed back out into the lobby.
“Is that what you charge $50 for? Because I don’t quite get what that’s supposed to –” She stopped talking and looked around the lobby. There was no desk in the middle and no Samantha. There was no bench against the wall and no light blue trim. The walls were brown and old, with paint peeling off of them. The light in the room was coming from gaps between the wall boards which she could feel the outside breeze coming in. There was no Leah.
She rushed to the Door 1 and opened it. This room was much like the one she had just emerged from, empty and fallen to ruin.
Confused and uncertain, she walked out the front door and into the parking lot, which she could now see was cracked and overrun with weeds. Looking back at the building, she saw that it was old and in a terrible condition. The large sign attached to the roof did read The White Ribbon, though parts of the R were missing. She sighed and started towards her car.
Did I dream this? Hallucinate this? She noted that there were no other cars in the small lot.
As she was getting into her car, she heard something behind her, and when she looked, she saw another car pulling into a parking spot near her. A young man was getting out. He looked to be the same age as her.
“Hi,” she said.
“Hey,” he replied.
“What brings you here?”
“I just thought I’d check this place out, you know? I’ve seen this place sitting over here for years and I never really got what it was.”
“This place?” Ariel asked. “This place here?” She pointed to the building in its condemned shape.
“Yeah. What is it, like a bar or something?”
“Yeah,” she said. “It’s a bar or something.”
"Cool. Well I’m going to check it out. He left the side of his car and entered the building, closing the door behind him, seemingly ignorant of the condition of his surroundings.
She shrugged it off and got into her car. Despite the weirdness, she still felt in inner peace within herself that she hadn’t felt a few weeks ago. She was happy again. She felt more complete.
Driving down the road, something caught her eye in her rear view mirror. It was a brown plush teddy bear. She laughed and shook her head. She decided to swing into town and pick up a few things at the drug store.
It was “something” all right.