Leaning back against the door to the laundry closet, Letty sighed heavily as she slid to the ground. Never in her life would she have thought that moving her bedding from the washer to the dryer would be so exhausting. But as the dryer hummed its rhythmic drone, she took a well-earned moment to relax. Would she have to go through a huge ordeal for every simple task from now on? For the second morning in a row she had awoken to find that she had wet in her sleep, only this time the bed itself didn’t get wet. For this she was thankful, as the bedding from Sunday morning was only just now being dried; she definitely wanted to avoid any more unnecessary loads of laundry.
She would have enjoyed a quick nap as the moderate rumbling of the dryer was actually somewhat soothing, but faintly through the walls, she heard another noise; a knocking sound. At first, she tried to ignore it; probably the downstairs neighbors anyway, one of those idiots was always locking the other outside and forgetting to let them back in. The knocking continued, but it didn’t sound like it was from downstairs. She listened closer, giving up on trying to ignore it. The sound was too quiet to be someone knocking on her own door. She leaned her head out into the short hallway; the sound was almost certainly coming from her door.
As she walked toward her apartment door, the sound grew louder; as she neared, she began to realize something: it was probably her order from the day before, she hadn’t thought it would arrive so quickly. Okay. She didn’t need to sign for the package, but of course the delivery guy would be surprised to see a baby answer the door. Would he still give her the package? What if she made up an excuse? What if she told him her mommy was in the bathroom? He was still knocking; man, he was persistent.
She had to hurry. If he left, he’d take the package to the apartment office; she’d never be able to get it them. Trying her best to make her voice sound deeper, she shouted “just a minute!” Nope, she just sounded like a baby. Maybe he’d stick around anyway. Rushing to the kitchen, she grabbed a chair and dragged it to the door, only pausing for a moment to contemplated whether her t-shirt was enough clothing. It covered her makeshift diaper, so that was good enough. Plus, it wasn’t like babies weren’t regularly seen in just diapers. She knew that’s all someone would see, even if she knew she’d want to die of embarrassment.
She stopped at the door, the knocking continued. The door handle was above her head, the chain lock even higher; which was why she brought the chair. Excitement and haste almost made her forget the the most basic of rules and open the chain lock without checking who was outside. Taking a breath, she reached up and pulled the door open until it stopped against the chain lock.
Letty looked up initially, but saw no one. As her eyes fell down, she saw a boy with messy brown hair standing a few feet away. He was a little bit taller than she, but looked quite young; he didn’t say anything, but only met her gaze. A clenched fist hung at his right side, but it didn’t look like he intended to punch anyone; a small purse hung over his left shoulder. Had he been the one knocking? His eyes and face were very red; it looked to Letty like he’d been crying recently. She didn’t recognize him as one of the neighbors.
“Hello?” she repeated hesitantly. There didn’t appear to be anyone else outside, just the boy.
The boy took a step closer. “Does Letty live here?” He glanced up and down, as if he was checking the apartment number.
Letty did not recognize the boy. Why would he know her or where she lived?
“I know Letty lives here!” He spoke abruptly, almost demanding.
“Who’s Letty?” Letty decided to test him.
“She’s my older sister.”
Impossible. If Letty was this boy’s older sister, that would mean that this boy was… Tia! She remembered the phone call from yesterday, Tia said she shrank, that she was a baby, but she didn’t say anything about anything else changing. How could this be Tia?
The boy was looking down, suddenly his head shot up. “You’re Letty, aren’t you?”
How had he known? “And what makes you say that?” Letty took a step backward.
The boy pointed. “Your foot, that’s Letty’s— that’s your birthmark.”
Letty looked down at her foot. Sure enough, there was an oddly-shaped blotch of brown on the side of her left foot. That was her birthmark, just like it had always been.
“Please tell me if you’re really Letty, I mean—Letty, it’s me, Tia!” The boy looked and spoke earnestly.
“Wh— I’m not— you don’t look like Tia.” Letty finally settled on a suitable response.
“I know.” The boy hung his head. “But it’s me, I promise.” He reached into the purse he was carrying. “Look, this is Tia’s license, except it’s tiny. Now explain that.”
Letty looked at the object he held out, sure enough, it looked like Tia’s driver’s license, except it was really small in size.
“Not enough?” The boy continued pulling things from the purse, this time flinging them on the ground in front of the door. “I got tiny make up, tiny pens, tiny money, tiny credit cards, a tiny mirror, even a tiny iPhone. I shrank, Letty, isn’t that what I told you? I don’t know why, but I suddenly turned into this. Please, you gotta believe me. You told me to come here. Isn’t that what you said on the phone?”
Letty didn’t know what to say, how could she? A lot of unexplainable things had happened, and several more were laying at her feet. It was more than enough evidence to prove that this boy—or child that looked boyish—was, in fact, her sister. But it still didn’t feel right. Something told her to close the door and walk away.
“Just so you know,” the boy butted into her contemplation. “I’m having a hard time believing you’re actually my sister. I mean, I walked here; all the way across town too. A lot of things happened on the way, and I really don’t want to go back out there.” The boy crossed his arms as if he’d made a point—something Tia had often done in the past.
“What exactly are you saying?” Letty—like she used to do when her sister was vague about something—was forced to ask blatant questions.
“I’m saying I’ll trust you if you trust me. I want to believe you’re my sister, but you won’t let me; and I want you to believe me too, but I don’t know how else to do it. I’ve shown you everything I have; it’s the best proof I can come up with.” The boy’s lip quivered a bit. “Please.”
This child was right, no matter what, Letty had to make a choice. A thousand reasons and a thousand arguments all swirled in her head, confusing her, making her thoughts into a flickering jumble, impossible to discern. “Hold on.” She shut the door.
Forcing herself to act, commanding her body to perform the required movements, she climbed up on the chair and pulled the chain lock out of its slide. Climbing down again, she opened the door, this time fully open. “Come on.”
The boy—Tia, slowly entered, inching forward until she was close; then she lunged and embraced Letty. “Thank you so much. Please, I really hope you’re actually my sister, but if you’re not; thank you anyway.”
Letty was conflicted. Somewhere in her mind, she felt like this kid couldn’t possibly be her sister; but at the same time, there were many little things—like reflections of the past—that reminded her of Tia. It was her manner, not the sound of her voice, not her accent—even if her accent was Tia’s usual accent—not the words she said; it was just the way she said things that reminded Letty of the clingy, bratty little sister she knew long ago. She had to go with that; she had to put faith in hope, just for this; just for her sister.
Letty put her arms around Tia’s back. Yes, she decided internally, this was Tia, her sister. “Tia, I…”
Tia was crying on her shoulder; Letty tried to be strong, but she herself felt like crying on someone’s shoulder. Tia was under there, under that foreign body that she was hugging. It felt like hugging a stranger, but she forced the thought from her mind as best she could. The best thing was to simply not think about it, and to do that, it was best to apply herself to something else.
“Are you alright?” Letty began. “I mean… I don’t really know where to start. Are you hurt? Do you wanna talk? Are you hungry? Is there anything that you need?”
Tia kept hugging her, but pulled away after a time. “Honestly, I’m fucking starving. All I’ve had to eat since Saturday was a granola bar.”
“Come on then, let’s get you something to eat.” Letty had dozens of questions to ask, but now was not the time. Instead, she needed to take care of her sister—maybe even wait until tomorrow—before she should press her with hard questions. Perhaps, in the meantime, she could just talk and listen; which may also help to put her sister at ease.
“So Tia, what happened to you?” They walked to the kitchen, and Letty began digging around in the cabinets for something she could offer to her sister. “Short story for me is that I woke up like this yesterday. All I’ve done the whole time is struggle with the simplest things; I searched the web, but there’s nothing about any of this. So is it just us? How did this happen to you? Also, sorry, but I can’t reach much stuff; you want some crackers?”
“I’d eat an old shoe if you put hot sauce on it.” Tia dug into the crackers for a minute. “I was with David, we were watching a movie. Then I just shrank; that’s it. I just felt everything getting bigger, but I was… was…”
Letty looked over; Tia had stopped talking. She was starting straight ahead, knees bent, fists clenched. “Tia?”
Tia didn’t budge from her position for several seconds, but when she did, shock was on her face, and tears began streaming down her cheeks.
“Tia, are you alright?”
Tia glanced at Letty. “I… I just shit myself,” she sobbed.
Letty had a moment of realization followed by resignation, as it appeared that urinary accidents were not the entirety of her problems. If she was right, it probably wouldn’t be too long before she faced the same embarrassment as Tia. “It’s okay Tia, I’ve been having accidents all day, look,” she lifted her shirt. “I’ve pretty much been wearing diapers because of it.”
“It’s okay!?” Tia glared. “I just shit in my pants, how the fuck is that okay?”
“Tia, stop. Worry about that later. Let’s just get you cleaned up, okay?”
Tia hesitated, then recoiled. “What do you mean ‘let’s?’ You think I can’t do it myself?”
“What? No. I’m just offering help if you need it.”
Tia’s lip quivered; she was struggling to keep her composure. A mix of defeat and defiance flashed in turn across her face. Skepticism, as if she suspected Letty of ill intent, burned dully in her eyes.
“I thought you said you’d trust me.” Letty spoke softly, backing off a bit to give her sister some space. “I wanna help, but if you don’t want help, that’s okay. Just tell me what you need.”
“What?” Tia glared, speaking with an accusatory tone, “do you want to change my diaper or something?”
“Huh? No, I mean—I don’t know; is that what you want help with?” Letty wasn’t thrilled by the idea, but she had just promised to help.
Tia said nothing.
Letty was tiring of the back-and-forth; this was getting nowhere. “Hey, why don’t you just take a shower? I’ll dig out something for you to wear. I’ll get you something to eat, and we can try and talk this through later, but I think you should just worry about cleaning yourself up first.”
But still Tia hesitated. Letty had a hard time reading her face due the fact that it wasn’t the face she knew, but instead looked more like a small boy’s face.
She tried to smile reassuringly. “Go on, I’ll be right outside if you need anything; just yell.”
It was close to an hour before Tia emerged from the bathroom. In that time, the laundry had finished drying and Letty had done her best to make her bed. Her pajamas, which had shrunk with her, were now dry and she was thankful to wear something more than just a shirt. She had also put together another makeshift diaper for Tia, who reluctantly accepted it through a cracked-open door.
But finally, Tia came out of the bathroom, fully dressed except for her socks and shoes. Muttering under her breath, she was tugging at and fiddling with her waistband. “This thing keeps falling down.” Judging by her voice, it was apparent that the shower had done little to improve her mood.
“Here, let me—” Letty stopped when Tia jumped back. “Look,” she said more softly, “just let me snug it up a bit.”
Tia lowered her guard, and Letty stepped in close. Carefully, she undid the safety-pin, cinched-up the fabric, and refastened. It would’ve been easier than working on herself, but Tia didn’t want to lower the waistband of her pants very much. Letty tried to pull them down, but Tia only pulled away and hiked them back up. Trying not to avoid conflict, Letty sighed and continued working with the limited room. After a bit more struggling, she was satisfied. “Well, if you’d pull your pants down farther, I could see better to work; I can’t tell if anything is crooked or not, so you’ll have to be the judge of that. Anyway, they should stay in place now.”
Tia only shifted her pants a little.
“Well, does it feel too tight or crooked?”
“It feels like a diaper; it’s too bulky between my legs; I don’t like it.”
Letty rolled her eyes. “I didn’t ask if you liked it, I don’t like it either, but we have to wear this, at least until we get something better. Now how about your dirty clothes? Let’s get them washed.”
Tia looked like she was about to say something, but stopped. Returning from the interior of the bathroom, she produced a pair of socks and shoes. “I have a pair of jeans in my purse, they need to be washed too.”
“What about underwear?”
“I threw them out.”
“What? Just rinse them out and we’ll put them in the wash.” Letty tried to push past her sister, but was stopped.
“No, I threw them out yesterday.” Tia looked a little scared.
Letty had to think about that for a minute before responding. “I thought you said you had an accident. How are your pants still clean?”
Tia hesitated. “I was wearing something else; I threw it out.”
Letty took a long, serious look at her sister. “What are you talking about?” Tia blocked her again as she tried to enter the bathroom. “Tia, what are you hiding?”
“Listen, if you’re embarrassed: don’t be.” She looked her sister in the eye. “I’m in the same boat as you; I shrank to a baby’s size, I wet the bed, I’ve been having accidents all day; much as I don’t want to admit it, I need diapers… and so do you. Now I’m trying to wash up your clothes because—for some unknown reason—our clothes shrank with us. You can’t just throw something away because it’s dirty. A pair of panties in your exact size would be really useful right about—”
“It wasn’t panties!” Tia blurted through a few tears.
Letty waited, giving Tia time and space to continue at her own pace. Clearly she had more to say.
“I was wearing a diaper; I mean, I was wearing pull-ups.” Tia stopped, but Letty’s expression indicated that she needed more explanation. “It’s a long story,” she said at length.
“How about you tell it to me while we get you something to eat?”
It was a simple meal of various fruits—which were easy to reach—and deli meat cracker sandwiches—which were also easy to reach, but Tia tore into it like it was a meal fit for a king. In between bouts of chewing and swallowing, she managed to retell the tale of how she made it across town; how she hid in a McDonald’s playplace because it was the only warm place no one would find her in the middle of the night, how she was nearly abducted on a bus—that’s how she put it—and how she met the old woman who gave her pants and a pair of pull-ups.
“Yeah, wow, like fucking holy shit! I had, like, the worst day ever; all I did was walk forever and piss my pants.” Tia shot a bitter look at her sister. “Thanks for the help, by the way.” Her words dripped with sarcasm.
That comment eroded Letty’s sympathy in a hurry; was Tia blaming her for this? Her temper flared. “What do you mean ‘Thanks for the help?’ You make it sound like there’s actually something I could’ve done! Hello? Did you notice something about me? I’ll give you a hint: I’m smaller than you are!”
Tia backed down right away, almost literally crumpling under Letty’s backlash. “I’m sorry,” her eyes watered. “I didn’t mean it, I just—”
“I know what you meant.” Letty said, turning and walking toward the bathroom.
“What does that mean?” Tia followed. “Sis?”
Letty ignored the question, but stopped at the bathroom door. “So if you were already wearing a diaper, where did you put it?”
“I put it in the trash can.” Tia looked confused.
“Ugh!” Letty coughed as she opened the door. “Why the heck would you put it in the trash can?”
Regaining some of her previous fire, Tia spat back. “Where the hell should I have put it then?”
“Wrap it up in a bag or something.” Letty pointed roughly toward the kitchen. “Go get one from underneath the sink.”
“Go. Get. A. Bag. Or do you need a map?” Letty glared.
But Tia didn’t back down this time. “What’s your problem? What did I do wrong, huh? I said I was sorry, so what gives?”
“The problem, Tia, is that there’s a diaper full of crap just sitting out in the open. You can’t just leave it there, you gotta seal it up or the whole apartment is gonna stink.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Tia rolled her eyes, sarcasm echoed in every word. “I’m sorry I didn’t shit my pants just the way you’d like; I’m sorry I don’t automatically know where to put a shitty diaper; I’m sorry I’m not a genius like you are.”
“I’m not a genius, Tia.” Letty deadpanned. “It doesn’t take a genius to know that you can’t leave poop lying around in the open. Just… just go get a bag.”
“Oh great, so you’re just gonna start with ordering me around?” Tia rolled her eyes. “You know, I figured this would happen if I came to you.”
“You always do this, you always treat me like I don’t know shit; you always try and act like you’re my mother. You always treated me like I was a fucking baby. Well guess what, now I am one, and I guess you’re just gonna use that as excuse to boss me around even more.”
“I’m not trying to order you around, I just asked you to get a bag from the kitchen.” Letty struggled to keep calm, while Tia was flying off the handle. “And I’m not treating you like a baby, or like you don’t know anything, but come on.” She gestured to the reeking trash can. “This is just common sense.”
“Yep, there’s that word: common sense.” Tia waved waved her hand dismissively. “What’s next? Logical? Rational? Reasonable? Sorry if I’m not Mr. Spock, but suddenly becoming a baby is stressing me out. I’m not used to pissing and shitting myself; I’m not used to being this size; I’m not used to changing my own damn diapers; I’m not used to having a—I’m just not used to this, so maybe you could be a little nicer and think about the fact that some of us have a hard time adapting to it.”
Letty sighed; she’d been through this sort of thing hundreds of times in the past. Even if it was perfectly logical not to leave dirty diapers in the open air, she was still vilified for pointing it out. No matter how right she was, it was still somehow wrong to correct Tia about anything. If they were going to be together for the foreseeable future, they would need to get past this. “So you still resent me for actually thinking things through? Fine, there’s the door; you’re free to leave any time.” She pointed angrily toward the door. Tia backed down again; Letty waited for a response, but none came. “Oh, so you do want to stay here?”
“Then don’t forget that this is my place, so yeah, we’re gonna do things my way.” Letty softened her voice ever-so-slightly. “So could you please clean up after yourself. That’s not too much to ask, is it?”
Tia didn’t answer, but moved to obey. She walked awkwardly, stopping to pull at the front of her pants.
Letty read the situation. “You need me to adjust those again? I’d say sorry about how uncomfortable they are, but we need it, and that’s all I’ve got until we get something better.”
Tia rose after tying the bag tightly around the dirty pull-up. “What do you mean, ‘something better?’”
“I mean like real diapers; ones with tapes.”
“What did you think I meant?”
“I don’t know, pull-ups or something. Maybe something less bulky than this. I am not wearing a diaper; I’m not a baby.” Tia crossed her arms. “You’re smart, think of something else.”
“Think of something else? Like what?”
“Isn’t there anything we can do? I don’t wanna spend all day having accidents. Wearing diapers can’t possibly be the only option.” Tia’s voice whined with reluctance.
“Oh, so you want me to just magically fix this like you wanted me to magically pick you up from across town? Should I just snap my fingers and turn us both back to the way we were?” Letty snapped her fingers in Tia’s face. “Poof! You’re an adult again.”
“Letty, stop, that’s not what–”
“Not what you meant? Again? Don’t even start, just shut up and listen.” Letty paused, allowing herself to calm down and soften her tone. “Tia, you’re not a baby, but your body is; so is mine. Since it’s readily apparent that neither of us can control our bodies—at least not in terms of needing the toilet—then the only logical, yes, logical thing to do is to wear diapers.”
“I know… Tia, believe me, I know. I don’t want to wear diapers either, but for now, that’s all I can think of.”
“What about pull-ups, can’t we at least—”
“Nope, Pull-ups are for potty training, they’re meant for accidents, not constant use. Trust me Tia, I’ve put plenty of thought into it. This is the best I can come up with.”
Tia slouched in defeat. “How are we gonna change back? I don’t wanna live like this forever.”
Letty moved closer to her sister, putting a hand on her shoulder. “I don’t know how to change us back, so for now, we just have to take things—”
They both jumped at the sound of sometime knocking loudly on the door.
“…one step at a time.”
It turned out a delivery was at the door. One large box with fifty-six diapers.
“I told you, you should’ve changed earlier.” Letty pointed at the two crescent stains on the front of Tia’s pants. “That thing clearly doesn’t hold up well.”
The pads had worked well enough for her, but it seemed that with Tia’s increased size, she also had later accidents. The tape-on diapers which she had just received were bulkier and more snug, but the fit felt more natural, as opposed to the awkward feel of her makeshift protection. She had wanted Tia to wear one as soon as they got them, but Tia had refused; it was now evident that had been the wrong choice.
“Come on sis, nothing to do now except clean you up and get you changed.” Letty grabbed Tia’s hand, but Tia resisted. “Tia, this isn’t up for debate, now come on.”
Tia still resisted, but Letty planted her feet and pushed. Tia caved, moving toward the bedroom with an obvious reluctance. Whimpering the whole time, Tia seemed to break down more and more with each step she took. Each time Tia stopped, Letty gave a slight nudge or push, which was all she needed; eventually, Tia was lying down on a towel in the bedroom.
“No, Letty, don’t.” She was crying now. “Let me do it.”
“Stop.” A quiet voice and a hand on her chest seemed to quell Tia’s resistance, though her tears continued. “You need help with this, just admit it. And besides, I’ve changed your diaper before.” By now, Tia was staring into her eyes and pleading with her; Letty didn’t know why. She pulled down Tia’s darkly-stained pants; Tia reached for them, but she was far too clumsy in her current state to effectively grab them.
Tia mumbled between sobs; broken protests were barely discernible. “No, please. I’ll do it. Just don’t. Don’t look.”
Even Letty was a bit unsure of herself, but she knew she had to do this. Beside her, she had wipes and a new diaper ready; she’d done this before, she could do it again. Tia was trying to cover herself with her hands, but her resistance was weak; Letty applied force, Tia gave in.
“Don’t be embarrassed, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before.” Letty soothed, unfastening the safety pins and pulling down the makeshift diaper. That’s when she saw it. She could stop herself before exclaiming “what the hell?”
Tia’s resistance was gone, but her sobs had reached a peak. She was trying to speak; trying to protest, but the words were interrupted. “—me, it’s really—no—please.” She shook her head back and forth, repeating “it’s me, it’s me, it’s me…”
Letty was shocked. This kid didn’t just look like a boy, they were a boy. The undeniable proof was right in front of her. This kid, Tia, was a boy. That would certainly explain the present reluctance, the hiding, even the location of the stain on the front of their pants. But was this really Tia?
The boy was sobbing in defeat; their fate was in Letty’s hands.
If this was really Tia, it made perfect sense that she would try to hide it; clearly she didn’t think Letty would believe it was her. She was right to think that way. But the same applied if this was a stranger posing as Tia. They would do their best to hide this as well. Had Tia somehow been turned into a boy, along with being regressed to the age of a baby, or was this some other part of the nightmare? Was Letty still alone in this?
There was, sadly, no definitive answer; again, Letty had to chose. Did she accept this boy as Tia’s new body, in hopes of helping her sister; or did she play it safe and kick this kid out the door?
Letty closed her eyes to think, to weigh the options, to chose; when she opened them, she had decided. Taking a deep breath, she pulled away the panties and pad from the still-sobbing child. Mechanically, she grabbed a wipe and began cleaning. “It’s okay Tia, let’s get you cleaned up and in a new diaper. Once we’re done, how about we take a nap?” Letty slid the diaper underneath, pulled it up into place, and taped it securely. It fit, but just barely.
“Come on, I think we both need a nap.”