Chapter Seven - Silent Night
The first order of business was, of course, simply getting out of the house. She made her way back into the hallway, growing slightly more confident about walking in the diaper as she went, although it was still an odd feeling, and she couldn’t entirely do away with the toddle in her step. She began to question her choice - was this really the best thing to be wearing if she wound up getting chased? Probably not, but if she kept changing her mind, by the time she was ready to go, she wouldn’t even be old enough to walk, much less run.
The hallway went on for quite a ways, seemingly even longer than it had been just a little while before, though she was sure that was her imagination. She already knew most of the rooms were empty, so she walked past them more quickly, slowing only when she reached the part of the hall she hadn’t investigated as thoroughly. Most likely, there was nothing human behind any of those doors, either, but that didn’t stop her from feeling nervous about making her way past them. She wished some of the doors were open so she could check inside, make sure there really wasn’t anything a little more mature for her to put on.
At the end of the hall was the staircase, a huge, spiraling one, the kind you only ever saw in mansions or castles in the real world. Justine had always wanted to walk down one of those in an elegant ball gown, like a princess in a fairy tale; instead, she got to waddle down one in a too-small nightgown, with a short and stumpy pair of legs that started to feel tired halfway down. Surely if she was really six, she’d have more energy than this, she thought, but then, it would also be way past her bedtime, and she’d already had a long day.
Regardless, she plopped down on one of the stairs and peeked between the rails, letting herself rest under the guise of reconnaissance. She really had no idea whether she should be looking out for people or not. True, she hadn’t seen anyone on the streets when she’d been with Ded Moroz, yet she had seen them once they were inside the houses. But had they gone inside the real house, or the one here? The whole thing was still very confusing for her, and, ultimately, she had no answer, and no real way to find one without purposely going looking for people, and that hardly seemed like a good plan.
She let herself ponder for only a couple minutes before forcing herself back up to sneak down the rest of the stairs. If this was just what the occupants of the house wished their house could be, she could understand, as, once she got to the bottom and stared up, it really was a pretty staircase, much more elegant than one that just went straight up, but she was sure it would wind up sucking in real life. Wasn’t that how most wishes were, though? You think you want them, but when they come true, they’re never as good as they were in your mind.
The front doors were right in front of her now, across yards of white tiled floor. They, like the staircase, were large and ornate, big wooden things decorated with stained glass. There were two, and either one likely weighed more than she did now. Off to one side, however, was an open doorway, a light flickering inside the room it led to, like there was a lit fire inside. If there was anybody in there, they were being very quiet, but that didn’t mean anything. Slowly, she crept across the floor, glad she had lost her slippers long ago. Her bare feet moved across the tile silently. It was more difficult, it turned out, to keep her breathing in check, to keep it normal and quiet, rather than let herself start hyper-ventilating from the stress, as she wondered if, were someone to hear her and come out here, where she could beat them to the front door.
She was nearly there when she heard a creaking, like somebody getting up from a rocking chair. A small gasp escaped from her lips before she could stop it, lingering in the air despite her late, pointless attempt to stuff it back inside by raising her hands to her mouth. Just a few more steps, she thought, eyes darting back to the front door, eyeing the knob, trying to judge just how far up she’d have to reach to grab it, since she wasn’t used to the idea of having them so far above her hand again. There was another sound that could have been a footstep, and she was off, scrambling forward, feet slipping and squeaking slightly at the sudden quick movement, arms flailing, forgetting her planning and blindly grasping upwards.
By sheer, blind luck, her fingers happened on the doorknob, and she managed to turn it. She threw all of her weight against it, succeeding only in knocking the wind out of her lungs, as the door refused to budge even the smallest amount. She fought to get some air back, reached up again, this time grabbing the doorknob with both hands, and pulled for all she was worth. Unlike all of the doors upstairs, this one didn’t come open easily, or quietly. At first, it still didn’t move, but when it did, it seemed to drag across the floor, making an awful scraping sound. If there was anybody there, but she had just been imagining the sounds of them coming to find her, well, that was going to alert them.
The door was open enough for her to wedge her fingers in, to pull on it instead of the knob, and, doing that, she managed to get it open just far enough that she could squeeze out, stumbling across the porch, half slipping down the steps, and dash through the yard, making her way to behind the next house. She didn’t dare look back to see if she was being as much as watched, but, just to be safe, she ran as if she was being followed until she couldn’t take it any more. When she turned around, panting, she was a little disappointed that she could still easily see the house she’d escaped from. She blamed it on the diaper, and not being used to running in it.
She wondered if she should go back and check on Kolyada, feeling a little guilty for not thinking of it sooner. Kolyada was certainly better equipped at taking care of herself than Justine was, but what if she was hurt? Better yet, what if she wasn’t? Sure, her sleigh was broken, but it was just snow. Maybe she could make another one, and then they could fly away home in it, and Justine could snuggle in her nice warm bed and wait for Saint Nicholas to show up and give her the last thirteen years of her life back. It was at least as good a plan as hoping she could figure out how to get back to the real world herself, and hoping she could find some clothes to wear there, and hoping she could find a way back to America.
Of course, that meant she had to trek all the way back to the house. If she’d been thinking ahead, she would have gone done the street, or just around the far side of the next house over. She hadn’t really been planning things out to well lately, though, so it hardly surprised her that she hadn’t thought of any of this, back when it would have been useful.
She walked back through the snow, back towards the house, going behind it so she could come out from the opposite side than the one she’d ran away from. The snow in this world wasn’t as deep as in the real world, just a nice, consistent blanket of white, which she was grateful for. In the real world, she was pretty sure it would have come up to her waist now, which would have made it much more difficult to walk in, not to mention the fact that it would have stuck to her diaper, and then eventually melted, and that would have looked bad.
She crouched down as she way were way around the front of the house again, towards the pile of snow that used to be Kolyada’s sleigh. The front door was closed again, and none of the curtains were stirring, but it was better safe than sorry. “Kolyada?” she whispered, poking at the snow cautiously. “Are you there?”
“Kolyada can’t help you now,” said a voice, a dark, gravelly voice, a voice that Justine knew the origin of instantly, though she’d never heard it before. She spun around quickly, falling on her padded bottom as she saw a form taking shape from the shadow there, horns first. A foot - no, a hoof, like a goat’s, the leg attached to it covered in black fur - stepped forward, and then another.
Frantically, Justine scrambled back up, wanting to yell for help, but not able to find her voice. She started to run, only to find herself practically in somebody’s arms. She squirmed, feeling fur against her skin. She bit her bottom lip as she tilted her head upwards, afraid of what she’d find there, though it didn’t stop her from screaming as she saw the thing’s face, hard and demonic, and the horns sprouting from either side of its head.
“Let me go,” she squeaked, leaning against him. “Please, I just need to get to Saint Nicholas. I shouldn’t even be here, I just want to go home…”
“Saint Nicholas?” the demon asked with a chuckle. “He can’t help you, little girl. Even if he could, do you think he would? I’ve never seen so much naughtiness in one so small. There will be no toys for you tonight, child.” He reached up, taking a large basket from his back, setting it in the snow.
Justine paled as she saw it. “Th-There aren’t switches in there, are there?” she asked hesitantly.
“In it?” the monster grinned. “No.”
And he was right, as that was when Justine noticed the chain wrapped around the basket, the switches stuck between the links. “Oh, please, no…” she whimpered. “You can’t do this to me, not again…”
“We only do what you deserve,” the thing told her. One hand circled around both her wrists, holding them tightly above her head. She felt the other further down, tracing down her side, to the diaper pin, which it unfastened quickly, leaving the diaper to flop to the ground with a wet thud. She wanted to think it was just from the snow, but she couldn’t guarantee she hadn’t wet herself when she’d seen him.
She tried to struggle, but he just raised her arms higher, so that she almost had to stand on tip-toe as she watched him grab one of the switches. He picked her up, repositioned her so that she was standing perpendicular to him. She felt him lower the switch, patting her already sore bottom with it a time or two, making her squirm and squeal helplessly. Then, without warning, he drew his arm back, and brought the switch whistling back and into her tender flesh. She screamed, trying to break free. It hit her again, and if he hadn’t been holding her up, she would have fallen to her knees with the pain.
It didn’t last as long as Pere Fouettard’s, but it didn’t need to. Fouettard knew what he was doing, but even so, this thing was far better at his job. Of course, it helped that she already had the marks from her previous switching for him to aim for, to make it all the more painful. Even without them, though, she had a feeling he could have reduced her to the helpless, sobbing mess she had become just as quickly. And this time, there was no magic water to make her feel better. nobody to turn to for comfort. She was all alone.
When he let go of her, she collapsed into the snow, curling into a ball. He was having none of that, though, and he roughly rolled her onto her back. She could feel him doing something, but it wasn’t until he was done that she realized he was putting her diaper back on her. If she hadn’t been beyond embarrassment, she probably would have blushed at that - as if it wasn’t bad enough she had to wear a diaper, now somebody was putting it on for her. “Looks like you need this,” he said, his voice taking on a strange, tone, a mockery of concern, “Wouldn’t want you to have an accident, now would we?”
“C-Can I go home now?” she gasped, waiting to hear that her punishment was over, that this whole nightmare was over.
“I have a few things to do first, but, yes, I’ll take you to your new home. I’m sure you’ll love it. It’s very warm there, all year round…” Before she could figure out what he could mean by that, he had scooped her up in his arm and dumped her into his basket. Her eyes watered at the smell of sulphur, and, before she could so much as beg for mercy, he put the lid back on, leaving her in the pitch black, alone with her pain, trapped.