Bored and impatient. So here's some unfinished, unedited stuff.
As the thread _title_ says, this is not complete (still one major twist to go in part 5), but here's most of it anyway.
“I haven’t seen you in church before.” Matt struggled to make the sentence sound natural, but it still possessed the ring of a bad pick-up line.
The young woman’s eyes darted from one end of the sanctuary to the other, avoiding direct contact with Matt’s. Though obviously unoccupied, she breathed in agitated sighs like a bored woman on a blind date, continually checking her watch. Noticing this, Matt tried to keep his speech brief and straightforward.
“I heard you talking to your mom,“ he began tentatively, “about being in college.”
“Well, I overheard you arguing over your age,” Matt explained, his cheeks already glowing crimson. He couldn’t help pausing momentarily when Danielle drew back her bangs and her gorgeous brown eyes finally met his. Behind her long strands of highlighted hair was an unusually pretty face, dotted with dimples and growing more annoyed as Matt stuttered.
“I just started college this year and it’s like she suddenly has amnesia,” Danielle complained, crossing her arms and turning away. “Now, it’s like I’m high school again and nothing has changed.”
“I know why,” Matt stated flatly.
“It’s the same reason all the parents here are acting strange. I know you’re not going to believe me right now, but trust me, if you stay here much longer you’ll understand.”
“As far as I can guess, it’s been affecting all the teenagers and younger kids, and some of the college students for weeks now,” Matt tried to delay spilling the awful, unbelievable truth as long as possible.
“What’s affecting them?”
“They’re getting younger. All of them.”
Danielle smirked at the goofy middle schooler playing a practical joke on her. “Right… getting younger. Well that makes sense,” she said with mock seriousness. “Everybody is actually turning into little kids again, is that it?”
“In so many words, yes.”
“I suppose you’re going to tell me that you’re in college too.” She uncrossed her arms only to cross them again.
“I’m eighteen,” Matt admitted reluctantly. “Well… I’m supposed to be eighteen.”
“Keep dreaming, kiddo,” Danielle laughed. “I’d say you have a few years to go. But look me up when you get there, ok cutey?”
“But it’s the truth—“
Clearly amused, she squeezed his shoulder and crouched to his height. “My mom may be acting all freaky, but let’s get one thing straight. No one here is getting younger, all right? Now you’ve had your fun, so maybe you should go find your mommy and stop playing games.”
“You don’t believe me now,” Matt spoke coldly and deliberately. “But if you keep coming to this church, it’s going to happen to you too.”
“Ooh, yes, I’m sure,” Danielle teased. “I’m going to wake up tomorrow a little girl, huh? Why don’t you try somebody your own age?”
“I’m not trying to pick up on you. I’m just warning you it’s going to get worse—“ Matt said, a moment before Patricia yanked him away.
“What are you doing?” his mother demanded.
“Just talking, that’s all.”
“But Mom—“ Matt whined powerlessly as Patricia hauled him away toward the sanctuary entrance. “Can’t I just talk to someone?”
Patricia did not reply. In her mind, the kissing episode meant Matt had forfeited his rights for the weekend, and that included socializing. But Matt had to wonder why his mother’s punishments seemed so harsh, worse, in fact, than when he had actually been eleven years old for real. Studying the attitudes of other church parents, he suddenly came to realize the obvious reason behind her frustration: Matt was refusing to grow down willingly like his peers.
“I’m signing you up for Vacation Bible School,” she informed him, as they lined up at a table in the foyer. “You need to make some more friends.”
“But I have a friend,” Matt protested, moments before he caught sight of a familiar chubby cheeked little girl in a yellow flower dress being led into the women’s bathroom.
“It’s right through here, honey,” Sharon said, holding the heavy door open for her daughter.
Keeping her eyes straight ahead, Patricia responded without a hint of irony. “I mean friends your own age.”
“Baby, you start middle school this year. Candace is still in the third grade, okay? You’ll be in separate groups at VBS,” Patricia explained offhandedly as they approached one of the eager, grinning volunteers. “Here we are.”
“Which group?” the jolly overweight church mom inquired, shuffling through a stack of multicolored forms.
“9 to 12 year olds, please,” Patricia said, still squeezing Matt’s hand.
“Okay, you’ll need to put your address here, along with the child’s name and whether or not you want lunch provided...” While Patricia began thoroughly filling out the form, Matt watched as Candace emerged from the restroom with Sharon. He had not seen or heard from his best friend since Friday – almost three days – and she had already lost as many years. A pint-sized cupcake, Candace bore next to no resemblance to the girl Matt knew.
By chance their eyes met for a brief second – and lingered until both were pulled in opposite directions by their parents. Did she even recognize me? Matt wondered.
“Time to go,” Patricia declared as she dotted the final “i” on the crowded sign-up sheet. “We have a few errands to run before we go home.”
Frozen in the backseat of the minivan, Matt spent the trip reflecting on Candace’s young face, the glimpse into his future… or was it his past? The less interference, he thought, the faster the years were swept away. Picturing his friend’s new wide-eyed innocence, Matt struggled to hold back a rumbling volcano in his stomach. In a week, maybe less, he could be staring at a kindergartner in the mirror. Only God knew what lay in store for Candace.
During a quick stop at the grocery, Matt remained in the van, only to feel his bowels sink again when his mother returned carrying three bags – one of which, Matt could see through the plastic, read “Pampers” on the outside.
“Mom, did you just buy diapers?” Matt asked the instant his mother settled into the driver’s seat.
“Oh, those. They’re for a charity drive at the church,” she said, hesitating slightly with her answer.
But Matt no longer trusted a single word that escaped his mom’s lips, or anyone else’s for that matter. The clock was creeping backward and everyone was playing dumb, lying to their own children for the sake of recapturing a few stupid memories.
“I’m not… but I’m not…”
“What is it, honey?” Patricia said, pulling over to the shoulder. “Matthew, are you all right?”
The sight of the diaper box, and his mother’s persistent pretend naivete, were pushing Matt to the breaking point mentally. Thinking of his own body, growing ever younger toward infancy, made his head spin. Images of Candace and himself, two squirming naked babies lying on the floor as their parents wiped their messy rears, swirled around in his brain – so much so that Matt soon felt the sensation of vertigo, stopped responding, and blacked out.
When he awoke, he was greeted by his parents, both wearing concerned, open-mouthed _expression_s.
“He’s waking up,” Richard said hopefully, peering over his son.
“Can you hear us, honey?” Patricia repeated.
Swallowing hard, Matt pried his eyes open and regained his bearings.
“Am I still in the van?”
“Yes, you are. You were out for a minute or so. By the time I passed by the house on the way to the emergency room, you were waking up,” Patricia related, still breathing fast. “Do you feel okay?”
“I’m fine, I think,” Matt mumbled, as if waking from a confusing nightmare. “I got dizzy and... and…” Before he finished his sentence, he raised his arms and peered down apprehensively at himself. Relieved at the sight of his eleven-year-old body, Matt dropped his head back and sighed. “I just got dizzy.”
“Do you feel like you can walk inside?” his father asked.
“Yeah, I think so,” Matt stuttered a little.
“You gave us quite a scare there,” Richard said, helping Matt out onto the driveway.
The rest of the day Matt stayed silent in his room, never daring to mention the true reason for his panic attack. It’s not as if anyone would believe him anyway – or even if they did, admit to knowing about the regression of New Life’s youth in the first place. Matt’s future seemed as blank as the ceiling that stared down at him as he sunk lower and lower into the mattress, an eleven-year-old going on ten.
Vacation Bible School kicked off that Tuesday with a festive cookout for all the kids and their families, a chance for all to mingle. Though many of the children had already been introduced to each other at previous youth meetings and choir practices, their memories were often sketchy, meaning every new event provided a chance to make friends all over again. This happened regularly as the kids grew younger at different speeds; most former high school seniors currently came in around nine or ten, while others like Candace were well ahead, already approaching the first grade.
Patricia and Matt arrived around four o’clock, bearing a two liter of Sprite and some plastic cups.
“Just set those down with the rest over there.” Patricia motioned toward a traditional red and white picnic table.
“All right,” Matt agreed grudgingly. “Whatever you say…”
A familiar face welcomed Matt as he dumped the foodstuffs onto the table.
“Hey, little man,” Danielle said, pouring small amounts of Pepsi into a million little cups. “I wanted to talk to you for a sec.”
“You do?” Matt was surprised, considering the tone of their last exchange.
“Yeah, about what you said earlier. Go over behind those bushes and I’ll meet you there in a minute, okay?” Danielle feigned casual talk.
Matt drifted toward the hedges as promised and waited until she finished preparing drinks. While not necessarily panicked, Danielle’s demeanor had certainly changed. Something had happened, what exactly Matt didn’t know, but now maybe she was ready to listen.
“What is it?” Matt asked, already anticipating the answer.
“Look, I still have no clue what’s going on here, but my mom keeps thinking I’m younger. Yesterday she kept asking if I had signed up for the PSAT, which is a test juniors usually take.”
“I know,” Matt interrupted. “I took it a year ago.”
“Umm yeah, well, that means my mom thinks I’m seventeen now, and—“ she paused briefly as if distracted by something. “Hey, you look younger than you did on Sunday.”
“Just noticed that, huh?” Matt shot back, a glint of sarcasm in his voice.
“Oh my god, is this really happening?” she said suddenly.
“Every day, I wake up younger,” Matt spelled it out once again. “My best friend is sitting right over there. See her?”
“The one in blue?”
“No, the girl beside her, with the pigtails.”
“Your best friend? She can’t be any older than seven.”
“She’s supposed to be nineteen. They’ve turned her back into a little girl. They’re turning us all back into kids. Every one of us. Gradually. It started a couple weeks ago. Nobody knows about it but me.”
“Why just you?”
“I don’t know. I guess I’m fighting it the most, in my mind,” Matt proposed.
“Are you saying I’m getting younger too?” Danielle asked, slowly grasping the implications of Matt’s words. “I don’t feel younger.” She reflexively glimpsed down at her ample chest.
“That’s just it. I don’t either, but it’s happening to us anyway. You think I feel like I’m ten years old?” Matt replied, shamefacedly surveying his own physique.
“Danielle, Danielle Foster?” a voice called out from behind them.
“Oh, that’s me. They’re taking roll call for the VBS volunteers. I gotta go.”
“Okay,” Matt said. “It’s best if no one knows what we’re talking about…”
“All right then. Walk out with me,” Danielle instructed, grabbing Matt’s hand.
“Oh, there you are,” Pastor Leary said.
“Just showing one of the kids where the bathroom is.”
Post edited by: Sumner, at: 2006/03/04 15:08