...but then again, she 'certainly wasn't here' last time either. Look how that turned out.
It doesn't matter. She's not even armed anymore, just run while you still can. She's not here, she won't see you, and if you can just get to the door -
And then Angelina poked her head out of the door behind the reception area to extinguish any flare of hope I may have had.
"Get in here where I can see you," she said miserably. Her face was streaked with tears and she looked half out of her mind with stress, and as she held up her hand I could see the keyring that had undoubtedly been relinquished from Carlos earlier. They clinked as if to greet me. "And don't bother with the door. It's locked."
"Angie - "
"Joel, if you can't tell, I'm not in the mood. I want you in here. Now."
She disappeared back into the room...and the second she was out of sight, I ran to the door anyway. A single breath burned in my lungs the whole while, held prisoner by my jackhammer heart. She was lying, she had to be lying. If there was a God, and if he was good, he'd surely be someone that looked down favourably on regressed children that were actually twenty-seven years old and he would -
The doorknob rattle uselessly in my tiny palm. It was locked.
I sighed and turned my attention to where Angie had disappeared. That was my next port of call, like it or not. I had to admit that I was a little curious to see where it went, anyway. What could she possibly want there that was so interesting it would delay fleeing a murder scene? It couldn't be good, and as I crossed the lobby and went through the steel-plate frame of the door, I was instantly proven correct. I had noticed this room when Reece and I first entered the lobby, but it had been closed then and I hadn't been able to see inside. Now that I was here, it was immediately obvious what Angie was up to, and I had to restrain a scream as I realised what was about to happen.
This was the CCTV room.
It was a dark, claustrophobic cubicle that was dominated by an enormous array of computer screens on the right and a control desk in the middle. It was illuminated entirely by the dim, fuzzy lighting of the screens, presumably so they could be watched without the glare of fluorescent lightings blinding the view, but I could still clearly see Angie hunched over the desk. She had an eerie resemblance to a mad scientist; her face was bathed in a cold cyan aura that threw grotesque shadows across her face and highlighted individual strands in her eccentric bird's nest of hair. The Hyde persona to Angelina's normal Jekyll, as it were.
I took all of this in within the space of about a second, nothing on the mind other than absorbing the situation. The next, it went into overdrive as it realised where this was heading.
She was going to cover her tracks.
How was I going to get out of this one? These tapes were pretty much my only hope.
Her hands darted across the control panel with the speed of someone who knew what they were doing...except, of course, she didn't have a clue. She hadn't worked a day of security in her life. As I watched, the screens on the far left of the set-up flickered and swapped to another view of people milling out of the stadium, and then the central ones did the same. A second later, they reverted to the feed they'd just been on. Obviously it wasn't what she wanted, because Angie swore under her breath and hit her fist on the desk. It made me jump...but also inspired me a little.
She was going fast, but she had no idea what she was doing.
Good. Time wasn't on her side.
"You better be quick," I said in a genuinely nervous voice. For dramatic effect I threw a glance over my shoulder into the lobby, as if I'd just heard something problematic. If I could slow her down..."I...I think I hear someone coming."
"Like fuck you hear someone coming," she spun to face me, eyes wide and frantic. She looked like an animal in a cage, and I had a dismal moment of deja vu as I realised that it was the same expression that had distorted Reece's face in his final moments. "The game's just finished, security is out making sure the drunks don't fight on the way out."
She turned back to the display, and after a moment added dully, "They have to be."
My heart sank.
Well that backfired. She was right.
Regardless of the truth (or lack thereof) in the statement 'there's someone coming,' realising that it really was a blatant lie was almost a physical blow to the gut. It seemed like we'd been in the Security office for a long time, but in reality it had only been a few minutes at best. Only long enough to strip a man of his gun and his phone and force a drink down his throat. The game had only just ended, and that meant she was probably right - their skeleton crew had been Carlos, and surely one person was enough to make sure the drunks didn't break out of their cells. They needed the majority of their staff out where it mattered.
There was no one coming.
Rescue was entirely up to me.
All I could do was stall. "Then what am I hearing?"
"False hope," she barked. "Now shut up. I already told you not to talk."
"My mother - my real mother - always told me I wasn't exactly a golden child at age seven. Do you know how many social events I fucked up for her with my mouth?"
She promptly ignored me.
My further attempts to goad her into turning her attention to me met the same treatment, and as the seconds ticked by into minutes I eventually just shut my mouth. She was as aware of the stakes as I was; she refused to let me distract her, so what was the point? Either way, she wasn't moving particularly fast, and I didn't think more shit-talking was going to delay her anymore than she was delaying herself. We were taking forever. Surely someone couldn't be that far off.
After several minutes of achieving precisely nothing, Angie reached the same conclusion. She swore explosively and kicked the desk; it creaked in protest but refused to bow to her more aggressive techniques of persuasion. "I do not have time for this," she exclaimed. She tore at her hair while simultaneously beginning to pace up and down the room. I watched from the doorway, feeling a little smug...at least until something very visibly occurred to her. She stopped and sighed dramatically, looking out the door. My smile drooped as she did so.
"What's the genius idea this time? Jedi mind tricks?"
"You'll see. Wait right here, you hear me? Don't you dare move."
"Because there's somewhere else I can conceivably go," I scoffed as she hurried past me. "The only reason I'm still here is because I love your company."
"Nobody likes a smart ass," she spat over her shoulder, disappearing into the lobby.
Another minute rolled by without rescue.
When she returned, she'd grabbed her jacket again from wherever she'd stashed it, the gun from Carlos' cell and the bullets from the same place she'd thrown the jacket. I watched with escalating alarm as she loaded the gun and the strode over to the desk. This could be the end of any hope I might have.
"No way in hell someone won't hear that, Angie. Do you really think that's a good idea?"
In a stunningly original and unforeseeable development in the conversation, she ignored me.
Still, this couldn't be a good idea. I was hardly an authority on firearms, but emptying that thing into something so close range seemed like a instance of poor judgement at best and suicidal at worst. What if the bullet rebounded, or she hit something that was going to explode? I wanted to get out of here, but I didn't particularly want her to die, either.
I tried to warn her. In a cautious voice, I said, "Angie, you have no idea what you're doing. Have you ever even held a gun before tonight? Stop before you hurt - "
I was ignored.
The gun went off with all the subtlety of a wrecking ball. Again and again the muzzled flashed and roared, and in the space of no more than ten seconds, Angie succeeded in both unloading the entire clip into the desk and filling the room with smoke. Screens shattered. Sparks flew. Plastic disintegrated. Every last screen went out, plunging us into total darkness. An electrical fire began to smoulder amidst the exposed wires on the underside of the desk.
An alarm began to bray overhead.
I watched quietly, shocked into silence.
It was over with as quickly as it had begun, and with almost comical delicacy, Angelina carefully placed the empty gun on one of the few parts of the desk that wasn't in ruins. She was apparently unharmed, but her hand was shaking as she did so. I felt a moment of pity for her in spite of myself. She wasn't well, anyone could see it. She was crazy, but that wasn't the same thing as outright evil; she was just a very mentally ill person that was in need of help...
...and then I remembered Reece's prone body.
My resolve hardened.
The room seemed unnaturally still as she turned to me. The only thing shattering the illusion was the warbling alarm, screeching overhead like the demented battlecry of a lunatic. Angie seemed not to hear it. Her face was unreadable.
"I think you missed a spot," I said mildly. The carnage that had once been the control desk was scattered across the entire room. It was a miracle neither of us had been hit by flying shrapnel.
"Oh really?" she retorted flatly. She looked around the same as I had, and when she turned back to me, that same sadness had re-appeared on her face. She seemed more sad than pleased with herself about everything concerning this situation. You'd think being safe in the knowledge that she'd covered her tracks would put a smile on her face. "Did I really? Well, let's review things, shall we?The first witness isn't going to be talking to anyone about anything other than the fact he needs his diapers changed, and the second witness isn't going to be tattling to anyone but the Big Man himself. Lot of good that'll do him. There's no video proof I was ever here, and I doubt the general staff were given anything other than a very general description of me to work off. If anyone had more than that, I think we can both agree that it was probably all in here - "
She waved her arm around in case I had somehow missed the smoking ruins we were standing in.
" - so do tell me, Joel," she concluded. "In all of your infinite seven-year-old-wisdom - tell me what spot I missed."
"There were a few 'probablys' in there."
With that said, I had a sinking, sneaking suspicion that she was right all the same.
"I'll take my chances," she answered curtly. "It's all I can do now, don't you think?"
"I would go as far as to say you're in too deep to do otherwise, yes."
She snorted and took me by the hand. I instantly tried to pull away, but her grip tightened to iron just as quickly. I wasn't going anywhere. "Come on," she said, looking down at me forlornly. I had to remind myself that she was a murderer yet again beneath that stare. "Time to go."
Without further comment, she led us out of the room, out of Security, and out of the last chance we might have had at salvaging our former lives.
I was hoping that we would be nabbed on the way out, but sadly we had no such luck. Maybe word had got out that the psycho woman was in already custody; maybe they didn't recognise us amidst the crowds. Maybe they didn't even see us. Either way, not one member of the staff looked at us funny as we made our way through the concrete labyrinth for the last time, and it was with a sinking heart that I emerged into the frigid night breeze with my hand clenched firmly in Angie's glove. The wind and the rain pelted us relentlessly as we made our way onto the street, and before I knew it we were in the car park, and then we were on the road, the stadium just a receding hope in the rear view mirror.
We didn't say a word to each other until we'd made it out onto the freeway, fifteen minutes later.
The elements were pounding on the windscreen and the radio was softly informing us that everybody has a hungry heart when I broke the silence at last. "Where are we going?" I asked from the backseat. Angie had insisted I sit in the back so I couldn't jump out when we stopped at the lights, and as a result I was now sitting on the passenger side in the rear. The child-proof locks took care of anything I might try to get up to, and seeing as that was what I was now...
"To Carly's house," was the quiet response. Almost too quiet. A curious glance in the rear-view mirror revealed that she was crying again. It filled me with not a small amount disgust - how could she be crying? This was what she wanted, for crying out loud. Boyfriend babified, witnesses disposed of, homewards bound. "I'll drop you off there, then that's it. I'm out of your life, you're out of mine, and everybody lives happily ever after."
"The perfect storybook ending," I said dully. "Whether I like it or not, I guess."
"Something like that."
"The perfect storybook ending," I said dully. "Whether I like it or not, I guess."
"Something like that."
We went quiet again for a little while. Bruce Springsteen was replaced by Dire Straits.
Money for Nothing had just turned into I'd Do Anything for Love when she spoke up again. The demented justifications sounded even more demented when presented on a blanket of near-silence. "You were never in any danger, you know. Even if the gun was loaded, you never were."
"As opposed to the danger-free sanctuary full of rainbows and butterflies that I'm smiling my way through right now?"
She glared at me through her tears in the mirror. I glared back.
She shook her head and turned her gaze back to the road. I could clearly see tears beginning to run down her cheeks with renewed vigour. "I was never going to shoot you, Joel. You'd have either been dead or a baby, and that would have made this entire incident pointless."
"That makes me all warm and fuzzy inside, Angie. Truly."
Whoa, hang on. Or a baby?
I didn't get the chance straight away to ask how being shot would correlate to me turning into a baby. "I never wanted to hurt anyone," she was saying in little more than a whisper. "That poor man, I can't believe that he...and there was so much blood...and...look, I never meant for any of this, ok? I just wanted to...I had to..."
"To put me in my place. I know, it's my fault, right?"
"Right. Okay. Now, how about you tell me how shooting me would have resulted in me being either dead or a baby. Explain that one to me."
She hesitated, then continued her little soliloquy. "You saw the pills in my backpack, yes?"
I nodded. I'd seen them, alright.
"One pill takes off ten years, unless you're young enough that it's going to regress you back to pre-birth age. If that's on the cards, it cuts off the regression at a day old so you don't turn into a puddle of goo and die. There were two in that drink - they dissolved into it, and that means one mouthful shaves off twenty years, and that means I couldn't give you anymore without turning you back into a newborn. If I had have shot you, it would have only been to stop you before you got away. I would have given you the drug if it came to that - you'd be a baby, but you'd be an alive baby. I'm not a murderer."
"Ah." What else was there to say?
"I'm not a murderer," she repeated in a whisper. Her knuckles were white on the wheel.
I elected not to answer that one.
Cue yet another few minutes of silence. Meat Loaf wasn't even half done singing his laundry list of what he would and wouldn't do for love.
Things were beginning to look very bleak for me, and I was perfectly aware of it. Could this possibly get any worse? I was trapped in a car with a woman determined to imprison me in my own childhood; that same woman had successfully destroyed all video evidence of both that and the fact she'd turned one security guard into a baby, murdered another and shot up their office. I was on my way to be dropped off at her friend's house, who would become one of my future mothers. It was about as fucked up a situation as they come, and it was beginning to look like there was no way out. She'd taken care of all the loose threads. She'd even ensured the witnesses weren't capable of talking anymore, for God's sake, and that meant...
"YOU SHOT REECE!" suddenly echoed through space and time to reacquaint itself with me. "PLEASE I'M BEGGING YOU DON'T SHOOT I'M JUST A BABY."
But Carlos had been talking.
So...was I okay? He'd have surely told someone what had happened by now. Angie would be caught, someone would reverse engineer what had happened to me, the end. There's your happily ever after.
Surely she couldn't have overlooked that.
"Angie," I said slowly. I tried to meet her eyes in the mirror, but she wasn't co operating. "You were going to turn Reece into a baby so he couldn't talk, and you were happy with Carlos as he was...but he was still talking."
She nodded, not taking her eyes off the road.
"So why are you so convinced they're not going to turn you in?"
She didn't answer.
"Hey. I'm talking to you," I snapped. My temper was beginning to throb yet again; the very least I deserved was answers after this shithouse excuse of a day. "So it's ok for you to drown me in self-pity about how tragic it is that you killed a man, but you won't answer - "
"I didn't killed anyone," she hissed. She finally made eye contact with me in the mirror, and if looks could kill, I'd already be six feet under. "Do you hear me Joel? No one."
I threw up my hands. "Ok Angie, ok. You didn't kill a soul. It was all me."
There was yet another moment of silence. They were getting to be a regular thing with us.
"Because the pill wipes their mind clean as well," she finally answered. She was shaking. "Do you think I'm stupid? He was screaming at the end, of course I wouldn't have left him like that if nothing was going to change. If he's not already convinced he's actually two years old and forgotten a lifetime of...well, everything, I'll be very surprised. He was already on the way out when I went back for the gun earlier, you know. Sucking his thumb and everything."
My face froze. No way.
"What, you thought I was going to hand you over to Carly and Yvonne as you are now?" she said incredulously. She laughed in that same breaking glass tone. "You'd have stabbed them in their sleep and come after me. No, Carlos won't be thinking of anything other than getting his diaper changed and you won't be thinking of anything other than your next day at primary school. You'll be convinced that girls have cooties, that Ben 10 is the coolest thing ever, that it's fun to play in the mud and that bathing is blasphemy. For all I know you'll be wetting the bed at night, too. Were you one of those kids when you were seven, Joel?"
I didn't grace that with an answer, suddenly too horrified to speak. She barked a humourless laugh. "You won't remember anything you didn't already know at age seven before long."
"You're...you're lying," I spluttered. She was lying, she had to be. It was too horrible a possibility to even consider - I mean, no, I hadn't been a bedwetter at age seven, but primary school? Ben 10? Mud? Like fuck that was happening! "You're lying, you have to be! If Carlos was already sucking his thumb when you went back, why hasn't anything happened to me yet? I've been like this for over an hour now! I still have my mind!"
She shrugged. "To be honest, I can't answer that one," she admitted. Once again, she looked back at the road. "My briefing didn't cover that. I'm guessing the further back you go, the faster it works. Less brain capacity to store stuff?"
"I don't know, Joel. I don't particularly care."
Meat Loaf's duet partner showed her face for the first time.
"Please tell me you're lying," I groaned. "Angie, please. You can't be serious."
Her face hardened in the mirror. "I'm sorry, Joel," was her only comment. "Maybe Carly and Yvonne will raise you to respect women this time round. Better luck next time."
"Better luck next time?" I exclaimed, my voice rising. She had the audacity to insult me as well? "What the fuck did I ever do to deserve this, Angie? No one deserves this!"
"What did you do?" she growled back. Her face was going red. "What did you do? Oh, I don't know, Joel. What ever could you have possibly done wrong? It's a mystery!"
"I'm all ears."
"How many times have you come through the front door at four a.m reeking of booze?" she snapped over her shoulder. She didn't look at me, instead opting to rant at the windscreen in a watery voice. That one tiny detail somehow made me feel even smaller than I already was. "How many times have you woken me up as you did so, huh? Some of us have to be up to go to this thing called work the next morning, god forbid. We can't all afford to be 'between jobs,' as you so finely put it."
"Well I am and I do," I shot back darkly. I wasn't having this conversation again. "Like you actually know how hard it is to find - "
"Yeah, it's fucking impossible to find a job, so I've heard," she said with a short laugh. "So hard you've been 'looking' for almost a year. I asked you a question, Joel. How many times has that been a thing?"
"Not many." Well, seeing as we'd gone undefeated for nine straight weeks...
"By my count, at least ten times in the last two months," she exclaimed. "Ten! And that's just the game nights! What about the other times you don't even come home? You just crashed at a 'mate's' house for the night? The mate with boobs you found in some bar. Let's be honest here."
She knew about that? "But - "
"Do I need to go on?"
I fumed in the back seat. Sure, I wasn't perfect...but who was? Really? "It still doesn't justify...this. Angie, you killed a man and ruined the lives of two others!"
"And whose fault is that, huh? Was it me that called you a selfish whore before I passed out drunk on our bed and pissed all over it, too intoxicated to stop myself, just because I told you to show some respect to the people you share your house with? Did I do that to you after staying out the night before fucking another man? Like I do every other week? You've got no one but yourself to blame."
I was ready to start screaming. "YOU'VE TURNED ME INTO A KID."
"And you won't care in the slightest, soon enough. Give it an hour. Tops."
Meat Loaf handed the stage over to Freddie Mercury, who launched into Love of My Life without a fuss.
I stared blackly out the window, forcing myself to remain calm. It was hard, but what could I do? If I was going to find an out, I couldn't afford to have my judgement clouded by dumb rage. My life was over, almost literally...but I was going to find a way out. "You won't get away with this, you know," I finally answered flatly. "There was at least one other guy who saw the video, Reece said so. I forget his name. There's that, and really, there's no fucking way they're not going to pin blowing up their security room on you somehow. It's impossible, there'll be something you couldn't get at. They'll have backups. There'll be evidence."
She scoffed. "We'll see."
"I hear guns tend to accumulate fingerprints."
She took one hand off the wheel and waved it about. It was gloved. "It's about negative twenty degrees out there, Joel."
"Whatever. You're still boned, Angie. One way or another. There's absolutely no way you can get away with something like this."
And with that, we returned to an uncomfortable silence. She began to cry quietly to herself again.
What was I going to do? What could I do?
The million dollar question.
I sat back in my seat and went through the options available to me. I didn't have the faintest idea how to reverse the procedure, Angie hadn't even mentioned the possibility. There was a good chance there wasn't one. According to her, I was going to be a legit seven year old before long, and there was nothing I could do about it. Where did that leave me? Jump out the window (presuming the option to open it was available to me back here) when we stopped and run for help? We were on the freeway and would be for a while yet. What were the odds of stopping soon enough for that to be a viable plan? What were the odds that anyone would believe a barefoot seven year old with a story like this anyway?
Not particularly high, that's what they were. It was really looking like I might be unable to save myself.
You can't give up, I instantly reminded myself. You can't. Look, maybe you're fucked - probably you're fucked - but you can't worry about that now. The brain drain thing is later. Right now, you need to deal with the now, and right now, that's Angie. She's unstable, she can't afford to go on like this. What can you do about her?
Good point, myself.
Maybe I could show Angie the price you pay for pulling a stunt like this. At the very least, I could put her in her place. A phyrric victory was better than no victory, at the end of the day...
...except how did I go about achieving even that much?
I stared at the back of her head thoughtfully as we drove through the wind and the rain. Could I choke her? I could come up behind her, wrap my arms around her neck...
...and drive us straight off the road to certain death.
Well, what then?
I was beginning to get antsy when I remembered her backpack. She had placed it on the front passenger seat, directly in front of me. My eyes lit up, and I had to struggle to suppress a smile in case she happened to look back and cottoned on to my mischief.
A plan instantly began it's nebulous birth in my head. That...well, it had a certain ring to it. A certain ironic ring to it, even. Seeing as she was so fond of her precious irony...
Quickly quickly quickly. You don't know how long it's going to be before you lose your mind.
Queen's Love of My Life dissolved into Bon Jovi's Blaze of Glory.
Be quick, but be quick slowly. Don't move so fast that she sees it in the mirror.
No time to waste!
Ever so slowly, I carefully leaned forward as far as the seatbelt would let me and snaked my arm around the outside of the seat. I was against the door and out of Angie's field of view, but there was no guarantee she wouldn't look back at any moment and foil my attempt at playing jury. Really, my only chance was that she was too absorbed in her self-pity to see that her grand plan was unravelling. She'd so far proven that she could entrench herself pretty deeply in that pool of crap, so with a little bit of luck...
My probing hand found on the bag...and even better, it found the zipper. Instantly.
Holy mother of God, yes. YES.
I didn't waste time pondering my good fortune. I blindly pulled the zipper up just enough to let my hand in, and before I could second guess myself I was inside. I fumbled around for the plastic strip that was my only hope, at first only finding the cool glass of the infamous Coke bottle. I struggled to keep my breathing straight as my frayed nerves danced the Macarena. Come on, where was it...
Then it was in my hand, and I was home free. I grabbed it tight enough to have it dig into the tender flesh of my palm and withdrew back to the innocent safety of the back seat.
Did she see that?
I nervously looked in the mirror.
Angie had her eyes on the road and nothing else. Disbelief coursed through me.
As if you just pulled that off. As if.
But I had. Maybe there was a God that looked out for regressed twenty-seven-year olds after all.
Heart going a mile a minute, I cautiously observed my prize from within the privacy of my cupped hand. Of the ten, eight powdery green pills remained in their plastic prison, waiting for someone to free them and bring about someone's untimely regression. Just as I had before, I couldn't help but marvel at how harmless they appeared without context. For something so diabolical, they were incredibly plain and generic. I could have grabbed them by accident while looking for something to cure a headache.
Yeah. A headache like your girlfriend. Come on, do it! Do it now!
Except now I had a problem. What were the odds of me being able to pop these out of the packaging without Angie hearing? They were going to crinkle like a bitch.
Next to nothing, but you don't have a choice. Pop them as fast as you can and pin her down before she can do anything. It's your only hope.
I bit my lip nervously. This had the potential to get incredibly ugly incredibly fast.
Well...here goes nothing.
I held the wrapper over my left hand...and forced the first pill through the packaging.
I managed to get two out before Angie realised something was happening that shouldn't be. My hand was flying to the back of the third when her ears perked up and she called over her shoulder, "Joel? What was that?"
I ignored her and forced the third into my hand. Sweat began to bead on my forehead.
Her eyes flicked to me and narrowed in the mirror, but she didn't move. Yet. "I asked you a question, Joel. What are you doing back there?"
I popped the seatbelt and made my move. Before she could so much as look around, I had staggered to her side of the car, cupped both of my hands over her mouth with the pills palmed...and began to press them into her lips. I wasn't actually trying to get her to ingest them - not while we were still driving - but she had to know they were there. Getting them in her mouth and knocking her out could wait till we weren't going 110 kms an hour down the freeway.
I saw her eyes go wide in the mirror, and she instantly began to buck and struggle beneath me, but I grimly held on for dear life. If I let go, it was over, and that was that. Joel Stone, the twenty-seven year old in a seven year old's body, would cease to exist. The seven year old in the seven year old's body would eat him alive. This was it. Go big or go home, and I had no intention of going home. There were lesbians waiting for me there.
"Pull over," I panted in her ear, holding on with all the strength my diminutive body was capable of. She wailed in protest from the back of her throat, almost humming out of terror as she tried to shake me off, but I had the upper hand - she was buckled into her seat and I had gravity on my side. "Pull over, or I'm going to cram these down your throat and you can join Carlos in diapers."
She ignored me. Her driving remained impeccable, but she continued to kick and scream beneath my hands.
"What was it you said? Not a care in the world except getting your diaper changed?" I hissed in her ear. "I said pull over, you bitch, or that'll be your problem as well as Carlos'...and I think you're going to end up even younger than him, actually. Pull over. Now."
For one long, suspenseful moment, she hesitated. The kicking and screaming stopped, and she simply focused on driving in a straight line...and then she flicked on the indicator and veered into the breakdown lane.
So far so good.
I allowed myself a moment of euphoric relief, but the fight wasn't over yet. This was only half the battle. I didn't move a muscle as we came to a stop, not even when she turned to look at me in the mirror again, her eyes now wide and pleading. I could feel her tears running down my hands...
...and then the lines on her face tightened, scarring her skin with resolve as her body stiffened accordingly. My window of opportunity was about to close as quickly as it had opened.
Adrenaline kicked into overdrive as I realised that she was about to throw me off, and if that happened, it was game over. Unless I acted quickly, how could I maintain the high ground as a seven year old? My 'muscles' made a mouse look invincible - now that her hands were free to hold me at bay, I had about as much leverage as a wet dick from back here.
"Oh no you don't," I snarled. This was it. God help me, this was it.
I leapt across the console, stumbled around the seat between us and into her lap. It was a stupid, reckless move, and had I been any bigger I almost definitely wouldn't have been able to pull it off fast enough, but it was apparently just stupid and reckless enough to work. It was the very last thing Angie had been expecting, and that worked in my advantage - before she could swat me away like the fly I was to her enormous presence, I was kneeling on her lap and pressing both hands into her mouth. Pressing the pills into her mouth. Her arms were pinned beneath me, just where I wanted them, and she instantly re-realised that I was still in control. I grinned savagely down at her as terror flooded back into her eyes.
Maybe, just maybe, I had the slightest inkling of a chance.
I gritted my teeth and got to work.
We struggled for a long, long time. You wouldn't think it would be so difficult to force-feed someone a couple of pills, but when their age is at stake, they tend to be incredibly unwilling to relent. Both of us were too conscious of the stakes to give up, and so for a good fifteen minutes, we silently wriggled and squirmed in our respective situations to gain the upper hand. I tried to press the pills through her taut lips - she refused to open them. It was as simple as that, and for a painfully long while, it seemed as if we would simply remain locked there till the other gave up.
Eventually, though, breathing through her nose simply wasn't enough. Not when she was struggling like she was. She opened her mouth, hoping against hope it could be open and closed again before I did the unthinkable...
...and when she did, I threw all three in.
"YES!" I crowed at the top of my tiny lungs. I could feel her trying to force them back out, I could feel them on my palm, but I held on. I was too close now to give up! "YES! HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT, YOU BITCH? HUH? HUH? HOW DOES YOUR OWN MEDICINE TASTE NOW?"
Naturally, there was no answer. She simply attempted to force them out with increasingly frantic thrusts of her tongue, inarticulate noises whining out from the back of her throat.
"Don't you dare!" I yelled hysterically. I sounded almost as crazy as she did. "Oh no you don't, not on my watch. SWALLOW THEM. SWALLOW THEM OR I'LL STAY HERE TILL YOU SUFFOCATE, YOU HEAR ME? I'LL LET YOU DIE, SO HELP ME."
She refused to swallow them.
We stayed like that for another few minutes, and by then it was too late for her to spit them out even if she could have. They'd dissolved in her mouth. I could tell by the increasingly smaller fragments she was trying to force through my palm, which eventually went from three small capsules to a huge number of smaller indicies. A savage grin crossed my face as I realised that the end was near, and her moaning became more pronounced as she did so too. We both knew who had won.
At last, I figured I'd held on for long enough. "That's right," I panted, exhausted from the effort of holding her for so long. I released her and collapsed on her shoulder, leaning there weakly as I regained my breath. The minute I did, her sobs became perfectly audible, no longer muffled by my hands. They wracked her body in enormous waves beneath me and threatened to split my ear drums. The minute I did, her sobs became perfectly audible, no longer muffled by my hands. They wracked her body in enormous waves and threatened to split my ear drums. "How does it feel, eh? Tell me how the fuck does it feel to know you're going to be shitting your pants within the hour."
"You're a monster," Angie screamed. "You hypocritical, self absorbed, cheating son of a bitch! How could you!"
Whether that was about my perceived wrongdoings or force feeding her her own drug, I would never know. I backed up a little and smiled at her wanly. "I'm sorry," I said smugly. "I couldn't hear you over the sound of how young you're going to be."
"This was all your fault to begin with," she shrieked. "I was just doing what anyone...would...have..."
She suddenly looked as faint as Reece had before he fell.
"So long, my dear," I said cheerfully. Feeling the need to add insult to injury, I playfully squeezed her nose - it was there, so why not? People would be playing with her adorable button nose all the time when she was a baby. She might as well get used to it. "Tell me what it's like to breastfeed, will you?"
She gave me a last, tearful look of reproach, her eyes swimming only inches in front of me like phantoms in a crystal ball...and then her ragged breathing stalled, the phantoms rolled up in her head, and she went still.
It was over.
The only sound was the Bee Gees working their way through Stayin' Alive.
I began to laugh. I was parked in the middle of God knows where in the body of seven year old after having wrestled my girlfriend back to infancy listening to the fucking Bee Gees, but I was laughing. It began in the back of my throat, then worked its way down into my gut and before I knew it, I was dying. I didn't even know what it was that struck me as funny - if Angie was to believed, the minutes I had left with a functional, twenty seven year old brain were numbered - but it wasn't long before I was at risk of wetting myself. Maybe it was relief. Maybe it was the sheer absurdity of the situation. Whatever it was, I found myself slumped over her shoulder having the most intense laughing session of my life.
I took a minute to get that out of my system, and after it quieted down to nothing more than small, childish giggles, I crawled into the back seat again to grab the pills. Holding them tight, I made the return journey to the front passenger seat and threw my girlfriend a curious glance. Angie hadn't begun to shrink yet, but she wasn't my concern - right now, my concern was getting rid of the pills. No way I was letting the police find them when they found Angie and me. There couldn't be a repeat of this situation with someone else, and if I was being totally honest, maybe I wanted to enact my revenge on these stupid little things that had caused so much grief. It seemed like a fitting ending to the story, and God knew would I find it cathartic.
I opened the door and stepped out into the storm, feeling the cold immediately but not caring. One by one, I popped the last six pills and laid them on the ground before stamping them into oblivion. I watched the rain first smear the powdery remains on the asphalt, then wash them away entirely. Before long, they were gone, and that was it. There was nothing more I could do but wait for my mind to dissolve into complete idiocy.
Two little pills, I thought to myself, shaking my head. That's all it took to kill a man and fuck up the lives of three others. Incredible what can happen when you let the wrong things fall into the wrong hands.
"A not-so-guilty pleasure," I said to myself with a disbelieving laugh. "That's why I'm here. I have twenty years to do over again because she couldn't handle the fact I had a hobby that's not her. Unbelievable."
With that, I climbed back in the car and waited to have twenty years of my life wiped away forever. What else could I do? I was too young to drive for help, and even presuming I could...what was help? I wouldn't have the first idea where to go. The thought of losing my mental age seemed horrendous right now, and I certainly felt an acute sense of dread as I collapsed in the passenger seat and slammed the door shut behind me, but if Angie was being honest...well, how bad could it be? Really? I wouldn't even know something was wrong. Maybe it'd be like falling asleep. Easy at that.
I shivered uncontrollably and reached to turn the heater up to full. I was rewarded with a gust of hot air that warmed me to the bone. In a little while, I wouldn't realise anything was wrong. I could take comfort in that. Still...what was going to happen to me? To Angie? Hell, to Carlos and Reece, too? Were we all going to end up an orphanage? Returned to our birth parents? Was anyone even going to realise that we all used to be functional adults with friends and careers and...well, lives? There wasn't exactly a historical precedence for a situation like this...so what was going to happen?
I couldn't answer that; really, no one could answer that.
I lay back in my seat, closed my eyes, and waited for the nightmare to be over one way or another.