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Hello, all,

I was a member here for a long time and posted quite frequently, including post some work in the story forum. I decided it was taking up too much of my time, but I miss the creative outlet. I have published a couple ABDL novella on Amazon, and this may turn up there eventually. But this is more for me, and for those of you who enjoy this.

I've avoided diaper dimension stories because I never really liked the concept, but I finally read on this past weekend, and I was very much drawn to an aspect of it: someone voluntarily giving up their adulthood, not in a negotiated way but in a way almost entirely dictated by the Big. That was the first ABDL story, in my 20 years of reading them, that I felt like I was reading literature and not fetish porn, and it was well written.

The only thing that threw me about it was the utter hell that is so much of the diaper dimension. So I thought, what would an ethical, consensual part of the dimension look like, and how would it work?

So with that in mind, here's what you ought to know going forward:

  • I don't know all the supposed rules of the diaper dimension, and I don't care to hear about them. This is my version.
  • I probably will not post all that often. I have a busy job, a side business to run, and I can't just turn the creativity on like a faucet. Wish I could, but sorry. I hammered out the first 2500 words just in the past two hours. That's my writing MO: burst of creativity followed by period of lack of creativity/writing myself into a corner/being too busy/not caring/getting bored. But I have always finished my stories eventually. I'll shoot for posting at least once a month, and likes and comments are always good encouragement to work on the story.
  • I hate proofreading, so I'm not gonna. That's me not adulting. Ha!
  • I don't know where this story is going. What I have so far is mostly me getting some venting done and escaping in the story what I can't escape in here. The rest is and will be whatever fantasy I'm feeling in the moment.
  • Not autobiographical. Based on thoughts and feelings, not on actual events.

Personally, I've had this concept in my head all of 60 hours, and I'm pretty excited about it. I hope you enjoy.

_____________________________________________________________________

Chapter 1

 

 

“So why are you here?” She smiled when she said it; you could tell it was routine, the first question she always asked, and the smile was just good service. Staring across the desk, slumped in his chair, not sure where to put his hands or how to answer and preserve some pride, Eric didn’t respond right away.

 

“I guess … I just don’t want to be here anymore,” Eric replied while keeping his eyes on the desk.

 

Cheryl was used to this. Not many people who came to an adoption center wanted to talk about it. Except the exhibitionists; they wouldn’t stop talking about it, but it was obvious from his body language and mumbling tone that Eric wasn’t here for any of those reasons.

 

“I understand, honey,” Cheryl said, softening her voice, “a lot of people feel that way. Can I ask you some questions about how you feel?” Eric knew what coming; he’d asked the same questions himself more times than he cared to remembered. He nodded.

 

“Do you feel like hurting yourself?”

 

“No.” Flat, matter of fact, and truthful.

 

“Have you ever felt like hurting yourself?”

 

“No.”

 

“Do you feel like hurting someone else?”

 

“No.”

 

Have you ever felt like hurting someone else?”

 

“No.”

 

Cheryl ticked off boxes on her iPad while Eric waited patiently.

 

“I’m so glad to hear that. Can I ask a few more?” She didn’t pause for him to answer.

 

“Have you ever been diagnosed with any of the following? Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, Depression, Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Personality Disorder, Dissociative disorder?”

 

“Just depression and anxiety,” Eric said as he pushed back in his chair and exhaled. He’d been with depression for eight years and had this conversation with every new doctor and therapist he’d been to in that time. It was boring. Before Cheryl could get her next word out, Eric answered her next question.

 

“I’m taking 150mg of Bupropion once a day and Xanax as needed. I’ve was seeing a therapist every other week until about 6 months ago. Her names is in the paperwork I brought with me. I’d say my depression and anxiety are both well controlled.”

 

“Good,” she said, “That’s all good. Do you mind if I call your therapist to talk with her?”  

 

“No, that’s fine.”

 

“Good. I need to be sure your decision isn’t being influenced by your depression or anxiety. So, back to what you were saying earlier, you ‘don’t want to be here anymore.’ Can you tell me more about that?” Cheryl leaned forward, trying to help Eric engage.

 

“I’m work for the county…I’m a social worker…”

 

Cheryl was practiced at this. Nod, say nothing, the client will fill the silence when they’re ready.

 

“I … I …” Eric sucked in air and held back a sob. “I just can’t stay here anymore. I can’t … keep doing this.”

 

Cheryl pushed her box of tissues toward Eric, who reached into his pocket and pulled out a cotton handkerchief.

 

Dabbing at his eyes, he said started again. “Kenard Bering was my client. You probably didn’t hear about that. Good kid, not a trouble maker; wasn’t going to be any project to Harvard story, but he was on track, ya know. And he gets shot over a fucking cellphone.”

 

Tears dripped, and Eric occasional wiped them away as he fell into a soliloquy: “Second kid in a year killed ……………. Dies at school from a fucking asthma attack. When’s the last time you heard of anyone dying from a fucking asthma attack ……………. And this asshole cop says to this 14 year old, ‘well, what are you doing to make your mother hit you? I couldn’t believe it, I … who the fuck says that or even thinks that way? How do you send a kid home who doesn’t want to go home? ……………. Burned ……………. Dropped out ……………. Caught with a weapon his mother game him. And that was after she beat him for losing a fight ……………. But so what if he graduates, right? ‘Cause it’s not like there’s anything but a mop or an apron waiting for him out there ……………. Left her kid to sit in his own shit while she went to get high and doesn’t even tell the cop the kid is home alone ……………. Jail ……………. 12 years old and pregnant and bipolar and both parents on drugs – what can I even do for that? ……………. He had priors ……………. I lost him to the pipeline ……………. Caught out on a corner ……………. Neighborhood says the cops did it ……………. ……………. ……………. ……………. …………….”

 

Eric had stopped crying. He wasn’t sad. He was angry and disgusted and indignant.

 

“For every one I save, whatever that means, there’s five I don’t. It’s like watching a never ending catastrophe and it rips my guts out every time.”

 

Tired now, he slumped back in his chair, “Everyone said give it a year, you’ll get hardened to it. And I never did. Eight years, never gets better, never gets worse. It just is. And I can’t do it anymore. I can’t see it anymore.”

 

Cheryl nodded her, “Uh huh…” waiting to see if Eric had more to say. When she thought he was done, she asked, “That sounds very hard for you. Can you tell me, though, why go to the other dimension? That’s pretty drastic; couldn’t you just change jobs?”

 

“No,” Eric answered, “Because I know it’s all out there. I can’t live with myself if I quit. Or at least I can’t do it here.”

 

That made sense to her. A sad kind of sense. Eric sounded like the kind of person there are too few of, but those qualities that made him so valuable to everyone else were the same qualities that made him so unhappy. Classic burnout. It wasn’t the first time Cheryl had seen this in a client, but it was obviously the worst, and she understood how Eric could believe there would never be an end to it if he stayed. He might even be right, she thought.

 

“Eric, I’m going to be very frank with you. The dimension is more like our world than a lot of people want to admit. In some ways, it’s much, much worse, the way they treat people like us. It’s different in different countries, but in some of them we’re not seen as people. If you’ve heard anyone compare it to slavery and torture, they weren’t wrong. How does that make you feel?”

 

Eric wasn’t surprised. He’d heard it all. It was right there in the web forums: kidnapping, mutilation, mind alteration. Even “Island of Dr. Moreau.”

 

“I know,” Eric replied. “That’s why I came here and not some other place.”

 

“Because you know we only work with people who live in Itali?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Well, that was smart of you. Some people get impatient and will go anywhere, or just go somewhere in the dimension and take their chances.

 

You seem like someone who does his research, but I just want to tell you some things to separate fact from fiction:

 

·      Itali only permits adoptions through license agencies like ours, and they only adopt direct from our dimension to Itali. Not from any of the other countries there.

·      While humans can live there independently with the same rights at Bigs, if you adopt yourself out, you’ll have the same rights as a minor there. Anything that is permissible for a Big to do to their own children can be done to you. Anything that is impermissible for a Big to do to their own children cannot be done to you.

·      You can select the stage of life you wish to begin with as a Little: newborn, infant or toddler. Those are the only choices. That is binding on the Bigs who adopt from us. However, they retain the right to decide the details associated with your stage of life, which may vary from your expectations. Whether and at what pace you progress through life stages, and what point, if any, you stop progressing, is up to the Big. If you choose or consent to it, your Big may further regress you from your current stage at any time.

·      You’ll notice we call them Bigs. They call us Littles. ‘Amazon’ is a pejorative there.

·      There’s no amending the adoption agreement. It says what it says. We can make your wishes known to prospective parents, but they can break any promise they make. But we don’t adopt out to just anyone. We thoroughly inspect all of our clients. We wouldn’t work with them if we believed they were bad people.

·      Our adoption agreement prohibits the following:

o   Involuntary physical or mental alteration

o   Giving, selling, or trading Littles

o   Having custody of any Little not adopted through an agency licensed in Itali

o   Violations of any Itali laws; suspicion of violations to be investigated, with a preponderance of evidence sufficient to be considered a violation of this agreement

o   Withholding or unduly delaying adequate medical care

o   Abuse, neglect, or negligence as defined by The Agency; suspicion of abuse, neglect, or negligence to be investigated, with a preponderance of evidence sufficient to be considered a violation of this agreement

o   Traveling with the Little to, or sending the Little to, any country where any of the above are not expressly forbidden by law

·      We have offices in Itali that conduct surprise inspections and work with the authorities there. If they find any violation of the adoption agreement, under the treaty permitting inter-dimensional adoptions between us and Itali, the police are required by law take you into their custody and return you to us.

·      Unless your parents violate the adoption agreement, you must remain with them as their Little for 10 years. You can asked to be returned to us, but they are not obligated to comply. Conversely, they can return you to us whenever they choose. At the end of those 10 years, you can decide to stay their Little, return to us, or remain in Itali as a full and independent citizen.

·      Your property and assets with be placed in a trust our non-profit partner manages. If choose to return to us or to become an independent citizen after 10 years, your property will be returned to you less the what we spend eliminating any remaining debt you have here. If you choose to stay a Little after 10 years, your assets, property, and any interest are liquidated, the revenue will be used to pay off your debt, and anything left over will be donated to fund the non-profit.

 

I just want to remind you that Itali is like here; there are good people and bad people. We only work with good, but if you’re looking for a Utopia, that’s not Itali.

 

Does all that make sense? Do you have any questions?”

 

“No. Well, I guess yeah – what happens next,” Eric asked. Eric was familiar with provisions like these. It was part of his job, dealing with foster parents and adoptions. This aligned closely to the laws of he was used to dealing with. He made a lot of those inspections over the years himself.

 

“I know that was a lot to take in,” Cheryl answered, “It’s all in the paperwork I’m going to send you home with. If you have any questions, please reach out to me, and we will be testing you to ensure you read and understood the adoption agreement before we approve you for adoption.

 

So next I’m going to process all the information on those forms we asked you to bring in, then I’m going to call you doctors and last therapist. Our compliance department is going to run the background check you’re allowing us to do, and that includes all of your financial history so we know what we’re taking on when if you decide to move forward.

 

Once that’s done, I’ll be in touch. It usually takes about 10 days for the average person. I’m guessing because of your job you’re going to appear in a lot of court records, so it may take longer.

 

And in the meantime you just go about your life like normal. Don’t make any drastic decisions; don’t go on a spending spree; don’t do anything dangerous or stupid. Anything like that has the potential to cause us to reject your application.

 

If you have any questions, you can call me or one of our licensed therapists – I really encourage everyone to do that anyway. And if at any time you change your mind and want to just forget this, we can do that, too; everything here is confidential, and all your records will be destroyed.

 

Do you have any more questions right now?”

 

With her monologue done, Eric thought for a moment. It was a lot to take in, and even though he was far from the end of it, everything seemed very real now.

 

“Uh, not a question really. Can I tell you one thing I’m looking for in a Big,” Eric asked.

 

“Of course.”

 

Eric felt sheepish. He’d thought about this a lot, and he was embarrassed by it, as if this entire thing weren’t embarrassing.

 

“I don’t know what life stage I want to start at, but, uh, can you, um, put it in my file that I don’t think I ever want to grow up again?”

 

“I can’t promise your Big would abide by that, but I will put it in your file, and we’ll try do our best to find a Big who wants the same as you. Anything else?”

 

“No,” Eric said as he stood up and stuck his hand out. “Thank you for your help. I’ll do all the things you said.”

 

“Thank you for coming in today,” Cheryl replied as she shook Eric’s hand.

 

As Eric reached the door, Cheryl felt compelled to add, “Eric, we’re going to make sure everything turns out right for you. I’ll make sure. And while all this is going on, please … just try to take care of yourself … for me.”

 

Eric nodded and left. Cheryl liked Eric. She had a soft spot for people who had soft spots, and she knew people like Eric were worth protecting. We need more people like him in this world, Cheryl thought, but he needs something else. She understood why Eric wanted to be with a Big who didn’t want him to grow up: so he’d never have to see the kinds of things he saw everyday here.

 

Returning to her desk, Erica started taking in on her notes for the file:

 

Eric is 29 years old and suffers from depression and anxiety which are well controlled with medication … overwhelmed by work and the suffering he sees in the world … is educated and intelligent … is a sensitive and kind person … appears physically healthy … exhibits signs of PTSD, though he has not been diagnosed, and may benefit from therapy post-adoption … will likely need substantial emotional support ... did not admit to any fetish as a motivator .. may have trouble adapting ... desires to NOT progress from initial stage of life … will likely match best with a female head of household looking to dote on her Little and who has a large support network …

 

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This is an interesting start I haven’t seen yet and I like it. I love the dimension stories for the most part and have not really found any true rules. Other than bigs, littles and in-betweeners. But this looks good so far!

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Great start! I look forward to seeing your future posts!

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If this is you not proofreading at all, then colour me impressed because I saw very few errors (then again I was not looking over hard either). I love the premise, and hope to read more sometime. 

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Impressive start! I love the rulesetting, straight up somethig out of the DD!  Am really looking forward to the next few chapters!

One thing I picked up on was mention of an “Alex”. 

If you do want a proofreader, let me know. 

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very interesting start - love how you are approaching the storyline and explaining your background with dimension stories.

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I really like this. Always happy to see DD that isn't noncon. TBH if I was on that particular earth I'd probably be considering the same option.... Like I really feel for this guy...

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I'm glad folks like it so far.

22 hours ago, YourFNF said:

I really like this. Always happy to see DD that isn't noncon. TBH if I was on that particular earth I'd probably be considering the same option.... Like I really feel for this guy...

I got some shitty news for ya, YourFNF: we do live on that particular earth. That list of horrors was inspired by events I know of or have heard about in the news.. Lucky for us, we get to make the world better. And while we're doing that, we can read stories to mentally escape. Sigh...

______________________________________

Chapter 2

 

 

Three weeks and a half weeks past, long enough for Eric’s life’s to feel normal again. The heady anticipation of the first meeting led to anxious waiting and an ultimate anticlimax. Despite Cheryl’s recommendation, Eric didn’t contact the agency’s therapist, and he didn’t contact or hear from Cheryl. Then came the call three days ago: we should be wrapping up your background investigation soon. Are you still interested with proceeding?

 

 

As Eric waited in Cheryl’s office, he noted how soft it was. He hadn’t noticed much of anything last time, but a comfortable couch, a comfortable chair, padded carpet - how many offices were like this anymore? It was quite a home, and it was still somehow neutral, but it was better than the institutional sterility of where he spent his days.

 

 

“So,” Cheryl said as she came in, “We wrapped up your background, finance, and medical checks. I’m glad to say we found nothing disqualifying. In fact, our auditor was impressed someone with an MSW wasn’t swimming in a lot more debt. Looks like you’ve been pretty straight laced, financially speaking.”

 

 

“I tried to,” Eric answered. “Supposedly I’ll be eligible to have the remaining debt forgiven in two years, but all my coworkers say their federal loan processor found loopholes to say they didn’t qualify.”

 

 

“Well maybe it will be moot soon. And your doctor and therapist both said you’re healthy and your depression and anxiety are under control,” Cheryl said. “You qualify for adoption.”

 

 

She let that sink in, trying to read his reaction. Eric took a moment. He didn’t smile or sigh or show any relief.

 

 

“How does that make you feel?”

 

 

“Uh, good, I guess. I’m, uh … relieved,” Eric mumbled. He forced a smile. This wasn’t the first time Cheryl had seen this reaction, but it was the less common. More often, people were excited, like they’d just been awarded a prize. Not Eric. It was good news, but it wasn’t a prize. It was a burden coming off, leaving the carrier lighter but still tired, not yet recovered from having hefted the load so long and so far.

 

 

And regret was there as well. Not lightly did Eric think about leaving his responsibilities. If he was the kind of person who could so easily cast them away, he wouldn’t also be the kind of person who, instead of becoming inured to the suffering around him, took that suffering into his heart. If he could take it all away from the people he had tried to help over his years, he would.

 

 

No, this wasn’t a prize. This was a penance. He was guilty of having given up, even if no one else thought he had or would blame him for having done it, he was giving up, and he was running away. He knew it would be better for him there, that he might have a chance to be happy again, but at that moment in the office, there was only shame.

 

 

He recognized the mistake he had made. He was too empathetic for the path he chose. If I had chosen something else, he thought … But he hadn’t, and this was the closest thing to undoing it.

 

 

“Do you still want to do this,” Cheryl asked.

 

 

“Y … yes.” Eric didn’t hesitate.

 

 

“Okay. What’s going to happen next is I’m going to give a password to our website where you’ll fill out some paperwork. Once you’re done with it, you’ll set up an appointment with someone from our legal counsel department. You’ll meet that person to review your paperwork, and she’ll go over the adoption agreement in detail. You are our client as much as the Bigs are; we’re bound by law here and in Itali to give you counsel that that is truthful and to represent your interests. If you want another lawyer to look over the agreement with you, that’s okay to.

 

 

“Once that’s done, you will make your decision, and then we’ll move forward from there. You can change your mind right up until the very last minute,” Cheryl explained.

 

 

Without any questions, Eric returned to work and then to home. After dinner, he logged on to the website and began reading. After reviewing the agreement, there was a set of statistical facts about Itali:

  • It has a smaller population than his home state, at just 6,000,000
  • It’s largest city is also its capital, San Sebastian
  • A Mediterranean climate
  • It adopts fewer Littles per capita than most countries in the dimension
  • It has a robust economy that attracts a lot of foreign workers
  • Its position Littles put it at odds with several countries, and Itali was a leading member trying to push through enforceable standards on planetary adoption laws and rights for Littles, without much success

 

 

Finally, Eric reached the preferences document.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Optical scan document. Please cross out the options you do not prefer and place an X in the appropriate box indicating how strongly your feel about this preference

 

 

If you have no preference, cross out all options and place an X under No preference

 

 

 

Certain preferences are abided by automatically; you do not need to indicate a level of preference

Upon arrival, you prefer your arrival age to be a

 

 

Newborn         Infant         Toddler

 

 

This selection will be adhered to by the Agency and the Big as part of the Adoption Agreement

 

NOTE: Your arrival age is the age you wish to be treated as, not the physical or mental developmental age you will arrive with, which is an option below

 

 

Is this preference…

 

Your condition

A deal breaker

Very important

Important

Not important

No preference

I want to remember everything about my life

 

I want to remember only the good things about my life

 

 

 

I want to remember nothing about my life

 

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

(Please select all that apply)

 

I want to look like my arrival age

 

 

I want to look younger than my real age, but not my arrival age

 

I want to look like my real age

 

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Completely mentally regressed to arrival age

 

 

 

Partially mentally regressed to arrival age

 

 

Not mentally regressed at all

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Completely physically regressed to started age

 

 

 

Partially physically regressed to starting age

 

 

Not physically regressed at all

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

I wish to be able to walk

 

I wish to be able to crawl

 

 

 

I wish to arrive unable to walk or crawl

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

I wish to be able to speak like an adult

 

I wish to be able to speak like a school-aged child

 

 

 

I wish to be able to speak like a very young child

 

 

 

I wish to be pre-verbal

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

I want to be treated as…

Male

 

Female

 

 

 

Some other gender (please specify in the space below)

 

[_______________________]

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

I want surgery to match my body to my gender preference

 

 

 

I do not want surgery to match my body to my gender preference

 

 

My body already matches my gender preference

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Your New Family

 

A deal breaker

Very important

Important

Not important

No preference

I want to select my new family

 

 

 

I want to choose from a set of new families, but I don’t want the final decision

 

 

I want my new family to be a surprise

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

I wish to retain my first name

 

I wish my new family to give me a new first name

 

 

I wish to let my new family decide

 

 

 

 

 X

 

 

 

 

I wish to retain my surname

 

I wish to adopt my new family’s surname

 

 

 

I wish to let my new family decide

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two parents

 

 

One parent

 

 

More than two parents

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Select all that apply)

 

I prefer a mommy

 

I prefer a daddy

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

I want siblings

 

 

 

I do not want siblings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want my family to have other Littles

 

 

I do not want my family to have other Littles

 

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

I want my family to have a lot of experience with Littles

 

 

I want my family to have some experience with Littles

 

I want my family to have no experience with Littles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

I want my family to have a permissive parenting style

 

 

I want my family to have an average parenting style

 

I want my family to have a strict parenting style

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want my family to be very physically active

 

I want my family to be somewhat physically active

 

 

 

I want my family to be not very physically active

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

I want a religious family

 

 

 

I do not want a religious family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

X

Environment

 

A deal breaker

Very important

Important

Not important

No preference

I want to live in a city

 

 

I want to live in a suburb

 

I want to live in a rural area

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

 

I want to live where there are many other others Littles

 

 

 

I want to live where there are some other Littles

 

 

 

I want to live where are few other Littles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

X

Medical

 

A deal breaker

 

Very important

 

Important

 

Not important

 

No preference

 

I want medical interventions to correct any problems with the following:

 

Vision

 

Dental

 

Ear/Nose/Throat

 

Allergies

 

Dermatological

 

Major organ or organ system (please specify below)

 

[_________________]

 

 

 

Correct any problem found

 

None of these

 

 

 

Additional notes:

 

I want to keep my vision the way it is

 

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

After your adoption

A deal breaker

Very important

Important

Not important

No preference

I want my parents to…

 

 

 

Treat me like I am growing up at a normal pace

 

 

 

Treat me like I am growing up until the age ____ and then stop

 

 

Not let me grow up

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wish to attend school

 

 

 

I wish to attend nursey school

 

 

 

I do not wish to attend school

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

X

Until your adoption

 

A deal breaker

Very important

Important

Not important

No preference

Should I be approved for and accept being placed for adoption, I:

 

Wish to enter suspended animation until I am adopted

 

 

I wish to continue my present life until I am adopted

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

 

 

Eric hesitated over some of the options. Forgetting everything? Ultimately, that was a step too far. He couldn’t just forget. He may wish to, but they were a part of him, and if he surrendered every other responsibility, he would not surrender his responsibility to as a witness: to remember. What he might do with that responsibility, he didn’t know. Only that he’d feel too guilty having given that up, too.

 

Lose the ability to walk and talk? Become a physical and mental toddler? I’m just looking to give up adult responsibilities, Eric thought, not my body and mind.

Give up his name? His first name he never cared much for, but his last? That was important, wasn't it?

But make him feel and look younger again? Fix his mold allergy and the soreness from where he hurt his hip riding his bike? Sounds great, he thought. He didn’t know that was possible.

At the end of the page, Eric put his electronic signature on below the consent language.

 

·      I understand the Agency and Adopting Big are bound abide by my preferences for physical and mental alterations to my body.

 

·      I understand I may request the Adopting Big to make physical and/or mental alterations to my body at a later date and that the Adopting Big is not bound to comply with the request

 

·      I understand I may request changes to those preferences I have indicated are “deal breakers” and that the Adopting Big is not bound to comply with the request

 

·      I understand that the Adopting Big may recommend make physical and/or mental alterations to my body at a later date, but that I retain the right to say no

 

·      I understand that preferences l have indicated are “deal breakers” will be abided by and that preferences I have not so indicated will be matched to the best of the Agency’s ability

 

·      I understand that the Adopting Big retains leeway to interpret the parameters of my developmental age within the arriving age range I have selected

 

·      I understand the Adopting Big will possess parental rights over my person as defined by the Adoption Treaty between Itali and my country of origin and that the Adopting Big must abide by the Adoption Treaty and laws defining and regulating the Parent-Child relationship within Itali or cede guardianship to the Agency

 

·      I understand I will retain the rights of a minor as defined by the Adoption Treaty and the laws of Itali

 

·      I understand this document is not an agreement between myself and the Agency to be adopted and that additional requirements will need to be satisfied prior to a grant of approval for adoption

 

 

 

Eric Jacobs

 

February 26, 2019

 

 

As soon as he hit enter, up came a list of dates and times available for meeting with he Agency’s attorney. He checked his work calendar and found a time the day after tomorrow. He’d have to take the afternoon off, but he didn’t need to be saving PTO.

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The meeting sounds like fun and the questionnaire was well thought out. I like the agreement actually and that alterations can be made later on. Looking forward to more! You mentioned I. Chapter 1 that it can be renewed after 2 years does the contract change as well or stay the same or is that dependent upon later alterations 

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nice addition, the contract part was well done.  liked that it's format was different.

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I like how well thought out this out of curiousity I filled out the contract myself to see what my responses would be.... @Author_Alex

Optical scan document. Please cross out the options you do not prefer and place an X in the appropriate box indicating how strongly your feel about this preference

 

 

If you have no preference, cross out all options and place an X under No preference

 

 

 

Certain preferences are abided by automatically; you do not need to indicate a level of preference

Upon arrival, you prefer your arrival age to be a

 

 

Newborn         Infant         Toddler    Elementary   Tween   Teen

 

 

This selection will be adhered to by the Agency and the Big as part of the Adoption Agreement

 

NOTE: Your arrival age is the age you wish to be treated as, not the physical or mental developmental age you will arrive with, which is an option below

 

 

Is this preference…

 

Your condition

A deal breaker

Very important

Important

Not important

No preference

I want to remember everything about my life

 

I want to remember only the good things about my life

 

 

 

I want to remember nothing about my life

 

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

(Please select all that apply)

 

I want to look like my arrival age

 

 

I want to look younger than my real age, but not my arrival age

 

I want to look like my real age

 

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Completely mentally regressed to arrival age

 

 

 

Partially mentally regressed to arrival age

 

 

Not mentally regressed at all

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Completely physically regressed to started age

 

 

 

Partially physically regressed to starting age

 

 

Not physically regressed at all

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

I wish to be able to walk

 

I wish to be able to crawl

 

 

 

I wish to arrive unable to walk or crawl

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

I wish to be able to speak like an adult

 

I wish to be able to speak like a school-aged child

 

 

 

I wish to be able to speak like a very young child

 

 

 

I wish to be pre-verbal

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

I want to be treated as…

Male

 

Female

 

 

 

Some other gender (please specify in the space below)

  Agender Presenting as Female

[_______________________]

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

I want surgery to match my body to my gender preference

 

 

 

I do not want surgery to match my body to my gender preference

 

 

My body already matches my gender preference

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Your New Family

 

A deal breaker

Very important

Important

Not important

No preference

I want to select my new family

 

 

 

I want to choose from a set of new families, but I don’t want the final decision

 

 

I want my new family to be a surprise

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

I wish to retain my first name

 

I wish my new family to give me a new first name

 

 

I wish to let my new family decide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wish to retain my surname

 

I wish to adopt my new family’s surname

 

 

 

I wish to let my new family decide

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two parents

 

 

One parent

 

 

More than two parents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Select all that apply)

 

I prefer a mommy

 

I prefer a daddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want siblings

 

 

 

I do not want siblings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want my family to have other Littles

 

 

I do not want my family to have other Littles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want my family to have a lot of experience with Littles

 

 

I want my family to have some experience with Littles

 

I want my family to have no experience with Littles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

I want my family to have a permissive parenting style

 

 

I want my family to have an average parenting style

 

I want my family to have a strict parenting style

 

  X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want my family to be very physically active

 

I want my family to be somewhat physically active

 

 

 

I want my family to be not very physically active

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want a religious family

 

 

 

I do not want a religious family

 

  X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Environment

 

A deal breaker

Very important

Important

Not important

No preference

I want to live in a city

 

 

I want to live in a suburb

 

I want to live in a rural area

 

  X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want to live where there are many other others Littles

 

 

 

I want to live where there are some other Littles

 

 

 

I want to live where are few other Littles

 

 

 

 

  X

 

 

 

 

Medical

 

A deal breaker

 

Very important

 

Important

 

Not important

 

No preference

 

I want medical interventions to correct any problems with the following:

 

Vision

 

Dental

 

Ear/Nose/Throat

 

Allergies

 

Dermatological

 

Major organ or organ system (please specify below)

  IBS

[_________________]

 

 

 

Correct any problem found

 

None of these

 

 

 

Additional notes:

  I would like to be consulted first on any problems found and explore options….

 

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

After your adoption

A deal breaker

Very important

Important

Not important

No preference

I want my parents to…

 

 

 

Treat me like I am growing up at a normal pace

 

 

 

Treat me like I am growing up until the age _16___ and then stop

 

 

Not let me grow up

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wish to attend school

 

 

 

I wish to attend nursey school

 

 

 

I do not wish to attend school

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

X

Until your adoption

 

A deal breaker

Very important

Important

Not important

No preference

Should I be approved for and accept being placed for adoption, I:

 

Wish to enter suspended animation until I am adopted

 

 

I wish to continue my present life until I am adopted

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

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@YourFNF, I wondered if people would do that. It’s a fun exercise.

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2 hours ago, Author_Alex said:

@YourFNF, I wondered if people would do that. It’s a fun exercise.

Currently actually working on a Google Forms thing for this for fun. Was going to do it this morning but I had things to do. Will post it on here when it is done!

 

edit: now complete. Will PM you the thing

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I've not read beyond the intro yet, though thought I'd point out that the original Diaper Dimension story absolutely involved consensual diapering, even diaper parties. It was a place where all diaper stories were true all at once, due to an embarrassing quantum science accident, and stretched far beyond only bigs diapering littles, and also involved shrinking, regression, etc, so this could fit right into that crazy world. ;)

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2 hours ago, HyperShark said:

Currently actually working on a Google Forms thing for this for fun. Was going to do it this morning but I had things to do. Will post it on here when it is done!

 

edit: now complete. Will PM you the thing

If you don’t mind, as the author I’m going to post it in the main forum.

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17 minutes ago, Author_Alex said:

If you don’t mind, as the author I’m going to post it in the main forum.

Sure! I have sent it to you via PM for you to check to see if there are any errors/formatting you would want.

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I got to be honest. When I had this idea, I did not see it moving down so serious a path. I once read fMRI imaging shows that a person's brain lights up before a person consciously decides to do something. Your brain knows before you do that you're going to move your arm. Or type that word. I guess sometimes the story comes the same way sometimes.

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

Chapter 3

 

“So that’s everything. You passed the Adoption Agreement Test, you’ve provided us with all the paperwork we need on your finances, and all you have to do now is decide if you want to go through with this and sign the consent form and the forms turning your property over to us,” the agency attorney said.

 

Cheryl interjected, “You don’t have to decide right now. You can take your time.”

 

“I’ll do that,” Eric said. “Um, I’ll make a decision by Friday.”

 

“You don’t need to put a clock on it if you don’t want to, except if you don’t decide within 60 days we have to start the process over,” Cheryl said.

 

“I understand,” Eric replied. He was suddenly feeling hot and nauseated. Papers in hand, it had gone from being a decision to make later to the biggest decision he would ever make, the decision that precluded all other decisions for at least 10 years. Career, marriage family. Everything on hold for at least a decade, and maybe forever.

 

Eric walked to his car, leaned against it for fifteen seconds, took in a deep breath, and said, “You got stuff to do tonight and tomorrow’s a work day. Get going.” And so he drove off to do his errands and prepare for his tomorrow.

 

______________________________________________________________________________

 

“Eric?” It was Cheryl’s voice on the other end. Eric remember it.

 

“This is he,” Eric answered. He was in his cubicle at work, and he had no intention of making others aware of his plans. Or what might be his plans. He got up and started walking toward an empty conference room.

 

“I hadn’t heard from you in a while. Do you want to meet up, just to talk?”

 

“Uh … sure. I can come to your office on...”

 

Cheryl cut him off. “How about something more casual? Can we just meet for dinner tonight?”

 

“Sure, that’s okay.”

 

“Great. Just text me where you want to go. Say 7 o’clock?”

 

“Uh, yeah, 7 is fine,” Eric replied, not yet in the conference room.

 

“Got a date tonight? Someone old or someone new,” Kima asked as she passed by.

“Uh, new.”

 

______________________________________________________________________________

 

Eric chose a the bar and grill near his house. He had been feeling like staying close to home and enjoying his regular haunts lately, and they had good food. A bit loud for his taste, but not so bad in the restaurant area. He arrived first; Eric always arrived first. He waved to Cheryl as she came in. It looked as though they had both come straight from work.

 

“Nice place,” Cheryl said as she sat down, “Why’d you pick it.”

 

“It’s one of my favorites. Creature of habit, I suppose. Used to be kinda lousy, but they redid the menu and got a better supplier. Best place to get good bar food in the area, anyway,” Eric said. He was feeling talkative. Usually a guarded person, between his usual tiredness and stress and the anxiety of this decision, he didn’t have the energy to filter himself.

 

“You a sports fan,” Cheryl asked, glancing at the thirty screens playing four different games.

 

“Not really; I go to couple a home games every year, but I don’t follow it closely. Actually wish we could ask if they could turn it down.”

 

A 20-something waitress approached with her pen ready. “Do you know what you’d like?”

 

“Um, sure … why don’t you order first …” Cheryl said as she glanced down the menu.

 

“I’ll have the friend chicken sandwich, no tomato, and a side of fries is fine,” Eric said, ordering his usual.

 

“And I’ll have the … Portobello burger, also fries,” Cheryl said in return. “Whatcha drinkin’ there?”

 

Eric stirred his drink with his finger and watched the trails slowly making there way back to the surface of his drink. “Bourbon. Did you want to order a drink?”

 

“Sure. I’ll have a glass of the house red, and water is fine for me, too,” Cheryl answered. The waitress collected the menus and went off to place the order. The pair made small talk while they waited and small talk through dinner: how was your day, did you see that thing on the news, seen any good movies lately.

 

Once the plates were empty and the restaurant a little less crowded, the two nursed their second drinks and came back to the reason they were together.

 

“So, what have you been thinking,” Cheryl asked.

 

“I’ve been wondering why you asked me to dinner, mostly,” Eric replied.

 

“Honestly, I’ve take an interest in you. I want to help you make the right decision for yourself, if you want my help.” Cheryl had moved herself to the corner of the booth and was leaning against the wall, one leg propped on the bench.

 

“And what do you think that is?” Eric wasn’t used to being on the client side of the table, not in a long time anyway. He understood how it could make people feel defensive.

 

“I don’t know.” Cheryl paused. Perhaps it was the second glass of wine, or perhaps she was too tired to be coy, either.

 

“Ya know, we get a few basic types of clients: fetishists. Those are easy to spot; they’ll turn over their property on the spot. People fighting aging at any cost, but you’re too young for that. People trying to hide from debt or a legal problem, which we know you’re not. And … well, you told me you wanted to do this because you couldn’t stay here. You never told me why you wanted to go there.”

 

Eric leaned back into the corner of his bench as well, not looking at Cheryl but not looking away either. His face looked pained.

 

“I guess …” Eric sighed, and dropped his down to his left. He held his breath, quickly inhaled, and starting talking again, a little louder than he should’ve, a mannerism his therapist had picked up on.

 

“I guess if I’m honest with myself I think it’s a good place to run away.” A hint of contempt came out with it. Cheryl caught it, and remembered the adage ‘anger turned inward is depression.’

 

“There are a lot of places you could run away to here,” Cheryl replied. “Why not move? Why not leave the country?”

 

Eric didn’t answer right away. He had briefly considered that, but it didn’t interest him.

 

“Because wherever you go, there you are,” he finally answered.”

 

“I’m not sure what that means.”

 

“It means that … anywhere here I go, I’m the guy who ran away. The guy who couldn’t deal. I can go anywhere on this planet and be someone else to everyone but myself. Run, but can’t hide”

 

“So how is there different? I don’t understand,” Cheryl replied. “Aren’t you also ‘you’ there?”

 

“Maybe. I guess there is the closest a person can come to starting over. Still be me, but get a little closer.”

 

“On your preferences form you didn’t want to be regressed or lose any of your memories. Wouldn’t that be starting over? Why not pick those?”

 

Eric downed his drink, even though he’d been sipping at it all night. Again he looked down, exhaled, but this time he threw his head back up, eyes to the ceiling and watering.

 

“I grew up in the system. That’s why I decided to become a social worker. It was just … a few people helped me, whether they care or not they helped me. Do you know the percentage of people who grow up the foster care system that go to college?

 

I could’ve ended up like everyone else I knew. Some of ‘em, the world forgot about most of them almost as soon as they existed. Like my kids …

 

I’m running away, but … but I’m not forgetting them.”

 

Cheryl wasn’t sure if Eric was a narcissist or just had a martyr complex.

 

“Eric,” she said softly, “I don’t think any reasonable person would blame you for walking away from the job. You’ve done more than most people ever will. In your life, have you ever put yourself first?”

 

Eric sat up a little straighter and looked at Cheryl, visibly uncomfortable with the question.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Has anyone ever taken care of you? Have you ever put off someone else’s needs to take care of yourself? I … please don’t think I’m mean, but do you really think you need to feel this much guilt for deciding you don’t have it in you to save the everyone who needs saving?”

 

“Well, I feel it anyway,” Eric answered back, the back of his head returning to the back of the booth.

 

Cheryl straightened herself up and leaned across the table, taking Eric’s hand.

 

“I’ve never met someone who deserved a fresh start more than you. Think of it as a reset button. Think of it as a chance to get perspective.”

 

“So you’re saying you think I should do it?”

 

“I’m saying,” Cheryl said softly, “That if that’s your only reason for hesitating, then for once in your life do what you think is best for yourself first.”

 

Eric held his breath to hold back the sob Taking his handkerchief from his pocket, he wiped the tears off his face and sat upright to turn away from the rest of the patrons. Cheryl squeezed his hand and pushed his water glass toward him.

 

Setting it down after a swallow, Eric changed the subject. “What’s it really like there?”

 

“Its … it’s … there’s a lot of ways to answer that.”

 

“Well, what are the people like?”

 

“In Itali, like us in most ways. Bigger, obviously. They’re smarter than we are. If we’re the smartest animal here, we’re the second smartest there. They live longer than we do, but Littles live longer than they there than they would here, too. No one is sure why. Partly because they have better technology and medicine, but something also to do with time being different there.”

 

“If they’re so smart, how can people there treat us the way you read about?”

 

“Bigs in general? Look who I’m talking to. You know better than me what people are capable of. In some countries there, we’re chattel – if someone wants you, they can take you. In others, we’re not even chattel; chattel is too valuable to be disposable.

 

Itali, though, is a lot like here. If you went over there as a regular person, you’d stand out. There’s not even 500 of us living there independently. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they know we’re not as smart as them, but there’s this … gentle condescension, if that makes any sense.

 

If you go over as an adoptee, you have the rights of a minor, and they’ll treat you like one. It’s like … they’re not pretending.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“They see us as children. We’ll never be as big or as smart as them. By their standards, we’ll never grow all the way up. It’s not a game where they pretend you’re not fully capable of functioning in their world; they actually see you as not fully capable. Not in the way they think of it.

 

If they’re pretending, they’re pretending independent Littles can function just like Bigs can.”

 

“Sounds like colonialism,” Eric quipped.

 

“Yeah, but in this case the people who go consent to it.”

 

“Do you think they’re right?”

 

“In their world? Maybe. I don’t think it matters, though. People who adopt themselves out aren’t doing it because they want to be just like Bigs. Or if some do, they’re mistaken. That’s why we had you take a test on the adoption agreement. Informed consent.”

 

“Why do they want us? What’s in it for them,” Eric asked. “It sounds like we’d just be a burden to them.”

 

“Ever taken on a responsibility because it makes you feel good? Why get a puppy when it’s so much work? Why adopt a child when you can have your own? Why have your own when you can have none?

 

And there is something else that no one really understands. They’re parental instincts are … intense around us.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I don’t think even they know. Every single thought and emotion you or I or they have ever had is just an electro-chemical interaction in the brain, right? I guess we just trip their wires,” Cheryl said as she sipped the last of her wine. “And because they don’t see us as ever growing all the way up, that never goes away. Even if you want to age out at 10 years and stay there, you’d always be their kid in your Big’s eyes.”

 

“I never got that,” Eric whispered.

 

“Sorry?”

 

“I said, ‘what do I tell people here?’”

 

“Who do you have to tell?”

 

“Um … coworkers, I guess. I never did make friends in this city.”

 

“Tell them you’re moving and put in your notice. Why?”

 

“Because … because I feel like there’s something wrong about this. It feels like … like giving up,” Eric shrugged.

 

“On your kids?”

 

“No, I mean, giving up on adulting. Admitting you can’t handle it. Giving up … giving up your own … personal sovereignty.”

 

“Eric, you can handle anything you want to, and I say that having met a lot of people who couldn’t. As for the rest, you still have personal sovereignty. Maybe not all of it. But it’s your choice. And in ten years, it will be your choice to take it back.”

 

“Do people come back?”

 

“Some. It’s a hard transition back, much harder than going there. If you thought stepping into adulthood was hard the first time… But people do, and they manage.”

 

Eric leaned back again and turned his eyes up. Cheryl recognized he was contemplating.

 

“You think I should do it,” he asked quietly?

 

“I think only you can answer that. I can’t validate that decision for you,” Cheryl said. In fact, she wasn’t allowed to say yes. She was allowed to say no, and she often did, but the agency rules didn’t permit saying yes.

 

“I’m scared. I thought I was past the point of being scared for myself.”

 

Cheryl stepped out of her side of the booth and sat down next to Eric, putting a hand on his kneed.

 

“Eric, I won’t let anything happen to you.”

 

“Will you come visit me?”

 

“I’d really like that.”

 

_­­­­­­­­­­­_____________________________________________________________________________

 

Three weeks later, somewhere else…

 

“What about him?”

 

Eric is a kind and gentle Little who’s had to take care of himself all his life. As an adult, he chose to help other people who grew up like he did. He has made this decision because he has become overwhelmed with the emotional responsibility of his work yet feels unable to simply walk away.

 

Eric has struggled with depression and anxiety, but he is doing well. He exhibits some signs of post-traumatic stress disorder and will likely need therapy to come to terms with his past.

 

Eric has an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and guilt. He will likely have some difficulty adapting to his new role and surrendering his responsibility, but we believe with love he will come to accept and cherish his new life and family.

 

We are looking to place him with a family who understands Eric’s emotional needs and is willing and able to help Eric overcome his history and become the happy person he has inside him.

 

Eric is a generous and sweet little boy. He will return the love he receives many times over.

 

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Do we see a change in his preferences? Lovely addition, great character building. 

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Really cute please continue

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Enjoyed this hoping for more when you can :)

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I like the background and how this has potential to play more into the story.  I feel like Eric was taking care of himself but didn’t see it that way and this conversation may have certainly helped those matters. Perhaps made the decision easier for him to make especially given the context.  I look forward to more. This is great! 

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Wonderful slow burn... I loved the kidnapping scenarios, but I like this approach as well.

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Okay. Well, on the one hand I think this is some of the best language I've ever written, in spots. Some of the rest is lousy, or at least plain. Maybe the plainness helps convey the emotion without taking the reader away from the moment. I'd be interested to hear perspectives on that.

Kind of channeling Faulkner, by accident. Just fell into it. Haven't read Faulkner in 15 years, and didn't understand it when I did.

I'm not an experienced fiction writer. It's funny how themes and and threads of detail emerge without you meaning to. Makes the entire sport of literary criticism seem a little daft - when a writer may not know what he meant or intended, how can readers interpret the meaning except for themselves alone?

And on the other hand this was an emotionally trying chapter. I feel like the story could easily end here and be considered complete, but instead let's call this the end of Act 1.

I only have a rough idea for what happens next, so it may be a few days or more before I post something new. Plus I gotta save some creative juices for the writing that pays the bills (or that I hope will).

 

___________________________________________________________

 

Chapter 4

 

 

“Excuse me,” Eric said as he stood up from the table. “I have to take this.” Hands shaking, Eric stepped outside his office. Taking a deep breath, he missed the talk button and needed a second try.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Hi Eric,” Cheryl said. “How’s your day going?”

 

Eric looked over his shoulder through the glass door of his office. It was a good case as far cases went. A new mother with no job and not sufficiently educated about how to raise a child. Problems he might be able to fix, and with luck they could stay fixed.

 

“Pretty good. Yours,” Eric asked.

 

“Fine. I think your day might get better. We have a match.”

 

Having signed the paperwork three weeks ago, Cheryl’s thrice a week calls were just check-ins. The initial excitement had faded to the background. A jolt went through Eric; his stomach tightened, his heat beat faster, his vision sharpened, his skin felt sensitive. Everything seemed instantly distant, and then instantly present again. Fight or flight response.

 

“Eric? Did I lose you,” Cheryl asked in the silence.

 

“What? Uh, no, I’m here. What do I do? I’m in the middle of something.”

 

“It’s already 4:30, and I know you’d be a wreck waiting until tomorrow. Why don’t we go to dinner again? Same place, that’s convenient for you, right?”

 

“Sure. Uh, thanks for … thanks. See you at 7 again,” Eric said. He hung up his phone and let his hand fall to his side. What now? Nothing is really decided until the last moment, a precaution but one that was provoking yet more stress. How many times have I made this decision, Eric wondered.

 

Sliding his phone back into this pocket, he stepped back into his office. “Sorry about that. As I was saying … “

 

_­­­­­­­­­­­_____________________________________________________________________________

 

Eric got to the restaurant even earlier. He’d already had a drink at the bar before getting a table, and a Xanax before leaving home, yet he was still anxious. Of every decision he’d made in his life, so many hadn’t really been decisions at all. And none of the real decisions amounted to this. I could be gone from here tomorrow, he thought. The wonder of it, the hope of it, was balanced by the terror of it.

 

He’d left where he was from, and then he left where he had gone to, but he hadn’t left Earth. The sky is blue, grass is green, people don’t get much taller than 6 feet, puppies smell beautiful and awful at the same time, crickets sing in the mild evenings and the hot, you can smell water when you’re thirsty enough. Everything he knew firsthand, and everything he didn’t, it was all more familiar to him than the other dimension. It was home. Eric had focused so much on the reasons to leave. What about the reasons to stay? Eric hadn’t thought to feel homesick.

 

Cheryl look great when she walked. Either she’d stopped at home or else wore a dress to the office instead of the jeans Eric had always seen her in. Eric smiled, an odd smile, as if only to say ‘I’m glad you’re here.’

 

“You’re looking lovely tonight,” Eric said.

 

“Sometimes you just feel like it, right?” Cheryl answered. “How’d the rest of your day go?”

 

“Short. I finished up with the case I was working on and went home.”

 

“Hard to concentrate?”

 

Eric let out a guffaw, stifled it, and continued to laugh. A little more light in eyes than most days.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said, “It’s just that … an understatement. Everything, the last few weeks, month really. Being on edge is like a second job these days.”

 

A waitress appeared and took their order.

 

“Do they have chicken sandwiches there,” Eric mused?

 

“Uh, yes. They have most of the same things we have,” Cheryl answered. Clients at this point often started asking these questions. It reminded her of her days as a hospice worker, the questions people would ask, knowing well there weren’t answers. She learned which patients wanted an answer and which just wanted to talk. To those who wanted an answer, she learned to lie. To say whatever made it easier for the person to be calm, and not afraid. So many of the questions were the same that she became more and practiced at the lies. He’s waiting for you there; he wouldn’t want you to be scared. Everything will be better soon; just close your eyes.

 

She even pretended to be other people, when her patients started to hallucinate toward the end. She had been many daughters, many granddaughters, many wives. She had been a guardian angel twice. She had been the child someone lost.

 

And sometimes when the patient stopped breathing she was the only one there, and then she lied to the crying family sometimes.

 

Some lies she could tell easily. Others, she could only hold the lie long enough to get somewhere quiet so she could lose it without alarming anyone. Every time she lied to a child, she had to leave the room.

 

So Cheryl knew Eric was thinking in the same vein: a departure into the unknown. But it wasn’t entirely unknown. She couldn’t lie to him, and she didn’t need to.

 

“They know how to satisfy our appetites. Some things we both like, and some things they make just for us,” she said softly. “What are you thinking right now?”

 

“That I may not like it there.”

 

“It takes a brave person to take risks,” Cheryl responded. “I’ve been there. I liked it.”

 

“I mean … what’s it really like?”

 

“Physically, their planet is pretty much like ours. Water is wet, the sky is blue, the leaves change colors in the fall.

 

It’s a little smaller than Earth, so you’ll weigh a little less, which feels great.

 

Their day is longer; you’ll be very tired when you first get there. You’ll catch up eventually, but never quite all the way, just because we’re different animals and need more sleep than they do.

 

I think I told you already, they live longer than we do, and so do we in their dimension. You’ll age more slowly.

 

The Bigs are about three times our size, on average. Otherwise, on the outside they look just like us. All the buildings and furniture and all of that is bigger, obviously.

 

Not every animal is bigger there. They even have most of the same ones we have. They import dogs and cats just as pets for Littles.

 

Their cars don’t fly. They don’t have robot maids. It’s not the Jetsons.”

 

“If you like it, how come you didn’t stay,” Eric asked before realizing it was a stupid question. “Sorry … I guess I’m just trying to wrap my head around it.”

 

“That’s okay. It is a scary change. You wouldn’t be very smart if you weren’t scared.” Cheryl sipped her wine. “What else do you want to know?”

 

“Is it safe, for us? I mean … you know what I mean.”

 

“If you mean because we’re so small compared to them, yes, it’s safe. They’re very gentle with us. Itali people take better care of us than most of us take care of ourselves. If you mean because of the black market for us, Itali takes a lot of steps to keep us safe.”

 

“Like what?”

 

“Well, to start with, three escort craft will accompany your craft from our side of the portal all the way to Itali. You’ll receive a microchip, like they put in pets, so you can always be found. They’ll record your finger prints, foot prints, teeth, and DNA.

 

Itali doesn’t allow travelers from the worst countries. Penalties for kidnapping or smuggling Littles are harsher than the penalty for kidnapping Big children. Itali hasn’t lost a Little in fifteen years. Frankly, it will be safer for you to wander around there than it is for me to take a walk alone at night,” Cheryl quipped.

 

“What will I do all day?”

 

“That I can’t answer. Depends a lot on your Big. They might put you in school, or not. They might just let you play all day. Remember being 2? What did you do all day?”

 

Eric smiled a bit, thinking back on his past. He didn’t remember a whole lot, but he remembered he was happy when he was that young.

 

“There’s a smile,” Cheryl said. “Do you want to know about your new family?”

 

“Uh … I’m not sure.”

 

“You can still look and decide if you want them.”

 

“I know if I look too much I’ll over-analyze it. How’d did we get matched,” Eric replied. Now he was nervous again.

 

“Let me show you. I won’t show you everything,” Cheryl said as she slid into Eric’s side of the booth and took out a folder.

 

“The computer matched up your preferences with the preferences of people looking to adopt. I interviewed some of the best matches to decide if they were a good fit for you.”

 

Cheryl had the folder open on the table to his preference sheet, except it was transformed into a matrix, and he could see where he matched with his new family. It was almost close.

 

“Can you tell me a little about them? Just a little?” Eric asked. Part of him wanted to dig as deep as he could, and the other part of him was thinking it must be just like this for all the kids he ever sat down to tell he had found a foster family. Someone wanted to know; some were so numb to the process they took in stride, knowing they couldn’t change it anyway.

 

“Let’s just say that I gave them the third degree, and they passed,” Cheryl chuckled.

 

“Why’d you do that,” Eric asked.

 

“Like I said, I care about you,” Cheryl said as she took Eric’s hand in her own. “I want everything to be perfect for you.” Eric blushed.

 

“So what makes this family so perfect for me?”

 

“A lot of reasons. They’re smart, empathetic. They’ll be able to spend a lot of time with you. And when I showed your picture, the look in their eye. You know when you know.”

 

Eric sniffled, and Cheryl saw the tear on his cheek and wiped it away softly with her thumb. “I trust you,” he said, audible just to her. He didn’t mean to whisper. “Why did you do all this for me?”

 

“Because … because I’ve never met someone like you, someone who has so much good in him.”

 

“I’ve had … some … no one has ever done anything like this for me. Or made me feel … I don’t know if I deserve it.”

 

She opened her arms, and Eric let himself rest against her with his head on her shoulder. Eric couldn’t remember the last time someone patted his back, or shushed him, or just held him.

 

In a hush only he could hear, Cheryl whispered back, “You’re such a sweet boy. I wish I could keep you.”

 

Eric sat up so he could look in Cheryl’s eye. “Do you want to, just for tonight,” he asked.

 

“Just for tonight, take me to your place.”

 

It was the only night, but Cheryl and Eric spent other times together, more days than not, as intimate as lovers, as chaste as dear friends.

_­­­­­­­­­­­_____________________________________________________________________________

 

Five more weeks passed, Eric’s choice to linger a bit longer in our world.

 

Eric had put in his notice and finished the last of his business. Each case file he handed off hurt, but not as much as Eric expected. Not that it was easy, either. Each file was a person, and a person had stories, and he wanted to know how they ended. He knew what the latest chapter said: one more person walked out.

 

To keep his mind off things, when he wasn’t with Cheryl, Eric drove a lot. Something he knew he wouldn’t do again for a very long time, if ever. Eric was never a car person, but now it felt fun again. The speed, the way he could make his car hug the line around a curve. Mostly he liked driving out of the city and past the suburbs, early in the morning when the sky turned pink and the mist along the rivers hung in the trees until the sun burned it all away; in the evenings, when that same sun sunk low until every cloud in the sky was on fire. He’d take his sunglasses off when the sun, our sun, finally dipped below the western horizon and feel the coolness of the dusk on his face.

 

Sometimes after dark he pulled off the highway onto roads going nowhere, past farms long shuttered and small homes with just a light or two in the window shining out on small lawns and gravel driveways. He’d roll the windows down and turn his lights off and pull off onto the shoulder, listening to the forest and its cicadas singing in perfect unison and wondering how something so perfect came to be while the breeze brushed softly past him carrying the smell of earth and the fading day-warmth and the damp green of the moss on the trees.

 

He’d turn around to head for his own bed and stop every time his light illuminated the perfectly round eyes of deer hidden behind the brush, watching him back until they decided he was harmless or else grew impatient and continued on their way across the road or down the road or back into the woods. He’d count the pairs of glowing yellow circles, some standing higher than others and all moving slowly and not afraid for he meant them no harm and they knew it.

 

Once he drove all night down the highway, stopping once to fill his tank under the harsh florescent lights that lit up the clouds and could be seen miles distant as he sped toward them, and once there felt the stretch in his legs as he stepped out of the car and the cool of the night summer air, the real night summer air, he had always slept through and then sat against his hood with the heat near-burning the backs of his bare legs and watched the nocturnal parade of patrons and wondered what they were doing out here and at this hour. He felt the too-cold blast of conditioned air when he stepped into the store and greeted the night clerk with a nod who only half looked up from her magazine and he wondered what life was like for a person who spent their waking hours out here with these other strangers who came and went through those harsh lights and faded back into the distance as two anonymous red circles speeding away.

 

He joined those lights and fled west down smooth tarmac with the truckers and the travelers until that pink glow illuminated the haze in his rear-view and he coasted up the next ramp and turned left on the bridge and paused halfway and looked east into the morning and west into the night and he was halfway between and he turned around into the west and dared the sun to catch him this time and laughed when he lost a half hour and fifty miles later in a town he had never heard of in a state he had never visited but he knew, just as he knew the sun would win, he could walk into any diner on the nearest main street or highway exit and be another soul welcome at the table among strangers who’d be friends by the time he’d swept the last of the yolk from his plate with the last of his daily bread because this, all this, this whole earth was his home and their home together.

 

And he spent his days at parks and malls and swimming pools and museums and watched kids on their summer vacations and wondered what it was like and would he cherish it this time or slowly forget that great gift of youth until he was like they were and like he once had been, oblivious to it and knowing only faintly that it would end and never being quite able to imagine it. And would that be so bad, forgetting that dismal truth?

 

_­­­­­­­­­­­_____________________________________________________________________________

 

It was the day. Eric hadn’t slept the night before. Nothing was packed. Nothing was cleaned. His apartment, that spare space he called his own looked like his own on any other day, and that’s how he wanted to leave it.

 

Eric showered and hung his towel to dry and dressed as he would on any other summer day when he wasn’t going to work, and then he paced until he willed himself to sit and paced when he couldn’t sit anymore. And finally the knock came at his door. Cheryl was there to take him.

 

That hollow feeling in his stomach rose, and his hand shook as he opened the door.

 

“Big day. You ready,” Cheryl asked. Eric glanced over his shoulder and instinctively felt for his phone and keys and wallet.

 

“Yeah. I guess,” Eric sighed.

 

“You’re not taking anything?”

 

“No. At first I thought … but I don’t have anything I want to take with me. It’ll be here if I decide to come back, right?”

 

“Yes, everything will be here. And if you change your mind and want anything, you can write to me, and I’ll see you get it.”

 

Eric stood a moment and didn’t move.

 

“We’re not on a schedule,” Cheryl reminded him. “We can wait a bit if you need to.”

 

“I was just thinking … I don’t know what I was just thinking. I’m ready,” Eric said. His voice didn’t shake, and his hand didn’t tremble. Cheryl stepped aside so Eric could step out. He locked his door and turned to find Cheryl with her hand out. Glancing at his keys but without hesitation, he placed them in her hand and followed her to her car without a word.

 

“It’s a nice day out,” he remarked as he waited for the lock to open.

 

Once on the road, Cheryl asked him again, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

 

“Yes, I’m sure.”

 

“I’m going to ask you two more times today, remember?”

 

“I do.”

 

“You know you can change your mind right up until the last moment.”

 

“I know.”

 

 

Eric looked at the window at the passing life around him heading in every direction like today was not their last day on earth, that they had a tomorrow not so different from today and lived according to that logic.

 

He looked at Cheryl as she silently drove and remembered their night together.

 

When they arrived at the agency, they didn’t go to Cheryl’s office but to another part of the building he hadn’t been to before. It looked and smelled like a hospital, and Cheryl led Eric to a room that looked like a visitor’s suite consciously designed to feel not institutional, but it never could feel that way; too clean, too put together, and in a hospital. Eric spent time in these kinds of rooms, usually comforting someone having one of the worst days of their life.

 

Cheryl took a seat on the couch and motioned for Eric to do the same.

 

“Do you want anything to eat or drink,” Cheryl asked.

 

Eric was about to say no when he realized how dry and gummy his mouth felt. “Some water would be good.”

 

Cheryl reached around to a mini-fridge under the arm of the sofa and handed him a bottle. Eric studied the brand name and logo for a second and said, “Thanks.”

 

“I’m going to go over what’s going to happen one last time, okay,” Cheryl said, pausing to make sure Eric was hearing her often times clients couldn’t keep their attention focused, but Eric was listening even though he was looking at her.

 

“I’m to be with you the entire time today. In a little bit, when you’re ready, we’re going to go to the prep area, and you’re going to change into a gown. A nurse anesthetist will come put in an IV in and give you something to help you relax. When you're ready, we’ll wheel you into the staging area where we’ll give you something to help you sleep through the entire trip. Only after you’re asleep, that’s when I’ll leave you,” Cheryl said with voice cracking. That was a first, and she hoped Eric wouldn’t notice. She didn’t want him to be afraid.

 

“Do you understand all that,” she asked.

 

“Yes.”

 

“On you preferences form, you indicated you wanted to look and feel younger, and you wanted to have any medical problems the doctors find fixed. All that will happen when you get there. Do you want to make any changes to your preferences right now?”

 

“Uh, yeah. I changed my mind about my vision. If they can correct that, I’d like that.”

 

“Okay, I’ll make that change,” Cheryl said as she took out a folder of forms and made the change. “I need you to initial the change.” Eric did.

 

“Anything else,” Cheryl asked before taking back the form.

 

Eric looked it over. He didn’t want to change his body or memory or mind. Looking and feeling younger was one thing, but deliberately taking backwards steps developmentally, that was too much.

 

“I can change my mind on some of this later, right,” Eric asked.

 

“Yes, you can change your mind, and your Big can decide if they want to follow through on your wishes or not. You’re sure you don’t want to change anything now,” Cheryl asked with a serious look on her face, the kind used on kids when you’re telling them this is important so choose carefully.

 

“I’m sure.”

 

“Okay,” Cheryl said as she took the form back. “When you arrive, you’ll spend a week in quarantine, and then they’ll examine your body. Their medicine is much more advanced than ours. They can’t find or fix everything, but they’ll find and fix most things, especially for someone your age. Anything they find, they’ll fix if they can. Understand?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Okay. Once they feel you’re safe to leave the hospital, you’ll be sent home with your new family. From the time you go to sleep here and until you get to your new home, you’re going to be asleep, and you’ll be in the custody of the agency right up until your new family comes and gets you from the hospital. Understand?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Okay. Depending on the procedures the doctors do, you will need to heal for some time, and it could be a while before you’re fully recovered. It won’t take as long as it would if you had the same procedures here, but it could be several weeks. You may be groggy for several days after you wake up. You may be in some pain, but they’ll send you home with things to treat that. You may be frightened, and they’ll also send you home with some things for that. Understand?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Any questions at all?”

 

“No.”

 

 

Cheryl asked him again, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

 

“Yes, I’m sure.”

 

“I’m going to ask you one more time today, remember?”

 

“I do.”

 

“You know you can change your mind right up until the last moment.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Can you initial here and here, acknowledging I asked if you wanted to move forward twice today and reminded you you could change your mind up until the last moment,” Cheryl asked, handing him another form.

 

Eric initialed where she pointed and noted there was one more space for his initials, and one for his signature at the bottom of the page.

 

“Okay,” Cheryl said.

 

“Okay?”

 

“Yeah, that’s all of it. We can go when you’re ready.”

 

Eric sat still for a moment and then swiftly stood up but didn’t move.

 

“Ya know, it would be easier if this were on a schedule,” he said. “Is there anything else to get done?”

 

“No. You can watch TV, or take a walk, or we can just talk. We have a chaplain, if you want to see him,” Cheryl said.

 

Eric said nothing for a moment, looking into the middle distance. “I went to Mass this week,” Eric said. “I hadn’t been in a long time.”

 

“What made you go,” Cheryl asked casually, like they were back in their booth at their restaurant.

 

“Are you religious,” Eric asked. Cheryl shook her head.

 

“I’m not either, really. Sometimes I go through the motions. But … I guess that’s more me wanting to believe saying a quick prayer for someone makes a difference. Like it’s something I can do to take some control of a situation I have no control over. The foster parent I was with the longest, Ms. Vilalba, she took us to Mass every Sunday.

 

I’d just sit there bored. When you’re a little kid, you can’t even see what’s going happening on the altar. But every once in a while, I’d look around and think there was something about the place that was special. The stained glass. Everybody dressed up. The … solemnity of it. I was part of something. I didn’t know what, but I was there, with the same people, doing the same thing, every Sunday.

 

And later on, after I was out on my own, I was with all these people who had normal lives growing up, and I had no idea how to talk to them, or make friends with them. And when I’d get invited someplace, I was afraid to go. Sometimes I’d go to the chapel on campus and just sit there, look at the glass. It felt familiar, and that was comforting.

 

So I went to Mass last week, and I took communion. It made me cry a little. Just ... just taking part in that ritual.” Eric smiled and shook his head at the memory of it.

 

“It’s a beautiful ritual. The priest in his vestments. The incense. The songs. That light through that glass. Breaking bread together. I’m sorry I didn’t keep up with it. I think I missed out on being part of a community.”

 

Eric was standing by the window now, looking out the glass at the sun coming through the leaves and casting shadows light and dark sweeping over the green of the grass.

 

“Cheryl,” Eric said, “I’m ready.” No tears this time.

 

Cheryl hid her own tears this time and said weakly, “Okay.”

 

Cheryl organized her papers, wiped her eyes, and straightened herself up. With her best smile, she reached out her hand and said, “Let’s go.”

 

Eric took her hand and they walked out into the hall and down the corridor. Through the door, they were in what looked like the prep ward of a surgical floor. Cheryl led him to a room.

 

“Your gown is on the bed. You can step behind the curtain and put it on. You can leave your clothes on the chair.”

 

Eric picked up the gown and set it down again. “I’m going to use the restroom first.” Cheryl pointed to the door.

 

Cheryl had been doing this eight years, and in that time, she had helped maybe 300 clients through this process. It was an emotional moment, after all. She was helping people take what may be their last steps off the earth, about as close to literally helping them be born again into a new and, for them, better place as one could get. It was like the hospice and its precise opposite at the same time.

 

She usually got emotional on send-off days, but not like this. She got emotional all those other times because she was happy for the person, because they were almost always happy, and even when they weren’t, Cheryl was because she knew it was for the best. If she didn’t believe that, she wouldn’t have accepted their application.

 

This time, she was sad because she was going to miss Eric. For all the troubles he had growing up, he had turned into a good person, and for every flaw he had, he redeemed himself twice over in his works and humility and gentility. How different his life might have been, she thought, if he had made just a few different choices. She reminded herself he was getting to start over, and for him, for someone who grew up without a family, this would be the chance to have what he had never had before; he’d have opportunities he didn’t have before, and maybe this time he’d make different choices.

 

Eric stepped back out of the restroom with a slight blush on his cheeks and ducked behind the curtain.

 

“Do you need any help,” Cheryl asked. She wanted him to say yes.

 

“No, I think I got it,” Eric answered. With steady hands he fastened the gown behind his back, and then with one hand held the back closed and with the other drew the curtain back.

 

Cheryl was forcing a smile as best she could, but try as she might she couldn't get the corners of her mouth to turn upward. Eric recognized that kind smile. He’d seen it on the faces of children trying very hard to be brave. He thought he’d be the one to struggle with this, but his heart felt calm. It ached, but it was calm.

 

“Cheryl,” he said gently, “I have something for you. It’s just a letter, for you to open when I’m gone.” She accepted the envelope from his hand and place it in her back pocket, not meeting his eyes.

 

“Thank you. I have a something for you too. It’s a present. You can open up it when you wake up there,” she said, pointing to a gift-wrapped box on the chassis of the hospital bed.

 

“Thank you.”

 

They stood looking at each other until Cheryl turned toward the door and hit a button above the light switch.

 

“That tells them we’re ready for the nurse anesthetist,” she explained. Why don’t you sit down on the bed?”

 

Eric gently climbed onto the bed doing his best to keep his gown closed behind him and his modesty intact. When he was situated, he took a deep breath, and asked what he had feared asking.

 

“Cheryl … do you forgive me for leaving you?”

 

“Oh, baby, there’s nothing to forgive.” With bright eyes, she looked down on him; he seemed small in the hospital bed. “Do you believe me?”

 

“I do,” Eric said, shutting his eyes, “Of course I do.” Cheryl had always been honest with him, and besides, Eric needed to believe it. He couldn’t cope with leaving if he didn’t.

 

Eric cast his eyes on the chair next to the bed, and Cheryl sat down. He laid his arm flat, palm up, and Cheryl took his hand in her own. His fingers closed around hers, and his thumb made circles over the soft flat of her hand. He smiled, and she stared ahead to keep her emotions in check, but she couldn't hide the water in her eyes.

 

After a few minutes, the anesthetist came in. She was used to seeing agents and clients holding hands, but usually they were both smiling, or else it was the client with the watery eyes.

 

“Eric,” she asked.

 

“Yes, that’s me.”

 

“I’m Tish. Has Cheryl explained everything that’s going to happen?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Do you have any questions for me before we get started?”

 

“No.”

 

“Okay, can you please read this chart and verify all the information is accurate,” she asked, handing him a clipboard. He scanned it over: name, birth date, what was now his last address, his preferences sheet.

 

“That’s all correct,” he responded.

 

“Okay, just give me a second,” Tish said as she logged into a computer and printed off two wrist bands and three vial labels.

 

“These bands have all your information on them. This one goes around your wrist,” she said as she fastened it, “and this one around your ankle. I’m going to draw some blood first. You do okay with needles, hun?”

 

“The bigger the better,” Eric answered back.

 

“Ha! That’s a first. I’m going to use your left arm.” Tish quickly found a vein and filled three vials on the first try. “Two of those are for vitals. You’ll be hooked up to some monitors the entire trip, and they’ll take a little blood when they need to. The other one is for storing your DNA. As soon as you get there, they’ll draw blood to match your DNA and make sure you are who they think you are, and then they’ll get your prints and dental impressions. They won't do any procedures until they know you're you and check all your records to make sure everything matches”

 

Tish set the vials down and opened a drawer to remove an IV kit. Cheryl looked everywhere but at Eric.

 

Tish looked started to move toward Eric’s right hand, saw it clasped tightly in Cheryl’s, and moved to his left.

 

“Make a fist for me, babe” Tish said. She found the vein, inserted the needle and taped it down. “I’m going to inject a little something in there that’s going to feel warm and you’ll taste something metallic. That’s normal.” Eric felt the warmth quickly spread through his body, and the metal welled up in his throat. Tish finished connecting the IV, hung the bag, taped the tube down, and finally put a pulse ox monitor on Eric’s left middle finger.

 

“Okay, are you ready for the sedative?”

 

Eric nodded his head shallowly.

 

Tish took a syringe from the cabinet. Cheryl, now looking into Eric’s eyes, saw them relax like they had their night together. His grip on her hand loosened ever so much, so she tightened hers.

 

Tish checked the monitor was working and that Eric’s vitals were fine.

 

"I can wheel you down if you’re ready,” Tish offered.

 

Eric and Cheryl looked at each other, and Tish turned away embarrassed. She had never seen that look between an agent and client, but she had seen it in other rooms like this one, other goodbyes. She didn’t see Eric and Cheryl embrace, nor see the long kiss between them. She heard it; then she heard the soft, short intake of breath from a woman swallowing a sob. She heard the clink of a ring on the rail of the bed, and the rail being locked in place. She turned to see Cheryl and Eric, she on her feet, his hand still within hers, and the two smiling.

 

“We’re ready,” Eric said.

 

Moved by the scene, Tish didn’t banter with her patient the way she usually did. She simply raised the other rail, unlocked the wheels, and waited while Cheryl tucked a blanket around Eric’s body, being sure it was snug around his feet. Cheryl stepped through the door, and Eric followed pushed by Tish, and once through the door Eric held his hand aloft to find Cheryl’s.

 

The three of them moved through the ward past the desk nurse, where Tish deposited the three vials in a small fridge, past other rooms with other soon to be Littles and their case workers, most happy, and Eric was happy, and Cheryl was happy for him. She was only sad for herself, and he was sad for her.

 

It was a short walk through the ward, down another corridor, and into an area with six spaces divided by curtains. One had a sleeping woman in it. One a sleeping girl who couldn’t be more than 19. The rest empty and not for long. Tish guided the bed into a space and waited.

 

Cheryl did and said nothing until she felt Tish’s eyes on her.

 

“Oh, sorry,” she fumbled, and then to a passing orderly said, “Excuse me, Jay, just wanted to point out he has a box under his bed that’s going with him. It has his info and barcode on it already.”

 

“Got it, Cheryl. I’ll make sure it goes with him,” he assured her.

 

“Thanks, Jay,” she said, and turned back to Eric.

 

“You have my letter,” Eric asked.

 

“Right here,” Cheryl said, patting the envelope in her pocket.

 

“You comfortable,” Cheryl asked.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“This your first time on a plane?”

 

“Actually, yes.”

 

“First flight and you’re going to be out for it.”

 

“Maybe another one, some day.”

 

“Maybe,” she smiled.

 

Cheryl removed the form from its folder and withdrew her pen. She stared at the paper.

 

“I’ll miss you,” Eric said.

 

“I’ll miss you, too. Eric, I …” Cheryl didn’t know what she had started to say. What hadn’t been said?

 

“Are you ready,” Cheryl asked.

 

“I am. Are you,” Eric joked. It got a chuckle from Cheryl.

 

 Cheryl asked him, “You know this is your last opportunity to change your mind?”

 

“I know”

 

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

 

“Yes, I’m sure.”

 

Cheryl held the form in front of Eric, who took the pen and made his initials and signed his name.

 

Cheryl signed next, and Tish signed as witness. Cheryl closed the folder, dropped the pen back into her pocket, and took up Eric’s hand again. Tish looked from Eric to Cheryl and back again.

 

“Are you both ready,” she asked.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Yes.”

 

Their grips tightened.

 

Tish withdrew a syringe from the pocket of her lab coat, threaded it into the IV port, and as she did thousands of times, said, “Just relax.”

 

Cheryl leaned down and placed her lips on Eric’s forehead.

 

Eric felt the kiss and closed his eyes.

 

Tish pushed the fluid into the IV.

 

“Don’t need to fight it this time,” Eric thought.

 

Cheryl felt his grip loosen, then go slack, then heavy, and lowered his limp arm to the bed. She stepped back, hardly aware she was crying again.

 

Tish secured an oxygen mask around Eric’s nose and mouth, checked the monitors, leaned out from the curtain and called, “Nurse, this patient is under.”

 

Turning back to look at Cheryl, Tish shook her head, put her arm around her, and walked her back down the corridor, and through the ward to where Eric’s clothes were still folded on the chair.

 

Tish closed the door. Cheryl looked at the clothes.

 

“You love him,” Tish said.

 

“I think so. Maybe,” Cheryl answered. Tish look at Cheryl and felt pity, but also disapproval that an experienced case worker would get involved with a client to this degree. But she knew they were human, and she knew if we could always choose what was smart, we would never learn what was wise, or precious.

 

Seeing Cheryl not moving, just staring, Tish moved around her and took a plastic bag from the cabinet next to the clothes, and dropped each article into it. She went through Eric’s wallet, inventoried its contents, and deposited it as well. Finally, she started to power off his phone, and then stopped. Handing it to Cheryl, she said, “Maybe you want to keep that for a while.”

 

She handed Cheryl the bag.

 

“Honey, why don’t you go drop this in your office and take the rest of the day off?” It was said with sympathy.

 

“Yeah, good idea. Tomorrow is another day.”

 

Tish left the room and spotted another ready light.

 

Cheryl took the bag back to her office. Thinking for a moment, she took out Eric’s t-shirt and placed it in her purse. No one will miss it, she mused, and cross out the line-item on the inventory.

 

Cheryl left her office and stuck her head around her boss’s door.

 

“I’m going to take the rest of the day, Ash.” Ash saw the tear streaks across her face and the still-damp cotton of her shirt.

 

“That’s fine. See ya tomorrow,” Ash said. Cheryl turned to go.

 

“Hey, Cheryl,” her boss called after, “Why did you put some much into that case. I'm just asking.”

 

Cheryl’s half-smiled. “Have you ever met someone who was wholly good? I mean, someone who is all good on the inside.”

 

Ash shook her head. “I guess I haven’t.”

 

“When you do find someone like that, you … it’s your responsibility to protect them. That’s as close as you’ll ever come to doing what they do for the world.”

 

_­­­­­­­­­­­_____________________________________________________________________________

 

At home, showered and in her sweatpants, blinds drawn, Cheryl opened Eric’s letter.

 

My Dearest Cheryl,

 

I will likely never repay the kindness you have shown me these past months. I take with me the memories of our time together, and I would not trade the sorrow of parting from you for all those moments. I leave trusting you know the depth of my affection for you.

 

 

 

All my life, I’ve wanted to make a difference in someone else’s life. How do you ever know if you have? Well, by the grace of God, perhaps I have, even if just for one human being, even in the smallest way…

 

 

 

Now that I’m leaving, I can’t say I’m not torn. I had a responsibility to my kids that I consider sacred. It wasn’t always mine, nor was it only mine, but having accepted it, I did my best.

 

 

 

Perhaps you were right, and I take the sins of others onto myself, mistaking them for my own. Perhaps my own sin is vanity, believing I could have done more than is plainly in the power of anyone to do. Perhaps I’ll learn accepting my limitations is not the same as giving up, nor defeat, but is instead coming to appreciate what I can do rather than only what I cannot. Perhaps in time I’ll learn to allow others to shoulder some of my burden. Perhaps in time I’ll even learn to forgive myself for leaving.

 

 

 

I want you to know I leave with a fuller heart for all you have done for me, the courage you gave me, your gentle words that calmed me, the intimacy we shared … I miss you fiercely already, my darling. Would we had met some other time; how different our lives might have turned out?

 

 

 

If you should ever have need to make account of the good you’ve done in the world, tell them you made an unhappy man happy. Tell them you saved me. You made a difference.

 

 

 

And now I ask of you one more thing, which I’ve no right to. I once told you that while I may be leaving my kids behind, I will not - cannot - forget them. But I don’t know what the future holds for me. I only know that we can’t keep all the promises we make.

 

 

 

I have enclosed a list of names. Will you keep it safe for me, and from time to time, take these pages from that place and read the names of these people?

 

 

 

They are ours. When time comes for all of us, may we at least be able to say, we did not forget our own.

 

 

 

With all my love,

 

Eric

 

 

 

PS, you promised to visit!

 

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PS, thanks for the encouraging comments.

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