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Like her father professor Michael Hill, my girlfriend Angela was highly intelligent. He was a prolific inventor, and with a degree in biochemistry she was an invaluable helper when he conducted his research. Not only was he talented in his work on the nature of the workings of the brain, but he had a good head for business, and had been astute enough to offer some of his remarkable findings to various companies on a commercial basis. Consequently, he’d accumulated enough wealth to provide himself with a first class private laboratory in the grounds of his large country house in Sussex , near Horsham. The laboratory was equipped with the very latest technology, and much of his instrumentation had been constructed by him specifically to satisfy his requirements.
Now I’m no dimwit myself, but not being a specialist in his field, I often had difficulty in completely understanding some of his work, no matter how patiently he and Angela tried to explain it to me. It wasn’t made any easier when they also carefully omitted certain crucial details of their work for security reasons, so that I was only given a hazy idea of how it worked. And so began a fantastic experience that I would come to regard with incredulity as well as extreme embarrassment.
I was a pretty successful freelance journalist with a talent for breaking a story first, and had a talent for digging out sensational material and selling it to the highest bidder. On this occasion I’d taken a month’s holiday from work, and was staying with Angela and her father. Keen to see what his latest project was, I asked if I could see around his laboratory. Knowing that I wouldn’t really understand the nature of the work just by looking at the equipment, they agreed to give me the grand tour, and one afternoon, I found myself entering the lab with them.
It was certainly well equipped. Electronic equipment was everywhere, and I realised that a very large sum of money must have been spent on it. In the centre of the room were two medical examination couches a few feet apart, and lying on each one was a mass of wires with sensors on the end. They were all connected to a large metal box with an impressive array of switches and dials. I was both curious and impressed, and lost no time in asking what it was for.
‘Well’ said Michael, ‘It has to do with thought transference. As you know, all the thoughts in our brains can be considered as a series of electro magnetic patterns, and for the last three years I’ve been trying to convert them into a binary code that can be stored in a computer in much the same way as images and sound can be stored. But unlike something as simple as say, a video signal, this is vastly more complex and difficult to store. My system has to store every memory, physical sensation, and even the person’s emotion in the brain. In a word, their complete personality.’
‘But surely that’s not really possible’ I said. ‘I mean, I’ve heard of the idea in principle, but as I understand it, no computer in the world has that much storage space.’ Michael looked at me and smiled. ‘What you say was perfectly true up until six months ago’ he said proudly, ‘But due to a unique system of compressing information that I’ve developed, I’ve finally achieved it. I can not only download every piece of information stored in someone’s brain and store it indefinitely as a file in my computer, but I can also duplicate it perfectly without affecting their own faculties in any way whatsoever.’
I could hardly believe what I was hearing, but there was even more to come. ‘And not only that’ said Angela, ‘By downloading the memory banks of two people, we can switch them over and replace each original memory with the other. In a word, we can swap their minds over. We tried it with a cat and a dog to begin with, and it was strange seeing the cat trying to bark and the dog trying to miaow. But we didn’t leave them like that for more than a few minutes before we returned their minds to their original bodies. Afterwards they were none the worse for the experience. It wasn’t much, but it was our first step.’
‘Later on we progressed to experimenting with one or two human volunteers, and I’m proud to say that to date we’ve achieved full mind exchange for over a month so far before restoring them, and so far have detected no deterioration at all. Three months ago, my brother Alan and his wife Susan agreed (after some persuasion) to undergo a mind swap, and they’ve certainly come to understand each other a lot better after occupying each other’s bodies for a week. And they felt so intrigued after our first attempt that they’ve actually been through it a couple more times. Apparently it’s a novel experience to say the least, and can become quite addictive.’
This was too much for my credulity. I’ve always been a sceptic, and this was more than I was prepared to swallow. ‘You are kidding me aren’t you?’ I retorted, ‘Oh come on Angela, for goodness’ sake, it’s impossible. This is science fiction stuff! Do you really expect me to believe that you can swap over people’s minds?
Surprised by my cynical reaction (I don’t suffer fools gladly), Angela looked at me with a look of disappointment on her face and said ‘Oh dear, I thought that might be the case. Well, what is there about the idea that you find so hard to believe?’ I was nonplussed for a moment. Was she serious? Did she really think it was possible? I tried to think of some fundamental objections to the idea so as not to bring her down to earth too harshly, and gathered my thoughts. Suddenly I realised that my knowledge of the field was so minimal that it would be impossible for me to argue against her claim. I decided to try another tack.
‘Well’ I said, ‘I suppose the only way you could convince me would be by a practical demonstration. Any chance of that?’
‘I don’t know’ she said, ‘But in the meantime, Alan and Sue will be coming over next Tuesday. Perhaps a chat with them might convince you, so wait until you’ve spoken with them. In the meantime, let’s try and give you a better idea of how the idea works. You have no idea how long we’ve spent on the technique of preserving all the mental faculties of one person as a single file in the computer. Even though my father’s work on data compression has been far beyond anyone else, at this stage he can only store the minds of about eight people in our entire memory banks. You have absolutely no idea just how much space that takes up. You could run a country on it.’
‘Now the basic idea is that we can download someone’s mind into the computer, and then, if we wish, replace it in the body with someone else’s mind. That means to the person whose mind has been transferred into that body, they have transferred into another body. Then, the thought patterns stored in the computer can be downloaded into the other body, and so, in practical terms, the two people have swapped bodies. Or, if we wish, we can leave one mind in the computer, and take care of the vacated body as if it were somebody in a coma in hospital. All the bodily functions are taken care of, and as far as the body is concerned, it’s just one long sleep.’
‘We can store the entire thought patterns of any mind in the computer in a form of stasis, and we can even duplicate it and store it indefinitely. We can even adjust it, although we question the ethics of going that far. That means that we don’t have to put the displaced mind into an unpleasant environment. Instead, we can store it indefinitely in the computer, unchanged and unconscious, without any ill effects. The physical body of what we call the ‘vacated’ is kept in a state of unconsciousness, but we look after all the bodily functions that continue much like any unconscious person, and when we restore the original mind to its rightful owner, they simply wake as if from a deep sleep. As a matter of fact, Dad’s now able to insert a series of very pleasant dreams that actually make the subject reluctant to wake up. (He’s working on inserting artificially produced thought like that at the moment). So when they are restored to full consciousness, they literally continue from where they left off so to speak.’
‘The only problem we’ve found so far is helping people to adjust to their old body with the residual experience of being in the host body. We’ve already found that various people handle it very differently, and that’s why we’ve preferred to do it with a small select group of people that all seem to be able to handle it well. Susan and Alan have been excellent, and have done it several times with no ill effects at all. The best thing is that the more often they do it, the more easily they adapt to it. In fact they’re almost becoming casual about it.’
By now I couldn’t think of anything else to say, and although still not yet convinced that the whole idea really was possible, I realised that the others certainly did believe it. Out of good manners I decided not to argue the point any further for the moment, but I had a feeling that Angela, with her usual tenacity, wasn’t going to be satisfied until she’d convinced me, and she knew that it might need a practical demonstration to make that happen.
‘Well anyway’ she continued, ‘I really do want to find a way of proving it to you in due course, but I suspect that you might not like the experience of being proved wrong. You’re too proud. You have many fine qualities my love, but humility isn’t one of them.’ Sensing the way in which she seemed to be heading I said ‘Oh no you don’t. No way. If you think I’m going to let you experiment with my brain, forget it. You must be joking.’ Angela gave me a thoughtful look for a moment, smiled, and then said ‘Of course. It was a silly idea anyway.’ Looking at her watch she said ‘I’ve got to go and make a phone call, so I’ll leave you and Dad to chat for a while.’ She left her father to continue with my laboratory tour, and after dropping the subject of mind transference, we went back into the house for a cup of tea.
Thinking that was the end of the matter, I forgot about what seemed to me to be a harebrained scheme for the next few days. Then on the following Tuesday, Angela reminded me that Alan and Sue were arriving that afternoon, and would be staying overnight, so I would have plenty of opportunity to question them about their supposed mind swap experiences.
That afternoon we were sitting in the garden when we heard the front door bell ring. ‘That’ll be Alan and Sue’ said Angela, getting up from her seat, ‘I’ll go and let them in.’ She went into the house, and I could hear her greeting her brother and his wife. A moment later I stood up as she returned with Alan and Sue. They were a friendly looking couple with a ready smile, but what unexpectedly caught my attention was that Sue was pushing a large rather old-fashioned pram. I didn’t realise they had a baby with them.
I walked across to them, and Angela introduced us as Sue removed the pram cover and lowered the hood to reveal a baby in a pink dress. Obviously it was a girl. ‘And this is Emily’ said Sue proudly, ‘She’s six months old. Isn’t she gorgeous?’ I had to agree that little Emily was the very essence of a sweet little baby girl, and she happily gurgled at us in the warm sunshine.
The introductions over, we sat down in the garden and enjoyed some sandwiches and a cup of tea. I lost no time in asking the couple about their experience in each other’s bodies, and they seemed so well balanced and rational about it that doubt began to creep into my scepticism. Maybe it really was possible to exchange minds, but I was nowhere near convinced. Yet. I think they were disappointed with my doubt as if I almost questioned their intelligence, but were too polite to show it. But the afternoon passed pleasantly enough, and Angela took her little niece out of the pram and cradled her with pride.
Eventually it began to cloud over, and we all went indoors while Angela and Sue prepared dinner. I was looking forward to this opportunity to continue my questioning. As an experienced investigative journalist, I had a talent for getting at the truth.
Dinner was a relaxed affair. Angela is an excellent cook, and the roast lamb was cooked to perfection. Her father was an avid wine collector, and we enjoyed a bottle of excellent Bordeaux . I was careful not to appear too sceptical this time, and let the couple relate their experiences without interruption. They were obviously ken to convince me, and with the support of Angela and her father, they gradually brought me round to realising that they really had achieved what I’d thought was impossible.
‘It was really strange the first time’ said Susan, ‘It wasn’t just our obvious physical difference that was a novelty. Getting dressed resulted in some rather amusing situations, such as Alan trying to put on a bra and fasten it for the first time! But it was also the way in which other people treated us when we went out. We’d go out for a meal, and the waiter would ask me to choose the wine, and I was the one who would be given the bill.’
‘And I suddenly realised how intimidating some men can be to a woman’ added Alan, ‘I’ve certainly learnt to appreciate what women have to put up with sometimes, so I think that the experience has been a tremendous help in understanding each other. Mind you, I’m glad I wasn’t the one that had to have the baby! That was already behind us, thank goodness.’
As the conversation continued, I became more and more convinced that they really had done it, and with my instinctive journalistic mind, began to realise just how much money I could make if I could be the first to release the story to the world. Unfortunately, with the effect of an excellent glass or two of Michael’s brandy, I made the mistake of speaking my mind.
‘Well’ I said, ‘I think you’ve succeeded in convincing me. This is going to cause a sensation when it hits the headlines.’ Angela’s father looked at me with an expression of utter dismay.
‘Oh no!’ he said quickly, ‘Under no circumstances must this get out yet. Perhaps in a year or so, when my work is completed, but to release it prematurely would be a disaster. It could ruin everything! The one thing I don’t need is to be inundated by curious journalists while I’m still perfecting the project. Oh no David, you must promise me that you’ll keep this to yourself until I say you can release the story.’
‘But you just said that it could be another year before that happens’ I said, ‘Surely the world has a right to know. I’m a journalist, you can’t expect me to just sit on it for a year! Look Michael, I appreciate your concern, but if you really have already achieved mind transference, then it isn’t too early to at least let the world know how far you’ve got. This is a sensation!’
‘Yes, and will no doubt make you a great deal of money in selling the story’ he retorted. No David, I forbid you to tell anyone until I say you can.’
By now I was becoming unwisely stubborn. ‘Well how can you stop me?’ I said. ‘I’ve got enough information to put together a very nice little article, and I’ve no doubt there are quite a few editors I know who would absolutely lap it up.’
Suddenly, he looked at me and gave a slight grin. ‘Very well then David’ he said quietly, ‘Just when do you intend to release this article?’
‘As soon as I’ve written it. Probably tomorrow.’
‘I see. So I can’t change your mind?’
‘Afraid not Michael. I’m sorry, but this story is just too sensational to keep to yourself.’
Angela had been looking at me with growing concern on her face, and said ‘Oh David, how could you be so selfish? I wish we’d never told you. At least the secret would still be safe. I hate to think of you betraying a trust.’
‘Don’t worry about it’ smiled her father suddenly, ‘What will be will be. Life can be full of surprises sometimes. Now let’s just drop the subject for now and have some coffee shall we. You sit there and I’ll go and make it.’ He rose from the table and went out into the kitchen. A few moments later, Angela went to help him, while Alan and I continued talking. Susan went upstairs to check on little Emily. She soon came down again, smiled, and said ‘Fast asleep. She really looks like a little angel.’
Angela and Michael returned with the coffee, and accompanied it with another glass of Michael’s excellent cognac. After dinner, we cleared the table, and after the dirty crockery had been put in the dishwasher, we went into the lounge, where we played cards for a couple of hours before retiring to bed. As I undressed I suddenly felt very tired, and put it down to the mental exertions of the day. I’d barely got into bed and switched off the light before I was instantly asleep.
Morning. I woke up with a start to the sound of voices, opened my eyes, and had the shock of my life. I wasn’t in bed in my room. I was lying on one of the examination couches in the laboratory, and as I immediately tried to sit up I found I couldn’t. I was securely strapped down to the couch and couldn’t move. Thick leather straps held me down by the wrists, ankles, waist and chest. All I could do was raise my head a little off the small pillow it was resting on. As I opened my eyes I saw Angela smiling down at me as she said ‘Good morning David. Awake at last are we? How do you feel?’
‘How the hell do you think I feel, all trussed up like this?’ I retorted. ‘Now come on Angie, you’ve had your joke, undo these straps.’
‘I’m sorry we had to slip you a Mickey Finn in your coffee last night’ she replied, ignoring my request, ‘But we had to be sure you’d remain unconscious while we transferred you onto this examination couch.’ She grinned as she was joined by Alan, Sue and her father. ‘You’ll be released shortly my dear’ she grinned, ‘But not until you’ve had a much needed lesson in humility.’
‘You see David’ added her father, ‘Last night, I suddenly realised that you could endanger this whole project simply by releasing the story to the world. Your determination to do so, despite my asking you not to, requires drastic action. I obviously can’t keep you locked up for a year or so until my work is finished, so I had to think of some other way of restraining you. We had a little chat together after you went to bed last night, and my resourceful daughter here came up with a solution that kills two birds with one stone.’
‘Indeed it does’ smiled Angie as she looked down at me. ‘You see, on the one hand, you refused to be convinced that we’d achieved mind transference, in fact, you were pretty rude about it I thought. And on the other, you’ve threatened to release our secret to the press. Well I’m afraid we can’t allow you to do that. Your obvious doubt yesterday about the truth of our experiment verged on ridicule, so we’ve decided to not only convince you that we really have succeeded, but also to make you feel ridiculous. And believe me, with what we have in mind, I guarantee that we’ll succeed on both counts.’
‘Now don’t worry’ she added quickly, ‘I promise that you’ll be completely unhurt by the experience, and I suspect that you might even thank us. Well eventually, anyway.’
Suddenly I was alarmed. ‘What experience?’ I said, my heart suddenly beginning to thump, ‘What are you going to do to me?’
‘Well’ said Angela, ‘We’ve decided to let you experience mind transference first hand. You’re about to join Alan and Sue as a mind swap participant, but in order to keep you under control you have to be restrained like this just for a little while longer. Believe me David, I wish it wasn’t necessary, but it’s for your own good, trust me. You went way over the top in the way you questioned our intelligence, and you deserve to be taught this lesson. And more seriously, your participation in our research will help us enormously. Rest assured, you’ll suffer no harm at all, except to your arrogance, and that won’t be such a bad thing. You need to be taken down a peg or two.’
I lay back for a moment, trying to come to terms with the situation. Being strapped down to a couch is no joke. It takes away any sense of independence, but I was determined not to panic. I tried to think of a question, and soon thought of one.
‘Well’ I said, ‘If I’m going to swap bodies with someone, who the hell is it going to be?’
Angela looked at me, gave a slight chuckle, and said ‘Who is it going to be? Ah yes, good question. Well my dear, in order to ensure your complete silence as far as the project is concerned, your mind swap partner is lying over there.’ They all moved aside to reveal baby Emily lying on a blanket on the other couch. My heart missed a beat, and I instinctively jerked vainly against my restraints. I went cold, and looked pleadingly at Angela.
‘No!’ I exclaimed, ‘Oh no, please Angela, you wouldn’t, you couldn’t! I don’t believe it, it’s not possible!’
Angela looked down at me, and with her father began to attach sensors to my head. She smiled as she said ‘Oh yes it is, as you are about to find out. Now you just relax and we’ll take care of everything.’ Once all the sensors were in place, they moved across to where little Emily lay and began to gently attach tiny sensors to her head. I watched in fearful anticipation as they quietly continued with their preparations. Sue attended to Emily and made sure that she was comfortable, while Alan helped Michael to make some final adjustments to the equipment.
I knew that yelling for help would be completely pointless, and I’d already realised that struggling against my restraints was also a complete waste of time. With nothing else left to do, I simply watched the four of them as they prepared for my initiation into the world of mindswap. I looked at Alan and Sue in the hope that I might be able to convince them that I wasn’t a willing volunteer as they had been, but I wasn’t going to get far in that direction. Desperate to think of something that might help me I said ‘For goodness’ sake Sue, that’s your baby there! Are you prepared to risk her as well as me?’ She looked at me for a moment and grinned. ‘Don’t worry David’ she said, ‘Alan and I have already been through this several times. It really is completely harmless, otherwise there’s no way that I would risk little Emily. No, she’s just going to have a lovely little sleep, during which time Michael is going to add just a few grains of extra intelligence into her mind. When she wakes, she’ll be about two months older in the mind than she is now. Well worth it. But as for you, well........’ She broke into a grin and then a chuckle, and I didn’t like it.
After an intensive series of checks and rechecks, Michael took command. ‘All right everybody’ he said, ‘That’s pretty well it. I think we’re ready.’ He looked at me and said ‘Stop looking so worried David, you’ll be just fine. As a matter of fact, you’re about to be looked after more attentively than anybody else in this room. Now all you’ll feel is your consciousness slipping away, and a moment later you’ll find things are different. All right then, here we go.’
I watched his hand slowly turn a small dial, and that was my last image of consciousness. Within seconds I slipped into blackness and was gone.
It seemed to be barely an instant. One moment I was strapped down to a couch in the lab as a wave of darkness overcame me, and the next, I was still lying on the couch. Or was I? I slowly opened my eyes and looked around me. What I saw was frightening to say the least. I was looking at me. Still dressed in my pyjamas, and strapped down to an examination couch about ten feet away. And I looked very unconscious.
But if that was me, who was I? Suddenly I looked up and saw my four companions looking down at me. Angela smiled. ‘Wonderful!’ she exclaimed, ‘It worked! How do you feel David?’ Now came my first shock. I tried to say ‘Lousy. What happened?’ But instead, what came out of my mouth was approximately ‘Mmmmflagagoogoo.’ There was a moment’s silence before Angela looked at me, grinned, and said ‘What was that you said David? I don’t think I understood you.’ Without thinking, I tried to say ‘What the hell’s going on?’ but all I could manage was a high pitched ‘Blubblemmfoobl!’ as a copious dribble came out of my mouth and onto my bib. Bib? Why on earth was I wearing a baby’s bib?
To the accompaniment of peals of laughter from Angela and Sue I moved my head and inspected my situation. What I saw took my breath away and I gave a tiny high pitched ‘Waaaaaaaaaaaagh!’ with gusto, and you couldn’t blame me. I was less than two feet long, and my short, pink dimpled arms stuck out from my small chubby little body, while my tiny fingers wiggled on my helpless and completely uncoordinated little hands. I tried to bring my widely spread chubby little legs together, but with a large terry towelling nappy pinned between them and a pair of plastic baby pants on top, that was simply impossible. A nappy? My journey of discovery was getting worse by the minute.
I suddenly began to recognise what I was wearing, and I didn’t like it one bit. Who would? On my feet was a pair of pink woollen booties, tied on securely with pink ribbon around the ankles. On top of my nappy and plastic pants I was wearing a pink baby dress. It had a peter pan collar, was buttoned up the back, and it had a sash belt to keep it tidy, tied in a bow at the back. It had short puffed sleeves, and was decorated across the front with a pretty smocking pattern across the front. A perfect little dress for a perfect little baby.
In my semi conscious state I still wasn’t completely aware of my predicament. What the hell was I doing wearing a baby dress? And how come it fitted me? Then the full horror of my situation began to sink in. Disbelievingly at first, I attempted to sit up, but after a couple of unsuccessful attempts I found that I simply didn’t have the co-ordination. It was almost as if I was extremely drunk, but my head was as clear as a bell. I tried to roll over on my side, but as I did so, Sue’s seemingly huge firm hands made me lie on my back again. I tried again, with the same result, and I soon realised that I was completely under her control.
The truth sank in and hit me like a hammer. I was Emily. Well, I wasn’t but I was. I was me, but I was trapped in her body, and the thought sent a chill through my mind. Knowing how babies aged six months are usually treated, I didn’t want to think about what might lie ahead, and I was in no position to do anything about it.
There must have been a look of comprehension in my eyes because suddenly Angela bent over me and said ‘Well well well, it seems that David’s taken up residence in a different body for a while. Well don’t worry my dear, Emily’s mind is safely asleep in the computer, and Sue and Alan have very kindly agreed to look after you just as you are.’ I put up my short little arms in protest as I yelled out ‘Plubbleumbllmpf!’ and more dribble fell onto my bib. I was crying with frustration by now, but Angie burst out laughing and said ‘Well David, I think you’ll have a bit of a job trying to tell anyone about us now, won’t you?’ and she chuckled before continuing in a more businesslike fashion.
‘Now then, I know you can understand everything we say, but Emily’s vocal chords haven’t fully developed yet, so you can’t speak properly, all you can do is babble like any other baby. Also, Dad’s made a few adjustments to your memory patterns so that when you try to speak, all that comes out is baby talk.’ She laughed and said ‘So you’re going to be stuck like that until we decide to put you back, and that won’t be until the project is complete, and I decide that you’ve learnt your lesson in humility. And that could well be up to a year.’
‘Now the lovely thing’ she continued, ‘Is that trapped as you are in Emily’s body, you will have to go through the normal lifestyle of a cute little six month old baby girl, and you don’t have the strength to stop Sue and Alan treating you as such. You’ll have to take your bottle, wet and do poo poos in your nappy, and in every respect put up with it until I decide you’ve suffered enough for your behaviour.’
‘And don’t worry about your own vacated body’ added her father, ‘We’re not going to put Emily’s mind into it, as for obvious reasons she couldn’t possibly handle the situation. We’ll look after it most carefully though. You’ll be drip fed directly into your stomach, and I can assure you that apart from a few weak muscles, you’ll find it in good condition if and when we allow you to reoccupy it. You seem to be pretty healthy, so I think we’ll soon restore you to full physical strength eventually. And with so little experience in her mind so far, Emily’s memory file will be easy to maintain in stasis almost indefinitely without any harmful effects, so she’ll be fine.’
Suddenly they started discussing the situation among themselves, and I began to realise how much babies are ignored as if they hardly exist when the adults have things to discuss. I just lay there helplessly on the couch while they talked, until they separated, and Sue said ‘OK then, I’ll just go and get Emily’s pram.’ Her pram? Oh boy, this was going to be humiliating. She went out of the room, and returned pushing the pram. She wheeled it alongside me, and Angela sat me up while Sue took a set of white leather baby reins out of the pram. Unable to resist, I had my arms thrust into the reins, and they were firmly buckled up behind me. It was becoming really embarrassing as I realised just how helpless I was.
Sue picked me up with ease, and laid me down on my back inside the pram. With a practised hand she took two leather straps fitted to the inside of the pram and clipped them onto my baby reins. She shortened them so that I was held securely down on the pram’s mattress, unable to sit up or even turn over. In frustration at this curb to my freedom I tried to undo the straps, but my tiny weak fingers were no match for the stiff buckles and clips, and I knew that I was imprisoned in the pram until such time as Sue chose to release me.
She arranged a small pillow under my head, and then took out a small soft bunny rug from under the pram, laid it over me and tucked it in around me. Suddenly I felt quite warm and comfortable, apart from the restriction of the pram’s baby harness. Satisfied that I was now well under control, the others busied themselves around the laboratory, leaving me to my own devices.
I lay there for about an hour trying to use my fingers, but soon found them to be totally inadequate enough to do anything useful, so eventually I simply shut my eyes and tried to sleep, as small babies do most of the time. Let’s face it, lying in a pram for hours on end with nothing else to do can be pretty boring, as I was about to find out. I dozed off, but was suddenly woken as the pram’s brake was released, and I was pushed up to the house and into the dining room. I could smell food cooking, and suddenly I felt hungry. Boy, was I in for a disappointment.
‘Right’ said Angela, ‘Sue, you’d better give Emily her feed first, and then we can have lunch.’
‘OK’ said Sue, ‘I’ll just use the kitchen for a minute.’
I lay there in the pram, unaware of the next approaching humiliation, but I didn’t have long to wait. Suddenly Sue came into the room with Angela. She had a tray in her hands, and set it down on the dining room table next to me. Then she leaned over me, and unclipping the pram restraining straps from my baby reins, she sat me up while Angela put some pillows around me to keep me upright. Sitting up, I looked across at the tea tray and saw a small bowl of infant cereal, a jar of apricot puree, and a baby bottle of milk. My heart sank as I realised that this was to be my meal.
Even in the form of a six month old baby, the expression on my face was correctly interpreted by my girlfriend, and she looked down at me and grinned. ‘That’s right David’ she chuckled, ‘This is the kind of food you’ll be eating from now on, so you’d better get used to it.’ She picked up a baby’s bib, and placing it on my chest, tied the fastening strings in a bow behind my neck. Now then’ she said, sitting down next to me and picking up the bowl of cereal, ‘Open wide, there’s a good girl.’ Horrified at the idea of being fed as a little baby, I indignantly tried to voice my protest, but predictably, the only sound that came out of my mouth was a high pitched ‘Blugmmpflmmmpf!’ They all fell about laughing, and Angela took the opportunity of quickly shoving the first spoonful of tasteless mush into my open mouth. Caught by surprise, I swallowed it, and wrinkled my tiny turned up nose with disgust. It wasn’t so much the taste as the lack of taste that was so awful, and the prospect of being fed the stuff regularly for the foreseeable future was something I didn’t want to dwell on.
Spoonful by spoonful, Angela made sure I ate every bit of the baby cereal except the generous amount that was left smeared around my face by my uncoordinated opening and closing mouth. At last she put the empty bowl down. ‘There’s a good girl Emily’ she smiled, ‘Now for your dessert.’ She removed the lid of the jar of apricot puree, and began to spoon it into my mouth. I was relieved to find that it actually didn’t taste too bad, and apart from the utter humiliation of being fed in such a manner, I didn’t find it too objectionable.
My dessert completed, Angela put the jar down and wiped my mouth with the corner of my bib. Then she untied the bib behind my neck and put it on the tray. Removing the pillows propping me up, she laid me down and reattached the pram restraining straps to my baby reins. Once more I was lying down helplessly immobilised. Leaving one small pillow under my head, Angela picked up the baby bottle, and grinning with obvious pleasure, she placed the teat against my closed lips and said ‘Come on Emily, take your bottle like a good little girl.’ Knowing that there was absolutely nothing I could do, and that this was the only way I was going to get anything to drink anyway, I meekly opened my mouth. Supporting the bottle, she pushed the teat in past my lips and almost toothless gums, and I began to suck obediently.
To an adult, a baby bottle or dummy teat doesn’t look very big, but they are specifically made to fill a baby’s mouth comfortably, and to me, the teat seemed to be enormous. I steadily sucked the warm sweet milk out of the bottle, and after what seemed an age, I finally drank the last drop. Satisfied, Angela drew the teat out of my mouth and put the bottle down. ‘There’s a good little girl’ she smiled, ‘Now here’s something to keep you quiet while we have our tea.’ She picked up a dummy from one corner of the pram, and pushed it into my mouth. I saw little point in spitting it out as a protest at such humiliation, and simply began to suck on it. Strangely enough, it soon began to come naturally, and I began to realise why dummies are also known as pacifiers.
Taking a pink soft woollen blanket from underneath the pram, Sue placed it over me and tucked it in around me. Then she raised the hood of the pram and said ‘Now you just lie there quietly while we have our tea. And no crying please. At least unlike the real Emily, we know you can understand everything we say, so I suggest that you do exactly as you’re told. I can think of some wonderful ways of punishing you if you don’t, so I really do suggest that you behave. Now you just lie there and keep quiet.’
She turned away to join the others, and I lay there gently sucking on my dummy and looking up at the white plastic lining of the pram hood. I sighed to myself as I realised where my derisive comments regarding Michael’s experiment had led me. I wondered how long they were going to keep me like this for, but in my present condition, I wasn’t even able to ask them. All I could do was helplessly await events.
It was tantalising lying there in my pram watching the others a few feet away as they sat down to dinner, and the delicious smell of beef casserole assailed my nostrils. The wine flowed, and I squirmed in my pram harness with frustration as I realised I couldn’t join in the conversation, even though I understood ever word they said. From time to time they would glance in my direction and with broad grins on their faces talk to me in baby talk. I blushed with humiliation.
The dessert came next, followed by coffee and liqueurs, and all the time I had to just lie there, knowing that I was condemned to a diet of baby food for the immediate future. I groaned to myself at the prospect. No more steak. No more glasses of wine. No more chicken vindaloo. Just baby mush, fruit puree and bottles of milk sucked through a teat. And instead of sucking on sweets, I would have to be content with sucking on my dummy instead. Yuck. I was certainly paying for my scepticism with a vengeance.
At last they rose from the table, and Alan and Sue prepared to leave for home. They put on their coats, and Angela came over and looked down at me. She removed the navy blue waterproof pram apron from the shopping bag attached to the pram, and spread it over me. As she fastened it down with the securing clips around its edge, she chuckled as she said ‘Now you be a good little girl Emily. I don’t want to hear about any tantrums, and if you’re very good, we’ll eventually see about restoring you to the state in which you no doubt would prefer to be. Bye bye poppet.’ She leaned over me and kissed me on the forehead before straightening up and raising the flap of the pram apron. She secured it up by attaching the two elastic loops on the corners to the hinges half way up the side of the pram hood. Now I could hardly see out of the pram at all, as the apron flap covered the lower half of the pram hood opening. All I could do was look up at the white plastic interior of the hood.
They all said their goodbyes, and suddenly I felt the brake being released, and the pram being wheeled forward. Tears of frustration ran down my cheeks as I realised that I really was being taken home with Alan and Sue to live like a six month old baby girl for the foreseeable future. In a last gesture of protest I spat out my dummy and tried to yell at them to stop. But predictably, the only sound that left my lips was ‘Um um um um ub ub!’ and equally predictably, my protest was met by peals of laughter. I felt the pram being wheeled over the threshold of the front door and into the chill night air. Strangely enough, I did feel well protected as I lay under the warm baby blanket within the well sprung pram, with the hood and apron covering me completely.
We’d only been going for a few minutes, when I heard the tapping of drops of rain on the pram hood, and a moment later they stopped for a moment. Suddenly my small window of vision over the pram apron became blurred as a clear plastic rain cover was draped over the pram and fastened down in place. Then we continued on our way.
I don’t know how long it took Alan and Sue to reach home, but eventually I heard the sound of a gate opening, and we finally reached their front door. A moment later the pram was being pushed inside and the lights came on. The pram came to a halt, and a moment later, Sue removed the rain cover and apron, and lowered the hood. I could see that we were in the lounge. She looked down at me and smiled. ‘Here we are David, or should I say Emily, welcome to your new home. Now you can stay there for a minute while I go and run your bath.’ She went out of the room, and soon I could hear the sound of the bath water running. When it stopped, she came downstairs again and back into the room. She leaned over me and said ‘Let’s get you out of your pram shall we? It’s time you were in bed.’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
She unfastened the pram harness, and while Alan sat me up, she unbuckled the baby reins behind me, and pulled them off. ‘Up you come little girl’ she said and lifted me up out of the pram. Then she carried me in her arms upstairs and into the bathroom. She laid me down on the floor and undressed me, and then picked me up and laid me down in the warm water. She cradled my head as one does when babies can’t sit up properly, and began to lather me over with scented soap. Then she rinsed me down and lifted me out of the bath, where she dried me with a soft fluffy towel. Once I was dry, she lifted me up, and took me down the passage and into Emily’s nursery.
It was a nursery all right. And obviously for a little girl. The decor was in a delicate shade of pink, and a multitude of cuddly toys and dolls lay strewn around. The wallpaper was decorated with fairies and baby animals, and pictures in the same vein decorated the walls. Only the furniture was white. A wardrobe, a chest of draws, a high chair, and a barred wooden cot. It was obvious where I would be sleeping.
There was a neatly folded terry towelling nappy on the cot, and Sue laid me down on it face up. Then she sprinkled baby powder around my bottom and between my legs, and brought the corners of the nappy together in front of me and pinned them securely together with four large pink nappy pins. Next, she took a pair of pink plastic baby pants, and drew them up my legs and over my nappy, where she fastened the press studs at the crutch for easy nappy changing access, and tucked in the elastic around my waist and chubby little dimpled thighs.
My nightdress came next. It was almost like a day dress, and made of white cotton. The pattern was typical of a baby dress, with a peter pan collar, short puffed sleeves, button fastening down the back, and a belt that tied at the back. The front was decorated with pink smocking to give an extra sweet effect. With a practised hand, she pulled the dress over my head, pulled my arms through the sleeves, and laying me on my tummy she buttoned the dress up the back, and tied the sash belt in a bow behind me. Turning me face up again, she fastened a pair of white woollen fingerless mittens on my hands and tied them on with pink ribbons threaded round the wrists. Now my fingers really were useless. Finally, she placed a pair of white cotton ankle socks on my feet and turned them down neatly. For a moment she stood me up by supporting me under the armpits, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stand up by myself. As it hung down around me, I noticed that the dress was very short, and I was conscious of how conspicuously my nappy and plastic pants showed underneath.
Now it was time for me to be tucked in, and it was here that Sue showed some cunning. A white cotton sheet was laid out underneath me, and placing my arms straight down by my sides, she rolled me up in it and tucked it in underneath me. Then she took a second sheet and rolled me up in it on top of the other one. She pinned down the ends of the sheet with a few more nappy pins to prevent it from unravelling, and I suddenly realised that I’d been swaddled in the old fashioned way. By now, I might as well have been in a straight jacket. I couldn’t move. I lay there helplessly with my head propped up on the pillow, and Sue picked up a soft pink cot blanket and laid it over me before tucking it in securely under the mattress. I suddenly felt trapped as it held me down securely, and realised that I wasn’t going to be going anywhere in the night.
Sue looked down at me and smiled. ‘There we are, one sweet little baby all tucked in for the night. ‘How does it feel David, to be all wrapped up in your nappy for the night? I don’t have to do this with Emily of course, but I think it’s necessary in your case.’ Still forgetful of my condition, I tried to wriggle and shout in my frustration, but the only result was a slight squirming on my part and a ‘Blubble ubble oo bloo!’
Sue burst out laughing as Alan came into the room and looked down at me. He chuckled and said ‘Well David, now do you believe us? I imagine this should be enough to convince you.’ Sue lifted up the sides of the cot and latched them in position. Now I was truly a prisoner, as even if I had been able to wriggle out of the bedclothes, I couldn’t possibly have climbed out of the cot. Which is of course why they have barred drop sides. We can’t have babies bouncing on the floor in the middle of the night, can we?
‘All right then’ said Sue, ‘I think it’s time for baby to get some sleep, so night night David, or rather Emily (I really must remember to call you that). Sleep tight, and mind the bugs don’t bight.’ As an afterthought, she picked up a dummy from the dresser, and pushed it into my unresisting mouth. I obligingly began to suck on it as by now I was too mentally and physically exhausted to resist, and was starting to simply fall into the part. I realised that the sooner I showed complete compliance with this exquisitely awful humiliation, the sooner I could hope to be returned to my true state. Then I’d tell them a thing or two! But for the time being I was utterly helpless, and had no choice but to put up with simply being a baby. Yuck.
Leaving my bedside light on, they went out of the room, leaving the door ajar. I heard them go downstairs, and as soon as I was on my own, I experimentally tried to see if there was any chance of wriggling out of the sheets and blanket I was restrained in. But I couldn’t move. The firm wrappings held my arms securely by my sides, and I simply didn’t have the co-ordination to wriggle out of the swaddling sheets. To add to the problem, the tightly tucked in blanket kept me securely lying flat on my back. After a few minutes I realised it was hopeless, and lay there exhausted. Slowly my eyes began to droop, and I drifted off into the land of Nod, wondering what surprises the next day would hold.
Without a doubt, the most humiliating thing about finding myself trapped in the body of a six month old baby girl was my complete inability to control my bodily functions. As soon as I woke up in the early morning light, I knew that I had both wet and soiled my nappy, and I quietly gurgled a little high pitched whine as I felt it squelching around my bottom. No wonder babies cry!
I lay there securely swaddled and unable to move, waiting to hear some sign of life in the house, and eventually I heard the sound of voices and movement. Shortly afterwards, the smell of cooking wafted up from the kitchen. and I longed for a plate of eggs and bacon. But I knew that there was little chance of that, especially since I had only a few tiny teeth that couldn’t possibly have coped with it, and a digestive system that demanded something very much more in keeping with my infant status.
Eventually, Sue came into the nursery and lowered the side of my cot. She looked down at me and smiled. ‘Good morning Emily’ she grinned, ‘I think I’d better call you Emily all the time from now on. My friends will think it a bit odd if I accidentally call you David, and anyway, you look like her. Now let’s get you up shall we?’ She pulled back the blanket and unwrapped the two sheets which had secured me so efficiently overnight. Then she removed my dress, socks and mittens before carrying me down to the bathroom and laying me on a towel on the floor while she removed my plastic baby pants and nappy. ‘Dere’s a good girl’ she said playfully with a chuckle, ‘Did oo do poo poos in your nappy? Well young lady, you’d better get used to it, because that’s how it’s going to be for quite a while to come now.’ With a grin she wiped my bottom clean before lowering me into the warm bath water. It seemed that a bath was going to be a frequent occurrence.
Much like the night before, she bathed me and dried me off, and then took me back to the nursery. Laying me down on my cot, she went to a chest of drawers and took out a fresh nappy and plastic pants, together with a pair of white ankle socks and a pair of black patent strap shoes. Then she opened the wardrobe door to reveal a row of tiny dresses in all sorts of colours. She went through them for a moment before taking out a white cotton baby dress. Much like the others, it was the standard very cute style worn by little girls the world over, with a peter pan collar, short puffed sleeves, a row of buttons fastened down the back, and a sash belt tied in a bow at the back. It too had a sweet smocking pattern across the front.
In a very short space of time I had a powdered bottom, was securely encased in my nappy and plastic pants, and was wearing my dress and shoes and socks. I was ready for the day. (Or so I thought). ‘Right’ said Sue, ‘Brekky time for you little girl.’ She picked me up and took me downstairs and into the kitchen. Alan was sitting at the kitchen table, and stood up as we came in. He looked at me and grinned. ‘Morning David’ he said. ‘Did you sleep well?’ Unthinkingly I went to make a sarcastic reply, but as I should have suspected, all I could manage was ‘Blub blub ubble ub!’ The two of them burst out laughing, and Alan picked up my baby reins from where they had been hanging on the kitchen door knob. Angela held me while he put my arms through the straps and fastened the buckles behind me. My high chair awaited me, and after swinging up the hinged food tray, Angela sat me down in the seat and clipped some restraining straps onto my reins to help keep me upright. Then she pulled down the food tray over me and locked it into position.
I won’t go into the finer details of my breakfast. It was more or less what I’d eaten the day before, and would be the same next time. And the next time. And the next, and so on and so on for the duration. Ugh. It wasn’t just the bland boredom of the food. It was the utter humiliation of being fed in such a way, helpless to feed myself, and having to suck on a baby’s bottle. And there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
With breakfast over, Angela went out into the lounge, and came back with the pram. I wondered how much time I would be spending in it. She lifted up the high chair food tray, unfastened the restraining straps, and lifted me up. Then she laid me down in the pram and clipped the pram’s straps to my reins before tightening them so that I was securely held down flat on my back. Then she placed the pillow under my head. ‘There we are’ she smiled down at me, ‘Now you stay there where I can keep an eye on you while I clean up the breakfast things.’ She went across to the sink and began to wash up the breakfast things, while Alan wiped them and put them away.
Closing the crockery cupboard door, Alan looked at his watch and said ‘Right, well I must be off. We’ve got that meeting at nine o’clock sharp.’ He went out of the room for a couple of minutes, and came back with his coat on and his briefcase in hand. He kissed Angela goodbye, and then looked down at me and smiled. ‘Now you be a good little girl and I’ll see you tonight. Bye Emily.’ He gave an amused chuckle and went out into the hall. A moment later I heard the front door open and close and he was gone.
‘Now then’ said Sue, looking down at me, ‘Guess where we’re off to this morning?’ I’d rather not have been going anywhere. ‘Well’ she added, ‘We’re going round to see my friend Jennifer Turner. She hasn’t seen you (or rather the real Emily) for nearly a month, so she asked me to take you round to see her. What I find amusing is that she’s going to treat you as a sweet little baby girl and you won’t be able to say or do anything about it. I must say I find that rather amusing. Now I’ll just go and get ready and then we’ll be off.’ She went out of the room and left me there in my pram, helplessly contemplating what I knew was going to be a humiliating day.
A few minutes later, Sue came back into the kitchen wearing a red rubberised cotton mackintosh with a hood. She buttoned it up and fastened the belt tightly round her narrow waist. Then she placed a warm blanket over me and put the pram apron in place. She fastened the securing clips all the way round before putting up the pram hood and locking it in place. Then she raised the flap of the apron and secured it in place with the two elasticated loops which she attached to the pram hood locking levers at the side. She placed her handbag in the pram’s shopping basket and all was ready.
‘Off we go then’ she said smiling down at me under the pram hood. She released the brake, and started pushing me down the hall to the front door. She opened the door, pushed me outside over the threshold, and shut it before setting off down the path and out into the street.
I soon became used to the gentle swaying of the softly sprung pram, and like yesterday, had little to look at except the interior of the pram hood, and a little bit of sky through the gap above the flap of the apron. From time to time I could just see Sue’s head, but she wasn’t paying me any attention. I could hear the sound of other pedestrians and the noise of passing traffic, but it was tantalising not being able to see anything, and I was beginning to realise just how boring it can be for a baby unless someone’s paying attention to them. As I began to accept the inevitability of my situation until such time as Angela decided to release me from my infant bondage, I began to simply relax and let Sue attend to everything. All I had to do was lie there, be fed, bathed and sleep. What a life. I was almost starting to doze off when the pram suddenly stopped. I heard the sound of a gate being opened, the pram swung around, and then started being pushed forward again, I guessed up the front path of Jennifer Turner’s house. I was correct. I heard the sound of the door bell ringing faintly in the distance and then the door was opened.
‘Oh hi Sue’ said a woman’s voice, ‘Come on in. Glad to see you’ve got Emily with you, it seems ages since I’ve seen her.’
‘Three weeks actually’ replied Sue.
‘Well that’s three weeks too long’ said Jennifer. ‘Bring the pram into the lounge.’ Sue wheeled the pram into the house, stopped, and put on the brake. We had arrived.
A moment later, she removed the pram apron and put down the hood before removing the blanket and revealing me in all my cute finery. A good looking woman with straight shoulder length mid brown hair wearing a smart red dress bent over the pram and smiled at me. ‘Hello Emily’ she said, ‘How are you?’ She turned to Sue and said ‘She’s changed already. Especially in the eyes. Her expression looks sort of...different somehow. Can’t put my finger on it though.’ Sue and I knew exactly why that might have been, and I suddenly went to call out ‘I can tell you why!’ But predictably, all that came out was ‘Ba ba ba ba blooo!’ I’d forgotten. The two of them burst out laughing, and Sue unclipped the pram straps and lifted me out. ‘Can I hold her?’ said Jennifer. Sue handed me to her, and the two of them sat down, with me propped up on Jennifer’s lap. At least I was upright and could see and hear what was going on, even if I couldn’t join in the conversation.
They started swapping all their news, and much to my irritation, Jennifer kept bouncing me up and down on her knee. In the end I decided to put a stop to it, so I put on a crying act. It wasn’t difficult to imitate all the yelling infants I’d seen, and I was almost proud of my performance as the tears ran down my reddened face and Jennifer handed me over to Sue. She wiped my eyes, and cradled me comfortably in her arms. That was much better. It seemed that even as a helpless little baby I could still get what I wanted to some degree. Despite my lack of interest in their conversation, at least it was better than lying in my pram or cot on my own in utter boredom, and I sat there looking from face to face and around the room.
‘Well’ said Jennifer suddenly, ‘How about a cup of coffee?’
‘Oh lovely’ replied Sue, standing up. They went into the kitchen and Jennifer put the kettle on. They chatted while the water came to the boil, and when she’d made two cups of coffee we went back into the lounge. Sue laid me down in my pram, but at least she didn’t strap me in, probably because she could keep an eye on me. After a while I began to doze off. It’s surprising how sleepy you so often get when you’re a baby.
I woke with a start to find Sue clipping my baby reins onto the pram restraints and tightening them. Then she put my blanket over me, tucked it in, and replaced the apron before putting up the hood. The two women said their goodbyes, and Jennifer peered in at me under the pram hood, smiled and said ‘Isn’t she sweet! Bye bye Emily, see you soon.’ She disappeared from my restricted view, and I felt the pram being wheeled out to the front door. I heard the door being opened and Jennifer said ‘It’s pouring! Good thing you’ve got your mac.’ Suddenly I heard a movement, and the pram’s clear plastic storm cover was placed over the pram and fastened in place. Then it was time to brave the elements. Angela put up the hood of her mackintosh and buttoned it on under her chin. Then the pram was pushed out into the open, and the heavy rain lashed down onto the pram hood and storm cover with a steady loud drumming noise. But I was well protected and felt warm and cosy in my little nest.
Angela pushed me through the pouring rain, and eventually we arrived home. She opened the front door and took the pram straight into the kitchen where the rain could run off the pram harmlessly onto the tiled floor. She went back and closed the front door, and then returned to the kitchen. She unfastened the hood of her mackintosh and threw it back off her head. Removing the pram’s storm cover, she shook the rain off it, and laid it over the back of a chair. Then she lowered the hood and removed the apron, folding it and putting it underneath the pram. She pushed the pram into a corner and said ‘You can stay there for a while Emily, while I see about some lunch. I’d better feed you first.’
She took off her wet mac and hung it on the back of the kitchen door, and began to busy herself with preparing my lunch. When it was ready, she took me out of the pram and strapped me into my high chair. Needless to say, my lunch consisted of a jar of infant strained vegetables, followed by a bowl of mushy cereal. My dessert was delight of delights, a jar of strained apricot puree. To finish off with, she gave me my baby bottle of milk, and wouldn’t stop until I had sucked it dry. As I finished she grinned and said ‘There’s a good little girl.’ fully aware who she was talking to. For a moment she lapsed into a chuckle and said ‘Ah David, how does it feel to be a helpless little baby again? I don’t expect you thought you’d ever find yourself going through it again, did you?’ I unthinkingly went to say ‘Of course I didn’t,’ but inevitably, all that came out was ‘Ubble ub ub ub.’ She burst out laughing and said ‘Just as well you can’t speak. I really wondered what to say when Jennifer realised that the baby in the pram was a bit different this morning. If she’d only known why! Anyway’ she grinned, unstrapping me from the high chair and lifting me out, ‘Let’s put you where you can’t come to any harm shall we?’
She took me across to the pram and laid me down in it again before refastening the restraining straps and covering me up with the blanket. With a smile she picked up my dummy and pushed it past my unresisting lips into my mouth. By now I’d decided to go along with the whole farce in the hope of ending it as soon as possible by being well behaved and co-operative. Then she set about preparing her own lunch. Strapped down as I was, I wasn’t able to look over the sides of the pram, but I could smell the aroma of real food. I could have cried with frustration. Sue more or less ignored me while she prepared and ate her lunch, and I just lay there looking up at the ceiling.
Lunch over, Sue washed up, and then went over to the kitchen door and took down her mackintosh. She put it on, and I began to realise that we were going out again, which was not something I was looking forward to if it meant being seen by other people. Even though I was to all intents and purpose a genuine baby, it still didn’t do much for my ego.
Sure enough, as soon as she had fastened her mac and put her hood up, she came over to me, replaced the apron over me, and put up the pram hood before raising the flap of the apron and fastening it in position. She looked out of the window to see what the weather was doing, and I realised that it was still raining hard when she draped the plastic storm cover over the pram again, and fastened it in position.
‘Right Emily’ she said, ‘Time to go shopping. We’re going down the town. With any luck I’ll have a chance to show you off to my friend Jill, who works at the baby shop. Won’t that be fun!’ Fun? It couldn’t have been worse, and well she knew what I would think of that idea. But there was nothing I could do about it, and I gave a tiny sigh of resignation as we set out once more in the pouring rain. A bitterly cold wind had sprung up, and in a way I was glad to be so snugly tucked up.
At least I was well hidden on the twenty minute walk into town, but I was soon to be exposed to the view of all and sundry. Because of the bulkiness of the pram, Sue didn’t go into the supermarket, so our first stop was the butchers, followed by the greengrocers. On both occasions she left me covered up, and for a short while I had hopes that I wouldn’t have to put up with the goo goo gaa gaa nonsense that so many adults seem to indulge in when they encounter babies. But my luck ran out when we went into another shop.
The pram stopped, and I heard a woman’s voice say ‘Oh hi Sue, how are you today?’
‘Fine thanks Trish’ she replied, ‘It’s turned really chilly though. I thought you’d like to see Emily.’ I groaned as she folded back the pram’s storm cover, lowered the flap of the apron, and lowered the hood. A good looking young woman looked down at me and said ‘Oh isn’t she lovely? She gets cuter every time I see her. How old is she now?’
‘Just over six months’ replied Sue.
‘Six months! Seems like she was only born a couple of months ago.’
‘Yes, I know what you mean’ said Sue, looking around. ‘I was just thinking, that wind’s bitterly cold, and I don’t want Emily to get cold. Do you have any baby’s bonnets?’ I groaned inwardly as I realised how humiliating this was going to be. Sure enough, Trish opened a drawer and took out a selection of bonnets. ‘Oh yes’ smiled Sue, picking one out and holding it up, ‘This is cute isn’t it?’ It certainly was. A traditional baby’s bonnet in white cotton with a broad brim to frame the face and two wide ribbons to tie it under the chin. I was in no position to resist as she leaned over me and pulled the bonnet on over my head. She drew the ribbons together under my chin and tied them in a large bow before tidying the brim around my face. She smiled down at me, knowing how humiliated I must feel, and said ‘There. Doesn’t she look sweet?’ I must have done, and Trish added ‘Doesn’t she just? She looks delightful. Anything else you need?’
‘Oh yes’ said Sue, drawing a piece of paper from her pocket, ‘Here’s the list.’ She showed Trish her list, and she set about collecting the various items from the shelves. Once they were all on the shop counter she added up the bill and put them in a bag. As she put the last item in, Trish said ‘I suppose you’ll be needing a pushchair soon. We’ve got a good selection, so just let me know when, and I’ll give you a discount.’
‘Oh lovely’ said Sue, ‘Yes I think we’ll need one soon, but Emily’s small for her age, so I’m going to keep her in the pram for the moment.’ She paid the bill, and Trish helped her to cover me up again. Then it was time to be off again. I was pushed out into the shopping precinct, and as always, could see very little except the white plastic interior of the pram hood, with just the occasional glimpse of the sky and the tops of buildings over the apron flap. The rain began to ease up, and the sun came out. As the warm rays shone down on the dark navy blue of the pram hood and apron, the interior began to rapidly warm up.
With the thick transparent plastic storm cover letting the sun shine in and keeping the heat and moisture in, the inside of the pram began to turn into a tiny sauna, and soon I was beginning to sweat with the humidity. I began to become really uncomfortable, and without thinking, I called out to Sue in the hope that she would take off the storm cover. But she had no way of knowing what ‘Uggle um um um ub!’ could possibly mean. She simply looked down at me through the plastic cover and smiled as I lay there in frustration. I wriggled and writhed in my pram harness, and tried to throw off the pram blanket, but it was too tightly tucked in under me to move it. So I just had to lie there and sweat it out.
It seemed like a long, uncomfortable age before we finally arrived home, and I gave a little whimper of relief when the pram finally stopped in the lounge and Sue uncovered me. As soon as she saw me she felt my clothes, frowned slightly and said ‘Oh David you are red aren’t you? And you’re quite damp. Sorry about that, I wasn’t thinking. You must have been boiling under that plastic cover. Come on, I’d better take you upstairs and change your clothes before you catch cold.’ She unfastened the pram restraints and removed my baby reins before lifting me up and taking me upstairs to the bathroom, where I was given a bath and put into a clean nappy and plastic pants, a baby frock, and a pair of white cotton ankle socks. Then she took me into the nursery and sat me down in my cot.
‘There we are’ she said, as she strapped me back into my reins, ‘You’ll be glad to hear I’m not going to swaddle you tonight, but that does mean I’ve got to make sure you can’t get into any mischief.’ She laid me down on my back and clipped my baby reins onto two straps attached to each side of the cot, but left them slack so that I at least had some freedom of movement. Then she pulled a pair of white woollen fingerless mittens onto my hands and secured them on with ribbons threaded round the wrists that she pulled tight and tied in a non-slip bow. She certainly
Satisfied that I was sufficiently restrained for the moment, she said ‘Now you had a good feed at lunchtime Emily, so I think I’ll just give you your bottle. Then you can settle down for the night.’ She went out of the room and went downstairs, leaving me alone. I experimentally tried to sit up, and was delighted to find that I could for a short while, but standing completely upright and unsupported was still beyond me. I groaned with frustration. My mind could give the orders, but my limbs simply couldn’t obey. Sue returned a few minutes later with my baby bottle in hand, and laid me down while she pushed the teat into my mouth and I obediently sucked the milk from the bottle. I was getting the hang of it.
The bottle empty, she set it aside, and then tightened the two straps holding me down. Then she put a thick soft woollen blanket over me and tucked it in around me before placing a pillow under my head. ‘There we are Emily’ she smiled, ‘Now you go to sleep like a good little girl. Here’ she took my dummy and pushed it into my mouth. Then she raised the side of the cot and locked it in place. ‘Night night David’ she grinned, ‘See you in the morning. I wonder what other surprise we can come up with tomorrow? Oh well, you’ll find out, won’t you?’ She gave a slight giggle and went out of the room, leaving the door ajar.
I lay back in the fading evening light, unable to move much, and just lay there flat on my back, chewing on the bulb of my dummy as my mind went over the events of the day. Well, one thing was for sure. Everything was in the hands of my tormentors until such time as they chose to release me from my infant prison. I hoped it would be sooner rather than later, and was determined to humour them until I was free. With that thought on my mind, I slowly drifted off to sleep.
And so my uninterrupted existence as a six month old baby girl continued for nearly a year. A baby’s life may look singularly uneventful from the outside, but let me tell you that for me, it was anything but that, even taking into account the fact that the circumstances were shall we say, unusual. After a continuous 24 hours a day varied only by bottle feeding, excursions in my pram, being shown to friends and neighbours, having my nappy changed, baths and early nights in my cot, day in and day out, I soon realised that my immediate future was restricted to say the least. It took me several days of fruitless gurgling, wriggling, squirming, and incomprehensible protests to convince even Angela that this six month old helpless gurgling little baby was in fact a man who normally lived barely twenty miles away. And there was absolutely no chance of me breaking that spell. Nevertheless it was true, and after a few days I became almost used to living the life of a six month old baby. Let’s face it, all you have to do is accept the situation, and once you accept the humiliating routine, you’ll survive. Believe me, don’t fight it unless you want to be a six month old baby (or worse) indefinitely.
The one thing that kept me going through this twenty four hours a day of relentless humiliation was the thought of my eventual release. It went on and on and on in an interminable existence of living the existence of a six month old baby.
My life as baby Emily seemed to go on and on, but at long last, my patience was finally rewarded. One Wednesday afternoon, Angela and her father looked down at me in my pram and said the words I’d so longed to hear. ‘Well David’ he said, ‘My project is complete in every detail, so I think it’s time to restore you to your own body. I must say you’ve been a remarkably good subject. Sue says you adapted to your new body extremely well and accepted the situation with very little stress apart from a couple of tantrums that were only to be expected. So. How would you like to come back on Saturday and return to normal?’ My relief was unbounded and without thinking I tried to say ‘At last! Yes!’ which came out as an enthusiastic ‘Ubbblubble oo!’ They both fell about laughing, and Angela chuckled as she said ‘Yes, I think you’ve learned your lesson, and I must admit David, it will be nice to have you around again. I’ve quite missed you.’ It was settled then. Three more days of baby bottles and dirty nappies and I would be free again. I could hardly wait.
The following Saturday morning I was wheeled out in my pram for the last time over to Michael’s house and into his laboratory. Everything was prepared, and I soon found myself lying on the examination couch where my adventure had begun. Michael carefully attached the sensors to my head, and Sue held me gently in place. After a final check of my own body on the other couch Michael said ‘All right everyone, here we go.’ He flicked a couple of switches and then began to slowly turn a round knob. As soon as he began I could feel a rushing in my ears and a black wave of darkness enveloped me as I passed into unconsciousness.
As before, it seemed to be an instant before I began to come round again, and as I opened my eyes I could make out the fuzzy outline of the laboratory. For a moment I panicked as I tried unsuccessfully to focus my vision and said ‘I can’t see! Everything’s all hazy!’ Then I grunted with satisfaction. At least I could talk again. ‘Don’t worry David’ came the voice of Michael, ‘Your sight will clear in a few minutes. It’s just that your eye muscles have been out of action for a year. Don’t worry, it won’t be long.’
Thanks to providence, he was right. My sight began to clear, and in a few minutes I could see normally. As everything came into focus I gave a sigh of relief as I looked over my shoulder, and then across at the other couch to see little Emily babbling and cooing in a thoroughly normal fashion.
Everything appeared to be back to normal, and I attempted to sit up, but my muscles were weakened after a year of inactivity. I sat up on one elbow for a moment, and then laid down again as Michael gently pushed me down. He told me not to worry, and that full movement would soon be restored, but it would take a week or two in bed and a period of strengthening exercise before my wasted muscles would regain their full strength. After a couple of hours of tests, Michael decided that I could be moved, and I was put into a wheelchair and pushed into the house, where I was transferred to a bed in a small bedroom on the ground floor.
First and foremost on my mind was food. After a year of being drip fed, my body was starving, but Michael insisted that I should start on some soup, and work up to solids gradually. I could see the sense in that, and didn’t object. And strangely enough, now that I had the chance to express my feelings about how I’d been treated, I found that I no longer wanted to. I was simply relieved to have been restored to my own body. I hadn’t been physically harmed, and to be quite honest, it had been an extraordinary experience. Michael was delighted with how well the experiment had gone, and asked me many questions as to how it had felt.
The days passed in an active regimen of exercise, and after a month or so my strength was fully restored, and I was ready to get back to work and prepare my story of the century, none the worse for my experience. As I began to get about more, I was able to participate in Michael’s programme, and a couple of months later, Angela and I underwent a mind swap. Now that was an interesting experience! But that’s another story.
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