Two (Commission) – Ch 1 – lostandwhatever
Here is a commission done for Silverman13, the start of a new short series. Thank you for your generous support!
Greyson poked at his diaper. Technically he was wearing pullups, but same difference. It was still hard to accept that he was wearing something as a portable toilet. He wanted to take the embarrassing thing off, but he knew he needed it. The accident earlier in the day had proven that he was not ready to do without it. Not yet. Not at his current age.
He was not two years old, even if that was how old he looked and that was how old everyone else thought he was. That was not his real age. Only a week ago, he had celebrated his 21st birthday. It seemed like a lifetime ago now, but his mind often drifted back to that day, trying to figure out how it all had gone wrong.
Back then, he had it all.
Now, he had diapers.
He closed his eyes and remembered himself as he had been before.
Greyson woke up on the morning of his 21st birthday with a bit of a hangover. He rubbed his eyes and squinted at the morning light coming through the windows. He found that he was laying on a sofa with a blanket draped over himself. He wondered whose house it was.
“Good morning, birthday boy,” James said as he walked into the living room, wearing only a t-shirt and a pair of boxers. “Sleep well?”
Greyson grunted in reply and relaxed a bit more on the couch. James was an old friend. He was safe here.
James said, “I told you to slow down last night. You need to have some energy left for when you party again with your university friends tonight.”
Greyson stretched his legs and arms out and said, “I’ll slow down when I’m dead.”
“I think the expression is ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead.’”
“I have no problem with sleeping,” Greyson said as he sat up and put his feet on the floor. He wondered where his shoes had ended up. “I just have a lot going on. I’m in the prime of my life, and I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it.”
“Just try to be careful. Don’t get yourself in trouble.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Greyson said, waving away the concern.
Greyson looked around the room and felt a bit impressed. “So, this is your place?”
James sat down next to him and said, “Yep, this is casa de James.”
“I’ve got a mortgage.”
“I told you working in the trades pays well, man. Once I get my own construction business going, I could be pulling down six figures.”
“And, here I am still in school.”
“Yeah, but in another year or so you’ll be making millions as a star quarterback.”
“Got to get drafted first.”
“You will. This is going to be your big year,” James said. Then, he put his hand on Greyson’s shoulder. “One thing…”
“Don’t forget about your old high school bros when you hit the big time. Okay?”
Greyson smiled and patted James’s hand. “Hey, bros for life man.”
“All right, then. Let’s get some breakfast in you. Then, get you home. You’ve got a family party to get to, right?”
“Yeah,” Greyson said. “Time for some birthday cake.”
James dropped Greyson off at the curb in front of his home—well, his parents’ home now. Greyson lived in a rented house with some teammates back at school.
“Thanks for the ride,” he told James as he prepared to shut the door.
“Oh,” James said. “One more thing. Your little brother’s birthday party is next weekend, right?”
“You coming back for it?”
“Well, I hope you do. My little brother is invited. I think he’s kind of excited to see you again. He’s become a fan. Those boys are just crazy about football now.”
“I know,” Greyson said with a groan. “My brother won’t shut up about it whenever I talk to him.”
“Hey, be nice to your bro. He’s a good kid.”
“Right. See you later.”
Greyson shut the door and James drove away waving. Then, Greyson walked up the driveway to the front door. Before he could put his key in the lock. The door swung open to reveal his little brother standing there, waiting for him. The boy was grinning from ear to ear.
“Grey!” the eleven year old cried. “I’ve gotta show you something. Check this out.”
“Whoa, whoa, Ethan,” Greyson replied, holding his hands up in defense. “I just got here. Can I at least step inside the house before you start bugging me?”
“Oh, yeah,” the kid said, taking a step back to make way for Greyson. “Come in. Mom’s in the kitchen. We’ve already got the cake ready. I helped.”
Greyson entered the house and shut the door behind himself. The house smelled great. His mother must have been cooking something delicious. “I’m home!” he called out to his parents.
“Greyson?” his dad called to him. “Come in.”
He found his father in the living room watching football.
“Fourth quarter,” his father said. “Tied. Good game.”
“Pretty exciting.” Greyson gave his father a hug and sat down on the chair next to him.
“Yeah, I suppose you get enough football every day as it is. How’s practice going?”
“Good. We’ve still got a few weeks left before our first game, but I’m pretty sure we’ll make it to a bowl game this year.”
“Now that’s ‘pretty exciting.’”
“How’s Mom been?”
“Busy. She’s making your favorite spaghetti. Go say hi.”
“Oh, by the way, are you going to stick around tonight?”
“Nah, I’m going back to school. They guys are taking me out for the night.”
“I see. Well, I suppose you only get to turn 21 once. Have a good time, but be careful.”
“I will,” Greyson said and headed for the kitchen.
“My boy!” his mother cried when she saw him. “Come give me a hug.”
He did and said, “Good to see you.”
“Nice to finally see you again. You come by less and less. Used to be you’d be here almost every weekend. It’s only a short commute to your school.”
“I know. I know. Things have gotten really busy.”
“Yeah, you’re the captain of the team. My little football star.”
“I’m not that little anymore,” he said looking down at her.
“Still,” she said. “We miss having you here. One person in particular is desperate to talk to you.” She turned her attention behind him.
He looked over his shoulder to see Ethan standing there patiently waiting to talk to him.
He sighed. “Damn it, Ethan. Don’t do that.”
“What?” the kid said.
“Follow me around like a lost puppy. Go find something else to do for a little bit.”
His brother looked crestfallen. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll go watch the game with Dad.” He left the kitchen.
“What’s the matter with you?” his mother asked.
“What?” he replied, defensively.
“That boy worships the ground you walk on, and you treat him like dirt. You need to go apologize to him and spend some time together.”
He grunted. “I don’t have the time right now. I’ve got to go in a few hours.”
“Right,” he said, recognizing an order when he heard one. He went back to the living room to find his father and brother cheering for a field goal.
Greyson took a seat on the sofa next to his brother, who looked simultaneously excited and nervous. “So…” Greyson said and took a moment to figure out what to say next. “Oh, what’s this thing you wanted to tell me about at the door?”
“Uh,” Ethan said, looking a bit uncertain. “It’s got to do with the cake.” He paused and averted his eyes. “Actually, I think I’ll show you later.”
“Okay,” Greyson said, feeling a bit confused and slightly concerned. The two of them focused their attention on the game as they waited for dinner to be ready. Neither of them exchanged another word.
After dinner the boys helped clean up, and then Greyson got shooed out of the kitchen to give his mother a chance to prepare his cake. He sat in the living room watching more TV with his father. As he waited, he kept checking his phone, worrying that he was running short on time. He needed to get back to his university for his night out with his buddies.
His father headed into the kitchen, and moments later, the lights went out in there.
“Come in, Greyson. Cake time!” his mother called.
He walked into the dark kitchen to find them standing around the kitchen table. On the table sat a birthday cake with two lit candles on top. One candle was shaped as the number 2 and the other as the number 1. They had a collection of twenty such candles to mark any possible year combination and reused them year after year.
He knew the tradition at this point. They would sing “Happy Birthday,” and he would make a silent wish. Then, he would blow out the appropriately numbered candles to their applause.
His mother began to sing, but Ethan cut her off before she could finish the word “Happy.”
“Wait!” Ethan said. “I want to do the thing I was talking about before.”
“Ethan?” their father said, sounding as confused as Greyson felt.
The boy reached over to the cake and turned the two candles sideways so that the numbers could only be read parallel to each other.
“There,” Ethan said. “We can blow them out together now. You blow towards the 2 for 21, and I blow towards the 1 for 12. We can share the cake!”
Greyson sighed. “The candles are melting,” he said. “You’re getting wax all over the cake.” He reached over and turned the candles back the right way.
“But…” Ethan said. “We only get to do this once!” He turned the candles sideways again in an act of unusual defiance.
“No,” Greyson said, grabbing the number 1 candle. Ethan grabbed the candle as well. There was a momentary tug of war, until wax dripped from the lit candle onto their hands causing the brothers to drop the candle on to the floor.
Greyson cursed and rubbed his burned skin. “Damn it! You little jerk!”
“S-sorry,” Ethan said as he rubbed his own hand.
“Enough!” their mother said, taking charge at last. She picked the candle up off of the floor and wiped up the wax that had begun to pool there using a paper towel. “Let’s sing and blow out the candles already.”
This time their father started the song and was soon joined by his wife and Ethan, who sang much more quietly and less enthusiastically than his parents.
When the song was done, their mother said, “Make a wish.”
Greyson was just silently thankful to be the age he was. Then, just before he blew out the number 2 candle, he said, “What about the other candle?”
“It’s too dirty to put on the cake,” his mother said. “Just blow out the 2.”
Greyson blew it out and the room went dark. His father switched on the light, but no one applauded. Everyone seemed ready to move on at that point. Their mother picked the remaining candle off of the cake and set it aside with the other one. She took pictures of Greyson with his cake. Then, she cut the cake and handed Greyson the first slice.
He took it and sat down to eat it. Ethan sat next to him, and Greyson gave his brother an annoyed look before taking a bite.
“I’m sorry,” Ethan said. “I just thought, you know… we could do something together. We never get to do stuff together anymore.”
“Well,” Greyson said. “If I have to put up with a headache like this when I’m with you, then why would I want to spend time with you? I mean, I can’t even eat cake without you annoying me.”
Ethan went silent and seemed to be fighting back tears.
Greyson felt a little bad for being mean to his brother, but the kid had it coming. He needed to learn how to behave around adults.
The rest of the party went by with little fuss. They finished their slices of cake, and Greyson opened his presents. Then, he said his goodbyes and left to go back to school for his night out.
It was well past midnight when Greyson realized that it was Sunday night. Well, it had been Sunday night when he had started drinking. It was Monday morning now. With how drunk he was feeling at the moment, he knew he would be showing up to his summer course still drunk if he showed up at all. Plus, there was his afternoon workout to worry about. He was starting to regret not taking James’s advice and slowing down. Still, he knew he was in peak physical condition. His liver should be up to the challenge. What difference would another drink or two make anyway?
The sky was getting brighter with pre-dawn light when Greyson and his friends, Chad and Brad, stumbled into the convenience store. Since it was after last call, they would need to finish their drinking at home.
Chad—or maybe Brad?—had come up with the bright idea of bringing home a bottle of tequila for a final toast before they all passed out. His friends started to peruse the liquor aisle while Greyson began searching for a snack to fill his stomach. As he considered the merits of various candy bars, he noticed that behind the counter working the cash register was an old woman, watching the three of them with heavy suspicion in her eyes. Greyson briefly wondered if she had been working all night or if she had just begun a morning shift.
Brad—or maybe Chad?— whispered some joke to the other one and the two of them broke into uproarious laughter in the quiet store. The old woman frowned. Greyson decided to join his friends, hoping to calm them down so that they could get out of the store before they were thrown out.
As he approached them, one of them said, “Think fast!” and got down in position to snap a bottle of tequila at Greyson.
Greyson’s head was in no shape to “think fast,” so when the bottle came flying at him, his well-practiced reflexes failed him, and he fumbled it. The bottle bounced off his fingers, over his shoulder, and onto the floor behind him, where it landed with a shattering crash.
“Fuck!” one of his friends said.
“You children!” cried the old woman in some vaguely Eastern-European-sounding accent. “You foolish boys!” She approached them, wielding a wooden broomstick like a spear.
“S-sorry,” Greyson stammered in reply. “I’ll… I’ll help clean it up.”
“Pay and leave,” the woman demanded.
Greyson tried to start picking up pieces of glass. “It’s no problem,” he said. “I’ll clean it up.”
“Stop,” she said and reached for his wrist. He pulled his hand away, and the woman’s palm slid past his hand, over the broken glass he was holding.
She yelled in pain and dropped her broom. Then, she held her wounded palm and everyone watched in horror as blood began to drip from it. “My hand!” she said looking at her lacerated palm. She turned her attention back to Greyson and pointed an accusing finger at him. “You!” she cried as her hand flung droplets of blood at Greyson’s face. “You did this. You child. You don’t listen. Curse you, idiot child!”
Greyson wiped the blood off of his face. Then, seeing the red smear on his hand, he fumbling fingers pulled out his wallet and emptied the dollar bills inside of it onto the floor.
“Let’s get out of here!” one of his friends said. It seemed like a good idea to Greyson, so he let his friends drag him away from the woman, who leered at the three of them with murderous intent as they exited the shop. Then, they ran back to their house without saying another word. By the time they got home, they were all exhausted from the running and all the fear that had driven them.
After some deliberation, they promised not to speak a word about what had happened, hoping that the old woman would not be able to identify them to the cops. Brad and Chad went to bed. Greyson went to the bathroom and washed the woman’s blood off of his face. Feeling guilty and too tired to keep worrying, he went to bed and fell into a deep sleep.
Greyson woke up the next morning and was surprised to find no hangover was waiting for him. In fact, he felt good, well rested. He drifted out of his sleep gently, right up until the moment that he realized his alarm had not gone off.
“Shit!” he said and reached for his phone, worried that he had overslept his morning class. When his hand failed to find his phone, he opened his eyes and bit wider and was greeted by a bit of a shock.
He was in his childhood bedroom in his parents’ house.
“What?” he asked the room as if it would explain how he had gotten there. He was certain that he had fallen asleep in his house back at school, even though he had been very drunk at the time. Had the partying last night only been a dream? Maybe he had fallen asleep here instead of driving back to school. However, he had no recollection of that. If last night had been a dream, then when had the dream begun? What had actually happened yesterday?
He found his phone on his old bedside table and checked the date. It was Monday, and according to the time, he had already missed his morning class. “Damn,” he said, but he did not fret about it too much. He knew that his teacher would probably understand that last night was his 21st birthday. Still, he had to get to practice that afternoon.
He got out of bed and headed for the bathroom to take a leak. When he was done and had washed his hands, he checked himself in the mirror. He frowned. Somehow he looked a bit skinnier than he remembered. He decided that he would have to step up his diet and workout to put on more pounds.
He headed downstairs and found his mother eating toast and eggs for breakfast at the kitchen table.
“‘Morning,” they greeted each other.
“You sleep well?” she asked him as he headed for the cereal.
“A bit too well,” he said, pulling a bowel out of the cabinet. “My alarm didn’t wake me up.”
“I didn’t know you set an alarm over the summer.” She took a bite of her eggs.
He pulled the milk out of the fridge and mixed it into his cereal. “Of course I do. I don’t want to be late to my class.”
She gave him a confused look as she chewed, and he took a seat across the kitchen table from her.
“I shouldn’t have stayed here last night. I missed my class, and now I’ve got to drive all the way back to school before practice starts.” He ate a spoonful of cereal.
“Hold on a second,” she said. “What class are you talking about? Classes don’t start until the end of the month.”
“Fall classes,” he said. “I’ve got a summer course that I’m finishing up soon. That way I don’t have to take a heavy course load during the season. I know we’ve talked about this. Makes it easier to finish my major while training and playing.” He ate some more.
Again, she had a confused look on her face. “Your major?” she said. “You don’t have a major in high school. On top of that, this is the first I’ve heard about you taking summer school classes. Have you been hiding that from us?”
“High school? No, I mean the university. I’m working on my degree.”
“What university? You’re not even going to graduate high school until next year.”
“Uh,” he said, not sure how to respond. “I graduated high school years ago.”
She gave him a concerned look. “Are you feeling alright?”
“I feel great.”
“Are you playing a joke on me, then?”
“No,” he said, feeling increasingly worried and confused by the conversation.
“Greyson, you’re not old enough for college yet. You’re 17, and you still need to finish high school.”
“Uh, are you playing a joke on me?” he asked. “We just had my 21st birthday party yesterday.”
She looked genuinely concerned. “Are you sure you’re feeling all right?”
“Your birthday is months away still.”
“Okay,” he said. His mother was not big on playing jokes, but she seemed to be determined to play one today. He decided to call her bluff. “Let me get some proof.” He left the table and ran upstairs. He found his wallet on the bedside table in his room and brought it downstairs. He pulled out his driver’s license and handed it to his mother. “See,” he said. “My birthday was yesterday, 21 years ago.”
She smiled and said, “Try again. This says your birthday is in February and you’re only 17.”
He sighed and took the driver’s license from her and checked the date. Then, he frowned. “This is… wrong,” he said. “Is this part of the joke? You replaced my license with a fake one. Where’s my real license?”
“Greyson,” she said, gently. “Let me check your temperature. I think you might be delirious. Have a seat.”
Ethan walked into the room, looking half-asleep still. “‘Morning,” he muttered. “What’s for breakfast?”
“Ethan!” Greyson said, startling the boy. “Mom’s being weird. Tell her how old I am.”
“Uh,” Ethan said. “You’re 17, right?”
“You too?” He accused the boy.
“Me?” Ethan said, joining them in their confusion. “What did I do?”
“Fine,” Greyson said. “If you’re all going to play this game, then I’m just going to call up James. I woke up at his place yesterday. We were out getting drunk together the night before.”
“Are you asking me to ground you?” his mother said, switching gears from worried to angry in a second. “Because I just thought I heard you say you’ve been drinking?”
“I’m 21!” he protested. “It’s legal!”
“Are you drunk right now?” She eyed him suspiciously, checking his balance.
Greyson sighed and stood up. He brushed his little brother aside as he headed back for his bedroom to grab his phone. He took a seat on his bed, opened his phone, and looked for James’s phone number. “Where is it?” he asked after going down the whole list of his contacts. He checked again and realized that quite a few phone numbers were missing now, replaced by new ones belonging to unfamiliar names. “Who are these people?” He checked his photos. All the people in them were strangers except for him and his family, and he had no memory of taking any of them. “What the hell is going on?” he said, angrily fighting back a growing terror inside of him.
He started getting dressed.
Ethan poked his head into Greyson’s bedroom. “You okay, Grey?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“We’re worried about you.”
“I’m worried too.”
Ethan noticed his brother was getting dressed. “Are you going somewhere?”
“I need to see James,” Greyson said. “He was with me yesterday. Maybe he can help me figure out what’s going on.”
“You mean Stephen’s big brother?”
“Yes,” Greyson said, grabbing his jacket and heading downstairs. Ethan followed him down.
“Where do you think you’re going?” his mother asked as Greyson started to slip on his shoes.
“I need to figure out what the hell is going on. I’m going out for a bit.”
“No, you’re not,” she said. “Not when you’re acting this strange.”
He ignored her and opened the door.
“Wait!” she said, but he just walked out and ran for his car.
Greyson pulled into James’s driveway a short time later. He ran up to the front door and knocked. He paced nervously as he waited for James to open the door.
The door finally opened, and James said, “Hello… uh, Greyson? What’s up?”
“James,” Greyson said. “Something weird is going on. Can I come in?”
“Uh,” James said, uncertainly. “I suppose so. Does your Mom know you’re here?”
“What?” Greyson said as she stepped into the house. “Yeah. She does. I told her I needed to talk to you.”
“Okay,” James said, still standing by the open door. “Why do you need to talk to me?”
“Bro,” Greyson said. “I feel like I’m going crazy. My mom, my brother, even my driver’s license—everything is saying that I’m 17 for some reason. I thought it was a joke at first, but I don’t see how anyone could be finding this funny at this point. I don’t know what the hell is going on. It’s like the whole world has gone crazy since I woke up.”
“Right,” James said. “Just take it easy. We can figure this out.” He had the attitude of a person trying to talk someone down from a ledge. “Why did you come to see me? Can you explain that?”
“‘Why?’” Greyson said. “I need you to back me up, bro. We were out partying the night before last. We got drunk together. I woke up on this couch yesterday morning. You drove me home. You remember all of that. Right?”
“Uh…” James said, looking uncomfortable.
“Tell me you remember that. You’ve got to remember how old I really am.” Greyson was begging now. “Please.”
“Sorry,” James said. “I haven’t seen you besides when our brothers are hanging out together. I barely remembered your name when I saw you knocking on my door. I don’t know who you went out with yesterday, but it wasn’t me.”
Greyson stared off into space. “What is happening?” he asked the world.
“Maybe I should call your mom,” James said, taking out his phone. “She’s probably worried about you.”
“I’m going,” Greyson said. “Sorry,” he added as he walked out the door.
As he got into his car, he looked back to see James, standing in the doorway making a phone call. Greyson drove away and started looking for a place where he could park and think.
Greyson’s phone buzzed again. He ignored it. He had been ignoring calls and texts for at least an hour as he sat on the hood of his car and stared out over Banner Lake where he had parked. He remembered jogging around that lake everyday in high school. It was almost a five mile lap, a good cardio workout for a serious athlete. He wondered if he was supposed to run around it today. He wondered if he was really back in high school.
“I need to figure this out,” he said, trying to think his way through the situation out loud. “I woke up this morning, and it seems as though I’m 17 years old again. Nobody but me remembers that I’m 21. I don’t know how this happened, but it seems to be really happening. I don’t feel like I’m dreaming.”
He took a breath and stared out over the lake again.
“So,” he said, giving himself advice. “Figure out how this happened. Ask some questions. Think up answers.”
He nodded. “Yeah, let’s do that. Have I traveled back in time?” He shook his head. “No. James and Ethan would be younger too if this was the past. Everyone else is the same age. I’m the only one that got younger.
“How did this happen? Why did this happen?” He thought for a moment. “Magic? Should I believe in magic now. Damn it! What the fuck is going on?” He stood up and paced back and forth and continued talking. “Am I stuck like this now? Do I have to finish high school again? Is that what’s going on? A four year do-over?” He sighed. “This sucks. This fucking sucks.” He groaned in frustration. His stomach rumbled in response. He was getting hungry. “I’ll think better on a full stomach,” he decided. “Let’s go home, eat, and figure out what to do next.”
His mother met him at the door and asked if he was all right. She said she had gotten a call from James. Greyson did not try to argue with them. After all, he had no proof to back up his story. He apologized, and they ate lunch together, then he went up to his room and lay on his bed and zoned out while staring at the ceiling. As much as he wanted to figure out what to do, the energy to do anything seemed to have disappeared from him. His mind felt as though it were stuck, like a car driven into a ditch. Maybe he was mentally waiting for a tow, for some explanation to present itself to him.
His phone would buzz now and then. He got texts from close friends he had never met before. Someone saying that they were a teammate on the high school team called and asked him why he had skipped practice today. Greyson said he didn’t feel well. It was not a lie.
Dinner time came, and he went down to eat. He barely spoke and tried to ignore the worried looks his family was giving him as they ate together.
He tried not to think about what he had lost. Yesterday had been so different. He had been an adult. He had just gotten to be old enough to drink legally. He had been a college football star on his way to the NFL. His dreams had been coming true.
He tried not to think about being stuck living as a high school student again—having a curfew, going to high school, eating cafeteria food, suffering through classes he had already passed, trying to be friendly with high school kids.
Could he bear going through it all again?
Did he have a choice?
If reality had shifted on him, was there anything he could do about it?
“There has to be something I can do,” he muttered to himself.
“What was that?” his mother asked, pulling his attention back to the dinner table.
“Oh,” he said. “Nothing.”
“Do you have something you want to talk about?”
He desperately did want to talk, but he decided that he was tired of people looking at him as though he were going crazy. “No,” he said and excused himself from the table to go back to his room.
He spent some time examining himself in the bathroom. His earlier impression that he had lost weight was correct. According to the scale, he was 12 pounds lighter now. His body was still athletic, but much slimmer and less muscularly developed. Plus, he suspected that he had lost an inch in height although he had no ruler to check that. He looked at his face. It too seemed younger as well, but with no more recent image of himself to compare to it, he could not say quite what had changed. He just appeared a bit more innocent, more youthful.
He was 17, physically if not mentally.
It was true. It had happened.
He lay down in bed and kept thinking about the situation until well after midnight.
“Why?” he asked himself. “Why me? Why did this happen? What did I do to deserve this?”
The answer came to him, then. “The old woman!” he said, sitting up in bed. “The one at the store, I cut her hand. She said, ‘curse you!’ That old witch, she did this to me. It must be her.” He smiled. He had an answer. “I just need to go back to the university and find her. I can apologize to her, get her to turn me back to normal. I’ll beg her. I’ll do whatever she wants.” He nodded. “Yeah, that’s it.” He lay back down in bed. “Should I leave now?” He yawned. “Tomorrow,” he said. “I’ll go there first thing tomorrow.”
Now that he was armed with a plan, his mind was at ease again. He promptly fell into a deep sleep, confident that he would be able to fix everything tomorrow.