Of course, actually getting that rest was easier said than done. Even after managing to sneak into the house and down to the basement to hide her skirt and socks in the washing machine until her parents went to work the next day so she could actually wash them, and grab another skirt to wear to go back upstairs and to her room in, she still had to actually fall asleep with a thick, crinkling diaper beneath her pajamas, one that seemed to grow wet of its own accord.
She hadn't expected to need a change before going to sleep - or even really thought about it - but after relaxing and chilling out with a book for a little bit, she stood up in a diaper that seemed almost ready to fall off her hips and drag her pajama pants down with it. Not that it would have mattered much, since she had to put them into the washer as well after sneaking back down to get a fresh diaper, since her diaper had leaked onto them quite badly. It was a good thing her parents had gone to bed.
It bothered her slightly to be wearing the top and bottom from two separate pajama sets, but not nearly as much as the feeling of bulkiness between her thighs as she tossed and turned in her bed, nethers feeling quite warm and confined inside their plastic prison. She wasn't about to risk sleeping without it, however. She hadn't woken up to a wet bed in ten years, and she was determined not to go back to that, even if the alternative wasn't much better.
"No wonder babies can be so hard to get to sleep," she mumbled unhappily to herself. Eventually, she did manage to doze off, but the resulting sleep was far from restful, as she woke every hour or two, her diaper growing progressively wetter with each waking, in different stages of almost pleasantly warm to cold and clammy. The final time, she woke to something much more unpleasant, which prompted her to give up and simply get out of bed. She had to climb out of the middle of a puddle, which reminded her unhappily of being nine years old again, but even that wasn't the worst part, as that didn't get rid of the thick, gooey mess she had felt in the seat of her pants. That was something she'd never done in her sleep as a kid, and that only made her feel worse about her situation, as if she needed that.
Her sheets were pretty wet, she saw once she'd put on her glasses, not bothering with her contacts since she didn't plan to go out, enough that she was pretty sure she was going to need to go with a double diaper that night if things hadn't improved, a prospect she was not particularly happy about. She gathered them up and waddled down to the basement, glad her parents both went to work early, and started up a load of laundry. Her over-used diaper went into the shopping bag with the diaper from last night, recycled from having used it to transport her skirt and clean diapers, which she also took with her upstairs and to the bathroom for a long shower.
About halfway through her shower came a sensation that was all too familiar, and yet different from what she'd gotten so used to. She turned the water down cautiously, not expecting to be able to do much about it, then gleefully hopped out of the shower and onto the toilet, feeling a little too pleased about how easily she'd made it. Was that it, then, she wondered? Just an overnight sickness of some kind, gone by the time she woke up?
She wanted to think so - really wanted to think so - but she wasn't sure she could actually bank on it. As she ducked back into the shower, she began to ponder what she should do, whether it was worth risking the well-being of another pair of underwear, and her floor, on the off chance that she was all better. She wanted quite badly to talk herself into it, but when she took her little bag of diapers out to the trash, she had one of their brethren on beneath her sweatpants and t-shirt, and it was only a few minutes after she got back inside that she found out what a good idea that had been.
Veruca considered herself a very rational, even-headed person, but when she felt her diaper growing wet around her with only the barest warning from her bladder as she spread peanut butter across her toast, she very nearly plopped herself right down on the kitchen floor and threw a tantrum. She knew it would be silly, and that it would serve no purpose, since she didn't even know who, or what, she'd need to appeal to in order to stop this, only that they were almost probably not in her kitchen, whatever they were, but she still very much wanted to do just that.
It just wasn't fair! There she was, an nineteen year old woman, stuck in diapers like a toddler, and one with a particularly overactive digestive system. Without a car, or even money for a cab, she couldn't exactly go investigate the house again on her own, or, really, do much of anything other than research the house online. It was, indeed, set to be demolished at the start of November, which made her all the more determined to solve the case on Halloween. This sudden incontinence had to have something to do with the house - it was too big a coincidence otherwise - and since she didn't have any idea what it could be, she needed to get in there and find it, so she could figure out how to cure it.
On a whim, she decided to do a little research on the family that had lived there last. As it turned out, they were also the first family to live there, since they seemed to have built the place. There wasn't much on the web about them, other than the small fact that they were all dead. The husband, Tony, died a few years earlier, in a car accident. The wife, Carol, and children, Maxwell and Maxine, twins with parents who either thought they were really clever or were just mean, all died at once in what was assumed to be a carbon monoxide leak.
Veruca had solved enough cases to know what she would see next. A little more digging found her a copy of the obituaries with pictures, and those pictures looked just like the people she'd seen in the hidden room. It still surprised her, a little, but mostly because of the dedication whoever it really was had put into it. They really did look a lot like the real family. She supposed it was possible, with heavy use of make-up, that the mother was the same woman - perhaps she'd survived and gone crazy - but there was no way the kids could still look so young. If Tony hadn't been an only child, she'd have suspected Carol had a second set of twins with the man's brother.
That didn't explain how the woman had known that stuff about her, but maybe she had researched Veruca, as Veruca was researching her now. Even though she rarely got credit for the cases she solved, at least not publicly, she'd still managed to get her face in the paper a time or two. That could also answer the bigger problem she was having; namely, what that little encounter had been intended to do. Perhaps Carol, or whoever she was, had seen something about her, then faked a haunting long enough to draw Veruca's attention, then, when she was there, got her to go into the freaky mirror room to scare her and make her think maybe they were real ghosts so that... what? She was still unsure of the motive. Did Carol think Veruca would be fooled that easily and declare the house haunted, perhaps to discourage its destruction? Surely there were easier ways to accomplish that...
Or, if it wasn't really Carol after all, maybe it was a squatter who was trying to do that same thing. It would have to have been a squatter with the incredible luck to look just like the former owner, or access to a very good disguise, though, not to mention a pair of kids. As far as she could tell, there were no rumors or legends about the house, or the land, other than the usual haunting stuff she'd been out there to check out in the first place. Why would anyone go to all this trouble? It just about had to be someone with a real connection to the place.
She was so engrossed in her research, she didn't notice the time going by, or the heavy use her diaper was getting, though there were a couple time she knowingly contributed to it, not wanting to get up and break her train of thought in case the tracks were actually leading somewhere. It wasn't until she heard the front door opening that she snapped out of it, realizing she'd somehow managed to leak again, though just enough to put a few wet spots on her sweatpants. The downside to having parents that went to work early was that they also tended to get home early.
Quickly, she grabbed a fresh diaper and a clean pair of pants, and then, on second thought, a bigger shirt to make certain the diaper bulge was hidden, then hurried to the bathroom before her mother could get out of the living room. Luckily, her parents had a bathroom in their own room, and generally stayed out of hers, so she was able to hide the used diaper and wet pants in there, resolving to put them somewhere more appropriate that night after they went to bed, or the next morning after they were gone.
She nearly had a heart attack when she opened the bathroom door and found her mother standing there, waiting for her. "Good morning, Veruca," she said.
"Good... morning?" Veruca answered. As usual when she got really absorbed into a task, she had no real idea of how much time had passed, though since her mom was home, and she was feeling quite hungry now that she wasn't working, it had to be late afternoon.
"Did you just get up?" her mother demanded.
"What? No! Mom, I've been working!" Veruca sighed.
Her mother sighed as well. "But not on finding a real job, I'm sure."
"Mom, I have a case..."
"Sweetie, we talked about this. Your father and I love you, and you can stay with us as long as you want, but you have to do something with your life. We'd love for you to go to college, but if you just want to find a job here, we'll support you in that, too. But solving your little mysteries is not a real job!"
It was an argument they'd had often, and not one Veruca cared to re-open at that time. Obviously it wasn't, since she didn't get paid - half the time, like now, she didn't even have a client, she just heard rumors and looked into them on her own - but that wasn't the point. The point was, if she solved the right case, something big, then she'd get the attention and publicity she needed to turn it into a real job. Her mother was just too narrowminded to be able to see it that way.
"I filled out a couple applications online," she lied instead, carefully moving around her mother, making sure not to touch her for fear of her somehow feeling, or hearing, the diaper. "I'm actually right in the middle of one now, so..." She backed into her room and closed the door, making a nasty face at the woman once it was shut.
"You really should respect your mother," a voice said from behind her, making her jump and squeal in shock.
"What are you doing?!" her mother demanded.
"I-I just stepped on something cold," she said, a little disappointed with how lame her excuse came out sounding.
It seemed to work, though, and, after listening to her mother's footsteps retreat, after a customary, "You should clean your room, then," she spun around to see the woman who was supposedly Carol standing behind her.
"How did you get in here?" she hissed. "What are you doing here?"
"I just wanted to check on you," Carol told her. "I've read the transition can be difficult for the host, but I just wanted you to know, we appreciate it so much..."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Veruca shook her head.
"The living host," Carol said. "In my husband's research, it said the living host could experience some problems... And that was just with one spirit attached. So with three, I mean, I'm sure..."
"You are not a ghost," Veruca told her sternly, "so don't even try to pull that! I'm not an idiot, I've unmasked plenty of-" She was cut off abruptly as her angry advance on Carol, intended to end with a shove on the shoulders, instead ended with her hands going right through the woman. "O-Okay, so you have a hologram," she said, stepping back and wiping her hands. "It's a good one, I'll tell you that. I've seen a few, but that one... Probably the best."
"I'm not a hologram," Carol insisted.
"You have to be pretty close," Veruca pondered, walking around her to the window and looking out, disappointed not to see any vans parked outside her house. "Either that or you have a crazy connection. There's almost no lag."
"I'm not a hologram," Carol repeated.
"You know what? I'll even overlook the fact that you snuck in here and put up a projector or whatever if you let me take a look at your set-up."
"I am not a hologram," Carol said once more, starting to lose her patience.
"Well, you're not a ghost!" Veruca snapped. "I'm not an idiot, I know that! Look, I don't know what you're up to in that house, and I don't care. Just tell me what you did to me."
"I told you," Carol replied. "You are our living host. The devil's toy box Tony built kept our spirits intact and fully formed, but after a few years... It gets so lonely, Veruca. Real ghosts, they stick around because there's one thing they're obsessed with that they just can't let go of, but that's not what we are. The toy box trapped our whole essence, all our memories, all our urges and desires, everything. But it also trapped us. So we needed you to let us out, but even then, without a host, we'd just slowly dissolve until we became real ghosts, and then, without that one central thing to keep us stuck here, we'd fade away."
"So I'm your host," Veruca repeated, staring at the hologram, or ghost, or spirit, or whatever she was, over the top of her glasses. "Which means...?"
"It means that, by using your living energy, we can experience everything we've been remembering about life. I don't really understand how it works, but it's fantastic. I mean, just eating and drinking... You don't realize how much you enjoy those until you can't do them, and all you're left with is the memory, haunting you day after day."
"You've been doing a lot of eating and drinking?" Veruca asked, finding herself drawn in by this, despite being sure she should know better. "And where do I fit into this?"
"I'm not completely sure," Carol admitted. "We're a strange combination now, all mixed up in one another. I don't think you'll gain weight from what we eat, though, so don't worry about that, dear."
"But the end product of all that stuff has to wind up somewhere..." Veruca mused, fidgeting in her diaper. It was, of course, impossible, and yet... Was that what was going on? Had Carol and her kids just piggybacked a ride on her digestive system without so much as asking, and without really understanding what it would do? "Could you do me a favor?" she asked, gritting her teeth. "For starters, could you not eat so much? You're ghosts! It's not like you're going to starve to death!"
"Well, no," Carol admitted. "But it's so hard... After all that time thinking about it, it's hard not to..."
"Yeah, whatever," Veruca waved her off. "Just take it easy. And please, just... go away."
"All right," Carol nodded, looking a little surprised, and hurt. "I just wanted to thank you."
"Oh, you've thanked me enough," Veruca told her sarcastically. The woman faded away, and as soon as she was gone, Veruca was dashing back to her computer, typing out a new search. She didn't know if Carol would have had any power to try to stop her, but she wasn't going to risk it. She knew it was ridiculous, but since it was the only lead she had, she was going to find out everything she could about this soul-piggybacking, or whatever it was, and what she could do to stop it.
And she was going to do it quickly, not just to get herself out of diapers, but because she had a bad feeling it was going to involve the devil's toy box again, and she was only going to get one more shot at being able to use that, on Halloween night.