Chapter 39 - Down the Rabbit Hole
"How long have you been doing this?" Alisa asked, smiling brightly as she gave a look to the camera, waiting for a response. Behind her milled a cheerleading squad who was on their way to a national competition, warming up for practice while she spoke to their captain.
She had to admit, she'd felt a little nervous agreeing to the interview, and even now - it was still difficult to accept that she was back in reality, and that, most likely, the cheerleaders weren't going to try to diaper her for some strange reason. In the stories, they always seemed to be the bad guys, except for the one team member who wound up in diapers herself, but she wasn't in one of those stories, not anymore. At least, she was pretty sure she wasn't.
It was hard to know for sure, of course. Everything had seemed to be normal when she'd arrived, finding herself back in her apartment. The place almost looked as if it had been robbed, since her televisions, microwave, and various other electronics had been dismantled, parts taken from them and made into a variety of strange devices that were strewn around the place with no indication as to what they were meant to do, but that only made her feel a little more certain that she was in the right place. No doubt that was the work of Emily, trying to do God only knew what with the technology available to her. She had been a little scared to touch any of the things the girl had built, at least until she had smashed them all.
Part of her felt a little sad as she'd destroyed them, wondering if they could possibly have been some great new invention to this world, something that would let her earn a fortune - which she would need, considering the voicemails waiting for her from the office, asking where she was, and then finally firing her - but she knew it wasn't worth the risk to actually test them herself. She might have escaped the other dimension, but another fugitive from it had built them, so there was no telling what they might do, if they were even in working condition. She felt much better once they were out of her apartment, even though it now seemed awfully bare with so many of her electronics gone.
She'd spent the first few hours back terrified that she would be pulled back into the other dimension at any moment as the other her stepped through the door to try to take her place. The fact that she wasn't made her feel suspicious that she hadn't wound up in the right place after all, though everything else seemed to be right. She even called Dr. Bremer, claiming she was thanking the woman for the interview - and lying when she said that it would be published soon - just so she could inconspicuously as possible ask if the woman happened to have a twin, and confirm the spelling of her first name, just to be safe. She knew that probably made her look like an idiot, since there weren't that many ways to spell 'Astra', but it seemed less embarrassing than simply asking for the woman's name straight out. It was also a relief to know that Astra Bremer did exist in this world, even in the off chance it wasn't Alisa's, and that she was working on the same thing that the other Dr. Bremers had been.
She was still a bit afraid that she could wind up in the diaper dimension at a moment's notice, but the longer she managed to stay put, the less it worried her. With everything that was going on, it was certainly possible that the other her had been stopped from walking through the door, maybe even by Emily, who probably wasn't very happy to find herself back home in a body that was suddenly a couple feet shorter than it should have been, and in a messy pair of training pants. Or the door might only work for one trip before needing its destination recalibrated. She really had no idea, which made her wish she'd stuck around a little longer, to try to find out a little more about it before she went through. She had known that was quite possibly her only chance, however, so she'd had to take it, and take it right then. She hated to think what Emily, brought back into the other Alisa's body, would have done to her if she'd seen what Alisa had done to her body.
The whole thing had left her feeling rather disoriented, like a very long, very bizarre dream that felt intensely real in the moment, until you look back on it the next morning. Already, parts of it seemed to be slipping away, details muddying when she tried to recall them, forcing her to write as much of it as she could down. She wasn't sure what she was going to do with it, but it seemed like something too big for her to simply let vanish into the mists of her mind completely. Some days, she suspected that it really had been a dream, some strange hallucination cooked up by Dr. Bremer to mask the fact that her machine didn't really work.
The only evidence she had to the contrary was in her mind. On the days she felt especially anxious about being replaced by the other her, she found herself unable to stop herself from sucking her thumb, something that, unfortunately, produced the same result here as it had in the other world. She also had to be very careful when she got dressed, or went to the bathroom, as the slightest brush of her hand against the wrong part of herself resulted in an accident - she always had to make sure she used the bathroom before she took a shower. Even though she'd been thrilled to be able to wear real panties again when she'd first gotten home, it wasn't long before she started wearing pull-up style diapers instead, just to be safe. They were nowhere near as comfortable here, or as thick, and they didn't do nearly as good a job, but she refused to go back to full-blown diapers all the time.
There were definitely times when she re-thought that decision, however. "Umm... Ma'am?" the captain gave her a strange look, blushing a little empathetically. "I think maybe..."
Despite her experience in the other world, where her actions would have earned her an almost immediate diapering, she still couldn't help herself from immediately uttering a frustrated, "Not again!" as she looked down at her crotch before the girl could even suggest what she was talking about. Sure enough, there was a wet spot forming on the crotch of her pants there, much to her dismay. The sight of it only frazzled her nerves further, making it all the more difficult for her to get her muscles back under control. By the time she managed it, her bladder was so close to empty that there was almost no point in stopping, though she did it anyway.
Alisa blushed furiously, giving the cut off signal to her cameraman before turning to the cheerleader, trying to hold her hand in front of the wet spot without getting too close to it. "I'm so sorry, dear."
"It's all right." The girl seemed fairly confused by it all, but not at all malicious as she offered, "Let me take you somewhere you can get cleaned up."
"Thank you," Alisa nodded, handing over her microphone and grabbing her purse before hurrying after the cheerleader, trying to keep as many of the girl's squadmates from seeing her as she could as she hustled into the locker room. She always kept a spare pull-up in her purse, since she went through quite a few considering how un-absorbent they were, but she wasn't sure what she was going to do about her pants.
"Here's a towel... I don't have any spare clothes, or I'd let you borrow some," the girl she'd been interviewing minutes before worried. "Uh... Why don't you get cleaned up, and I'll see what the school nurse has that you can use?"
Before Alisa could protest, the girl was gone, leaving her there in her wet pants. She was moments away from being discovered by a much meaner cheerleader than the captain, and if that didn't happen, she was sure the school nurse would be along, waiting for her after her shower with a thick diaper, and quite possibly a thermometer to see if she was sick, and a paddle to use on her if she wasn't, and had just peed her pants because she was a lazy little brat. Then the cheerleaders would adopt her as their mascot, taking her to the competition with them in her own version of their uniform, one with a much shorter skirt that showed off her thick, thirsty diapers, a little red peeking out from beneath them from where they'd had to punish her for saying she didn't want to go on TV like that with the rest of the team...
But her quick shower went rather uneventfully, and when she came out, there was a black skirt - not even particularly short, just a bit old looking - and even a pair of underwear waiting for her. She slipped on another one of her thin, all but useless diapers, then put the panties on over it before getting into the skirt, reasoning that it would help mask what she was wearing in case of a strong burst of wind that might come as she walked back out onto the field in the middle of practice to continue her interviews.
There was no wind. None of the other cheerleaders seemed to think of her as anything more than another adult as she spoke to them - in fact, most of them seemed more scare of her than she was of them. Certainly none of them seemed like they were going to try to track her down and treat her like the pant-wetting baby she had acted like. The captain, having had a little time to process what had happened, seemed a little more bemused once Alisa finished her interview with her, and she had no doubt the girl would get a good laugh out of it with her friends later, but it was pretty clear that, in this world, nothing more was going to come of it. It was quite a relief, and, though she hated to admit it, a little disappointing at the same time.
"Boss wants to see you," she was told almost as soon as she stepped out of the news van once they were back at the NOW network. Alisa winced a little, but it was hard to be surprised after what had happened. She knew her cameraman had caught at least a little of the accident, probably even before the cheerleader had, and of course he hadn't bothered to tell her, the jerk.
"Thanks," Alisa sighed, dropping her things off at her desk before making her way to the boss's office, knocking once before opening the door to find Ms. Farber seated inside.
It still took her by surprise sometimes, seeing the woman's face. The first time it had happened, she'd wet herself right then and there, and it had taken a valiant struggle to keep her thumb out of her mouth - as soon as she'd gotten home, she'd spent most of the night sucking it, trying to calm herself down, telling herself that she wouldn't take the job even if it was offered. It was only the fact that the other her had been on TV that had inspired her to even try to get a job at the new network, since the newspaper refused to take her back after she'd vanished for no reason or warning for more than a week.
Scary as that first encounter had been, it had also helped her to remember that her trip to the other dimension wasn't a dream, probably. There was the possibility that she had seen Ms. Farber's picture in the paper before she left, or even seen her on television, but she had no recollection of that. And yet, here she was, very clearly not the same one from the other world since she was just normal sized, only an inch or two taller than Alisa, and hadn't once tried to drag Alisa to some back alley surgeon to take away her muscle control.
By the time the job offer actually came, she was desperate enough to give it a try, and she had to admit that she was very glad she had. The real Ms. Farber was actually a very nice person, and very understanding about Alisa's little quirks. Alisa was still somewhat nervous with her new job, and hadn't managed to make it through her first couple stories without sucking her thumb for a moment or two, and today wasn't the first leak that had been caught on camera. Ms. Farber was always willing to cut around that footage, however, letting Alisa review what was going to air before actually broadcasting it. Of course, that meant Alisa was out of the running when it came to reporting live, but, for now, she was all right with that, since that would be an awful lot of pressure.
"Look, Alisa," Ms. Farber said, once she'd invited the woman to take a seat, "I like you. I do. But I really think you need some help. I know a very good therapist who I'm sure can help you with your oral fixation. She used hypnotism to help me quit smoking, and I haven't touched a cigarette in three years."
"No," Alisa told her firmly. "No hypnosis."
Ms. Farber looked like she wanted to push it, only to relent. "All right. But something's going to have to be done eventually. You should've been back half an hour earlier."
"I know," Alisa looked down at the floor. "I'm sorry."
"At least go to the doctor, make sure you don't have some infection or something. And, I hate to say it, but... Have you thought about, you know, protection?"
Alisa blushed. "Well, I..."
"I'm just saying," Ms. Farber shrugged. "We barely had time to get the story edited together."
"It already went out?" Alisa squeaked. It wasn't like it mattered that much, since, by then, she trusted Ms. Farber and her editing team, but she still liked to watch it anyway, especially since it was the only chance she had, having still not replaced the TVs Emily had dismantled in her apartment.
"We didn't have a choice, it was too close to air time," Ms. Farber told her. "I'm sorry, but you didn't give me a choice. Do you want to see it now?"
"No, it's okay," Alisa sighed. She just hoped that there weren't too many people who noticed her pants switching to a skirt partway through the interview, or that, at least, they assumed it was filmed on different days or something. "It's my fault. Thanks for trying to help, it's just..."
"Yeah, yeah. You're just lucky you're so cute. Get out of here." Ms. Farber waved her out, dismissing her to scurry back to her desk and start packing up to head home. Before she left, she did one last check of her e-mail, and was pleased to find that someone had posted on her Facebook fan page. She was still new enough that she rarely even got any visitors, so a comment was enough to cheer her up after her little incident.
At least, it was until she actually loaded the page and her sole comment blinked to life in front of her. "Maybe you should do a story on a daycare next," it suggested. "They could give you some potty training tips."
Quickly, she erased it, cheeks burning as she looked around, making sure nobody had been looking over her shoulder. She wished she had looked at how long ago it had been posted before getting rid of it, but she hoped it hadn't been long enough for anyone but her to actually see it. She had been sure to open the perpetrator's profile in another tab before deleting the comment, but the name didn't ring any bells, the profile picture was a shot of flowers, and the rest of the profile was set to private.
It hardly mattered, especially now that it was gone, yet it still shook her up a little. She suspected one of the cheerleaders wasn't as innocent as she'd suspected, but she restrained herself from looking up the full squad roster - it wasn't like she was going to go hunt some teenager down because of one comment. Still, it was enough to make her hurry home and get herself into a proper diaper for a good thumb-sucking session to try to forget all about it, curling up on her bed and falling fast asleep before the sun had even finished setting.