Pilou stood stunned at the entrance to his new classroom. The cognitive dissidence he felt upon seeing the room for the first time was enough to wake him from his trance.
The room was filled with babies! Not just baby-babies, but cubs his size and even older. All diapered and none of them acting more than five years old at the most.
They romped and played in their short-alls and onesies, happy smiles plastered on their faces as they played with blocks or dolls or put together big wooden jigsaws with nine pieces or raced cars on the floor.
The brainy kids were sat quietly on the carpet next to the bookshelves, moving their lips silently as they sounded out the words they were reading from their cardboard books. Creative cubs played at the sand and water trays; laughing and splashing and building side by side up to their elbows in the sandy slush. They all seemed so carefree and childish regardless of their true ages.
This was all wrong! Pilou’s pulse quickened as little details that he had noticed, but that seemed unimportant in his entranced state started to take on a new significance and meaning.
A pair of caregivers, a motherly looking bear and chubby fox who looked as if he must be somebody’s kind grandfather, presided over the chaos and the fun. The pair of adults already looked rushed off their feet, but the kind smiles on their faces never wavered as they moved from cub to cub making sure that everyone played together nicely got attention as they need it.
Finally Pilou’s eyes fell on the cubbyholes underneath the coat pegs in one corner of the room. Among the mass of different bags and shoes and jackets and cartoon lunchboxes he noticed that every cub, large and small had their own Jr Tutor.
The pink VR visors, identical to the ones his big brother had brought home for him a month earlier, were unmistakable and, just like that, the last piece fell into place in his mind.
The young pup remembered how nice the lessons that the “My first Jr Tutor” gave made him feel. He remembered enjoying them despite the embarrassingly childish exterior of the goggles. He remembered how they made any topic and any lesson seem simple and straight-forward. He remembered how they made learning seem relaxing and easy… so unlike school.
And he remembered how eventually he started using the Jr Tutor after school without prompting from his big bro… and how he started to leave his sessions with the visor with a smile on his face and a feeling of happiness and contentment filling his being.
He almost smiled again as he remembered how nice and good it was to be hypnotised by the Jr Tutor. It would have been so easy just to let the warm, sleepy contentedness slip over him once more… The memories of trance were themselves addictive. The more he went under the more he wanted to slip deep into a happy, childish trance… and the deeper he went the better he felt and the deeper he wanted to go next time.
Pilou’s cute little muzzle silently moved as it repeated the lessons he had unknowingly absorbed in trance.
And he had been entranced now for a very long time.
He couldn’t remember most of it. He couldn’t remember the point where the Jr Tutor’s lessons switched from being topics that he was learning at school and even things that the class was going to be studying next to babyish things and babyish lessons. The last few weeks were a blur of happy, babyish thoughts revolving around bottles and diapers and cartoons and spaghetti shapes in tomato sauce.
He couldn’t even remember why he and his big bro and his teacher had agreed that big boy school wasn’t right for him any more except that it had seemed to make total sense at the time and he wasn’t that sad to be leaving the classroom. He didn’t really feel like he fit in anymore. He wasn’t even that sad about leaving his old friends either… they just didn’t seem to have as much in common as they used to for some reason.
Besides, both his brother and his teacher had promised him he would be seeing his friends again soon and that they could play together then as much or as little as they wished.
The meaning of their at-the-time innocent sounding words became clear to Pilou… He wasn’t the first nor was he meant to be the last boy tricked into using “My First Jr Tutor.” His friends and his schoolmates were soon to follow… becoming happy, carefree, cheerful, playful babies one by one.
He had to stop it! Didn’t he? It was bad! Wasn’t it? He didn’t want to become a happy little baby like his brother and his teacher and the visor wanted him to be… did he? He didn’t want to be carefree and happy and have playtime and naptime and mealtime with all these other nice baby-cubs in the colourful and inviting nursery…
He blinked as he realised the grandfatherly fox was standing over him, kneeling down slightly and smiling at him warmly.
“Hello, Pilou.” The caregiver said in a kind and soothing voice. “You seem really pensive for such a cute little one.”
Pilou saw the recognition in the caregiver’s eyes as he unwittingly fell into the fox’s subtle trap; he had showed no confusion as the fox had used the ‘big word’ word in place of something more simple and babyish like ‘thoughtful’ and had inadvertently betrayed his wakefulness.
“It’s normal for little ones to be anxious on their first day in a new class.” The kind voice continues in its lulling, hypnotic cadence which promised that everything was fine and that Pilou could just slip back into that tempting trance which still called to him with its siren song of pleasant memories. “But I don’t think that’s why you are anxious is it, Pilou?”
The young wolf pup just shook his head silently as the grandfather-fox rested a paw on his back. There was no point denying it now.
“It happens now and then that a boy or a girl wakes up,” the fox said, continuing as if it was no big deal and certainly nothing to be concerned about, “it’s rare, and when it happens they’re often confused and maybe even a little scared, but there’s nothing to be scared about here, little one. We take good care of all our students and make sure they are healthy and happy babies.”
That much certainly seemed true as the riotous class of babies continued unabated in front of Pilou’s eyes. Everyone entranced and regressed. Everyone happy and having fun.
“You have a choice now, Pilou. You’ve woken up and now that you know I doubt we could put you back under again, even if we wanted to.” The fox explained as he stroked his student’s back soothingly. “So it’s up to you what happens next: You could go back to your old school and your old class and the big-boy skills you’ve forgotten would slowly return to you. In a few weeks it’d be as if none of this had never happened.”
Pilou looked up into the adult’s eyes looking for any sign of deceit or mistruth, but all he found in those deep, deep eyes was care and compassion.
“Or you could choose to stay with us and slip back under. I promise that you would enjoy it if you did…”
The baby-trance was already calling him back. It would be so easy to choose to not-resist its pull and become a baby again. So easy.