Outpatient by Ouroboros

submitted by Ouroboros - Sep 8, 2002

The mysterious AR virus strikes again! This is something I began writing after visiting a hospital. I've worked on it on and off for a while. This is just part one. I only plan on it being two parts. Since I got so much written tonight, I decided to go ahead and share what I had. Enjoy!

by Ouroboros

It's hard to believe that things ended up this way. I used to be 24...but now... It's certainly not the normal way your life goes. It's not so bad when you get used to it. Things seem right and it's not like there's anything you can do or could have done anyway. It all started a while back when I got a call from someone in pediatrics. You see, I used to work in a hospital, although it's not like I wanted to. In all honesty, hospitals give me the creeps. The main reason people go to the hospital is because they are sick or injured so the chances of getting a disease seems great. I'm just glad I never had to work around patients much. I would just fix a few of the hospital's computer problems and be on my way. Every so often I would have to go into a patient's room to fix something, but not often. One day, I met the most unusual person I've ever come across.

Like I said, it was a call from pediatrics. The last thing I needed that day was to see some sick kid, clinging to life, hooked up to some machine. However, when I got to the room, there was a kid in there, but he seemed fine. He looked to be about 13 or 14. He was just sitting in bed watching TV, so I walked in and started work on the computer.

"I know what the problem is." the kid said, still looking at the TV. I kept on working but responded anyway.

"Oh really? So you know how to fix it?"

"Yep! I sure do Charlie!" He read my name off my ID badge. "They just won't let me touch it. They don't want me to do much of anything."

"Why is that?" I said, stopping to look at him. "You look okay to me."

"It's because I have an unusual condition. The doctors are all baffled. They don't know what to make of it."

"Oh. Is it something personal or can you talk about it?"

"I don't mind talking about it. There's nothing else to do in this boring place but watch TV. How old do you think I am? Just by looking at me."

"Is this a trick question?" I said standing up now.

"Haha! No, just humor me."

"Okay then. I'd guess that you couldn't be more than 14. Am I right?"

"Not even close. Would you believe that a few days ago I was about as old as you are?"

"That's a good one kid. Is that how you know what the problem is with this computer?"

"Yeah, I used to be a computer junkie. When I was older that is."

"Alright then, tell me what you think the problem is." I decided to test his story. I didn't really think it was true of course, but I humored him.

"It has a virus. You'll have to go into the computer's registry and take delete a line of code there. Then reboot and you can run an anti-virus tool on it." I just stood there for a moment. He was right. Either he was telling the truth or kids today knew more about computers than I originally thought.

"That's right. How did you know?"

"I told ya, I used to be older." There was a silence for a moment. "You'd better do it before that nurse comes back in. She's up in arms over it."

"Oh, right!" I said finally. I got to work on it and fixed it while he continued watching TV. When I was done, my curiosity got the better of me. "So if you used to me my age, what else can you do to prove it?"

"Just look at this." he said taking out a driver's license.

"And why should I believe this is you and not someone who is missing a license?"

"You're not very trusting are you? Just look at the name and then look at my name on the chart." I did so, and found out that it was indeed his license. Then I noticed some clothing lying out that was for a much older person. All signs seemed to indicate that he was telling the truth.

"But...it can't be. People don't get younger. It's not possible."

"That's what I thought. That's what those doctors thought, but here I am."

"Wait I know what's going on. This ID is your dad's and this is his stuff here right? You almost had me there."

"No, I can assure you it's mine. I...don't have a father. Or a mother. Or anyone really."

"Oh, I'm sorry I said anything. It's just a little hard to believe." Just then, someone opened the door. It was the nurse.

"It's true alright." She had been listening. "Little Danny here was about 18 when he came in."

"Yeah, I used to be older than that." said Danny. "When I started getting shorter, I panicked and came here to see a doc."

"You have no idea what caused it?" I asked.

"Not a clue." Danny responded. "It just started happening one day."

"Are you still...you know, shrinking?" I asked, timidly. Danny just looked down and began to tear up.

"I'm afraid he is." the nurse answered for him. "He's loosing about a year every 12 hours. What worse, we don't know how young he'll get." Danny was crying now. I could tell that it was upsetting to him. Of course it was. There was a possibility he could die from it. The nurse took me to the side. "Poor little guy. He's got no one. He's so lonely and afraid. I would be too if I were in his position." I turned my attention to Danny.

"How about if I come and visit you tomorrow? I'll bring you something that might cheer you up."

"That would be nice Charlie, but you don't have to." Danny sniffled. "What's the use when I'm just going to shrink out of sight in a few days?"

"Don't talk like that." said the nurse, trying to lift his spirits a bit. "You're not going to disappear. You can't give up hope!"

"I try! But it just seems so hopeless. Why did this have to happen to me?" He began to cry more.

I wanted to help. The poor guy didn't have anyone to talk to but the nurses. Finally I said, "I don't know Danny, but I'm sure the doctors will find out something. I'll come back here tomorrow after work and keep you company. That way it won't be so scary. Okay?" After all, he used to be my age. In a manner of speaking, he still was. I had an idea that might help him ease into his situation.

"You can if you want to. I'll be here. At least I hope I will be." And with that, I left the hospital. All I could think about was his condition and what I would do if I were in that situation. I suppose I would try to make the best of it. It's not every day that you get to relive your childhood. Then again, not many people find that appealing. He seemed more afraid of dying than of becoming younger. I thought, perhaps I could use that.

The next day, I waited until after I clocked out and went to visit Danny. As I had thought, he was even younger now. He looked to be no older than 12, lying back in the bed watching TV. He finally noticed me and said, "Oh, hi Charlie."

"Hey Danny! How're you doing today?" I asked.

"Not any better. I got smaller again." He looked like he had cried until he had no more tears left. I decided to show him what I had brought.

"I've got something for you. Maybe it'll help." I opened the bag I had and took out my old Game Boy and a few games.

"A Game Boy! I used to have one, but it broke."

"Well, you can have this one. I don't get much use out of it anymore. Too busy to play games."

"Really?! Thanks Charlie! Wow! You've even got one of my favorite games here!"

"You like Pacman too?"

"Do I?! It's only one of my all time favorites!" He quickly put the cartridge in the unit and began playing. "Wanna play 2 player?" he offered.

"Sure! Gotta warn ya though, I'm really good."

"Heh, let's see if you can beat a pro!" We both played back and fourth for a long time. I finally lost my last life, and he got the high score. "See? I told ya. I'm a pro! Just no skill."

"You got lucky!" I said jokingly. "We'll have to rematch tomorrow." It was getting late and visiting hours were almost over.

"Aww... you gotta go?"

"I'm afraid so, but I'll be back tomorrow. That is, if you don't mind."

"Of course I don't mind!" At least I had gotten him to brighten up a bit. It was a bit late when I got home, but I didn't mind. It was for a good cause. I didn't say anything, but I had felt a bit strange while playing that game with Danny. Something just felt...weird.

That night while, my body felt like rubber for some reason. I was a bit clumsier than usual. I just attributed it to being up so late and got in bed. The next morning I awoke feeling great. I noticed that my pants seemed to fit better. I was actually able to go back one notch in my belt. I had kind of let myself go since I started working at the hospital, but I guessed I had just lost some weight. My workday seemed extra boring this time around, and I found myself anxious to see Danny. When my shift was finally over, I went up to see him.

"Hey Charlie!" he yelled to me as I walked in. Today, he was 10 years old. Oddly enough, he was in good spirits.

"Hey there Danny boy! You look like you're happy today."

"Yeah! The doctors said that they've found out about a few more cases like mine around the world. They say that the cause of the regression is still unknown, but that most cases end with the patient being around 8 or 9. A few rare cases get as young as 5, while only a handful have regressed into infancy." Then he looked down. "I sure hope I don't get that young, but at least I know I won't disappear. They've said that the virus isn't fatal. Isn't that great news?!"

"It sure is! No wonder you're so happy. How come it took the doctors so long to find out about these other cases?"

"Well, it's all pretty hush hush right now. They don't want to send the general public into panic. After all, they don't know what causes it yet. I don't want to be little again. Life was hard enough the first time around."

I tried to brighten his mood a bit. "Are you kidding?! Being a kid was great! No worries, no responsibilities... All you were expected to do was your homework and then you could just play."

"Yeah, you're right. I just don't want to get too little."

"Well, there are some good things about being little. You have even less responsibility, no school at all."

"My childhood wasn't that great. My father was...a bit abusive. But only when he drank. My mother died when I was 12, so I only had him to take care of me after that. He died soon after I left home."

"Oh... I don't know if it helps, but I can sort of relate. I no longer have a father or a mother myself. They both died in a car accident a few years ago. I'm sorry if I've brought up bad memories."

"No, it's okay. Besides, I guess now I can have a second chance at it right?

"That's right. Speaking of that, who's going to take care of you? You said that you had no one."

"I don't really know. The doctors said that some cases were like mine, where the patient has no family or friends. In those cases, the patients are given to special adoption agents. I guess that's what'll happen to me. Just hope I don't get any younger. I certainly don't want to have to be potty trained all over again."

"Haha! Right! Well, I guess all we can do until we find out how young you'll get is to play some more games!"

"Yay! Let's play Mario today! It's two players too." Again, we took turns with the Game Boy. We both got pretty far in the game. Once again, I lost my last life right at the end. Danny, on the other hand, beat the game.

"Dang! You beat me again! You're not cheating are you?"

"Nope! It's all in the wrists!" he winked.

I looked out of the window. "Oh man! It's late! I need to go. I didn't get much sleep last night, and I'm beginning to feel the effects of it."

"Aw, okay. If you HAVE to. I'll see you tomorrow, K?"

"You betcha!" That night, I was feeling even more strange. All day I had felt weird, and now my body was almost shivering. I took a long, hot shower to relax and hit the hay.

Once again, I felt great the next morning. I had a lot of energy and I noticed that I had lost a bit more weight. My clothes were really loose now. I made a mental note to break out some of my older stuff when I got home from work. It seemed like the day would never be done. At lunch, I found that nothing at the hospital's cafeteria appealed to me. Instead, I went down to a nearby McDonalds and got a Big Mac and some fries. It had been a long time since I had eaten there, but it sure tasted good. I decided to stop by before I went to see Danny and get him a Happy Meal. He seemed to be enjoying being a kid again, so I thought I'd indulge him a little.

When I entered the room, Danny's face got bright red. He turned away from me and said, "Hey Charlie." I already noticed that the regression hadn't stopped. He was an 8-year-old now.

"What's wrong Danny?"

"I'm...still shrinking. I hoped it would stop last night, but it didn't."

"Oh, I'm sure you won't get any younger. It's nothing to be ashamed of."

"I also...wet the bed last night." Now I knew why he was blushing. "They had to come in and change my bed and everything. It was so embarrassing."

"Oh...well, I brought something that might cheer you up." I handed him the Happy Meal.

"Real food!" he exclaimed digging into the sack with gusto. "It's been too long!"

"The doctors said you could eat it. I already cleared it with the nurse."

"Thanks Charlie!" he muffled while eating the cheeseburger. "Hey! These come with a toy too right?"

"Yep! Take a look." He pulled out a Pokemon toy.

"It's Pikachu! My favorite!"

"I didn't know you were into Pokemon."

"Well...I am. I've sorta been collecting this stuff." he said, a bit embarrassed again.

"Ah, don't be embarrassed. I collect toys too." I admitted.

"You do? What kinds?"

"Oh, all kinds. Basically whatever suits me. I've got a lot of model kits and action figures."

"Can you bring some tomorrow?"

"Sure! I didn't know if you'd want to play with any of them or not."

"I've been itching to. They haven't let me go back to my place and get any of my stuff yet."

"Funny, I've always thought I was the only one who still played with toys." I smiled.

"Yeah, small world huh? So to speak."

"So are you still nervous about getting younger?"

"Sure I am, but not as much. After our talk last time, I felt better."

"Hey, glad I could help. Things won't be so bad. Even if you do get younger. Some of my fondest memories are of my early childhood. Kindergarten, even pre-school age."

"You have fond memories of being in pre-school?" Danny asked sarcastically.

"Sure! Finger paints, clay dough, cookies, juice, nap time. What's not to like?" We both laughed. He continued eating and we both played with the Pokemon toy for a bit. Then we watched a few cartoons while Dan and I talked some more. We both had a lot in common. I still couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to grow younger like that. I wondered how'd I react. Would I go nuts, or would I actually enjoy it? I also pondered Danny's fate. Even if he didn't get any younger, he'd still need someone to take care of him. The only person I could think of was my sister. She was just a bit older than me, but she couldn't have children of her own. Her husband knew that before he married her. They want to adopt, but they're apprehensive about someone else's baby. I guess I would be too. Still, I wondered if they would take Danny in. I'd consider asking her at least. Soon night was upon us and I had to go home again.

"Don't forget. Bring those toys tomorrow!" Dan reminded me.

"Count on it!" I said as I walked out. I was feeling a bit funny again as I took the elevator down. When I got off, it felt like I was still going down for some reason. Maybe there was something wrong with the food I had eaten, I thought. Once home, I took another hot shower and got into bed, trying desperatly to shrug off how I was feeling. The next morning, I would awake to a big surprise.

To Be Continued...