There was no doubt that Lucy had to get away, just as there was no doubt that she had no idea how she was going to do that. Trapped in a giant crib, her legs numb, it seemed like there wasn’t much she could do to stop the huge robot, and its equally large, even more intimidating, axe.
If only she’d had the courage to try something earlier, maybe she would have had a better chance… Back before he already had so much of the crib assembled. What would he have done then? How would he have kept her from running away? He probably couldn’t have, and she would have been able to make at least a couple more attempts, before winding up stuck.
She watched as the robot turned away from her, walking back towards the treeline. It was hard to tell from her vantage point, but it looked like he was nearly done with the lid… He could probably finish it with one more tree, perhaps two, if she was lucky, and then it was truly over; once she was locked in, she wouldn’t be getting out easily anytime soon.
As quickly as she could, she pulled herself back up to her feet, leaning on the sturdy bars. They were all new, just installed by the master woodsman, so she doubted she’d find any loose ones, but that was her best plan for the time being, so she started stumbling around the crib, tugging on each one, hoping one would budge, just a little, give her some hope.
Despite the size of the crib, she was able to get around it pretty quickly, helped both by her panic, and the fact that it took very little time to determine that not a single bar was going anywhere, not unless somebody much stronger than her wanted it to. Even though she’d suspected as much from the start, it was still disheartening, making the full round and coming back with nothing to show for it.
Apparently the top was her only option, and, with her legs numb, it wasn’t much of one. There were a few inches in between the planks that made up the temporary lid, enough that she thought she could fit her hands there, if she could get high enough to reach them… Except, of course, climbing was going to be practically, if not literally, impossible. The bars were expertly carved, smooth as silk, which would have made them difficult to scale even with fully functioning legs.
She let go of the bars with one hand, stretching up as high as she could go. Her fingers didn’t brush against the top… But, they weren’t all that far away, either. It wouldn’t be that high of a jump to reach it, and if she could just wrap her hands around the top rail, perhaps she could pull herself up and out, even with her numbed legs.
Of course, jumping required those legs, which meant, most likely, it was off the table. A quick scan of the crib told her it was probably also her best bet, so she didn’t have much of a choice… She had to, at the very least, try it out. She took a deep breath and let go of the bars, stepping backwards, pouring all of her strength and concentration into staying upright. All she had to do was step forward, give one big jump, and then…
Instantly, she started to lose her balance. Muttering a curse under her breath, she fought to stay upright, only to stumble backwards, falling into the bars behind her before slamming onto the floor of the crib with a loud crinkle and thump, and a quieter clatter, the mud in her diaper squishing against her bottom.
“Are you all right, little one?” the robot called.
Lucy wasn’t; she wanted to cry, as it sank in just how screwed she was, how unlikely she was to get herself out of this mess. She should have just ignored the rainbow, stayed home with stupid little Kari… She hated that the girl had seen her in diapers, and was making her stay in them, but that was still better than this, than everything she’d gone through…
“Little one?” the robot yelled again.
“I’m fine!” she shouted back, not wanting to give him any reason to come back and check on her; she instantly regretted it at the sound of the axe thunking into a tree as he returned to work, bringing her closer and closer to her inevitable doom.
If she’d just waited another second or two, he wouldn’t have even heard her, she mused. Whether that would have been a good thing or not, she wasn’t sure… Did it really matter if he heard some thumping and bumping behind him, if she wasn’t able to use it to escape? What else could he do, take her with him, to keep a closer eye on her while he worked? He was so much bigger, he could easily catch up to her if she tried crawling away, even if he was distracted when she started. She’d distracted him for a moment, anyway, bought her an extra couple of seconds that she had done nothing with.
She sighed, shaking her head and lowering it, starting to resign herself to her new life, only to see a wooden heart on the crib floor in front of her. She recognized it instantly, of course, but that didn’t stop her from picking it up curiously, turning it over, then glancing up at the planks of wood over her head, where she’d seen the robot place it. She must have bumped into the crib hard enough to shake it loose, bump it into the gap between boards.
For a moment, she considered opening the lock, taking out the mechanism her captor had so painstakingly assembled, and hiding it, forcing him to carve another one. There were, obviously, some issues with that, since there was no mattress, no blankets, nothing in the crib for her to hide it in, and she doubted she’d be able to throw it far enough through the bars for it to be difficult to find.
Still, she thought, there had to be something she could do with this lock, some way she could use it to her advantage… He’d left it open, so she could fasten something shut with it… Though, the key was simply the robot’s finger, so he could undo it in no time. Like the crib, it felt very sturdy, and she didn’t think she would be able to break it, even if she used all of her strength.
She tossed the lock onto the crib floor, frustrated, tired, and ready to give up. There was nothing she could do, no way to get out of this… She was going to be this robot’s baby forever, stuck in this beautiful, intricately carved, but impenetrable, wooden fortress of a nursery.
Or… Was she? She glanced at the lock again, then back up towards the top of the crib, an idea beginning to sprout in her mind. She picked it back up, grabbing the shackle this time, testing it, knowing that would be the part most likely to break. It really did feel quite solid, and if she were going to trust any lock with this, this was definitely the one she would have chosen.
She turned the shackle around, moving the open end away from the hole it was designed to snap into, positioning it over the empty air behind the lock instead, forming a hook of sorts. It was a large, heavy lock… Surely big enough to do what she wanted…
Carefully, she pulled herself back up to her feet, staring out towards the trees, waiting to see the glint of sunlight on the robot’s axe as it drew back for another swing, just in case she fell again, then, just before his axe made contact, she reached up, trying to slip the curve of the shackle over the top railing of the crib… And missing.
She had been close, though… Very close. The hook had bumped against the top board, bounced off harmlessly, but if she could just get it a little higher, than surely she could do it. She adjusted her feet, wrapping the arm without the lock around the bar she was leaning on, waiting for the robot’s next swing…
As soon as she saw it begin, she lifted herself as high as she could get, then tried the lock again… And, once more, wasn’t able to get it over the railing. “Come on,” she hissed, gritting her teeth. She was in too deep now, too invested in this plan to try another one… And, even from here, she could tell the tree the robot was working on was nearly done. Once it had fallen, it wouldn’t take that long for the robot to drag it over to the nursery and begin carving, which would mean he was closer, and able to pay more attention, to her. He’d likely notice the missing lock as well, and take it back. Even if he didn’t finish the lid with this tree, he’d probably put the lock somewhere else, to make sure she wasn’t able to get it back.
She had to do this, and she had to do it now. As the robot prepared for what would likely be the final swing, Lucy inched higher up the bar, straining to lift her weight off the ground without the help of her legs before raising her other arm, trying to will it to grow, to gain an extra inch or two to get over the rail. She almost couldn’t bear to watch, but she wanted to make sure she didn’t somehow miss entirely, ruin this final shot for some stupid reason beyond simply not being tall enough.
So, she was able to see the exact moment when the hook scraped over the railing, just barely, the adrenaline coursing through her veins enough to allow her to pull herself just an inch or two higher on the bar, to allow the shackle to continue moving, to slide over the entire piece of wood, the hump just big enough to settle over top of it.
Quickly, she moved her other arm from the bar to the lock, hanging off of it, impressed that, as far as she could tell, it wasn’t even straining to hold her weight. Whether she was going to be able to do the same or not, however, remained to be seen… She could feel the sweat beginning to form on her forehead as she hung there, completely off the floor of the crib, her breathing growing heavier as she stared upwards at the railing. It wasn’t that far from where she was already… All she had to do was let go of the lock with one hand, and reach up, get ahold of that instead…
For a long second, the forest was silent, except for her increasingly labored breathing. If she slipped and fell now, she wasn’t sure she would have the time, or strength, to try again, so she had to make sure she didn’t screw up. Finally, with a groan, she put as much weight as she could on her right hand, loosening her death grip on the lock with her left so she could raise it into the air.
Lucy had never been an athlete, not really, despite the coaches at school wanting her to give basketball a try. She wasn’t awful at gym, either, though, not like Kari, who was constantly struggling to do the simplest thing, her tiny frame and lack of coordination making it difficult for her to successfully get through anything without falling or hurting herself.
Pull-ups were one thing Lucy had always been just as bad at as the smaller girl. She assumed it was because she had so much more body that she had to lift than Kari, but it was always a struggle, and, if the gym teacher wasn’t watching her closely, she’d always just have her partner lie for her, saying she’d done them, rather than going through all that trouble. She would, of course, lie for her partner, too; it was only fair.
It was kind of funny, she thought, that earlier in the day she’d been so upset with Kari for not letting her wear her Pull-Ups – the other kind – and making her stay in diapers, instead, because of one little accident, and now this kind of pull-up was the only thing standing between her and permanent babyhood.
She pulled herself upwards, as hard as she could, her other hand’s fingers wiggling nervously as the crept closer and closer to the top of the railing. She’d gotten the hook over it… Surely she could get her hand up there, too! “Little higher,” she urged herself, panting. “Little higher…”
She could feel her right hand starting to weaken, to lose its grip on the lock, urging her to try harder, while she still had the chance. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion… Her hands felt slick with sweat, making it even harder to keep ahold of the lock, as it also began to drip down her forehead, into her eyes. Without any free hands to wipe it away, she shook her head, straining, struggling, just needing a few more centimeters…
At last, her left hand clamped around the railing. Instantly, she let go of the lock with her right, reaching up to grab the rail with it as well. As her entire weight quickly shifted from hanging off the side of the crib, to clinging to it, she felt something else shift as well. Her stomach began to twist inside her as the world seemed to tilt, her mind needing a moment to process that she was falling.
She was able to squeak out a frantic, “Oh, crap!” before the crib fell onto its side, hard, smashing into the forest floor with a shuddering thud that seemed to shake the whole woods. Even after all that, she was still screwed, she thought with a wince… There was no way the robot hadn’t heard that.
When she glanced up to see if he was already on his way there, however, she saw that the tree he’d been working on was gone as well. Maybe it hadn’t been the crib making all that noise, she realized… The tree must have fallen at the same time; finally, luck seemed to be on her side, at least a little.
As fast as she could go, she crawled out of the crib, marvelling that it still seemed to be in one piece, pausing just long enough to grab the lock, which was also still intact, and hook it into the belt loop of her shorts. She wasn’t sure why, but, after it had gotten her out of that jam, it felt wrong to leave it behind… Besides, you never knew when it might come in handy again.
It wasn’t until she started crawling towards the bridge again that she realized just how worn out she was, how much that escape had taken out of her. Between her numb legs, and her sore arms, moving at all was a struggle; all she wanted to do was curl up and take a nap, but she knew that if she did that, she’d wake up back in the crib, probably locked inside, with no hope of getting out.
As much as she wanted to, as little as she liked the idea of getting on it, especially in her weakened state, Lucy didn’t pause when she reached the bridge, just forced herself to crawl onto it. She’d always heard, in the kind of movies that had this sort of awful, dangerous-looking rope bridge, that it was best not to look down; the protagonist always wound up doing that anyway, for some reason, and it made things all the harder for them.
She’d told herself, any time she saw a scene like that, she wouldn’t make the same mistake, yet that was almost the first thing she did. It didn’t help that she was on all fours, of course, making it much harder to avoid seeing the raging river beneath her, or the old, rotting wood she was inching across, but, sure enough, like everyone from the movies, she instantly froze once she’d done it, the queasy feeling in her stomach from minutes earlier, as the crib fell beneath her, returning with a vengeance.
“Where are you, little one?” the robot bellowed from behind her. “Do not be scared, Daddy is coming for you!”
That was enough to get her moving again, creeping along as fast as she could. The river was so much wider than the stream she was used to being here, and she knew that the robot would not only be angry at her for being on the bridge, since its job was to guard it, but also that she would be very easily visible on it if he came that way.
“Daddy will fix your crib so it will not do that again,” he called. “You do not have to be scared, little one!”
Lucy yelped as a board split beneath her hand, tumbling into the water below and making her stumble forward, almost falling onto her face. Her heart beat a bit faster, speeding up even more at the sound of the robot speaking again. “I hear you! This is not the time for games, little one, just come to Daddy!” Lucy reached past the empty space where the board had been to the next one, pulling herself carefully over the gap and forcing herself to keep moving.
“What are you doing?” the robot demanded. “You know the bridge is forbidden.”
She dared to turn her head, gasping as she saw the robot standing at the edge of the bridge, axe in hand. “Come back here right now,” he ordered, “and I will not be too cross with you. Perhaps only one spanking.”
Lucy didn’t want to know what even a single swat from his huge, metal hand would feel like, so she kept moving ahead – there wasn’t exactly room on the bridge for her to turn around, anyway, even if she had wanted to. “You are making Daddy upset, little one,” he threatened.
However, Lucy noted, he wasn’t coming any closer. It wasn’t a huge shock, honestly, considering how small and rickety the bridge was… There was no way something a large, and heavy, as him could step onto it without snapping it in two, and plunging into the water below. That must be why it was so adamant about keeping people off the bridge in the first place… Once they got onto it, there was nothing the robot could do to stop them.
He did, of course, still have the axe, and could easily chop the bridge down if he wanted. She doubted he would do it to her, but the possibility was there, and enough to keep her moving forward, nearly collapsing onto the ground on the other side, feeling, very briefly, safe. She still saw him there, on the other shore, and he was still yelling at her to come back, so she didn’t stay there for long.
There was a bit of a clearing on that side of the bridge, too, like the one the robot had been building her nursery in, and, ahead of it, she could see the forest, still just as dark and deep as it had been on the other side of the river. The rainbow was there, too, though, closer than ever. She might be moving slower now, stuck on her hands and knees, but she’d made it this far… There was no way she was going to give up now.
She crawled towards it, feeling exhausted, yet newly invigorated, knowing she as going to need a long nap once she made it home, but also that she couldn’t possibly have that much further to go. Maybe being on all fours would even help… Whatever creatures were in there, making odd sounds she was certain she’d never heard coming from the woods before, might not be able to see her as easily if she wasn’t standing upright… Possibly. She knew most predators used their sense of smell, and she had no doubt, after all that exercise, she had a definite scent to her, though there wasn’t much she could do about that without a bathtub.
Just as she was about to crawl into the trees, however, she felt herself being lifted into the air, her limbs flailing, even before she felt the cold metal against her skin, saw the large, robotic face she was being held in front of. At first, she thought the robot had somehow gotten across the bridge after all, until it spoke, its voice slightly higher and softer. It may have been slightly smaller, as well, although it was difficult to judge that while being held in its hands.
“Hello there,” it said. “Was that you making all that noise, little one? What are you doing out here all alone?” Before Lucy could come up with an answer, it gave the same, mechanical laugh as the other robot. “Ha ha ha, you do not have to look so scared, little one. Mommy is here to take care of you.”
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