By Robert J. Willis
Once there was a little man, one foot high. He lived in a warm, well-lit, tiny room - his home. He loved his life - flourescent lights, bright yellow walls, no windows to clean or furniture to dust or unknown corners to discover. How wonderfully certain, how bright and clean!
Every day - at dawn, at noon, at sunset - he pursued his life's work unfailingly, as he had for years. Moving always to the right, three trips a day, he explored his world. Explored? Well, revisited. Walking ever so slowly, he counted up his life encounters: this wall, all yellow except for two pencil marks from another age; this one, with some missing plaster and two large scuff marks (grinning, he recalled how once he had somehow slipped); this third, his pride and joy - so smooth, unblemished, unmarked by time; this last, so like the others but so much more, because it was the last, signalling approaching accomplishment and rest.
One day, on completing his rounds, he rested - but not really. He was troubled, unaccountably. His home had somehow been becoming, for weeks now, too stuffy, too warm, too bright, too known. Feelings of ennui enveloped him. He was so unchallenged. He felt his life draining away, leaving a tired, so very tired body and mind, shrinking to the size of his unused heart. And so he sat and sighed.
Disturbingly, yes, very disturbingly, a feeling and an image kept constantly, even vociferously, intruding. The feeling? - fear, an uncomfortable, screaming sort of thing; the image? - a small door nestled in the corner between walls two and three. Haunting! Oh, he had known it before. Once, years before, he had looked at that door, but since then his eyes were either tightly closed or seeking the ceiling as he passed by that disturbing knob. For so long he had forgotten it, had mechanically avoided it. But today his growing uneasiness had overwhelmed him, had broken through his pattern. He saw the door. And he was afraid.
Why afraid? - because he somehow knew that door could open, could lead somewhere, could offer newness, and discovery, and uncertainty. Why afraid? - because volcanically he was hearing, "My tiny room is too tiny. I can't breathe!" And he could leave.
Days passed. Days of growing restlessness passed. His rounds became faster, less satisfying. His room kept closing in, the air heavy and sticky and warm. In his imagination, he became a big cat - his rounds, prowls - his uneasiness filled with tension, sinister, foreboding. Then finally - oh, God - explosion! The hungry cat, uncoiling, releasing hurting tension, sprang to the door, wrenched it open, and screamed. For there was dark.
Recoiling, shaking, crouching, eyes frantically closing-opening, closing-opening. But the door stayed open, and he didn't run. Finally he just stayed and looked.
The tremors quieted with time. He straightened up. Slowly he approached the dark. As he stood at that light-dark threshhold, miraculously the dark became less dark, the less dark less frightening. He stood there a long, long time. Then he began a new walk - six feet tall!