Sheila clutched a Swiss army knife in her hand. She extracted a small blade to carve an opening in the cardboard box surrounding her. This released a blinding stream of light that poured down like a phosphorescent waterfall. She closed her eyes and then opened them slowly, allowing them to adjust to the new light. It had been a long time since she had looked outside. A very long time.
She peeked through the new opening and saw that the world had not changed. It was still the same as it was before. The river coursing over the rocks had straightened a little. It no longer curved the same way. The white water had calmed somewhat, but other than that, the world was no different. The leaves were still green. The sky remained blue. The birds still sang.
Then the leaves fell and then winter came and snow collected on her new window. Translucent stalactites of ice dripped over her opening and distorted her view. She shivered, decided it would be better to hibernate, and fell fast sleep.
The world was her bed and it was soft and comforting. It made sense when nothing else did. She woke as the snows began to thaw, and she tried to remember why she was here, where she obtained the Swiss army knife in her hand, why she was in a box, but decided that these were worthless questions. She was here because she was here and that was all. This is no different for anyone else, no matter how strange or sensible or senseless they might happen to be. People aren’t all that different, though they often like to think they are special. She had had time to think and no longer clung to false notions. Maybe she wasn’t special, she decided, but at least she was free. She said, “Freedom is in the mind, not a physical state of being,” and she chanted this over and over and over until she almost believed it, but not really, because she was a protagonist, and this, by default, made her special. At least it made her special in her own self-contained universe. Without a character there can be no story, after all, and without a story there is simply nothing to tell.
Then the box dissolved with the raging rains of spring and she emerged during a storm. Lightning flashed, thunder rumbled, but then the winds swept the storm – and the dissolving remains of her box – away. As the clouds broke apart to reveal the sun, she outstretched her arms. Her joints popped. She ignored the pain and bloomed. Delicate and colorful petals flitted with a soft breeze. She was beautiful and fragile and, ultimately, meaningless.