When I was a child, my parents told me that I was special, as parents often do.
Knowing what I have learned since then, I wish that they did not lie to us in this manner.
There are so many people, too many in this world for any of us to be special anymore.
The only reason anyone cares about gold is because there isn't enough of it to go around.
A jewel is only pretty because no one else can have it. So too with people: it is scarcity
that dictates our value.
I was a scientist once. We define ourselves by the things we do and these days,
I'm not much of anything. I cannot remember my name anymore. I will never be
I was still a scientist when I met the little one. She was small, like a child, but she
was not a child. She had a face that I had seen in a dream before, I think, and her skin was
so pale I felt as though it would tear at the slightest touch. However, it was her glossy,
misshapen wings that drew my eyes the most, jutting out from her back like thin shards
of crystal. I stared at her through the glass wall that stood between us. Sitting alone in the
white room, she seemed to be looking right at me, though I know she saw only herself.
I pressed a microphone to speak to her. When she asked who I was, I told her my
name. I told her that I was a scientist. I told her that she was here because she was very
special, and then she laughed at me. I had never heard laughter that sounded so sad.
I asked her where she came from, and then she asked, where do you come from?
I wish I had not told her my name.
When I went home that night, I dreamed of the little one. I saw her standing in the
white room, hands pressed against the glass as she laughed at her own reflection.
The little one asked me if I slept well. She said that she had given me a gift and I
asked her what she meant. There was no way that she could have left the white room. She
sat in exactly the same spot as she had the day before and her wings were starting to peel
like a layer of dead skin.
A gift is when you have something you did not earn. A gift means that you owe a
debt. It means that you should be grateful, because if you are, you might not have to
I told her that I had brought a deck of cards. How fun, she smiled. Then I took the
deck out of my pocket and told her that we were going to play a game.
Each card had a different shape printed on the front. I looked at them, one at a
time, and she told me what the shapes were. Sometimes there were shapes that I couldn't
That is a circle. She explained from behind the glass, it has no beginning and no
end. But it is limited, because it cannot extend beyond itself.
Her comment made me pause, and I asked her what she meant. She stood up and
There are some things that draw their own boundaries and other things that
accept the limits that are given. We would lose ourselves if we crossed these lines. A
circle stops being a circle the moment you break its circumference.
She drew the shape on the glass with her finger. It was red and wet, and when she was finished, she pressed her face against it, whispering: now I have given you another gift.
There is something about the crack of her smile that lingers behind my eyes.
I no longer recall exactly when I started having trouble remembering things. My
memories seemed to rearrange themselves in my head, and at some point, the little one
said that I was making great progress. I thought that she meant that I was helping her, so I
told her that I was not here because she was sick.
Certainly not to make me well, she replied. Then she gave me another gift.
We played the game with the cards and she began reminding me of the rules on
the days that I could not remember. Once, when I couldn't recognize any of the shapes at
all, I left work early. I drove for hours before I could remember where I lived and of
reaching home, I recall nothing.
Each day, she sits where she always sits and laughs, though I wish very dearly
that she would not laugh. These days, I wish I did not dream.
Do you know who I am yet?
I told her that she was the little one. I told her that she was being kept here
because she was very special. She just shook her head as though I had answered an
entirely different question.
We are called the little ones because there is so little of us that you can touch. She
patiently explained, When somebody gets to choose how you are touched, they own you,
and so there is so much more to us that your kind can never have. We may be small, but
we are larger than you can grasp, and that is why you will always love us. I told her that I
had not been aware of anyone else like her.
She nodded. And now I will always be worth just a little bit less to you.
I knew this was true, because she knew it. Her skin looked translucent in the
sickly lighting of the white room. Her splintered wings were crippled beyond any hope of
That night, I had a dream that she was buried inside me like a soul. Her hands
pressed out against the deepest part of my skin, and I could not move, I could not breath,
except when she allowed it. All through the night, as I lay in bed, the pulse of her
throbbing veins was my own. She was warm. She was warm. The red of her blood was
muffled against paper-thin walls.
I called my workplace and tried to say that I would not be coming in to visit the
little one ever again. She had done something to me, I think, it was a gift that I didn't
want. I had been envious of her brokenness once, but I wasn't anymore. She had touched
something wet and red within me was what I tried to say. It hurt, it hurt so much, but I
never got through.
The next thing I remember was waking up on her side of the white room. My
head ached as though I was concussed or hung-over, but I knew that I was not. Slowly,
using all the strength I could muster, I peeled myself up from the floor and looked
around. She was sitting beside me in her usual spot. She was staring at the glass wall,
and I saw my reflection staring back. Then she turned and stood up to face me.
You will stay here. She explained, You will not be special, you will not be loved,
but you will be mine. Will you repay these things that are owed to me?
She held out her hand, and I knelt to let her touch me. Her fingers were warm and
wet with color. It clung to my face-that-was-no-longer-my-face long after she released
me. She whispered my name-that-was-no-longer-my-name with a quiet chuckle, and at
last, I understood the sorrow in her laugh.
Then she turned away and walked through the glass, leaving behind an empty
Rye Jaffe is a scientist who enjoys writing fiction. In their spare time, they enjoy plotting world domination.