Years passed before Shawn realized what felt odd about his world. A wrongness that stood just outside his ken of experiences, too foreign to name. He could only catch glimpses of it, brief moments of clarity, in his dreams. In dreams when the borders between universes melt, where what isn’t, is and what is, is less than what should be. So too with Shawn’s world, it was all surface: blunt, singular colors, simple emotions and obvious truths.
He noticed it slowly at first, this indistinct simplicity. All trees were merely ‘trees’, a replication of the same ideal notion. Every man and woman felt only one thing. The happy always smiled, always nodded to their neighbor, the charitable always lent the suffering a helping hand. The angry? They always bickered, were always brooding and resentful. The sad wept constantly, drowning in an ocean of tears. Night became day and vice versa with no in-between, no sunset or sunrise.
Shawn knew this was wrong, that this was not all that could be. In his dreams he envisioned the sunrise, closed his eyes and smiled as the slow warmth touched his face, as light crawled across the world, chasing night over the horizon. In his dreams he felt more than one thing, laughed even as he grieved, frowned even as his heart sung. He loved, and yet those he loved could still wound him and break his heart. He… said things that were not so. Lies, some silent voice told him these were. A concept entirely foreign to his reality.
Every day he woke, and turned to the relentless sun. Each night he slept, staring unseeing into the persistent[ night.
Why? He asked his nameless God. Why is my world so… small?
Slowly, surely, things began to change.
They were unnoticeable at first. Tremors at the corner of his co-worker’s previously omnipresent smile. The slow evolution of a tree’s leaves to reflect gradations in color and pattern. The skies, once crisp and perfect blue, clouded. The oceans, once drinkable and clear all the way to their depths, darkened and became salty. The ‘fish’ were replaced with cod and catfish, with sharks and whales and dolphins, with reefs and see-weed and flora and fauna as diverse as the universe once was not.
Slowly, surely, the world expanded.
Instead of joy, Shawn felt terror. His neighbors who once either always greeted him gruffly or with the same smile, depending on who he saw, now varied their responses in accord to their own changing mood. His wife, whose love for him was once a bottomless reservoir, confronted him with the fact that she now had feelings developing for someone else. Emotions faded and changed like the sun, like the moon. He now lay awake in the evening, fearing the slow change of day to black. How was he supposed to know when to sleep if the times of night and day shifted, slowly but surely, up and down the clock?
He refused to leave his room. Closed all the shutters. Woke to an automated light, slept when it clicked off at night. He shunned his wife, soon to be ex. His friends, who were happy, then sad, then… uncertain. Trees, which were once his joy, now terrified him beyond measure. Even his own dog had become some creature he no longer recognized.
Why? He wondered. Why? He nursed a grievance he could no longer name.
The world? It had become entirely too big.