When his father died, Kyle discovered a dark brown locked box tucked away on an eye-level shelf in the garage. A post-it note with his own name written on it clung to it. It wasn’t until he had tried five different four-letter combinations that he finally realized that the paper with his name was both a note as well as a combination.
He was mystified, but not surprised. The boy was always aware that his father had secrets. For as long as he could remember, the man had been escaping to the garage for about an hour a day. No one knew what he did in there, or more accurately no one cared. As long as he emerged eventually to eat dinner with his family, Kyle’s mother never made a fuss. She assumed the man was working on the car, or tinkering with a gadget.
Upon opening the box, Kyle saw an object the size of a bouncy ball. Sketched onto the ball was a map of some sort of world. There were two distinct yellow swaths of land separated by what he imagined was a great pink ocean. At a loss for what this object could be, he simply put it away in his pocket to be discovered anew.
From there, the object bounced around between different locales, eventually ending up, more or less, where Kyle had originally found it: in the garage, atop a table where he now kept his lego creations.
Over time, Kyle began noticing that the contours of the continents were changing ever so slightly. One stretch of coastline was now jagged where it used to be smooth. Another was smooth where it used to be jagged. And so on.
The boy thought it could be his eyes deceiving him. He also could swear he detected the most subtle of movement as he stared at the object for long periods of time.
He couldn’t fully explain why he did what he did next. Placing a stool on the floor, Kyle reached up to the highest shelf to get the microscope his father had purchased him for his eight birthday. The next thing he did was to put the ball under the scope, and that’s when he saw them.
They looked very much like dots. There were two kinds of them. Red and blue. The red dots occupied one continent, and the blue ones the other. In between them, of course, was the pink ocean, which was both very large and very small depending on who was looking. There were a small amount of red dots on the continent where all of the blues resided, but on the red’s continent there were no blue dots.
Every day the boy came home and watched through the microscope. And every day there were a few more red dots scattered along the coast of the blue’s continent.
Just as his father had done, the boy told no one about this tiny world, not even his mother.
He began thinking long and hard about why his father had gifted this object to him.
Perhaps the man had not known about the dots. Perhaps, a secret such as this one was one that should be guarded by a single being.
Kyle began thinking about his own world. Did his own universe have a guardian to make sure they never fell into the wrong hands?
A few weeks later, Kyle noticed one blue dot on the red continent. He looked hard at this dot. He wanted to know more. He thought if he stared hard enough he might make out some movement. But the truth was he never could.
After many months of looking, there still remained only one red dot on the blue continent. It made the boy sad.
Weeks later, he observed a new development. The number of red dots on the blue continent had diminished. The boy had been keeping track of the two populations ever since he registered the changes months before.
Now, there were 6 less, the boy saw. The population of reds on the blue continent went from 55 to 49. Thinking these reds went back to the red continent, he counted to see if they had gained two more red dots. They had not.
Four weeks later, 5 more vanished. And then 2 more after that. And then the boy cried when he found that the single blue dot on the red continent had vanished as well.
All of this made the boy think of the Revolutionary War his teacher was currently discussing in school. Sometimes, he imagined the blues and reds were the Americans and the British, respectively. In his head, these dots were two populations that were in the midst of some kind of conflict. And for all he knew perhaps they were. Perhaps, they were beings occupying this tiny world.
The next time the boy looked through the microscope he could see 65 reds on the pink ocean, heading for the blue continent.
After seeing this development, the boy began a nasty habit of pulling out hairs from the top of his head.
One month after, the blue population diminished to 248 from 311, while the 65 reds were now 40. Noting this, the boy instinctively moved his hand to the top of his head, where he had made a small, but noticeable bald spot.