Edited with the help of reviewers.


The world was gray. The bars were black.

At first, there were only five cages.

Kevin's cage, to my left. His cage was pretty big. I couldn't see the top of it or the other end of it because of its size. It always smelled like chemicals and cleaners. He was, physically, "average" size for a person, whatever size that was. He wore glasses and his light brown hair never looked combed. If I were to describe Kevin's personality I'd use the term "the absent-minded professor". The guy was a genius, hands down. Math came easily to him and his thinking was perfectly logical, but common sense? He had absolutely none. He had left a little while ago, you know, to explore the parts of the cage that I couldn't reach, and I hadn't seen him since.

Then there was Maria. Maria was a daydreamer that loved to sing and craved applause. I was always able to hear her freelance melodies whenever I went anywhere near her cage. She had blonde hair and blue eyes that seemed too big for her petite figure. Maria's cage was one of the strangest I'd ever seen. It was very long; I'd give her credit for that. It snaked past my cage, right up against it, and it just kept going. I didn't think there was an end. However, it wasn't very wide. Maybe a few yards at the most. Maria had left a while ago, too, following that winding road in that cage of hers.

Third to mention was Katie. Katie's cage was opposite of Kevin's, the other side of mine. I couldn't see the end of her cage, either. I liked Katie, with her dark hair and get-out-of-my-face attitude. She was funny, and she was still with me even though her cage was so big she could have gone off to explore, like Kevin and Maria.

"What's to explore?" she had declared when I asked, "I've been down there and it's not that interesting." I was grateful that she stayed, so I didn't press the matter.

Oh yeah, Genevieve. She was, in my opinion, a sad case. Genevieve and Katie had never gotten along, and I didn't like the girl much either.

Nothing about Genevieve made sense to me. She was pretty, if that was what she wanted people to think, with her stylish boots and clothes and her face plastered with make-up and her hair that looked perfectly brushed even though I don't possibly know how she brushed it.

That brings me to the subject of Genevieve's cage. It was small. I mean, really small. I don't know how she could stand it. It used to fit next to mine perfectly, the bars lining up at the side of mine, but now it just fit in a small corner, the one where Katie's cage and mine met. The girl could barely move an inch. I don't know how she could stand the smell of cosmetics and perfume that much.

"Bothered? Why would I be bothered by the size of my cage?" she had asked, flipping her hair when I had asked her about it.

"It's just so small," I had explained. Genevieve sneered.

"You're an idiot, you know that, Max?"

"In my opinion, " (Genevieve said this as if her opinion mattered more than everyone else's) "everyone should have a cage this small. That way it would be fair, and people like Kevin and Maria wouldn't have bigger cages for no reason!"

Where was I? Oh, yes, on to my cage.

There's nothing much to say, really. It's kind of small, but not nearly as small as Genevieve's. It was perfectly cube shaped, and I knew all corners of it equally well.

It all started when Genevieve's cage had gotten so small that there was plenty of room for a new cage to grow. I mean, a new one would have to get there eventually; there couldn't be just an empty space of nothing.

And so Alison's cage took its place.

How should I describe Alison? There are so many things I could say. For one, she was beautiful, not on the outside, I mean the inside… well she wasn't half-bad looking on the outside either but… That's not the point, okay?

She was a brunette with matching eyes and a smile that could win some sort of award. She never seemed to get angry at anything, and she never laughed at you when you did something stupid.

I don't think I ever fully understood her, either.

I hadn't even known her for that long when she woke me up one night just to talk.

She had strange looking dolls in her hands. I had never seen them before, but there she was, dressing one up with a satisfied smile on her face.

"Hey, Max, come here!' she cried in a harsh whisper, waving me over.

"What is it?" I mumbled, crawling over to her while slurring my words.

"Look," she said, flashing the doll through the cage bars to let me see.

"That looks just like Katie!" I started, unable to stop staring at the doll. The resemblance was so exact it was scary.

"Yup," she said firmly, pulling the doll back and examining it, "I'm going to keep it so I'll always remember what she looks like. I made one of you too, Max."

My face instantly fell. "What?" I asked, confused. "Remember?"

Alison paused for a moment, deciding what to say.

"I'm sorry, Max," she said quietly, "but…" and with that, she turned to view her cage.

Her cage… where to begin… It was huge. It went on, winding away for what seemed like forever, and there were so many different passages, not one big straight line like Maria's. I understood what she meant. There was too much for her to explore; she couldn't stay here forever.

I tried every trick in the book. I told her that she couldn't leave, that Katie and I needed her here, everything.

And she listened, but she didn't say she was joking. Her face just kept getting sadder and sadder, and then she got up, said goodbye so quickly I could barely hear her, and walked away.

I can't describe how I felt.

I turned my back to her as she disappeared and tried to fall asleep, but failed miserably. I considered waking up Katie, who was asleep right next to my cage, but then I figured, why should I bother?

Alison couldn't go, she had just gotten here!

I turned around, but Alison wasn't there, sound asleep, and this wasn't all a dream.

She could not go! I wouldn't let her!

I turned around again and Alison wasn't there explaining that she had changed her mind and she was really sorry if she had scared me. Just scared me… right.

That's it! I was going to break through those bars if I had t-

I froze as I turned to face Alison's cage again. Only, it wasn't Alison's cage anymore.

It was mine.

The bars that had separated my cage from Alison's were gone. Just… gone. I stared and gaped.

"K-Katie," I stammered.

There was a stirring noise, and then Katie's head turned towards me.

"Yeah?" she muttered, still half asleep.

I pointed.

"Yeah?" she asked, more awake this time, "What is it?"

"Look!' I almost shouted. Exactly how could she not see the gaping hole there?

"What are you pointing at?" she asked, rolling her eyes.

"The bars! Between our cages!" I shouted, motioning towards Alison's, I mean my cage. Ugh, this was confusing…

"What bars?" Katie asked. "There were never any bars there!" And she turned around and went back to sleep.

I walked up to the now empty space and reached out my hand. Nothing. There were no invisible bars there. It was as if they had never existed. I stood there for a while, thinking, contemplating... Eventually I began to wonder if Katie was right. Had I just imagined bars there all this time?

"Alison?" I called. I heard an echo, but no reply. I carefully stepped over the area that had once separated me from Alison and called her name again. Still no answer.

And then I was running. Running to find my best friend. I'm still searching for her,

And that's what brings me here, here to your cage. You all know that your cage is only as small as you want it to be, right?