Marcia had several dozen little people living inside her head. She didn’t know they were there, of course, but at night while she slept they would crawl out of her ears onto the bed and talk to me. Their appearance was initially somewhat disturbing, but I came to enjoy their company, and as we became more acquainted they informed me that they did not actually like Marcia. In this regard I found common ground with the little people, for though Marcia was my girlfriend, I didn’t like her very much, either.
Marcia, you see, was very cold and very mean. After I had been laid off from work, Marcia had only made the sad, depressing time even worse. She called me a loser, said I was useless, and laughed that I would never do anything good with my life. So, when the little people from Marcia’s head told me that they had been slowly poisoning her for years, I laughed.
One night the little people invited me to meet their queen inside Marcia’s head. I accepted. They gave me a tiny thimble full of a red elixir. I drank the elixir and fell asleep. When I woke up I was a little person, too, and followed them into the dark, cold complex of caves inside Marcia’s head.
The queen lived at the heart of the caves in a dark chamber from which she poisoned Marcia. The queen never left that chamber because she hated Marcia even more than the other little people and delighted in poisoning her whenever she could.
Within the queen’s chamber was a well, and inside the well lived a little girl. All day long the queen shouted insults at the little girl in the well. This was how the queen poisoned Marcia, she explained, for the little girl at the bottom of the well was a little version of Marcia.
Every few seconds as we spoke the queen launched derisions down at the little girl. Quit crying, she hissed. You’re fat, ugly, and stupid. No one loves you and no one will ever love you. The queen sneered with malicious joy as the little Marcia sobbed and cried down in the darkness.
The queen asked if I would poison Marcia in the outside world, just as the queen poisoned the little Marcia inside the well. Together we could make Marcia even sicker, the queen explained. If Marcia was sicker she would sleep more often, which would mean that I would not have to listen to her insults as much, and would be able to talk with the little people more often.
I said that I would consider the queen’s proposal and stepped outside the chamber to think things over. I did not want to poison anybody, but Marcia had treated me very badly, and I enjoyed talking with the little people–they were my only friends.
The sound of running water echoing through the depths of the caves caught my attention. I followed the sound deep into the darkness until I reached a voluminous cavern with a waterfall cascading down one wall. A dusty movie projector sat on a rock at the center of the cavern. I turned the machine on. With a click and a whir it began to project a movie onto the waterfall.
The characters in the movie were all the little people from Marcia’s head, except that in the movie they were full human size. They spoke into the camera as though addressing a person, saying cruel, hurtful, and vicious things. I soon realized that the movie was Marcia’s memories, and the characters were all people who had hurt her in her life. The queen was in the movie more than anyone else. She was Marcia’s mother.
It occurred to me for the first time that I had no right to hate Marcia, because I didn’t understand all the pain that she had known, nor did I know who she might have been if she did not have all those little people poisoning her inside her head.
I went back to the queen’s chamber, grabbed the queen by the neck, and threw her out into tunnels. The little people tried to stop me, but they were actually very weak, and I was able to overwhelm them with ease. The little people, it turns out, were only good at appearing to be strong.
I called down to the little Marcia in the well. Don’t listen to the queen, I said. You are a beautiful person. You deserve to love and to be loved. The crying at the bottom of the well stopped. A moment later the little Marcia climbed out. She looked very beautiful, and very powerful.
The queen returned to subdue the little Marcia, but the girl picked the queen up and tossed her down into the well. The other little people were awed by the little Marcia’s strength and bowed to her in obedience. Her first order was that they dig a tunnel up to the surface so that she could live outside in the sunlight. She declared that she was the new queen, and that her rule would be a much brighter, warmer one than her predecessor’s.
I never returned to Marcia’s head after that night, but I still see the little girl that climbed out of the well every day. I see her every time that Marcia laughs, and every time that Marcia is kind to someone. Marcia does both of those things often, now. She does those things so often, in fact, that I often forget that there was ever a time when she did not do those things.
It turns out that all that Marcia needed was for someone to quiet the little people inside her head, to remind the little girl inside of her that there is a light outside the well, and to tell her that she is worthy of it.