The Walls
D. Harlan Wilson
A flock of angry Japanese beetles was all over me. I looked down, expecting to see my naked flesh. But no. The insects' metallic green hides, twitching in consternation, covered me from head to toe, like armor.

Keeping my cool, I began to shed my armor, but the beetles were wholly uncompromising, and I ended up losing my cool after all, squawking and clawing at myself as if I might have been on fire. When I had finally gotten them all off of me, they came for me again, leaping into the air all at once . . .

I opened the door. Hurled myself through it, slammed it. "Ah," I said.

Then I noticed the walls.

They were wearing corduroy suits. Like me, the ceiling and the floor of the room was white and naked; but the walls were all dressed up. All dressed up! In a frenzy I began stripping the walls bare, leaping all over the place and clawing at the suits and tearing them free, and making a big pile of them in the middle of the room. At first I was inspired; I was certain that my efforts were worthwhile and all would turn out well. But I soon realized that the walls, as I quickly undressed them, were just as quickly dressing themselves back up again, opening up their mouths and spitting brand new corduroy suits all over themselves.

Enraged, I threatened the walls, told them I would knock them down with my bare hands. "I'll get a hammer, a wrecking ball if I have to!" I added. The walls just laughed, though, and started spitting out nicer, more expensive suits. And when, in an attempt to make the best out of things, I tried to put one of the suits on, it went up in a puff of sparks and smoke, burning all the hair off my flesh . . .

It was not long before I was back outside, my feet together, my head thrown back and my arms outstretched. Now I invited the Japanese beetles to consume me . . . only, now they were dead. And most of their hollow, ashen shells had been taken away by the wind.

First published: February 2000