I cautiously approached the door.
“Consequently,” said the caterpillar, “there’s nothing behind that door, either.”
“Fuck you,” I said.
“You’re not mad at me.”
“Yes, I am.”
“No, you’re mad at the situation, which is different. I just happen to be here. You’re inappropriately projecting, which is, as I understand, how emotional projection tends to be.”
I glared at the stupid caterpillar. It smoked its pipe. I was not Alice, this was not Wonderland, and this copy-caterpillar – copy-caterpillar – had no idea what it was talking about, or who it was talking to. I was Rachel, for crying out loud, and this strange garden maze with 9 identical brown doors surrounding us – it was like a dream, or a nightmare, or an indoor mall.
“You better tell me which door opens,” I said.
The caterpillar laughed and choked on its pipe. It threw its little hands back.
“Oh! Oh, boy. You’re right, I better! Or something bad will happen to me!”
I clenched my jaw and stomped the ground.
I shook my head. The riddle: 5 doors were locked, 5 doors were unlocked, there were only 9 doors, and 8 had nothing behind them. That was the riddle I had been given. What. The. Heck. The paradox hit me like a semi-truck.
“So one of the locked doors has the exit?” I asked.
“Of course,” responded the caterpillar. “Any of the doors could have the exit. Before you open them, all of them do. And none of them do. Nothing really matters until you try. Ha ha!”
“I hate this!” I cried. “And I hate you!”
“No you don’t,” it said.
“Mother of God,” I said. I paced back and forth. These rules were moronic. I could only try one door, and if it was the wrong one, I would be stuck here forever.
“Though if you try none, you will also be stuck here forever,” said the caterpillar, like an asshole.
Defiant, I went up to one of the doors. With a rush of energy I – panicked. I backed off. Shifted nervously.
“No!” I shouted.
I ran up to another door and I – freaked out again, spun around and punched my hand into my fist. Fuck!
“You’re taking this very seriously,” said the caterpillar.
“No, really? Maybe because my life depends on it,” I said.
“In that case, you should treat it like a game.”
I stared at the caterpillar. It was serious. I began to laugh.
“You’re right!” I shouted. “Well, aren’t you just right? The worst that could happen is I’m stuck here forever, with you!”
“And no one wants that,” said the caterpillar.
“Alright. Hell, I’m just going to open one.”
“Do it,” it said.
“I mean it. I’m not thinking. Who’s thinking? Not me.”
“You’d like that wouldn’t you?”
“Please, be my guest.”
And with a gust of anger behind me, I walked right up to one of the identitcal brown doors and flung it open – I flung it open!
“I – I did it! I picked the right one,” I cried, my eyes growing large. Where was the champagne! Calooh, Callay! Glory to us all! And here; black nothingness, a long hallway swallowed in darkness. But it was open. “I did it! I – what were the chances?”
“What were the chances? I…you…knew?” I said, with a wide-eyed turn to the caterpillar.
It gave a small, bemused smile and held its pipe delicately between its forefingers.
“Whichever one you would’ve picked would’ve been the right one,” It said. It took a drag and winked at me. “Bye, now.”
“Bye,” I said, and strangely, a feeling of loss swept over me as I stepped towards the doorway. Dark, uncertain…I swallowed. I glanced back. The caterpillar had begun re-packing tobacco into its pipe, and this wash of curiosity and sorrow pushed me forward into the black unknown.