I’m floating in the corner of your room. You can’t see me, but I’m watching you. I’m waiting for you to laugh.
Some call me a sprite. Others, a thief. I hover in theaters and comedy clubs. I flit through parties, scanning the crowds. I peek as lovers flirt. I prefer genuine laughs, but, in a pinch, even an insincere one will do. After all, no laugh is entirely fake.
When I find one that I like, I swoop in and shear off a tiny piece of that laugh. The unsuspecting donor feels but the gentlest breeze. They’re suspicious for just a moment before dismissing it as their own exhale.
I regard my bounty: a sliver of laughter, a slice of joy. I quickly shove it into my bag for safe-keeping.
* * *
Billions of years later, the Universe is dying.
Life has been extinguished in our galaxy. Even the stars are sputtering their last breath. No one is left to laugh; no laughs are left to collect.
I put down my bag. Its sides bulge. The bag squirms. A few snickers leak out from the top. I pull on the drawstring and let all the laughs loose! They swarm out in every direction, giggling and chuckling, guffawing and chortling. They soar through the air, up, away, and out of sight.
Free at last, they howl from star to star.
* * *