A huge group of brightly colored sheep stood in a crowded and heavily littered barn. A herd gathered near the door as one of their friends, a black sheep, ambled in from Outside.
“Why are you all still here?” the black sheep asked. “Outside is awesome.”
“It is,” said a pink paisley sheep. “I was there a few minutes ago. I love it. We should all go there.”
“Why did you come back here?” the black sheep asked. She was there largely trying to figure out what was up with the pink paisley sheep.
The pink paisley sheep shrugged. “Most of the herd is still here.”
“Well, yes...” admitted the black sheep. Some of the Outside Sheep considered that to be a major plus of Outside, but the black sheep was frustrated by it. She wanted to be Outside with her herd.
A tie-dyed sheep nodded agreement with the pink paisley sheep. “I'll go Outside after most of the herd has.”
There was a general mummer confirming that most of the group thought this was the way to go.
“But...” said the black sheep, her ears drooping. “Only forty-nine percent of you can do that. Everyone else has to go before half of us have.”
The tie-dyed sheep was a smart enough sheep to know that was true, but didn't seem bothered by it. “I love my herd and don't want to leave them.”
Well, the black sheep loved her herd too. That's why she'd bothered coming back Inside to try to get them instead of just frolicking in the forest she was trying to show them.
“But... There's so much more space for the herd to play in Outside,” the black sheep tried. “There's clean air and things you can hide behind. The sky doesn't amplify noise like the barn roof does. Outside is so much prettier to look at. And you can eat fresh grass instead of having to pick grains out of piles of stale potato chips.”
“Hey!” said a sparkly blue sheep. “I happen to like potato chips!”
“And that's alright,” the black sheep said quickly. She herself couldn't stand stale potato chips, but the sparkly blue sheep's enthusiasm about them had always been endearing to her. “You can still come back Inside for them. You don't have to live here to eat them.”
“Yes,” agreed a green striped sheep. “And Outside really is nice.”
The black sheep perked up. “Are you coming Outside then?”
“No,” said the green striped sheep. “Although I'll visit.”
It was better than nothing. “Alright... And the rest of you?”
“I don't want to visit,” said the tie-dyed sheep. “Not until most of my friends have left Inside.”
“But...” The black sheep shook her head. The tie-dyed sheep complained about the conditions in the barn almost daily, but clearly wasn't ready to budge. The black sheep supposed that was her right. “Okay... But I'm not coming back here.”
The other sheep gasped. “Why not?” they demanded. “We're here and we're not leaving! Don't you care about us?”
“Of course I care about you,” said the black sheep. “I'm just not happy in here.”
Her friends stared. “But... We're in here.”
“Yes, I know,” said the black sheep. “And I'll miss everyone who doesn't come visit me Outside. But if you won't go until your friends stop grazing here... Well, I guess I'll just give you one less friend Inside this stinky barn.”
“I like the barn,” a small peach sheep said quietly.
The black sheep smiled. “Then I'm happy for you. And you won't have to listen to me try to get sheep to leave anymore. I really do hope you continue to like the barn.”
The black sheep felt like a cliché as she left the herd, but she did it anyway. If the world needed rebels, well... That's what black sheep were for, wasn't it?
She made her way back to her patch of forest and sat down under her favorite tree. She missed her herd and knew she would be lonely for a while. But it felt really good to be out of that barn.
She smiled at the snowy white sheep across the grove from her and waved to the shiny silver sheep one tree over. They smiled and waved back as the breeze ruffled their wool.
(Sheep image by Sahiri.)