Meet Rufus Tingley, a nondescript little man living in a nondescript litle town, getting ready for a day that will prove to be anything but nondescript. This day starts out much like any other, a job to go to, a family to come home to, bills to pay. He stares bleary-eyed at the mirror image that confronts him in the harsh fluorescent glare of the new day. It's not yet the face he will present to the world but the one left over from the day before: unwashed, unshaven, still numb with sleep. He searches for evidence of another day's passing, the telltale signs, the strands of gray. Not such an old face, really, he tells himself, this face that is fully as old as its pain.
There is a lifetime etched on this face, but it's hard to read the particulars. Perhaps by now the ambition to get ahead has been replaced by the suspicion that he's not going to make it. Perhaps he's made it and is left to wonder if this is all there is. Perhaps the marriage he once thought was made in heaven is held together now less out of conviction than out of habit. Perhaps the kids haven't turned out as he had hoped. Perhaps, now and again, he gets the sinking feeling that life is passing him by.
Rufus Tingley goes through the motions of making himself presentable. Fumbling through a sock drawer to find a matching pair, he wonders where he left his car keys and whether to bring an umbrella. Better get moving, he tells himself, or I'll be late. And so it goes throughout the day, his head buzzing with thoughts of things to do and places to be, his life passing as if in a dream. So it goes throughout all his days, until this particular day is nearly done.
It is evening, and his family has already gone up to bed. He is starting to turn out the lights downstairs when he hears a soft knock at the front door. Rufus Tingley opens it a crack and sees a shrouded figure standing under a cone of light on his front steps. "It's you," he mutters, more out of resignation than of surprise.
"May I come in? I won't be long."
"I wondered when you would come," says Rufus Tingley, standing aside to let his visitor enter. "I do have a few questions before we go."
"As you wish," the visitor answers.
"Why now?" Rufus Tingley asks.
"You were looking for a way out," his visitor responds.
"But what did it all mean?" Rufus Tingley inquires, already slipping into the past tense.
"Only you can answer that," the shrouded figure says, not unkindly.
"Just one more thing," Rufus Tingley replies, sensing the time has come. "Let me see your face."
His visitor pauses a moment, then draws back his shroud. Rufus Tingley gasps. It is not at all what he expected. Nothing sinister or forbidding, yet still a shock. It's not such an old face, really, he tells himself, this face that is fully as old as its pain. There's a lifetime etched on that face, a lifetime that has now come to an end.
* * *
Rufus Tingley, a nondescript little man whose life has passed as if in a dream -- or is it a nightmare? And only at the last moment does he discover that he has been lost in a nondescript world of his own making...in the Twilight Zone.
(With apologies to Rod Sterling.)