Auberon put down the glass, slowly, thinking. "Do you think," he said, "that people are happier when they're alone, or with other people?"
She carried his glass and plate to the sink. "I don't know," she said. "I guess... Well, what do you think?"
"I don't know," he said. "I just wondered if... " What he wondered was whether it was a fact everyone knew, every grown-up anyway: that everyone is of course happiest alone, or the reverse, whichever it was. "I guess I'm happier with other people," he said.
"Oh yes?" She smiled; since she faced the sink, he couldn't see her. "That's nice," she said. "An extrovert."
"Well," Alice said softly, "I just hope you don't creep back in your shell again."
He was already on his way out, stuffing extra cookies in his pockets, and didn't stop, but a strange window had suddenly been flung open within him. Shell? Had he been in a shell? And -- odder still -- had he been seen to be in one, was it common knowledge? He looked through this window and saw himself for a moment, for the first time, as others saw him. Meanwhile his feet had taken him out the broad swinging doors of the kitchen, which grump-grumped behind him in their way, and through the raisin-odorous pantry, and out through the stillness of the long dining room, going toward his imaginary ball-game.
Excerpt from Little, Big: or, The Fairies' Parliament
by John Crowley
Related: The Shell