The old lady and the crow
She was sitting on the beach in her chair, this old rocking chair she had already loved sitting in when she was a little girl… so many years ago. She sighed. Time sure flew by. She thought she’d have enough time to realize all her dreams and projects but. suddenly you had turned 90, with arthritis plaguing her bones and the grim reaper lurking around every corner, each time beckoning her with his bony finger. At least she’d always enjoy the wind caressing her face and the glow of the sun warming her body.
She nodded to nobody in particular. Everyone she cherished had disappeared or left her to her lonely fate. Since then she had decided talking to herself wasn’t that unhealthy. After all, who else would talk to her now, right? She slowly stood up and fetched a freshly brewed teapot from the kitchen. She slowly walked back to the beach and sat down again with a contented grunt.
These days, gulls, green tea and her own voice were really the only company she had left. She sipped on the first cup of tea of many this afternoon. That was about the only thing she still enjoyed that her doctor hadn’t decided was unhealthy for her. And she was hell-bent on making the most out of this last pleasure she was still allowed to have.
So she had cups and cups of tea all day long, sitting in her chair on the deserted beach, staring at the sea, remembering the old days, not the good old days, those were gone, they hadn’t been very good to her by any stretch in a while… In fact, they hadn’t been very good to her since the butterflies had left her stomach.
One night she had had a nightmare, one of those nightmares one desperately wants to forget but can’t help remembering. The dream had occured what was it now…. 60, 70 years ago? She sighed again. Her memory wasn’t what it used to be either, but this dream was as vivid now as it had been when she had first had it.
She had dreamt she was sitting on the beach, the very beach every afternoon she sat in on in her old rocking chair. She had been 60 years younger then, still a young lady. Her most obvious trait were her piercing blue eyes, eyes as blue as the ocean she was so fond of observing.
And while those eyes had gone paler with the years, they had lost nothing of this intensity with which she’d stare at people, an intensity which left most of them uneasy, as if she had pierced right through their layers of lies and deceit.
She was. watching the waves go back and forth, she loved their steady, appeasing sound. She was listening to the whistling sound of a light breeze that had been coming up the last few minutes, when on the horizon she had noticed what she had first dismissed as only a black spot. The spot had grown bigger and bigger though until she had realized it wasn’t just a spot but rather a group of a thousand of butterflies passing by.
The beach, up until that moment silent except for the slight breeze and the cawing of the gulls, was suddenly filled with the sound of the wings of a thousand of butterflies wildly fluttering around, obscuring the sky. She didn’t think of herself as religious, but the priest of the local church she had gone to as a little child had talked enough of the apocalypse in ways that had stirred her imagination, and if the sky gradually darkening and the quiet beach getting noisier by the minute weren’t a sign of the apocalypse, she didn’t know what was.
The butterflies had seemed to fly in her direction, she had never have perceived butterflies as particularly menacing beings, but the way this mass of butterflies was moving along, for the first time she feared for her life. As they were, all gathered together, the loud noise produced by their wings irritating her ears, it wasn’t thousand butteflies in the air she was looking at, it was rather the monster her parents had always warned her of when she was a little girl.
She had been afraid they’d force their way in her mouth making her choke on them, she had also considered for an instant the possibility they’d cover up her whole body, the way spiders do with their prey. She was aware that couldn’t happen, that butterflies didn’t behave that way, but she acutely remembered that in her dream she was almost paralyzed by terror, she had wanted to scream but couldn’t.
The butterflies had all regrouped and had seemed to want to lunge at her but they had only passed narrowly over her head. She had then realized each one of them had glared at her. And when they had been done with it and finally flown away, again just a little black dot on the heaven, soon vanishing, she had woken up. And this time her scream hadn’t been supressed, she had been able to let out this scream of terror her lungs hadn’t let her in her dream. And her whole body had been covered in sweat, still shaking from the aftermath of the dream and its intensity.
After this powerful yet disturbingly real experience there hadn’t really been innocent days. for her anymore. The days when she would just enjoy her free time with friends, her future nothing to worry about yet, these days were no more. Instead came a dull and monotonous life as a mother, grandmother and then grand-grandmother. Parts of it she had enjoyed, above all the parts when the children didn’t think yet there was something wrong with here and just enjoyed her stories. But inevitably after a few years they’d get sick of her repeating the same story over and over again and soon all she’d get was suspicious looks at best, blatant disdain at worst.
But it wasn’t only that… It was as if her heart had grown cold too. After the dream she hadn’t been able to cry much but it seemed she forgotten how to laugh too. The emotions she had felt so strongly before, the tingling feeling in her body she enjoyed having whenever she would think about certain guys, the anxiety about meeting them, the butterflies in her stomach, they were all gone. All the powerful colors, the dinstinct feelings had left place to a blur of grey.
When she was in a really bad mood, she had the feeling the butterflies had sucked all of this energy out of her body when they had flown away in an unknown direction. She thought the butterflies had taken with them the colors, the smells and the noises that were such a vital part of her life back then.
“Damn butterflies” she murmured, scratching her stomach for the umpteenth time. “I sure hope they enjoy what’s mine, cause when I’ll see them again, there’s gonna be hell to pay” she cackled as she sipped on her cup. Every time she thought about that dream, and there hardly went by a day when she didn’t, she remembered every detail about it: the tangy smell of the ocean, the sound of the waves as they went back and forth, the crows cawing, she could even remember the texture of the sand as it rinned through her fingers. But those butterflies… how awfully real had they been!
She shook at that thought, just like every time she did when butterflies were mentioned. She couldn’t stand seeing butterflies anymore, be it in books, in documentaries, even the youth of today seemed to be so fond of. Whenever she saw one, she couldn’t help shuddering and remembering that black mass of butterflies on the beach on that fateful evening .
And yet she wished they came back one day. For she hoped if they came back, the butterflies in her stomach would come back too, the strong feelings she had experienced in her youth… how she missed them all! After she had experienced the ngithamre and the loss of feelings she had gone on an almost obsessive quest for the beach in her dreams and eventually she had found it too, after a thorough but very costly research.
Now she had the satisfaction of smelling the cold air she had smelt in her dreams, she felt the very same kind of wind she had felt then. Even the sand rinned through her fingers in the same manner it had when she had had the dream. All she could do now was to sit in her old rocking chair, stare at the sky, drink cup after cup of tea and wait for the butterflies to come. She’d welcome them too. In fact she could hardly await them. At that thought the old lady smiled and fell asleep, hoping this time would be the right one…..