What the Butterflies Saw | vaguely metaphoric

the butterfly jar was filled with orange wings and white wings and dusky grey wings.

Unnamed — Ava Cwikla(Conemporary Dutch Portrait-Artist)

The butterfly jar was filled with orange wings and white wings and dusky grey wings. Where the bodies had gone, well, Arden cared not for that. He was crammed in between his seat and the table, back and neck bent over the table. With the darkness of the room, his figure was akin to that of a comma in between a line. He lowered the tweezers. He did care where bodies had gone; he cared very much, but it was best not to reminisce at the residue emotions of cruelty as a beautiful creature was torn apart by the sweaty fingers of a child.

There he sat, dumb and wandering. Mind you, he wasn’t lost, only contemplative. Questions fluttered about in that head of his, danced between his stately brows, the heavy eyelids, the defined nose. Maybe he was beautiful once. The wings had faded, he thought, they were no longer as vibrant as he remembered. Well, the years of seeing sunlight must’ve had an effect: it was carried everywhere(with the annoyance of those around him). It ventured through the sun-lit halls of versailles and mocked the gilded candelabrums. It was held against the wall, and the wings exclaimed: ‘I was once living, you know!”, and it was shaken a little so that the scales fractured the sun into little swirls of colour. It saw whatever it’s master saw, and said whatever it’s master pleased it to say. Arden fancied that the jar had a mind of it’s own, and would speak to it after long nights of scrubbing glasses and mopping floors and dusting shelves.

His hand found the lid. Arden knew well that with the slightest tense of the arm, his fingers would wrench open the jar and all will be revealed. At this thought, he began to hum a little tune. It wasn’t sad, but moderately slow and very heavy. The kind that he once knew how to play on the piano. Far and wide, the tune echoed across the halls. The frame vibrating, the wings shuffing as the instrument sent forth a force unrelenting, note by note. And then the words came, a light dress and dark hair. The wings were dancing, fluttering; given life. Dappled, diaphanous, dilated; rolling off from the stage in waves, drawn out and into the audience, over their faces; crescendoing hither and thither, the sway and the convergence, the ins and the outs, the playful caress of lovers, hands…no, lips. O mea columba! His hand dropped, the beat struck against the worn wood of the table. The jar shook, the wings hopped a little. He stopped singing.

But he cannot open it. Surely, the memories do not come so easily once they are let away. He shook his head, closed his eyes and ran his hand down and along his face. Fingers, like water, ran down across the rise of his brow and the valley of his eyes and the ridge of his nose. He did not want to keep everything in that jar. Strange, how even the worst are still colourful, once still living. The little white one with a droplets of splattered red. The sweet yellow one, so sweet that it would poison any who dared to lick it. And the pitch black one with one cream streak: how could he forget those eyes: shameful, prideful, lustful and lovable. Enough. That was enough.

In a flurry of sentiment, Arden rose with the jar in both hands. The window was open, the north-sea wind running a hand through his body, feeling all the holes and the cracks where the sadness and loneliness got in. The arm tensed, and the wings fluttered off and out into the night, drifting down to the rolling waves below. Under the moon, they were almost colourless: see-through, neglected, dead.

He slumped against the wall. He made a promise to himself, that tomorrow he will go on with what he did before, and that he will not look for the wings again. The jar was still in one hand, the lid in another. He clutched them close as the next gust of wind parted the curtains and stole the candle.

Somewhere outside, the waves broke along the shore.

Photo by Luke Paris on Unsplash



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Vincent Chang

Vincent Chang


Melburnian high school student | owner of The Afterglow Publication | lover of all things literary |