Thursday, August 26, 2010

1. Butterfly Caught

He didn't have a name when I found him.
I rectify that statement. He didn’t have a name when he found me, facedown in the grass and unconscious. The ground, dead from late summer and spotted with dandelions had seemed so soft when I first fell into it, but now it was cold and damp with the night's dew, spotting my clothes and making me shiver. In storybook terms, this should be the part where he took off his coat and covered me, but Honemei didn't read stories.

And he wasn't wearing a coat. Or anything at all.

Imagine my surprise when I woke to see a naked creature standing over me. Strange; pale skin and hair, horns protruding from all over his body, eyes blank and pupiless as a boiled egg.

He reminded me of something dead, although I knew dead things to be bloated and rotten in smell. He smelled of grass and earth- natural and unnatural all at once, lacking the heavy stink of unbathed human. As for the bloated part, he hardly fit that description either, as I could see every bone in his body- that including the ones that stuck out of his skin. He was not a pretty sight to behold, perhaps ugly was not the right word, but strange, alien, unnatural. Frankly, I was terrified.
 Then, as though he had no common sense at all, he reached over to touch me. I looked up at him, black hair obscuring all but the bony finger approaching my face, and panicked. 

Let me tell you something. When I graduated primary school and entered the military, there was only one thing that stuck with me.
Strike now.
Ask questions later.
He looked at me, emotionlessly and like he wanted to cry all at once, expression but the slightest wavering of a reflection in water. A trickle of blood ran down his wrist, and in my hand I clasped a knife- this having been pulled from my boot.
"You…you hurt me," he said, deliberating every word. I hadn't expected him to speak.
I wasn't going to apologize, but he wasn't waiting. He pointed at me with his bloody hand and I watched as every inch of his body started to shift and swirl, until my eyes became pained and I blinked.
When they opened, there was nothing but a flock of butterflies. Harmless, the color of fleshly bloomed crocus, their pattern was nonetheless frightening, spiraling in madness with the images of wild eyes and war paint. 
He had fled.
"Coward," I muttered. Scum of the earth. Idiotic creature. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. Though at least, I thought, I didn't have to fight a demon, or whatever he was.

As I prepared to leave, searching for my bag in the craggily yellow grass, I felt a butterfly's touch on my neck. I turned my head, watching with horror as the swarm pieced itself together, butterfly on butterfly, until it assumed a near human form and suddenly the pressure on my neck was solid, the form his once more.
"I can turn anything I touch into anything I want," came a soft male voice. It was trembling, as though unused to talking, and I felt a sinking in my stomach. I was useless against something like that, and so I trembled in fear, our positions suddenly reversed. It may seem strange that I believed him, but in my world such a power is not unheard of.
"What is your name," I asked him, hoping small-talk would keep him from turning me into a swarm of flies. His sharp, uncut fingernail dug into my back, but the touch was slight, as though he was still scared of me.
"I don't…I don't remember," he confessed. I took a small step forward and swiveled around, and his hand dropped uselessly to his side. I stared him down, shielding my eyes from his unclothed netherregions with my hand, finally deeming him harmless.The threat had been empty. He was, indeed, a coward.
"Well I can't help you there. I'm sorry, but I have to leave."
I tried to do so, but a tight, uncertain grip found its way around my wrist, bone and sinew. He stumbled into me and I cringed at the feeling of cool skin brushing my arm. This was the closest I had ever been to a naked man, although whether or not he was in fact a man was still debatable.
"Please do not touch me," I requested coldly. His arm twitched as though bitten, and fell gently to his side one final time.
"I am in a hurry and you are wasting my time," I said in a sharp voice. He backed away like a hurt dog, and very carefully, I slung my pack over my shoulder, the rough strap rubbing against the fabric of my shirt. I already had a blister from it- it was weighed down with clothes and paint and weapons and everything I may need to protect myself from what was sure to come.
A flash of something bloody appeared before my eyes and I felt a surge of disgust and horror for my actions, but I pushed that to the back of my mind. No, I'm not talking about the stranger. I had no regrets at all about protecting myself from him.
What haunted me was what I had already left behind.

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