The Butterfly Effect

“Edel! Come here!”

She looked up, startled by Jay’s yells. He sounded different to usual. Not angry, and not calm, but somewhere in between. She slowly inched open her bedroom door and peered through the gap, not knowing what to expect on the other side.

Jay was standing in the living room by the window. “Edel!” he shouted again.

She walked robotically forward, dread clawing at her chest. This was unusual and she didn’t know what to expect. All her attention was focussed on Jay. He didn’t seem angry, but his heart rate was slightly elevated. She couldn’t see his face, as he had his back to her, and she didn’t like not having this information available to her.

She stopped a few paces behind him and swallowed her dread. “Jay?” her voice was hesitant, filled with worry for whatever rule she may have inadvertently broken. Once again, she tried to remind herself that Jay had never once hurt her. He was her friend not her captor, and he didn’t get angry with her for making mistakes. The thought that perhaps she had made a mistake sent her thoughts on a new tangent. One filled with pain and punishment. She stood frozen to the spot, dreading what was to come.

Jay turned around to face her. His smile widened as he saw her and the skin around his eyes crinkled with delight. His hands were cupped in front of him, one on top of the other, as though he was holding a secret between them. “Come here!” he said again.

This time, Edel recognised the strange quality to his voice as excitement. It wasn’t anger. He had something to show her. Her initial feelings of dread subsided, replaced with a new sensation of intrigue. She stepped forward and Jay held his hands towards her. “You have to see this!” His smile was wide and childlike.

“What is it?”

“I can’t open my hand yet, or it will fly away.”

Edel blinked in surprise. “What do you mean?”

“Cup your hands over mine, and you can hold it. Just make sure you don’t close your hands too tightly around it, or you’ll squash it, and it will die.”

“It’s alive? There is a living creature in your hand?”

He grinned back at her and nodded emphatically.

“What is it?”

“Wait and see! Hold your hands over mine.”

Edel did as she was instructed. For the first time in her life, she forgot about her aversion to touching people. She placed her hands over Jays without any reluctance and clamped them tightly shut as he wiggled his hands out of hers. Jay stood back beaming at her as she felt the strange tickling sensation between her palms. The thing she held was walking around. She felt its tiny feet and soft wings brushing against her palms. “What is it, Jay?”

“It’s a butterfly. A really pretty one too!”

“Butterfly.” She repeated the word, but it was meaningless to her. The HGMR must not have deemed this crucial information when they implanted all her knowledge into her brain.

“I haven’t seen one in years. We don’t get them very often in the city. I don’t know what this little guy is doing here, but we need to let it back out into the world. I think it will die inside.”

Jay walked forward and pushed open the door onto their tiny balcony. “Come on. We can watch it fly away.”

Edel followed, butterfly in hand, feeling a new level of importance that she didn’t expect to feel. This creature would die if she did not help it.

Once they were standing on their small balcony, Jay said, “Ok, now slowly, open your hands, and let it out.”

Edel followed his instruction, but she couldn’t help lifting her hands higher, so they were at her eyeline. She wanted to see the creature she held. Slowly, she parted her hands to see a delicate looking creature with spindly legs and long antennae, with beautiful blue and golden wings. It looked so fragile, she was surprised that it hadn’t been injured inside her firm and forceful hands.

The butterfly flapped its wings twice slowly but did not take to the sky. Edel watched, fascinated by this living creature. Of course, she knew insects existed, or at least she did now she had experienced freedom. But she had never seen one up close before. This butterfly was fascinating. The detail on its brightly coloured wings was intricate and beautiful, and she brought her hand closer to her face to better study the pattern.

The butterfly flapped its wings and fluttered into the air and Edel watched mesmerised. It didn’t fly straight, it seemed to have no flight plan at all, nor any idea of the direction it wished to travel. It flew out of reach, and she watched it still, as it disappeared behind the buildings in front of them.

Edel was so taken with the creature that she momentarily forgot herself. She wasn’t meant to show interest in things that did not concern her. She looked to Jay, convinced she had broken the rules, but when she caught his eye, he was beaming back at her as though he’d just experienced something special.

“How cool was that? I can’t believe we got a butterfly in our apartment!” He peered at her closely. “Have you ever seen a butterfly before?”

“No.”

“Well, what do you think? Did you like it?”

An involuntary smile took over Edel’s face. She froze immediately, and pulled on her emotionless mask, staring back at Jay plain faced and unsmiling.

“Well, you saved it. Whether you like it or not, it will live another day because you set it free.” He paused and stared at her solemnly, then he said words Edel had never been told to her before. “I’m proud of you, Edel.”

He turned back to the open door and climbed back into their apartment, leaving Edel standing on the balcony overcome with unfamiliar sensations. It took her a long time to move.

If you would like to read more about the characters featured in these short stories, check out the Almost Human series on amazon. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B098TMZ8MH