Black Butterfly

There was black butterfly fluttering in front of Jacob’s barn. I watched it through the cloud of cigarette smoke that seeped out of my mouth. The butterfly flew in circles like it was dizzy and did not know where to land. The smell of horse manure was strong from where I sat Indian style on the gravel driveway.

I grimaced from the stench and turned my head carefully away to glance at the boys behind me who were shouting and rough housing. One of them kicked a stone toward the black butterfly. It hit the side of the barn and ricocheted off the aluminum siding with a bass-like “dong”.  I clasped a handful of the long silver chains that were slung around my neck and gave them a hard squeeze.  I often did this when I was nervous; squeezing the chains tightly around my neck until I could feel just a slightly painful pressure.

“Delia!” I heard Jacob shout.  I looked up at him, startled, and ran my other hand through my freshly shorn blonde hair.  “Come on Delia, It’s almost nine o’clock, the party’s starting soon!”

One of Jacob’s neighbors was having a bonfire in his grandpa’s cornfield. The field backed up to woods. Of course, no corn had grown in the field in my lifetime at least, but it was nice place to party. We would drive the pickup truck though the mud, rolling on the tire tracks, hollering and drunk. The place was large enough for fireworks. None of the cops cared that fireworks were illegal in New York, and none of the neighbors complained.

I got up from the ground and swiped gravel off the back of my legs. Jacob was in his pickup truck, trying to rev the engine. He was cursing and swearing at the steering wheel. One of his buddies, a skinny pimpled guy named Dustin, kicked the tire.

“It’s no use Jake.” He spat. “We’ll fix it later, the party’s right next door.”

Ten minutes later, a group of us were walking down the road heading toward the bonfire. The sun was just setting, so the whole world looked on fire, the leaves on the trees were illuminated like glow lamps hanging low over the road, and the asphalt of the road reminded me of liquid lava, running beneath our feet. We passed a driveway where several children played in the late night heat. One little girl ran by us, topless and tanned, yelling, “You’re it! You’re it!”

We walked until I felt my feet crunch on several pieces of something sharp and hard on the road. I fell behind the group and crouched down by the bones of months-old road kill. Now nothing but fragments of it remained. A black butterfly fluttered out from the grass and landed on the lower piece of a jawbone. I reached down and picked it up. I wasn’t good at telling what kind of animal it was from. It was very tiny and rounded, almost human like. I placed it in my pocket and then ran to catch up with the group.

At the party, there was boy who I had never seen before with dark hair and eyes.  His skin was pale and bluish in the moonlight.  His smile was strange and animal like. I had never seen an animal smile, but I had seen the sneer of a fox and that looks like a grin.

“Hello,” he said.

I nodded at him. Then, as if by impulse, I took a cigarette out of my purse and lit it.

“Smoking is bad for you.”

The weight of the cigarette rested comfortably between my fingertips and I said: “No shit.”

“But you’re smoking.”

I snarled at him. “I realize that.”


I shrugged.

“Do you believe in faeries?”

I stared at him for a long time. Finally, when the cigarette I was holding started to burn up, I replied, “No, I don’t.”

Then I inhaled on my cigarette and studied his face for a reaction.  However, his face remained emotionless and empty—impossible to read as he said:

“I don’t mean ‘fairy’ like Tinkerbell. I mean faeries. Cigarette smoke is poisonous to faeries.”

“I think you’re a real faerie,” I said. I blew the smoke in his face.

His face turned even paler, so pale that it almost began transparent and he began to cough loudly.  The coughs were deep and wet. My heart sped up and I immediately threw the cigarette down and crushed it underneath my foot. I reached out to him and laid my hand awkwardly against his back. I could feel his ribs pressing hard into my hand.

“Oh shit! I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

He held up a hand and straightened up. His eyes locked onto mine. They were so dark that looking into them was like falling into a pool. “Do not worry about me,” he said.

“I’m sorry, but, why are you even talking to me?’

He shrugged, and wiped his swollen eyes.  “I’ve just seen you around.  You interest me.”

“Well that’s creepy,” I said.  “You must go to school with us. Except, why don’t I recognize you?”

“I don’t go to school with you.”

“Than how could you have possibly seen me around?” I regretted stomping out my cigarette; I really wanted the feel of it in my mouth again.

“Around town…”

“What town? There is no town. It’s an abandoned grocery store and a laundry mat.”

He looked impatient. “Either way, I’ve seen you around.”

Suddenly, I felt Jacob’s body as it came up against my back. He wrapped his arms around me and grabbed my breasts. “Let’s go somewhere where we can be alone.”

I looked up at the boy and smiled apologetically. “I guess I’ll see you around.”

“Yes. You will,” he said.

Jacob grabbed my hand and led me off of the cornfield and into the wood. When we were deep enough in that no one could see us, he turned to me and enveloped me in his arms. He tugged at my shirt and began to raise it above my head.

“Stop Jacob,” I said. “I don’t want to do it here.”

He ignored me and attempted to tug the shirt over my head while he tongued my ear. I pushed him.

“Jacob! I told you to fucking stop!”

He pulled back from me and raised his hand, the slap caught me surprised and my head whipped around. I was somehow able to stay on my feet. White rage flashed somewhere in my mind and I wheeled around and slapped him back. He wasn’t expecting that.

“You fucking bitch!”

He raised his hand again and this time I saw the flash of a knife. I dug my feet into the ground and pushed away from him, but the forest floor was wet and I slipped.  My fall disturbed a black butterfly that was resting on the ground and it fluttered up and flew away.

As Jacob leaned down over me someone called out from the darkness: “Hey! Leave her alone!”

I looked up to see the “faerie boy” standing just inside a patch of moonlight, looking over us.  He had pulled a hunting pistol from his jacket and was aiming it towards where Jacob was leaning over me, gripping what was now clearly a butterfly knife so tightly that his knuckles threatened to burst from his flesh.

“Who the fuck are you?” Jacob snarled. He seemed to have momentarily forgotten about cutting me.

“It doesn’t matter who I am.  Get away from her or I’ll shoot you. And I don’t miss.”

Jacob dropped the knife and stood up.  He looked down at me with a look of disgust. “It’s not worth it,” he snarled. “Good luck whore-bitch. See who will want you now.”

He spat at my feet and then turned around and walked away.

I dug my elbows into the dirt and slowly began to push myself up.  Suddenly, the boy was at my side holding a hand out to me. I looked up into his face and realized how little he actually looked like a boy. The outline of his face was straight and sharp looking, and dainty lines blossomed outward from the corner of his almond shaped eyes. “I don’t need your help.”
“Delia. Please.”

One last hesitation before I placed my hand in his and he pulled me up to stand in front of him: “How did you even know my name?”

“I told you—I’ve seen you around.”

I shrugged. “How about you? Who are you?

“My name is Kel.”

I nodded and then pulled away the hand I realized he was still holding. “I better go back to the party.”

“No Delia, don’t go there.”

“Well then where do you suggest I go?” I snapped at him.  The air was chilly and I brought up my hands to warm my arms.

“You could go home.”

I laughed, “That shows just how little you know about me—to think that home would be safer than that party.”

“Well then come with me,” he said. “I live in a house nearby.”

“Are you kidding me? There is no way in hell I am going home with you. I’ve had enough of men tonight.”

“I don’t expect anything from you. I just want to keep you safe.”

“Thanks, but I think I’ll take my own chances.” With that, I turned and began to walk away from him, deep into the wood.

“Fine,” he whispered behind me. “Suit yourself.”

It wasn’t long before I realized that I was lost.  All around me the woods threatened. Fireflies, although beautiful, were not a good source of light. I caught one and squished it in my hands, covering my palm with the luminescent goop. For a reason I could not explain, the insect’s death comforted me. I was able to gather my mind and try to make sense of the wood, and whatever direction that might lead me back to the fire.

The full moon allowed me to see things clearly in some directions. I turned to my left and looked at a gap in the trees, through which I could see every detail of the moss and twigs of the forest floor. I took a few more steps, and came into clearing where a tiny log cabin sat. Rabbit skins hung from the pillared porch, and deer skins decorated the side of the cabin.

I approached the cabin, curiosity dominating my fear. I walked across the wooden porch. It creaked and splintered against my feet. The front door was painted black. I knocked.

Waiting out in the darkness, standing outside of a dark cabin, I thought long and hard about what I was doing. My near brush with death earlier had somehow caused me to further disbelieve my mortality. I realized that the situation of standing by myself in the middle of rural wood, knocking on the door of a cabin that looked as if it belonged to a serial killer was an extremely dangerous thing to do. But where did I have to go? Like I told Kel, I couldn’t go back to the party—Jacob was there, and he had probably already told the others his own version of what happened.  As for home…what was there except a neglectful mother who worked too many jobs and believed I was nothing but an inconvenience to her, and a stepfather who watched me with heavy eyes and stood outside the bathroom door while I showered?

I squeezed my chains tightly around my neck and waited. Finally I heard the sound of footsteps and the door opened. Kel stood in front of me.

“I knew you would come,” he said.

“You live here?” I asked.

“I told you I lived near by. Come in.”

He gestured me inside the dark interior of the cabin.  The air inside was cold. As I shivered, the metal of my chains rattled.

“Can I have some light?” My voice was hoarse.

There was a sudden flash of light as Kel struck a match. He began to light a few candles around the room. The light revealed a table, a wash basin, and cot in the far corner.

“Is it alright if I sleep here tonight?” I said, looking up at Kel. The yellow light did not reflect in his eyes. They were so black that pupil bled into iris and I couldn’t figure out where anything began or ended.

“I’ve already told you that you could. You can have the cot tonight. I suggest you get some sleep. I rise early in the morning and you will be rising early with me.”

I made my way over to the cot. It was covered with furs. There was something that covered the floor of the cabin, and every time I walked, my feet crunched in it. It was very slippery to walk, and I was grateful to finally reach the bed.

“Sweet dreams Delia,” I heard Kel whisper.

He left the candles lit, but when I turned over so that I could reply, he was nowhere in sight.

I awoke to the sound of screaming.

There were tiny rays of sunlight coming through the beams of the windowless cabin. I wondered how it could be so bright in there, without any windows—but it was. As I sat up, something banged against my chest. I looked down and saw that I was wearing a necklace. It was the jawbone that I had picked up the evening before, on the side of the road. I took it in my fingers and studied it, my eyebrows furrowed together.

It was a baby that was screaming, off in some part of the cabin that I could not see. Its wails echoed off the walls and reverberated back to my ears, causing me to moan with the pity of having to hear it. It was such a despairing sound.

I swung my legs over the side of the bed, and when I put my feet down to the floor, I heard the sickening sharp crunch beneath my feet.

The night before, I had not been able to see in the darkness. But now I saw what lay beneath my feet…

Bones! Millions of bones littered the cabin floor. Not bones of rabbits, foxes, or deer. No, the bones belonged to something smaller, more human-like, much more like the bone that currently swung around my neck.

Baby bones.

I screamed and ran to the nearest door. I thought it was the same door that led out of the cabin and into the wood but instead I found myself inside a tiny room that I hadn’t known existed. A double bed took up almost the entire space of the room. Kel stood there, in front of the bed, holding the screaming baby in his arms.

I froze. Hanging on the wall next to me were a dozen swords, each made of what I figured to be silver. I looked at Kel out of the corner of my eye.

“I should have known…” I whispered, breathless, my throat tight, “That you would turn out to be very fucked up.”

I took a step towards him. He watched me, his face absent of all kinds of expression. The baby whimpered. I held my hands out to him.

“Don’t do this Kel. Don’t you dare hurt that baby.”

He blinked and sneered at me, “Why would I hurt my own child?”

“Your child?” I startled, “How?”

“You want to hold him?” Kel walked toward me, holding out the infant.

I took the baby. He lay naked and freezing in my arms. He couldn’t have been more than an hour old. His skin was wrinkled and pale with a bluish tint, and he was covered in bits of blood and sticky goo.  A long piece of the umbilical cord still hung from his belly button. I snuggled some of the cotton shirt I was wearing around the baby, trying to warm him up with my body. Looking back up at Kel, my eyes flashed with rage.

“Can’t you see that he’s freezing to death?” I tried to make my voice sound angry, but instead it came out sounding frightened and thin. “He needs food and warmth!”

“And he shall have it,” said Kel. “But first Delia, you must answer me some questions.”

“I’m not playing any fucking games.”

“You really don’t have a choice Delia.”

I glared at him, hugging the child in my arms. He was still screaming an ear piercing wail that made my heart sink.

“Tell me Delia. What do you believe in?”

“I don’t believe in anything,” was my quick reply.

“That is impossible.”

“How so?”

“Don’t you believe that you are standing here now, with that child in your arms?”

I looked at Kel and my eyes lit up, “It could be a dream.”

“What about life? Is that a dream?”

“Perhaps. And we don’t have time for this. This baby needs food.”

“Do you doubt everything?”

“I have no reason to do otherwise.”

He began to walk around me. In the bright light of the cabin his hair almost shone with a black-red fire. He watched me as he began to walk in circles around me and his son.

“No reason?” He spat, “No reason to believe?’

“How do I know that I even exist?” I shouted. The anticipation in my chest was rising. I held the baby boy with one hand and backed up away from Kel. My other hand traveled towards the wall of swords. “How do I know that I am not just a dream of someone else? That I am not a figment of someone’s imagination?”

“Whether you choose to believe it or not Delia, it does not make the fact that you are standing in this room, facing me, with that child in your arms any less true.” Kel said, “We all have the ability to fight against our reality. The question is do we have the power to change what’s real?”

“You are so full of shit”, I snapped.

He smiled and continued to speak. “You have been given the opportunity to change how you look at your life.  After all, what is your reality Delia?  A mother who neglects you? A step-father who desperately wants to molest you? A series of boyfriends who abuse you?  You are sixteen years old, what part of your reality would you change? Who are you really? Who is Delia?”

I felt my eyes beginning to tear up but I pursed my mouth together and blinked rapidly to keep him from seeing. There was no way in hell I was going to cry in front of him.  The baby reached up and his arm caught in one of my chains, tugging on them.

“To you Delia, everything in this room is phenomena—a world where nothing is symmetrical, a world where nothing is real. What you need to do is allow your mind to work to understand the significance of this phenomenon.”

Kel stopped walking around me. I faced him, my breath heavy and quick. My chest fluttered like the wings of a butterfly. He walked up to me and put his lips close to mine. I could feel the chill from his body freezing me. I could sense every inch of him where it lined up against my torso. His groin was at my belly, his abdomin pressed against my breast. He took a hand, a silky hand, and rubbed it up and down my arm—tracing my veins with his fingertips. I shivered from the sensation.

He softly kissed me. “Time for a test Delia. Do you believe in faeries?”

I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction, so instead of saying what I knew to be true I instead replied sternly: “No. I don’t believe in faeries.”

The child in my arms stopped crying.

I took a step back from Kel and peered into the boy’s face. It was frozen in a horrible distorted cry. I touch his face and startled at how cold it suddenly was. No breath escaped from the tiny screaming mouth, which would now be screaming forever.

When I realized that he was dead, I nearly dropped him. Quickly, I saved his body from falling.

Kel’s face twisted with rage. He breathed heavily through his nose. “Don’t worry about dropping him Delia, he’s dead!”

With that, he ripped the child from my arms and with a might heave, threw its body against the cab wall. It hit with a sickening smack. My stomach tightened at the sound of bones breaking and cartilage snapping. I opened my mouth to scream, but someone beat me to it.

A feminine, mournful wail shook the cabin. I sunk to the floor and my eyes were wide with shock. A single tear escaped and slid down my cheek, as the agony of the wail threatened to possess my body.

In the corner of the room where I had not seen her before, a child crouched in the shadows. Her red hair was cut shoulder length, but it was uneven as if a knife had simply hacked at it. Her face was covered with dirt. Her naked body was bloody and bruised.

She looked like a doll, a Blythe doll, her face was in the shape of a heart and her eyes were abnormally wide. Her skin was as perfect as porcelain fresh out of the kiln. Small pouty lips opened up in another cry. When the last sound of her voice rang out over my head and the cabin fell silent, she looked at me.

Slowly, the girl began to crawl across the floor in the direction that I was sitting. And as she crawled towards me, she began to change. A strange wash of light swept over her eyes and they became more heavily lidded. Her mouth grew wider and her face became longer and less rounded.  Her hair started to grow past her shoulders and down her back, shining like the hair shines on the models in Vogue and Cosmopolitan. I heard the uncomfortable sound of ligaments popping as the girl’s limbs started to grow. Her eyes became long and defined. Breasts blossomed from her chest like I imagined roses would bloom in slow motion.

When she finally reached me and looked up into my face, it was a woman who was looking at me. A beautiful woman with hair that looked as if it was made from the dust of rubies, and eyes that shone more purple than any lavender in any garden.

She looked into my face and let out another cry, yet this time the cry was that of a woman. The cry of a mother who had lost her child.

“Nieka!” Kel called out. He knelt down next to her and took her into his arms. “I’m sorry that we failed again dear. I am so sorry.”

As he rocked her back and forth, I slowly stood up and backed up to the wall behind me. Neither of them noticed me. \ I turned to the wall and grabbed one of the swords that hung there loosely. It came free in my hands and when I turned around, Kel was standing there watching me.

Before he could stop me, I grabbed the hilt of the sword by both hands and ran it through his chest where I knew his heart must beat.

He smiled at me. With a gruff laugh he grabbed my hair and kissed me fully on the mouth.

I cried out around his mouth, beating against his back, trying to free myself. I accidentally swiped my hand against the blade of the sword and cut it. I let out another scream, but Kel silenced it by sliding his tongue deep into my mouth.

He pulled away from me and demanded, “What were you thinking?”

With a grunt, he pulled the sword from his chest with a wet sound. “I am neither a werewolf nor a vampire. Silver will not kill me. And my heart is situated somewhere other than the left side of my chest. If the sword was iron, then I would be dead by now.”

I fell back to the ground. Nieka was there, her silky hands stroking my forehead. There was a tattoo of antennae on her brow. She cocked her head and looked at me with sad eyes.

Too exhausted to try to be brave anymore, I asked him: “What are you?”

Nieka leaned down close to my face, and whispered, “We are the last of a dying race. Our children cannot survive in this world. One by one they die off within their first hour of life. Again we try, only to watch another child.”

He continued.

“We have tried many things. We have taken their bones and mixed them into the floor of our home. We have drunk their blood in attempts of taking their power into ourselves, and make us stronger parents. We have used their bodies in spells.

We have prayed to our gods Woden and Freya, to not let the faeries become extinct. But we have come to discover that Woden and Freya are dead. As well as all the other gods of the old land: Thor, Odin, Frigg, and Dagda.

We were the Tuatha de Dannon, the fifth and greatest race in Ireland. Yet now, our Queen Eriu lies dead in the swamps of man’s disbelief. And Nuada, our king, has taken for himself a human bride. She is a whore to iron, but at least she is able to survive where we cannot.   The earth is now planted with poisonous things. It is polluted with lies, deceit, and distrust. It is filled with iron, plastic, and rubber. Toxic gas fills the air. Now, nothing old can live. Even the immortals must parish. Nothing but humans can survive. They have made this world their own at last:

The have killed the gods that created them.”

I stood and stared at him. He looked at me, as if he was expecting something. “I don’t know what to say,” I finally whispered.

Nieka stood up with a flash. I couldn’t understand why her expression was suddenly twisted with anger. She flung around to face Kel. “Go on Kel, take her. Love her as you were never able to love me. Mix her blood with your blood. Lover to make the half-breed that will survive. Fuck her and make your mutt!”

She spat on the ground at his feet. He watched with empty black eyes.

“What are you babbling about Nieka?” He asked coldly.

“I’m talking about the reason you brought her here!”

I looked at both their faces, and stood up. “Reason?”

Slowly, I walked towards Kel. “What the fuck is she talking about Kel? What do you want with me?”

He smiled slowly, his eyes squinting together from his smirk. “I want you to have my baby.”

My hand rose and I swung it to hit him, but I only smacked air.

A black butterfly fluttered in front of my face, like a sweet and innocent piece of nature.

“How long have you been watching me?” I yelled as it fluttered around my head. “How long have you been planning this?”

It landed back on the bed.

“Why me?” I asked it in a strangled and desperate whisper.

I turned to Nieka, who was watching me.

“We have been planning this since you were born. We have always been watching you Delia.  We’ve watched you grow up. We’ve seen your pain. You are our chosen one. Faerie babies can no longer survive in this world. But mixed with human blood—there may be a chance that the Tuatha de Dannon will survive.

I shook my head wildly. “I still don’t understand—why me? What is it about me? I’m nothing special. I’m not pretty; I’m not smart, or rich. I have…no…future.”

The weight of a hand placed itself delicately against the back of my neck. I turned and looked up at Kel. “Regardless,” he said, “We want you.”

“You weren’t born just any girl, Delia,” Nieka said. “You were born with strength and a power that is rare in human girls. And though life has tried to take that power from you, you still fight to protect what you know to be true.  Your spirit still shines more brightly than any of those girls you go to school with.  It is for that reason that we chose you.”

I stood between them, Kel at my front and Nieka at my back and breathed a deep sigh. My mind whirred with fear and confusion, but there was also a weight deep in my chest—a comfortable presence that caused me to smile at Kel, to reach up my hand and place it against his cheek. “What if I want to say ‘no’?” I whispered.

“You don’t want to say no,” he said.

He was right. I knew that the moment I left that cabin, nothing would be the same. I would go back to my house and close the bedroom door, and live as an outcast surrounded by Jack off Jill and Kittie posters. I would be forced to stare at my mother’s empty eyes and listen to her and my stepfather fight for hours about such trivial issues as a broken lawn-mower.  How could I watch the world through the same eyes, now knowing that buried behind man’s self-created blanket of economic, social, and political problems, Nieka and Kel existed?  I did not feel as if I belonged to that world anymore.  I never did. That world was meant for people like my mother, who was comfortable being a slave to society—but not me. I never felt at home there.

“What do we do now,” I said. “Do we…?”

“Now we wait,” Kel said. “We wait until the time comes when you’re ready.”

I shook my head wildly, “But…I’m ready now.”

Nieka sighed. “No you’re not dear.  In order for you to become what we need you to be, you must have a strong sense of self. That is something you do not have. Who are you Delia?”

I stared blankly at her.

She smiled. “That’s what I thought. Leave here today and go into the world. Learn things. Meet people. Only give yourself to men who love you. Leave this town. And when you can tell us who you are, then we will find you.  Because my dear, you are not your mother’s failures, your stepfather’s lust, or your boyfriend’s abuses.  Those chains around you neck were placed there by you—it is your turn to break from them on your own.”

So, while standing in a streak of rogue sunlight, I lifted the silver chains from my neck and placed them at Nieka’s feet. Then I stood before both of them, the last of the Tuatha de Dannon and held the bone necklace in my hands—a reminder to me that I was wanted.

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