2012/09/09 § Leave a Comment
On the theme of This Whole Time
EXERPTS FROM THE ONGOING SERIES, I am not actually a butterfly.
Sun and Butterfly Create Elephant
Not long ago, Butterfly became curious about a solar storm and flew very close to the Sun for a better view. He withstood the intense heat of the Sun because, remember: Butterfly is not a butterfly. Not one of the Sun’s raging solar eddies could catch him, so he didn’t burn.
It so happened that the Sun noticed, although it didn’t see Butterfly as a butterfly. It saw artifacts—undulating imprints where its white-hot blasts were deflected.
Fascinated, the Sun turned more and more of its attention to Butterfly, who hovered and fluttered in awe and admiration.
With so much attention focused on them, the undulating artifacts began to act as a single lens. The billowing inferno aligned itself, converged to a point just beyond the center of the lens, and radiated outward again to the surface of the world.
Perfectly inverted, the storm was transformed, and Elephant alighted like a great, wingless bird onto the spring savanna.
Butterfly is not actually a butterfly, but was once what one might call a caterpillar.
Butterfly loves wooded ravines and busy traffic on the Las Vegas Strip on hot summer days.
Insatiably curious, Butterfly once followed a winding stair for days. Drawn in turns by its mysterious shadows and then by faint streams of sunlight along its twists and turns, the quest yielded one new friend and a set of deep footprints that led to a shear drop.
My world is quite near yours, so close that we overlap a bit.
We have a sun, too, you know—a little different than yours and a little bit the same. It gives light and warmth, just like yours, but its color is more vibrant. It gets a little hotter than yours, but we are used to it.
I think that it’s because of our more vibrant sun that the colors here in our world are a bit more vibrant, too. And our wishes. Our wishes and our mysteries, too, are all turned up a notch.
I am not actually a butterfly. I came here to probe one of those mysteries. I can tell you this about it:
There is a little, new-moon-colored stone I first encountered by a pool in the woods. Our woods. Yes, we have woods. We have quite a lot in common.
This stone shines with a light so pure that if you close your eyes, you can hear a single, soft, exquisite note. Otherwise, it’s really ordinary—small, translucent white and tumbled smooth—unless you touch it.
If you touch it, you will see the ocean. Your ocean, not ours.
It’s as if you are looking through someone else’s eyes at a cold, dark turquoise ocean on another world.
The Hidden Side of the Little Stone
Elephant wandered in the late-afternoon woods and stopped at a little shaded pool for a drink of water. Later, he foraged some and found the very stone that Butterfly was exploring and Caterpillar was guarding.
He pried it from the soil and lifted it right up to his eye for a closer look, turning it in the fingers of his trunk. He carried it to the edge of the woods, where the sun was brighter and the grass was turning gold. There, he turned it and turned it, then held it up to his eye again. A line, very slightly bowed, was cut into the side that had been laying face down, for how long, he couldn’t guess.
It was well worn, but still looked as though it was part of something bigger. Just a cut, mind you, but one your eye followed to the memory of a line that was much longer—perhaps curving into a shape and then arcing around again to complete itself. Tiny ridges suggested a simple carving tool.
Elephant glanced out at the open plain and lowered the stone, turning it a few more times. He noticed an elephant-foot-sized bit of granite just starting to sprout from the ground, and he put it down there. It might be a good place to come and find the little stone again, if he felt inclined to look for it.
Vague movements and a cloud of dust near the low, dry hills in the distance had caught his attention. Elephant went to investigate.
Caterpillar is technically not any older than Butterfly.
She believes she is the guardian of a mysterious stone, but can’t remember why.
Caterpillar will go out of her way to keep a promise. Vaguely aware that she is incredibly vulnerable to danger, she does everything—everything—as if it may be her last moment alive.
Caterpillar has a cautious fascination with the Sun. She is afraid of it, but she also waits and watches for it to rise (from behind a leaf) in the early morning. She will turn and watch again, no matter what she’s doing, when it’s time for it to set.
Butterfly in Las Vegas
There are rules in Las Vegas:
1. Assume that every situation is governed by rules, especially when there appear to be none.
2. You are required to establish your own rules.
3. You must decide when and how to abide by your rules.
4. If someone else demands that you abide by their rules, you are required to determine whether they conflict with yours and to choose accordingly.
Whenever I visit Las Vegas, I spend a good deal of time flitting around the wider sidewalks on the northern (and older) end of the Strip. Later in the afternoon, the Sun is lower but the heat is still unnerving. There are fewer people about, but it’s just as dusty. Passersby have occasionally noticed me, and generally seem to dislike me. This is a good time and place to practice indifference.
The last time I went, though, I met someone I am still thinking about. He had stepped abruptly out of the black glass doors of a rundown casino, taking me by surprise. I wasn’t quick enough to avoid him, and we bumped heads. There’s a considerable difference in size between our two heads so I was badly knocked, and fell to the ground.
I appear to be quite a small butterfly so I was surprised that he noticed and carefully lifted me up into the palm of his hand. I’m not sure if he thought he had killed me. He ran his finger along the edge of my wings. He gently lifted the tips of my antennas.
Recovering, I began to squirm so he pulled his finger away and watched. At least, I think he watched because I couldn’t see his eyes. He was wearing shiny, black sunglasses, and a motorcycle helmet, too.
Under his vague gaze, I struggled to my feet and tried out my wings. They seemed fine so I left his palm and fluttered just a little away to see him better. He did turn his head to follow my movements, and I could see now he was a motorcycle policeman. But suddenly, as if he was remembering something, he glanced at his watch and hurried off.
I believe he is, or he has, a piece of the puzzle. I must find him again.
Characters: The Policeman
The Policeman lives and works in Las Vegas. He rides a motorcycle and has never, ever been seen without his helmet.
He has a brother and a sister who live in another city, and he has three really good friends. Two of his friends are blackjack dealers. The third, his closest friend, is vice president of a multinational corporation.
He loves to play stick games, and has a collection of beautiful sticks he’s collected over many years. When he comes home at the end of a long day, he makes himself something to eat and then spreads his beautiful sticks out on the table. He picks up one or the other of them, remembering where he found it, or the person who gave it to him. Then he decides what stick game he’ll play. He can get so absorbed in his game, he won’t hear the door or the phone and will play until the quietest, coolest hours just before sunrise.
Still, no matter how late he goes to bed, he is always up and showered and eating breakfast well before he has to be at work. He takes his job very, very seriously.
At the Sea
It was late in the afternoon, and cold. The mist was so thick I could barely see the looming granite outcrops that stood in a miles-long, irregular row. They were hunched against the waves, and one was just twenty feet from me, mostly shrouded. Thousands of tiny, smooth pebbles, normally a rainbow of glinting specks, were now a thousand sparkling shades of gray, fading quickly to white.
On days like this, I’m moody and yearn for the dark. I’ll dive right into the seething waves, swim clear of the jagged pillars and drop myself like a stone. I don’t need the sun anymore. Its rays were fed to me so perfectly when I was a child that it’s now a part of me, and I take it everywhere I go.
But on this day, a massive whorl of seaweed caught in the underwater squall netted and held me. Shells, fish, pebbles and sand whipped and cut me. I couldn’t fall and I couldn’t rise. Pulled along the relentless coiling swirl, the only thing to do was fold myself like a sleeping leaf and close my eyes.
As soon as I did, I saw the sun.
I was in the woods. I was warm and dry.
I was looking into the eye of an elephant.
I opened my eyes and seaweed whipped my face, flurries of shell and sand cut my flesh.
I closed them and I was alone by a pool.
I was encircled by a weeping caterpillar.
Penina Finger makes artwork, poems, stories, and collaborations. www.iamnotactuallyabutterfly.wordpress.com/