From Cacoons to Butterflies

June 26, 2008
By Meg Eden, Gambrills, MD

Oh the warmth…Megumi sighed, pulling the door behind her. This house was so quiet now-now that Mother had been dead seven years, Father gone four and now Shino. She missed the smell of almond cookies, permeating every corner of every room as Mother’s voice sweetly hummed an old Japanese folk song. But she was dead. She missed Father’s strong hugs, and possibly even his jokes on her. But now he had vanished for the government. Mostly, she missed Shino, who helped her up through all of the loss, always able to grin and ask, “Would a butterfly help?”

Nostalgically, she shuffled up the wooden creaking steps, towards her brother’s old room. It smelled of bugs and lettuce still. With a painful smile and a creaking door, she mused, Its as though he just left…

Shino always had a box of some live specimen on his night stand. Those were just his favourite findings for the week. Scattered in seemingly disordered rows, he had boxed away myriads of beetles, caterpillars, flies, ants and more. But on his desk, on the right hand corner, there was always a box of butterflies.

Every time Megumi broke into tears at night, trapped in dreams of Mother and Father drifting between life and death, he always led her to the window of his room, taking a butterfly gently from its box and leading it to her finger, saying, “Let it go,”

The first time he had said this, her look was one of confusion, “What?”

“If you lead a butterfly to the window,” he explained with a smile of reassurance, “It will carry all of your sorrows away with it,”

“H-honto ni?” she asked with wide eyes.

He nodded, letting go of a cherry red one he held in his hands. Its wings carried off into the blackened night until it was no more than a dot. “See?” he asked, perching another butterfly on her finger.

Making it into some sacred ritual, Megumi closed her eyes tight as though making a wish, kissed the butterfly lightly, and let it off to follow its partner. When she said nothing, Shino asked, “So-did it work?”

Still with eyes closed, she nodded. So the tradition had begun.

Taking a circuit across the room, Megumi noticed the boxes that cluttered his old desk, scattered with yellowed papers. Little green and black specks lined the clear bottoms, across a few twigs and blades of grass. None of them moved.

Landing at the largest box that had housed rainbows of butterflies, her childish curiousity over took her as she peeked in. The floor was lined in an Arabian carpet of blacks and yellows and blues, all the petals of butterfly wings. On a long stick, there stuck a cacoon or two, now brown and molded, never to awake from its slumber. Feeling as though something within her had died as well, she jumped at the flicker of movement. For out of the mass of death, there rose one butterfly, weak and hobbling, but still flying.

Its wings were not particularly stunning, bedizened in a dulled grey like a moth, hinted at with disproportionate blobs of white. She remembered it now-it was called the Pholisora catullus…that was Latin. All butterflies were named in Latin.

How this one-the ugliest of them all, somehow survived all this time, trapped in a clear box, was beyond Megumi. But the sight somehow comforted her as she thought, I too will continue on,

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