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Butterfly Shaped Objects

It was a gift, they said, that let her see the quiet, sun-drenched field as a rolling, primal sea. An artistic worldview that heralded great things and a bright future. The wild green grass and sudden bursts of flowers became breaking waves and tiny coral islands.
She was only seven when they noticed her strangeness. Charming at first, delightful almost. As she aged, it became mundane, then tiresome, and finally disturbing. It began young, that separation from the normal children.
It was a curse, they decided, to see the same field as a disguised piece of mechanical trickery, a violent beachhead in an invasion from some strange universe next door. The drifting pollen was a secret weapon, she swore. The swarming butterflies were clever robots, designed to charm while they spied upon the ignorant.
Special classes and tutors and doctors and tests came next. Why could the world not simply be the world, her well-intentioned tormentors asked her, again and again? Why could a field not simply be a field, a butterfly a pretty sight on a pleasant spring day?
"Because that would be a lie," was the only answer she could give. Because that was the only answer that was true.
"They're not angels or animals or insects," she informed her interviewers. "They're objects." Her voice steadily dwindled to a determined whisper. "The dead don't die," she assured them. "They just hide from the light and the sight of the judgmental. The living don't live--they just keep moving out of habit."
It was madness, they concluded, that let her see different worlds between each blink. That conjured ghosts hidden beneath shadows and saw the living as sour creatures of mindless habit. The only solution was The Institute.
She died young in captivity, barely a teenager, pining for the fantasia she saw in what was mere reality to the rest of the world. Died from lack of the chaos she loved and they thought she feared.
They'd never see themselves as killers. Some lies are told too well, and believed too deeply. To them, good intentions trumped all and the world was always simply the world. It was an illusion they thought worth kidnapping and killing to maintain.
They laid her to rest in a cemetery that bore more than a passing resemblance to that field of her childhood. They hid her from the sight of judgment on a lovely spring day. The service was short. As they made their way to their cars they passed through the raging sea and all the pretty tools of invasion. A few imagined they could hear her laugh, there amidst the maybe and might have been.
And was it gift or curse or madness that let them note the passing of a cloud of butterflies, to hear the dim clockwork ticking of exquisite tiny springs and gears, and the secret soft flutter of plastic wings?
The End
This story was first published on Monday, December 19th, 2011
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