Barrage of Butterflies

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“Can you please help me,” a boy pleads. His freckled face and strawberry blond hair is obscured under a heavy chain. He’s wearing a dirty robe, the one on which little blue dinosaurs and spotted lizards were once printed. It was his favorite robe; Aunt Barb got it for him on his eighth birthday. Now it hangs tattered on his skin, the friendly scaly beasts masked in thick mud, sweat, and urine.

In the child’s beautiful, sparkling eyes one could see a life full of love and elation, of days spent at the beach, flashing a smile with fists deep in sand, and nights curled on the couch watching Sleeping Beauty until he rested at last. But the scars told a different story. They told of sleepless weeks in unforgiving darkness, abandoned in a quarry of revulsion and isolation. They told of unimaginable horror.

Every night, he prays for release from his captor. All he wants is to get back home to bury his puppy, Angel, who was struck by a speeding Corvette. He wants to kiss his momma, promising that he would never think bad thoughts about his baby sister. His stomach rolls, and his tongue aches for a simple drop of water.

The boy’s weakened innocent cries turn to cold whispers. “I just wanna go home,” he begs. “Just wanna…” He cannot make out the words. His own body defies him as he’s plagued with memories of his daddy and barbeques and Christmas presents.

Succumbing to exhaustion and sadness, the boy curls on the ice-licked floor and imagines he’s in his momma’s warm embrace. He imagines he’s sipping from a cold glass of apple cider and eating popcorn, hidden under an enchanted palace of pillows. Sweet honey, gummy bears, and cinnamon breezes occupy his homesick dreams.

Suddenly, the tears and hollow whimpers cease. His chapped, bloody lips form a thin smile, with thick dust and stale air filling his lungs. Color returns to his face as he is met with an old friend.

Together, he and Angel walk out of the basement and disappear into the night.

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