Monday, September 29, 2014

The Butterfly and the Bear

Once upon a time, there was a butterfly and a bear.

They became friends when they were little, fast frends, because the bear didn’t get along with the other bears and the butterfly didn’t get along with the other butterflies. They met and became friends because they thought they were the same.

The butterfly and the bear stayed friends for many happy years, fluttering/walking side by side (respectively). Despite their differences, no one could tell them that they weren’t alike. The butterfly thought, The bear is an animal, and I’m an animal. We’re both animals!

Over time, the bear grew bigger, and the butterfly did, too. The bigger they got, though, the more the butterfly noticed how big the bear’s shadow was. The bear made long strides with its four feet, moving faster than the butterfly could keep up with, even though it flapped its wings as hard as it could.

Most frightening of all was when the bear began to stand on its two hind legs and roared in the butterfly’s tiny face. The butterfly had never heard the bear make such a sound before, not in all the time they’d been friends, and a new, very strange thought came into the butterfly’s head:

Maybe the bear and I are different…

Such thoughts unnerved the butterfly, and it quickly shook them off and flew back to the bear, hoping that if it reminded the bear they were friends, the bear would stop roaring.

The only thing the bear did was roar some more.

Soon the butterfly could not take the bear’s roaring, so loud and chilling that the butterfly saw the bear not as its friend, but as something that could hurt it. And that made it all the worse—knowing that the bear could hurt the butterfly and not care if it did. Worse, even, than the bear actually hurting it.

Eventually, the butterfly stopped seeing the bear, as it hid deep in its dark cave, eschewing sunlight and the butterfly’s company in favor of a solitary, cold existence. The butterfly sought out other butterflies—some blue with white spots, some orange with patches of black, and even some yellow ones. Suddenly the butterfly felt alive, more at ease, and loved, things it had never felt before. The other butterflies flapped happily whenever the butterfly came near, so unlike the fearsome roar of the butterfly’s old friend.

…But the butterfly could not forget the bear entirely.

It was late the day the butterfly saw the bear one last time. Streaks of pink and purple-y blue lined the horizon, a cloudless backdrop so fitting for a moment of clarity.

The bear invited the butterfly into its cave, and the butterfly reluctantly accepted. It did not know what to expect—Had the bear learned to stop roaring? Did it remember when it and the butterfly were friends? Questions to which the butterfly had so longed for answers, and that it now hoped to get.

Slowly, the butterfly flew into the cave, peering into the darkness for any sign of the bear. The further inside the butterfly went, the more the light dimmed. The smell inside the cave was like decay, as if the life inside had all but disappeared. And finally, after flapping all the way to the back of the cave, the butterfly found the bear, and was horrified by what it saw.

The bear’s once-soft fur was matted, covered in dirt and dust. Its strong legs were splayed apart and immobile, as if the bear had stopped walking after its and the butterfly parted ways. And the bear’s eyes, previously warm and gentle, had grown cold and distant, fully devoid of their long-lost sparkle.

Before the butterfly could even ask the bear what had happened, it lifted one still-working limb and swiped at the butterfly, its razor-sharp claws tearing, and it missed the butterfly’s heart by only the barest inch.

The now-wounded butterfly turned from the bear and flew from the cave—as much as a wounded butterfly can fly—and did not stop until it reached the cool night air. Relief coursed through the butterfly’s veins, and it finally came to rest on a tree branch nearby.

The bear is not my friend anymore.

Relief. Sadness. Despair. The butterfly knew them all in that moment, unable to stop the tiny tears springing from its eyes. It thought of what the bear once was, compared to what it had become, and knew the only thing left was to return to the other butterflies and leave the bear behind.

The butterfly needs time to heal. The scars won’t ever fully fade away.

The butterfly has come out from under the bear’s shadow.

The butterfly is free.