Misbegotten Butterfly

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She couldn’t believe she’d never noticed them before. On her walks, while she passed by the fences and overgrown lots, she’d never looked. She saw her first one in the corner of one of the fences, this tiny, white, web-like growth that clung like a barnacle to the security of the fence. It looked as old as a mummy, and she had no intention of touching it with her bare hands. She looked around and found an old, dry stick to poke at the mummified cocoon.

She wasn’t as gentle as she thought she was. The cocoon ripped, and dust blew out of the shell of it. She was horrified. So much dust! The cocoon should have been empty, evacuated by the occupant at the beginning of the summer. Instead, the cocoon was full of the dessicated remains of a misbegotten butterfly.

The image haunted her for the length of her walk, but then it fled into the recesses of her subconscious, to sit like a gargoyle in the back of her mind, brooding and silent.

The next day when she took her walk, she decided to walk the trail in the opposite direction of her normal travels. She wandered, contemplating nothing. As she reached the fence line, she noticed a ghostly shape out of the corner of her eye. Another cocoon. She wanted to walk past it, to walk beyond, but some driving force inside of her made her stop. She felt as though she was drawn to it. She stepped closer, noticing details she hadn’t noticed the first time. The cocoon, musty and covered in webbing, seemed plump. She felt a shudder of disbelief. Finding two cocoons in two days was odd enough to warrant coincidence, but finding two unhatched cocoons on the same length of fence made her stomach churn.

Did they know? She wondered. Did they know there was a chance they could die, rather than becoming what they were truly meant to be?

She continued forward, and her eyes caught no less than twenty little mummified cocoons along the fence. She broke into a run, and when she finally turned the corner, the fence turned too, but there was a culvert distancing them, and she couldn’t see up into the hidden corners. She kept running, just to leave the vision of unborn butterflies behind her.

Her lunch break over, she walked into the building where she worked. She walked down the familiar hallway, and into the room peppered in cubicles where her coworkers sat. The place was silent, eerily so, with just the hum of machinery to be heard. She didn’t hear any conversation at all.

Wondering where her coworkers were, she walked to her seat. As she walked past the first cubicle, her eyes caught a ghostly shape. There, within the office chair, a white, mummified cocoon the size of a man sat in place of where her coworker Bobby should be.

She didn’t look any further, but turned and ran.

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