'The Red Butterfly' by circlesunderstreetlights


There’s a man at the top of the stairs, and he smells like rotten meat. When he’s really angry, the whole house shivers. I keep my eyes on the ground and my hands on the door frame when I go from the kitchen to the lounge, and back again. I don’t want him to see me. I don’t want to know if he’s looking at me.
I think he blames me. The red butterfly appeared nine days ago, just after seven in the morning. I woke up early again, needing to use the loo for the third time since the night before.
The heating wasn’t on but the bed was warm. Finally, though, I couldn’t wait, and that’s when I saw it. A red butterfly, rich in colour, beautiful in its symmetry. The crawling in my belly moved down my thighs and buttocks, became a pain that doubled me over. The cold air was a slap on the back of my legs where the nightshirt stuck and I reached for the phone.
Back from the hospital, I went straight to the sofa and lay in the blankets that someone had placed there. The cushion under my face smelled fusty and the TV was too loud, so I switched it off. I waited for the high whistle of electricity to fade and, when it didn’t, yanked and wiggled the cord until the plug dropped down behind the cabinet.
The whistle continued. I threw the blankets off, glared at the TV. My belly felt bruised but I thought a hot cup of tea might help. The kitchen’s only across the way. I took one, maybe two steps, enough to reach the kitchen door before the cold feeling hit me, a dragging feeling near my bladder that sent spiders up and over my skin. In front of the window, at the top of the stairs, was a man.
He’s not an ordinary man. I knew straight away he was there about the butterfly. I could feel how angry he was without even going back out to the stairs; shivers of rage were rolling off him. I didn’t make tea.
I think it took me hours to move. When I finally stepped back through the door, I could tell he was still there but I didn’t know if he was looking at me. I noticed the smell, then, a sickly sweet, cloying smell that’s become more foul in the days since. Sometimes I smell that smell and hear the whistling and it becomes overpowering, and I retch.
I sleep on the sofa, now, when I sleep. I go to the kitchen when I have to and I can tell, now, just by the amount of light that shows round him from the window that he’s starting to come down the stairs. I dream about the red butterfly and, in my dreams, it stinks, filling my nose with its filth. I think about the shivering man and wonder what will happen when he reaches me.

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