“I’m going to tell you a story,” he’d say. “One with a princess and a tiny gold dragon—”
“Butterflies,” you’d insist, every time. It was something of a game.
He would groan, slightly less amused. “Not again. Aren’t you tired of that? At least let me tell you one with fairies or something a little bit magical. What do you say?”
But you would smile and shake your head and he’d give in, just like you both knew he would. And he would tell you stories of his trips down the Amazon, of how he hiked through a dappled forest in Paraguay in search of the rarest of them all. He never understood that no fairy tale could ever compare to his own adventures, that you were content to imagine him in the exotic flora of a world you would never see for yourself.
“You’ll come with me someday. I need a navigator, you know,” he would say. “Sometimes the river floods and washes away the footpaths, and I could use some help with the maps. You’ll love it. Cool under pressure, you are. That’s my girl. My little girl.”
You’d nod, but your eyes were already closed to sleep, your dreams full of floating.
You were sick then, too sick, but he wouldn’t admit it. He could never accept those things. Not that you blamed him. He was made for chasing butterflies, and that’s how you liked him best. He wanted to tell stories, make it right, but the end came anyway and the day you died he cried as no one has cried before or since. You wanted to tell him that, later. You saw how much he missed you. You thought he might want to know that.
Sometimes you think he knows you are there. It’s hard to leave when he still holds onto the memory of you. You see him staring at the space you left behind. You see him sitting in the dark.
His actions are without meaning now, like when he sat for days and days bent over his worktable. You watched over his shoulder as he picked apart the wings of the very creatures he loved. The morpho rhetenor flaked under his watchful gaze and unwavering hand. In the end he crumbled whatever he had made into his fist, the blue dust rising in iridescent elegy.
“I’m going to tell you a story,” you whisper, and sometimes, once in a while, you think that maybe he can hear you through the static of his grief. You will keep trying until you finish the tale, until he hears that there is a happy ending. You have not disappeared, you are just floating. Until then you are never far, and you hope that while he sleeps his dreams are full of floating, too.
John Vicary began publishing poetry in the fifth grade and has been writing ever since. His most recent credentials include short fiction in the collection “The Longest Hours”. He has stories in upcoming issues of Disturbed Digest, “Plague: an Anthology of Sickness and Death”, “Anthology of the Mad Ones”, a charity anthology entitled “Second Chance”, and “Dead Men’s Tales”. Please check out his work at keppiehed.com.