Catching Butterflies | Sandy A Norman


Catching Butterflies

Sandy A Norman

Major Contest 2018 – The Hate and the Coat Award


Floating in this cage of darkness.  With no desire nor will to escape. I know I am safe here. I don’t want to feel anymore. But there is a sensation – a bubbling – growing in my stomach.  Something is disturbing my peace and I don’t think I want to know what it is.

There was a phone call, and haunting words whispered like an evil spell. The deep baritone voice resonates through my mind.  ‘…Sienna Pollock? Come… Now.’

I know those words are the source of that bubbling and churning.  When did it become churning as well? Whatever it is, the sensation is growing. I know I need to hunt down that memory and destroy it.  But my thoughts are scattered like dandelion seeds in the wind.

I concentrate on what I can feel instead. Grounding, someone once told me, helps when you’re anxious. Who had said that? No. That isn’t the answer I need now. Focus…

There is a coldness on my cheek, but that could be tears, or it could be ice, or it could be the floor tiles in my bathroom. I don’t remember how I got here, and don’t know where here is. There’s a tingling all over my body like someone is prodding my skin with a thousand needles. At least I can move a little now, enough for me to lift my hand, and my fingers brush against the silky-smooth texture of a suede jacket.  A jacket I know well. Mum’s old jacket that I usually wear when I need comfort and reassurance. But that knowledge just makes everything worse.  Like I’ve eaten too much cake and I must swallow to keep myself from vomiting. Its like my body knows something that my mind doesn’t.

My wandering fingers keep shifting over the soft fabric. They find something in the coat pocket. A small container, or a bottle. I open one eye and decode the words slowly like I am trying to read a different language. ENDONE. Oh, yes. That’s right, I found this bottle in the jacket. For some reason I’d thought it was a good idea. Not so now. Now I feel like I am slowly drowning. But there’s no one who would miss me. Except Aunt Bertha.

…Aunt Bertha. The phone call had been about her. I grasp at that thought, but I may as well be trying to catch butterflies without a net.

A man’s voice echoes from somewhere in my cage. ‘You need to get here soon,’ he’d said urgently.

But then I’d found my little bottle and for some reason I’d taken refuge inside it. I know the answer is important, but at the same time I don’t want to know.

It’s not the first time I’ve felt this way, and no accident the bottle was in my jacket pocket. My mind flits over those memories. A large van with red lights flashing on the front door. The sound of a trolley clattering over the ground. A thin veil, like a sheet floating on the clothes line in the breeze, falls across my eyes shielding my view, as if I have tried to forget what I saw next. But some memories can’t be forgotten, even when you try, and I am greeted by the vision of a coffin with a picture of my mother’s plain but loving face, in an emerald green frame. Then there was a blackness that consumed everything. Life. Pain. Memories. And I know that is where I hide now.

‘Come. Now.’ The man’s voice had been urgent. Pleading. Kind. Not evil at all. Why had I thought those words were evil?

I need to be somewhere, but I can’t make my legs move. What could have made me take refuge in this place again? I fear that answer, as much as I desire to remember.

How long have I been here now? The urgency must have passed by now because there is sunlight on my face, cutting through the icy coldness. And I know it was dark when the call had come. Just like last time. Darkness always brings bad news.

…Bad news.

Like a lightning strike out of a clear sky, I remember.

‘She’s getting worse. You need to come now.’ The man’s voice had said kindly. Just like last time. It can’t be happening again. It can’t. Two moments separated by years. Moments linked by my fear.

‘I can’t do this again.’ That had been what I said just before I found the bottle. ‘I don’t want to,’ I had kept saying over and over as the pills spilled into my hands.

But now…

Now I am racked with the ache of guilt as well as loss: one clenching my heart and squeezing it until it feels like it will burst at any moment; and the other stabbing with a jagged, rusty knife into my belly.

I make my hands open the bottle and I try to focus on the contents, but my vision is working about as well as my legs. A few tablets – three, maybe four – bounce into my palm.

I don’t want to feel anymore.