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Albino Butterfly: Chapter 1 by Graham Dodge
Fri 21 Mar 2008, 07:57 AMTweet
by Ben Langhinrichs
Chapter 1 (by Graham Dodge)
All cats may be black in the dark but this one was red. Not red with the dull redness that betrayed a Burmese ancestry nor even the screeching red highlights administered by an overpriced salon pampering to the foibles of the rich and famous. This red was the full thick burgandy that policemen and ambulance workers scrubbed from their clothes on the Sunday morning after a fourteen hour shift cruising through a drug-infested, run-down, not-quite abandoned urban battle zone. The redness of a life now gone. Albert grimaced. Damn fool cat running onto the road. Splat! One red cat.
At least the animal was completely dead. No need to call a vet and pay some exhorbitant bill out of a misplaced sense of guilt. He had tried to stop but even as he he had wrenched at the wheel the cat had changed direction and run straight under his tyres. He eyed his car carefully. No dents. No scratches. Well the cat was scarely the weight of a football. He could easily hose off the car when he got home. The remains of the cat was smeared along two yards of roadway with its extended intestines forming a maze of twisty passages along the centerline of the road. He certainly wasn't going to pick it up and sweep down this two lane highway to Hicksville. Likely as not some fox would be along soon and carry it home for dinner. The thought of a fox eating the cat's corpse made him spin around but there was no animal watching him. The lifeless moon-lit road stretched endlessly back to the hotel he had left four hours earlier that night. A few trees dotted the middle horizon but apart from that he was alone with the midnight breeze. He turned from the cat and got back in his car. Small white wings washed over the windscreen but then the insect was gone and his finger still fluttered over the empty keyhole.
"Too tired", he muttered reaching for his pocket. Coat then pants then shirt then back to keyhole. It took two more rounds of the same circuit before he was suddenly fully awake. Carefully stepping out of the car he frisked himself fully. The key wasn't on his body and it wasn't in the car.
"I looked at the cat - didn't go far." Albert knew the key was somewhere within five yards of where he stood. He just had to find it. He needed to get back into the car and keep going before another motorist kindly stopped to help him and perhaps caught a glimpse of what lay on the back seat covered by a blanket.
Twenty minutes later he sat by the side of the car with his greasy knees aching and the palms of his hands grazed from crawling over the worn bitumen. The cracked bitumen or the nearby weeds had swallowed his key and the dim moonlight gave him little chance of finding it. No key meant he now owned two tons of lifeless metal and an object on the back seat that would be of great interest to any passing law enforcement officer. There was no scream loud enough to describe what he was feeling.
Albert didn't notice the butterfly at first. It must have landed on his foot while his eyes were closed and his mind was gently savoring the eternity in jail that awaited him. When his eyes finally opened and the butterfly impressed itself on his mind it seemed so surreal that he needed to respond.
"Hello," he said impulsively. The butterfly's wings flapped slowly twice. In the dim light of the distant moon the insect appeared white all over.
"Wouldn't have a spare car key on you by any chance? I guess not. You probably travel pretty light."
The butterfly gently glided into the air and spiraled slowly out of sight. Albert's memory pulled out a vision of an earlier time. He was ten years old and playing on the beach in the blaze of an afternoon sun. A white butterfly had been the only thing moving in a cloudless sky. He had watched it climb higher and higher until it had disappeared into the glare of the sun. Later that afternoon he had met the vacationing Richards family and his life had never been the same. When his mother died two decades later she had still not forgiven him for what had happened on that that day. Was it the same butterfly? The thought bought forth an involuntary laugh. A butterfly had better things to do than follow him around for thirty or so years. How long did those things live for? Maybe only a couple of months. He pushed himself off the road and determined to have another search for his key. This time he searched further afield. Five long paces out and then work back inwards towards the car on his hands and knees.
If there was no luck then move clockwise around the car and try again. It was on the seventh such lattempt that he fell over. His movements had bought him off the bitumen and into the low shrubs and coarse weeds that lined the road. In attempting to negotiate a prickly bush his foot caught on a hard lump and he tipped headlong into the unyielding landscape. By now he was too tired to curse. He rolled over and slowly stood up, looking to avoid the rock that had so viciously caught him.
There was no rock there. The object was wood, a low-lying piece of wood about three feet by four feet looking like one end of a packing crate part covered by wind-blown sands. Albert had time to see a metal ring at one side of the wood before scudding clouds covered the moon and the box disappeared into the shadows. That didn't matter. Boxes could hold all sorts of valuable things. He could afford a couple of minutes to investigate.
Moving by touch he found the wood and the metal ring. Perhaps a steady pull would drag the box out of the sand. Albert clenched his teeth and heaved on the ring. To his surprise the ring and the attached wooden trapdoor swung upwards, revealing a rough-hewn opening in the ground and an ancient wooden ladder disappearing into the depths. Albert leaned forward excitedly, thereby saving his own life as the bullet aimed at his head instead shaved the back of his neck and lodged in the trapdoor with a loud 'Thwuck'.
About the Author: Graham Dodge
(Lotus Business Partner in Sydney Australia. Been consulting with Notes since version 1 - yes, I am that old - and am extremely intrigued by the possibilities of using Lotus Symphony as a replacement for Excel in some of my customers and hoping to find someone in IBM who can articulate their strategy in this area.)
Keith Brooks continues the story in Chapter 2 - Following the Giants, where he cleverly uses the phrase "only the good die young". Stay tuned for updates to "Albino Butterfly" at the RSS feed Julian hosts at http://www.andthentheboilerburst.com/AlbinoButterfly.rss.
Copyright © 2008 Genii Software Ltd.
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