The wall—dull in color from lack of light—is littered with her messages. She does not know where they come from, only that they hold some kind of importance.
Maybe, just maybe, they hold the importance of her condition.
The hollow pit of her chest rises and falls with each breath. If light filled the room, her bones would be visible, peeking from beneath her flesh, pockmarked with sores like dust to a jagged mountain. And, like her messages, she has no knowledge of how she got this way.
A flicker of what she has come to know as light traces the wall, casting her bloody messages in faint blue. A small creature with shining blue wings and a long, ribbon-like tail stops to rest on a bloody pattern on a wall—a message, whose first letter is D.
Pupilless eyes watch the butterfly, taking in each and every detail. The butterfly—having sensed her—turns, balancing itself on the smooth curve of the letter.
Hello, Clarice, it says. How are you?
Had she a voice, she would say fine. But since she doesn’t, she merely nods—a gesture she has learned from this butterfly.
I’m glad you are well, the butterfly continues, lifting away from the wall. It glides the length of the room—corner to corner—before it comes to rest at the end of the dirty mattress. Are you ready to go free?
She watches the butterfly, waiting for it to continue.
Free, it repeats, spreading its wings. Six small lights adorn each silk wing—one on the top and bottom, then four in the middle, each glowing like diamonds in a grand mine in Africa. They spark, each revealing an image of the outside world—green grass, wet dew, brown earth, blue skies, metal towers, pink flowers.
Then, for no reason, the vision shifts, showing the other, more sinister things in the world—blood, death, famine, disease, poverty, abuse.
There are many good things out there, Clarice, the butterfly says, extinguishing the twelve lights. But there are also many bad things.
She nods, waiting.
I am giving you a choice, a choice of freedom, or imprisonment. Which will you take?
Has she really been given a choice?
Thinking of the grass, the flowers, the dew and the sky, she watches the butterfly, willing her answer.
Freedom, Clarice—can you imagine it? All those pink flowers, just waiting for you to pick them. Or that green grass. We can play in fields so large and wide, you can walk forever and never come out the other side. But, freedom… freedom is fickle. Do you know some people don’t have their freedom?
No. She has no knowledge of freedom or what it feels like. How can she know someone else’s freedom if she does not know her own?
Your message spells death, the butterfly says. It crawls forward, onto her naked body. It stands between her breasts and leans forward, large, blue eyes emitting incandescence she knows only the butterfly holds. But did you know it also spells life?
Yes, Clarice—you live, despite your trials. But outside, people, die, all because they face no trial. Do you understand?
She shakes her head.
People who face trials live, the butterfly explains, once again spreading its wings. Clarice lifts her hands and shields her face, not wanting to see the butterfly’s terrible things. People who don’t have trials die.
Because they are weak. You, though—you are strong. But are you willing to go outside, out into the world of beauty and terror, to experience something you do not know?
This time, she nods, confident with her decision.
Using the wall as her support, she guides herself along. The butterfly—her ever faithful companion—continues to rest on her chest.
There, it says. Do you see it, Clarice?
A light stronger and brighter than she has ever laid eyes on starts in the corner of the room, then spreads, flowing to one corner, then the other, and finally to the fourth. There, the lights slide down the walls, bringing forth more glow.
Are you ready, Clarice? Are you ready to see the world?
She is ready.
The butterfly spreads its legs, readying itself for what is to come. It pinches her skin six times—one for each leg—and extends its wings, opening the eyes Clarice has never had.
For a brief moment, the world goes white.
Then, slowly, destruction is revealed.
High above, red flames extend across the sky, edging toward the horizon that lays far in the distance. There, on the tip of what she assumes is the end of the world, stand two buildings; the metal towers which the butterfly has shown her. On those buildings lie two lizards with large, grand wings, embracing the structures like newborn mothers do their children.
This is the world, Clarice, the butterfly says. This is what you’ve been hidden from for all this time.
In the distance, a light appears, then explodes. A gust comes up, pulling the trees from their roots and sending fallen glass into the air. A mushroom blooms in the sky, extending far into the atmosphere. Somehow, none of this affects her. Instead, she watches the fire slowly eating away the darkness that has dominated her life for so long.
Do you realize now, Clarice? Do you realize the choice you have made?
Clarice raises her hand.
A black sore pulses, radiating rainbows.
She has realized her choice.
The butterfly has helped her escape the bones… because she could not.