The room was filled with butterflies. There were dozens of them, maybe even hundreds. Some species Mandy recognised, but most she did not. The sunlight heating the room to melting point picked out reds and yellows, blues and greens.
Mandy stepped back a hand covering her mouth as if holding the scream in. Every single butterfly was dead.
Curiosity had led her deeper into the derelict wooden house, intrigued by the effects of nature growing through floor and wall. She cursed her inquisitive Springborn nature; this was not the kind of ruin she wanted to see.
The butterflies were concentrated near the grime tinted windows on the wall opposite her, and she could imagine them tapping themselves with futility against the glass until their life ran out. Others had expired elsewhere in the room, leaving the floor scattered and nowhere to step without coming close to a corpse.
Dragging her gaze from the macabre sight, she scanned the walls and found what she was looking for. Above one of the windows a board had slipped creating a gap to the outside world. Through it, Mandy could see the bright flowers of a buddleia dancing up and down in a light breeze she wished she could feel.
A soft click from behind made her jump. She spun round, the door had swung itself closed. The spell broken, it was time to leave these creatures in peace. She reached out a hand and froze, her stomach squeezing itself. Her hand floated in the air where the door handle should have been.
Mandy banged on the door, but it held firm. The thought of all the dead butterflies behind her made her pulse quicken. Her skin tingled at the thought of being trapped in this room with them. They were small, harmless, dead, but still unnerving. She couldn’t stop herself from imagining them fluttering towards her back, tickling across her skin, covering her, whispering words with their wings. Comforts and lullabies that they’re glad to no longer be alone.
Was she going to be another victim to this room like all those butterflies? She shuddered and shook her head to rid herself of the images, snap herself out of the panic before it could take hold.
No matter how much she hated the idea, she had to look around the room and not focus on the sad scene of death. She took a deep breath, let it out with her eyes closed, then turned.
The sight of decay wasn’t as shocking now she knew it was there. Her heart slowed down, but the fright was replaced with an empty feeling, a sadness that squeezed her insides. Pulling her gaze away from the distracting colours, she looked for a way out, or anything that could help her.
The windows were the obvious choice, but that would mean navigating the narrow patches of wooden floor that peeked between the tiny bodies. Climbing through a window of broken glass was even less appealing and she hoped for an alternative.
On her right was a blank wall, the wooden boards old but still strong. To the left was a simple wooden chair with no seat and a half broken book case not three steps away. It begged investigation, if only because there were few corpses near it. She covered the distance before she could worry herself out of doing so.
The shelves had been cleaned bare of everything except dust but were rotten and loose. She grabbed the strongest looking one and took it back to the door, keeping focussed on her escape, gaze fixed on her way out.
Placing one end of the wood into the frame near the catch, she pressed against it and was rewarded with a creak of strained timber. Little by little she eased against the old shelf, then with a click, the door swung inward. Mandy dropped the wood with a clatter and swung the door wide. She half leaped into the welcoming corridor and breathed a deep lungful of air that she was sure tasted fresher.
With shaking legs, she made her way back through the house. The front door still hung by a single hinge, the invitation that had beckoned her inside. If there was one reason to try and curb her inquisitive nature in the future, this would be it. She was sure the memory of being trapped inside that room of the dead would haunt her sleep for days. Thank Verisae she was free.
That wasn’t right. Verisae would surely not thank her in return if she left now.
Going back to the room, Mandy picked up the old shelf that had given her freedom and wedged the door open with it.
Thinking that would be enough, she looked around the corridor. Her imagination only saw lines of butterfly corpses along the walls and windows here too.
Clenching and unclenching her fists, Mandy stepped into the room again. She went to the book shelf, took another piece of wood and offered a silent prayer to Verisae. With her gaze fixed on the floor, she tiptoed toward the windows.
The butterflies passed by as her small feet sought space between them. Her palms grew sweaty, but her clenched fingers had no chance of dropping the wood locked in her grasp. Every move her feet made caused a slight breeze that made the thin wings twitch and dance as if they were still alive and stuck to the floor.
She got as close as she could, looked up at the glass before her and swung.
A crash rang out as the glass shattered outwards. Careful steps sideways, another smash. Wind sighed through the gap and flowed around her as if glad to be inside at last. The breeze stirred all the wings into motion, flickering colour like they were communicating with her in a language she didn’t understand. It felt like a thank you from Verisae. Mandy’s breath caught in her throat as she hoped they’d lift up and fly themselves to freedom at last, but deep down knowing that they wouldn’t. Even a Deity’s power has limits.
To save disturbing the butterflies any further, Mandy took a final swing and threw the piece of wood, opening the third window permanently.
With tentative steps, she backtracked across the room and into the corridor. Unblocking the door, she eased it closed with a soft click, the sound mellow and sombre.
She left the building and looked in the dirt outside, taking a small pale stone and heading back to the room for the last time. She held the stone in both hands, smashed down on the handle, breaking it off after the second strike. Raising it up again in one hand, she scratched it back and forth, up and down then dropped it on the floor.
Mandy walked from the building with her head bowed, filled with solemn thoughts of life being trapped. Behind her, the door stood firmly shut, now marked for the next curious explorer.
“The Butterfly Room. Do not disturb.”
Find a little more out about this story in the blog post here.