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Butterfly Rises (and Falls Again)

By Charlotte Miles

A long time ago–– or maybe only a few years in the past, it’s difficult to tell here. In this place, time moves in a strange fashion, almost as if it has a will of its own. Is this a tale of something long past, or is time in the present moving far, far too fast? In either case, in some time and place, a child was born.

She was born to an ordinary family, made of ordinary people. They were not of a high class, not truly, but they were above the average. They had money, but the father and the mother worked long hours, and were both very careful about their reputation and what was whispered about them behind closed doors. She was their first child, and would be their only child. She was named Amarys, and she was her parents’ pride and joy, or so they claimed. They claimed a lot of things, but claims are not always reality. And the reality was that, while they sometimes tried, they were not truly there for their child. They said they had business, that there were people they had to meet, that there were things for them to do. These things might have been true, or they might have been lies, but that doesn't really matter to a child. Whatever the truth behind what they said might have been, the result was that Amarys was alone for much of her childhood. Sure, she had the company of a nanny to take care of her, and oh, yes, she was given lavish gifts when the time came, but to a child, what shiny gifts could matter more than a parent’s company? But this was the way it went, and when she was six, she received a gift that made the loneliness just a bit less felt. She was given a necklace, a simple ribbon with a stone inset into the pendant. A stone that was called a sapphire but was not one, not really. The most important thing about the stone, however, was not what it was but what it could do. The stone contained a power, the ability to bring dreams to life. And that was exactly what it did. It brought three friends–– four, if you wish to be truly accurate–– to Amarys, formed from her imagination and wishes. To the rest of the world, they were like ghosts. Invisible to them, unable to speak to or touch them. But to Amarys, they were as clear and solid as day. They all were with her, even when her mother and father were not. A little blue bird-like being, glowing and bright and chirpy. Like a little night light, except far more alive. She was like a tiny blue canary, and so that was her name. Canary, the little bird on her dresser that watched over her and sang songs when Amarys was lonely. A lovely little playmate, full of boundless energy and light. A woman, as golden as the sun and just as warm. She was lovely and gentle, carefully watching over Amarys. She was blind, and wore golden flowers over her eyes that looked like roses, and she was like a mother to Amarys in place of the one that had birthed her. And with her was a second person who shared a body but not a mind. She was colder and sharper, sapphire blue where the first was warm gold, but never cruel. She cared as well, even if she showed it less. Cynthia was what they were both named, though the other one, the bluer one, was often referred to as the Inverse instead. However, to each other, they were simply Cyn and Thia, the golden and sapphire roses. And lastly, a thing, humanoid in appearance but with black horns that curled from his head and great gray wings the same size as his body. To some, he might have been scary, but Amarys was never afraid. And despite his fearsome appearance, he was kind and gentle, and held back the dark. She named him Azir, and he was strong and brave, and protected her just like the others. They all stayed with her as she grew. Cynthia became a mother in place of Amarys’ own, and Canary was her favorite playmate. Azir protected her against the darkness that scared her so much, and even if it was harmless, she felt better that way. They provided the companionship she had never felt before, and she adored them the same way they adored her. Amarys grew. She went to school, the way a child her age does. She did well in class, or as well as a lonely child could. The teachers who watched her said she was respectful, she was quiet, she was attentive. They said she was creative, for no adult would believe the stories of a little kid who talked about a tiny blue person that looked like a bird, or a gray being with great wings of unknown origin, or even a blind woman who wore golden roses over her eyes to cover them. They were dismissed as nothing more than her imagination. The other children didn’t like her. Sure, it all started out fine, and they never truly said anything bad about her, but they all avoided her. They listened at first to her stories of the golden rose, of the blue canary, of the gray thing. But they got bored after a while, and left her. They said she was strange. She was too quiet, too distant, too willing to sit in a corner and talk cheerfully to the air. Cynthia and Azir left her alone while she was at school. They both hoped that she could find some others to spend time with. Some friends her own age, other children to play and dream with. Canary stayed with her, however. And who could blame it? Canary was a child, just the same as Amarys, and did not know any better. In any case, it is unlikely that a few school friends could have stopped the storm that was to come. But the time for that is not now. For now, Amarys was a butterfly, their little blue butterfly, and that was enough for her. She was sweet, and she was small, and she was curious about the flowers and trees that grew outside her windows, and afraid of the thunder that crashed in the sky during a storm. She was all of those things, and that was all she needed to be. She was a child, and she deserved to be one. She deserved to keep being a child. She did, for a while, but expectations are a cruel, cruel thing. Expectations care little for who you are, only what they want from you. It’s interesting how expectations that were set far, far too high damage people so often. How often they drive people who could have been kind, who could have been helpful, who could have done brilliant things down such a dark path. How much it happens, whether the person crushed by them was a brilliant golden child who cracked under the pressure, or someone who could never meet these expectations and died for it, or even both at a time. But these stories are not ones for today, so let us continue with Amarys’ tale.

As she grew, as this child became older, more and more expectations were placed on her. When before, she had merely been expected to be polite to her teachers and the other adults, to listen to her parents and the nanny who took care of her, her age and her parents’ slow increase in status raised that bar higher and higher, and further out of her reach. She needed to be better, to uphold the family name, to never embarrass them, to be a good girl. They believed it would be easy for her. After all, she had been such a good kid in the past, polite and quiet and obedient. She didn’t speak out, she listened to instructions. The thing they did not know was that she did this because she wanted nothing more than their attention. They did not know that she was afraid. Afraid that if she failed them, they would stop loving her, and she would be even more lonely. They did not know how hard she would fall, and how badly she would fail to meet the perfect expectations they had set for her. How she could not ever meet them, for how can a child be perfect? How can one expect perfection out of a child? If a child is believed to be perfect, she is likely lying, putting on an act to impress you, and you will pay the price for making her lie as such. But Amarys did not lie here, she did not try to, and she failed to meet their expectations. She was twelve now, older than before, but still a child, and she could not be perfect? And when she was not perfect like they wanted, she was punished. She was never harmed, not physically, but the punishments hurt regardless. She was trapped in her room, in her house, with parents that never truly cared. And yet she tried to impress them still, because despite everything, she still loved her mother and father. She still wanted to meet their expectations, still wanted the praise she had never received. She believed that if she was just able to do a little better, they would love her. Her friends did not share her love. Neither Cynthia nor Azir ever expressed their contempt for them to Amarys, and the Inverse kept quiet as well, but it was there. They spoke about it only amongst themselves, in their little pocket realm within the necklace where Amarys could not hear. Canary was oblivious, but that is to be expected. Amarys had grown out of playing with her, for unlike her, Canary never grew up. She was still the tiny blue bird of before, still a small child.

The teachers no longer said the same things as they had. They called her polite, yes, and still respectful, but distant. She never spoke during class, save for a few short words when called on by the teachers. She sat in the back corner and stared blankly, silent and unmoving. She ignored the other kids. The other kids said the same things they had in all the previous years. They said she was strange and spoke to the air. She was cold and distant and avoided their gazes, finding a shadowed place to hide in. She never spoke to them, so they never spoke to her, and few people knew her name. Her eyes had long since shifted from blue to a brilliant red, dyed by the power of her necklace. She relied on it, and she relied on the people who lived within it. She grew more, and became even colder to other people, even more distant from the world. The butterfly had lost her wings. Her desperate love turned to resentment as she realized that perfection was out of her reach, and just how ridiculous it was to ask that she have it. Amarys grew even more. She grew closer to adulthood, closer to taking her things and leaving. She began to plan her escape, how she would leave as soon as she could. With her new resolve, she began to snap back. When her parents lectured her, scolded her, for a slip-up or a failure in their eyes, she responded with cold defiance and anger instead of distance or silence. The blue butterfly picked her wings back up and pieced them back together with spite and anger and determination. She made them sharp and dangerous, and made herself the same. She gave them jagged edges, and snapped back when people sought to try and push her down. She let herself be angry instead of shutting herself away in the shadows. Cynthia and Azir both worried for her greatly. For her anger, her resentment, as she plotted her escape from a house that was not truly a home. But they still loved her, and they gave her that love. Cynthia with her soft words and kindness, Azir with his strength and also his gentleness.

But neither worried as much as Inverse, for she was the one who most understood what it was like. She knew what it meant to turn your anger into protection, to cover yourself in it so that you are not hurt more. She surrounded herself with sapphire thorns, prickling and sharp, nothing like her counterpart’s gilded petals, in order to keep herself safe. It was similar to what Amarys was doing, in her eyes, and she understood. She tried to help as best she could, in her own way. But even her understanding was not enough to save Amarys from the fall. Perhaps the only thing that could have prevented it all was if her parents were really what they claimed to be. If they had never lied, if they had loved their daughter like she loved them. Or maybe this was inevitable, set into stone and ordained by fate, and she would have ended up like this either way. Assigned paths are a tricky thing, and some of these details are far too fuzzy to know if she ever had a choice in the matter. In this case, does it matter? Is one better than the other, it being ordained by fate or the result of free will? That doesn’t matter now. What does matter is that her parents lied, and Amarys was never able to satisfy them, and began to resent them for it. And yet, despite all Canary’s desperation, all Cynthia’s support, all Azir’s gentleness, and all Inverse’s understanding, it all came crashing down. But not yet. There is still more to this tale. The culmination of it all, the first drop before the plummet, came on the day Amarys was finally able to leave. More specifically, it came when she informed her family she was leaving, just before she walked out of their house for the final time. Her parents’ voices rose in fury when she told them, and it escalated into a great argument, with shouting on both sides loud enough to rattle the cupboards. They blamed the necklace. It was the only thing she kept through her entire life, the one thing she never let go of. The thing that stained her eyes the color of a ruby, and the thing that let her dream. They didn’t know the truth behind its power, but they knew it had some, and they blamed it. They didn’t believe her when she told them of what it did as a child, so why would they believe her now?

So the mother stole the necklace from around Amarys’ neck and tore it off her body. And she lifted it high in the air, and threw it against the wall. She shattered the stone on it into a hundred pieces, held together only by the metal the pendant was set in. Amarys knew the moment it broke, not only because she could sense something within her break but because it reflected back upon her body. Cracks formed along her skin, black markings like scars mirroring the broken necklace. Two other things broke along with the necklace, but she did not realize that. Not yet. She fled. She snatched her broken pendant from the floor and ran out the door, far away from the house that was not a home, and she never looked back. She ran to the place she had arranged for herself to stay, the place she had meant to escape to. And it was only once she had arrived there that she realized what else had broken with the necklace. She tried to call out to Azir, to Cynthia, but neither responded. She tried again, but still, nothing. Neither version of Cynthia appeared, nor did Azir. Even Canary was silent. It was only in that moment that she realized what that feeling of breaking had been, and what the true loss was. Her connection to her friends had been severed when the stone broke, and they were gone. She could no longer see them, no longer hear them. She could no longer speak to the family that was better than the one that had given her life And so, her heart shattered along with everything else. As for Cynthia, Azir, and Canary, they were thrown into a state of confusion. With the breaking of the necklace came the loss of their connection to Amarys’ world. When they exited the pocket realm they lived in when they were not speaking to her, now fragmented just like the stone, they were like ghosts. While they had once been able to speak to Amarys, and interact with the things around her if they tried, they now moved through the world as if it were water. They could do nothing to protect her as she fell further and further into despair. Canary cried, wishing she could change it and fix what was broken, wondering if this could have been avoided if she tried a little harder. Cynthia, the golden one, hid away. She was unable to bear the burden of the loss, and allowed Inverse to take her place much of the time.

Azir stayed and watched his greatest regret continue before his very eyes; that he could not help Amarys when she needed him most. The two of them stayed together to watch the fall, his great wings and her sharp thorns. Or, rather, Azir watched, and Inverse listened and pretended it did not hurt. She had to, for it was her duty to be the sapphire thorns to her opposite’s golden flowers. So she sat, and she listened in silence. They sat together and both pretended they did not notice each other's tears. Amarys fell, dealing not only with the struggles of breaking her ties with her biological family but also the loss of the beings she held dearest. The blue butterfly, their blue butterfly, had her wings torn off once more. But the story does not end here. Perhaps it would be better if it did. It took a month for Amarys to move and start searching for a solution to what she had deemed a problem she could fix. A way to get her friends back, for they could not be dead, could they? Created beings like them could not die, could they? The stone, no longer a sapphire hue but a dull black color, had lit up for a split second when she touched it. To her, that was all the confirmation she needed that they were not gone, just separated from her. To her, that was all the confirmation she needed that she still had a chance. So she set her mind to finding a solution. No matter the cost. A way to repair the gem, a way to separate them from it, to make them even more real than before. A way to bring them back. She begged the world, please, give a way to bring them back. The world did not answer. It’s a cruel thing like that. It ignores your prayers, uncaring and unstable, held together by invisible threads you cannot see. It cannot answer her. There is only one person who has that ability, and she cannot answer either, not really. All she can do is watch. But Amarys, angry and hurt, still searched. She wanted a way, wanted a solution, even if the world would not give her one. A solution came in the form of a being who looked like a living silhouette with a slash of white for a mouth. A solution came in the form of his promise, that he could bring back her old powers, if she only worked for him. And Amarys, pained, angry, and above all desperate, accepted his deal without hesitation. He gave her a crown, a sapphire-like stone, and fulfilled his end of the bargain. Amarys regained her abilities, and was able to create her dreams in reality once again. But the thing she did not have was the very thing she had been after the whole time. The entire reason that she had accepted this deal in the first place; her friends. They did not appear to her, even when she called out to them. The Silhouette offered her a reason, and while she hated it, it was the only one that seemed logical. She was forced to accept something that she never wanted to even imagine; that her friends had abandoned her. She could find no other conclusion, so she accepted this idea, and let the broken pieces of her heart burn. She wore a mask over the cracks over her face, hid the scars and signs of who she used to be. She let herself grow cold and distant again, buried her emotions deep down so that she never had to feel them again. She met the other members of the Silhouette’s team. Avi, a bunny-like girl tall enough to touch the ceiling who spoke as if she was singing and harbored an utter obsession with the one who had united them all. Via, a dove who was not the original version of herself but something strange and twisted, a faded version of the girl whose form and name she had stolen. And Ink Ribbon, a childish being with horns that poked out of her hair and dripped with ink, who giggled and spoke of drowning people far too often for Amarys’ liking. She hated all of them, but worked with them nonetheless, for that was the deal that she had made. They hunted down the Silhouette’s enemies on his orders, bickering all the way. Avi was his general, considered to be the leader of the group, but they all ignored each other and worked on their own as often as they could. There is a significant flaw in creating a deadly team of four people whose sole bond and knowledge of each other is that they are all indebted to you, and that is that they will likely hate each other.

But the most important thing is a piece of information that Amarys did not have, and that she could not have obtained. It was carefully concealed from her, kept out of her reach so she could never find out. A piece of information that might have changed everything. The piece of information, the truth that was kept secret, is that the Silhouette lied. He claimed to her that he would restore her old powers, but that was not what he really did. While technically, he did give her back the ability that she once had, it was not in the way that she believed. He did not restore, but rather re-created, granting her the same abilities in a new form without ever harnessing her old power. Cynthia and Azir and Canary did not abandon Amarys like the Silhouette claimed, but they were trapped away from her, unable to reach her. They were separated as if by a barrier, unable to do anything or speak to her. Only able to watch. The Silhouette did not orchestrate the situation that led Amarys to this place, but he swooped in to take advantage of it at the point in which she was lowest. And it worked for him, for there was no way for her to know the truth. So she became the fourth of his team, his butterfly now, and followed his orders. She let herself go numb, and tried to forget her friends. All they could do was watch in despair as she fell further and further down and dealt her damage to the world that had hurt her so. This brings Amarys’ tale to an end. The tale of the butterfly, the fourth, the girl who fell too far. But, of course, when one story ends is often the same place another begins. Amarys may have more stories to tell, ones that simply haven’t been written yet. Ones that have not had their chance to play out. For her sake, I hope for an opportunity for redemption to come. But that is unlikely to be a story that will unfold.


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