Flash Fiction: Butterflies for the Dead

The day you died I cut out my heart and buried it on the hill beneath the oak we had planted together a lifetime ago. The oak’s roots enfolded it in a loving embrace while the wind whispered songs through the ribbons and bells tried to its branches. I left, washed my hands, and dressed in black to hide the gaping hole left in my chest.

Heaviness remained in my chest even though I could feel the biting winter wind against my ribs and I took to hiding my face behind a funeral veil to hide the tears that flowed every time your face or voice beckoned from my memories.

I tried to fill the hole my heart had left by catching a white dove in the oak tree and placing it within my chest. The bird fluttered, but did not make a sound and I soon grew tired of the extra weight I was carrying with me.


You had been buried for three years when I had the courage to dig up my still-beating heart encased in the glass jar I’d taken from the kitchen. The heart was still broken, just as it had been on the day on which I buried it. The wind whistled to me through the ribbons and leaves of the tree and gave a voice to the bells hanging from the boughs. I lay down on the soft grass with the bottle clutched to my chest. Night came and I slept beneath the outstretched arms of the oak.


The next morning I saw that my heart was slowly breaking open. Instead of burying it again, I sat and watched it through drying tears. The crack deepened ever so slowly and opened until butterflies started to escape; their wings still folded and fragile. At last my heart started to feel lighter, even as I cried about the time we did not get to spend together. Memories that would never be made flitted through my mind as the wings of the butterflies unfolded and dried. Soon they were flapping their wings, looking for a way out of the confines of the bottle.

I rose, the jar still clutched in my hands, and walked to the edge of the hill. Wind rustled and rang the bells as I opened the jar and I was sure I heard your voice on the wind whispering to me.

As the butterflies escaped their glass prison, I saw that my heart was once again made whole and became lighter and lighter as the butterflies flitted away on the wind. I trembled as I placed the heart back into my chest and took off my funeral veil. I watched in awe as the world came into view once more and everything regained the colour that had been lost to them for three years.

By Carin Marais

Bibliophile, writer of speculative fiction, non-fiction, and maybe-fiction, language practitioner, doer of stuff.


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