The Hell Butterfly

Meanwhile in A&E – Kieran Shrubb

This is the second part of the Meanwhile in A&E series in which we meet main character number two, Kieran Shrubb. Again, the style of this has been very carefully calculated and I hope it has paid off. As this was already in the works when I posted the first of the series, it came quicker than I imagine the next two will. Characters #3 and #4 are sculpted in my imagination. Now I just need to mould the clay that is the English language. For now, here is Chapter Two. For Chapter One, click on the doobly-doo.


Tears swallowed up his sapphire eyes. Through the wringer once again. Knees gave out and down, down he went. Dead weight on the bedroom floor. Another day, another torment. Breathing for him had now become a chore. He couldn’t remember how long for. It felt like forever. It was probably more like a few weeks. Like that mattered. Weeks, days, hours; they seemed to run for an eternity. As if to prove his point the clock went tick, tick, in the silence.

He sobbed without crying. Hard, wracking sobs that made the very bone structure of his face ache, but without the warm relief of tears to follow. Fingers intertwined in his own hair, hoping somehow that if he pulled out a clump or two, the darkness would creep out of the roots and he would be okay. Bald, but okay. His vocal chords strained in their attempt to scream in silence. The breath ripped through his chest in a whisper.

Alas, a tear! A single droplet squeezed from the duct as eyelids kaleidoscoped the world into violet, marigold, chartreuse. His fingers creaked in their sockets as he grasped again at the follicles. Another cold scream stifled. The ribs on his left side went numb with the effort.

And then nothing.

The sobbing stopped. The pulling stopped. The screaming stopped. All that was left was a tingling in his fingertips and a hollowness that echoed his muted cries about his chest. His hands drifted from his head like lead weights. His movements were sluggish, yet he felt that his body was heavy. His eyes never moved; they were empty now; they stared at nothing; they noticed nothing. After the commotion in his mind, the world now seemed too quiet. It hurt his head. He didn’t care.

Twisting sideways, he let his head fall onto the edge of his mattress. His hands sat limp in his lap. How much time had passed? He really couldn’t tell. Every time it felt like an age. He began to sink down, down into the confines of his solitude. He left his bedroom behind, and fell away into nothing.

How much more of this could he take? Could he survive the next beating? Would he snap at the next verbal abuse? Could he deal with his parents screaming? Could he deal with his own? Or maybe he would crumble into dust of his own volition. Maybe one day he would simply let it all slip away and become nought but ash. Another day like today and it might just come to it.

His ankle itched.

A jean-leg rolled up, a sock pulled down, and there they were. Countless pink lines turning flesh into geometrical perfection. They cried out for more. A hand gliding to a wallet; fingers pushed into the tear in its material; a tiny slice of metal slipped from its interior. The silence didn’t hurt him now. Instead, it shrouded him. It kept him safe from prying eyes though no apparent change had yet occurred. His door was locked: here he was safe. His pale, bony fingers twirled the blade, twice the size of his bloodied thumbnail, around in the light. A flash of white struck off the metal into his eyes. It seemed to rouse him. Fingertips brushed across the corner of the implement, thinnest edge caressing the skin, a gentle push to slip metal into flesh and then, then, peace.

Shuttered eyelids made a mosaic of his vision. Stain-glass windows of his paradise. It hurt, but he didn’t care. The pain did not bother him now, it would only be a bother later when he caught it with a foot, or let the cat get too curious. For now, the only thing that mattered was the glorious pleasure of the act. Lashes fluttered open. Single bead of red sliding over ivory. He wiped it clear before it stained the carpet.

It was the precision of the thing that he craved. At a time when his mind was far from ordered, this simple act of concentration, mapping out the next contour on the map of his flesh, scaled his thoughts to a skeleton crew. No longer did the screaming drown his ears. No longer was he dying inside. The slice of metal drawn across the skin to paint another crimson line for his masterpiece kept him sane. It cleared his mind. And of course, the sweet relief of pain was a bonus. He hated the punches thrown at him from the enemy. He loathed the back-hand swiped from the mother and the glass shattered by the father. But this, this was different. This was the one thing he controlled. Pain ruled his life, but he could at least rule over pain when locked behind the doors of his solitude. Here, he was the master.

The silence hurt his head. Adrenaline had left him piled on the bedroom floor. Pleasure had abandoned him in place of familiar Hopelessness. How much longer could he take this? His eyes stung. Saltwater accumulated at the corner of his lashes. Finally he could cry. How much time had passed? It could have been only minutes. It felt like longer. He began to weep, and the clock went tick, tick, in the silence.


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