Shashank Mane has previously appeared for short fiction in Every Writer Magazine, Indiana Voice Journal, Vignette Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, The Creative Truth, and Gravel Lit. His debut collection of short stories and poetry titled “Moments” is available through Amazon. He has lived in Finland since 2013.
The Butterfly, is the first story in his short story and poetry collection “Moments”.
Preston’s life revolved around costumes. Considered strange since his young years, he had few friends. He was an inhabitant on the fringes of society, falling deeper into a world he had created for himself to avoid social pressures and rejection. He had grown confident in his own peculiar ways, happy to be alone with his outfits. He would make costumes for himself, displaying his work to himself in his bedroom mirror and putting the getups away, marking them as either modest successes or horrendous failures. Over the years, his successes had doubled to his dwindling failures, making him more self-assured in his talents. Regardless, he lacked the skills to interact and ability to make connections with people. Despite his best efforts, his interactions were largely disappointments.
One day, he completed an outfit he deemed so superb that he entertained the idea of showing it to someone. It was a butterfly suit. He did not know who would be interested and therefore, rejected the idea. Very few people knew Preston and nobody, aside from the fabric store he visited, knew that he was into creating such costumes. He left the butterfly outfit hanging on the clothing rack next to his mirror of acceptances and rejections and set off once again, stitching arms, legs and life to another piece of fabric.
A few days later, Preston tried on another new outfit in front of the mirror. It was a design based on a character in a movie. As he stepped into sight of his mirror, he saw the butterfly outfit hanging on the clothing rack from the corner of his eye. Once again, he deemed it marvelous and quickly took off the costume he had on, replacing it with the butterfly suit. They will laugh at me, he assured himself and took the outfit off.
As costumes were created one after the other, the butterfly sat untouched. Every time a new outfit went onto his body, his thoughts would revert to the butterfly and all the magnificence in its craftsmanship. The other outfits were satisfactory and he liked putting them on and picturing himself as heroes, villains and other fantasy characters. The butterfly was something else in Preston’s eyes. It was a masterpiece and an opus of extravagance. His lifeblood flowed through the piece. You will regret showing it to anyone, he reminded himself.
Preston’s odd nature confined him to a monotonous daily life. He would attend his menial job and come home to his world of clothing creations. Eventually, he no longer wanted to leave his home and wished to hide away from the world. He was sad, at times happy but almost always considered strange. The realization was daunting. He called in sick to work one Monday, taking the week off from work. His workplace was sympathetic, telling him to take off as long as needed. He hung up the phone, alone in his own world. He decided to work but his hands would not let him. He spent a couple of days resting and finally, on the Friday morning of the week, he decided to try on the butterfly outfit one last time before throwing it away. Its splendor had cast magic into Preston’s eyes that he never achieved through other endeavors in life.
As evening fell, he mustered the courage, refusing no for an answer. He put on the butterfly suit. He felt powerful. He did not want to tell anyone about his creation but he was not going to let it sit unattended in his house. He decided to close his eyes as best he could, shut out his fears and take a stroll through the city. He knew he was strange but now he was angered by the shame he felt in his oddity.
Stepping out onto the Manhattan streets, Preston the butterfly was ready to show his work to the world. A tenant saw him leaving the apartment, stopped and stared in disbelief at her neighbor of years who had never uttered a word to her, only to appear now in the hallway as a butterfly. She dropped her line of sight to the floor, quickly turning around as he walked pass for a second look.
Preston would not be stopped. There was no going back into his apartment before his deed was complete and he did not care. He marched down past the local bar, a place that terrified him due to its loud and boisterous nature. He swallowed his fear and kept walking awkwardly.
“Hey!” A man yelled at Preston.
This was a stupid idea, he thought to himself.
“Can we please get a picture? Where did you get that?” The large drunken man asked Preston.
“I…I made it myself” Preston liked the sound of his own voice, his confidence growing in the ensuing silence.
The man stared at Preston.
“Mary! Come here!” The man quickly grabbed a hold of his companion.
They took what felt like a million pictures and thanked him. Preston graciously declined a beer from the bar crowd and stated he had somewhere to be. He literally had to flee from the bar as his popularity was growing by the second.
The rush was unbearable for the costumed Preston. He felt as though he would vomit but decided he had to walk around the block. His layers of self-rejection began to peel. A group of girls stopped him, questioning him about his suit before letting him back on his way. A couple of little children tugged at their parents, requesting a moment with the butterfly. He was confident in his success, his talent sparkling through the wings on his butterfly suit.
Preston returned home, still as strange as he always was, a recluse in nature and still unsure of himself. But Preston never forgot the night he stepped out of his house with the courage to show the world his incredible design; the night he put on his butterfly suit.