|posted on 17-Jan-2003 11:46:41 AM|
|Title: For the Preservation of Butterflies|
Disclaimer: I own absolutely, positively nothing to do with Roswell because if I did I would have handled it with far greater care.
Distribution: If you want it, ask.
Summary: A possible beginning for a whole different Roswell viewed through the life and times of Michael Guerin.
* * * * *
He is seven. Rough concrete steps cutting into soft skin, but he will not shift to relieve the pressure. Shifting means betraying his location to Hank in movement and sound, shifting means his foster father will quit destroying the trailer and come after him, shifting means the sting of flesh against flesh, bruises and blood, better the sharp bite of concrete than the force of Hank’s rage. He does not notice the tickling on his arm at first, but the stir of air against flesh in the absence of a breeze scares him. He wonders if it means Hank is coming, but his sees not the hair raising on his arm, but a butterfly.
It is beautiful; black, orange and little spots of white, wings opening and closing slowly as it balances on his skin. He stares hard, burning the image on his mind. He has never seen one before except in the picture books his first foster family had, the photos nothing like the feather-light creature inching its way up his arm. It stops on his shoulder and he thinks it’s studying him, little antennae quivering, wings brushing the air near his cheek. He wonders what it is thinking, why it chose to land on him: Michael Guerin. Freak. Monster. Useless. Stupid. Are Hank’s words echoing in its own thoughts? He does not think so. It must be too dumb to realize that he is dangerous, wrong, abnormal. It shouldn’t land on him, but fly away, the sky is much safer than the salt of his skin. The butterfly moves a little closer, and he decides that it is not dumb, just to brave for its own safety, its sense of adventure and discovery overwhelming self-preservation.
He should scare it off, protect it from himself, but he cannot seem to part with this little piece of beauty that chose to land on him, accept him. A mistake. He realizes too late as a huge hand comes out of nowhere to snatch the butterfly from his shoulder. “Communing with nature, Freak?”
Why didn’t he smell the scent of alcohol before? Why didn’t he hear the creak of the screen door? The little wings struggle from between Hank’s fingers before subsiding. Suddenly he sees another place, another world, a battle field littered with dead and dying, stained red with the lives of those who tried to protect. Foolishly thought they could protect, survive. He is running, searching for someone, but he is too late, always too late and he watches her fingers flutter briefly before falling limp.
“Listen to me when I talk to you, boy.” The command is issued with a slap across his face, shock stealing away his vision and his breath. Blood, snot and butterfly smear across his skin, but he does not flinch as his foster father drags him inside the hot metal trailer. He silently promises never to let anything beautiful touch him again. He silently promises that he won’t let anything else die because of the way he is. He will not make the same mistakes as before. Freak. Abnormal. Monster. Death.
* * * * *
Pins and Needles
He is in fifth grade. Science class. His ribs still hurt from Hank pushing him into the coffee table, but he is in school anyway. The social worker has started asking questions about his frequent absences, so he must appear normal. Everyone must believe he’s normal. Freak. Alien. Mrs. Maple’s husband is a doctor of insects and is standing in front of the blackboard giving a presentation. The real term is entomologist, but Mrs. Maple thinks they are too young to understand the word. Michael thinks she should be teaching kindergarten instead of wasting their time. He slumps down in his chair and decides not to listen, he doesn’t care about the insects of New Mexico. He is more concerned about the throbbing in his side and how he is going to hide the bruises from Max and Isabel.
He watches through hooded eyes as Dr. Maple pulls the cloth cover from one of the many boxes he brought and displays it to the class. Behind the glass surface are butterflies of all different shapes and colors. It takes him a minute to realize that they are all dead, pinned lifeless to board. The reflection of the light made them look like they were quivering at first. Fighting to be free. A rage builds inside him, he wants to blow the doctor across the room, to scream at him for killing butterflies just because they were too brave, too accepting, flew too close. He doesn’t scream though, his rage is overwhelmed by pain, by nausea, and he runs from the classroom. Pictures of another time in his mind, pictures of people preserved behind glass, killed merely for the enjoyment and study of others. Pictures of her, frozen lifeless, beyond his touch.
He does not feel the cool tile beneath his knees or the smooth porcelain he clutches as he empties his stomach of the toast he ate that morning. He is aware of nothing at all until he feels a soft touch on his shoulder. A girl stands behind him, and he wonders briefly if he ran into the wrong bathroom.
“It made me sick too,” she whispers, kneeling down at his side, and he finally recognizes her. Little Liz Parker is stroking the hair from his face, offering him comfort. He is surprised because he thought that she was scared of him. He sees the her pulse fluttering at the base of her throat and realizes she still is, that she is here despite her fear. Foolish, brave girl who is just as beautiful and light as a butterfly. Doesn’t she know that he is dangerous, wrong? Doesn’t she realize he is nothing but destruction?
He looks into her eyes and he sees innocence, her joy in life. He wants to scream at her to get away, that he will destroy that joy and innocence, destroy her. Death. Abomination. Freak. Monster. Alien. Wrong. She needs to fly away, run away from him, back to the safety of her friends. He pushes away the brushing fingers, shoves passed her and out of the stall. He will protect her if she won’t protect herself.
“Stupid girl, I don’t give a shit,” he sneers before racing from the bathroom. In his mind he can still see her cringe back when he uses Hank’s favorite word; he is glad that she is afraid of him again. In fear there is safety; Liz Parker is safe from him.
* * * * *
Glass Jars and Butterfly Nets
He is fourteen with blood on his hands, and cuts on his knuckles. Tommy Stoppard lays at his feet, rolling around clutching his nose. Tommy believes that this was for grabbing Isabel, but it’s not. Michael knows Isabel can take care of herself. She’s like him: dangerous. She just hides it better. Blends in. No, this was for one of Tommy’s many other transgressions, this was for following Liz Parker home. This was for trapping her in the alley below her balcony and taunting her, stealing her air with his screams, stealing her safety with caging arms and rough fingers. This was for barely letting her escape up her ladder, for the haunted look in her eyes, and the way she flinches at loud noises, for laughing and joking about it with his friends. Liz’s only crime was refusing to kiss Tommy at Pam Troy’s party; all for a kiss he tore away her sense of security, wellbeing, happiness. Ripped away her sense of wellbeing and trapped in her room. So Michael took away his. Took it away in the same dark alley, under the same ladder.
He can see the fear in Tommy’s eyes, and he’s glad. Tommy should be scared because Michael is a monster. Freak. He doesn’t see Tommy’s face as he hits him, but the face of another, the man who took her away. He does not become aware of the real boy beneath his fists until Tommy starts to cry great heaving sobs that rock his body. The other disappears, and Michael stands, staring down at the pathetic bully before him. He wonders if this is what Hank feels like when he beats him, this strange jubilation that he has done right, succeeded in causing submission in the unworthy creature before him. He pushes the thought away, Hank does it for joy, Michael did it simply to return Liz Parker’s wings.
* * * * *
He is sixteen. Sitting in the Crashdown, watching Liz, watching Max watch Liz. Maxwell is obsessed by her beauty, her laugh, her ability to dance between groups and be friends with all. Max is so distracted by the flashing smile and the flutter of her clothes around her body that he’s never seen the real person. He doesn’t know the strong girl that bounced back after Tommy’s attack, or how she forced herself out on her balcony each night for months to prove she wasn’t scared anymore. He doesn’t know that she sometimes fakes those smiles he loves so much, uses them as a cover when school, her parents, her life are getting her down. No, all he sees is Liz Parker of the curved lips and shy eyes.
Michael tries to get him to let go, to move on, to quit trying to put Liz Parker up on a pedestal locked away behind glass. So far it hasn’t worked though, everyday she is working they come and occupy a both in her section. Max orders Space fries with a cherry coke and Michael orders coffee, the only thing he can afford. He comes with Max not to watch him moon and work up his courage, but to keep Liz away with his glares and restlessness. When he’s there, she never stays at their table long. He does it because she doesn’t deserve to be smothered by Max’s grasping hands, doesn’t deserve to be pinned inside the same clear, compartmentalized case that holds his parents cut off from his real world. She deserves to be free.
He glances at her from the corner of his eye, watching as she laughs at something her friend asks, watching her graceful hands dance about as she gives her answer. For a moment he sees the other, so similar they could be the same, smiling back at him. He sees her studying him with soft eyes, ducking her head when he notices her attention.
M’ramosa. The word slips through his mind, remnant of that other time, that other language. M’ramosa. Lover. Butterfly. Free. Only the woman that he sees is not free, but dead. Lost somewhere long ago in a time he can’t fully remember, is afraid to fully remember. Killed because of what he was. Freak. Monster. Death. His vision disappears with the word, leaving him once again staring at Liz. He couldn’t save the other, but he can save her. Protect her from the Tommy Stoppards of the world, from Max, from himself, from her own beautiful bravery.
“Jesus Max, will you just give up already because despite the large puddle of drool on the floor she still hasn’t noticed you,” he growls.
His friend reluctantly focuses on him, “What the hell’s your problem Michael? You complain every time we come here. Why do you even bother coming anyway?”
“For protection,” he replies. Max snorts and rolls his eyes, thinking Michael means his protection. He doesn’t disabuse his friend of the idea. Better that Max believe the lie then know the truth, because in this life he would do anything, even circumvent his king for the preservation of what truly mattered.
Liz comes near with a coffee pot, and he shifts and glares as she refills his cup. She does not speak, but frowns as she studies his expression, studies him, tries to understand. He glares harder. Beauty was not meant to understand the freaks, but it continues to try. Her mouth opens on a breath, a word that never emerges, halted with a confused shake of her head and departure in the wake of new customers.
Vaguely he can hear Max grumble about his attitude, but ignores him, after so many years he’s gotten good at ignoring him, he’s gotten good at ignoring many things. He doesn’t even flinch when the flashes come again, the raised voices of the table next to him echoing eerily off old memories of pain, of torture, of her surprised face. He’s out of his seat before he realizes it, pushing towards the other, pushing towards Liz, the same person in fluttering blue. The sound of the revolver is muffled, far off, foreign to the memory, and yet not, there was an explosion there too. He was too late there, always too late, but not now, not now…No.
He doesn’t know which voice cries out, his or the past as his arms close around her and they fall. Falling. Landing. There is a roaring in his head blocking out all else, a catastrophe of voices, so many voices, calling, screaming. Freak. Monster. Alien. Wrong. Failure. Failure. Failure… They rip into his mind, pound into his ears, and he can’t make them stop because they’re right, they’re always right.
“Michael?” Soft fingers brush against his cheek, and the slight body beneath him shifts in the soft, heavy beat of rapid deep breaths. “Michael, are you okay?”
Liz is beneath him. Liz is breathing. Liz is watching him with worried but clear eyes. She is not like the other, not fading into that place where he can’t follow, can never follow. He tries to smile down at her, but he can’t make his face move, the slack muscles refusing to respond. The muffled sound is back again, only this time, its soothing, the white noise of a television that Hank forgot to turn off. “Jesus Michael, you’re bleeding!”
That it explained it. Funny how he hadn’t even felt the burn of the bullet, still could not feel the burn of the bullet. Freak, the voice in his mind hisses, but it doesn’t have the same strength, the same power. This time he’d won. She is safe, alive, free to fly away.
“M’ramosa,” he whispers. And it is enough…
[ edited 2 time(s), last at 17-Jan-2003 12:33:54 PM ]