The Ambitious Drifter

Words, Images and The Occasional Noise

The Butterfly Keeper


The weekly writing challenge. 

In the Butterfly Effect, initial conditions that exist all play a part in happenings that progress around us. To describe its namesake example, the flap of a butterfly’s wings, one scientist proposed, could affect the course of a hurricane……             Scrawled as I warmed my pizza………………….

The Butterfly Keeper.

They say that every storm has its butterfly, something has to kick if off. Does everything that sweeps the air smash down a forest somewhere? There’s someone I can ask, not far from here. There are storms that never came, I’ve seen them in his room. He looks a lot younger than me, quite annoying really. Then again lots of people are like that these days. I don’t know where my days went.  He’s called a collector, but you must add keeper and killer to that. I’m not sure I really approve. He does it well though, impossible wings pinned in a glass case. It doesn’t look right to me. They’re not meant to be seen like this surely, nailed up that way.
‘What would happen if I opened the lid, pulled out the pin?’ I asked, pointing to a pair of airy illusions. His mood got darker, there was a storm within his eyes. Then he was fine. I must be careful with him, changeable weather this. His voice is flat, like he’s reciting something he’s known for a very long time.
Not that one, a tree in Walden Wood will crash, falling across the pond. It’s January frozen hard, it will stay that way till March. A man will come with a rope to take it before the thaw. Alas it will take him. He swims well enough, but the chill will only leave two day’s breath left in his lungs. He’ll be found on a Friday, his journal not complete.’
I was surprised. ‘Even now? If it ever gets free?’ I see he takes it seriously. ‘Most certainly, all my work would be undone That there next to it is the Great Fire of York, a lantern falls. Not the first fire, not the last, but it will kill a King. He must go on to Bosworth Field.’
Through his window I can see his garden, in the English style, rows of blooms and herbs. ‘The others,’ I said ‘do they get away? You cannot trap them all!’
No, that is the way of it. Some trees must fall to allow life to others.’ He intones this like a priest.
Who decides? I wonder to myself. But which of these creatures can bring death upon a harrowing wind? If I got a net myself, could I save a city or a hero? Maybe I’d pardon a tyrant to stay on his bloody path.
‘Not for us to judge’ he says, reading my thoughts, ‘I take what I can. Whatever is left must do its work.’

I leave him making labels, history that will not be. I hear the bees in the garden, watch the cabbage whites on their peaceful flights. Which of them, I wonder, is a whirlwind maker?


Botantical Gardens, Amsterdam.

More fiction….

Mr Faraday’s Cage & Other Tales of Obscure Science. 

Mostly Frank

 Copyright notice.

6 thoughts on “The Butterfly Keeper

  1. We have a butterfly tree outside our window. It has flowers like a lilac tree and sometimes we get the aphids(put there by the cunning ants that harvest their honey-like excretions) but they were then controlled by the ladybirds! Vive la nature!


  2. Lovely piece of flash fiction, Drifter. You paint a vivid picture of the Butterfly Keeper and narrator with such slight, but well placed strokes, that connecting to them feels effortless. The story is dangerous, dark, but without you making that the obvious focus of the piece, which makes it that much more haunting. I want to know what our narrator is going to do next with this frighteningly powerful man he’s confronting–a man who can and has changed our history. Though he claims neutrality, I’m not sure I believe him. If this was a start of a novel, I would stay up way too late reading, I’m sure. Artfully done.