The Mechanical Buterrfly: The Heart chaser

The dawn broke out through the window, reveling beyond it a pale grayish – blue sky that gleamed over tall building rooftops. His tired eyes opened slowly to the bright, yellow haze that covered them. His sheets felt warm and fuzzy above his body, and he clutched them under his arm tightly, so the warmth may not escape him. He turned to the side slowly hoping to avoid the dazzling light, hoping that dream might, again, greet him with a smile. He felt happy about a new day for an instant, of college work, of breakfast, of morning coffee and cigarettes and of late night reading. It could all wait just one moment more. He heard the floorboards creek, and then a key turning in a lock while trying to drift into sleep, and assured himself that it was his sister who is off for work, and that it wasn’t, in fact, someone strange coming in. Nobody else knew that his sister was clumsy with the lock and that, like this time and every other time, she needed to budge the key a few times to really get it in there, and to get the tongue of the lock in its place. He had heard it all… the budging, the nervous turning of the key and the final *click* that made the effort successful.


He thought for a while, dream escaping him, of his upcoming day. He would need to get up, wash his face, brush his teeth, to make coffee and breakfast, get dressed and off he is – another day in class, another day of studying and chatting with friends about mindless little things, for neither him nor his friends ever discussed their college materials. He felt satisfied with the thought of it. He lied there for a time, warming himself up and idly looking around the room. The nightstand had an old table lamp on it, used only for the purposes of late night readings and illumination of the photograph of him and his family underneath the bulb. They sat in a row, his father in the centre, smiling under his mustache, wearing his short blazer of black and red, with slick white hair pulled back like with grease; next to him, his mother, also smiling, uncovering her pearly white teeth hiding behind streaks of dark brown hair; and then there were him and his sister, both slender and blond, his hair being nearly the same length as hers, both wearing striped shirts of rough material that, he remembered, always used to itch.

Remembering the times he spent together with his family felt relaxing to him, as much as the thought of that place where the picture was taken, during a holiday, in a hotel room surrounded by mountains and pines. He remembers a thin river that ran almost underneath their terrace, and the town of white marble pavement that was half an hour walk from the hotel, composed mostly of gardens and parks, fountains springing water over rusted coins, thrown in there for good luck. The path they chose to take there was a forest path surrounded by shrubbery and trees, with many pitfalls and cliffs of jagged rock, both dangerous and beautiful to tread, both by day and by night. He thought about late night stories they used to tell and the old radio that used to play both music and static from the balcony above, courtesy of their neighbors that they never met. Thinking about it made him feel satisfied in his remembrance, and so he spoke to himself thusly:

To the morning glory,
Which shines upon us, so playfully,
Around the sky so bright and vastly,
Rise upon us, banishing spark,
Of the nigh and all matters dark.
Rising high, leave thy mark,
On all the things frightening and ghastly.

He got up from his bed and went into the living room of his apartment which connected to the bedroom where he slept in. His sister slept in the living room, on her own furnished couch that rolled out into a bed; she liked the space, she would say. He found it strange that, possibly in a hurry, her bed wasn’t made like every other day – sheets laid around the bed in disorder.

Shrugging off the thought he went to the kitchen which was on the far end of the room to fix some coffee, passing the windows of the living room, subtly glancing outside onto the morning dewed city. He turned on the stove and filled the jug with water, prepared raw coffee and sugar, for he liked to make it Turkish for himself. Meanwhile, he strolled past the cherry dining table filled with day old food into the bathroom that was next to the front door of his apartment. On his way he, again, glanced at his surroundings: pictures hanging off the wall in old, copper frames, of an old radio, umbra colored piece of junk that he found no heart to throw out – it still worked, but was never used – it belonged to his father, missed half of its case, wires springing from the back of it. The floorboards creaked here and there as he passed by in the narrow hallway.

The bathroom was colder than the rest of the apartment and gleamed with bright white neon reflecting off the tiles covered in bleak arabesques. He went over by the sink to wash the tiredness off his face with a nice soap rub, leaving teeth and other needs for later. Going back into the kitchen, he could hear the pot boiling. The water in the pot hummed a deep tone, and was hushed when the first spoonful of coffee touched its surface, and then sugar calmed it all the way, before it began to rustle again, boiling for a couple of seconds. He took it off the stove and poured the contents into a clean mug.

He sat at the table, bringing a black and blue transparent ashtray closer to him, all-a-while inhaling the sharp smell of the smoke-roast coffee. He took a pack of cigarettes, soft Lucky Strikes, from the table and pulled one out – it was crumpled, crooked – he lit it with a match and took a deep, long drag of it, exhaling the smoke through his mouth in a steady, thick cloud. The stream of hazy smoke twisted from the cigarette upwards in a spiral, in a corkscrew towards the heavens. He watched the dawn-light being cast upon the room, from out the window, wondering if he should open it, for he may be able to hear the river that was not far from his apartment complex. He decided not to, and instead sipped his coffee in lonely patience. He went into his bathroom once again, this time to brush his teeth – The chill of the toothpaste on his mouth washed away the nicotine traces, the sour-groggy taste of cigarette smoke. He went into the bedroom and tossed his pajamas on the bed, opened the wardrobe and got dressed in his usual attire: Jeans, a plain shirt, a small jacket and a blazer, socks and running shoes of the most comfortable type. Coveting his wallet and his house keys already in his blazer, he set out into the world, floorboards creaking before his step.

The key didn’t fit the lock, he wondered and pondered. He tried it again to no avail. He tried turning the knob and to force the door down, but the door didn’t seem to budge. He thought of it odd – has his sister forgotten her key on the other side of the lock so he cannot get his side unlocked? Everything that he was going to do today – to miss to do – hit him in one fell swoop, but to no bother, someone will come if he looks through the peephole and bangs on the door when he sees someone – some of his friends might come and see if he is there – and if they don’t, his sister will be off from work – there is food and there is coffee – what more could a man need, he wondered and pondered.

Something had, at that moment, pierced his heart, for he shivered for a second – it was the kind of chill that comes during the summer and the winter both, radiating from the bones with haunting dread. He thought of the night and the dark, of something running to meet his heart, and he forgot it as soon as he thought it, but he spoke to himself the moment it came:

I dare say not its name,
For the night will roundabout sway,
Back upon the sky again,
Starless night will come to stay,
What will mend me, for I cannot flee,
When the ghoulish feather touches me,
And I thusly fall as prey?

He calmed himself, swaying off his feet for a moment and then gaining balance back again. He went to the living room and sat by the table, lighting up another cigarette and, in the midst of the nicotine fog, he thought of what he could do to pass the time. He got up soon after and started walking around the house with a cigarette in between his fingers, going from room to room, smoking – stopping over by the table to let off the accumulated ash – then to the kitchen to make some more coffee that he loved the taste and the smell of so much. It came to him the feeling of boredom, as he walked around the house, glaring at the small little details of it and then back out the window, witnessing the dawn slowly becoming bright noon. He decided, during his stride, to spend the day the best he could, in his mind – He walked over to the bathroom and grabbed a broom from besides the bath tub, the cleaning supplies in the cupboard beneath the sink and a dust swatter from the closet in the hallway. He started cleaning and refurnishing the apartment with the energy of a man truly trapped between walls, with willpower to spare.

The sharp chemical smells bit on the insides of his nose; he, nevertheless, felt satisfied, rubbing the counters, the tables and every inch of wooden furniture. He made the beds, dusted off the old junky radio and scrubbed the windows and the bathroom clean – all of this until the apartment was spotless.

The time seemed to fly away from his grasp in his ecstatic satisfaction, for he realized, after sitting down at the table to rest, that the final rays of the sun were piercing the sky which was now tinted, colored with both purple and orange in a haze. She will be home soon, he thought. He thought of lighting another cigarette and finishing his already cold coffee leftovers, before he noticed that his hands were sticky from the generated filth, dust and sweat – he went to the bathroom to wash them thoroughly. His absence attracted familiar attention, it seemed, for he heard a knock at the door. He minded the bathroom and turned to look – he saw his friend standing on the other side, knocking – it protruded in his ears a low deep sound of grace and of salvation. He called for him, called his name, but no answer was heard from the other side – they stared at each other through the peephole on opposite ends of the fiendish door – he stared chillingly, wondering what to think, what to say – his friend called, and after it had failed, he turned and left shrugging, leaving the poor man screaming for help inside of himself, with questions arising faster than any mind could answer them. In that moment of staunch paranoia, reality seemed twisted and obscure – If anyone sane was to even call it real, it was still at that moment the most real thing imaginable – what hellish law concocted such devilry, he though.

He propped himself to the bathroom, confused and dazed in his misunderstanding, and he walked by the sink to wash his hands – deep in his thoughts, his body felt like an automaton, driven by pure action with little regard for the mind. He looked at himself extensively, blankly, as he dried his hands and proceeded into the living room, turning on the umber colored radio in the hallway to help regain his bearings and the night light which hued the room in orange and brown color – he lit a cigarette and took a deep breath in silence– the sun outside had already set beyond the horizon, and only a few traces of dim light were left in the sky. Fickle thoughts of protruding paranoia skittered about his head. He stopped responding to knocks and calls after the third one yielded no result, further solidifying him in the comfortable mire of his home, between the night, the dimly lit room and the mercurial beings that loomed over the gloomy visions of a town, a haze of a life, just beyond reach, just beyond understanding. His calm walks and pitter-patters around the house became impatient strides of anxious delusion, and the thoughts troubled him to the ends of both absolute madness and unimaginable, agonizing bliss and comfort. His sister did not come, and the knocks stopped – time rolled both slow and fast, both steady and loose, until it vanished into the thick night fog and was a nuisance no more. Sleep held no comfort for the overwhelming state of pure intuition rushed blood into his brain, draining him of focus and of logic, as he felt his brain become few sizes too small for his head. The blood red radio played static and ambient jazz, filling the room with sounds that mixed groove with noises of drowned out bumblebee wings and static jittering – with noises of deep and tired moans backing up every endless track – it became a bore to the mind and the stomach, as he ran to the bathroom in his dizzying pain, falling over himself in a moment of disorientation, cutting his hand on the barbed wire arabesque with a punch that left teeth imprints upon the wall, as of now covered in crimson red. He puked and regained, relapsed and claimed himself, thinking off to no avail, as the chilling dread rose and boiled over like water cooked with cheap coffee and ham, mixed with black cigarette puss of a long lost love, smelling of burnt plastic bags held upon a rope in a rainy night upon a violet sky that sounded of murmur in between the clouds and resembled poetic singing of out-of-tune voices of children of all brown eyes in rooms filled with gasoline smelling test tubes once found in books of unrivaled mystery of gods and mice and men alike, in attics and dust covered bins behind slime bars back in hometowns of the degenerate human kind, resting upon the valleys of the crowded city rings, overjoyed on cheap booze and fine wine, aiming to dine and seize the possibility of dying passion in all of the shades of diner candlelight yellow, lit by matches that wicked and flicked and lit aflame, simulating the eyes of the stars or headlights of cars made of rear view mirrors, all alike looking back as they drove upon those emerald mountain passes, to find solace and see the beauty with its head upon a pike and all of birds alike sang of falling trees and green leaves like dunes made of dry veins, branches and of squeezed sour lifelines, beneath the smoldering ardor that a god came and gave us to suffocate us with our own demise, as it spread like wildfire upon the worlds of ash that drowned the embers of his soul at this moment when he saw her, standing at the door, and himself, regained, smeared and covered in crimson blossoms all over his body, shaking. “I miss you…” He said in a trembling voice. “I miss you so much…”


The dawn broke and the first of the light rays rose up from the horizon – the room brightened up again with shades of pale yellow and orange red as they looked at each other, smiling comfortably in silence – tears ran down his eyes, slowly streaming down his face, clear as both his mind and his heart – She was in all shades and shapes he could remember her in – the feeling was a vague one of something crumbling and being rebuilt again in serenity, as if the past was being let go of, or as if it had let something go. The chill-wind breeze chased away the cigar smoke and the haze of unclear visions evaporated out the door and into the hallway towards the real world – coming from the world as real as any other.

Autor: Dimitrije Ostojić 

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