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Benjamin awoke in pain, strapped to the wheelchair.  His tired eyes
blinked slowly, folding and unfolding the heavy wrinkles of his forty-two
year old face.  Etched into his visage was consternation, fear, and
realization that this had come upon him at the most inappropriate of
times-his prime. 
As his consciousness awoke to clarity, he remembered being in the Garden
the morning before.  He had been crippled then too, but not nearly as drawn
up and fatigued as he felt now.  The illness swept over him faster each moment.  
Now, he sat in the Garden as the morning sun stretched its red-orange
fingers across the night sky and swept away the dark with delicate
brushstrokes.  He had lived to see the sunrise one last time. 
Birds filled the air with a symphony of melodious chirping and songs of
new day-a new life everlasting.  He listened as though it was the only
sound left in the universe.  To him it promised that when the last breath
came, the music would not stop.  The dance would continue, even if a
different tune were played.
He raised his palsied hands and stared at them.  Where once he had owned
delicate and skillful fingers, now they had grown and fossilized into
saddening claws of anguish. 
He looked down at the notebook that lay on his lap and wept inside.  The
pen hooked on the front cover could not be used by him to write another
healing word onto paper.
What will I do? he wondered. 
Then, the answer manifested on the bright, white flowers of a nearby
azalea bush.  The answer was magnificence in motion, art in living form-a
Monarch butterfly. 
It fluttered toward him, intent on flying past.  The little net that
someone had brought Benjamin, the day he was mounted to the second-hand
wheelchair, moved slowly and unskillfully through the air sweeping in the
huge, blue, orange, and black creature.
With slow and frustrating effort he commanded his weak and nearly lifeless
arms to propel his wheelchair toward the little alcove in which he was
confined when he was not in the Garden. 
He struggled to be delicate with the hooks of his hands, and removed the
battered Monarch from the net.  As gently as he could, he placed it on the
desk to watch it fly.  To learn.
The Monarch sat on the desktop, facing him, its wings slowly sweeping up
and down in the morning sunlight that shined through the doorway from the
Garden.  The bright, warm colors on its wings were slightly smudged.
Benjamin looked at his fingers.  Some of the color was there.
Then came the voice. 
It was the best of every sound he had ever heard.  It flooded him with
emotion as the warmth of a sunbeam touched his leg from the Garden.
Lifeless legs were they, but the warmth felt so good to him.  Yet, as
wonderful as the delicate touch of the sun felt, it was nothing compared to
the compassion and understanding he sensed in the Voice.  Its tone
transcended everything. 
Moving his eyes slowly, Benjamin looked around the room, but the source of
the Voice was not there.  It was from another place.
"You capture a butterfly to teach you flight, when you know that you have
no intention of leaving that wheelchair, Benjamin?"
Benjamin blinked his heavy eyelids slowly in response.
"Why do you knock the dust from a butterfly's wings and confine her to the
same sentence that you find so painful and dissatisfying?"
Benjamin watched the struggling butterfly for long moments in the
deafening silence that followed.
It moved its wings slowly, trying to understand why suddenly, it could no longer fly.
A tear crept to the corner of Benjamin's eye, and proceeded slowly down
his cheek.  Tenderly, with his trembling arm lifting his withered hand, he
brushed the newly formed tear from his face and touched it to the butterfly's wings.
The sunbeam struck the tear and a small, white flash of light appeared as
the tear touched the creature's wings.  The Monarch's brilliant colors returned.
The beautiful creature flew up into the air, through the open doorway and
back to the Garden.  Benjamin tried to follow, but the effort was too much.
He stopped and laboriously fought to draw another breath. 
Realizing it was his last, he held it in his lungs for as long as he
could, knowing that when it left, his lungs would not fill again.  The
world darkened and the Garden disappeared as his eyes involuntarily closed. 
He fought to let out his final words; tried desperately to utter the name
of the one he had sought his entire life, but only a gentle sigh passed his
lips, as his heart stopped, and his soul continued on its journey-free to
fly on the wings of a Monarch.

This story first appeared in Maelstrom Magazine in 1998.
Author: Ben Stivers
9304 Talitha Drive Word Count:  800
Louisville, KY 40299
(502) 261-9768
(c)opyright 1997, 1998, 1999 by Ben Stivers.


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