One inQueen of the
NatureFucking Butterflies ...
Queen of the
Fucking Butterflies ...
One in Queen of the
NatureFucking Butterflies ...
Queen of the
Fucking Butterflies ...
The Everglades by Lizz Shepherd
by Lizz Shepherd
When the rain began hitting the top of the swamp, Mabel knew the rain must be thick. She came out of the dense, dark water and walked slowly to the water's edge. Algae clung to both of her legs as she stood and looked toward the nearest human settlement. She made a loud clicking sound with her mouth, and a second figure rose from the water.
Reggie was stooped as he strode out of the swamp, looking up when he stood at its edge. "Perfect night," he said.
"It is," Mabel said. She could smell the algae in her hair and feel it along her hands and arms. She flicked her wrists to remove it, not wanting her hands to be slippery should they slide when she grasped a human neck. Reggie watched her and did the same.
They both walked slowly toward a tiny light no human could have seen. The dim light was made even dimmer by the thick rain that had penetrated the canopy of trees and awoken everyone who called the Everglades home.
Getting closer to the bar at the edge of the settlement, Mabel held up a finger toward Reggie. She stood still, listening; her head was cocked, long, wet hair hanging limply and full of plant life. She was hiding behind a tree at the edge of a clearing that held the run-down bar.
"I can hear them," she said in a whisper. "We'll wait."
They stood still for a long while, hearing the rain pick up as a storm blew in. Mabel relaxed her tense stance.
"All is well. They won't be able to see or hear us from here," she said, slumping a little, never taking her eyes off the door.
"I love these rainstorms. I love that you taught me this. I never would have thought to go out in storms. I used to avoid them, actually," Reggie said.
She nodded. "That's a human holdover. It just takes time to let go of all that. It's perfect cover, these sounds."
They watched and waited, barely talking. A human male opened the door, and they instantly stood ready to pounce. He threw some liquid from a bucket out into the rain and went back inside. Reggie winced.
"I can't stand this. It's been days. Weeks, maybe. I'm getting weak. This is the first great night we've had. One of them had better come out," he said.
"They will, they will. We'll have our pick, don't worry. Have I ever been wrong in all these years?"
Reggie shook his head. Mabel kept watching the door. As the storm picked up, lightning started its lights and sounds in the distance. Mabel perked up, trying to see over the bar and into the settlement.
"Lightning, lots of it! I love this. With all of that noise and flashing, they won't know what's going on around them. We'll eat tonight, don't worry. It's coming closer, too. Humans will want to go to their homes in this storm. When we see the right one, I'll signal, and we'll get it before it gets to its car."
"Pick a big one," he said, licking his lips. A few minutes passed, and the storm came ever closer. The thunder was startling to their sensitive hearing, and Reggie began covering his ears after seeing each flash. Two scrawny men had left during that time, but they were together and quite bony. The door opened again.
A single, large human male had thrown the door open and walked directly out into the storm. He didn't even look up as the lightning flashed. Mabel looked at Reggie and nodded. She turned back to the human and crouched down, putting her finger upright. When the male was almost to the parking lot, she threw her hand down and began running toward him.
Reggie got in a crouch behind her, staying low as he ran. They were halfway to him now, getting closer and closer. A bright flash seemed all around them at once, and Reggie paused as he threw his hands over his ears. A scream came from him as he seemed to throw off sparks for a moment and hit the ground. Mabel turned and ran back to him, getting down beside Reggie and letting the human reach his car.
"Reggie! Reggie! What happened? What's going on?"
He was silent. She looked him over and found a large burn that went from his left shoulder down to the middle of his torso. He began to gasp, taking in air and making shrieking sounds.
She picked him up over her shoulders and held him there firmly with both hands and ran back into the trees. She took him back to the area around the water they'd been living in lately and laid him beside the water's edge. He was still taking in air.
"You have to stop taking in air, Reggie. You have to stop. Just relax. You'll be fine," she said again and again. She looked into the water. If he was taking in air, she couldn't take him down into the depths. And neither of them had fed.
"Relax Reggie, we need to feed. Get a little stronger and we'll go feed. The storm is still going on. We can still feed."
He nodded weakly. When the sun began to rise, he was still taking in air, and she was out of time. She covered him in a thick layer of moss and walked into the dark water alone.
The next night, no rain woke her, but her eyes opened quickly as soon as she remembered Reggie in the pile of moss on the surface. She rose from the water, shaking her wrists and looking for the pile. It had been parted.
She dug through it with her hands, trying to find him or any remnant of him. There was nothing. She began to walk toward the settlement, looking for the dim light of the rusty bar. Before she had reached the edge of the trees, she heard a clicking sound. Spinning toward the sound, she saw Reggie standing next to a tree.
"Reggie! Where have you been? Did you feed already? I just woke."
He shook his head, his head down.
"What's wrong?" she asked, trying to see his facial expression.
"Everything. Everything's wrong."
"Are you still taking in air?"
He nodded, raising his head.
"What's wrong with your face? It's kind of, I don't know, red. It looks glowing. Did you bathe? Were you trying to catch someone?"
He shook his head again. "Things are much worse than taking in air. I'm breathing. Really breathing. But that's not all," he said, and lifted up his thick, torn shirt that had burns across the center.
She looked through the darkness, trying to make out what he was showing her. She moved closer, but still saw nothing. His face had not changed. She reached out a hand and placed it on his chest and pulled it back quickly.
"Oh dear God, this isn't possible," she said.
"This isn't possible!"
"I know. I don't understand it either. I heard it beating this morning, and I've been up all day. I've been up walking around, in the sunlight. I even went in the bar and drank some water."
"This can't happen! Are you sure? Maybe a frog got stuck in your stomach. That's probably it."
"No, it's happened. I have a pulse and everything. You want to feel it?" he said, holding out his wrist to her.
"No," she said, recoiling, her face twisted. She was silent for a minute. He waited.
"You know you can't stay with me," Mabel said.
"I know. I'm sorry, Mabel. I'm so sorry. I don't know what I'll do or where I'll go. I don't ..."
"Stop it," she said, holding her hand up. "I can't help you, I have to feed. I'm even weaker than I was last night," she said, noticing how free from algae her hands were. Reggie nodded.
"Come and say goodbye," she said, and put her arms out toward him.
He came toward her slowly, his eyes moist and red. She embraced him, slipping her arms around his body and holding him tightly. Her left hand strayed to his neck, and she moved her teeth there before he could react. She drained him quickly, allowing for a full meal without any protest from the human. When he was drained she picked him up and carried him to a far-off part of the swamp. As his body sank below the water, she sat on the bank and watched it slip under the surface. She'd need a new companion. She could find one at the bar.