Psychopomp Magazine Fall 2016 - Page 29

Hugh Behm-Steinberg | 29

Hugh Behm-Steinberg

Butterflies

The kingdom is tired; all the princesses are asleep. The king and queen are away, and we are told they might never come home. That’s ok with us; we’ve been bad. We’ve been hanging out with the witches. It used to bother us; we tried so hard to be good, but now we don’t care. We’ve accepted witchery as our faith. We will reject all saviors, personal or otherwise, and we will fear no consequences.

We take turns pestering the magic mirror. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the most annoying amateur lepidopterist of them all?” we ask.

“The one who’s on the cover of Bad Mommy magazine, holding your hands,” it says, and we pretend to act shocked, but it’s true.

“I know,” I tell my brother, “let’s go upstairs and switch all the butterflies around in their cases.”

“Even better,” my brother says, “let’s float there, and do it all without letting our feet touch the ground.”

“Not even once,” I whisper. Outside the window, in the moonlight, a sea of thorns embraces our castle: “our parents are never coming home.”

“Never,” my brother says. “So we can do whatever we want.”

We float and float; the hall is so quiet, just the logs in the fireplace crackling, the magic mirror humming to itself, the princesses snoring.

In our mother’s study, the butterflies in their cases shudder; the closer we look at them, the more upon their pins they twirl. When I become a better witch, I’m going to learn a spell that will allow me to understand what every animal is saying, even ones like these.

Carefully my brother removes the pins while I hold the butterflies in my hands. The princesses call out in their sleep. They’re almost awake, but