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Flash Fiction Friday: The Chaotic Butterfly

by: James Burr

It was a cold October morning when Eleonora Pinkerton first realised that her actions influenced it all. Like that apocryphal butterfly whose beating wings can cause hurricanes on the other side of the world, Eleonora concluded that her every action influenced Everything: scratching an itch would cause a tsunami in Indonesia, an overly energetic blink could cause a 747 to plummet from the sky over Minnesota, an unguarded burp could result in hurricanes in Guam. So Eleonora did what all rational beings would do in such circumstances and thus resolved to do nothing. Literally nothing. She gingerly, as if her slightest movement could set off a bomb, placed herself in a four lotus position and then sat, unmoving, utterly immobile.

When her boyfriend, Gavin, found her sat on the bed like an anorexic Buddha, he was at first confused, then concerned and then, as the days went by, increasingly grateful. Eleonora would no longer moan and bitch about his coming back from the pub too late at night and full of too much beer. She wouldn’t nag or moan or force him to see her mother or her annoying friends. Instead, she would just sit there, unmoving, while he played Halo or Grand Theft Auto, until such point that, feeling the need for sexual intimacy, he would stand up, drop his tracky bottoms and Calvins, and skull-fuck her until release.

Work had been a little more tricky at first, though, but eventually Gavin worked out that all he had to do was lift Eleonora into a wheelbarrow that he had bought especially for the purpose, and then, after a short trip on the Number 9 bus, wheel her to her desk at the local council offices. There, she would sit immobile in her wheelbarrow for eight hours until Gavin arrived to wheel her home. Her work colleagues were, as you can imagine, somewhat dumbfounded by this somewhat odd change that had come over Eleonora, but her 100% attendance meant that she was soon promoted to senior diversity consultant in the council and her career flourished as her bosses noted that she was one of the few who didn’t have months off with “stress.”

So all in all, Eleonora’s life flourished as first her relationship with Gavin deepened and her career reached new heights. And while Gavin wasn’t the most thoughtful bloke in the world, he did take care to lift her to the shower every morning to wipe away her waste and he did try to give her at least one full meal a day, even if it was just McDonald’s Happy Meals or chicken dhansaks, which he would then feed through a liquidiser so he could spoon it past her rigid lips.

For her part, Eleonora showed a strength of will that even she had no idea she was capable of. There would be times when the pain in her limbs was so great she wanted to just straighten them out and stretch and scream and jump in the air. But then when that urge grew, she would think of the resulting typhoons shredding farmsteads, the satellites knocked from orbit to blaze into the cities below, the concrete overpasses collapsing as a result of her twitching pinky. So, terrified of the chaos that would ensue, her resolve would return and her limbs would remain unmoving, her arms like concrete, her back like steel, so that order could reign and others could live.

And so the years rolled by and there came the patter of tiny Pinkerton feet, the doctors rolling her on her back so they could prise the babies out of her and then later, Gavin devising a clever harness system that meant she could breastfeed as she sat motionless on the bed. Then, later still, they would eat at the dinner table, children shouting and screaming at each other as Eleonora sat in her wheelbarrow, unmoving. Family selfies posted to Facebook showed the children growing, day by day, year by year, as Elonora remained the one constant, the only change being the gradual greying of her hair.

Eventually, the children moved out, and then Eleonora retired from her role as chief executive officer of her local council after decades of exemplary service. And so started the final phase of her life, as she would sit on the bed while Gavin pottered around in the garden. But then, one cold morning, Gavin was in the potting shed when he groaned, clutched his chest, and then slumped to the ground.

They didn’t find Eleonora for several weeks after his death. Neither of her children cared—Molly was living in a squat in Brixton and was constantly full of heroin while Alice was engaged in 24-hour narcissism as an Instagram yogi in Ibiza–so it was that by the time they found Eleonora, she was sitting in her bed, covered in cobwebs, her rigor mortised limbs locked in place, congealed blood weeping from the small toothmarks where vermin had taken bites out of her. The council officers who came to their house to move her body away found it relatively easy to just hook an arm under each armpit before just flinging her into the back of the van for disposal.

And as their van pulled away down the dismal tarmac of the street, shaven-headed children swearing, smoking and playing football, no one thought about Eleonora Pinkerton or her solar-flare triggering twitches and no one considered her tsunami-causing sneezes.

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James Burr is the author of the collection Ugly Stories for Beautiful People and is currently putting the finishing touches to his second collection, State of the Nation, and a work of non-fiction which will, he is sure, make him richer than his wildest dreams. When not deluding himself about future success, he can be found at: http://www.james-burr.co.uk/

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