Short story for WDG, inspired by this picture:
Kaleo ran beside the beautiful butterflies flying in the dusk light, tittering before him like fairies, zipping this way and that. They came in the fall, when the rest of the valley became a barren landscape of skeleton trees and scraggly bushes. Yellowed grass crumpled beneath his sneakers.
With the sun behind the largest mountain—though it was really more a tall hill—the sky blossomed into a deep vermilion, and the half moon grew more powerful. Yet between that and Kaleo were the butterflies.
Underneath their fluttering, he laughed and danced as they did. With dusk nearly complete, light fading in each passing moment, the butterflies and their iridescent wings brightened.
Kaleo followed one in particular. It seemed to coast more than the others, flapping its brilliant emerald to violet to cerulean hues only to settle on incandescent gold. The butterfly arched high in the air, completing a twist and coasted toward its vibrant brethren. They swirled together in a rainbow vortex before breaking apart like a meteor shattering across the atmosphere.
Kaleo fell to the ground and lay there, quietly, with his hands rested on his stomach, watching the angels pass in the air.
He dozed for a time.
When he woke, he smiled; they remained above, as always. He held his hand up, inspecting it in the ghostly moonlight. So plain, the skin. Affording no shimmers in the night.
A brilliant idea occurred to him.
With zest, he leapt to his feet. Then crouched.
Overhead, the butterflies continued their striations.
His mother called to him from the porch.
Just a few more minutes.
Make it one minute, Kaleo, dinner is ready.
A butterfly broke off from the glittering haze, a lost star. It spun alone in the air, keeping time to its own rhythm. Slowly, in downward spirals, it came.
Kaleo cupped it between his hands. He smiled to himself. It splashed around within his hermetic finger cage. Slowly, he separated his thumbs, peering in. Only darkness. He frowned and opened his hands. Nothing remained but black splatters across his palms.
A tear fell from his eyes, smudging the bloody stains.
Above him, the other butterflies flickered and went dark. But he knew they were there. He thought they would never light up again. Their vigil lasted seconds. They left him in the quiet night, upon their iridescent wings.