The Last Butterfly
by Lavie Tidhar
'What is a man but threaded cloth,' the painter said conversationally without looking up. 'Hastily worn and discarded?'
Alena regarded him in silence. Unconsciously, she was imitating her mother, or the mother of the other Alena: the pursed lips; the hands on hips; the pose that suggested both indifference and irritation.
'I don't know,' she said. Her voice was level. 'What?'
The painter stopped and turned his face to her. On the ground where he crouched, the left hind wing of a yellow butterfly was taking shape. His face was craggy, a mountainous terrain from
which his nose protruded like an ailing volcano. It dominated his face, giving him a look that was both comical and sad.
'I don't know either,' he said. 'I mean nothing.'
He looked away and continued to paint. The butterfly formed slowly, with delicate strokes: its small head was drawn on to the wall while the right fore wing touched the rubbish that had
collected on the floor. It looked fractured, deformed.
The painter saw her look and shrugged. 'It's difficult to get them right under these conditions,' he said, as if that explained it.
The burst of a machine gun sounded close by. The painter shed his long, black coat and Alena took refuge under its heavy warmth. They were both hiding behind the rubbish tip; or at least,
they both pretended they were hidden.
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"The Last Butterfly" is roughly 1600 words.
Lavie Tidhar is the author of linked-story collection HebrewPunk (2007), novellas An Occupation of Angels (2005), and forthcoming Cloud Permutations (2009), and Gorel & The Pot-Bellied God (2010) and, with Nir Yaniv, the short novel The Tel Aviv Dossier (2009). He also edited anthologies A Dick & Jane Primer for Adults (2008) and The Apex Book of World SF (2009). He's lived on three continents and one island-nation, and currently lives in South East Asia.