By Justin M. Pena
Some find my hobby strange, but I assure you it is quite magnificent and, dare I say, beautiful. These cases that adorn my rooms fill me with a sense of pure awe, for the haunting beauty of life is shown in these, the most fragile of god’s creatures.
As a man of science, I have always been fascinated by these seemingly carefree, wanton creatures that flutter about before the eyes of man. At the young age of sixteen, I would often seek out and capture scores of these beautiful specimens, and each time they would be crushed in my unskilled hands. I was a naïve boy. I believed I could simply take firm hold of my prey and easily transport its body, unharmed, to its destination where upon I may examine it. I was wrong. Wracked with disappointment, I gave up my pursuit of imprisoning my subjects so that I can further look upon their beauty. That is, of course, until I made my way into university.
I spent an exorbitant number of years studying to become a doctor learning everything from psychology to biology. I poured over subject after subject when I stumbled upon the most intriguing, most magnificent area of study I have ever seen. Lepidopterology. If you are unfamiliar with the term, lepidopterology is the study of moths and butterflies, often by containing the subject and studying up close, preserving the body in glass boxes for the use of future generations of scholars. In other words, this was the study of taking fragile, magnificent creatures and viewing them in their most pristine form whenever you liked.
I learned such an abundance of valuable techniques from the class I was taking that I was compelled to do field studies for myself at once. Of course, having very little practical training, I often made careless mistakes. At first, my rough, untrained hands produced the same, shoddy work as before, but I was determined. I picked up very quickly on what was necessary to provide good results. First and foremost, a snare must be used to keep the body in a manageable condition to transport. A net was usually the best choice, although a plastic bag would often do in times of emergency. Minimizing struggle was essential, for that would most assuredly damage a limb and make the subject useless. Though a pity, death was a necessary part of examination and research. Often by applying pressure, firmly but gently, the specimen would simply stop moving, seemingly staying in their vibrant state, just frozen in time. And finally, came the pinning. It was easy to get carried away at first. When I was not careful, I would tear a limb, or lose an eye, and learned the hard way that there was a right and a wrong way to displaying magnificence. But it was all worth it, for I was never happier than when my work finally culminated to my first perfect display.
My research carried on for quite some time, even to this day, though it is more of a hobby now. I would even venture so far as to argue that I am now the world’s leading expert. Dioramas, displays, you name it, I have made them all. I have split them in half, to show their inner workings against the glass. I have managed to separate the insides from the shell that holds it. I have even meticulously split apart every single piece to study the joints. These beautiful creatures come in a plethora of colors, shapes, and sizes. No two are alike. And they are not difficult to study either. Some put up a fight, but not much. And you must admit, they are all very beautiful. See? Take this one here. The markings on the face. The pale color, offset by the chestnut sheen of the hair on top. And a form unlike anything that seems to belong on this earth. Her name was Elizabeth, she was a mother of three.
Runner up; Alone
by T.C. Anderson
Do you ever have that feeling that someone is watching you?
You can’t quite pinpoint why – no one is behind you, the house is quiet, nothing but the sounds of the music through your headphones.
There’s no light to illuminate the darkness, but it’s just you. You’re alone.
Did you hear that?
I heard it too. It was nothing, though. Just an unexpected hit of the drums in the song you’re listening to. You don’t remember hearing that sound before –you’ve listened to this song seemingly a thousand times – but surely that was all it was. You’re alone, after all. You would’ve heard the door open or an alarm going off if someone else was in the house with you.
Do you feel it?
It feels like a spider was on you, tip-tapping its little feet up your neck. Slowly. Very calculating. There’s nothing there, of course. You’re all alone. You take your headphones off – the house is drenched in a menacing silence – and you check your arms, torso, everywhere else on your body.
You’ve heard this song a million times before. But right there. Right as the bass drops.
Do you hear it?
Is that your name?
It’s your imagination, surely. You’ve never noticed it before, but it sounds like someone saying your name very quietly in the distance, almost like an afterthought. It’s nothing. You’ve heard this song a million times before, and you’re all alone. Maybe it’s a little too late, or a little too dark, or you’re a little too tired.
But the song ends.
You remove your headphones.
It wasn’t just your imagination.
The tip-tapping has returned – just as delicate as before, but it travels around your neck this time.
The unexpected hit? Footsteps. So close.
It speaks your name almost romantically in your ear.
You’re never alone.