The One Who Got Away
By Gillian Devine

Good morning. I hope you are well today. As for me, I’m better than I’ve been in quite a while.

If I seem slightly perturbed, it may be because I have just come from the very edge of being snuffed out of existence, so you’ll have to excuse me.

I will need to explain, I see – just give me a moment so that I may stretch the cramps out of each wing – undulate – if you have the patience to allow me. They are still quite sore after my oppressive experience, and it has of late rather impacted my capacity for flying (or fluttering, in this case); I never got round to developing an actual “technique”…

I have only just come back here, from the place from which I never thought I’d make my welcome return, and I still can’t quite believe I’m here. I have no right to expect to be alive, much less talking about being alive.

It was entirely by chance – a glitch in the flow of events moving in their unchanging sequence – that I was able to make my sudden and legendary break-free and recite my tale.

I have a vague but comforting memory of my life BC: Before the Capture.

Before then… that is quite a challenge.I have to stretch ever deeper into the realms of memory.

By that time,I had already undergone a life-changing alteration in my physical being but only a short time previously; when I was in my infancy, crawling laboriously over the grass blade which was a mountain for my entire life, I did not fully understand what would happen to me, as decreed by Nature.

“Every caterpillar must undergo this Change, before they can become a butterfly.”

I was barely able to understand the feet beneath me, struggling to master the art of getting from A to B, let alone the notion that I would change into an entirely different creature.

Reborn into a body (a corpse?) beyond recognition.

Anyway, I’m digressing-

We were all free at one time. En masse, we were inseparable.

In our state of tentative regeneration, we darted and fluttered around the world within our capability of seeing, with all the spirit of adventure we could collectively summon.

This was our flying time. We could move on free…

–Until the day of capture–

There comes a moment – probably once, if unlucky, in the life of every “catterfly” – when the creature is made by force of circumstance to extend one’s mental capacity beyond the here and now, and project, just a little, into the abyss known colloquially as “the future.” The concept in itself is virtually impossible to explain to one who has no frame of reference.

There is only the glimpse in the faraway gaze – which cannot even be seen from a distance – which may deign to betray the experience of capture and isolation, of one who cannot articulate what it is they have seen in the first instance.

I suppose being a butterfly is a legitimate reason for my having to find some way to “narrate” what happened to me.

– To many others just like me, who were not so lucky in escape.


The world closed in – but I couldn’t see how or why. Everything looked more or less the same but… changed completely.

The flowers, the blades of grass, the breeze, the rain, the sun – I could reach out and touch, graze, land upon, feel upon me… nothing.

-Everything around me had become inaccessible for the first time.

Furthermore- I was going somewhere. Completely against my own volition. I was entirely unable to cease motion despite not moving, except frantically here and there banging repeatedly against the transparent walls of my suddenly-materialising prison – until no motion would release me, and everything became blurry.

I came to the dreadful realisation, having tried in vain to fend off the unbearable notion; today, fate had chosen me – like many – to be *Taken Away*

Then I begin to feel sleepy…

Next thing I awaken – still in my glass prison.

Peering through the barely penetrable sheet of glass which winds all around me – in every direction – I can barely see faint moving shapes making similar darting patterns to the ones I was erstwhile making. Before too long, they give up, ceasing motion temporarily for a while, as if merely trying to summon the energy to keep protesting – questioning –

Then I hear a voice:

“He’s done this before. He will do it again and again. None of us ever gets to leave.”

And I begin to believe in that formidable possibility. My prison has no indication of a crack or flaw anywhere. I gather some self restraint and try to self-soothe just enough to flutter slowly up to the top of the prison, to see if there is a way out up there.

I only come upon more hard surface, nothing yielding to the limited pressure I am capable of applying.

Panic wells up within me once again, as my momentary hope of escape slips away.

I am a concubine. And it is not at all a good feeling.

I can make out another shape through my prison. Different to what I can see on either side of me; yet I’m sure I saw a similar shape at the time of my capture.

This is the being who put me in here. What is its intention? Can we communicate in any way?

Yet it merely looks upon me… I cannot adequately describe this look which is mostly… a gaze. More passive than active, as if I am performing for this being, along with an invisible audience.

As if something is expected of me, to say, to do, to move… but what could it possibly be?

What can I do when I cannot do the one thing which is instinctively driving me – to escape and fly as far away as I possibly can and never return –

What possibilities then remain?

“What a beauty. You are different, I don’t know how or why this could be – but you are.

Comrade – I am of the conviction; you are unique.”

This is no comfort to me, for some strange reason.

I would renounce every modicum of evidence of being “unique” if I could once again hope of escape and see the sky. I would be a clone, merging with the indistinguishable into oblivion…

I cannot even ask this painstaking question swirling within me, fluttering from here to there to here with no sign of a resolution.

There are some on either side of me – here and there – which are no longer moving. Who do not appear to have moved for quite some time. Have they died waiting for a freedom that never came..? Will it be the same for me..?

Will I be – dying – in this glass prison..?

No one – nothing – looks likely to tell me at any time.

I can see the way out of here; so close yet… No chance.

It would all be futile. I cannot think in here; I can barely breathe enough to keep me from slipping away.

Perhaps I should have appreciated my brief existence while I was able; although maybe this is simply the “final stage” in my life. I did not go out of my way to reach out to my fellow butterfly when I was “alive,” so it is ironic how I am unable yet willing now that I am unable.

I hope that this is a stage that is over soon.

My world is turned upside down; literally. When – I have know way of knowing.

A crashing sound resonates all around me, along with shards of my glass prison, followed by a scream of surprise. Suddenly my prison is no more. It is all around me – yet I hesitate.

Somehow, inexplicably, a part of me tries to mentally put the broken pieces back together again. It had become – temporarily – a sort of home.

A cocoon, if you like.

Yet something else awakens in me, without first consulting me. Propelling me above and away from the scene of glass carnage now some distance beneath me.

The net – the one which caught me – appears out of nowhere, to reclaim me. But I am ready this time. My only instinct is to move away from this thing which is so eager to embrace me.

To return me to the collection.

No time for fluttering now, instead I “fly.” Before I realise what is happening, I am instinctively fluttering – flying – into the blinding light, the only direction.

I do not even think about anything other than flying for an unknown stretch of time. I am aware of virtually nothing until I come to rest upon a familiar-looking daisy, perching precariously in a position which makes me most comfortable.

Word spreads surprisingly quickly around here. Before long, I hear some calling me, “the one who got away.”

Already I can barely remember my experience; the main thing now is to “move on.” Be a butterfly. Alive for only the briefest time.

Print Friendly