Short Story: The Butterfly & The Snow Globe


Posted by in October's Magazine

Katy Nixon

The toilet on the train was not a glamorous experience for Sam. He became a contortionist as a metamorphosis in the bumpy cubicle began. Although uncomfortable he felt himself repairing the damage small towns do to a boy like him. He did it with eyeliner and eye shadows that looked like the dust of semi precious stones. As each layer of his life that lived beyond the platform he had just left was peeled back and replaced by who he really was, years and years of hope began to flood his veins. 

He was eternal by the time he stumbled out of the toilet. He looked like a space goddess in turquoise heels. A man drinking a beer looked up from his phone as Sam waited for the doors to the carriage to open. His eyes moved from Sam’s feet to the top of his head, his mouth was slack in surprise. 

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The doors clicked open and Sam walked through them turning slightly to glance at the man. “Don’t worry babe I’m only mortal like you.” He didn’t look back.

He sat in a seat that faced the way he was going and looked out of the window only to be met with his own reflection framed in the dusk of the Borders countryside. The glitter around his eyes looked like migrating stars on the glass. The sky outside was empty but Sam was full of possibility. 

He hummed Bjork’s Hyperballad as he read the lyrics off his phone. He practised the words to the song with the matte red of his mouth. He had already forgotten the dust that had covered him a few hours before as he had rushed home from the building site. 

Tonight he was going to be Hale Bopp, comet, starlet and gin drinking debutante of the Monday night drag show at The Street bar. Sam felt like he was flying for the first time. He was reimagining his story in the time it took for the train to go from Galashiels to Waverly Station. 

A few hours later his feet, like concrete setting in reality, hit the steps on his way back to his flat. They were unwilling to climb as alcohol tied them up with his trainers. He tripped and fell, the hard stone meeting his face with a dull contact. Sam stayed looking at the world from that angle until it stopped spinning.  

In his eye line he could see a butterfly below the window in the stairwell, on the step above him. Thinking he was losing his mind he reached for it cautiously but it remained still. It was dead but perfect. A tiny statue, a memorial to flight. Sam reached for it as tenderly as his hands would allow him to and placed the butterfly in his shirt pocket. 

When he finally made it into his flat he went straight to his bedroom and sat at the dresser there. He stared at himself in the mirror like a bad date. What could have been of the night lurked in the corner. Regret seemed to fill his lungs instead of air. 

She was perched on top of some tiny snow dusted houses; all lined up perfectly like the lives we think we will live

He slowly unpacked his bag and laid out his makeup brush by brush. He lined up the beautiful tiny jars of colour and glitter he would have decorated his face with. Finally he took out the butterfly. He held it in the palm of his hand. On the dresser sat the snow globe his Mum had bought him when he was a wee boy. 

It had cracked as if a meteorite had hit it and broken a long time ago but it seemed to follow Sam wherever he had lived. He dropped the butterfly inside the snow globe. The little winged triangle sat on top of a winter town. She was perched on top of some tiny snow dusted houses; all lined up perfectly like the lives we think we will live. 

The truth was Sam had stood on the platform. The train had arrived and as people stepped onto it from around him. He had stepped back. Unable to move. The train had left the station. Sam stood on the platform alone, his heart pounding. 

He had turned with his bag and walked to the pub on the way to his flat. He sank pints at a table, humming Hyperballad, filtering out the people around him from his mind as he wished with all of his heart he had got on the train to Edinburgh that night. 

He knew he wasn’t expected to hide now. He could feel that. It was 2019 but it was just this town, he felt like freedom was for city skylines and big populations. This town got to you. Sam’s dictator was the fear of everyone else’s thoughts. But maybe it felt more comfortable than the possibility of the unknown. 

Sam looked at the butterfly, like a giant bird perched on the houses in the snow globe and felt the hills of the valley around him like a vice. 

When Sam woke up for work, hungover, the next morning, still fully clothed, the butterfly was nowhere to be seen.

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