Novel Excerpts

The Black Butterfly by Brandon Wells

About the novel: THE BOY WITH THE BUTTERFLY WINGS is a 101,000 word literary novel with a hip, edgy feeling — which is the way old people describe books when young people describe the world around them. There’s some postmodern play, soft magical realism, carnivals, forbidden love, and of course very telegenic butterfly wings.

As incompetent doctors rush to find a cure, The Boy’s butterfly wings continue to become larger and larger and –darker. The Boy begins to suspect that his “condition” is somehow related to his Ukrainian heritage. In fact, he was born on the same day as the Chernobyl disaster… Soon The Boy with the Butterfly Wings must choose between moving to Japan on a haiku scholarship, performing at The End of the World Carnival, joining Sphinx Inc., or running away to Portland with his emo girl-cousin to start a whole new life. The Boy is running out of time though. The more he uses his giant butterfly wings the more he puts himself at risk of crashing down into a world where perverts, drug dealers, nymphos, carneys, and Hobbits are waiting for him with the gasoline and matches….

On the last night The Black Butterfly would always pick one of the pretty ones, the bright ones, and take them back to his carnival trailer. Management kept promising him that he would get a better and bigger trailer, but there was never enough scratch in the kitty.
     “Where are we going?” asked the pretty one.
     “It’s a surprise.”
     He liked to hold their small hands as they walked together. They passed a bunch of ride jocks already tearing down The Big Butcher –a refurbished piece the carnival had picked up on the cheap in the last town. In the next tent a fat man with yellow skin was bringing a straight razor down his neck. He gave the girl’s hand a warm squeeze as they entered his trailer now. There were posters on the walls of defunct acts like Lady Sasquatch, The Famous Ying Yang Twins, and even a tiny red car with fanged clowns trying to claw their way out. A giant television set was resting on some milk crates in the corner of the room. There was a muted nature show on now about the dangers of leaving the herd. Before closing the blinds, The Black Butterfly looked out the window. Silent men smoked cigarettes in the bone yard. Everyone seemed to be staring at the ground, the way the giant moon was. It did not matter. Most of them were forty milers who after tonight would leave show business forever and tomorrow they would be back at whatever gas station or construction crew they had left a couple of weeks ago. It was almost over now. In the morning the carnival would be gone –gone –gone, a magical and poisonous darkbloom that popped up during a night and vanished when no one was looking.
     “So what do you do for fun?”
     “I seek self-esteem by expressing power over a homicide victim.”
     “I golf.”
     The pretty one was wearing sawed-off denim shorts over a fading summer tan. Her wrists were covered with cheap plastic bracelets that made noise whenever she moved them. After The Black Butterfly locked the door to his trailer, he asked the pretty one to sit down on the bed. His voice was calm and uncle-ish. He lightly reprimanded her for wearing too much makeup. He had done this before. She told him that she either wanted to be on a famous sitcom one day or become a pediatrician. He told her she should do both – handing her the doctored drink.
     “What time is it, anyways?” the pretty one asked.
     “Not too late,” he said, realizing that she had probably told her friends that she would meet them back at the front gate, or by the Ferris wheel, or somewhere like that. They usually did.
     “What’s this?”
     “Iced Tea.”
     “I thought you said it had alcohol in it,” the girl said, showing him how fast she could consume adult beverages.
     “It does. It’s from Long Island.”
     Under a string of exposed light bulbs the pretty one kept laughing nervously and playing with her hair and slipping in and out of her sandals and asking questions about what it was like growing up in a carnival.
     “Like most Carney kids, I had a great time growing up…” The Black Butterfly said, ready to finally begin his big spiel now.
     Sometimes he wondered if anyone would actually believe what he really used to be, a long time ago, when his insides were shiny, and new, and he could get scared in movie houses. He no longer got scared in movie houses. The real horror shows were outside of movie houses. The real horror shows happened every day in front of everyone else and nobody said anything because real horror was just genre work now. Loss of momentum, getting caught in nets, the pursuit of suitable suits, the dull grind, carpools, soccer practice, zombies walking around the streets with gashes and hunger and thought-shaped scars, you saw this too often in too many places to mean anything to anyone now.
     “They called us the Midway Munchkins,” The Black Butterfly said now, slipping his hand through a roll of Duck Tape, then pulling it off and holding it against his cheek to feel its coolness.
     The girl giggled and took another deep swallow. “Cute.”
     “Carneys don’t steal your children.”
     “Uh-huh, sure,” she giggled again.
     “Actually, everyone is always looking out for you, almost like you have an infinite supply of aunts and uncles. They always petted me and gave me pepsi cokes and snacks whenever I showed up at one of their joints. Sugar shacks, that’s what we call them. And of course I always rode all the rides for free.”
     “Duuuude, wish I could have grown up like that,” the pretty one said, probably thinking of aimless Friday nights and Wal-Mart parking lots and never, never having enough money in your pocket. “I would just do the Ferris wheel, probably. You were so lucky. Wudd you call it, business card?”
     “The calling card,” he corrected. He got up and faked a yawn and walked across the trailer now. “The Ferris wheel is called that because it brings a lot of attention to the carnival, it lets the town people know we are here. Would you like another drink? You look like you’re ready for another drink.”
     After he made the girl another drink, he opened a large girl-sized traveling trunk. There were a bunch of stickers all over the trunk and one of them was captioned EVERY CROWD HAS A SILVER LINING. He told the girl to come over now.
     “What’s in the trunk?” asked the girl, trying to push a genuine yawn back down her throat now.
     “Oh, you’ll see.”
     “What’s in the trunk?” she asked again, feeling a little wobbly.
     “Come here.”
     The girl looked at one of her watches and said that she really did have to go now. It was getting late and a bunch of her friends were waiting for her by the gates now. Her boyfriend was there too. He played football. They usually said that too.
     “Not until you come over here,” said The Black Butterfly, trying to smile. It was a horrible smile and as soon as it showed up on his face he knew it was a mistake because it only made the girl more scared now.
     “It’s really, late. Thank you so much for the drink,” said the girl, again, setting her glass down now and trying to steady herself against the wall.
     “Ok, one more story, a quick one, about the carnival life. It’s my favorite. It’s short. I have it memorized. I promise it won’t take more than thirty seconds and you’ll love it.”
     “I can go then?” asked the girl.
     The Black Butterfly went over and unlocked the door and pushed it open and then walked to the other side of the trailer, thus providing no barrier to her escape. “It would mean a lot to me.”
     “Well, it only takes a minute…”
     “Once upon a time,” he began, “there was a pretty one…”
     Her eyes were darker than dark blue and they were not too close-set and he briefly strained to imagine how beautiful they would look once he was finished.
     “One night she dreamed that she was – a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with herself and doing as she pleased. Suddenly she woke up and there she was, solid and unmistakably a real human girl! But she didn’t know if she was the pretty one who had dreamed she was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming she was a pretty one.”
     Her eyes were almost closed now. Soon she would be just yawning and stretching out and helplessly falling into her chemical slumber –full of watercolor dreams and unslain dragons and princesses floating face down forever. His knuckles began to whiten now and he felt full of blood and heat.
     “You look tired, little flower.”
     He continued talking in reassuring tones as he helped the girl sit down now. Her eyes… almost… almost…
     “But… it’s…”
     “You’re sleepy? That’s O.K. Don’t worry, little flower,” said The Black Butterfly, his large black glittering wings were blocking the door and he could tell that she wasn’t going anywhere, she was all his now. He let go of her hand – because he could –and told the pretty one to walk over to the traveling trunk very slowly and open it up.
     “Do you see what’s inside?”
     “The trunk?” she barely managed to say.
     The trick was to give them just enough and let their imagination do the rest of the legwork. Once he learned that his job became a lot easier. “Of course the trunk. What else, my little flower?”
     “It’s –empty.”
     “Want to climb inside?”
     She yawned again and crawled into the girl-sized traveling trunk now and waited there until The Black Butterfly shut the top over her, enclosing the girl in total darkness now with a slight pneumatic sound. He walked across the trailer very slowly again, enjoying this part, this was his very favorite part, and even though he was tired and needed sleep he felt momentarily better. That was O.K., he never slept anyway. He often wondered what kind of person could sleep in a World like this anyway. After he fastened the locks, The Black Butterfly felt very sad and empty and he kept on hearing the same thought over and over again in his head and so he spent a long time looking out the window but there was nobody and nothing in the bone yard now except for the silence and the moon and a piece of bruised fruit on a stick.

About the author:

Like most people, Brandon Wells is the author of an unpublished novel. It is called THE BOY WITH THE BUTTERFLY WINGS, and all of his family and friends really hate it, so it’s probably pretty good. His work has appeared on Atticus Review and the webpage that you are reading right now. (Why you are reading contemporary literature on the computer instead of looking at pictures of hot babes, he will never understand.) He likes to write his thoughts on other people’s pictures here: He is a member of The Young Liars Club.

    2 comments to The Black Butterfly by Brandon Wells

    • Sounds interesting love the premise, love the excerpt. Good luck on your publishing journey!

    • Drew M

      Really intriguing Brandon. A little darker than my normal read, but definitely had me entranced. Interested in finding out what kind of novel/story it is. Let me know when the novel gets published.

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