Andy had just woken up after another excruciatingly long night at the office. He had fallen asleep, cheek to keyboard, tie hanging a little too loose for his professional appearance to allow. His eyes were heavy, as he turned his back against the afternoon sun that beamed into his office through the thin, leafy veil over his window.
“Breathe,” he told himself.
There had been another fire last night, the second one this week. He had been called in, interrupting his attempts to get washed up after a long work day, in the shoddy hotel bathroom he had been staying in. The team needed him to sort through the files that had been recovered from the fire last night at the old seed sorting plant. He lifted his head off of his desk, his half-awake arms slung all around, spilling the dark, mostly coagulated drink he apparently didn’t get to the night before.
“Blood all over my papers, great. Boss man is gonna love this shit,” he exhaled deeply trying to push the stress out. He did his best to sop up the spill off the ruined documents and shoved them all into a drawer. Upon slamming the drawer shut, he paused; the sound mentally transported him to his home. What used to be his home; however long ago that was, he couldn’t remember. It was the happy place he resided before Janice, his once wife, had screamed obscenities at him while pushing him towards the door before finally slamming it in his face and locking it with a distinct click- click- thud.
Warping back to the present, Andy thought to himself another day in paradise. It was time to start his day. He walked over to his office mirror and tried to clean himself up. He straightened up taller, as he inspected his face, looking for signs of youth. Or joy. Or something else that he couldn’t seem to find. The mental checklist began: Face- tired; Body- exhausted, legs- barely working. He gave his entire body a shake to wake up while he prepared to tell his boss what he had discovered and what he had done with the necessary papers he had been put in charge of.
Meanwhile, Ellen, a young, vibrant lepidopterist slash artist, was sitting on her front porch, basking in the glorious sunlight. She had just taken her fourth shot of cinnamon whiskey and was starting to feel the effects. The warmth energized her, inspired her even. She felt the need to create! She set up her easel and plugged in the cheap little boom box underfoot. The radio station blared, static ridden offers from the local law firm guaranteed Ellen a no cost consultation as she collected her paints. A laugh erupted from her throat as she began to pencil out her original design- a rather large vampire moth; stepping back to critique her work so far the urge to smoke a cigarette engulfed her. She struck a match. Watching it fizzle out, she struck another. She actually lit her cigarette on the second attempt. The smoke drifted around her: weightless, acrid, defying gravity, almost as if it were a million tiny moths, devoid of color, slowly making its way around her head.
She was fascinated by all things butterfly and moth. She collected corpses of all kinds: colorful, half intact, legs, wings, whatever she could find. Bottles and bottles of insect parts cluttered the shelves in her bedroom. She was obsessed with her hobbies, though she enjoyed them alone. Her life had been looking up lately, she had expanded her vampire moth collection while she was traveling abroad. She had been feeling particularly artsy recently and had also increased her arsenal of sellable paintings. Ellen was doing just fine.
Back at the office, Andy was not doing fine. His boss was fuming as he tore into Andy’s psyche. He snarled and shouted, saliva flying from his puffy lips. “Andy, you’ve been fucking up long enough. Those documents were ruined by your carelessness! What will we tell the family whose business was destroyed? Do you want to tell them that you didn’t think their remaining assets were important? Now we have no leads! Get out of my office! You are no longer welcome at ForensiCorp.” Andy had nothing to say. He left without grabbing any of his belongings. He silently exited the building, eyes ahead, with no indication to anybody he knew that anything was wrong. He did not wave or nod at any passerby. He simply drug his feet onward, one in front of the other.
It was sunny, though Andy was too locked in his own head to realize the beautiful day that was occurring around him . He had no wife, no home, and now no job. He was low on the three M’s of the successful: money, motivation, and morale. While walking home a bum missing two legs asked him for some change. Andy didn’t even respond, he simply turned to face the bum, upturned his pockets and stared. The strange man laughed, mumbled something about pity and threw a small bag at him. He then closed his eyes, humming until he laid down, oblivious to the world. The bum pulled a cigarette out of a pack and casually lit it, closing his eyes when it began smoking. Andy fingered the small bag. Angrily, he threw the bag back at the man. The small projectile hit the man in the face, bursting and spilling everywhere. This caused the man to cry out, “That was worth something. Why did you fuck it up? Why do you always fuck everything up, Andy?” That this stranger knew him, frightened him. He was so flustered that he snatched up a fistful of the small rocks, the pack of cigarettes, and shoved them in his pocket before running home as quickly as he could.
Ellen had just finished priming her brushes to paint. She was feeling the sort of natural high one gets when they are doing an art project and things are going your way. Stroke by stroke, she mixed her paints according to the dull, muted neutrals necessary for her work. Grays, Browns, Yellows, Whites, a drop or two of Black; Small fan brushes for wings, needle-eye fine tips for detailed hairy antennae, Ellen was on top of the world. She had been singing along with the radio for hours, stopping to smoke, and add more fuel to her painting with whiskey fire, chuckling at the random assortment of absurd radio commercials.
Then came the moment of truth, every artist’s potential crutch: the first stroke of paint on the piece. She pursed her lips and touched brush to canvas. The perfect first line, she thought. This is a good sign. Today is a good day. She continued on in her quest, occasionally stopping to step back and critique herself, making changes if she saw fit.
Andy had made it to his hotel room and retrieved his key card to use on the door. Beep! Beep! Beep! the door rejected his card, and subsequently him. He tried again, Beep! Beep! Beep! Andy jiggled the door knob before kicking the door. Again, the door wouldn’t budge. He made his way to the front of the hotel to speak with management. The lobby was silent as a ghost town, with no sign of life in sight. Furious at the lack of control he had over his day, he went back to his hotel room and punched the window in. Upon his entry into the room Andy discovered that all his belongings had been removed from the room. This was about the time when Andy decided he couldn’t deal with his problems any longer. He had intended to go to a bar and sell whatever the pale yellowy substance was and cigarettes that bum had earlier. At that moment, he decided that it would be better off in his hands. It would be better off in him. With no hesitation, Andy took a drag. He instantly felt a head rush, a relief, a sense of control. The world was spinning and he didn’t understand. He holed himself up in the diminutive bathroom. He stared for quite some time at his reflection before turning the faucet on. Splashing water on his face and eyes, he began to feel strange. It was exhilarating. To feel a feeling such as this was unbeknownst to him, was this what drug users felt like? Andy did not know the substance he had in his possession, but he figured rocks were meant to be crushed and ingested, like those mob bosses in the movies did. After creating a somewhat gritty powdery substance, he did what he thought he should do next, he sucked up the powder. He rubbed it all over his face and eyes. He sat in the bath tub and lit another cigarette to contemplate what he had just done. His thoughts started wandering, he started feeling even more out of control. Andy started to panic, he could feel his heart palpitating and the walls were starting to wiggle. He threw back the curtains, to get out of the confined bathtub. He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, staring back at him was a large brown moth. Many faceted eyes, huge sharp proboscis, monstrous brown, patterned wings, long flexible thorax, all covered in a thin layer of hair and dust. He reached up to feel his face, only to discover to his own terror that he had many small spindly legs, where his hands had once been. It was at that exact moment that Andy the mothman took off flailing through the smashed window, screaming until he fell suddenly, tripping on imaginary object and hurting himself, rendering him unable to fly, or walk. He pulled out a cigarette and lit it, while he tried to think of what to do next.
Ellen was nearing the completion of her latest work of art. She, so far, had flawlessly captured the essence of the Japanese Vampire Moth. The last thing she needed to complete her foreign moth collection in both paintings and her shadow boxed insects, was closer than she thought.
Andy knew amidst all the hysteria in his mind that if he could just get one last puff, he would be fine. He drug himself around the building, each movement taking him closer and closer to the edge of his mental and physical capacity. He finally saw a refuge. Andy had just struck gold. An ashtray, gleaned from the sun, full of butts- smoked, half smoked, full cigarettes, chilling in corners, had rolled away unnoticed. He tried to sneak, haphazardly, to the nicotine oasis the universe had presented to him. He leaned over the edge of the tray, falling in. Andy took a deep breath inward and smiled as he exhaled. He relaxed entirely. His body and soul separated in one last ditch effort to find ultimate peace. He had finally found his home.
Completing her Calyptra portrait, she looked for her ash tray to put out the flaming tobacco in her hand. She spied an odd shape resting among the cigarette butts and leaned closer for inspection. Shrieking in excitement on discovering a new specimen, Ellen had just struck gold. She ran inside to grab her forceps and tenderly picked up Andy’s tiny, lifeless body. She admired its pale powdery, fuzziness in the light. She placed him inside her shadow box, carefully adjusting his remains. A satisfied grin crept across her face. She picked up the stick pin. She admired how it gleaned from the light of her desk lamp for a moment.
Andy felt nothing as the stick pin drove straight through his chest.
In death, he would be forever more beautiful.