Butterfly Tears | Ghosh Nod

I’m more animal than human. Perhaps that’s why I shy away from people. Spent a lifetime drifting from town to town. A loner. Some call me vagabond, others thief.

When I suppress the wildness in me, I linger in one place for a while.
Once stayed in a town called Kailua, worked in an abattoir, but left after a month. Couldn’t face killing my own kind.

In Zanoni, I tried to join the police force. They rejected me for my short stature and other deficiencies. Met a woman there, but she left saying she found me cold.

Must have been my reptilian endocrinology.

Things have looked up since September. I found a hospital job, measuring brain waves to see what’s happening in people’s heads.
I like my work.

On Sundays, I serve tea and soup to the homeless, people who’ve lost more than I ever had. It erases the stain on my character.
Lately, I’ve been getting pains in my head. Lifting things is a struggle. Tea bags can get awful heavy, especially Earl Grey and rooibos.

I ought to see a doctor or a vet, but that could end badly. I’d likely wind up being dissected in a laboratory once they discovered my cat’s heart and chicken pancreas. From the outside, I look like anyone else, but people see what they want to.

They need you to be like them.

I sense their duplicity through compound eyes.

The doctors I work with have bushy beards and crisp dry-cleaned skirts.
‘Fetch me those reports,’ they say. Or, ‘Today we’ll be busy Do we have enough electrodes?’

We discover what makes people sick and check their medication.
But we can’t tell if they’re sad by analysing their alpha rhythms, or whether there’s such a state as true happiness.

One evening I struggle to pull the plastic cover over the electroencephalograph. Feeling faint, I clutch my head in both hands. Dr. Exter walks past the door.

‘Are you all right?’ His face is creased with concern.

‘I’m feline fine.’ I say. My joke is lost on Exter.

‘Something’s wrong,’ he says. ‘Shall I check you over?’

Exter’s stethoscope twists from his neck, a rubber serpent with ears where its teeth ought to be.

‘No − no, please − ‘

I wake to a monotonous hum, recognise the cylindrical contours of an M.R.I. scanner.

Vague outlines shift in the control room, where a fracas of sorts takes place. Raised arms. Heightened gestures. I see their lips move, but can’t hear what they say.

Can they see my camelid teeth? My pygmy shrew kidneys? My lonely thoughts? Do the lepidopterous lacrimal glands show on the screen?
It doesn’t matter. They’ll know I’m crying anyway.

A butterfly tear creeps across my cheek and drips towards my ear. I roll out my proboscis and lick its salty sadness.

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