A Short Story: The Butterfly Effect

Not Daydreamer Chronicles related, just a short story that I had a go at recently. So if you are desperate for a very quick tale of a butterfly secret agent and his adventures, this is (most unexpectedly) exactly the story for you.

THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT

The butterfly flapped its wings. Small, blue, and almost completely unnoticed amongst the gathering crowds. It flitted between the banners and placards, stopping only to rest for a moment on the bobble hat of an excitable child, before flying off again.

Even though it was late November, Bertram had a bit of a sweat on. It had taken a lot out of him to fly so far, but he had an important job to do, so pushing on through his tiredness he managed another few flaps before coming to a rest on a handily placed traffic cone.

It was a big responsibility, but he had worked his abdomen off to get here, to be in this moment, assigned as Chief Agent.

He puffed up his tiny butterfly chest and took a moment to enjoy the sensation. It was already past midday and he still had a few things left to do, but he felt he deserved a couple of seconds to bask in quiet pride.

For centuries butterflies had been flapping their wings in just the right place at just the right time, keeping the world on course. It was a huge responsibility and only the very best graduated from CBS (Chaos Butterfly School). Bertram had been top of his class in every subject.

  • Chaos theory
  • Efficient nectar extraction
  • World history
  • Close combat – a specially adapted version of kung-fu which involved flapping about the place like an idiot and being careful not to hit your wings against anything sharp, wet, solid or rough

He had aced them all, scoring close to full marks in every single test. True he had made some enemies along the way. Some of the other graduates from the academy hadn’t taken kindly to his competitive nature, but now was his chance to show them what ‘goody six shoes’ had made of himself.

He’d started off with simple assignments, obviously beneath his skills, but even Heads of Department had to start somewhere, so Bertram had carried out every task he had been assigned with admirable diligence and professionalism, never missing the chance to do that little bit extra, to get himself noticed.

It was the basic application of nudge theory. Landing on Mr. X’s shoulder and creating just enough of a gust with his wings to make him turn his head and spot Mrs. Y across a crowded room. Do it a few times over the course of the night and the humans add their own narrative. Deciding when their eyes meet for the third or fourth time that it must be fate or destiny, not just the subtle influence of the small blue butterfly that nobody paid any attention to.

Those early missions had been far more suited to one of his less able classmates, but he had kept his eyes on the big prize at the end of it all, and at each and every step he had proved his commitment. Now he had landed the big one, he was Chief Agent on a Level One mission. All he had to do was make sure that today went off without a hitch.

It was a tumultuous time in world history and the butterfly governing council had been working overtime to keep things on track. More wings had been flapped in the last twelve months than the previous five years, but even so tensions had been growing, resulting in something the humans referred to as the ‘Cold War’. Bertram shook his antenna in despair, how did they even come up with these names. He had been assigned to several wars as his career had progressed, and none of them had been even slightly chilly. The ‘Loud War’, or the ‘Scary War’, certainly, but never ‘cold’.

Still, enough reminiscing he thought to himself, it was time to get on with the job at hand. He had to make sure that things went smoothly today, and if it did… one big step closer to Head of Department. His heart jumped at the prospect.

The first stage had gone incredibly well, the humans had made their way from the quaintly named Dallas Love Field without incident. As far as Bertram was concerned that was the hard bit of the mission dealt with. It always made him nervous when the humans tried flying. It’s not like they were designed to do it, and the strange metal devices they used to cut through the air always looked far too solid and weighty to skirt the clouds. Compared, the rest of the day should be pretty straightforward. A quick drive, lunch with local dignitaries, and then the return journey. When that was complete, he would be able to rest, his job done.

Just to make extra sure that things went smoothly, Bertram had flapped his wings vigorously enough to flip over the page of one of the human’s small notebooks, drawing his attention to a slightly faster route for the VIP’s car to follow. He didn’t want to leave anything to chance, so even shaving a few minutes off the day’s itinerary was worthwhile. The less time things took, the closer he would be to a safe return home and a successful, trauma free mission.

Deciding to find a spot where he could oversee the rest of the day from a reasonable vantage point, Bertram spiralled off away from the road and the crowds. He was briefly tempted by the pleasant, soft looking grass of nearby hillock, but it didn’t give him quite the view he wanted. Plus, it was already occupied by a small group of men in dark suits who had swatted at him as he had fluttered overhead.  

Off in the distance Bertram spotted a tall building that seemed perfect, the top floor just the right height to oversee the streets below perfectly.

As Bertram reached the stark façade, he realised with frustration that the nearest window was closed. He gave a small sigh of exasperation. He was starting to get pretty chilly, butterflies being very much a summer creature at heart. Then he spotted a small vent just below the nearest windowsill, just the right size for a butterfly who was a two-time amateur limbo champion to wriggle his way through.

As he emerged into the room beyond the vent Bertram realised the room wasn’t empty, as he had first hoped it would be. There was a lone man in the room with him, although he paid Bertram no attention.

The man was of medium height, slim, and sweating. Bertram watched as he tried several times to open the window, but it was firmly locked and was resisting his strenuous efforts. It wasn’t a surprise that the man was getting so hot, stripping down to a plain white t-shirt. Someone had turned the heating in the repository all the way up and closed the windows against the chill of the November air outside.

Bertram tutted to himself. Humans paid so little attention to their surroundings, it was one of the reasons that the subtle little prods that Butterflies sent their way worked so well and so often.

There was a small key just to one side that the man hadn’t spotted, which must have fallen from the windowsill and was now nestled in the crevice between the wall and the floor. It wasn’t part of his mission, but Bertram’s mantra had always been to go above and beyond. Promotions didn’t come knocking for those who just did the minimum, and Bertram was a butterfly going places.

Shaking his wings loose, Bertram calculated the ideal spot to draw the man’s attention to the keys hiding place. With a quick burst of energy, he fluttered off to perch on a long case that the man had left on the floor, being careful not to scuff the small brass nameplate, engraved with the name ‘Carcano’.

Bracing himself, Bertram gave one quick flap, just enough for the resulting gust to tickle the man’s cheek. Scratching his chin, the man turned and looked down, his eyes lighting up when he spotted the key, just as Bertram had planned.

“Must be my lucky day,” the man drawled to himself, quickly unlocking the window and popping it wide open, lifting the case to rest it on the windowsill. Spotting the butterfly perched on top he flapped at it absentmindedly, before resting his hand back on top of the case and staring intently down onto the crowded scene below.

“Bloody typical,” Bertram muttered to himself, gliding his way back down to street level. You go out of your way to help someone and that’s all the thanks you get. Still, he had helped someone iron out a little wrinkle in their life, which could only result in some bonus points when his mission was reviewed.

In the distance the parade of cars had started to snake its way towards him, weaving through the crowds. Bertram looked across at the nearby clock tower. It was nearly 12.30, and everything was going smoothly, just a couple more hours and the VIP would be on his way back, another mission complete. He smiled to himself, convinced that he had covered every possible eventuality, a job well done.

The time ticked on to 12.29.

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