Butterfly Women by Phuoc-Tan Diep

Butterfly Women

Falling rain freezes and shatters on hardened skin, spreading shards of cold. The sky morphs from seraph blue to the dark red of prostitution.

Black leather encases her as she huddles in shadow with hail shouting out her presence. The Collectors are out with their nets as the first night of autumn falls. The moon is already out, taking its place to watch The Unfolding.

Leather creaks as muscles stretch, preparing for the flight. Her slow ugliness is gone, the fatness of youth replaced by maturity.

She is hidden. They will not find her until she appears. The taint of her former life – gluttony and the sins of the flesh are metamorphosed. In her past she tantalised men, offering more flesh than they could cope with.

Now she is clean, a new being within her hardened skin. Memories of that life will lie discarded soon enough.

It is time – adrenaline surges in waves, each one engulfing the previous. Her fear splits like the cocoon shedding around her. She stands, multicoloured, beautiful and naked. Her wings unfold filling the night with honeyed sweat – the breeze strokes her body to dryness.

Shouts erupt from below. Bright beams highlight her nakedness. She feels no shame, no guilt – they drip off her as water onto the ground. She is free of their taint.

She jumps beneath the screech of nets. She crumples into a ball and falls. The nets entangle the cocoon above her. Suddenly, she stretches out filling the night with kaleidoscopic colours, as lights pierce translucent wings. She flies, fast, angling close to buildings, dodging nets and wires.

The stars are bright and clear in a patch of sky. There is no dust veiling them. It is a break in the glass. She aims for it. Beams crisscross the sky, lighting up many others trying for freedom.

She wonders how many of these women will find freedom from the nets of men.

• Dr Phuoc-Tan Diep says of himself: “I am in my early thirties and am just starting to enjoy the realms of writing and creating worlds. My day job is a pathologist – I cut up dead bodies and tell other doctors that their patients' have cancer.”

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