There I was, standing pitifully in front of the wreckage of the world. An unremarkable grain among the ruins of the fallen metropolises. A blur along the horizon, polluted by the soot and rot of the city I had once roamed.
And there you were, the most beautiful thing left in this destroyed world. The last marvel placed so unsuitably in the rubble, for someone as lovely as you surely deserved to be preserved in a beautiful place for everyone to see. An angel who had come down due to the catastrophe of the end to be the savior of those who remained. Perhaps that’s what those half-wrecked survivors believed, looking at you.
Yet I could see the mirthful smile in your eyes, half-hidden to the untrained eye behind a thin veil of despair, and I knew it best.
You were the catalyst.
And I was the one who had said to you that I would love you no matter what back then.
Even then, looking at you among all of the rubble and broken dreams, those words didn’t feel any less true to me.
So there we were; a girl so bland and unremarkable that the few left would not even notice if she had disappeared, and another so beautiful that the hopelessness of the world would swell and fester with her disappearance.
A mismatched pair even then.
But like a moth to light, I could not get enough of you.
I had always thought, since the first time we met, that you were beautiful. So much so, that to have loved you properly was something impossible to even comprehend for something like me.
Still, you sauntered over to me that day as you always did, and like clockwork, I fell to my knees before you. Worshipping your presence. Even though you had achieved your first goal, you still came back to me.
“What are you doing?” you asked. Then you walked up to me, grabbing my chin and raising my head to look up into your eyes rather than at the cracked concrete.
“My use,” that ever-so pathetic voice uttered, “is over. You no longer need me.”
The look you gave me was incredulous, like I had proposed that some structure remained in all of the rubble before us.
Then you sighed. “I thought I’d shown you this time and time again. Enough that by now, you would know that I merely love you.”
I’d thought that you’d only believed I was “salvageable,” a word you threw around too often when speaking about your plans for the fate of humanity. You would gather those who believed the same things as you about our world and occasionally choose the wrong person, so by then, you did not easily invite new people. And I, having known you for ages and loving you more than anyone else, was the easiest to string along without fear of exposure.
I remember the feeling your love gave me. Like thousands of tiny sets of wings were flapping within me, fluttering from my stomach to my heart. The flapping of their desperate attempt to reach for higher, an escort away from the earthbound sound of your voice to the meanings of those declarations you made so easily. The same way I have always become when you swear your love.
Even now, when I think of those moments, the wings of those butterflies brush my heart.
“You deserve better,” I answered. But I know you could see my reddened cheeks, and you smiled that same smile. Almost as if you had just done something wonderful. I suppose that, in your eyes, you had.
“There is no better to me,” you responded, “I love you dearly. Even if I die or if we separate, I have always loved you more than anyone else. Please never forget that.”
I only nodded, knowing too well that I did not see why you did.
Then you looked up towards the sky. The destruction then was newfound, and the moon and stars were still visible. When I followed your gaze, I watched stars twinkle down at us.
“Look. They’ve forgiven us.”
I nodded again, too distracted by the beauty that the universe beyond this horrific world would offer.
“My apologies for going off on a tangent, but I used to think this world was a caterpillar. But when I look up at the stars like this, I know better.”
“A…caterpillar?” I repeated.
“I thought that…I could give this world a cocoon. Then, maybe, it’d become a butterfly. But we’ve grown up now. I don’t think it’s possible anymore.”
I regretted asking, for the defeated look on your face felt like a dagger to my heart. The fluttering feeling halted with your somber expression.
“This world is a twisted, ugly thing. and humanity was always going to be the one to tear it down. I just thought…I could be the one to take on that burden for those who are salvageable. But I suppose I brought you into this as well. I’m sorry.”
“No!” I exclaimed at that melancholic confession.
“…I chose this life. And I love you too. Besides, you’re right. But now that we’ve torn down society, maybe…maybe it will become a butterfly, after all!”
I had hardly spoken in quite a while, not since the weight of the world had finally occurred to me. And I could see the shock registering in your expression as I finished, to which I quietly apologized. And you smiled, lightly tracing my cheeks with your delicate fingers.
“I know now why I love you so much. You always know just what to say.” You declared finally and released me in lieu of sitting down beside me. Then you turned silently back to the wreckage.
We didn’t speak after that; we watched the flames consume the rubble together, nothing but voyeurs to the dreams of the past flaring and turning to ash. We watched the smoke and the sound of screams rise in unison. We tasted the rot of the air as everything disgusting and bitter came together, drinking in the taste of the pollution.
The fire sparked, splitting miniscule burning pieces of what were once buildings off and into the air. They flew upwards, happily flapping their wings and guiding the flames toward the sky, following your will to leave this world behind.
And distantly, despite the taste of the smoke in my mouth and the scent of the air being grotesque, I thought it was a pleasure.
You rested quietly against my body, and I knew that it must be true.
It was a pleasure to burn for you.