She thought it was just a regular stomach ache. Those had been consistent for a while now. However for some reason she could not explain, she knew this one was different. “What is this feeling?” she asked herself. She felt like she had severely overeaten and her hurting stomach was her punishment. She no longer felt comfortable in the silvery body hugging long-sleeved night-dress she had on, and to make it worse, she could barely move to find a more comfortable position.
She tried to remember if she had felt like this before. Her memories were always vivid, and she knew that if she had ever felt like this, she would remember. Her memories kept her company a lot these days, but in a not so distant past, when she was younger, things were not like this. She remembered so many things about a more eventful past and remembered them so very well. She remembered how she would crawl on the floor of the playgroup, picking scraps of anything she thought was food, and stuff them into her ever busy mouth. She was slightly fatter than the other kids in the playgroup, but she didn’t care because she was smarter and more athletic than the rest- athleticism being measured by her ability to reach corners of the playground that the others hadn’t discovered, and of course, her ability to stuff what she termed forgotten bits of happiness into her mouth. She remembered the taste of those little bits of happiness, some dewy, some fresh and some quickly spat out to avert a taste bud catastrophe.
She did not consider herself different from the other kids in the playgroup, but for some reason, they treated her differently. They called her fat and ugly, but in all reality, although she admitted that she weighed a bit more than the others, she couldn’t understand why they would call her ugly, when she thought they all looked equally hideous when dressed in the green uniform of the playgroup.
This was how she felt until the day everything changed. On this particular day, just before dawn broke, she was roused from sleep by someone who gave her a silvery hooded silk night-dress and this stranger instructed her to wear it. She did not disobey the stranger, and immediately wore the dress, loving its silky feel and wondering what she did right to deserve such a beautiful dress. For the first time, her memory failed her and she couldn’t remember who gave her the dress or why she obeyed the instruction to put it on. However, she did have a faint memory of the person warning her not to take the dress off or else she risked the chance of something horrible happening to her.
She liked the dress she was given. It flowed easily over her body, moved slightly when the wind blew and covered up what the other kids called her extra belly. She was eager to show it off to the other kids and maybe for the first time, she would be different for something good. She woke up early the next day and waited for the other kids to arrive at the playground. The other kids did arrive, but they did not arrive with the reaction she expected. Instead of expressing awe at the silk dress they didn’t have, the spat out new labels for her. “Weird, strange, silly,” they chanted, over and over as they laughed in the language of hate and rejection. She could not understand why no one appreciated her new dress and all she could do was to stay in one place and cry. She covered her face with the hood of the dress to hide the tears, and the rest of the dress covered all her shame.
From that moment, she never moved. She felt the venom of those hateful words twisting her insides, and that was when she began to have trouble with her stomach. She remained on that spot, nursing the hate, tending the wounds and wondering why she deserved such treatment. She was not even motivated to go in search of those little bits of happiness, and she cared little for anything in the world. She resolved to stay right there, in the comfort of her silky dress, and in that resolve, she discovered that she needed nothing more than what she already had to survive.
This was her story until a few minutes ago, when her stomach ache took a different dimension. She had nursed the venom for so long and it seemed like it was going to finally kill her. She tried to throw up, but was not able to. She grunted and tried to move, but she had been in the same position for so long, that she didn’t know how to. She heard laughter around her. Maybe the other kids could see her struggle and were laughing again, but she couldn’t see them since the hood still covered her face.
Then she started to feel suffocated and could not understand why. Her dress felt too tight and she could not breathe. The silk of her dress became abrasive and in that moment she knew that even her trusted dress had decamped to the other side and had also turned against her. “No” she tried to scream, but the words did not come out of her mouth. Her vision became a blur and her thoughts were a million miles ahead of her. She was dazed but she didn’t see stars. Instead, she saw circles, weaving in and out of triangles. Yellow, blue and purple circles, yellow, blue and purple triangles. Her body began to fight, and she knew that the real enemy was not the other kids, instead, it was that silk dress that had so long been disguised as a friend. She knew that she had to let go of the venom in her heart against the other kids and fight this battle for her life. So she continued to fight, because it was a fight till death. The dress had to die or she would die. There was no other option.
In this moment of intensity, her memory became clearer than ever before, and she remembered the kind twinkly dark brown eyes of the woman who gave her the dress just before dawn. She remembered that the woman’s hair was the same silvery colour of the silk dress, and a warm orange glow encompassed the woman. Most importantly, she finally remembered the instructions the woman gave, “don’t dare take off this dress until it is time, or the horrible will happen to you.” Those were the exact words, and somehow in the middle of fighting for her life, she knew that it was time.
She tore the dress.
She took three hurried breaths.
She took one deep breath.
She stretched a little.
She fully regained her breath.
Her memory never failed her, which is why she was sure that she had never in her life, felt this alive. She felt new and free and light. She also felt stares all around her. The other kids had watched her struggle, but she could not understand why they looked at her the way they did. Then she heard the familiar words, “weird, strange, silly,” but she knew something was different because they were not laughing. It was as if they were afraid of her, but had to say those words because they knew nothing else to say.
It was at this point that she noticed that she had wings, and they were beautiful, with yellow, blue and purple designs on them, and then she laughed, and laughed, and again remembered the twinkle in the woman’s eyes. For a fleeting moment, she almost regretted that she was too engrossed in her pain, to notice her own evolution. Her evolution from being a green caterpillar to becoming a multi-coloured butterfly.
She spread her new-found wings and flew away, with the chants of “weird, strange, silly” fading into the background. She looked down at her ex-playmates and did not despise any of them, because she knew they were an important part of her journey, even though she didn’t enjoy their contribution. She also did not despise the trusted dress that turned on her, because she knew that the woman of the dawn had designed the process that way, and that the dress had served its purpose. She then tore her face away from the past and soared higher in search of new bits of happiness. From a higher plane, she again looked all around her, and she knew she was being introduced to her new playmates.
The ocean said to her, “Welcome pretty one”
The sand grunted a reluctant “Hello”
The sun said “Your colours will shine as bright as me”
The wind said “I will take you wherever you dare”
And the flowers said “Come to me, and I will make you a new home”