Butterflies book cover

“A thrilling read that will take your breath away. Hold on for the ride of your life.”

– Dr. Melissa Caudle, author of ‘The Keystroke Killer’ series

Butterflies

Talhah Fadzillah

Nolan Reed is a strange man to say the least. There are these butterflies living inside him, and they hustle and bustle endlessly in his tummy and head.

And then there’s Elin Erynnis, a colleague with a severe facial disfigurement which Nolan has an unhealthy obsession for. When she enters Nolan’s erratic life, they get off to a good start, but then he endeavours to uncover her mysterious circumstances, unveiling a broken, twisted and tragic past.

What secrets are derived from a relationship between two lonely souls? Does this winding path lead only to unnerving madness? What happens when the thoughts in your head begin to seep into reality? Nolan delves deep into the rabbit hole to find out for himself.

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Reviews

Butterflies horror novel, psychological thriller review
J.J. Jawahir, from Singapore
5/5

“A very interesting read. I couldn’t put it down. I like the twist.”

Butterflies horror novel by Talhah Fadzillah, Mahfuz Hossain review
Mahfuz Hossain
5/5

“This book kept me engrossed all the way. Beautifully written, with sheer plot twist that peaks curiosity and keeps you wanting to know more.”

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about the author

Talhah Fadzillah, indie fiction author from Malaysia, writes horror, psychological thrillers and more, is frequent on subreddit nosleep

Talhah Fadzillah

Malaysian indie fiction author and introverted oddball, Talhah typically writes dark, atmospheric stories that evoke introspection.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Maybe

How do I tell her what happened today? Maybe I could drop in a hint, like, “Hey. Maybe, just maybe, I don’t think it’s safe for you to be sitting here, using this desk. It makes me… uneasy.”

Sounds stupid, even in my head. Why would she ask for a cubicle swap just because I had a ‘gut feeling’ anyway?

The window is open. The sounds outside help me sleep, or at least makes another sleepless night somewhat endurable, even pleasant at times. I’m in the sofa, then standing at the window, arms folded on the windowsill, chin on my folded arms. Staring at the full moon. The wispy clouds, the luster of the stars on the big black backdrop of the night.

And then I’m in my recliner.

In your ears, you hear the wind and the whizzing of the few cars zooming past down in the streets. There are people out there who can afford to go places past midnight. No early days to wake up to; no work maybe.

Close your eyes and you’re any one of them. Strolling through back alleys, or sitting on the pavement of a closed café, or standing under the fluorescent light of a high-rise’s parking garage. I’m not looking down from the high-rise; I’m looking down the pathway between the pillars in the parking garage.

These are what the pleasant parts of the sleepless nights are like.

Beyond the pathway and pillars there’s a half-wall looking out at a building with its face of glass walls. From what you see, you count four or five lights on inside the building. You see one guy inside there, working. Maybe he’s saying deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. His hands, shoulders, neck, all tensed up. He’s tugging on the sides of his hair, like clawing at his temples. And then he’s staring out the glass wall at the street below and you’re staring at him.

And then I’m sitting on the stairwell of the high-rise. In the quietness you can hear the sleepy buzzing of the wavering fluorescent light above. My ceiling fan is whirring, mixing in with sounds outside the window and inside my head. In the stairwell, you hear the whizzing of the cars out on the streets, the sounds bouncing between slabs of concrete walls.

Your body’s in the sofa but I’m at so many places all at once.

Maybe I don’t even have to say it to her. Besides, we’ve never talked. We see each other every workday. In the mornings, we see each other on either side of the street outside the office tower. She’s on one side; I’m on the other. We always only just smile, nod… wave. It’s always been like that between us, but then all of a sudden I’m going up to her and going, “Hey, hi, uh, so, uh, safety. Change cubicle.” No, that’s never happened; we’ve never talked. How awkward it would be. So, instead, it could be like…

I could…

What could I do?

Break her desk. How? Slip and fall. Dumbass klutz style. Headfirst, slap right in the middle of her desk. I’m no klutz exactly but I certainly look the part—slack-jawed, loose-limbed and all.

I’d go that far? Just to get her to change her cubicle? Why do I care about this so much? Because you like her. I like her because nobody wants to be near her. They keep their distances like she’s a stink bomb. Workmates running their eyes over her, gossiping either in arrogance or in disgust. She’s just munching on her croissant, sipping on her white coffee.

There was this abandoned house two blocks away from where I used to live. A huge one, a mansion. Discolored walls full of holes, broken windows. Junk and rubble scattered about around the porch. If you want to know what silence sounds like, it sounded like this place.

My sister, she’s older than me by a year. She was thirteen; I was twelve. My sister and I, when we were kids, we went there in the broad daylight.

Sunlight breaking in from the holes in the walls, through broken windows, illuminating dust particles floating around our faces. Crumbled paint. Rubble crumbling down from the ceiling, littering the ground floor. Plots of absent floorboards, apertures to black nothingness.

Everything inside’s grey or black or rusty red and brown, rarely anything white, only speckles and patches. You can tell, when people were living here, everything was mostly white then. Now, barely.

There’s nothing much on the ground floor. Make your way up the stairs, up to the first floor, to the first room on the right. Your sister’s close behind you.

Nothing. A broken window with its shards and slivers of glass splayed across the floor. Greying walls. Cobwebs. Dust. A rotting 2-by-4 leaning against a corner. A wooden platform bed frame leaning against the other wall. Creepers climbing up to the windowsill. Other than all that, it’s just emptiness.

The room on the left, though. That place was magic to me. The mood in there… magical. This room’s even emptier than the other. Except, in the center, there’s half a mannequin just there. Just torso, shoulders and head. That mannequin, there’s a crack across her face and a hole in the back of her head. You can see the light entering from the window and through the hole in her head, lighting up her face and exiting the crack. This mannequin is smiling. She gives me the same feelings I have for this girl: Elin.

Every morning, those butterflies in my stomach, every morning, are bustling, bustling. I’m passing her by. The butterflies are shouting, “Don’t look don’t look!

“No, don’t!

“Yes, no, look!

“Don’t! No!”

I sneak a glance every morning, out of the side of my eye.

So, I’ll hurt myself for this. I’d go that far. Really? Just for how I feel about her, I’d hurt myself, tumbling down, side of my head or my ribs or my elbow crashing down on the desk’s edge, just for this? No, yes. It’s really not safe for her to be here, sitting here, seven, eight, nine hours, five days a week.

No. Scrap. A desk wouldn’t break that easily. This is the dumbest idea. And it’s a cubicle. At what angle do I have to place myself to come plummeting down on her desk like that, let alone break it. And then her keyboard, monitor screen, it’d all be broken, malfunctioning and whatnot. And then her interrupted workload. I can’t see her getting pissed off, and that’s the sad part. She’s just standing there, croissant in hand, looking at her spilled white coffee, chewing so slowly. I can see her crying and that’s the even sadder part.

No, maybe she doesn’t have to change cubicles.

You move in beside her. For protection, of course.

Could I stomach those feelings every day though? If I do this, it’ll fade eventually. It’d be normal… eventually. Hopefully.

So, could this be it? Have a seat beside her every workday, every work hour.

Why do I like her so much? I like her because nobody likes her. Because she doesn’t talk much. Because there are rumors being passed around. Workmates analyzing her, assuming what she’s like, who she is, where and what she’s from.

Mostly, they’re scared. They’re scared mostly because half of her face is all scarred up and burnt off from her brow to her cheek to her burnt-off ear. For this particular reason however, those butterflies in my tummy go up the pole, off their rockers, up my brain, into my thumping heart, everywhere.

I sneak a glance, every morning, mostly at the hole for an eye, the outline of the empty eye-socket chased with scars. I sneak a glance at where her ear should be. The lack of flesh and skin and fat. Sunken cheek. All the scars. I’m walking slowly, looking at her out of the side of my eye, from over the cubicle wall. She’s only looking at her screen, eating her croissant, absolutely oblivious to my long-drawn-out ‘sneaky glance’. 

The butterflies are shouting, “Sick! You sick man!

“You looked!

“Discolorations! Disproportions!

“Repulsion!

“Attraction!”

The butterflies are howling, cheering, booing, grabbing my heart by his collar, shaking him back and forth. Punching him. “Repulsion-attraction! Equality!” Making fires around my ears. “It’s so sick it’s good!” Trying to burst out of the back of my head.

“I want touch!” they shout, or, “No don’t don’t!”

“Contain, contain, contain…” I call this guy the wisdom butterfly. He’s like the butterfly government. That’s all he says: “Contain, contain. Contain.” The wisdom butterfly, he brings me to the toilet sink and splashes water over my face. “Contain.”

All kinds of butterflies bustling in my stomach, every morning, walking down that aisle.

So, could this be it? Move in beside her? Maybe, maybe not.

Yeah, no, maybe it’s the easier way and maybe the way I want it to be, in a way. But the smarter, better way? Nope. Not the way wisdom butterfly approves of. Wisdom butterfly wants you to approach her slowly. Get to know her. Protect. Respect. Develop a connection in a way that doesn’t feed the bad butterflies.

“Contain.”

Wisdom butterfly also wants you to work uninterrupted.

Maybe I just give it to her straight. Cut to the chase. Tell her exactly what’s going on.

Somedays, I see her munching on a donut, not a croissant. Most days, it’s a croissant, but you can’t have two croissants, so get her a donut, a Boston cream if I’m not mistaken—I pay attention to the details, all with just my ‘sneaky glances.’ She’s a sweet tooth.

Cut to the chase.

Nod, smile, wave, give it to her straight:

“Hi, Elin. So, yesterday, I saw some guy under your desk. Just, he wasn’t really a real person; maybe you didn’t see him, but he really was really there…

“I just thought you should know, it’s not safe for you to be sitting here working with this guy living under your desk like this. You should maybe ask for a new cubicle.”

That’s not going to happen.

“You’re crazy!” Your sister tells you this all the time. And she follows that up with a maniacal laugh. Irony.

And when you were kids, your sister wakes you up and she says she can’t sleep because she hears teeth chattering. “It’s really fast, and it’s really loud,” she says, baggy eyes twitching, unfocused, widened in horror but also glazed over with sleepiness. And she calls me crazy. Irony.

She’s twelve; you’re eleven. You’re like her wisdom butterfly, except you say more than just “Contain.” You tell her that it can get worse than that. But there’s always something you can do about it; you have to find that part out yourself.

For the most part, here’s what I do. Don’t try shutting down the brain. There is no ‘off’ switch. The sounds may not disappear; it may even get even louder. You run and you hide but it keeps finding you. But there has to be something you can do, right?

For me, I’ve found many switches inside my brain that takes me places, like some of the pleasant places I am tonight. I tell my sister something along these lines… and then I can’t sleep because I hear the chattering teeth, too. So, we’re in the living room watching cartoons.

Despite how dismissive we may be sometimes, we tell each other everything and we believe. Maybe you can have something like this with Elin. Wisdom butterfly approves of this. It can start by protecting her tomorrow. Protect Elin from that ‘guy’ under her desk.

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