The sun rose, filtering through the (towering) cedars all around me, and the air was full of green smells. The wind rustled with a predatory beat in the underbrush. Sunlight edged the mountains. In the empty space where two dipped to meet, a fist-sized blaze illuminated the further pines.
I pushed forward to kneel beside Leeloo. I felt her throat and her pulse beat there steadily, despite her stillness. Her hands were cold — I tugged off my mittens and put them on hers, first holding each hand between my own, rubbing it and holding it to my lips to blow on it, trying to warm them. I strained to listen, but only heard the wind in the trees, the distant chuckle of water.
There was something white, high in the cedars, shimmering in the green-shrouded dark.
I squinted upward, shivering. It seemed too warm for snow to linger in the boughs. The blotches of white, like moss, like lichen — were they ghosts? Some demonic fire? What were the limits of this world?
The sun crept forward, and dawn overtook the world, light dancing in the cedars.
They were butterflies, white butterflies, clinging en masse in between the green fans of leaves. Beautiful. For a still moment I stared upwards. I wished I had a camera, but it would have been one of those pictures that simply couldn’t turn out, impossible to catch the light, the significance, the utter perfectness of it.
A bird chirped somewhere and all the butterflies stirred at once.
That should have been even more beautiful but somehow it wasn’t. It was as chilling as a bit of ice dropped down the back. Because there was an alertness to it, an edge as sharp as any claw, that did not say prey.
I shook Leeloo’s shoulder but she didn’t stir. “This would be a really good time for you to wake up,” I said.
The butterflies fluttered into the air at the sound of my voice.
I didn’t say it aloud, but I certainly thought it. Oh shit.