All around him there was the sound of flutes. The music made him think of the movement of butterflies caught in the wind.
A woman came towards him, seeming to float rather than walk. She had light brown hair that framed her face in a riot of curls. “I’m Susan. Welcome to Silver Springs, Alexander.” She had large brown eyes and Alexander could see himself in them. “What do you desire?”
It was the same question that was on their advertisement and had been what had caught his attention. He looked at it for a while thinking, what did he desire? He wanted the things that others wanted: more money, a bigger house, a better car; but what did he really want? That’s what the billboard seemed to be asking him.
There was one thing he wanted above all others. He was afraid to utter it aloud however. He’d never even said it out loud to himself. “I’m sorry.” Alexander said thickly, swallowing.
Susan looked at him with those dark brown eyes. “It’s all right Alexander. You have nothing to be afraid of. But if you don’t tell me, there’s not much I can do.”
Letting out a sigh, he closed his eyes and relaxed. He let his breath out and said that which he had kept secret within the dark halls of his mind. “I want love.” He whispered fiercely. A tear slid down his face and he did nothing to brush it away.
“There now, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” He heard a bottle being opened and the scent of lavender filled the air. “Why was that so hard to say?”
Alexander opened his eyes. “Because I’ve spent my life keeping everyone away.” He let out a little chuckle and could have sworn he felt Susan smile softly. “Why would I keep everyone away if I want love?”
“Human’s are strange beings. It’s often that way.” Susan said softly. “You often run away from what you want most.” She gave him a sweet smile. “Walk with me.”
She took his left elbow and they walked through a store that was a sea of colour. As they kept walking, he wondered how big the store was. It was like they could go on walking forever. Eventually they stopped. They were inside of a room that was draped with white fabric.
“At Silver Springs we do what is called Soul Therapy. We align your body with your spirit so that you can be who you need to be to obtain what you desire.”
Alexander was taken aback. “You mean like plastic surgery?”
Susan let out a soft laugh that reminded Alexander of the flute music he had heard when he had first entered. “No, nothing like that. We merely align your soul with the rest of you. When a child is born, there is soul inside of them. Just like your body grows, so does that soul, like a small seed filled with light. Like a tree, it can sometimes grow in odd shapes. We find a way to make sure your soul fills all of you, that’s all.”
Moving closer to him, she held out her arm. “Grab hold, Alexander. We’re going to go on a journey.”
“What do you mean? What kind of journey?”
She tapped a finger on his forehead. “A journey in here. It won’t take very long, but I hope it will show us what we want to know. We’re just going to take a quick hop back to your past.”
He looked at her arm with some trepidation. She took his hands in her own and warmth sped through Alexander’s body at her touch. “Trust me.”
Despite his fear, he thought that trusting Susan was easier than living as he was, wanting so much that it hurt. He nodded.
“Excellent. Now, can you close your eyes? I want you to count to ten and then open them. I’ll hold tight to you, okay?”
Nodding, Alexander closed his eyes and began counting. The smell of lavender became stronger and he heard the sound of flutes again. Calmness soothed him, and he opened his eyes…
…to be looking at himself.
Or rather, looking into a mirror. He watched as a younger version of himself approached a boy he liked. Alexander still remembered the way the boy’s hair had caught the light, looking like spun gold. He had been in his early teens then, unsure about the world and his place in it.
He watched as his young self tried to take hold of the boy’s hand, his mouth open to profess his love, only to have it brushed away. The other boy had turned on him, yelling at him and saying horrible things. Alexander couldn’t hear them through the mirror, but he still remembered them: unnatural, abomination, freak. All the while, the other boy cried, as if he had been afraid of something within himself.
Beside him, Susan squeezed his hand. “You’ve been carrying this around inside you all this time. No wonder you are so keen to keep everyone away, Alexander.”
Reaching out to touch the mirror, Alexander was surprised to find his hand slipping through the veil of glass. He let out a gasp and pulled his hand back, leaving ripples in the glass like water. His younger self looked back at him. They studied each other for a moment until the vision changed.
Alexander was slightly older and in a relationship. His stuff had been packed into boxes and bags. He was clearly leaving. The man he was with was crying. The vision changed again, and he was older still and with another man. They were yelling and then this Alexander turned and left as well.
Tears were sliding down his face. “I wanted to keep them all away.”
Susan nodded. “So, they can’t hurt you, so you can’t be hurt again.” She gave his hand another squeeze. “I know, dear one, I know.”
“How are we seeing this?” Alexander asked
Susan smiled at him. “Because I can see inside of you, but only when I touch you.” She took her hand away from his and the image faded until nothing was there. “See?”
“So, what happens now? How do I let love in now that I’m terrified of being alone?”
“Now? You can let go. I want you to reach inside yourself until you find that memory. The one where you were hurt so badly as a child. I want you to grab hold of it and pull if out of you so that you can let it go.”
“I’m willing to do anything.” Alexander said. “Just tell me what I need to do.”
Susan smiled at him and took his hands again. The mirror flickered on again, showing the scenes that he had watched before. It stopped on the first one, the one of him as a young kid and the first boy he had ever loved.
“I want you to close your eyes and reach inside yourself. I want you to find that memory and grab it and not let go. Can you do that for me?”
Alexander didn’t hesitate. He closed his eyes. As he did so, the scent of lavender filled the air once again. He heard the fluttering of butterflies. He opened his eyes within himself and could see his memories, flittering around his head. There were pictures drawn in black ink on their wings.
He tried reaching for one of them, but they were too quick for him. His feet seemed rooted to the spot, so he could not jump to reach them. Alexander stood there, watching them fly above him. How was he to do this? Susan didn’t give him any instructions other than to catch his memories?
Alexander watched them flying above him, he saw one that was glowing slightly, shining brighter than the rest of the others. Looking closely, he saw a broken heart drawn on the butterfly’s wings in thick black lines.
As he watched them, a thought occurred to him. What had Susan said? “I want you to grab hold of it and pull if out of you so that you can let it go.”
What if he didn’t grab it? What if he asked the memory instead?
He held out his hands, bringing them together so that his palms and fingers formed a cup. Keeping his eye on the butterfly with the broken heart upon its wings, Alexander spoke softly. “Please.” He said. “Please, I want to let you go. I’ve held on to you too long when I should have let you fly away. Won’t you come with me so that we can be free?”
The butterfly came towards the sound of his voice, almost as if it were falling slowly through the air. When it landed on his hand, a thrum of energy ran through his body. “Thank you.” He said. Alexander gently closed his hands together. “Thank you,” He said again.
Closing his eyes, he heard the flute music again and when he opened them, he was back in that expanse of white, back within Silver Springs. Susan was looking at him, smiling that wide and beautiful smile. In front of them was the mirror and it shone like silver water.
“Did you get it? Did you get the butterfly?” She asked.
Alexander nodded and held up his closed hands.
“Then let the memory go, Alexander. Let it fly.”
When Alexander opened his hands, however, there was nothing there. He heard the sound of butterfly wings and turned towards it. The sound was coming from the mirror. Alexander watched as hundreds of butterflies, the memories of every negative thing that had shaped him, flew out of the mirror.
Watching them fly towards the white ceiling that looked like clouds, Alexander felt a warmth inside his chest. He watched the last of the butterflies disappear and looked toward Susan. “What’s happening?”
She came towards him and placed a hand on where his heart lay. “Now, you’ve planted a seed. It’s time to let it grow again so you can love once more.”
As he was leaving the store, he saw a tray of pins. One of them caught his eye: a small, blue butterfly. He took it out of the tray and held it, watching as light seemed to shine from it.
He turned back to look at Susan, to ask her how much the butterfly was…and she was not there. Neither was Silver Springs. Instead, he was standing outside what looked like an abandoned mall with only a butterfly pin and a seed of light in his heart.
Alexander turned away from the mall and walked back towards where he had come from, knowing that these were the steps in a new part of his life.
With each step, that seed of light started to grow…