Étranges Libellules – by QDesjardin
those strange butterflies, wishing for a fading dream
Her name is Clare. By day, an illustrator working for Studio Escalier, a multimedia aesthetics group who has a high demand from clients (both business and personal). She will resort to using any means necessary to realise their vision, be it through Adobe Photoshop, zBrush, or Blender.
On the occasional night, when she isn't working on a project, she goes out to carry an oddjob for a friend, or even venture into the underworld to carry out a contract for some mafia boss. And right now, she needs over 20,000 francs to have her own studio financed, so she could move out of her slumhole apartment room.
In those nights, she doesn't want anyone to know her, so she styles her hair in a bun, applies some temporary hair dye to give it sheen, decorates her face with ink that gives her a vicious appearance – a cheshire grin and lastly, a rabbit-eared mask. If you didn't know any better, she would be on her way to a dazzling costume party, except that in the Parisian 2020s, many people express their imaginations through myriads of outfits in the nightlife, thus allowing their sleepwalking escapades without putting their personal identities at risk.
The humidity makes it awkward, as she is profusely sweating with her red scarf, while she strides by a group of top hat gentlemen near a cafe, who smoke marijuana, passionately delving into the metaphysics of your digital self profoundly affecting your relationships with real people.
"So imagine if you've gotten into a relationship with an American chick, so deeply, and when you're making it with your wife, in your mind you're also fantasising about the American..!"
You can always glean some amusement if you're paying attention on your journey. But mostly, Clare relishes her ability to feel rejuvenated, letting her mind absorb the sensations of her surroundings.
Her assignment is simple: to deliver a message to Mme Jang – to pack town and never come back. If you're wondering, Jang is a lawyer – a prosecutor who pursues her cases with fanatical fervor, and it seems that someone doesn't want her on their ass.
Clare has occasionally heard about Jang through online news; the most well-known case being about what's been dubbed as the Pakistani-Kolbert scandal. Money, sex and banking miscounts make a potent combination, it seems.
Her purse is packed with all the necessary tools – and then some. On the subway, she has her purse comfortably tucked under her arm. People will eyeball her, and she'll view them with a lens of indifference, but someone can always take the chance of ripping away the purse from her grasp. One time it actually happened, it was a scrawny punk skinhead who wanted some cash, and he almost found out what was its contents.
The building Jang resides in is an office complex in the metropolitan area. Usually she'll never set foot in those places. She ventures through the door into the lobby, where it's way past busy hours and it's just a lone security guard in the foyer.
"You'll have to come back tomorrow. Visiting hours are from 10h to 18h.."
Clare has her taser out, and aims directly at the guard's face. The contacts land on his cheeks and forehead, and the voltage she delivers shocks him into being a jibbering jabberwocky, mouth sputtering spit in nonsense and his body convulsing into unawareness, the chair he was sitting in flung over from his collapse.
Usually, there'll be another guard (on break), so Clare quickly climbs over the desk, pauses the security footage, rips out the guard's keys and pass.
Never take the elevators. Take the long way – the stairs, to the 26th floor, where Jang would be pulling an all-nighter, typing away the indictment rap sheets. Clare is panting a little, but she peels the door open..
Kristiva Jang still tastes the bitter lacquer in her mouth. Coffee is one of her best friends to type around in the solemnity of her office, the monotony of phrasing and re-phrasing the terms of Eren Jaegar's obscene affair with the so-called Duchess, who was really just a 13-year old girl who didn't know any better. There's a thousand different reasons Jang can come up for letting Eren off the hook and putting the girl in the spotlight, and she has to not just suppress them – but twist them around, press them to her uses, so that it's Eren who should easily have decided against his cyber-sexing, the signs were there after all that he's dealing with an underage child behind the beautiful Geisha avatar. After all, the chat logs prove it.
The dim hums of the night skylines, her years ticking and passing her by. It's not that she relishes the pained, anguished faces of the ones she's hired to prosecute, it's just that justice needs a firm hand like hers to realise it.
Then, like in a horror movie, the lightbulbs start to flicker and shut off, leaving her in complete darkness save for the computer screen, but it only perturbs Jang when her ultrabook pops in a notification: there's only five minutes of battery life.
She is more annoyed than flustered. Only two more days to go until trial day, and she really doesn't have the time for this interruption – this power outage.
Her office door sleeks open and shut without her noticing.
When the lights instantly come on, far more brighter than usual, Jang is startled by the visage of a pale, red-scarved woman. Her heart jolting, she thinks her mind has finally given in to hallucinations, and lets out of a whimper, blinking rapidly before realising that the person in front of her is real.
"Hello," Clare goes.
From the outside of her office, peering through the frosted glass, it looks like the shining arm from the heavens has descended.
Clare walks around Jang's desk, over to where her fat, rigid bottom is sitting. "I'm a messenger, and there's someone on the line who wants to let you know something." Then she pulls out her phone that she's been holding from behind, like a magician's sleight-of-hand, and by the time she rests her toes between Jang's legs, Clare can already detect how Jang is easier to break than originally thought, just by the blubbery movement of her fat lips.
"Whoever the hell you are, I want you to know, you're trespassing," Jang goes, eyes squinting as Clare thrusts her phone into Jang's grasp.
And when Jang raises the phone to her ear, she hears the ragged breathing. Doesn't have a clue who the other person is.
"Jang speaking." Trying to maintain professional composure.
"Fifteen years ago.. you defended the man who raped me as a child." It's not what Jang expects – it's a feminine voice. "You looked into his beady eyes, and told everyone with a straight face that he simply beat me, in a heated provocation. And that I was the one who was seeking attention, who fantasised about older men, and kept crying wolf to make up for how small and timid I was at school."
Clare blinks. She'd merely thought it was going to be a stern warning from the guy who indirectly contracted her.
"You bitch.. I was in a coma for over a week, and for 10 years I've had to take therapy over the painful trauma I've been reliving, now that he's out there, free.. I've suffered enough because of your decision-"
The line cuts off, and a guy is speaking now.
"Does that ring a bell, Jang-pi?" It is Eren Jaegar. "You leave a trail of desolate victims wherever you go, it's not hard to track down one or two.. or even all of them who aren't suffering in jail."
"They got rightously served," Jang goes. "You have no business whatsoever with any of them.. and who do you think you are, sending a freak show up my alley? You think it'll change my mind on your conviction?"
"Au contraire, Jang – I know where you've hidden all the real evidence on your victims. Having the sides of your woman's underwear tested while leaving out the part that actually matters.. tsk tsk."
Jang gets flustered. "If that's what you want to think, okay."
"I'll see to it our mutual friend delivers the stuff, one ziploc bag at a time, that I can take to you in a lawsuit. I'm sure your brother wouldn't mind if we knock on his door, would we?"
Jang wipes the sweat off her cheeks. "What do you want?"
"Call off the case against me. You have NO case. That girl should've known better than to pose as a Geisha in an adult chatroom. That's what you'll announce tomorrow, or your career is history! Now let me speak to our mutual friend."
Jang passes the phone to Clare.
"Yes?" she goes.
"Make sure Jang understands – and then let her go."
When Clare tucks her phone into her pocket, she leers at Jang, her foot pressing on Jang's crotch. "Do you understand?"
"So say it."
Clare nods, then lays her foot off Jang, before heading out the door – the lights flickering and dimming again. By the time Jang recollects herself, her office looks the same as it always does. Except for the fact that her thinkpad screen is roasting with smoke, digital noise, and growing spots of blackness.
Jang is left stunned, and jolts in shock as her screen fractures and cracks out.
The first guard wakes up in his chair, being slapped by his partner-in-law. He feels distraught, his face tingling with slight numbness.
"Hey you, Gibson, save the nap for bedtime! You've got some coffee already, why don't you drink some?"
Gibson just has the faint recollection of a woman – a bunny mask, and then the sharp crackle of painful energy through his jaws. But everything seems kosher. No alarms are being thrown, so maybe it was a weird dream he's had?
Except for the fact that there's a mug on the desk, that he doesn't recognize: "ME BOSS. YOU NOT." It's just been poured with steaming vanilla coffee, frothing at the top. He stares at it miraculously for a while, before deciding to give it a sip.
Clare feels the exhaustion settling in her mind, as she hangs onto the train's railing. She can feel the memories resurfacing, like those of a bygone era still lingering in her awareness. Not the torment she's endured, long ago, in Canada, when she faced daily acts of abuse at school. But the one boy there who made a difference in her life – who saw a speckle of hope and goodness in her, and in that one Christmas dance..
(like another monsterous awareness)
(always in her, buried deep)
She deigned to stand up to all of them, and showed them what's what. And yes, the ordeal – the struggle and fighting whose moments blur altogether in her memory, before.. awakening in a sudden shift to being in a Swiss hospital, over a thousand miles away.
His name was Martin. And somehow – through uncomfortable feelings that have grown between them, she could feel him growing distant from her. Especially in her emotional turmoil, when it feels like she's struggling with the weight of the whole world against her.
She remembers him shrinking away, giving her glances. Trying to change the subject to something unrelated when she wants to talk her feelings out with him – the demons she's facing, he just has no emotional context for.
Whatever happiness they shared together, eventually it seemed all but done for.
Finally, she had enough of it – she cut herself free from him. And in a flurry of heated words that left her sobbing outside in the rain afterward, Clare was alone again. Maybe love isn't meant to last forever, no matter how much it felt like living a real life fairytale.
Well, not exactly alone. She still has other friends, both in the studio, and her neighbours who she occasionally visits with her baked cookies. It's almost so easy to forget that she was once just a shadow..
Something that she's never brought up with anyone since leaving Martin.