The Killing Jar

Casper Hallewell described himself to friends and acquaintances, and to people he met on his travels, as a lepidopterist. It sounded grand, but his knowledge on the subject was scant. He simply enjoyed collecting butterflies from around the world. His wealth allowed Casper to indulge his hobby.

On this, his latest foray to South America, Casper drove along a rough and dusty road scraped through dense jungle. His heart fluttered with excitement. He risked a glance at the killing jar lying on the passenger seat. Through the clear glass the vivid colours of the butterfly’s wings captured his attention before the Jeep, performing a violent yaw, reminded him of how dangerous this remote road was. He refocused his eyes on negotiating the potholes while in his mind he replayed the thrill of chasing and netting this rare butterfly and how, when he arrived back at his hotel he would, with infinite care spread the wings and drive a pin through the insect’s thorax. He thought of adding this beautiful specimen to the display case standing in the bay window of his Marlow home.

While his eyes flitted over the road surface, he did not notice the load of builders’ materials stacked on the flatbed truck bouncing in front of him had become loose. When the truck lurched into a particularily severe crater a bundle of metal reinforcing rods fell from the truck and spilled across the road with a suddenness that surprised Casper. The open top jeep offered little protection as the rods scattered and cartwheeling in all directions.

Casper watched the rod, that in time would kill him, arc through the warm air like a javelin on school sports day.  On its downward trajectory it scraped the top edge of the windscreen frame before penetrating his chest and pinning him to the seat. Casper lost consciousness and control. The jeep swerved off the road and vanished into the glossy foliage of the jungle.

When Casper drifted back into consciousness, the engine roar drowned out the sounds of the jungle and the exhaust fumes stifled the smells. He tried to lift his foot off the accelerator but his limbs, his legs and arms, refused instructions. He tilted his head to see a rivulet of red blood running down his tanned skin where the rust coloured rod stuck out from the centre of his chest. A mob of insects had already gathered to enjoy this appetiser.

Almost two hours later with the fuel consumed the engine coughed and stalled. The shrieks, chatter and hum of the jungle filled the auditory void. Casper turned his head to see the killing jar had rolled into the footwell and smashed. He couldn’t see the butterfly amongst the shards of glass. Sighing he leant his head against the headrest and stared through the cracked windscreen.

The butterfly, its wings spread flat against the cracked glass looked back at him. Somewhere in the darkening jungle troop of chimpanzees whooped and barked. In Casper Hallewell’s dying mind it sounded like laughter.

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