The yellow butterflies press flat against a blue paper background. The Collector said it was for authenticity. The sky is the butterfly’s natural habitat.
‘Look here, isn’t it nice? Almost like they’re still flying.’
Violet turned in a circle, noticing the variety of the dead on display. Above the desk, iridescent-backed beetles create a star pattern on their velvet, behind a thick glass. Each had a nametag neatly placed above its head. Stick insects climb around the door: one horizontal above the window, two on either side. The delicate grey moths cluster together in their round white case and surround their queen, the lunar moth.
‘Natural posing is the thing,’ the Collector said, as though Violet had asked, ‘that makes them most lively.’ He gestured to a selection of taxidermied tarantulas on a shelf.
Violet moved away from the Collector and bent over a glass-topped case, her hands clasped behind her back. Inside, six perfect examples of foam grasshoppers dance in a ring with six ladybirds. Green and purple dragonflies play follow-the-leader, encircling the red and black performers, defining their dance floor.
‘Do you like them?’ the Collector asked. ‘Aren’t they pretty?’
Violet looked up from the display. Her gaze strayed over to the largest artwork framed with wood stained charcoal black. Multi-hued butterflies keep vigil over green and striped and fuzzy caterpillars gathered around crisp green leaves. ‘I wish they weren’t dead.’
‘But aren’t they pretty?’ He smiled. ‘Almost as pretty as you, in fact.’