“Watch this,” he whispered.

I stared as his hands glowed different colors. Butterflies flowed from his palms in a rainbow of golds, silvers, reds, blues, and purples.

“Wow.” I was awestruck. Each butterfly was unique, with different markings and designs on each wing. I had seen butterflies before, but never like this. They were always a single, plain color. These were graceful, magnificent.

I looked up at him, and he was smiling. “They’re beautiful. Aren’t they?”

I nodded. “How do you do that?”

“I’m not sure,” he giggled, “but I really do love it.”

Him and I, we lived in a world where everyone was the same, where everything was ordinary, where all things special or unique died. Those with distinctive traits were seen as monsters, inhuman things that needed to be locked up and contained in order to save the human ones—those with no distinction. Only the purest of people understood the majesty of uniqueness. And who could be considered purer than a child? Him and I were both children of nine and didn’t quite understand the complexity of our situation. He was unique, and I was the secret-keeper.

Our friendship lasted all through our teenage years, but things got more difficult when we grew up. He wanted to be more open about his feelings, and I wanted to protect him. It was time to find a way to work things out, or we had to let go.

“I need to make a difference; put out a statement,” he begins, “but, I’m gonna need your help. You know that this ability of mine is not harmful. You understand that we don’t deserve to be repressed, right?”

“Well, of course, but I don’t think it’s a good id—”

“What the authorities have been doing is not acceptable. Fear should not be harming people, yet it has been for many years, and it will continue if no one decides to stand up.”

“I agree,” I say slowly, considering the taste of the words on my tongue, “but, many people have tried to stop this behavior.” I didn’t like where this was going. “It’s not going to work. You’re going to be locked up with the rest. I’ve known you for many years, and I am aware that you wouldn’t do anything to hurt anyone. That all you can do is make butterflies appear from your hands. But not everyone does. This fear of being unique is widespread. I happen to treasure the extraordinary elements. It hurts me to see so many carried away for being special.”

“You’re all doubts, Eve. You say that you care about those with abilities, but the truth is that you look just like everyone else. A lot of the time, I doubt that you really value this friendship. I think that you only stay for the butterflies. But I know it’s not true. You may long for change, you may long for difference, but without action, the longing will do you no good. It won’t get you anywhere.”

“I’m not all doubts.”

He holds up his hand. “Listen to me. I’m sorry. ‘All doubts’ was a hurtful exaggeration. Honestly, though, that’s all people are today. There seems to be no understanding, no compassion, no feeling in anyone anymore. We used to be accepted. You and I, I mean.”

All I can do is blink at him.

“I’m sure you’re confused right now, Eve. So let me break it to you, and please don’t be mad at me.” He takes a deep breath, lets it out. Closes his eyes, opens them after a few seconds. “We’re both unique. I noticed it when we were nine. That’s why I was okay with showing you what I could do. I knew we wouldn’t be accepted by anyone else, and that it was necessary for us to stick together. You see it too, right? How everyone seems dissociated from everyone else? Please tell me you notice it too.”

I feel tears sting my eyes. “Yes,” I say softly. “Yeah, I do.”

“And do you see how people don’t care anymore? That it’s just fine for someone to commit a crime, or to kill someone? People don’t have morality. People no longer have a conscience. You’re different though. You have feelings, you think about the consequences of your actions and you don’t just go with the flow. You make yourself do things although it may be hard. You stop yourself from doing things, although it may be hard. You and I, we’re just a tiny part of a huge group out there.”

“A group in which many have been seized.”

“True, but there's still a multitude of us. We can make it, together. I know you’re wary of the idea, but it can work. It will work.” A pause. “We’re friends, Eve. I’m not going to leave you behind. Either we make it together, or we don’t together. It’s up to you.”

I look down, sigh, and look back up. “It’s worth a try, I suppose.”

He could hardly contain his excitement as he picked me up around the waist and we spun around. He set me down and opened his palms, letting more butterflies free, setting the scene for our own freedom.