Childhood Lost

Author: Chad Lutzke

In a Michigan cornfield, a handmade fort stands, the secret lair of three young boys. Tonight, they will sneak out of their houses and sleep in the fort, cocooned by the sounds of nature, snacks, adult magazines, and this shared secret. Tomorrow, they will be adults, and everything they know will be shattered and reformed.

Of the three boys, one holds a dark secret. The fort isn’t just a game to him. It’s a refuge. A last chance. He’s left a note behind that ensures no going back, no return. He has finally left his abusive father, and on this first night all together, he’s shared the information with his friends. And he’s shared more – a brief but vivid glimpse into the escalating horror and degradation of his world. His friends now know, or can guess, everything, and they’ve got his back. Taylor will never leave the fort, and in the ways of children, they imagine that they can sustain him with snacks and books.

But then something lands in the nearby woods – a glowing meteorite. Taylor touches it, and once again, everything morphs and reshapes, his destiny changing, evolving again. What will these boys do now? How will they find safety? How will they ensure justice?

Bruises on a Butterfly is a surprising read; we expect a creature feature mixed with some body horror, but what we get instead is emotionally and conceptually multilayered. On the one level there is the visible horror, but Taylor’s story is far darker and the theme (innocent lost, a brutal coming-of-age mixed with violence and decisions) supersedes the more supernatural aspects. The author gives us just enough to imagine Taylor’s day-to-day horror, his fear of reaching out for help, his irrevocable decision. The graphic details are, thankfully, hidden, leaving us with dark thoughts that are real: what happens to children “raised” in this environment? What would we have done, at that age, if a friend had hinted at such trauma? Would we have known how to help? Would we have even really understood?

Image by dlsd cgl from Pixabay

The narrative, however, loses a lot of its power through its brevity. This is more novella/long short story than real book, and we skim quickly through the horror. It felt breathless, as though the author was rushing to get through the outline, when the narrative had so much creative promise, both in the alien menace and the exploration of Taylor’s psyche and his friend’s viewpoints on how to address his trauma. Everything remained surface level, hinting at so much more, but the story was focused on speed, and that significantly diminished its power.

I would so much like to read a full novel length version of this, dipping in and out of the viewpoints of each character, watching their friendship evolve over that horrible night, experiencing the pain, the fear, and the final decision with them.

And the final decision, the twist at the end, as it were, is a powerful one. I didn’t expect it. It was too rapid, but nonetheless satisfying. Now, if this outline of an emotive story could just be given the room, the gracious space, to spread its torn wings and truly fly, that I would LOVE to see!


– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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