The butterfly called itself Unah. It had blue, luminescent wings that stretched for several inches on either side of its body. Were it not for the rigid motion of its flapping, one could have mistaken it for a bird or a bat. But then what bird or bat glowed like the embers of a ghostly fire or left a trail like a comet tearing through the heavens?

Unah did not care for the musical aspect of the H3DO festival, but she did love floating through the auras of the rich and youthful, and therefore spent most of her brief life sampling the spiritual scents of virtuous women and lustful men. She preferred the women to the men, the young to the old, and the beautiful to the plain.

Beth knew all of this about Unah despite the butterfly’s inability to speak. As queer as a neon blue butterfly was, it did not possess the power of speech nor anything as fanciful as telepathy. Beth supposed it was because she had been there at the moment of Unah’s birth, when the butterfly had crawled out of the chrysalis it had built on the back of a spritely young African American woman with a shaved head and pink eyebrows.

Perhaps in the moment of birth, Beth had joined her soul to the butterfly’s.

Perhaps it was just the synth she had loaded just after going on break.

There was no way to be sure, and in the larger scope, Beth didn’t care where Unah had come from. All she knew was that the further away Unah got, the more tension she felt in her stomach, as if a thread bound them together and if stretched too far, it would break, tearing apart two soulmates in a horrible affront to the universe.

As a relatively new member of M7 Entertainment, organizers of the H3DO festival, Beth had been relegated to shadowing Arman Bronte, a gender-fluid Brazilian who claimed to be always working, if not on an event, then on his own death—an affair, he claimed, that would be fed on every major media feed in the country. More people would watch it than the Mars landing.

Beth thought “shadowing” meant working closely with Arman and, in the months leading up to the festival, it had. But once things got underway, Arman handled coordination throughout the day and Beth did cleanup overnight. Officially, her shift was seven to seven, meaning lunch time came around midnight. The past few nights had found her at the food court scarfing down barbecued shrimp while the voices of her staff buzzed ceaselessly in her whisperer.

Tonight, however, she’d spent a good hour following Unah around the third level of the quarry, such that when she finally stopped to look around, she found she was on the exact opposite side of where she needed to be. More than that, her whisperer was gone, discarded but not lost; she felt it in her pocket along with a...