(originally posted 7/19/2020)
She is a butterfly.
I can’t claim to be an expert when it comes to the memory of the average macrolepidopteran, in the order of Lepidoptera, but hers is pretty damn good.
She remembers being a caterpillar. She remembers the chrysalis. She remembers her metamorphosis.
She wants to do it again.
All of her butterfly friends tell her that she can’t. That being a butterfly is the end of the road. The finished product. “You’ve got wings and beautiful colors… what more do you want?” is a common reply to her seemingly-endless inquiries.
She doesn’t believe she’s complete. She wants to know what comes next. What’s after the butterfly stage?
She keeps having dreams about being a bird. One night it’s a swan, the next a cuckoo.
“That can’t be it. I don’t want to eat worms. Right now I sip nectar from flowers. Worms are gross.”
One night she dreamt she was a pterodactyl. Soaring and terrifying. She eliminated that from the list of possible options.
She isn’t content just being a butterfly. “So you’re telling me that I have this long proboscis and it’s not used in mating? What a waste.”
She had a nightmare that she was a human. In it she was sitting on a toilet making beautiful origami animals out of toilet paper and then, when she was done with her bowel movement, used all of them to wipe her human ass.
So she goes looking for a good spot to start her next transformation. Eventually she finds a quiet out-of-the-way branch and begins to create a silk button from which to hang. Family and friends visit her to explain that she is wasting her time. Perhaps even worse.
“Do you know how many insects would give their left mandible to be you?” they say.
“Do you know how vulnerable you will be hanging there defenseless? There are so many wasps around” they warn.
“What about that nice moth that fell in love with you? How can you leave him?” they implore.
Recreating the cremaster she had when she was a caterpillar is a bit tricky. Butterflies typically have little use for a hook-covered appendage (I worried that you didn’t know what a cremaster was, but didn’t want to embarrass you).
I can’t claim to be an expert when it comes to how bright the average macrolepidopteran is, but she is not only smart but creative. It wasn’t long before she had fashioned her cremaster.
Other butterflies stopped visiting her. It was hard for her to say why. Was it they couldn’t bear to watch her fail?
Or was it they couldn’t bear to watch her succeed?
Either way, the day was fast approaching when it would be time to create her chrysalis. The last time, in the simpler caterpillar days, she simply used her skin. This metamorphosis would require her giving up her wings. Leaving her hanging upside down naked with no idea what, if anything, would happen.
Quite a risk.
Then, on the day she was to commit to the endeavor she was visited by the wisest butterfly in the garden (picture him in glasses if it helps). He explained that within a caterpillar there is a chemical that tells it when it’s time to become a butterfly. There is simply no such chemical in a butterfly. What she was feeling, what she was doing, was wrong.
He looked at her and said “Don’t you remember the first metamorphosis? How uncomfortable it was? The way your muscles and organs were digested to create your new parts? The way enzymes caused your cells to self-destruct?”
She just sighed. She remembered all too well.
“Nobody has ever tried this before. There’s no way of knowing how this will end” he said flatly. “If I had to guess…” and then he just shook his butterfly head.
“I understand” she said, “It’s just something I have to do.”
He flew away.
She began to shed her wings.
Days later a moth landed on the branch and there he stayed until he and the other butterflies and the entomologists and the poets all got their answer.
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