Butterflies

bymarybethsanford©

There were a lot of good reasons to be out this early, but none as wonderful as seeing this first Giant Swallowtail awakening, and John smiled as it moved. Magnificent, he whispered, in awe of this giant as it slowly unfurled it's Forewings against the sun's morning warmth. It was, as they always were at this time of day, lethargic and calm.

"Papilio Cresphontes Cramer" by it's scientific name, John whispered, but only to himself as the relative giant of insects ignored him.

Swallowtail butterflies were large to begin with. Very large when compared to most butterflies, but this one was exceptional, John noted. More than exceptional as he held the ruler up long ways to record the initial span of it's wings.

Male Swallowtails normally had a wing span of 4 - 6 inches, but this giant at least 10 inches, perhaps more as it extended itself that full span against the tree to warm itself. John smiled at his find, focusing his camera a second before taking several rapid shots. It was, without a doubt, the largest butterfly he'd ever seen in the four years he'd been admiring these beauties.

How strange it was suddenly , that sense of wonder he had. It wasn't for it's size, which was huge, but because it appeared to be looking back from it's wings. More so given the grandeur of its size.

"So beautiful," John whispered to himself over that design inspired by nature herself.

Those colors brilliant, while beautiful, were not just for the sake of beauty. Those colors and designs had evolved to give the impression of an owl's head. Owls scare off most birds that like butterflies, and for a butterfly that was a good thing.

The ones that looked more like an owl didn't get eaten, and those that didn't get eaten fostered the next generation. Evolution, in this case, enhanced by selection, or better said that lack of selection from birds, and as this particular butterfly evolved so did that look.

This one, because of its size, even more wondrous and intense in those colors. That intensity heightened as the sun glistened off that blend of tiny colorful scales. Colors shimmering in their diagonal bangs of yellow, on the darkest black, trailing to more yellow. He was as pretty as anything John had seen.

So pretty that John's concentration was intensely focused on nothing else. So focused in those moments that he failed to see the second, even larger Swallowtail, fluttering almost in a hover behind him. It fluttered silently just above and behind only to light on the very edge of John's collar, unnoticed.

That receptive female scent that it had caught on the breeze, the reason, and only reason, it did so.

That Swallowtail on John's collar didn't find the female it was looking for, nor her eggs, but that didn't matter as Nature's imperative and a chemical compulsion was answered.

That Swallowtail also didn't know that the scent was artificial as it made an attempt to fertilize an egg that wasn't there. There was only the lightest touch at the back of John's neck as the males "claspers" at the end of his abdomen clamped lightly on what he thought was the females own abdomen. John felt a light tickle just at his threshold of awareness.

John swept his hand behind himself thinking, subconsciously, of mosquitos, then stood in awe over an even larger Swallowtail now fluttering off to his left, it's work done. That second easily as big as the one he was taking pictures of and the odds of that were astronomical given natures rules.

There was another Swallowtail fluttering nearby but that first had, along with it's sperm package, left a methyl salicylic which is a kind of anti-aphrodisiac killing the scent for any other interested of his kind. Within seconds that tiny drop of sperm that was deposited on John's neck cancelled out the Pheromones John had applied earlier.

It had been John's use of that scent that had attracted that butterfly and John smiled as he realized why that male had dared come so close. It was the scent of a female Swallowtail. Pheromones John had applied with a small swab at the base of his neck.

A dab really, just a few particles of it, but enough to bring those males within touching distance. A very cleaver idea, given the growing number of butterflies now within his reach, as he continued taking pictures. He would thank Ms. Everett her suggestion when he'd see her again that day.

He had thanked her on several occasions for a number of reasons, not the least of which her influence which drove him into the forest these days. Her influence and encouragement to forego those other boy's taunts and teases that he was a sissy for doing what he did.

Watching and cataloging Butterflies were not exactly a masculine past time for a boy, and John paid dearly for that when he first mentioned it in passing to his friend. "You're doing what?" Was the last thing one of his friends had said to him.

John would someday be an Lepidopterists like Ms. Everett. An entomologist with a specialty. A person who studies insects, but who specializes in the collection and study of butterflies, and moths, or, as that friend confirmed in a slightly disgusted tone that day, "you're actually collecting butterflies!"

Meanwhile that small dot of liquid that the male Swallowtail had left for the sake of his species, as it might on a female's egg, slowly infused itself into John's skin. It was as easily absorbed into John's upper epidermal, or top layer of skin as it might that egg if there had been an egg.

What was different were those chemicals that John's body began assimilating almost instantly. Those chemicals and a half dozen powerful proteins were very new to this world and John might have had cause for concern had John known that, but he didn't.

Fortunately what John didn't know wouldn't kill him, but it most definitely was going to change him. There were going to be changes and not too unlike the changes that had caused that Swallowtail to grow as big as it had. It would be a remarkable event given that John's DNA was involved or soon would be.

DNA, the instructions behind that book of life, had changed just before that butterfly had hatched. It nearly killed those first few butterflies within their cocoon, because two more inches of growth was almost too much, and that wasn't too long ago. Actually this change was born of a chain of events beginning only a few months ago.

It started with several tenacious plants growing near the waste center of a nuclear storage facility. A facility just one hundred miles to the North of where John stood. A facility for the Department of energy and quietly built fifteen years ago over the protest of locals and the homes that were razed because of it. Few people, at least nowadays, even knew it was there still, or why if they did. Although nature didn't care and plants still grew.

Those odd plants, as it happens, were native and near the staging area to the underground facility that housed a million pounds of radioactive chemicals already. Radiation, only slight, had been taken in by those plants and, as part of the food chain, so too the caterpillar. A very particular caterpillar that favored those native plants while it fed itself for the incredible metamorphosis it was soon going to commit itself to.

Radiation, but well within government standards, and ignored because of those standards, was still too high for something so delicate as a butterfly. Of course the government's standards might be a point to argue, because it was the government that set those standards. Although that was neither here nor there as those caterpillars ate ravenously. As always, it would be their last meal.

As it also happens those same plants are the plants that Swallowtails like as caterpillars. Those plants are called the Hop tree or Ptelea Trifoliata, to those in the know. One of those food sources for the Papilio Creshontes Cramer or Swallowtail, but only when it is a caterpillar host and then only until creating it's chrysalis.

That radiation was high, but not high enough to alarm anyone at the site. At least not until the Geiger counter's clicks increased one day. A seam, unknown but nearly 400 meters long, allowed a small amount of radiated gas to seep upward and finally outward.

Fortunately, even if it was harmful, that plant was already sealed in a thick yellow plastic bag marked both nuclear and hazardous before it could harm anyone. That plant, in it's bag, was also now heading into a vast chamber dug out of the limestone and seven hundred feet below ground.

Unfortunately that chrysalis, or several actually, had already hatched, and just as unfortunate it wasn't an "anyone" that received those high doses that didn't alarm anyone. That Swallowtail, as large as it was, wasn't large relative to us, but that radiation taken through the food chain did cause harm of a sort.

A mutation had occurred and rapidly within those caterpillars within their chrysalis. A mutation carried off easily because of that Swallowtail's own remarkable metamorphosis. Seven of them changed and seven emerged. Seven adult butterflies joined together for the long trip South. Resting, as it happens, in the forest where John was now standing.

A Lepidopterists, or that entomologist like Ms. Everett, might have understood what was happening to those Swallowtails. She understood butterflies in many ways since she specialized in the collection and study of those and other insects. She understood it would be an anomaly.

With a scientific background and a questioning mind, Ms. Everett would have desperately wanted to know what was happening to these few monsters, but she wasn't there. No one was around that morning as John's body, within minutes, began mounting a silent defense against another microscopic unknown.

John's white blood cells found the first few invading cells of that Swallowtail and a chemical alert within his body was issued immediately. Something foreign had registered and was now under attack. Each cell of that butterfly was identified as alien and the battle began.

Those first few fights, carried on silently by John's own defenses, won easily. For an analogy that battle took the same course as the beginnings of a cold or flu virus. It was and wasn't a virus because nothing on Earth evolved the way these mutated genes did. It just acted like a virus. Something almost like a cold for want of a better analogy.

Unfortunately, like a cold, it was the speed of their alien divisions and that infection which began turning the tide against John's defenses. At first John's body won those fights handily. Within the first hour that changed and by the time John had ended his morning in the forest that battle would have been called a draw.

By the time John reached home to get ready for school that battle had shifted decidedly in favor of the virus and was well established as John went about the rest of his day unaware. Those radiated nuclei from that butterfly were now passing John's defenses in easy victories. There were millions now and they were already infusing themselves within John's own DNA as he made lunch.

That necessity to live and, more importantly, to replicate themselves forced this process. A demand throughout nature and nature, above all else, is very demanding. Nature is also adaptive, and this above all else is Nature's highest calling next to propagation.

Natures adaptive imperative was answered in a number of ways as those changing cells within John's body began changing John. Alien cells now mimicking John's cells, for protection, were ultimately being accepted within John's own DNA structure and his own design was changing. What nature also decided to do, what she's done so often, and within those hours, was find a way to make that unworkable design workable.

What was different, besides the two species once genetically miles apart, was that John wasn't a butterfly nor female. He was a male and human, or rather he had been. He was still human, but that male part, or those male hormones constantly battling against those female hormones that men and women share at birth, were shifting slightly in their delicate balance.

The fight, the same as before, went on, but the outcome was now definitely changing. That butterfly, in his attempt to infuse a female's eggs, did so with a genetically defined male - John and John wasn't a butterfly. Under any other circumstances it wouldn't work. Of course all that was really wrong was John being male. Although, one could argue, John hadn't been fully male right after conception and there were still some things nature could do to leverage off that original intent.

That other side, that side hidden when John's testis formed in those first twelve weeks as a fetus, were suddenly aroused. John didn't feel that either as he slipped into bed that night. And that night John began a subtle but definite metamorphosis. He did scratch some as things changed slightly, and he tossed around a bit over some minor discomforts, but, for the most part, he slept through those changes.

Some of those changes, natural changes even without this new process, would someday be seen when John grew older. Older men lose testosterone, and their masculinity that comes with it, as do women their estrogen during menopause. It's why men, later in life, grow breast of a sort, and woman on occasion, a mustache. Those natural hormones, had he been born a girl and still carried, were now under new instructions and this time with a new power behind them.

John's sleep was surrounded by dreams of butterflies fluttering about, and those boys taunting him as a sissy for fluttering about with them. His mind also accepting a portion of a new potion his own body was now making. A potion that science would someday know about when the discussions of what makes males male and females, female. John, like the caterpillar, was changing and it would be striking those changes.

There was a metamorphose underway and like a caterpillar changing into a butterfly it's an incredible change. A change so complete and so striking as to alter fully the nature or appearance of that caterpillar turned butterfly, and now it was John's turn.

John too was turning into something not completely John. Remarkably John's first changes were for the new chemicals his body would need. John's circulatory system began accepting a new fluid similar to hemolymph (also spelled haemolymph). Hemolymph made up of mostly water, inorganic salts and organic compounds (close to sea water) now carried a lot of newer salts and compounds John's new body needed.

John was changing physically and mentally and was doing so within hours of that moment in the forest. It takes twelve hours for the common cold to take hold and give us a hint that we have it. It took about that same amount of time for all of the signals that flow through us naturally to change as well, and John woke to a new world. John woke to the same sun, room and bed, but clearly it didn't feel the same.

In this case it was that dream remembered on his way to his shower and that notice of his skin when he woke. He had moved to scratch and in doing so stopped to notice the texture of his skin. There was an odd texture to his skin that left him slightly aware of it and slightly curious over it. A rough texture just a tad more dry than normal.

Perhaps a rash, John mused, perhaps not - hopefully not.

John thought immediately of those few poisonous plants he was aware of when he was out in that part of the forest. He hadn't seen any of them, and he looked, carefully, but that didn't mean they were not there. He used his scrub brush and his medicated soap for just this sort of thing as he showered. It didn't hurt to be cautious, he mused.

John scrubbed hard. That scrubbing had worked, but oddly so, as he dried himself. It was that sense of touch through his fingertips and a smoothness to his skin he'd never noticed before. Like moist silk if you are looking for a vision of what it might feel like then. It wasn't fully an unpleasant feel. Odd that feeling perhaps, but definitely not unpleasant.

John would have to remember that particular brand of soap for the future, he mused casually as he dressed, believing still it was the soap. There were other things he mused over that morning and some of it in how delighted he felt during his walk to Dr. Everett's office. His pictures, those wonderful pictures, were in hand as he knocked on her door. He was light headed as his endorphins danced within and around his thoughts.

"Where in heaven's name did you take these," Helen asked instantly, standing up in utter surprise.

Ms. Everett, Helen to those who knew her well enough, had been studying the Swallowtails, and other local species of butterflies in that area, for nearly two decades now. Her doctorate came from that study and this particular species, now in John's photo, but never anything like these.

This wonder, shown sitting above the ruler John had held, was beyond anything she had seen and John smiled. Of course he knew it was Helen's favorite and some of that was the reason for his smile, and his delight that previous morning taking those pictures. Other thoughts made him smile more as she insisted they go back and find them, together.

Together, John mused, happily.

They searched for hours that day and again that following day before she found one of them laying haphazardly on the ground, dead. This one measured a full eleven inches beyond the seven inch monster she had displayed in it's own case at her lab. Her own sense of excitement equal only to John's in those moments as she slipped the butterfly carefully into a large plastic bag.

Helen would mount it, describe it's size and share credit with him. Credit on both his find, and efforts on the new paper she planned. John felt giddy as he made his way to his dorm that evening. That love affair between them, but only known to John, flared as well as he showered again. He had felt so gritty again and wanted to bring back that silkiness he'd had from his previous shower.

John not only felt gritty but his joints ached. His joints ached and his testicles felt warm to the touch and he smiled a little over that. He smiled because he was thinking of Helen Everett as he touched them. Definitely catching something, he mused, as he stepped back out of the shower again. He didn't notice those hairs swirling within the soap and water draining away before he dried. His scrubbing had taken them away easily.

He met Helen early that following morning. They had made love again that night or rather John dreamed of making love with her that night, and he savored that dream as they entered the forest once again. It was a fairy tale morning in more ways than one. A small thin layer of fog hugged the ground forming delicate slow moving tendrils easing, independently, through the trees making the forest appear even more magical.

"Dr. Patter is almost positive it's a genetic anomaly, and most likely even environmental!" Helen said to John when they met that morning. Their field trip, while shorter this time because of their schedules was still exciting for John. That amount of time they had didn't matter, because John took any amount of time, given his feelings for this woman, as time well spent.

Ironically those same feelings was growing in an odd way for Helen, as well. That notice came about on that second day causing Helen to wonder over it. Helen was behind John following him. John was, and this she kept to herself, actually pretty looking in a girlish sort of way.

Why Helen hadn't noticed that before was not clear to her as they drove back to school, but she did now. She also didn't consciously notice that subtle change in John's own pheromones or scent, but her subconscious did and those new signals were suddenly growing very strong within her.

Report Story

bymarybethsanford© 7 comments/ 70390 views/ 30 favorites

Share the love

Report a Bug

Next
5 Pages:123

Forgot your password?

Please wait

Change picture

Your current user avatar, all sizes:

Default size User Picture  Medium size User Picture  Small size User Picture  Tiny size User Picture

You have a new user avatar waiting for moderation.

Select new user avatar:

   Cancel