The White Wastes of Aultha
Valentine De Luna
Inside a cluttered attic in an old building a young boy sits amongst tools and gears and odds and ends scattered haphazardly about. One light green eye peers through a special type of magnifying glass at a still cocoon inside a large glass jar. A butterfly slowly twitches its wings next to another, now empty cocoon.
“What are you?” the boys asks out loud. “Are you a caterpillar? Or have you finished your transformation into your beautiful new self?”
A few strands of hair fall down in front of his eyes blocking his view of the cocoon and its hidden mystery. Small fingers brush the hair back out of his pale expressionless face.
“When DO you stop being a caterpillar and start being a butterfly? Is there an in-between stage of your metamorphosis that only the gods know of? What does it feel like to tread this middle ground?”
The other caterpillar in the jar spreads its wings wide as if it is going to fly through the lid and out the window to freedom, but only holds them out a moment, the tips hitting the edges of the jar, then folds them in again as if realizing the futility of the idea.
“You see little friend, you and I are akin, well, for a short while that is. Soon you will emerge from your cocoon and join your butterfly brethren, while I will remain here in this lab, with only more questions about myself.
He had very little in the way of facts, but this much he was certain of: He had died long ago. Actually murdered. Sacrificed in some strange ritual. The heat and the smell and the chanting come back to him in nightmares too real to be dreams more often than not. The details never change, leading credence to his hypothesis that they are old memories not just dreams. The dreams always end at the same point and in the same way, with his heart being violently torn from his chest. He was certain that he was gone for a long time, how long he wasn’t sure, but he suspected this because his soul/mind had aged considerably while his body was still that of a child no past 11 years now. He felt like a man trapped in a child’s body. When he awoke in that lab it was as if suddenly awakening from a horrific dream, and then discovering that much of your memory had slipped away. His “creator” or whatever you want to call it, had fled long ago. Strewn about the lab were blueprints for machines that looked like men, and spare parts and tools. It took him a few hours to come to grips with the facts that not only had he been brought back from the dead somehow but that the one who revived him had used his body as an experiment. The metal bones in certain places and gears in certain joints he could live with, but it was the mechanical heart “beating” inside him that he found hardest to accept.
Am I alive or dead?
Am I man or machine?
The cocoon stats to shake suddenly, the other butterfly excitedly starts buzzing around the jar in anticipation of its new friend. First a wing then a head and as soon as it started it is over. The two butterflies dance about each other excitedly and then after accepting each others presence calm down and return to the bottom of the jar.
His light green eye pulls back from the magnifying glass and the boy walks away from the bench slowly, once again feeling completely alone in the world…