Winter was finally ended. Fresh life tentatively spread its fingers across the landscape as tender leaves sprouted on trees and buds appeared on plants. New grass pushed its way into the world and drifted gently back and forth in the soft breeze.
Brian was so alone. He had been born alone and he had made his way alone in the world for the whole of his young life. He just about scraped out a meagre existence crawling over the hard earth, scratching around to find food. His ambitions, however, were far loftier.
“I want to fly,” he would tell anyone who would listen. “I was born to fly. In my dreams, I soar high above the ground and can see everything for miles around.”
Nobody ever took him seriously, though: “Don’t be a fool… you’ll never do it… you’re just an airhead…” were the only responses he ever heard, typically concluded with an abrupt, “…now shut-up with your fanciful nonsense and get on with life!”
Which he did: day after day searching for food to nourish himself. He was always hungry, it seemed, but there was never anything more than leaves for him to eat and he didn’t seem able to sate the appetite within him.
Once more he traipsed the long, rocky path back to the place where he sheltered from the cool of the night and the chill of the spring rain, his eyes almost out on stalks as he looked at the beauty all about him: tall, richly scented flowers and majestic trees in shades of brown, yellow and green which reached upwards towards the clouds and the sky…
Oh, he’d scaled a few: cautiously inching his way up their rough bark and then moving out along the higher branches very, very carefully; enjoying their luxuriant foliage and inhaling the heady aroma of their budding fruit. Once he had encountered an enormous bird with a sharp, pecking beak and had hidden himself, backing into the shelter of the leaves to conceal his presence until it moved on. From the giddy heights of the upper branches, he had looked out at the flowering acres below him and longed to float above them, but all he could do was clamber slowly back to earth.
He reached the place where he sheltered each night, on a branch a little above the damp earth, and drew leaves about him to keep out the chill of the early evening. A gentle shower made the grass beneath him glisten and the darkening air was filled with sounds of creatures making for any dry spot that they could find.
He was so tired: it had been a terribly long day and he felt as though he had traversed miles in his search for food. He was utterly exhausted, so hungry still, and he could feel his life-force seeping away. He wrapped himself up as best he could, shivering in the damp chill, and lapsed into a deep, comatose sleep.
As he drifted away, he felt that he was cocooned in a warm, tight embrace; an embryonic web holding him snug and safe. He felt his corporeal form changing as his essence flowed from him; yet, at the same time, the sensation of flight coursed through his veins. Then there was nothing.
A flicker. A shaft of bright light. The sensation of warmth and of breaking free. Was this the after-life?
Brian struggled to get out of the cobwebs which seemed to have coated him during his absence from the world and, as he emerged from their strands and freed himself, he became aware that his body had changed. Strange sensations coursed through his nerves and his perception seemed different – every message received by his mind was raw and unfamiliar. He tried to move and found stiff muscles which he had never known crying out against the sudden use. There was a new weight on his back which he had never experienced before.
This fresh world appeared strangely familiar but, simultaneously, very different: colours appeared brighter, sound had a new depth and resonance, smells were richer and sweeter. Tottering uncertainly, he pushed his way into the light and found himself falling.
He felt the weight on his back open outwards and some instinct made him flex new muscles. Suddenly he was gliding, not falling any more. Twitching his muscles rapidly, he lifted above the earth. Wings! He had wings! He floated, he soared, he drifted on the breeze and settled in the cusp of a flower’s head. Oh, what joy! What sweetness!
Brian had become a butterfly.