The Butterfly Effect

June 11, 2008
By Na'ama Av-Shalom, Vancouver, ZZ

Silent but for the crash of the waves and the occasional rustle of leaves, the ancient tree stood above the jagged hill. Too far and steep for most, the fresh plums of spring remained each year for the small folk, the creatures of the earth. The ocean salt and the sweet smells of the fruits mingled together in the breeze, swirling about the earth and up to the branches to meet up with the sky. So alive they seemed that one – if one were to ever reach such a place – could almost drink in the air.

The tree, almost as old as time, still remained strong, with roots deep into the earth. Twisted from the strain of survival, it had finally grown spectacular enough to be pleased with its isolation from others of its kind. As if always growing more generous, each year the bounty of its fruits grew larger, the taste more vigorous, and each year more animals made their homes within its branches.

Feeling all this wonder was a tiny soon-to-be butterfly in a chrysalis. For days she’d slept, and this morning her tiny mind awoke again. “What am I today?” she thought, and pondered silently for quite some time, before concluding that she must be grown up now, and eased back sleepily for another nap.

When she finally awoke again the next afternoon was at its peak, and the sun’s rays shed a soft blue light over her quiet bed. Wide awake and eager find out whence the smells and sounds came, she restrained herself and tried (albeit not very hard) to fall back asleep. The strain though, woke her up even more, and she quickly took this as a sign that the time had come to leave her little bed.

Quivering in excitement, she managed to shake the entire plum that supported her cocoon, managing to give a ladybug quite a fright. Many days later she would discover that the aphids on a nearby branch had formed a religion based on her supposed heavenly powers. Squirming, she tried to move about, finding that she had become quite a different creature entirely. The effort exhausted her so that she was obliged to stop and rest, during which time the ladybug recovered from the fright, and flew off to terrorize another innocent leaf community.

So hungry from the panic and distressed at having to delay a good meal, the ladybug greedily consumed the entire aphid population of a leaf, and flew away. This meal though, was, for this leaf was ill. Sure, the ladybug enjoyed it, but nobody else did (including, of course, the aphids). This particular leaf happened to carry some sort of plant-eating virus, later to be dubbed FLV195, caused by a slight mutation. For generations following the spread, people wondered where it had come from, and why it hadn’t just been devoured like many of the other quick arising mutations. To think it could have just been eaten up...
Instead, it slowly spread through the tree, and the fruits became less fragrant as they hung despairingly from the withering branches, as if the tree was finally resigned to its fate. In the winter, as with every winter, the leaves shrivelled even more, and were blown into the breeze and off the island, onto a passing cargo ship. There, the virus lay dormant until, one fateful day, the docked, and the little virus came in contact with the vast plains of the Americas! Slowly, year by year, the crops degraded, never turning out right, always dying in the middle of perfect seasons.

One day, a little girl on her visit from Wales wanted to bring her best friend a special present. She picked a little flower from one of the great Albertan fields and dried it, like her grandmother had shown her so long ago. Her parents thought, ‘What’s the harm in a little dried flower?’ and didn’t object. Excited, the gleeful friend ran to compare it with her own flowers, in her own garden.

“I wonder how different they are!” she squealed, as the virus hopped once again.

Thus, the mastermind virus was spread, and the people worried, but to no avail. People tried burning their crops, planting new things, trying to make due but by the time a treatment was found, there was nothing left. All over the world, people were famished. Every piece of food quadrupled in price, as the world fell into an economic depression. This time, though, it was harder to heal.

In anger, each power blamed the rest. Working together would never work, because SOMEBODY had started this, why should they be trusted? One country aimed a small test bomb at a remote island and some general, in his ravaged state, identified it as a nuclear attack. So obviously, they retaliated before it was “too late.”

Anon, the lone survivor stood by a withered tree, misshaped plums scattering the dying grass. Despairingly he watched vanishing, like the one ray of hope through the all-encompassing clouds, a shimmering butterfly…

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