“It is not the way we were made, adorned by nature’s garment at birth, that determines our core worth. It is the way we come to see that garment that does so.”
This is Arthur. He is a Monarch, but not that of men, although he was named by one of them. He is a Monarch butterfly and this is a story of how he came to accept, and even appreciate, his own garment.
Arthur started life like so many millions of others. Innocent, fresh, beautifull. He hatched from the egg that his mother laid in pure love, and began his journey as a caterpillar.
He never got to meet his parents in the flesh, but he carried their wisdom with him from the moment he could crawl. That wisdom, he knew instinctively, had been passed on through countless millions of generations that came prior, and now to him. It was a humbling feeling and a great responsibility.
Arthur felt honored. Thrilled. Excited to be part of this life cycle.
As a caterpillar, he was just like the rest of his brothers and sisters. Beautiful stripes of green, black and yellow ran in rings across his body. He crawled from branch to branch, stem to stem, leaf to leaf, eating the green blessings of nature, gathering strength and building his body. There was a purpose encoded deep within him, a drive that told him he should prepare. For there was a long journey coming, a journey of a lifetime. And Arhur brimmed with excitement and anticipation. He wanted nothing more than to take part in it.
As time passed, he grew big and strong - even overtook some of his own kin. The wisdom of his parents inside told him he was ready. He did not know exactly what he was ready for, but it was something big. Something that would completely transform his life.
So he found himself a safe place on a secluded twig and spun a cocoon. He was surprised he could do it, for he'd never done anything like it before. What else was he capable of, that he didn’t even know, until it was required of him?
Encased in the safety and comfort of his own life purpose, Arthur fell asleep. A part of his life was over. And when he wakes up, another would begin.
After two weeks, the chrysalis cracked and Arthur saw light again. He moved and wiggled his body, shedding away the tight encasing of the protective cocoon he’d spun. Immediately, he felt different in so many ways. His body was no longer heavy and slow, but very light and nimble.
His legs were much thinner and longer. His antennae more sensitive. He had wings. And his colors changed. His torso was covered with soft black hair and one of his wings was a bright, vivid orange, with intricate black patterns at the edges, filled with white and yellow dots. The other wing, his right one, was completely grey, as if bleached of all color.
Arthur marveled at himself, his newfound beauty and transformation. He discovered that he could fly. The excitement was so great that he wanted to soar high up in the sky and tell everyone how happy he was.
Looking around, he noticed more open chrysalises, meaning others have hatched as well. Arthur rushed to find his brothers and sisters, flying wobbly, getting used to his new reality. He wanted them all to rejoice in their transformation.
On a tall grass meadow, there were dozens upon dozens of butterflies flying about, chasing one another, playing and testing their fresh new wings. Arthur’s heart pounded in joy as he made his way to them. There was so much excitement in the air, everyone knew something big was preparing to happen. Something that was important to their whole species and they were the chosen ones to make it happen.
Humility, honor and gratitude filled Arthur’s heart when he saw so many of his kin who were feeling the same as he did. There was only one thing though, that struck him odd… Why were their wings both orange? His was one orange and one grey. Was he supposed to paint it somehow?
As he got closer and entered the dance in the sky, others too noticed his difference. They looked at him with curiosity at first, distrust later and disgust at the end.
They began to move away from Arthur.
They told him to go away, to not bother them. They told him that he was not their kin, that he was different and that he should go be with his own.
Arthur was bewildered and confused beyond belief. But he was the same kin as them! They were all Monarchs! His parent’s wisdom told him so! And his parents couldn’t possibly be wrong, their own wisdom coming from generations of lifetimes. They couldn’t be wrong, could they?
Confused and hurt, Arthur flew away. He didn’t understand. Why was he different, if they were all the same kin? Was there… something wrong with him?
He decided to find another group of Monarchs, perhaps there was just some big misunderstanding and that group just happened to have all butterflies with both wings colored. Perhaps in another group there will be more like him. With one grey wing.
But as Arthur came across another meadow, his anxiety grew. It was the same, everyone had identically painted wings. Vivid orange with black stripes and patterns. No grey. And what’s worse, they all reacted the same way to Arthur as the first group.
They told him to go away. That he was not their kin.
They said they were on a great migration mission and that he couldn’t come. Since he didn’t belong.
Arthur’s heart was beat into a red pulp. The great migration… that was his purpose also, that was the drive and the wisdom that his parents gave him as a gift. That was the thing he wanted to do the most and now he couldn’t do it.
Arthur didn’t know who to turn to as nobody would listen to him. Or even look at him. All he had was the wisdom within. That wisdom told him to go on the great journey, but nobody wanted him as their travel companion.
So Arthur decided that he would go alone. He would go on his own journey, to find a place where he would be accepted just the way he was. Defected on the outside. Full of life on the inside.
And so, as the great flock of butterflies took to the skies, heading north on their annual migration path, one little Monarch, with one grey wing headed south. He would go on his own migration mission, carve his own path and discover his own paradise.
The purpose within him demanded it and there was no force in nature that could stop him. For he was that force of nature. And he fluttered his delicate wings with excited determination, not knowing where they would take him, but having faith that he'd know once he got there.
But just because he made the first step, not letting himself be brought down by rejection from his own kin, that didn’t mean that the rest of his journey would be a breeze.
Quite the opposite. It turned out to be a hurricane.
There was a reason that generations went north on their migration and not south - Arthur was flying into a storm. A black leviathan in the sky with flashing eyes and a thunderous roar. The monster’s winds were strong enough to tear trees from their roots, its rain heavy enough to drown the land and lightning angry enough to not even notice if it burnt a tiny butterfly to dust in its wake.
People, the smartest and most well prepared species, took refuge from the storm. Arthur, a butterfly, decided to endure. He didn’t have the luxury of hiding and taking shelter, the luxury of time. His purpose pulsed inside him like a raging sun and he could not wait idly. He knew his life was short.
As the storm hit, Arthur flew low to the ground, using trees, buildings, fences and grass for cover. It helped a little, but each gust flung him in a whirlwind of tumbling and spinning. His soft, gentle wings hurt from the massive strain and Arthur feared they would be ripped clean off.
But he pushed forward. He flew against the wind.
Until the rain hit.
Arthur was forced to take cover, just like humans did. He found himself an old barn and managed to fly inside, landing on a pile of golden hay. His wings were soaked and his antennae stuck together, causing him problems with navigation.
He decided he’d fly back out as soon as the rain stops pouring and he untangles his antennae. There were others in the barn that also decided to take shelter from the storm. Moths, mosquitos, a few bats and mice. And a cat. Arthur never saw one in his life, but he recognized it immediately from his ancestor’s memory.
A cat meant danger. Arthur hunkered low on the hay pile and remained motionless. The cat’s eyes were wide and it’s tail zapping with excitement. It was on the prowl.
Arthur hoped that the beast would go after the mice or even the bats, but those ran to their hideouts as soon as they saw it. Arthur found himself alone with the fury predator.
It came closer, sniffing and looking. Arthur held his breath. His wings itched from the rain.
He flapped them on instinct.
The cat noticed.
Arthur leaped in the air and flew out in the storm, as the cat’s paws clasped together behind him. A gust of wind smacked him from the sky and threw him down into the wet grass. As he looked up he could see the cat looking down at him from the barn window, its eyes black. The next moment it withdrew and Arthur struggled back to his feet. His wings were useless now, too wet and heavy to lift. Until the rain stops and he can dry them, he can't fly.
Arthur crawled with his thin legs and memories of being a caterpillar came back to him. He still knew how to walk, thankfully. And with no little effort, he crawled his way into a bunker, an old rusty can.
With some luck, he could dry up in here.
As the clouds gave way to sunshine, Arthur made good on his decision and took to the skies as soon as he was dry. That cat was out there somewhere, looking for him and besides, his purpose was burning.
As he flew, he noticed an occasional flock of Monarchs that were going north. Some of them looked at him with curiosity, but Arthur ignored them. He knew how this story went.
Soon though, the Monarch groups got smaller and fewer until Arthur was the only Monarch in the sky. For the first time, he was truly alone. Though they rejected him before already, now there was no one else but him.
At first, he liked it.
No judging looks, no looks of disgust and pitty. The butterflies that he did run into were all foreign to him and so they didn’t judge. They paid little attention to him and Arthur was glad for that.
But then, he soon began to yearn for some connection. And as he flew over a barren patch of land, devoid of grass and forests he was completely alone.
The next few days were tough. Arthur had to remind himself why he was doing this, remind himself that there was a paradise waiting for him at the end. He could trust his inner purpose.
On the fifth day of his journey, Arthur felt so exhausted and hungry that he nearly fell from the sky three times. He stopped very few times to rest and graze, not wanting to waste any time. But the strain and hunger began to wear down on his body and Arthur had to land and regain some of his strength.
He was flying over a human town when he noticed a beautiful flower resting on one of the house's window sills. It was full of color and intricate patterns, seen only to his eyes, and inviting him to come feast on its nectar.
Arthur couldn’t refuse.
He not so gracefully descended down and collapsed on the concrete window sill. There were a few bees buzzing around the flower, but Arthur didn’t mind. He could use some company.
He rested for a little, then flew up on one of the flower’s blossoms. He reached inside and poked at the sweet nectar. Oh, what a heavenly taste it was! Arthur nearly melted from delight.
Then, as he retracted his head out of the blossom, trailing pollen all over his antennae, Arthur froze. Sitting there, at the edge of the window sill, was a cat. Not the same one as from that barn, but it had the same look in its eyes.
Arthur prepared to take off, though he barely ate enough to keep him going. Why was everyone constantly chasing him?
The cat stood up and started walking towards the flower. Arthur flapped his wings… but he couldn’t take off. With panic, he noticed one of his legs got glued to the flower’s petals from the overflow on the blossom’s nectar. He was trapped!
His desperate and panicked flapping seemed to only lure the cat more, as it came straight to him. Arhur could do little to fend it off, save for flapping his soft wings on its moist snout.
The cat sniffed him.
And then it purred.
Arthur was terrified, but for some reason, the cat didn’t eat him. It licked him, freeing his leg from the sticky nectar. Then it sat down and just stared.
Arthur was too shocked to even fly away. Was someone just nice to him? Then he noticed that the cat had no tail. He knew from instinct that it should have a tail, but where there was supposed to be one, there was just a hairy stub.
And he understood. The cat was just like him, defected.
It must have recognized itself in him, seeing his bleached wing. Arthur thanked the cat. It said he tasted sweet and licked its whiskers.
A barking sound made him look down from the window sill and notice a dog playing with some rabbits in the backyard. The dog was missing one leg. The rabbits were completely white with blood red eyes.
Arthur looked at the flower on the sill. It’s blossoms were pretty and colorful, but its lower leaves were all shriveled and crumpled, like from a genetic disease.
They’re all different here, Arthur thought. They’re all like me.
“Hey Molly, who’s your new friend?”
Arthur turned at the sound of the human voice. He noticed a young woman approach the window sill from within the room. She petted the cat and looked curiously at Arthur. But it wasn’t that curiosity that had contempt hiding behind it. No, the woman seemed to marvel at him, at his differently colored wings.
And Arthur noticed that she too had a mark of her own. A vivid purple rash on the skin, that ran from under her neck and up to her cheek. She was different too.
“A Monarch, eh?” the woman said. “A noble butterfly, without a doubt. I think I’ll call you Arthur, like the man from the legends.”
Arthur… he liked the sound of that name.
“Welcome home, buddy,” she said and smiled, as she extended a finger out to him. Arthur climbed on it and the woman took him up to her face and touched him with her lips, gently.
Then she placed him back on the blossom.
And Arthur knew he had found his paradise.