The Butterfly - a little bedtime story
For the first time in universal memory, the stars were at war with one another. Lightning silhouetted the shooting stars and the thunderbolts of the star gods. The universe itself trembled in apprehension until the peacemaker came, driving a path through the galactic storm as easily as the unknown ones sweep a patterned shape through a field of living corn.
The stars stopped in their courses and rippled their surfaces to hear what she had to say. The story she told them was of a small, cloud-wrapped planet spinning forever around its golden sun-star. The planet had fallen into chaos because a butterfly once flapped its wings. The alteration in the wind current had built up into a storm so great that war clouds filled the atmosphere and the peace of the planet was shattered.
The peacemaker had sought out the butterfly and found it resting its beautiful wings in a hot sticky corner of the rainforest at the centre of the planet. On hearing what had happened, the butterfly agreed never to beat its delicate wings again and order returned to the planet.
But all the butterflies remained still, with wings folded in prayer. One day, a little boy leant out of his bedroom window and seeing a butterfly perched immobile on the windowsill clapped his hands, laughing, hoping to make it part its perfectly matched wings and reveal its brightly-coloured symmetry. But the butterfly stayed still lest chaos should return to the now peaceful planet.
However, the draught of air from the boy’s fingers as he clapped his hands triggered a solar wind that spiralled out from the planet’s sun-star, swirled through the galaxies, and inflamed the skin of every star it brushed against. Before they knew it, the stars themselves were at war with one another.
So now the peacemaker searched for the boy. But the planet was full of little boys and by the time the peacemaker found him, he was a grown man and could not promise never to clap his hands again. Nor could he undertake to hold his hands in prayer for all time.
But the peacemaker pleaded a compromise. Butterflies need to spread their wings and the universe needs symmetry for the balance between war and peace. Let the butterflies leave their planetary vigil, she said, and as each swarm rises outwards into space in a right-circled movement, let another swarm circle leftwards; as each circle sweeps upwards, let another swoop downwards. A star-dance of symmetry, iridescence and balance.
And so it was done.
The man brought his children to the window one sharply-cold winter night when the star-lights were flickering in and out of focus, pale green against the navy-blue backdrop of outer space. They watched, enthralled, as a shooting star took form and streamed across the visible universe, symmetrical, iridescent, drawing intricate patterns of light and colour through space. As the man held his breath, his children clapped their hands in delight. And from far away, the man thought he heard the wing-beat of six billion butterflies, opening and folding in the dance harmony of the universe.
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