The tip of his nose felt itchy. He tried to move his fingers, but they were numb. He tried to open his eyes, but they seemed glued. All he could see, were splashes of colours and flashes of light, on a pale jet-black background. The sensation on the tip of his nose persisted. He heard voices; faint yet perceptible. All he could do was force a groan. And then, all faded.
“Beep, beep, beep, beep, whirrrffftt…bonk…”
The loud sound travelled through the auditory canal and tickled his cochlea. The ossicles must have amplified the surrounding cacophony, to a salutary symphony. For, he tried to move his hands, but a stinging pain crippled him instantly. Somehow, between his conscious and comatose mind, he tried, once again. But his fingers rebelled; refused to work. He tried to straighten his posture. Once again, all faded.
“Mr. Darcy…Sir…quick, this side. There’s someone here.” Ben, the site supervisor, noticed the man lying on the marshland, near their construction site. He alerted his boss immediately.
Darcy and the rest rushed towards the spot.
“I was checking the area when I noticed something between the grasses. It wasn’t moving so I came to check and saw this man. I think he’s dead.” Ben and the rest were quite shocked and closed in to get a better look.
“Mr. Darcy, it was actually a kaleidoscope that drew my attention. It looked as if the swarm was shielding him.”
“Step aside, you all. I’m calling the cops. No one touches the body. This looks like a case of homicide. Let’s move outta here and wait by the tent.” Darcy made the sign of the cross and was about to leave, but something caught his attention.
Did I imagine or did his fingers actually move? Nah! I must’ve mistaken. The guy didn’t budge an inch since then.
He heard the siren of the approaching police cars. Should I just wait for the cops or should I…
He looked around. All clear. With trembling hands, he checked the pulse of the ‘dead’ man. It had a faint rhythm. The cops were almost there. He placed his fingers under the man’s nose, to reconfirm.
“He’s alive. He’s alive. This man’s not dead; he’s breathing.” Darcy screamed at the top of his voice. The cops, together with the team of first responders, rushed to the site. “This man’s alive. I saw him moving his fingers, and he’s breathing.”
Speedily, they took him away in an ambulance and secured the crime scene for further investigation. Darcy and his men were released after the routine enquiry.
Finally, the chrysalis cracked open, and Vanessa emerged from within. Her wings were small and crumpled. The abdomen was plump, filled with fluids. The humans stood in silence with their fingers crossed. Shortly after, she expelled some meconium and fluttered her magnificent wings.
“Look how beautiful she is!” Shane stared at it in awe. “Wasn’t I right to pick that name? Vanessa… how perfectly she fits into her name.” He felt jubilant at their success. Everyone will be proud of me; irony or destiny, I know not. The aspiring aurelian was brimming with zeal. After all, the battle with his own demons wasn’t easy. It took time to transform; to break off from the fetid chrysalis of his own quackery.
“Shane, it’s teamwork, but we succeeded ‘cause of your sheer determination,” A fellow associate applauded. Together, they witnessed a magnificent metamorphosis at their conservation lab.
Vanessa was created naturally, from the interbreeding of two butterflies; Schaus’ Swallowtail and Greta Otto. She was the first of her kind; a rare breed. Numerous experiments were carried out over the past years, but most failed. Either the newborns died inside the chrysalis, or the pupae failed to mature, due to inapt temperature regulation. But with each unsuccessful attempt, Shane was loaded with stubbornness, to retry. He refused to give up; exactly the way he refused to give up on his life, once.
“Officer, we’ve been trying our best, but his condition isn’t stable yet. Anyway, all his reports are in. Here, have a look. It’s a miracle, I must say. This guy is a true fighter.” The doctor handed the reports to the cops.
The victim whom they found three days back, was a young guy in his late 20’s. He was stabbed six times; had traces of alcohol and cocaine in his blood. He was brutally assaulted with some metal object; presumably, an iron rod. He had few fractures and broken bones. Burnt marks by cigarette butts were all over his face. As per the reports, it was a week old incident and miraculously, he survived.
Within the next three days, a special team was put to work. During the investigation, a particular missing person report caught their attention. Few specifics matched with the victim’s details. Two officers, immediately set forth to pay a visit to the plaintiff’s address.
They were welcomed by a man named Pat. He was the complainant who reported about his missing son, a fortnight back.
After a brief chit-chat, one of the officers handed him a photograph. The photo of their newfound victim.
“Sir, have you seen this man before? In the neighbourhood… somewhere…”
Pat fixed his gaze on the photo. His face was pale, and void of expressions. And then, all of a sudden, he started to sob profusely. “Shane…my boy…Shane…”
The officers heaved a sigh of relief.
An ambitious go-getter, with an insatiable hunger for success. The label of mediocrity kept haunting him throughout his childhood. He relentlessly tried to break free and make it big. At a very young age, he learnt to twist every situation to his advantage. Flashcards, stickers, jellies, stationery goods; he sold all possible kinds of stuff to the students at his school. He even sold home-works to his classmates and juniors. Shane wanted to earn; be it fame or wealth.
Shane learnt about butterfly poaching from the internet. There, he read about smugglers who made thousands by selling rare butterflies. The business was lucrative but risky. After much speculation and study, Shane finally decided to indulge in that rewarding venture. Two of his friends agreed to join when Shane offered an equal share of the profits. All he needed was a perfect plan, and so did he construct one.
Ecology, a subject from his college course, worked as the stepping stone. Somehow, he bagged permission to volunteer at one of the butterfly conservation sites, in his hometown. Shane closely observed the internal operations and got actively involved in the activities. Within a year, he earned appreciation and recognition for his good work. He needed that. And he well utilised it to his advantage; to execute his much-awaited plan.
“Are we all set to bid Bon Voyage to our precious beauties?” Shane looked at his comrades for the final nod.
“Yes, chief. We are good to roll,” confirmed one.
Thereafter, the voyages continued. He sneaked out a few rare butterflies that fetched him a fair price. Yet, Shane wasn’t happy with the returns. He wanted more. One day, a trusted client introduced him to the drug cartel. The fervour to reach the pinnacle, finally dragged him to the ring. But Shane had better ideas. He wanted to tickle two tummies with one finger.
“So, dear friends, can you spot the odd? You’ll have handled several butterflies by now. Look closely.” Shane placed two butterflies in front of his confidantes.
“None. Atleast, nothing that we can spot. Both are exactly the same in all aspect.” They looked at each other, wondering.
When they finally failed to detect the difference, Shane spoke with pride. “It’s an experts handiwork, after all. I’m glad you couldn’t detect the Dust. I would’ve been disheartened otherwise. Now, check this.”
The two guys gaped in awe. Synchronously, they uttered, “Wow!”
“The Rhopaloceras will carry Dust in their bosom. It will fetch double profits.” Shane beamed with pleasure.
Henceforth, the best-laid plans budded and bloomed. The gorgeous insects acted as mute agents and died painful deaths. They were ripped off, of their right to live. All ‘cause few humans were greedy and ruthless. As of the profits, Shane kept the major share and split the rest to his two partners. The business was his brainchild, after all. As much as Shane wanted to flaunt his success, he couldn’t. He kept his trade low-key, for he didn’t want to raise suspicions. On the forefront, he attended college, did part-time jobs and volunteered for noble causes. His life was perfectly balanced. At least that’s what he thought; until life decided to challenge it all.
It was doomsday for Shane. A major consignment didn’t reach its destination. He didn’t have the slightest inkling until the client contacted him for an update. The shipment was missing, and so were his two trusted confidantes. Both were unreachable; untraceable. Shane was in a quandary.
What must have happened to those two? Were they robbed or nabbed? Nah! Impossible. I need to find them, or else we are all dead. He walked up to the locker in their hideout. I’ll carry the gun, just in case…
“Holy…Where’s the gun?” He opened the other two lockers. Empty. Shane was filled with rage. The consignment was missing; his friends were missing, and his gun wasn’t there. All vanished into thin air.
Next evening, a helpful tip-off took him to the new hideout of his two partners. Though his sudden emergence stunned the traitors, they didn’t retreat. On the onset, the trio kept their encounter friendly, until Shane got suspicious. He realised that it was all pre-planned; that his trusted comrades plotted against him. It was they who stole his gun. Having worked with Shane for more than five years, they learnt the trick of the trade. They wanted to take over the business and be the boss. Soon, he realised that his ignorance dragged him to some adverse fatality.
All he could remember was a hard blow on his head. And the itchy feeling on his nose before Darcy and his team discovered him from the marshland.
Once he recovered, he assured to better his ways. His parents were oblivious of his misdeeds. They were saddened and shocked by the incident. After serving a short prison term, he was released on compassionate grounds.
He distributed his earnings to charitable trusts and organisations, that worked for butterfly conservation. Shane went forth with his studies and gradually set a lab to research on butterflies. Together with other students, he campaigned against wildlife poaching and voiced on several similar issues. It was his way to attain salvation.
After all, the magnificent kaleidoscope has been his guardian angel.
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