Galactic Butterfly
by S Shane Thomas

Our colony’s crisis is worse than anything Earth, the home world has ever experienced. Everything we have worked for outside the metal walls of our starship turned city has been consumed to bare dirt. We survive now, only as we survived during the generational voyage to this world, XI83. Our well protected Earth Habitats, which remained completely isolated from the wildlife, foliage, and native agricultural centers on the planet’s surface. We will continue to thrive, and to attempt to restore XI83 to its former beauty but it is uncertain whether we can reintroduce all the native forms of life the disaster culled. We had every opportunity to prevent this, if only someone noted the similarities between Earth’s tiny insects and the giants we encountered beyond their beauty.

XI83 had so many striking similarities to Earth’s myriad of climates; jungles, forests, tundra, desert, grass plains, and oceans teeming with life. Some species looked as if they had been transported to this world with us, but others looked unmistakably alien.

It came from space, even as we had come. From the colony the view looked incredible. Wings splashed full of color stretched from North to South, engulfing most of the clear horizon. Light from the setting sun splashed across the majestic natural tapestry of a Galactic Butterfly. The animal must spend its adult life traveling through the cold darkness of space looking for a place suitable to lay its eggs. The colony’s security forces approached the animal cautiously after it perched upon the rim of a canyon. The giant made no attempt to communicate or even to acknowledge their presence. Biologists speculate these creatures exist merely on instinct. The Galactic Butterfly spent a week filling the canyon with larvae, and then fly back into the depths of space.

Years passed with scientists continually studying the larvae. It became the colony’s premier tourist destination. We built a theater on the side the Galactic Butterfly had perched, and it showed video footage of the creature’s time on XI83. In all this time spent in wonder over the giant species no one recalled the simple biology lesson about caterpillars on Earth, each one consumes 86,000 times their own weight in food.

One day the larvae disappeared, and twelve caterpillars began to devour all the plant and animal life on the surface of the world. Instinct must have driven them apart because immediately they ate a barren path across the world’s surface as if spreading apart from one another. Colonial leadership was torn, should we take action or wait for them to stop eating? Ethical debates raged on until a caterpillar reached our fall harvest just outside the colony. Our weapons proved useless against a creature of their magnitude. Nuclear devices and poisons were both banned in our attempts to thwart the hungry beasts since their proximity to the colony would bring our end as well.

Metal frame work proved too strong for the giant caterpillar’s massive jaws, providing salvation for the city inhabitants. In two months, XI83 became a barren wasteland. Nothing remained of its once lush environment save for the excrement left by the giant bugs.

Cocoons are spread about the world’s surface now, their surfaces impenetrable by our mining equipment. Farmers are desperately sowing fields in parts of the world warming up for spring season. Food rations will hold, but no one knows if the brood of Galactic Butterfly will eat again once they hatch.

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