The young girl sat among the flowers in the field. A wispy spring breeze was blowing the scent of wild flowers through the meadow. Her mother sat nearby under a tree, with a book, untouched, in her lap. Humming some unknown tune, the child concentrated on the milkweed flower before her. On one droopy leaf the caterpillar patiently wound itself up into a tight and comfortable cocoon. As the afternoon wore on, the child continued to concentrate on the now apparently still chrysalis. Eventually, the late afternoon sun warmed the small meadow and the chrysalis became transparent. A butterfly began to emerge. Just as the shadows began to lengthen, one lone monarch fluttered its wings and tested the wind. The child extended her hand and waited.
“It is not yet the season for the butterfly, Alice. The butterfly may be lonely.”
“I don’t think so, Mummy, I’ve asked it to stay with me.”
The butterfly still rested on the leaf, the child’s hand a few inches from its perch.
“Did you ask the butterfly to hurry, Alice?”
“Yes, Mummy, it told me how long before it would be a butterfly. That was too long, so I helped it hurry.”
Fluttering its wings the few times required, the butterfly landed on the girl’s hand.
“I’d like to go home now, Mummy, it will be cold soon.”
The mother stood, brushed off her clothes and gathered her things. She reached for the unoccupied hand of her daughter and together they walked toward the small cabin near the trees.
That evening, sitting near the fire Janis spoke in low tones with her husband. They both knew that if the sleeping child chose, their conversation would be anything but private. It still seemed necessary for themselves, if not for her, that they have this conversation in presumed privacy.
“Alex, her control is increasing. At least her control of her abilities, if not her desire to use them.” Janis stared into the cooling cup of tea. “She doesn’t ask me anymore before she tries things. She just decides and then works on how to make it happen.”
Alex sighed and got up to look at the moon washed meadow. “We were warned. We were told that as time passed she would be less ours and so much more… whatever it is they become.” He turned to his wife, took a deep breath and asked, “Are you sure you want to stick to this plan? We don’t know how quickly she is going to progress, but she is already ahead of many in her age group. They warned us. Our combined IQ has given her a head start. She may be unmanageable within a few short months.”
“We’ve been over this, Alex. I’ll keep my child by my side as long as she will have me.” She put the now cold tea aside. “My observations may help us understand this transition more than all the laboratories on earth.” A butterfly flew into the room and landed on her hand, wings gently waving. Soon it took flight and winged its way through the open window. Janis watched it go and turned to see her daughter standing in her bedroom door.
“He wanted to be free, Mummy. And that is such an important thing.”
NOTE: I fell in love with Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End when I was really quite young. The story intrigued me and held me spellbound from beginning to end. I think I was still in grade school when I found it among my mother’s books. Perhaps that early influence is what gave me hope that one day our species would step beyond our childish ways and become something we seemed meant to be: contributing members of a vast and beautiful universe. Able to touch the stars and yet still understand the heart of our fellow beings – whatever shape they might take.