Metamorphosis

It was a beautiful day, as most of the days at Julianni’s home had been. The heat had evenly applied itself to the oasis, and the wind did its job at cooling off the woman when the temperatures became too much. Now mid-afternoon, she could hardly wait any longer.

For hours, she had stayed within her garden, watching as the chrysalis of each butterfly twisted and turned. One had even cracked, but the beautiful beings had yet to grace Julianni with their full, stunningly vibrant appearance. She was as patient as she could be, sipping lightly at the mug of coffee in her hands. A small smile crept it’s way onto her lips as a thought crossed her mind.

These hours she had watched had also given way to moments of reflection. How far she had come. Once a toy to a power-driven lordling, now a director in a respected organization. At one time wondering just where it was she was supposed to call home, now sitting on her own property, with all the acreage and privacy she could ever want. As she observed the butterflies undergoing their metamorphosis, she couldn’t help but pair it to her own. Even now, with a relationship having appeared over the horizon, she was still undergoing a transformation into something that she prayed was as beautiful as the wings of the creatures before her.

Her patience paid off, that smile only further growing as one of the butterflies pushed its way out of its safe haven. For many moments that followed, one by one, the insects she so cherished appeared before her very eyes. Vivid yellows and black contrasting markings of these desert butterflies were revealed to Julianni and she let out a sigh of awe. The wings twitched. Shook. Fluttered. She knew the process, as she’d seen it before. And each time, it grew more remarkable.

Soon, it would be time to do what it was she always wanted to the moment she laid eyes on them. But for now, they needed to gain their strength, and she had some cleaning to do. For a few more minutes, she sat and watched as the butterflies slowly bat their wings to dry, then she pushed off of the bench to attend to her day’s work.

 


 

The storage room wasn’t as much of a mess as she’d believed. It was just disorganized. If there was one thing she enjoyed doing, it was putting things together. Like a puzzle, each item would have a place, and would fit best with its surrounding pieces. The paintings would be filed away together, the sculptures organized by years and set to one side, the rare fabrics would be sealed away for the most safe of storing. She was doing inventory, really. And she didn’t mind it.

The passing of the original owner of this home was unfortunate, to be sure. But such was the cycle. The art and fabrics that had been left behind by the merchant was…a bit much for the woman. Extravagant, lavish- it didn’t suit her. By placing them in the storage area, at least she was keeping the man’s memory alive instead of just being rid of them. And one day? She felt she’d even pull together an exhibit, perhaps. A charity, maybe. Her mind danced with positive ideas as she moved things one by one to their respective areas.

But it was moving that one statue, that one small carving of a desert snake that proved to shake those thoughts.

The grind of stone gave the woman pause, as did the fact the small statue wouldn’t leave the pedestal it was resting on. Her attention was caught off to the side at movement; no one was here but her, she thought. But her concern was somewhat washed away at the Eastern most wall sliding inward.

Her brow raised, and of course, curiosity got the best of her. Who wouldn’t it have? With a cautious step, she began to proceed to the dark opening of what must have been another room.

No sound came from within, save for the distant eerie whistle of wind. The woman took a deep breath, as if taking a plunge into deep waters, then stepped inside fully, her hand searching for a light switch. It took her a bit of time, but she finally found it, and flipped it to the “on” position. Her dark brown eyes adjusted to the bright, uncomfortable light quickly.

Surrounding her was an assortment of containers. Suitcases, bags, and even filing cabinets were dotted around what she assumed was a panic room of sorts. Surprisingly, each one was empty. Why had this been cleared out, but the art had not? It was strange, to be sure. Even after double checking the various containers, she couldn’t find a single thing. Her head shook side to side, confused. It was at this point she decided that a call to the realtor was wise.

Julianni turned to leave, only to be stopped by the sound of metal rolling across the floor under her feet. Her brow raised and she immediately looked to see just what it was she’d kicked. It seemed the room wasn’t so empty after all. But her raised brow soon fell, as did the rest of her face.

She could see the writing slowly appear. Each and every letter appeared one by one, from the back to the front. It was like it was happening in slow motion.

But she already knew what it said.

She knew the moment she’d seen the first two letters.

As the vial of Drop came to a stop a few inches in front of her, she found herself face to face with one of the most difficult decisions of her life. What was to become of her own metamorphosis? Would her wings be as vibrant as the butterflies she so loved? Would they become colourless and broken? What could it hurt?

Moments seemed like minutes, minutes seemed like hours. She swallowed hard, knowing full well the decision had already been made the moment she saw the label.

And then:

She picked up the vial.

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Home Sweet Home

The ride through the desert sand was enough to put Julianni to sleep. Sunlight beat down heavily to produce an uncomfortable heat, but winds within the area were always quick to bring a balance to the otherwise unlikable temperatures. The vehicle itself was…little to be desired. A hover-car, of course, but the engine gave off this puttering sound as if it wanted nothing more than to lay down and die.

But it didn’t matter. She was away right now, and no one knew her. The woman was without a name to many of these people she’d interacted with on this planet, instead someone who simply wanted privacy. An expensive privacy, that is. To this day, she still felt entirely uncomfortable about the cost of the bill for the private property, the furniture, and everything else in between. But over and over she’d been told it would be worth it. “A capsuleer simply couldn’t get by without these things,” the realtor had told her. She didn’t believe a word the man said, but she also wanted the entire ordeal to be over with. Worse came to worse, she could rent the place out to someone who needed it.

She hadn’t found herself completely submerged into the depths of slumber, only taking a sort of catnap. Her sheer headcover was tugged well enough against her left cheek to hide from the driver the fact that her eyes were, in fact, closed. There was little conversation on the way. Julianni had been ensured that the process was anonymous, that she’d not have to worry about people asking who she was, how she could afford such a place, or what her story was. The driver would keep to himself, the movers would be gone when she arrived, and she would have no worries about someone coming to knock on her door. Sure, the employees may wager guesses as to this woman’s status, but there was no definitive answer provided to them. It was none of their business, anyway.

“We’ll be arriving at the oasis momentarily,” the dark-skinned driver stated in what was his first words in hours. Her eyes opened and, sure enough, she could see the green foliage beginning to crop its way up in the distance. At first, dots of green on the horizon, encased by tan hills that acted as a mother’s protective arms. If she hadn’t known that this place was supposed to be here, she would most certainly have guessed it was a mirage. They were very much out of any area of civilization and hot sands had surrounded them for miles upon miles.

But it was real, and the closer they came to the location, the more she could see just how the video viewing of the location hardly did it justice. Trees and bushes were in abundance, enough that even the spring could hardly be seen, much less the home built within. What could be seen of the adobe was its roof and some parts of the wall surrounding it. Built somewhat more elevated, it still seemed to be hidden thanks to its tan colour against the sanded hills that surrounded.

The parting of the foliage was just enough for the hovercar to fit through, and so it did, expertly piloted by her driver. Even he seemed to glance about the scene in awe, as if he’d never seen it this close before. Julianni became so distracted with the beauty unfolding around her that she hardly noticed the vehicle come to a stop. “This is as far as I’ve been permitted to go, Miss…uh…ma’am.”

Her attention turned towards the man, and an awkward smile found itself on her face. “Oh, of course. Thank you for the ride, sir.”

Gracefully slipping out of the car, she bowed lightly before him, (which of course caused him to raise a brow), then moved to the trunk to take out her bags. With an effortless lift, she retrieved them and made her way to the gate that stood guard in front of the building.

Security had already been set up, she’d been told. Cameras upon cameras, key code locks, retinal scans, fingerprint scans, voice recognition…state of the art, of course. She went through the process of verifying her identity, and sure enough, the small gate parted enough for her to fit through. The safeguards were needed, she knew, especially with what had happened in the past. But it was uncomfortable to know that she needed them at all.

To say the home was what she saw in the video tour was accurate, of course, but it was also so much more. Her eyes widened at just how extravagant the place was. Before, it was empty, and it still looked almost too excessive for her taste. But she’d taken the plunge to do something for herself for once. There was also the fact she’d been largely talked into it by both Doctor Aneozomi, and the realtor himself.

Now, however, furniture had been arranged within the building. Julianni silently cringed at just how lavish each room was turning out to be. She didn’t deserve this, no. Not by a long shot. But here it was, and it was here to stay. Her thoughts drifted back to renting the place out. It was certainly a possibility. Maybe even make it into a retreat for I-RED and its allies’ personnel. A getaway of sorts.

But the moment Julianni stepped out through the back door, her heart felt as if it stopped. Nevermind the half-moon swimming pool and the personal hot tub. Nevermind the outdoor bar and the chairs that must have cost more than most baseliners would ever dream to make in three lifetimes. No, what caught the mixed woman’s dark eyes was a small glass observatory off within the shade towards a few large trees. This was not something she had asked for, nor was it on the video tour.

Cautiously, she approached the lightly tinted structure, the click of her heels hardly making a sound on the stone pathway. Within, she could see various congregations of lush desert plants, all in their state of blooming. There were a few other plants that she knew may not necessarily survive in the area, but she guessed that their life was granted by some sort of indoor irrigation system.

A garden, of course, and an indoor one at that. There were two doors, however, to pass through to get inside. The first, tinted glass that sealed shut behind her, then the second which swung open easily. A rush of the scent of the flowering cacti and bushes danced their way into her senses, bringing a smile to her face. What’s more, the garden itself was exactly as how she envisioned one for herself to be- not too large, and with just enough plant life for her to be able to take care of on a busy schedule.

It was what next that caught her eye that drew the breath from her very lips. There, beyond the flowers, bushes, and small amounts of decor, was what she immediately identified as a chrysalis holder meant for butterflies. Within, she could see the large number of butterfly chrysalis within, all looking relatively fresh in their state of metamorphosis. A small datapad lay to the side of the open box, inviting Julianni to take it up to read.

She did so, letting the screen come to life, then began to read the words.

Avala-haani,

They are native to this area. I’m told they emerge after approximately 15 to 20 days. There are people on this planet who know their habits quite well, but I am quite certain you’ll do well in caring for them. The Executor has approved your schedule has been adjusted so that you will have those days to yourself.

Congratulations on your new home. I’ll see you at our next appointment.

Dr. Emiri Aneozomi

Julianni was left speechless.

She felt guilty. After everything, how could she possibly be deserving of any of this? Was she not running away? Hiding like some scared fool in the middle of a desert on an unimportant world? Even with her specifications of a prayer room being built here, was she not pulling further away from God by running instead of facing her trials? How could she possibly accept something like this, much less purchase some home when people had died because of her mistakes?

But there was a small part of her that felt relief. This was a place that had no affiliations with any organization. It was not within I-RED headquarters, it was not a part of the Degario Holding. It was hers.

Her eyes welled up with tears, overcome with the knowledge that she had a place now to call home. Even if every day she felt as if she were caught between two worlds, this place was solace from that. She could feel it within her heart, her hand reaching up to rest at her chest while she let those emotions free.

At least one place, she could finally belong.