p align="justify">"Inside the soul Love must be nurtured, This is an obvious concept to some, but a mystery to many." Third Filament :notes on human development, Andromeda Galaxy...Text 175 Travelers Library
Of course it was deep dark, Butterfly thought to himself, as one by one all five phones roused the sleepy boys. In fact, dawn was hours away in wintry Seoul, and as usual they crawled tiredly from their warm blanket cocoons in the unheated room. Dorms for DEM trainees had all heat turned off at midnight and turned back on at 6 a.m. Each boy rummaged for his thermos to sip once hot tea from last night, to dress, brush teeth, and make themselves presentable. Sounds of scores of feet pounding on linoleum meant the rush was on to reach their practice rooms at least a kilometer away across and through the web of buildings that compromised their "campus'. Late arrivals were fined so Rosie, and Shorty smashed themselves through the doorway laughing and cursing each other, followed by Eun Woo and Brainy, and lastly, shivering as he fumbled on his shoes, himself - Butterfly- Jonghyun.
Two hours later at half past 6, some warmth from Tai Chi and Martial Arts training had begun to thaw hands and fingers. Their stomachs growled hungrily; breakfast was still an hour away. Rush to the next classes. Together with many other trainees, they settled at tables in a large warming classroom; the groups all recited yesterday's English vocabulary, and then wrote down whatever the British teacher indicated on the white board. Time passed slowly during English conversation time. Raps on knuckles punished mispronunciations or poor diction, and after an interminable period of attempted conversation, they could move on.
Trainees rushed to set up for their morning meal. Rattling trolleys brought food on metal trays. The soup was tepid, vegetables over cooked, servers had skimped on rice, and there was only tofu and no warm meat. Lastly they had some sliced oranges, a little sour, but still eating was the best part of any day. They were always hungry. Big Brain's sister said they burned two or three times the calories offered at the two provided meals. According to their contracts, this cost was deducted from future earnings, with interest. In fact all the expenses of training them were itemized on the DEM contracts signed at age 15, when training began. Even their pittance handed out at month's end for the purchasing of toiletries, practice shoes, and personal items, like snacks, from the company of course, was carefully noted on those contracts.
Butterfly chewed his breakfast thoughtfully recalling his favorite snacks : dried pollock, American style chips, chocolates and ice cream. Childhood memories of fried chicken and pizza seemed at times, like dreams. Then the large group of teens pitched in together and cleaned the classroom of any edible detritus. And it was time for voice and instrumental music practice, Maths, manners for members of DEM, then lunch and half an hour to clean assigned areas. The rest of the day was a blur of more academic classes, and then dance practice, dance practice, dance practice. Every other day was the same.
It was dark now, well past dusk, not that any one had seen the outdoors all day, and in this dance practice room, the five of them were damp with exhaustion. Dance Practice Room D, was filled with tension as one or the other of the team kept missing a beat or a step. Encouraging but weary looks were exchanged among them. They attempted to show respect to the two important men presently scowling at them in bitter disappointment. Never a patient man, today the choreographer was relieving his frustrations by 'chewing out' the dance instructor. Now that instructor's ears were reddening to match his choleric disposition. He paced around them tapping the stick on the floor as he kept time to the music. Music on, tap, tap, tap, tap. Music off. Angrily instructions were incised into the breathless air of the room.
Who wanted this to end most of all Jonghyun wondered? Could it be Shorty whose coordination was off, having just grown another one and a half centimeters, or Woobie, equally gangly? Big Brain was meekly receiving most of the negative commentary, and surely he was praying to Buddha and Jesus for this misery to end. Music on, tap, tap, tap, ...whack! At this point the stick began missing the floor and tapping limbs that missed a beat, and Butterfly, trainee from the southern coast, was catching most of the blows.
on. Music off...tap, tap, tap...whack! Unbelievably they went over the three minute pattern of steps again, and again, and the stick was really stinging now, and Butterfly was biting his lower lip. Rosie's left eyelid was twitching madly. Shorty's long limbs had begun to tremble, and still the little monster wrung a succession of re-dos out of them. Then Shorty tripped over Rosie's feet, and both fell against him,Butterfly, and down they went. Temporarily losing his senses, the teacher began viciously kicking the boys. Brainy tried unsuccessfully to cover all three of them. Woobie grabbed his cellphone. All five raised their voices in distress, suddenly the choreographer sulked off for an Americano. Exploding in frustration, their instructor let them know exactly how inadequate, clumsy, lazy, talentless, and low born they were.
Inside the pod She thought slowly. Of course her training had dictated slow rational thinking while in transit. But she wondered about the energy supply for this tiny vessel. Would the available power run out before journey's end? Star Cluster texts described few such incidents, but fear was not data based. There were checklists to mentally focus on and complete. This she did and anxiety ebbed away.
Surrounded in warm softness; she imagined what her speed through open space might be right now, and envisioned her craft. In her mind the bubble tiny as it was flew straight and true having left her galaxy far beyond and entered this unknown one. She flew as fast as light through apparently empty darkness punctuated by distant fragments of starlight. To gauge her current velocity, she was trying to remember the initial rate of acceleration. She could almost see the formula in her mind. What she recalled most vividly was the enormous feeling of pressure at the beginning of this flight. Strange. Trying harder she remembered bits of texts, and the voices of the assistants to the Learners, a bit of shared thinking, shared songs, and the feel of the bubble's exterior membrane. Yes, departure, increasing momentum, and then.. journeying into the vastness of the universe. Hmmm, had she been afraid at her starting point, a bit of trepidation, then excitement and the thrill of adventure, and so her reflections went.
Listening intently to the music, palpably beautiful music she saw the wisdom of the builders of their crafts for encapsulating melodies were indeed companionable. Always reassuring and so multi-hued embracing her and still leaving room for possible responses to navigational changes or alterations of travel mode. How long had she been moving through space and time in this seemingly fragile capsule? Were the other travelers contemplating many things too? Darkness as a concept seemed now to be an illusion outside her capsule of colors, for outside they were moving among and between the infinite filaments of non-visible energy. Was her future a blankness waiting to be filled? a book to be written?
Blues cocooned her softly; there was no discomfort, only velocity... distance... and singing of rainbows of interior lights. Hues here were harmonies in harmonies, interwoven across visible and invisable Light but within her mind only not watched visually. This vocal and instrumental spectrum stretched from before into now. Even infrareds glowed within her thoughts. Images emerged then blurred, transformed like Language, and so it went.
What is becomes what was, she thought slowly, can I touch these colors or stroke these tone, is there any ''one or many " things to focus upon? Is this neuronal stimulation from a source within this capsule but outside my consciousness? Is this experience? What ' never was' for me is growing into an' Is'. I feel pressure building again... ...and building. Somehow I feel my travels are ending. What will be after ending? Then she was aware of heaviness growing in the music: the melody was pushing her down; this depth became measurable. Her velocity was no longer smooth but halting. With a jerk, all stopped. The membrane ruptured. She was cast out and into a living being.
Brainy had thrown himself over Butterfly, Shorty, and Rosie. All four of them had absorbed Teacher Mo's momentary insanity. Holding his cell phone and taking photos, Woobie intervened by screaming "fire!" Dance teacher Mo stopped mid-kick.
Woobie reached for Butterfly and Brainy's hands and hauled them to their feet. As one Rosie and Shorty sprang up too . Then all five of them turned and ran for the door, which thankfully burst open at that moment. An assistant manager came in shouting questions about all the hullabaloo. But the shell-shocked trainees did not hang around to discuss their grievances. Like a clot in a torn artery they burst into the doorway and somehow squeezed through. Down the maze of narrow hallways the five boys pelted. Shorty had his arm under Butterfly's shoulder and half-lifted, half-dragged him. When they reached the heavy outer doors they unhesitatingly pushed through together. Then they almost fell, scrambling pell-mell onto the rain slick pavement. Beginning to walk, no, jog faster, they exchanged frantic comments expressing their fear of capture and punishment. "Can't you run any faster?!.' "Run faster!" admonished Brainy.
"How can I run faster, I'm supporting Butterfly". Shorty panted as he ran.
As the five friend rushed along the sidewalks getting wetter and wetter while the rain increased, Brainy spoke again. "Time for a plan, teammates," he murmured.
Without pausing Rosie asked if anyone had any money at all. Sadly no one did. But they kept going. "All right then; let's head for your Noona's study dorm, "Rosie croaked.
"Wait! Are any of you using any of your grey matter here?" asked Eun Woo..."Last time that we only called Joon's Noona she blistered our ears, and threatened to call his parents."
"Aigoo! We have to go somewhere. Where else we can go penniless as we are," Brainy and Rosie replied together. "And have you noticed our Butterfly is bleeding down his ankle and onto the street?"
So this was End and Beginning thought the Traveler. Her eyes opened involuntarily and she gazed out of this Lifeform's faceted eyes. There had been a jolt as all the bubble's movement stopped, followed by her immediately melding with and then greeting another consciousness. Its concerns were decidedly limited. ' So this is living? And how huge this creature is?' Her previous comfort was replaced by a tsunami of sensation: hardness underneath, heat from within her enormous form, and an awareness of something so horrifyingly unpleasant… actual sounds, or maybe the word "noise". Her ability to think was being choked, suffocated by repeated explosions of loud sounds. Solidity of form she now possessed, textures could be perceived, tissues were contracting and expanding, smells of all kinds assailed her, more sounds: loud, soft, and confused. But worst of all there were so many sights: shapes, colors and forms all around her. This is me functioning in a chemically based organism - so much materiality. Overwhelming her attempts at comprehension now, was the message ' Move!', which she somehow just felt, and she opened her wings and flew. My conscious self, my "I am" is joined with a member of Phylum Lepidptera of Planet Earth, she mused. Air carried her higher, then dropped her as she moved those huge wings to stay aloft.
She spotted a blur and thought to herself that she did not know any thing at all about this situation. How can these tissues feel so much? She forced the eyes and optic nerves to work and her brain to make sense of what appeared. The shapes and colors below began to coalesce into meaningful form. Coherence won. 'There', she thought, ' is my goal, my purpose for traveling so many Light Years across the universe. There is my chosen One, my Other'.
" I am here for Thee," she whispered if that was what butterflies did. As she watched, those even bigger beings stopped, and made her chosen one "sit", yes, sit. Down she flew and alighted upon his forehead. Such peace she felt now that she was in action. Bidding the insect goodbye, she merged with the boy's conscious mind.
He was bewildered, but there was volition possible here. "Can we work together?" she thought to him. He was moving his head now, looking for her.
"Are you invisible? Are you a ghost? an angel?" His thoughts were racing, heart beating faster. She was aware of the complexity of his form. The communication process would take time, but she felt from him that there was no time to spare. Fixedly the four other human beings focused on the shimmering emerald and sea blue butterfly perched on their companion's brow. They were frozen by the otherworldly sight of this beautiful creature resolutely opening and closing its wings despite the steady rain.
"With me"... she thought to him and together they reached out a limb and its many boned useful appendage to grasp the nearest lifeform. Gracefully the butterfly lifted off and disappeared into the falling rain. Rosie was half-holding Jonghyun who was gasping for air and half standing. She reached out to the human boy and together they struggled together to speak in human words.
"Please help me, Hyung", his lips moved as air whooshed, vocal chords vibrated... and she was beside him in the most amazing way.
Now the Traveler, a female of her species, marveled to him at the miracle of human speech. They stood fully, leaning on Rosie, and she thought how hard this surface is beneath our extremities. It was "wet" with the rain that had streaked through greasy puddles on the street and was now strangely forming weird rainbows of reflected lights.As the group pulled her-him in, she observed them more consciously. They were slim and strong, and in their last part of growth - adolescence it was called. Their eyes were brown and their hair naturally dark. Words in their language flowed to her in his mind describing them : friends, teammates, trainees, boys, brothers in life. Memories had leaked as she began with him engage in standing, and continued as she did the running thing with him. It was far more complex and difficult than flying as an insect had been. Concentrate on his muscles, tendons and so on, she thought. Intuitively she felt his futile attempts at discovering the meaning of what was happening. She relaxed her mind into his images and concepts. He ran with his friends shivering from "cold and shock". This body needs warmth, liquids and food quickly or neither of us will be able to direct these ligaments, muscles, and nerves.
Cold rain sleeted down on their lightly clad selves. Butterfly clung to the long armed Shorty and to slender but surprisingly strong Rosie. "Hyungs, … hyungs," Butterfly stammered.
Terminology tumbled into the traveler's thinking. ' Streets', and 'rain', and 'running' for what they were doing with their 'legs'. "Traffic sounds' shook her as each seemed louder than the previous one. Now the one called Brainy drew up to them and reached his arm around her waist; the burden of movement eased. "Bleeding'' and 'weak' became meaningful terms, as did 'shivering' and 'stumbling'. Surrounded by so many humans 'huddled' underneath colorful 'umbrellas' on the 'wet streets of Seoul' the vocalizations: roars, squeas etc. became mind-numbing. Suddenly bright human-made lights, and this new feeling of pain up and down his/her legs - all this stimuli begin to whirl and blink and rush until blessed darkness and blankness took 'her '/ 'him out.s