Prologue to The Monarchs

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“Look at that big piece of driftwood,” she laughed. “It looks like a dead giant caterpillar washed ashore.”

Grant Jenssen laughed, too, but then he took a second look. The wood was washed not quite white, more of a light tan, and the little stubs from broken branches could have been legs; the resemblance to a caterpillar was indeed uncanny except for the fact that it was a meter wide and about three long.

“Wait a minute —”

She saw the look and laughed harder. “Oh, dear, I’m sorry I put the idea in your head. Grant? Oh, please —”

“I have to get down there.”

“To look at some flotsam? It’s a 10 foot drop or more.”

He saw a pile of boulders stacked up to the edge of the cliff a short distance away and, scrambling cautiously, worked his way down to the beach.

“Grant?! Don’t be an idiot,” she called from above. But he approached the huge bit of not-driftwood in awe.

It was dead, to begin. Certainly no question there. But also, it had once been alive. One. live. giant. caterpillar.

“Where did you come from, little one?” he whispered.

“GRANT!” He looked up and saw her, staring wide-eyed at something in the sky and behind him.

He turned quickly and saw an explosion of orange and black in the sky, hundreds of huge butterflies dancing and swooping in the sun over the water just off shore. They stretched north as far as the eye could see, and the grand dance was clearly making its way south.

For many minutes they passed before them, a procession of monarchs, larger than life, migrating from a place no one could know to a land no one could guess.

And just as suddenly, they were gone, leaving Grant standing alone beside a dead, giant caterpillar and her above on the cliff, laughing and crying like a child.

When sense finally returned to him, Grant thought of the phone in his pocket with its camera, and he cursed himself for being dumbstruck to the point of inaction. More than that, a purpose formed in his soul.

He had to see them again.

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