Butterflies are extinct – somehow we killed them all. Whether it was due to climate change, pollutants or some other symptom of our species' success, we don’t know. But it doesn’t matter: they made a better version.
Ask yourself what a butterfly does. What use does it have in a modern world? Sure, it pollinates flowers, and that’s nice and probably useful, but it’s hardly a marketable feature. If you said they ‘look pretty’, then you have some sense of why, in one of those rare moments, corporate interest aligned with the environmental lobby.
So they introduced Butterfly 2.0. It looks the part, certainly. They are each deployed in copper chrysalis, hatching out to unfurl their LCD wings. A plastic tube for the body, housing sweatshop electronics that are programmed to give it the clumsy flight the insect was known for. An optic fibre proboscis shimmers as the creature flits from flower to flower, pretending to drink the nectar so it can collect pollen on a Velcro patch.
They were pretty, and almost universally adored. Their wings could shift in colour, put out psychedelic patterns or even videos of fields of flowers. Soon you could program the butterflies in your garden to show certain things – pictures of loved ones, weather reports. Anything you desired for a monthly fee.
There were losers, of course. Without the real things, lepidopterists were forced to catch and pin the artificial doppelgangers under glass. The creatures would then send an error message to their parent company, and an arsenal of legal reps would be deployed with absolute prejudice.
Natural predators fared no better. Plastic and copper do not digest well; and, with fears of vandalism, companies started to install tampering countermeasures. It was not long before curious kookaburras were being treated to electric shocks, or worse. Sometimes swallowing the thing did not disable its motor. Animal welfare groups went berserk, but the predators soon learned not to mess with private property.
Now they’re everywhere, and the advertisements have begun. The butterfly corporations are making back their investment. If you want your flowers pollinated you can watch the logo of a pesticide splash across its wings, or a bit for expensive fabric softener as it bobs around the clothesline. The next upgrade gave them tiny cameras for social media integration. They can take shots of your garden and recommend a better fertiliser, or show you pictures of your cousin’s night out as you venture down your garden path.
There’s one bumbling against my window at the moment. I try to ignore it; it’s probably advertising some pyramid scheme. Yet I can’t help myself, the newer ones have such bright wings. I turn, and there it is, my face staring back at me as it records, taking an inventory of the room behind me. The wings darken, and then an ad for bug spray pops up as it notices a cockroach skittering across the floor.
A good suggestion, perhaps I’ll buy some.