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Chaos theory

Shannon Ryan is a Brisbane based writer and editor. He studied at the Australian National University before traipsing off to South America in a blatant attempt to avoid further study. After several years of floating he ended up at Stockholm University, Sweden finishing off his degree before having to flee the country after accidentally poisoning his girlfriend’s mother. Since returning to Australia he has launched a startlingly dull publishing career in the areas of local history and children’s educational books.

Deep in the tropical rainforests of far north Queensland, two tiny cocoons hung from a thick purple fungus. The cocoon on the left began to twitch and shudder, moments later so did the other.
A split appeared in the left cocoon, and two bright yellow wings could be seen as a little butterfly slowly emerged and took a perch on the spongy purple mushroom. It was joined less than a minute later by another, as the second cocoon split and disgorged a larger red and green winged butterfly.
They stood side by side in the silent forest, totally still. Then the larger butterfly fluttered its wings and rose into the air. With a sudden effort it beat its wings heavily once, then settled back on the fungus. The air displaced by the flapping wings produced a series of minute eddies that expanded exponentially, lifting warm air high into the atmosphere until the ice cold jet streams of the stratosphere were disturbed. Off the coast of north Queensland the warm air collapsed a low-pressure cell and a cyclone began to form. That cyclone hit the coast of Australia and wiped out the banana industry. The red and green butterfly just sat on the fungus, preening its wings and looking very satisfied with itself.
Next to it the little yellow butterfly flapped its wings twice and resettled on the fungus, looking about expectantly. Nothing happened. The air displaced by its wings had dissipated harmlessly. The yellow butterfly looked across at its companion who was fluttering like mad and sending typhoons to Taiwan and hurricanes to Haiti. Again the yellow wings flapped and again nothing happened.
In a fit of frustration the yellow butterfly stamped its foot. Minuscule reverberations flowed through the mushroom and into the earth's mantle. As each second passed the reverberations grew in magnitude. Eventually they hit a tectonic fault line far to the north. In a complete surprise to the inhabitants of North America, California collapsed into the Pacific.
With a self-satisfied flutter, the yellow butterfly looked at its larger companion and flew away into the forest.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Author Comments

This story came about after a rather heated philosophical debate about the nature of chaos. I’m not usually one for heated debates about anything, but I was three pints in and feeling gnarky. After successfully shooting down every argument that came my way I was then challenged to explain chaos theory within a single page of text. I failed of course, but I did write a story about butterflies with cool abilities.

- Shannon Luke Ryan
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