Living Blue

An essay by Dr. Carol Arnold, as provided by Dr. J.A. Grier
Art by Leigh Legler

Recollections on the process of invention, entitled “Living Blue” from the journal of Dr. Carol Arnold, by J. A. Grier


Even over the phone, my mother’s voice held the same mix of syrup and threat it always did. “Of course we want you here for Thanksgiving, Carol. It would disappoint your cousins if you didn’t come. People are counting on you. I’ve bought so very much food. You live so close and yet never come over to the house.”

I closed my eyes tightly, forcing my mouth into the shape of the word “no”–instead I said, “Yes, then. I’ll come, but I can’t stay long.”

“Of course you can, there will be so much to do. Don’t wear that blue dress of yours, it shows how fat you are. Honestly, if only you’d have watched the calories as a girl like I had told you. Don’t talk about all that technical stuff, either. It bores people. Your Aunt Dolly says she’s bringing her apple pie again, even though I told her I have all this food. I’ll call again tomorrow.”

I hung up, and looked around my desk. It did seem a strange mix of knickknacks for a chemist: old greeting cards, badges from meetings, a plastic model of the Moon, silk flowers, an art deco reading lamp, and a bright blue butterfly in a glass frame.

I gazed at the butterfly for a long time. It was an ideal specimen of a blue swallowtail butterfly, a Papilio ulysses. Supposedly, it was collected after a good long life and a peaceful, natural death on some eco-farm. I wasn’t naïve enough to really believe that, but had been too enamored of its beauty to pass over this particular vacation souvenir. I carefully lifted its case from the wall and took it to my small workroom in the basement.

I set it on the old wooden table and pulled the frame apart, releasing its quiet occupant. I rummaged around and found a magnifying glass, then spent the better part of an hour gazing over the creature’s lithe body, luminescent with blue and teal. It seemed utterly undamaged. It was a marvel that such perfection could actually die–that something so untouched could possibly be mortal. It wasn’t right, somehow.

I ransacked the house for supplies. Then I drove to the hardware store, the home repair shop, the electronics outlet, and my laboratory at work. I brought several boxes and bags back down to my workspace, and systematically sorted through the material. This was going to take some time.

Living Blue

“I’m bringing a butterfly back from the dead.”

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2015 collection.

Dr. Carol Arnold is a Principal Research Chemist for Nutri-Vision Chemical Solutions Corporation. She develops eco-friendly pesticides for recurrent insect and pest problems in staple food crops.

Dr. J. A. Grier is a planetary scientist, poet, educator, and wine lover. She spends her time penning odd articles, reading strange stories, finding bargains on red blends, and looking at impact craters on other worlds. She doesn’t like absinthe but she wishes that she did, and keeps a bottle on hand just in case. Her babblings can be found on her blog ‘Fictional Planet’ at and @grierja on Twitter.

Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at

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