Is love the key to survival in a dying world?
Set in a near future where toxins have ravaged the land and destroyed male fertility, this view of a dystopian world harnesses the power of love and determination to fight for survival.
Book 1: A Clockwork Butterfly Lena Lee is special. Her body produces a rare pheromone, and she is believed to be the savior of mankind. She works in a manor where it is hoped she will reignite the fertility of the males who are held captive. She falls under the spell of the clockwork butterfly maker, Angelo, who spends his time in his cell deftly crafting the intricate creatures. Their love is strictly forbidden, and when their affair is discovered, they plan their escape to freedom.
Book 2: Taking Flight – a prologue The world is on the brink of a toxic dystopia. Dr. Deborah Regan is a research scientist tasked with finding a cure to save the diminishing male population. When she comes close to a breakthrough and her research papers go missing, she realizes that maybe she's not meant to uncover the truth. Knowing how precious males have become, and witnessing their increasing disappearances, she fears for the safety of her lover Marcus. One night there's a knock at the door—the authorities have come for him. The panicked couple makes a break for freedom, but will they reach the cover of the woods? And if they do, can they survive out in the wild?
Book 3: The Meeting Point Eight years have passed and the fight for a clean, fertile world seems to be lost. Toxins have taken an irreversible hold, and the planet is dying. Deborah and her lover have been torn apart, and she vows to find him and flee to the safety of the hills. She knows this journey to utopia has something to do with the clockwork butterfly maker who once spoke of a place with its own microclimate that the pollution seems to miss. She has no idea of the group of survivors she will have to form or the dangers they will face to bring this vision to reality.
Content Warning: contains graphic sex scenes with multiple partners, including m/f and f/f sexual interaction, strong language, and end of the world shenanigans
A Clockwork Butterfly Excerpt:
"It's beautiful," Lena whispered, fondling the piece carefully.
The male smiled self-consciously. "Thanks," he said, pulling his kimono a little tighter.
After the giggles had subsided, Lena had taken a good look around the room and found a workbench. Upon opening the drawers she had discovered a collection of intricate copper clockwork butterflies. She'd looked hesitantly at the male and picked one up carefully when he nodded approval.
"Did you make this?" Lena asked, unable to take her eyes off the exquisite craftsmanship.
"And the others?" Lena looked at him with huge shining eyes when he shrugged the affirmative. The silence continued as Lena studied each one carefully.
"I guess I have a lot of free time." The male smiled, passing Lena an even tinier treasure. "This is my favorite one. Here, take it. It's yours."
"No, I couldn't," whispered Lena, holding out her open palms in delight. "Really?"
"Of course. Who else is going to have them?"
Lena realized with sadness that it was true. He was a prisoner. Albeit a lovely one, his luxurious room was still a prison. Lena thought more deeply on her own position in the manor and concluded that, while she might be able to roam the grounds at will, she too was a prisoner. In fact, now that her status had changed from trainee to collector to the savior of mankind, she imagined even that small freedom would soon be impinged on.
"Thank you," she said, tears forming in their ducts. She sniffed them away.
"Here, let me show you it flying." He flicked a tiny switch on the butterfly's abdomen and a key appeared. He wound it four times, pinching the wings between his finger and thumb. He held it to Lena's face. "Kiss the proboscis," he said softly.
"Uh-huh," he urged again, and Lena leaned toward the metal tube. "Use your tongue. There needs to be saliva."
Lena felt ridiculous, but did as he said, licking tentatively at the tiny curled spear.
"There," he said, satisfied, and held the creature to the window, which barely opened six inches. "Now, watch."
And Lena did. The butterfly fell for an instant, then the wings began to whir into action, lifting it chaotically upward until it found some balance. It was incredibly realistic and mimicked the stuttering, yet graceful, flight of a real butterfly.
"It's incredible," Lena exclaimed, excited and scared at the same time as the little insect flew higher and around the top of an oak tree. "Where's it going?"
"You'll see." The male smiled, placing a hand on her shoulder.
Lena moved a little closer, allowing her body to absorb his heat. Shielding her eyes to get a clearer view, she watched the butterfly weave and dip through the air back toward the window. To her astonishment, the little creature flew back in to the room and landed delicately on her shoulder. It flapped slowly once or twice then came to rest. Lena just stood holding her breath while the male smiled.
"It's a homing Lepidoptera," he explained. "It travels to its genetic partner. That's you."
Lena touched her lip then the proboscis that held her DNA.
"What are you called?" she asked, realizing suddenly that she didn't know.
"Angelo," he said, looking shy again.
Lena regarded him carefully. "It's perfect," she said, and an electric silence descended over the two.
"Is the duty complete?" A crackling voice filled the room and startled Lena. She instinctively flew into Angelo's arms.
"What's that?" she asked, her ears ringing with the invasive noise.
"That's Archmatria Jones. She's just checking up on us."
Lena felt a little sick. An image of a wizened, beak-nosed shrew hunched over a monitor flooded her brain.
"Oh my God, they can't see us, can they?" She broke free from Angelo and peered around the room for cameras.
Taking Flight Excerpt:
Deborah scrabbled around the room, tears sticking her sleep-wild hair to her face, picking up whatever she could grab hold of. The banging on the front door was getting louder, and Marcus knocked her to the floor, clasping his hand over her mouth, just as the beam of light from a torch slid across the disheveled room. Their hearts thundered against each other's as Marcus pressed her down with his full weight. Deborah could hear his frightened breath, lungful after panicked lungful blowing strands of her hair back and forth across her face.
"We need to go." He barely formed the words but Deborah heard them. He eased off her slowly and carefully when the blue torchlight passed on. Keeping low, he pulled the things Deborah had collected and flung them to the side. "We don't have time to take anything."
Deborah was stricken. "But my research…" she whispered, her chest lurching with the finality of what they were about to become—exiles from their own home.
Marcus cupped her face in his hands and forced her to focus through her panic.
"This is it. This is the moment that will affect our lives forever. You have to choose. Come with me and we will be on the run—perhaps for the rest of our lives—or stay and find the cure. But I have to go. I have to go…" More banging punctuated his words.
Deborah squeezed her eyes shut and covered her ears against the noise. Of course there was no question. Marcus was her life; she would go with him, but if only she could just grab a few papers. She glanced through to her table where piles of folders and notes documented over a decade of her investigations. Marcus followed her gaze.
"There's no time, we have to go now." He dropped her hand and retreated, leaving the decision to save her work up to her.
She watched, frozen, as he opened the cupboard door to the escape hatch they'd made months—even years—before. She couldn't remember how long they'd lived this secret life together. An image suddenly flashed into her brain, sealing her actions. The thought of running outside, hand in hand with her lover, was like a bolt of lightning to her soul; he'd hardly stepped foot over the threshold for years. What the hell was she thinking?
Deborah ran to the cupboard just as the front door was smashed in and what sounded like dozens of feet clattered through. Slipping down into the tiny space under the floor, she caught the trapdoor and pulled it shut, tugging on the string that would start a chain reaction of falling boxes and clothing to cover all signs of the escape hatch. It had always worked in their trial runs, but there was no one up there to check it had been a success this time.
She could hear Marcus breathing in the darkness as he patted about, trying to find the candles and supply bag they'd stored. Finally, a match struck and flared and Marcus lit a candle. It flickered over his strained face and Deborah had the biggest instinct to reach out and caress him with her fingertips, but he turned quickly and urged her on through the short passage that would lead them to their freedom or doom.
Footsteps banged about overhead, causing dust and debris to spatter sickeningly on them. Each drop felt like the touch of a captor and the adrenalin and nerves were becoming unbearable. Ducking down, they squeezed into the air vent that would bring them out behind a bush.
"Hurry up!" Deborah thought she was going to pass out or vomit, or both, and lurched through the hole as soon as Marcus's foot was through.
The night was the velvety black kind; a blanket of complete darkness swathed across them, muffling everything. It was eerily silent outside after the fearful shouting and crashing inside the house. They'd prepared for all eventualities and had stored clothing suitable for their escape in the shed just a few meters away. It seemed like miles to Deborah, who couldn't recall whether the security light still worked or not. Surely it would have been one of the first things they'd forfeited in the energy rationing?
She held her breath and closed her eyes as Marcus grabbed her hand and pulled her from their hiding place and out onto the exposed lawn. She just ran, trusting he would lead the way.
The Meeting Point Excerpt:
Marcus stirred and gently pulled himself free from underneath Deborah. She looked like an ethereal being lost in the sweet oblivion of sleep. He still couldn't quite believe she was actually there. That she'd found him. He always knew she was so much more intelligent than he, but he had prided himself at one point on his ingenuity and practical ability.
He went over to the chest of drawers and picked up the battered metal butterfly. He couldn't help a pang of irrational envy as he studied the craftsmanship and remembered Deborah's tone of admiration as she'd talked of how the male had come and freed his lover.
Marcus decided he would fix the creature himself and set it free. He needed to feel like he was in some part responsible for his destiny and escape, even if it was only this. Lifting the butterfly close to his face, he was amazed at the beauty and intricacy of the mechanism. He could see what he needed to do to strengthen the beast and wind it up but his thick, rounded fingers were clumsy and uncoordinated. Taking a deep breath, he composed himself and tried again. The coppery proboscis was just like the probes jutting from his forearm and he silently filled the creature with hopes and dreams for this male to be real and come to them. At last, the filament winder sprung out and he managed to catch it in the very tips of his thumb and finger. Was it clockwise or counter-clockwise? Sweat gathered on his lip and forehead as he tried to decide.
With a tiny click, click, click, he turned the key once and set the butterfly on his palm. With a purr, the wings fell open then snapped shut again. Marcus was elated. He'd got the thing working. With more confidence this time, he turned the key…five, six, seven times. How many should he do? He didn't want to over-wind it and break it, or worse, have it run out of steam halfway there.
He chanced it and did one more revolution. A click made his heart stutter. Banishing doubts from his mind, he held the butterfly by its clamped shut wings and climbed up to the window, trying to be as quiet as he could. He pushed on the glass and held the butterfly out.
Three, two, one. He let go and watched in horror as the wings beat chaotically, trying to catch a rhythm, then sputtered to a halt, tumbling to the gravely knot of weeds below.
Nausea lurched through his belly and he stared in despair out of the open slit of the window.
What had he done?