“Even bad coffee is better than no coffee at all.”
― David Lynch
Boca Diablo (part 4, Quan Kaq)
Flynn was Dwayne’s advisor for his Doctoral Dissertation. Dwayne was worried about that, but he didn’t have any choice – Flynn was the only other Lepidopterist in the entire Entomology Department. Dwayne wanted to write his dissertation on the orange butterflies he had seen years before at Boca Diablo – his preoccupation and passion for those memories was total and nothing else was of importance to him.
But Flynn had continued to doubt the existence of the insects.
He said, many times, “Butterflies, as you well know, for all their panoply of hues, solid or variegated, dull or dazzling, are not colored at random. There has to be a reason for their appearance, something that millennia of natural selection had settled upon. Butterflies in that region, in that climate can be bland or camouflaged, or they can be a brilliant blue, yellow, or green – but not orange. It simply isn’t seen and there is no reason for it.”
Dwayne would reply that it was something that he had seen and it was there, reason or not. He was more than pleasantly surprised when he received the official letter that Flynn had approved his dissertation subject, had sent a request for travel funding to the University Board, and requested a meeting, “to discuss this matter further.”
“I’m so happy that you approved my subject,” Dwayne said to Flynn as they sat down across from each other. “But tell me, you have never thought they existed, what has changed your mind?”
“I still don’t think they exist,” Flynn said, “But I think that there is maybe a slight chance, and it’s a mystery that I don’t think we can ignore.”
“Read this.” Flynn passed a thick, elaborately bound leather volume across the table. Dwayne took a look at the title, “Myths and Beliefs of the Tutaconta Indians.”
“What does this have to do with my butterflies?”
“Just read it, as soon as you can, and get back to me,” Flynn said, stood up, and simply walked away.
Dwayne started in that evening, reading from front cover to back. He didn’t stop until he was finished at dawn the next day.
The Tutaconta Indians were a large and successful Pre-Columbian civilization that shared a lot of similarities with the more well-known Toltec and Maya. The history was that they built large elaborate cities that had completely and mysteriously disappeared into the jungles where they had been raised.
Dwayne’s interest became intense when he read of the legendary capital of Protamayo, which was supposedly located on the slopes of the dormant volcano which later became the Boca Diablo.
At the height of the Tutaconta civilization Boca Diablo was a tall conical mountain until a series of violent eruptions and subsequent collapses reduced the mountain to the complex of lava flows and craters that exist today. The Tutaconta capital, Protamayo, was destroyed in this cataclysm with an almost unimaginable loss of life. In a few years after this the entire Tutaconta civilization collapsed, leaving no trace except whispery collections of legend and rumors that had spread through other nearby, luckier tribes.
The book Dwayne had been handed, attributed to the author Lazarus Leon, was written in a lurid style, treating these legends as if they were absolute fact, with almost no archeological evidence to back it up. Still, its style was convincing and Dwayne was caught up in the fervent storytelling.
After chapters detailing the rise and fall of the Tutaconta Empire and the destruction of the Protamayo capital came book sections describing daily life in the civilization, with chapters on the peasant population and the royal class.
While the description of the laboring masses was as grim as could be expected from a primitive society, the upper strata lived a life of incredible privilege and luxury. The book hinted that this ever-widening gap between rich and poor, along with the increasing decadence and depravity of the so-called nobles was responsible for the destruction of the society – that the volcanic eruption was simply a terrible outside event that set the extinction in motion.
To emphasize these points followed a series of chapters on the religious practices of this upper class. They were a collection of warrior priests and practices of mass human sacrifices were the hallmark of their legacy. Page after page of stomach-turning descriptions of death and debauchery in such detail that Dwayne wondered about the source of this text – and how much was from a fevered imagination of the author.
But these royal warrior priests were possessed of immense power and lived what seemed to be preternaturally long lives. They were described as being “Several hands taller than ordinary men,” was would live a number of lifetimes without seeming to grow older.
Dwayne began to read faster and faster as the text began to give tantalizing hints about sacred magical potions that were used to acquire great strength, divine knowledge, and extraordinary long life. Finally, near the end of the book he found the passage that explained why Flynn was so suddenly extremely interested.
“The Royal Priests of Protamayo had developed a number of techniques, most involving sacrifice to the gods, to improve their physical and mental powers, and to extend their lives. More important than anything else, however, was the Brebare Magico, or magic potion that they called Quan Kaq Itzac. The exact formula for this elixir is, of course, unknown – but it was said to be prepared from the crushed bodies of sacred insects, along with a special blend of spices and human blood. These insects were also called Quan Kaq and have been described to be giant, bright orange, butterflies. These were specially bred and cared for by the most learned of priests and destined for no other purpose than the preparation of the sacred drugs that gave great powers and long life.”