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I Stumbled Across Creatures on St. Thomas Over a Decade Ago I Still Haven’t Identified

[this story is meant to be read and experienced as a daydream, dream with me]

Look up. You see a green canopy and specs of blue and white as the sky is obscured by towering trees and vines. The air is humid and you smell moist dirt, as you are surrounded by hundreds of trees, decaying tree trunks, and a series of shortcuts and paths. 

The sounds are unimaginable and mysterious. Something yells out in the distance, but it doesn’t sound like any bird you’ve ever heard before — it sounds almost like a monkey. Following trails beat by people before you, an intersection appears. It’s a fork. 

Left, right, or straight ahead. So you turn right, down a path you’ve avoided in the past for fear of uncovering the unknown or even danger. The sounds continue — birds scattering, bugs buzzing, and the bushes begin to rustle around you.

So you stop and listen. But everything stops moving, just as you did. Your movement wakes the forest around you with each step. As you continue down the unknown path, things begin to smell different. The trees even look different, and the canopy gets thicker blocking out most of the sun.

You think, “maybe I should turn back.” But then something catches your eye. On a leaf, you spot an insect, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

Characteristically, it looks like a ladybug. Except it lacks black spots and it isn’t red or orange. This insect is iridescent — showing luminous colors that seem to change when seen from different angles.

Imagine a child blowing bubbles. Picture all the colors you see as light passes through it — now imagine a bug who’s exoskeleton behaves the same way when light touches it. You look around and notice there are more just like it. It looks so rare and mystical that you decide it’s too risky to touch it for fear that it may be poisonous or covered in toxins. 

[your daydream ends here and my story begins]

“Amaziahhhhhhh!!!” — rings out and echos through the valley. I begin running down the path I was always afraid to explore, retracing each step as I sprint through the bushes. Speeding through the shortcuts that zigzagged and crossed paths, I hear it again, this time louder, “Amaziahhhhhhhhhh!!!”

I stop in my tracks and respond, “Yeah, I coming!” I continue running and a few moments pass before I exit the treeline and sun rays are no longer obscured by the green canopy. I’m on a basketball court now and all along I knew it was my mother calling me. 

I’m in Bovoni, on the basketball court behind Building B somewhere between 1999 and 2005. Normally, I explored the tree line with a friend or two but sometimes I did it alone. My mother can see me now and tells me to “come inside” through the window of our apartment on the fourth floor.

Here, I would cross paths with garden snakes under sheets of galvanize, strange insects and observe plants and flowers I had never seen before. 

The location where your daydream took place was in Bovoni and it wasn’t a daydream, it was a memory — my memory.

And it’s now gone, replaced by a massive concrete building — Premier Wine and Spirits. The iridescent insects I described, I only saw them that one time.

Bovoni Housing Community (left) Premier Wine and Spirits and storage locations (right)

Years after this memory, the land would be cleared to expand storage capacity for businesses and heavy equipment in the Bovoni area. Over a decade later, I’m beginning to realize there ‘may’ have been insects, reptiles, and even tiny mammals unique to the Virgin Islands — similar to islands like New Zealand and Tasmania that boast species scientists can’t find anywhere else on Earth. 

I have no data to confirm this, which makes the disappearance of these unknown animals even more grim and deeply troubling. The shallow waters surrounding the Virgin Islands are at risk as local scientists and the University of the Virgin Islands scramble to preserve our dying marine ecosystems. 

Many of the creatures that rely on trees in the Virgin Islands have nowhere else to go, what happens to them when their habitat is replaced with concrete and galvanize?

Featured image courtesy of the Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network. The photo shows a Ladybird (Steelblue) Halmus chalybeus, the closest insect I could find that matches my memory.

Halmus chalybeus, commonly known as the steelblue ladybird, is a species of ladybird native to Australia. It has a rounded appearance with an iridescent blue/green coloration and is a predator of other insects.