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Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Plight of the Caterpillar

Six legs. Ten prolegs.

The caterpillar climbs a stem, finds foliage at its tip. Green, tasty. He perches beneath it, filling his mouth, filling his stomach. The moon illuminates his striped body. The wind cools it. He eats until the leaf is whittled down to skeletal veins and the framework of a leaf remains. He finds another. The caterpillar eats all day, stilling only when a moonlit shadow passes or the flutter of wings warns danger is close.

At sunrise, the caterpillar crawls down into the litter, curls into the soil, Mother Earth's embrace. Safe from the sun. Away from predators. He sleeps until the sun sets, then returns to the branch to fill his belly again.

Life is good. It is full.

As the nights pass, he sheds his exoskeleton and swells larger. Still larger. Where once he was the size of a staple, he's now as thick as a pencil. The twigs bends against his weight. The tree has become a collection of foliar skeletons splayed like skinny fingers. And the caterpillar eats and sleeps. And life is good.

Until the suffering.

It's slight, at first. His skin begins to itch. His body fits more like shrink-wrap. Even the cool embrace of Mother Earth is painful, his nervous system sensitive. No matter how many bites, his stomach will not settle. He searches the ground for cooler soil, another branch for soothing leaves.

But life has betrayed him.

He wants to go back to the way it was, when there was just the branch, just the leaf. Just the sweet slumber in day's shade. This isn't fair. It isn't right. He has been forsaken.

All that is good is no more.

He endures days of struggle, no longer eating, no longer plump and vital. Shrunken and sluggish, his color is lifeless and dull. It's too difficult. Too hard. He can't go on, not anymore. Not like this.

He lacks the strength to find shelter, lacks the will to hide from things that fly and things that peck. And when wings flutter nearby, he looks up to see the soft scales of a majestic moth. The underwings are pink. The forewings are dark and soft. The moth remains still, the moonlight revealing the antennae plumes. And then it lifts away, wings patter like a kiss of wind.

If only, the caterpillar thinks. If only.

Foreverland is Dead (Coming in April!)

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