'The Caterpillar' by Martin Day
The creature stood blinking in the sunlight. Before her was a soft veined leaf still beaded with dew. Above her, clusters of other leaves, up and up as far as she could see. They rustled softly and made the light flicker. She turned to look behind her and could see an empty egg pod peaking out from the underside of the leaf that she was standing on. Not remembering, or maybe not even knowing, how she had come to be there, she quickly worked out that the empty egg pod must have been hers. It was a great thing to be alive and everything seemed as new and as fresh as she was herself. As she moved around she found that her sticky feet made a pleasing ripple of popping sounds as she walked astride the leaf edge. Even though the surface was soft, her large collection of legs was super-grippy. Rearing up her head confidently she looked back over her tiny light green body. She noticed some flashes of the same green shade on the cool side of the leaf where, within the clutch of still sealed eggs, there were hints of movement. It looked as if she would not be on her own for long.
She had no idea what time of day it was, but a hollow feeling inside told her it was time for breakfast. But what to eat? She sucked on a nearby bead of dew and, although refreshing, it didn't satisfy. It was only then that the heavenly aroma of the leaf itself caught her attention. She put her head down and took a bite. Yes, this was the stuff. Her pincer-like mouth sliced cleanly through both the soft surface and the crisp inside. As soon as one mouthful was swallowed she was hungry for the next. Before she knew it she had munched all the way to the other end of the leaf. She paused for breath. She hadn’t realised just how hungry she was. And as she turned to look at her chomping trail she saw that several other caterpillars had also hatched and were doing the same as her.
"No slacking there. Eat on," came a voice. There above her was a bright blue dragonfly, hovering noisily. "It's what you sweet green caterpillars do best, isn't it?"
"It's only breakfast," replied the caterpillar a little defensively.
"I thought all you guys are on a mission, aren't you?" retorted the dragonfly, "before you get picked of by the birds."
This confused the caterpillar because as yet she hadn't seen a bird and didn't have a clue what ‘picking off’ would involve. But now that the dragonfly had pointed it out she noticed that there were small juicy green caterpillars on all the leaves; and all doing breakfast; an army of caterpillars in fact.
"You'd better get stuck in, little one, you don't want to get left out," and with that the dragonfly flipped out of view.
The caterpillar took heed and started munching with a new vigour. All through the day and all through the next she chewed her way along leaves. The only times she stopped were when she bumped into another caterpillar or when she transferred to a new leaf. No longer did she pause to drink in the beauty of the view. No longer did she savour the taste. She felt pressured to keep up with the others; driven to eat more and more. But more was never enough. And all the while she was getting fatter. Was that the reason that the leaves seemed to be getting smaller, or was it that the food was starting to run out? At that thought, the Caterpillar was gripped by panic. She ate even quicker, worried that the others were stealing her leaves. Eating gave her no satisfaction at all any more but she couldn't stop. She felt bloated and fat and struggled now to move about.
“Man, you’re ugly!” came the voice of the Dragonfly again. “You're not sweet and green any more. You're fat and brown. Gross! You should be ashamed of yourself you fat grub.”
The Caterpillar looked back over her bulging body. It was true. She sadly took on the shame that had been poured on her and made towards the underside of her leaf to avoid being seen. But just then she heard another voice in the distance: “Leave her be! I can see quite clearly that this caterpillar is the stuff of butterflies.”
The Dragonfly roared with laughter: “This fatso could never get off the ground! The only flying she could manage would be a straight-line plummet.”
... to be continued!
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© M Day 19-Apr-2008