All That’s Lit To Print

caterpillar in a tree
Leigh Alley

The Black Caterpillar

By Clara MacAvoy

My body is too fragile for the road. The asphalt scratches me when I crawl on it. It is so hot, if I stop I will be baked into the pitch.

There are strange animals. They are not like me. They do not have fur like I do. They are big and make the ground shake when they walk by me. And they move around in fire-breathing things. Their fire-breathing things killed my sister. What if they kill me?

I puff up my black spikes and begin my long crawl across the war zone. I see my fallen, flattened friends. Oh no! I see a fire-breathing monster coming with his naked master. I must flee! But where?

The fire-breather passes by me. I am victorious.

I wiggle off the road and into the oasis of a shadow. I look up at the tall tree. My friends and I could eat him. I climb the tree. His bark is soft and cool and has crevices to hold on to. The bark has no holes in it, no scars. None of my comrades ever made it here. I munch on the leaves—savor the taste of being the first to reach these branches.

I should cross back over the road. Tell my friends of the riches I have found. But why? To let them feast on my bounty? What have they done to deserve this treasure? They are cowards. If a fire-breather came near them, they would turn back. Or be squished down into a nameless grave. But not I—I—who survived the naked animals. I will not return home. Let them wonder what happened to me. Here in my tree, I have everything I need.

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