The Eventful Life of the Orchard-Dwelling Tent Caterpillar by Zea Eanet

When I was born, it was a sunny spring day. Around me I saw my siblings hatching, splitting their white casings and twisting their soft wrinkled heads out into the light and shadow of our tree. When we were all free, we knew it was time to build, and set off to find the perfect campsite.

If you’ve never gone house-hunting in a large group like this, you won’t understand the feelings I felt on that first day of my life. We roamed together, bodies moving in perfect symmetry as we explored branch after branch, huge fields of bark, pitted and smooth, pitted and smooth. In the shade, I was cold, and I knew without speaking that my brothers and sisters felt the same way -- we looked for a cleft between branches where leaf cover was scarce, where the morning sunlight would flood into our living room and make us feel happy, warm and alive.

 The perfect spot soon emerged, instantly recognizable, and we set to work. We wanted our home to be soft and friendly, a place where we could always retreat when we found the outside world inhospitable, with walls and floor of obliging white silk. Layers of this silk were an advantage, both aesthetically and practically, since we could already tell that it was very important for us to stay warm. As the day stretched on, I found myself feeling hungrier and hungrier and colder and colder, coming close to my siblings to share their body heat.

 After a long time of building, the tent was complete. Just in time, too -- the sun was starting to go away and we were mystified, chilled and afraid. One by one, and then all at once, we crawled into our new home and curled together in the center, where the walls were so dense with silk that we could barely see through them. Slowly, we warmed ourselves and each other, and I felt a marvelous sense of security flow over me — I was among my kind, happy and warm and protected by their bulk and their goodwill and their presence. I knew that the world was good, because I was not alone and because we had made a place that was safe.

It was cold and dark outside us for a long while, and we slept.

 When the sun returned, we woke and waited, twisting about in our little pocket of warm until it was comfortable to leave the tent. Then, we were hungry, and the thought occurred that the leaves we’d seen all around us before the night might be good to eat. En masse, we went out for breakfast.

We visited many different places, most of which did not appeal, until we discovered a branch of tender green leaves, abundant and soft, which tore and dissolved pleasantly in our mouths. We ate and ate, ate and ate and ate until we no longer wanted to eat, and then, all together, went home again. I felt so comfortable, so good and happy, so healthy and satisfied -- the sun was shining on our backs and the bark was warm beneath our feet, we had eaten such delicious succulent green leaves, which were so plentiful that it seemed obvious that the world had been made to give us pleasure, and I was with my dearest companions, all of us going home to our safe warm beautiful tent.

 It was not hard to find our way back -- on our journey outward we had left a trail of smell and presence which we now detected and which led us, like a friendly voice, to where we had begun. When we arrived, we lay about on branches and leaves, soaking up the sun, always with our round white tent floating benevolently nearby.

We slept again, and woke again, and went out to dine on green leaves overflowing with sun again. The contentment that pervaded our little group was numbing, consuming -- there was nothing but leaves to eat and life-giving warmth and traces of ourselves guiding us to what was good.

Then, after some time, traveling slowly home after our customary fifteen-course day, we could not find the tent. Our trail led to a blank, empty corner of tree.

No matter, was the consensus; we found a new spot, and built a new tent, not as thick or insulated as the first one, but the world was getting warmer all the time and it sufficed. We gathered together there, and slept.

 Something woke us when darkness was still outside. There was a confusing white light and a tugging, tearing pressure at the walls of our home -- then the walls were gaping open, and the light was brighter, and we were rolling about, coming detached from each other, falling out of the tent!

I clung to some of my siblings, crying out and reaching around us for something good to hold onto, something that would preserve us until the sun returned. It was cold. And the tent was moving, moving in around us, the obliging white silk pressing in too hard, and some of my siblings were crushed into horrible blotches of slimy green.

Where was the warmth? Where the safety, where the tender leaves?

A horrible smell appeared, and suddenly we were falling, tumbling through cold air, wrapped around each other and pieces of tent and pieces of our brothers and sisters. And then we hit something, a surface, a horrible, sharp-smelling foamy liquid.

 I was ripped away from my brothers and sisters. This severe new substance was burning me, dissolving my skin and my soft, protective hairs. It was dark and I could not see or smell or breathe. I was alone and there was pain, and then pain, and then pain. And it was dark.