This story is by Jake Hostetler and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
The valley breathed in gentle rhythm. Flowers gossiped across the fields and nearby ferns fraternized in the shade. Trees whispered ancient secrets while eavesdropping vines raced along their riddled trunks.
Caterpillar squinted up as bright raylets of sunlight peeked down through the clouds. She dreamed of herself as a beautiful angel of the sky soaring and gliding among the clouds, beholding the world below in all its intertwined beauty. To look up and dream of these things was her first favorite thing to do and though she didn’t know where these day dreams came from, she didn’t care; they were wonderful.
She brought her head back down to ground level. For now, she would resolve herself to doing her second favorite thing, eating.
She had just bitten into a particularly moist leaflet of bashberries when she saw it. The most perfect leaf she’d ever seen. It waved to her in the breeze inviting her over.
She wriggled in excitement allowing her feet to carry her towards it.
The white happened slowly and all at once. In her eagerness to get to the leaf, Caterpillar did not notice it clinging to her until she felt its gentle tug. She turned around to see what had taken hold. “Oh Mr. White Stuff, you tickle my feet but I really can’t be staying around.”
“Ah, but you can,” came a voice like a whisper from above. Caterpillar looked up to see a stranger floating down towards her. He was hairy and had deep black eyes, though she didn’t know which to look at.
“Oh hello, I believe I’ve stumbled onto your playful white stuff here and for that I’m truly sorry. If you could just help me free, I’ll be on my way.” The hairy stranger grinned showing his large teeth.
“I am afraid I will not help you,” he said clicking his teeth together in an odd fashion. “You see, I am Spider, he who sees all, and it is my intention that you stay here with me in my beautiful web.”
“Stay here with you,” Caterpillar asked, “and do what?” Spider glided to a stop in front of her setting himself down gracefully on the white stuff which rippled outwards like a raindrop falling on water.
“I do not eat green stuff like you,” he said motioning to a nearby leaf. “I eat juicy, delicious, fatty meat.”
“Oh, well that sounds very good,” concluded Caterpillar nodding her head thoughtfully. “I wonder if I would like meat.” This made Spider laugh almost uncontrollably. As he laughed Caterpillar felt the white stuff all around them vibrate and laugh with him. Seeing this made her smile and start to giggle. Soon both Caterpillar and Spider were laughing together as the white stuff danced around them.
“Wah,” said Spider finally calming down. “I’ve not laughed like that in a long time.”
“Pity,” said Caterpillar, still giggling, “Everyone should laugh every day.”
Spider looked at her with all his black eyes. “Perhaps, however now you must know, your landing in my web is no coincidence. It was as destined as the rising sun or the coming night. You have entered my web and therefore my world. You and your destiny now belong to me. This is the wish of the world. And as for my wish,” he paused, “I wish to eat you.”
“Eat me?” Caterpillar said shocked. Suddenly the playful white stuff was no longer playful. “But how can that be my destiny when I dream of flying through the sky?”
Spider sneered, “Don’t be stupid fat Caterpillar, dreams are foolish. I do not waste my time on such things. I have my web and of it I am ruler. Cling to what you know, that is your destiny. And destiny demands sacrifice.” He clicked his two big front teeth together noisily moving closer to her. Caterpillar could see their razor sharpness and the hunger in his eyes.
She thought quickly. “You know Spider,” she said, “I will grow fatter the more I eat. Just yesterday I was half this size and tomorrow I will be much bigger.” Spider’s black eyes focused on her and he took a step closer. She continued hastily, “I do not need to leave your white stuff but if you bring me more leaves, I will grow fatter. This will make me more enjoyable for you – I’m sure.” Spider clicked his teeth together in consideration.
“Hmm,” he mused, “You cannot leave and if what you say is true then I will indeed be able to fatten you up nicely. Caterpillar held her breath while he deliberated. “Yes!” He finally exclaimed clicking his front teeth together, “prepare yourself for a feast. First you will eat some green and then I will eat you.” With that, he was off to gather leaves.
Alone in the white stuff, Caterpillar looked up into the endless sky. It had never looked so far away before. Still, she dreamed of going to it, and while she dreamed, she hoped.
A short while later Spider bobbed back onto the white stuff next to her.
“Destiny demands sacrifice,” he said out of breath dropping his pile of leaves next to Caterpillar. “Now eat and grow fat.”
Caterpillar ate and Spider waited, occupying himself by tending to his white stuff. She watched him as he meticulously corrected even the tiniest imperfections.
“Won’t it just break apart again?” She asked.
Spider spoke while working. “I am only as good as my web and it me. Of course, you, a foolish dreamer, cannot understand such a thing. You no doubt spend your days dreaming only about what cannot be and what you can shove into your mouth while slugging around.”
“I dream of other things!” Caterpillar retorted.
Spider finished mending a long white strand and turned to her. “It matters not, now that you have finished eating it is my turn.”
Caterpillar gulped down the last bit of leaf quickly. “I know you’re hungry but consider this, I can go nowhere and only grow fatter. I’m sure if you bring me more leaves you’ll not be disappointed with the result.”
Spider clicked his front teeth in a mixture of irritation and consideration. He focused a few of his eyes on Caterpillar while a few wandered elsewhere. “Hmm, what do I have to lose? I will gather you another bunch and watch you grow for my inevitable delight,” he said scurrying up the white to gather more leaves.
Moments later he was there again, huffing and puffing. “Destiny demands sacrifice,” he said depositing the leaves. Caterpillar began to eat and as she ate Spider groomed himself, cleaning his many hairs ruffled while gathering leaves.
“You know they will only become ruffled again,” she said.
“I must remain pristine if I am to ensure the respect and submission of those who find their way into my web. Of course, you cannot understand such a thing. You who takes no pride in their image and could never be so beautiful.”
“I do dream of beauty!” Caterpillar said hurt.
Spider aligned the hairs along his front leg and continued. “It matters not, I have talked enough and you have grown. The time has come for you to accept your destiny.”
Caterpillar spoke trying to hide her fear. “I’m certainly growing but have not yet reached my full thickness. I can tell you with much certainty that a final feast would do much good in getting me to a size you’d very much enjoy.”
“I find you plenty fat enough already,” said Spider moving closer to her.
“Plenty fat indeed but think of your great destiny. Does it not demand that I grow as fat as possible for you?” Spider bobbed thoughtfully on the white trampoline.
“You are a fool but make a valid point,” he conceded. “It costs me nothing to collect for you a few more leaves and it will indeed be quite a destiny when you grow so fat that I must reinforce my web.” The reflection concluded, Spider hurried off to find more leaves.
Caterpillar felt scared and alone. “Still,” she told herself, “while I dream, I hope.”
Spider returned a short while later dropping the leaves in front of Caterpillar, his eyes wide with lusty hunger. “I already dream while awake of sucking the juices out of you,” he said grinning.
“It will be well-deserved,” Caterpillar replied, “You’ve certainly sacrificed to make me large and tasty.”
“Destiny demands sacrifice,” replied Spider. He paced impatiently back and forth on his white stuff while Caterpillar shoved the leaves into her mouth.
“I’ll,” she spoke between mouthfuls, “…finish soon but there is one final thing that should do before you eat me.” At this Spider clicked his teeth indignantly.
“What could you possibly need to do?” He fumed. “You are fat enough and I have been more than patient!”
Caterpillar smiled her best smile at Spider. “Spider, you’re right but what I request now is simple. Allow me to simply rest for a while before you eat me. This will allow the green in me to become the juicy meat you want. Otherwise you’ll be eating the same green you hate.” Spider stamped his feet in frustration.
“I do not want any green stuff, only juicy meat! Take your nap you fat foolish thing and in the morning, destiny awaits!” Caterpillar bowed graciously to Spider. Spider only turned away mumbling to himself as he headed towards a bit of white stuff that had broken off in the breeze. Caterpillar took a deep breath and began twisting allowing her hope to carry her away. The last thing she saw was the great sky stretched out over her head.
The first thing she saw as she opened her eyes was blackness. Then she felt the strength come. It surged up and rushed through her like a storm. She felt different, was different. The bed she had made now felt cramped and she pressed against its tight embrace.
Meanwhile, Spider wallowed outside in self-pity, convinced that he had been cheated. She had surely taken her life to deny him what was his. Despite his multiple attempts to break in, he could do nothing to penetrate her self-made grave. He chastised himself for being so stupid.
“It makes no sense,” he pleaded to the open air, “she was a dreamer and a fool. How could she cheat me and her destiny?”
Then, the faintest sound, the cracking of the tomb, the emergence. Not the fat caterpillar but something more, something…beautiful.
Her eyes were large jet-black orbs that glittered in the sunlight. Her wings vibrant tapestries of color. Spider could only look up in awe. “Wha…,” was all he could muster.
“I am Butterfly,” she said.
She climbed atop the now empty sarcophagus, no longer bound to Spider’s web, and looked down at her small scared captor.
“But you…how?” asked Spider finding his voice.
“I have dreamed of this day,” she said, ignoring his questions and looking skyward.
Spider’s black eyes oscillated in rapid confusion as she flexed her great wings in the sun.
“You may think you own all those trapped in your web Spider but the destinies of others can never be owned. Keep your white stuff and cling to it. I belong to the sky and it to the dreamers who dare to imagine.”
Butterfly slowly began flapping her wings making the air around her move in blustery heartbeats. Spider, afraid of the destiny-breaking dreamer risen from the dead, ran to the edge of all he knew and clung there.
Butterfly flapped faster, her windy heartbeats making Spider’s white stuff dance like a stormy sea.
She looked to the open sky smiling. “Now,” she said launching into the air, “about that leaf.”
Below her the valley breathed in gentle rhythm. Flowers gossiped across the fields and nearby ferns fraternized in the shade. Trees whispered ancient secrets while eavesdropping vines raced along their riddled trunks.