After the Cocoon

brown and white swallowtail butterfly under white green and brown cocoon in shallow focus lens

Carrie took a deep breath and looked at the branch over her head. It was small- a twig, really- but she needed to get up there. Otherwise, she couldn’t do what all of the other caterpillars were about to do. She needed to make her cocoon.

Carrie’s best friend, Beth, had made her cocoon a week before.

“Don’t wait too long!” she told Carrie. “It will get cold, and you will freeze without a nice cozy cocoon to sleep in!”

And with that, Beth had finished her cocoon and closed herself in for a long nap. In fact, all of the caterpillars would nap right through winter!

Most of the other caterpillars were excited. They started their cocoons as soon as they were able. Even the ones who would just be moths and beetles in the spring had been eager. But not Carrie.

Carrie was afraid of what would happen once she was in the cocoon. What if she couldn’t fall asleep, and she had to stay awake in her dark, tight home for months? Or worse, what if she woke up and felt everything changing?

She was worried, too, about being a butterfly. Would she be herself anymore? She would look different on the outside- would she feel any different on the inside?

A bitter breeze blustered around Carrie, making her shiver. She didn’t have much of a choice left. Soon, fall would end and winter would come. If she wasn’t in her chrysalis, she would freeze to death. And that was probably worse than all of the things she was afraid of!

Carrie sighed and began inching her way up the stem of the milkweed plant next to her. It wiggled a little under her weight. It wiggled more as she scooched up to the branch where she would make her cocoon. Was this really where she was supposed to do this?

At first, making her temporary home was hard. The silk she spun was lumpy and sticky. But the more she worked at it, the easier it got. After a few hours she was almost completely closed in. She took a deep breath, and with a final twist, closed her cocoon. She was soon asleep.

In the spring, Carrie woke up slowly. It had been a whole Winter of sleep, after all! She wriggled this way, and wiggled more that way. The cocoon had been tight when she made it. But now, it was somehow way too tight! She had to get out.

She bucked and wiggled until finally the cocoon cracked and a sliver of light appeared. She was almost free! She kept going until finally the whole thing split open. She felt something slip out of the cocoon- her new wings! She tested them, flapping them lightly. Soon they were dry.

Finally, she worked up the courage and dropped out of the cocoon completely. She was flying! This was worth all of the work and scary parts of getting into the cocoon in the first place. Now she was a lovely butterfly. And she was still Carrie, just different.