The policeman watched the woman walk calmly out of the woods with the elephant.
As he hurried after them, he passed the stone outcrop where the elephant had laid down a wilting frond of bracken. The woman had reached for it, and for some reason he had panicked, told her not to touch it. Now he paused to look at it and saw, creeping through the drying leaves, a velvety red caterpillar. It climbed down onto the stone surface, and crept toward a little round pebble that lay on the outcrop.
He was being left behind and needed to hurry, but felt compelled to watch just a moment longer as the caterpillar planted the first of its tiny feet on the surface of the stone. It stopped and began to change color, from poisonous red to vibrant orange. Now it climbed across, and continued to change until it was a deep and golden yellow. Then it turned and wrapped itself around the stone, almost completely encircling it.
It was a very pale little rock. So pale, it seemed to glow, which made the caterpillar’s golden skin shimmer. Was this some unique kind of cocooning? He was intrigued, but the woman was about to disappear over a low rise. He had to go.