A Cave, a Dwarf, and a Stupid Caterpillar

“Stupid Caterpillar,” the wizard whispers, his voice echoing into the cavern as if the darkness were hungry for something to eat besides silence. He follows the utterance up with a stomp of his slipper. In the small sphere of blue light cast from the top of the wizard’s white-oak staff, the dwarf can see the smooshed little corpse.

“Why did you do that?” The debate was finally over, he no longer had to play mister nice dwarf. As an excuse, they have been lost for days and out of food since the last of the hardtack was eaten, who knows when. Time is meaningless as they wander, looking for a way out. He wonders if he can even find an exit. They could very well be lost forever. Are they lost forever? If so, it may just be his fault, his being the wizard who hired him in first place as a guide.

“I will tell you a tale of small things that eat big things.”

“Please don’t.” Endless prattle was all the wizard had been good for so far, and maybe if he lived a better life, forged a better reputation, so to speak, he wouldn’t have had to seek the gold the old fool was offering a guide. Take me into the mountain. As a hill dwarf, he lied and said he could do what was required, and now here they were, beyond lost.

Too obtuse to hear the dwarf’s plea, the wizard pushes on, “A worm to some. A sliver of life that, if consumed, ravages the insides of its victim. Victim? Maybe, but that is really not fair. Its victims are attempted murderers after all. Maybe one might consider it karma even.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“It starts slowly at first, with this tiny string of nothing taking over blood vessels and airways and eventually even thought. It Breaks down systems that took hundreds of millions of years to perfect. That still are works in progress. Which makes me wonder, maybe it’s the apex predator we human’s like to think we are.”

“Humans?”

“Well, maybe some dwarfs too, I guess.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“I fed you one, already.”

“You what?”

“Did I neglect to warn you? Yes, you see, I’m hoping once it takes over, I can finally have the guide I paid for.”

Published by Bryan Aiello

Raised on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Bryan served in the Army, graduated from the University of South Florida and now calls Brooklyn home. For more of his fiction and updates on his podcasts, follow him on Twitter: @bryaiello and Reddit: /u/voyage_of_roadkill.

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