's 2013 Horror Write-off:

" The Six Day Caterpillar "

Submitted by Rhakshasarani

Tantamount to the Vietnamese Two-Step Viper is the Six-Day Caterpillar in Laos, so named for the vivid hallucinations caused by ingesting it which can last nearly a week. The caterpillar is the focus of a Laotian version of Russian roulette in which the participants swallow the caterpillar, alive and whole, along with a boiled milk beverage and a passel of lichen. The milk supposedly cushions the larvae from stomach acid while is enjoys a last meal, which it then excretes as a hallucinatory compound. While the lichen has been found to have mild hallucinogenic properties, it is really the caterpillar that catalyzes the experience.

The ceremony begins, after one has tendered sufficient cash to the village headman, with no less than six participants seated around a special table. Participants are encouraged to drink the entire beverage first, then roll the larvae up in the lichen and swallow the whole parcel without chewing. This is mere suggestion, many variations on the traditional ceremony exist: some forgo the lichen entirely, some the milk, a few even chew the caterpillar (circumventing the delayed reaction of swallowing it alive) but no one method has 100% success rate. The diners are united at the end of the night by the sudden onset of horrific stomach cramps. Most diners purge the concoction successfully from their systems, helped along by a special “purifying” liquor force-fed to them by the locals. The few that don’t are subjected to prolonged, vivid hallucinations. Reoccurring themes are: out-of-body experiences, the impression of invisible “dream-wings” tearing from their abdomen, extreme vertigo, a nightmarishly warped vision of the jungle, and an overall perception of un-personhood.

The participants are cared for by the locals during this period as there is a very real danger of dehydration. They are also subject to drastic weight loss from lack of food intake coupled with the deficit of bodily fluids. The hallucinations take place over a period of three to six days, one case clocked in at eleven total. There is a rare risk of coma, and an even smaller risk of death. There is no record of participants repeating the experience.

The caterpillar has been dubbed Orsotriaena medus nepenthe, for it is believed to be a subspecies of the Smooth-eyed Bushbrown. According to local Animist traditions that have survived the onset of Theravada Buddhism, the caterpillar is an immigrant from a small world adjacent to ours. The caterpillar ate and ate until it grew too large for its home, so it chewed a hole in the cloth of the world and came here, shedding its old world like a pupal sack.

The caterpillar’s secondary metamorphosis has never been observed. All gathered specimens die in captivity and no pupa of this species has ever been found in the wild.