For the past nine and a half days, Trevor was in Florida for work. While he was there for a shoot, he and the crew, led by the fearless Callie Lipkin and joined by the smart and feisty assistant Leah Fithian, worked twelve to fifteen hour days. The sun was hot and the culture was definitely Floridian. I have tried to piece together his harrowing true story from the pictures he sent me each day.
The crew for the photo shoot set up camp at a farm southwest of Sanford, Florida, where they would be shooting at various locations. All seemed relatively normal: the house they’d rented was fine; there was a pool; the owner’s fiance, Jude, had a mohawked poodle. The owner, Tracy, asked them to be careful of the horses, and told them that there might be a caretaker coming onto the farm to groom and feed the animals. Fair enough.
But they set out early the first morning only to find that nature didn’t seem to want them to leave the farm.
Something sinister was afoot. But what?
They managed to get around the roadblock and set out to the first location: the critical flesh injury ward of Sanford General Hospital. They were there to document the effects of a mysterious caterpillar that had been found in the area. The caterpillars’ origin was unknown, but the effects of their bites were deadly and devastating. With one small bite, a caterpillar could stun an adult human into full-body paralysis. The paralysis might last for up to eighteen hours, during which time the caterpillar feasted on the human’s flesh until very little was left. Trevor was, understandably, nervous.
They documented a number of patients who had been attacked by these caterpillars. Though the faces remained relatively in tact, they each had a distinctly artificial, almost plastic pallor that was caused by the caterpillar’s venom.
Trevor and the crew got the shots they needed, and said goodbye to the victims, doctors, and nurses who they’d grown so close to that day. They wished them well and headed back out into the Florida heat, keeping their eyes constantly peeled for caterpillars.
Back at the farm, Trevor did some investigation into the mysterious larvae. Where did they come from, really? What did they want? Was it just the delicious taste of human flesh that motivated them, or did they yearn for something else, something bigger? What would they transform into once they’d spun their creepy little cocoons?
Without many answers and with even fewer hours of sleep, Trevor and the crew left the next morning to continue documenting the devastating impact of these tiny, furry monsters. The crew, a rag-tag bunch of heroes from all over the country, was spirited yet alert to the dangers of the caterpillars and to their own importance in the fight for the survival of the human race.
They decided that the zoo would be a logical place to look for the caterpillars. Wouldn’t the creatures want to be among their own slithery and furry kind? Very likely, yes. And the caterpillar hunters were not disappointed. No sooner had they stepped foot into the Central Sanford Zoo did they run into the fiercest fighter in this battle: Ara.
Ara, whose name was inspired by the Greek Gods’ defeat of the Titans, was, true to her name, a warrior. She soared the skies high above central Florida in search of the treacherous caterpillars, and picked them up one by one to bring them back to a giant terrarium housed in the center of the zoo. This terrarium, surrounded twenty-four hours a day by the nation’s leading biologists, entomologists, and cryptozoologists, was under top-secret clearance. Trevor wasn’t allowed near it, but he was able to get a shot of Ara, her handler, and some of the children who were listening to Ara’s tales of battle against the caterpillar hoard.
That evening, back on the farm, Trevor, Callie, and Leah talked quietly around the dining room table. Did they have it in them to continue? They hadn’t laid eyes on the caterpillar itself, but they had witnessed so much of the destruction the larvae left in their wake. They’d heard the tales of death and woe. Would they be next?
They needed to get out of the house and clear their heads, so they went for a walk on the grounds. They passed by the field…the field where the horses Tracy had mentioned were supposed to be grazing. But there were no horses. Curious, the trio walked to the stables, hoping to see the horses there. But the stables were empty. Where were the horses?
Up to now, the caterpillars had feasted only on human flesh — but were they getting hungry for other species? This was too much for the trio to handle, so they rushed back to the house and closed the door against the night. But there, in the middle of the living room carpet, were Jude and his mohawked Poodle, both being slowly nibbled away at by…a caterpillar! Oh NO!
They ran, grabbing what they could and taking their rental R.V. into the night. As they drove, caterpillars seemed to be falling from the sky all round them, littering the roads with their two inch-long wiggly bodies. Trevor was terrified, but brave. He knew that he needed to capture at least one image of the wicked creature, if only for science:
They drove the R.V. all night and all the next day — all the way back to Chicago. And now, they are safe. Safe from the flesh-eating caterpillars. At least…for now.