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The Worm

by Bronson Fleet 11 months ago in fiction
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Silence is Golden

The Worm
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

I am the stalker in the night. A hunter of meat. Creeping I go, crawling. Hands and knees. Quiet as the grave, jaws set wide. At the faintest whisper, I come alive.

It is dark below the Earth. Deep, deep, down. I am like the worm. Deeper and deeper I go. The tunnels, scratched and hewn through the bedrock, reminders of the worms who came before me, hiding from the great burn of the world above. No worms live up there anymore. Only below.

There are others. Some of them are worms, some are roaches, others still are spiders. Creeping, crawling. Once many, now few. Hungry. All of them. It is our hunger that unites us, and our hunger that divides us.

There are times of eating, and then there are times of hunger. The fires above destroyed all other measures of time long ago. No day anymore. Only night. But light is revealing, and darkness is a friend. It nestles a creeping thing like me. My swaddling mother taking her child to breast.

I was not always a worm. Nor a creeper or a crawler. Not a slider or a dragger. Once, long ago, when I knew the feel of sunlight, I never slithered or slathered. Once, long ago, I was none of those things. I was a man. And I was hers.

She is the only memory of sunlight that is left to me since my transformation. The heart locket she wore my talisman and protection in the long dark of the underworld. When the hunger grows hard in my stomach, like a tumor, I clutch the pendant pleadingly in my hands, and she whispers to me gently. Her voice is so sweet I do not shush her, though I am afraid another crawler might hear. I sleep then, her words my blanket.

My dreams are carnivals of darkness, full of sounds and smells but no pictures. Except when I clutch her locket, and she whispers me to sleep. Then, I see only her. No sky, no grass. But her flaxen hair and reddened cheeks. Skin pale as moonlight, her eyes green and loving.

I was loved once. And in turn, I loved another. I hold her locket and remember that. But, there is no love left in a world of hunger. No sympathy in a dark tunnel.

My last consumption was a Trap-Door Spider. A tricky creature. They lay waiting, and come out biting. I was creeping, crawling, hunger burning, when I felt the cruelty of its maw. I did not scream, though I was bleeding. I am a worm. Cut me, and I go on living.

I searched the darkness with my hands and found a purchase on its throat. I squeezed as it struggled, until it fell and struggled no more.

My stomach tells me that was long ago. Long ago, and that is why I now am moving. Moving towards the sounds of whispers too loud to be spiders, or roaches, or worms. In eating times I would ignore them. They’re too unconcerned by ten whole measures. If I was honest, it sounds like humans, but I am a worm who knows better.

The slope is steeping, the walls are closing. Even a worm has trouble moving. But every step brings me closer to the unabashed speaking. Instinct tells me, slink away, go no further. For the sounds will bring all the crawlers out. Like moths to the zapper. But my belly bids me onward, towards the eating, feasting.

I have been moving for so long now, and the voices have only grown louder. No longer whispering, but speaking. I can recall speaking, though I have forgotten how. How odd it is to hear. So innocent it makes me wonder what game is being played at.

The voices are nearly shouts now, so loud it hurts my ears. I rise and fall, and crawl and slink, and find myself near. I stand up and turn the corner and am blasted backwards in screaming pain. It has been so long since my eyes have seen, and the light of fire is too great. I fall backwards into darkness, a low moan escaping me.

The voices have stopped now, they must’ve heard me. “Hello?” One says as I push further into the black. I hear its footsteps as it walks nearer my dark hiding spot. “Is there anyone there?”

I can tell by its voice it is a human. A human! It’s coming nearer, searching. A human should never leave the light. But can I eat a human? The tear in my abdomen says yes. I begin to creep once again. All fours, slathering.

“Hello?” Its voice is high, and clear. Soft, yet wary. It’s coming nearer my abode of darkness, and I am wanting. Every footstep is a siren. Close, too close.

I am the hunter in the darkness. I reach out and grab a leg. A scream of piercing agony echoes through my ears like electric shock, and it makes me afraid. But, the scream does not last, as I am there to stop it. It is a time of feeding once again.

I sit and breathe. I hold my golden locket. My talisman of the night. I sleep.

I am awoken by another noise. A silent whimper. Another human perhaps? I stand to go near. Carefully, I turn that corner, where the light of flame had burned me, but the fire is embers now. I can see it glowing softly. Too soft to stop me. The whimpering goes on and on as I draw near.

My fear returns as the embers light reaches towards me. Will I shrivel in its heat, as the sun dries the worm?

“Mom?” A voice says shaking, and a form moves into the glow. My eyes are blurry and unassuming. I freeze until my vision clears, and I can see her. A girl. Not a worm, or a spider, or a roach. But a girl.

I tremble like the worm I am. A girl. The locket begins to whisper, though I clutch it not. I remember the face of my love, flaxen hair with reddened cheeks. Skin pale as moonlight, her eyes green and loving. I am frozen by the vision.

But this girl cannot be her, my child. She was taken by the flames. This has to be another.

“Mom,” she said. “Mom.” I am the reaper in the underworld. Murderer. I feel my torso begin to wriggle, my arms begin to shake. My worm-like skin falling away. I crash to the ground and distantly hear a girl screaming as my transformation takes hold. I yell. I scream. In the dust of the tunnel I change. I am a worm no more, but rather a man.

I stand, my eyes watering, and walk into the light of the embers. The girl cowers beneath me, flaxen haired and crying. My hunger is gone. I kneel and grab her arm. She screams as if my hands are burning.

From around my neck I take my locket. My talisman in the darkness. My protection. Its thin chain tingles gently, and the girl’s tears subside when she sees the golden heart reflect the light of the fire.

Delicately, I place it around her neck. I look into her eyes. It should protect her, and whisper her comfort, as it did me. Protect her from all the crawling things beyond this human fire.

She looks at me without a word, fingering the locket in her palm. I stand and back away. I hope I can remember. I hope my dreams will still see her.

The light fades behind me as I enter my world of darkness. With each step I feel the worm returning. My guilt receding. I am sneaking once again. Crawling, wriggling. I once fled the world of fire, and know to it I shall never return. I am the hidden figure of a nightmare, the stalker in the deep.

fiction

About the author

Bronson Fleet

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