Worm by Ian Smith


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Our old place was a graveyard. Most of our stuff was still there. There wasn't much time or room on the transport back then. It was common knowledge a lot of the Sec Admin people were getting arrested and probably executed so our parents just grabbed us and high-tailed it out of Sector 8. Turns out we avoided the outbreak of the Civil War by about 3 weeks.

My worm was still there, a Christmas present from 21 years ago. All of the kids just had to have them that year. They mailed you the kit with a viable clutch of fertilized eggs, and the incubator/feeding system that you assembled yourself.

Once the worms were born they hung on the feeding core, soaking up protein and eating each other until only one remained. When it was big enough to feed itself, it slithered out of the incubator and propelled its pale rubbery white body across the carpet on its galley of feeble little legs. The symmetrical eye cluster sat in the center of its head the largest eye was huge and round and red and girded by vicious-looking but harmless mandibles and a set of bent antennae.

The worms were negligibly senescent and extremely hardy, making them the ideal pet for an easily distracted irresponsible 10-year old. The eggs were also very easy to obtain, being extremely plentiful in the southern islands of the tropical zone, where they were considered a crop-destroying pest.

The worm scampered up to me like it was happy to see me. The strain of worms used by the Elegant Companion Co. (ECCO) didn't fear humans. His favorite activity seemed to be crawling all over me and rubbing his eye-cluster against me (not true eyes, by the way, more like vibration and heat sensors) I used to love that thing, now I felt the urge to crush it under my foot. I guess I didn't know better than to like things when I was I kid, to overlook their flaws, their pale rubbery bodies. I used to like everything. I never said, "This worm is a bad worm". I used to hold insects and spiders in my hands. I used to like every movie I saw.

I never questioned my parents when I was a kid. All the things they talked about on the news-feed sounded important enough. The Separatist Movement probably mattered a lot. I didn't understand it. All I cared about was cadging enough money out of them for a Friday matinee at the Sector Movie House. And my things, my worm.

My things were all so much waste now, corrupted detritus. I was no longer attached to them. The worm felt its away along a busted heap of furniture and curled up in the burnt remains of a liquor cabinet.

They say the only animal human beings are born with an abhorrence of is the snake.
But I like snakes now.