Posts Tagged ‘sci-fi’

I once heard the loose theory – or in this case, loose stool theory – that if one would exhibit a pile of shit before the public, half of the people would say it was shit, and the other half would say it was art. I don’t repeat that theory here to agree, disagree, nor prove it either way, I opened with it merely to state that even shit isn’t simply shit. But I have found however, that a worm is simply a worm; it can never be mistaken for anything else, its always the same honest life form, it only does what it does, it undeniably fulfills its purpose, and isn’t judged or criticized for that purpose, and it remains a worm no matter what the world could possibly do to try and change it.

For all of my overwrought analyzing and unbridled thinking, this mayhem mind that I can hardly ever turn off long enough to sleep without hectic cinematic dreams, and for all of my theorizing and emotionalizing, questioning and contemplation of most everything known to human, I sometimes need to focus on something as watertight, as absolute, as a worm.

In my twenty five – no, thirty – years of writing music, lyrics, words, and poems, and presenting them to the outside world, I’ve grown achingly tired of the comments, criticism, constant misinterpretations, misunderstandings, and judgments that ensued. I’ve all but given up writing anything for the outside, because I’m weary, jaded, disgusted, and I linger near the underground. I still love to create and write most anything, but the futility often overwhelms me into a petrified wooden silence. It’s my own quiet protest. Sometimes it lasts for a while, but never long enough to make me forget that I have the heart of a writer.

Tonight at my usual prime writing time of 3:00 a.m., I sat in the sympathetic quiet and meditated on what I wanted to write about. I’ve often considered recording my odd experiences with worms and then I thought about worms – just worms, and how I’d like to be as immutable as they are, even if it was just for one night, one story.

As concise as I try to be when I write, as much care as I put into honing the words to their fullest meaning, tonight I don’t care if the reader gets it, in fact, I don’t give a fuck if anyone reads it. I’m going to write purely for the sake of writing, in homage to that spark that nothing can smother, the voice in my head that won’t be taciturn, the art of words. I’ll write whatever I think and feel, as descriptively as Poe, as internally as Virginia Woolf, as stream of consciousness as Gertrude Stein, and as far out as William S. Burroughs. No, not on their level of course, but I don’t care about that either. I’m fed up with measuring myself and being measured up to what already exists. Criticism is crippling and I want to break free of it. I’ll write as if it’s a hundred years from now and I don’t care what I’ve written and anyone who could’ve read it is long forgotten. I’m going to laugh and cry while I write and not edit any of it, just let it stand as indubitably and unchanged as a worm.

I’ll begin with the first worm story I ever heard, I’ll start out slow and get warmed up, then perhaps froth myself into a frenzy, or flat-line myself into a coma. By the time I’m done writing, I’ll have taken such a journey that I won’t know where I am when I come to and I might not recognize myself, at first. It can be my door prize for being able to create my own universe and escape from this one.

I had an elder relative who was raised during the depression era. When she was a little girl, she produced a fourteen inch worm, I don’t mean raised it for a 4H project or carried it out of a garden shed to shake it at her little brother. They weren’t sure how she contracted the worm, though she suspected from tainted fruit or vegetables. The doctor made a house call and pulled it out of her inch by inch in the bathroom, laid it in the bathtub to measure it; put it in a bucket her mother had at the ready, and took it away. Who knows where they took it and what they did with it. Did they chop it with a hoe, or drop it in a tin of turpentine? Did some happy bird think it was the mother lode? Did the doctor take the worm bucket home and put the specimen in a glass jar filled with formaldehyde? Did he send it to a lab to have it dissected or just toss it in an incinerator without ceremony? It‘s odd to think of where it came from and where it lived and died.

Though my relative didn’t seem scarred from the incident, she never forgot it. She was too young to remember many details, so she didn‘t know if it was a tape worm or a round worm. She mentioned that it resembled an earthworm as a roundworm does, and roundworms have been known to grow to 15 inches. You see I’ve looked up the details, even though I haven‘t had a worm of my own. I think that if I had a worm I’d want to know all the particulars. I’ve always thought that if you’re going to go through an unpleasant situation you might as well commit as much of it as you can to memory, it’s worth something much more then.

I think about the things that I’m afraid of as much as I can, as if my thinking of every aspect and possibility lessens the fear. It doesn’t, often it increases it, but I do it anyway. Thoughts never ending, they expand and begin to take form and surround you, and like goons and body guards they get too big for you. Then you can’t see other people, you can’t hear their conversations because your thoughts are too loud. You can’t stop it any more than you can blink away that annoying twitch in your eyelid; you want to control it, master your muscle, but it can’t be contained. The constant wind of curiosity is what keeps me up at all hours. My mind is a spooked horse that runs until it collapses, a boat thrown against cutthroat waves, it’s the bird that hits the window.

I’ll never come close to being the writer Poe was, but I imagine he did this too. Dark, pensive Poe, who thought too much, obsessed until he had to shut his brain down with drink or drug. I’m worse off than he was then aren’t I, with nothing to deaden my mind? I‘m fully cognizant, the patient on the surgical table with insufficient anesthesia – under but aware. Poe was no crazier than I or anyone else; he just had too many thoughts. Thoughts like an endless ice cracked surface of veins expanding in string theory fashion. Fissuring off of one another, feeding off of one another like snowbound cannibals. The natural disaster of thought can feel like a cerebral avalanche, tracks creasing the far side of the neuron mountain, a live burial, a hypothermic suffocation.

Each idea is another fiber in a rope and it’s as if you’re spelunking down into a cave and it appears that the thoughts are sustaining you because they’re linked and seemingly leading you somewhere, a place you think that you can backtrack from, shimmying up that same rope, to resurface and climb out of the cave. But eventually when you go into deeper caves your line of thoughts can’t hold, they stop connecting and then you fall into the wormhole earth, to a place where no one can reach you. That sounds like insanity, and doesn’t insanity provoke more fear than worms? A worm can come out, and it will be a worm and never anything else, it has a beginning and an end. Going crazy is just an end.

Now what if that relative with the 14 inch worm was my mother, then some twenty years later I was pulled out of her too. The worm from one hole, and me from the next, both of us slime covered and pink, fleshy and wrapped in a milky sac. My terrible twin, one cell to my thousands, but my sibling the worm came first, and s/he measured longer than me. I weighed more, but the worm was fully developed and all it could ever be. Would my mother be able to separate the two incidents far enough apart to never think of one with the other? Or would she somehow lump the two deliveries together and end up being a bit detached from me, after all, the worm could’ve killed her, why not me? Perhaps she felt that I was draining the life out of her, the comparisons are viable. On another planet I might’ve been the one they tossed into the incinerator. They’d take one look at me, shake their heads and see that I might have hidden potential, but the worm was already a worm and it could be trusted in a way that I couldn’t. Who knows which way I’d go, but the worm would always be a worm. “No surprises there” they’d say.

One night I was in a dark, downtown bar, waiting for a friend‘s band to play. One of the band member’s new girlfriends sat down next to me and introduced herself. Not more than ten minutes into our conversation she told me that she once had a tape worm, as nonchalantly as someone might mention that they had a dog or a goldfish. She ate and ate, she said, and still lost weight. She craved pumpkin soup and garlic, and when the doctor finally figured out that she had a tape worm, she was told that there were more people with internal parasites than one would think. Her cravings for pumpkin and garlic were almost instinctual, these two foods are natural worm-rid remedies and once the worm was out, she never had another one. I asked her if she ever saw the worm, she didn’t, so she had no idea know how long the worm could’ve been. I found her blasé detachment even more jarring than the worm itself.

I later read that tapeworms can grow up to 35 feet long, and can live in a person’s intestines for up to 25 years. That’s far longer than most marriages – the 25 years, not the 35 feet. There could be a peculiar and deep connection with the worm after that length of time – not the spouse, the worm. It’s the ultimate in co-dependency. It could be possible that the host might name the worm and even miss it when it was gone. Perhaps an overwhelming feeling of being alone would overcome the person after the worm was removed. There might be some guilt that the worm was put to death, and that there was no service for it, no ceremony, no burial, no ashes. If there was a service, a period of mourning and a grieving process would have to follow, then the “sadly missed, but never forgotten” ad in the local newspaper each year.

There have been people who kept their lover’s corpses, stuffed their dead dogs, and saved locks of lover’s hair, wooden legs, and glass eyes. The old stories that Napoleon’s penis was removed from his corpse and passed around for years could be true – the penis and the story. There are bones of saints in Catholic alters, and a book of tattooed skin from Holocaust victims. Humans are prone to bizarre and unshakable attachments of all kinds, unnatural to some, natural to others, supernatural to the rest.

I know of one young man who sent his girlfriend a small bottle of his sperm while he was away; she used some of it for her own sexual amusement then kept the rest of it in the freezer for a very long time. Finally she moved and threw it out with the stray fish stick and freezer-burnt peas. A few years later, the man died tragically, and I imagine she wished that she would’ve saved that last evidence of his existence even longer.

Maybe the worm’s host would want to keep the specimen merely for scientific purposes, or “believe it or not” evidence. There are human organs, two-headed babies, three-eyed cows, and double-tailed snakes preserved in jars. People save their kidney stones and pulled teeth for souvenirs. Baby’s belly buttons and baby teeth are stuck in scrapbooks in houses on every street. A worm floating in murky formaldehyde set on a mantel, lighted shelf, or coffee table would be a failsafe conversation piece. I’ve seen aquariums with table tops, why fish and briny water when a worm sealed in a timeless diorama, like in any natural history museum, would be more unique and personal? The worm would have to be propped up with thin wooden sticks, Salvador Dali-like, perhaps suspended in Lucite, surrounded by the muted red, painted props representing the host’s tender innards where the worm was sustained by its sponsor – “Now a worm from our sponsor.” I couldn’t resist, and no one else would be able to contain their chortles from the plethora of puns and quips that could be derived from the host – parasite relationship. There are only four possible plots; human against human, human against nature, human against machine, and the host parasite relationship. That is the truth, now, is this?

I was having dinner at a friend’s house, we were drinking wine and chopping vegetables and my tipsy friend cut her finger. The cut was so deep that it might’ve inspired Plath to write a poem, Pilgrim. Cold water and compression wouldn’t stop the flow, and after a glance in between blood spurts, I knew she needed stitches. With her wounded hand wrapped like a turban in a kitchen towel, we drove to the hospital. A half hour later after several shots and stitches, she was repaired and ready to go. As I passed by another puke green, curtained trauma room on my way to get the car, the curtain parted for a moment as a nurse passed through the opening. In that second I caught a glimpse of something that no special effects from any sci-fi movie ever made could equal.

A pale naked person was on a gurney in a prone position with legs spread akimbo in the air and knees folded. At first I thought it was a woman having a baby, but then I realized that it was a man with a strange cream-colored object protruding from between his legs, no, lower, his ass. The object contained therein had countless tentacles and was moving like Medusa‘s head. A doctor standing to the side was tugging at the trembling object with steel pinchers. The forceps turned, caught a glint of overhead light, and with that the curtain closed again. In that millisecond that startling scene was permanently carved in the cave of my brain and like an Egyptologist studying hieroglyphs, I would return to it again and again, to brush it off with a clump of camel hair, and scrutinize it against every known timeline and theory like a mystery of the ages.

For hours that night, and days beyond, I wondered what the object in that man’s hole was. I went over every odd possibility in my mind. I’d read about all of the emergency room stories from inserted mayonnaise jars to swallowed Barbie doll heads. I’d even heard one about a fish that slid in but, going against the scales, wouldn’t let it slide out. (Slide in, slide out, the Crappie!) The usual animal options made my list, a pet snake, a hamster, the ever famous gerbil. Maybe something more exotic like a sea urchin, a sea cucumber, or a poisonous puffer fish? I considered toys like a Skoosh ball, silly string, my pretty pony, streamers for bike handles, or a plastic pom pom – anything with strands or numerous projections. Was it a new kind of sex toy; the French tentacle tickler or the orgasmic octopus butt plug, perhaps a neoprene multi-headed dildo, or latex cat-o-nine-tails? It might’ve helped narrow it down a bit If only I’d known if the object was alive or if the patient’s squirming had set it into motion.  Its natural cream color kept coming back to me; smooth, skin-like, almost like an utter or a slick piglet.

The puzzle completely took over my mind and I’d become irritable and disconcerted at the thought of never finding out what it really was; stuck in a momentary panic that the whatdunit could never be thatdunit. Who could I ask? How could I trace it? There was no backtracking for clues, and no way to find the answer. After several days of tortured imaginings, it occurred to me to research diseases of the digestive tract. I found a section on parasites known to exist in humans, complete with medical photographs. As I watched each case study slowly unfold on the screen (Damned dial-up!), I’d feel a rush of rising hope, then the sinking ebb of disappointment. OK, scabies, lice, roundworm, I’d heard of all of them and nothing remotely came close to what I’d seen in that poor soul’s sphincter. Just as I was about to abandon my quest, I saw it! The patient was in the same prone position, and there was the same kind of multi-tentacled mass exploding from the anus, the prognosis was intestinal worms. If left untreated they can eventually kill their host, now that’s cutting off your host to spite your host, but that’s another can of…. At last I’d found the answer and I could put my mind to rest, or could I? Next, I “neuroticized” about all of the possibilities of being invaded by worms.

It would be summer and I’d mistakenly eat a split grape. The hidden larvae of the worm would be ingested and the saga would begin. A few days later there’d be a strange stirring in my gut, I’d consume mounds of food, I’d be eating for two, but I’d be hungry – hungrier than I’d ever been. I’d dream about spirals and thin headed babies and wake up thirsty and itching. My days would consist of searches for out of season pumpkins, and I’d settle for canned and a large wreath of garlic, as pertinent as it was to Vincent Price in ‘The Last Man On Earth.”

Or I’d be feeding freeze-dried blood worms to my Siamese fighting fish, and a sudden shot gun blast from neighbor Al would startle me enough to inhale and I’d ingest just enough of the blood worm larvae to settle in the warm soft tissues of my cilia and in a few days the pupae would hatch and my bronchial tubes would become a teeming freeway of waggling blood worms. A Mardi gras for fish, but the party would be over for me.

Perhaps I’d find a stray or injured dog, infected, covered with mange and fleas. On my way to the vet, a small fender bender would occur and the dog would be thrown against me, and while wiping the blood from my lip, the larvae would enter my body through my mouth. Slowly the worm would drain the nutrients from my stomach, and my strength would fade. It might take weeks before they diagnosed me, and by then I might be crazy.

If I had worm or more inside me I wouldn’t be able to sit still. I’d run through the streets and hills like a naked fiend on fire, and I’d never sleep. I know I’d feel the wriggling, the sporadic vibrations, the constant twisting, and the tiny mouth suckling on the lining of my stomach. I’d be able to hear it grow as I diminished and I’d think of nothing else but grabbing it and ripping it out before it laid more eggs in me.

I’d be its dream girl, the perfect host, its mother, its wife, the love of its life. That worm would need me more than anything – even more than a baby needs its mother. It would depend solely on me for its existence and even as it drained me of life, it would need me to last just a little longer. There’s something honest about that, almost touching. I don’t know many humans who are that focused, that clear on what they need. No pretense, just pure surrender. To paraphrase an old song, “A worm is just a worm, a host is just a host…the fundamental things apply as time goes by.“ And I don’t think it’s odd to take small comfort in that.


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