I am not at all sure how it came to be that I was on The Surface; someone must have given me wrong directions. I had been there a few times before, in the inexperienced days of youth, but I had not remembered how unpleasant it is. I am not, of course, alluding to the “dangers” commonly talked about: they are easily avoided. It is only careless chaps who let themselves get seized and eaten by a Horror. I am sure they attract attention, by flailing wildly. There is a genuine risk of being crushed by heavy objects which (one presumes) fall from above. Some do not believe in Unidentified Falling Objects; but I have encountered a crushed fellow on my first trip to The Surface. He was freshly crushed, and quite flat, with the juices seeping out of him.
However, the greatest risk, as any sensible person is aware, is the heat. I remembered it having been unpleasantly warm during my second trip; this time it was scorching. I could feel my skin growing dry and sticky, my body limp. I moved hastily forward, but the ground was so hard that I could not find a single suitable point to construct a tunnel back to our world.
“Why did you let that fool give me directions?” I reprimanded the Fates. “There’s no way home. I shall die here, and wisdom will die with me! Once I’m dried up and hardened, you’ll regret your lack of care.”
Searingly hot, soft but impenetrable, the flames of death descended. They lifted me up, above The Surface, consuming my skin. I writhed in agony, but there was no escape: they had cupped around me.
“What use am I to you dead?” I screamed. “My life has so much promise! Find someone else for death to burn up.”
The Fates are not wise, but sometimes they heed us. The burning ceased: I fell onto The Surface again. The ground beneath me was cooler, but dry. It stuck to my poor skin. I could not even move to try to build a tunnel home.
“You idiots! Do you think this is any better? I’m going to die here! I’ll never get home.”
I laid my head down and prepared for death. I did not even have a companion, to whom I could give my last pearls of wisdom.
A small stream of water washed over me, reviving me a little. With the last of my feeble strength, I tried to dig the earth. It was still hard.
“What use is that? Why prolong my sufferings?”
I laid my head down again.
A flood of water cascaded over my coils. It buffeted my poor body. It swirled the dust. It moistened the earth. I lifted my head and moved forward. The ground was hard, but perhaps I could build a tunnel.
For minutes I laboured away, bruising my nose. The earth was as solid as a rock and I could scarcely drill through it. It would require hours of labour and the hot air was drying up my skin.
“I don’t have enough time to do this,” I pointed out. “You should have put me down in a better place.”
A clump of woven roots and earth plummeted from the heavens. It was an Unidentified Falling Object. It did not crush me. It provided shade enough for me to rest, before resuming my labours. Perhaps my body is firmer than most; perhaps their fragile skin cannot bear The Fates’ clumsy-handed gifts.
Some foolish youths think adventure is the manna of life: I beg to differ. Of course, my unfortunate sufferings have provided a most exciting tale, as all my acquaintances agree. This does not absolve the Fates one iota: they should not have brought me to The Surface. It was a most disagreeable experience for an eminent worm.
As you may have guessed, this story recounts, from the worm’s perspective, my attempt to save the life of a stranded worm on a hot summer’s day!
This piece of flash fiction is featured in An Animal Anthology of Flash Fiction. Get your copy of An Animal Anthology of Flash Fiction FREE between August 2nd and 6th!