Immortality

Feb 20 2014

As soon as I met him I knew that John was different. He wasn’t like all of the other worms. We became friends straight away and we both found that we wanted to spend all of our time together. We talked about everything. He told me that he was an orphan, and that when he had hatched no one had been there to introduce him to the world. He’d had to find his own way in it, and I thought that was very brave, and I admired him so much. I told him that he was always welcome with my family, and they thought of him as their own anyway. “When are you and that young worm going to settle down and have little grubs of your own?” asked my grandmother. “Oh, Gran,” I said.

John and I didn’t just talk about each other, we talked about the world too. “Why does the sun come up?” I asked, squinting up at it. It confused me; I could never see things properly when it was shining on them. “To shine on you and me,” he said, chewing into another crisp green leaf. “And how do you eat that stuff? It doesn’t compare to soil! It is yuck!” I said. “I don’t know why I like it so much,” he said, “Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but it tastes delicious.” I thought he was crazy, but in a good way. And even though we had our differences, we always managed to put them aside and to get along better than ever before. “What do you think is out there, out in the world?” I asked. “I don’t know, but I think I want to see it,” said John. I wasn’t so sure – I thought I wanted to see it, but I liked home too. “Maybe we could see some of it together someday,” I said, and he said, “I’d like that, Jane.”

One morning I awoke to find that he had changed. His skin had become tough and hard and he wasn’t moving. I tapped on his body and tried to talk to him, but he seemed to be having trouble hearing me. “John, are you alright?” I screamed. He came to some sort of awareness with a little snuffle. “Jane! I think so,” he said, “I’m just very tired right now, I don’t think I can be very good company.” He went back to sleep, and he stayed asleep for weeks. I kept a close watch on him, but I was afraid to touch or disturb him, because his skin had become transparent in places and what I could see through it looked disgusting, and it didn’t look like John at all. But I could feel his heart beating and I thought that as long as that kept going he was somehow still surviving.

When he awoke his skin cracked open and he crawled out of it with wings. They were crinkled and little at first but they slowly straightened out. They were big and they were deep shades of blue, pink, and orange. When he saw me he crawled over to me on shaky new legs and licked my face with a little frond. It tickled. “Jane, you have waited for me all this time!” he said, “And I’m sorry, because I love you, but I have to go now.” I felt dazed. “Okay, thank you,” I said, “Goodbye John.” As he flew away I remembered to call out “I love you too,” but it was windy and I don’t think he heard me.

Just as soon as I lost sight of him a crow swooped down and stabbed its beak through my body. I screamed while it flew away chewing on my lower half. Or was it my upper half? In fact I couldn’t tell. I wondered where I did my thinking and I didn’t know. But it didn’t matter because my other half grew back younger and stronger than the rest of me, and it seemed that I could still think. Over subsequent years it happened to me repeatedly, that halves of me were eaten and regrown. I lost all of my family, and I lost all track of time. I probably would have died a natural death of old age if I had stayed beneath the earth where I belonged, but I couldn’t help exposing myself to the sky, hoping to catch a glimpse of my lost love. Recently, chewing vacantly on a dirt clod, I realised that so much time had passed since I had seen him that on some occasion or another, I had probably consumed decomposed components of his heavenly body.

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