I2. Ten Thousand Earthworms

The man-sized amoeba bleated and struggled on the Mountainside. Its orange musculature boiled with the movement of teeth underneath. Molars mashed the amoeba’s guts. Canines spun sadistically through its insides. Triangular teeth split skin like shark fins at sea. Saber-tooth fangs stuck out like porcupine quills. Blood spilled and pooled but soaked back into the amoeba’s mass to bleed again, for it was a creature of pure concept, and that concept was agony.

Gradually the amoeba was ground smaller and smaller. More and more teeth took root in the only flesh remaining: a bundle of nerves and gums the size of a soccer-ball. The ball of nerves and gums squirmed like a cramping gonad as the teeth dug in painfully and maliciously. Soon so many teeth ate the tender flesh that from outside, the ball seemed made of teeth and nothing else, even while the remaining nerves and gums suffered silently inside.

The teeth on the surface slowly swirled. Teeth descended into the center along one seam while along an opposite seam teeth emerged to replace them, as if carried by convection currents. When the swirling sped, a low whine from the tooth-ball’s center increased in pitch and volume.

The tooth-ball bulged. Something inside it tried to erect itself. When it stretched the layer of teeth the whine became deafening, but it subsided when the protruding force descended.

Then the protrusion extended too far and split the layer of teeth. A narwhal tusk, spiraled and spinning, drilled three feet skyward before the change in the tooth-ball’s center of gravity caused it to roll and stub the narwhal tusk against the ground. Still the tusk grew longer and thicker. The thickening tusk cracked other teeth. The cracking of impacted teeth was the source of the whining drone, which was now an utterly ear-piercing shriek like a tortured chainsaw.

The narwhal tusk stretched gums until they snapped. Raw broken nerve-endings burned in the air. The point of the tusk drew a line in the dust, longer and longer as it grew.

When the narwhal tusk surpassed twenty shrieking feet, the tooth-ball shuddered. It expanded and contracted like a lung. The narwhal tusk slowed and finally halted.

The thousands of teeth burrowed back into the fleshy core of nerves and gums. The retreating teeth left pores which gasped for air like tiny mouths. Each exasperated wheeze pulled the great narwhal tusk a few inches back into the ball. It took many breaths to hoist the whole tusk into the gummy center.

Then, finally, the ball of gums and nerves panted for air without obstruction. No teeth were jammed in its sensitive flesh. No remnant of the tusk remained. The flesh ball could relax.

So it melted. The gums turned into brown slime which spread into a flat disk of mud.

Then, like goop on a sub-woofer blaring bass, muddy pseudopods danced three inches above the muck. Some pseudopods collapsed under their own weight and fell back into the muck. Some pseudopods survived to smack their rivals back into the muck. The longest pseudopods grappled with each other for dominance, only to find their forms merged where they met.

The merged pseudopods wriggled and squirmed like earthworms in the mud. The more earthworms formed, the clearer the mud became. When the mud was a puddle of pure water ten thousand earthworms lay in tangled pandemonium.

Then two earthworms touched head-to-head and tail-to-tail and became one worm doubly wide. With twice the width it had twice the strength which it used to subjugate a worm nearby, forcing it to lock step with their formation.

This thick trio of worms was in turn subjugated by six worms arranged in a line. The resultant team of nine worms claimed victory over a colony of sixteen worms, and the resultant colony of twenty five worms was in turn claimed by a mass of forty two worms.

The mass of sixty seven captured, like a net, a huddled conglomerate of ninety nine worms. Those one hundred and sixty six worms were picked up and consumed by an aberration of five hundred worms.

Seven more of these aberrations rolled around the puddle collecting earthworms like sticky tumbleweeds. But the aberration of six hundred and sixty six worms was done playing that game, so it tackled another and assimilated its worms. The resultant heap swallowed another two more aberrations.

Eventually just two heaps of earthworms remained, each five thousand strong and the size of chihuahuas. When they jumped at each other they fused in mid-air and each declared themselves the victor.

All ten thousand earthworms flopped as one. The dusty stone surface of the Mountain disturbed them, and they yearned for moist soil. As if by instinct, they crawled out of the puddle towards the edge of the Mountain. They felt the shear cliff-face and had to decide whether to leap. Impact would be painful and the sand of the dunes below would cut them like knives. But from there, they could dig into moist darkness. They leapt! 

“Nice try!”

A white fox bit the heap like it was a venomous snake and dragged it across the Mountain. She threw her head back to toss her prey into the air and bite it again with greater grip. The worms squealed and tried to dissolve the linkages they had made so they could fall and crawl for the edge every-worm-for-itself, but they had merged too thoroughly to separate. The fox beat them senseless on the ground and threw them near the puddle.

“Now, how am I going to do this…”

The fox exhaled on the worms. Her icy breath froze the pink worms pale blue and white. The fox made sure the whole mass of worms was frozen before she sat on her haunches and closed her eyes.

Then her body started steaming. Her tail evaporated first, being light and fluffy by default, and then the rest of her joined its misty mass. Her cloud descended upon the worms and a swirling breeze began. The wind spun faster and faster until she lifted the worms and carried them with her, away from the Mountain, into the desert.

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