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Ride the wild worm, p.2
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       Ride The Wild Worm, p.2

           Michael Carter
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their great show. And then he started his practised spiel for the introduction of the "mystery surprise guests."

  "Gentlemen and ladies, children and animals, prepare yourselves for the strangest and most mystifying rodeo event that you have ever seen. They say in Africa that there are things that man does not know, things that science cannot detect. And tonight, good people, you are going to see some of those things. The men performing this event have been specially trained and have many years of experience and under no circumstances should you try these acts yourself." He paused then and looked for a moment to be very old and jaded. I fancied that I could vaguely make out a faint shimmering in the sand just behind his feet. "But of course, to practise these events, you`d need a really big mallet."

  The announcer walked off to cheering from the audience and on came a huge man, not particularly tall, but very bulky, like a circus strongman. Over his shoulder he carried a large wooden hammer. At this point my interest had welled up again and I watched things intently. The big man walked into the centre of the sandy arena, hoisted the hammer over his head, and brought it crashing down on the sand, making a lot of noise and a lot of dust as he did so. After a break of perhaps ten seconds - while the dust settled - he did it again. Then a third time, before taking his hammer and walking off.

  From the left there entered a trio of men, all tall, quite muscular and wearing only a pair of shorts. Slowly, as soft piping issued from somewhere, the men began walking around the arena, occasionally stopping and kneeling down, as if in concentration. It was then that the surprise came as I saw a large disturbance in the sand just behind one of the men. Then another. And another. The three continued walking around, in no particular direction and every so often an area of sand seemed to rise out of the ground and then sink back in again. A very curious sight.

  But just as I thought it couldn`t get much stranger I saw my first creature from the sand. It bulked up out of the earth, spreading sand into the air and all around it. It was a worm, but it was by far the most bloated, overfed and freakish worm I have ever borne witness to. It was as fat as a bull, and I could not guess at its length as only one alternately concave/convex end was above the ground. As it moved along the sand, making strange grunting and wheezing noises, another two soon joined its strange dance. I tell you, it was amazing, astounding. To see worms or snakes or whatever they were as fat as bulls moving around quite domestically in that arena. And all this for one dollar! It seemed unreal.

  But that was not all that I was going to see that day, for after a few minutes of the creatures dancing about, interweaving with the three men who were still walking around in an odd pattern; after this came the final crowning glory, or the primary horror, depending on how you look at it.

  One of the men actually got on to one of the worms and rode it across the sand, much like a man would ride a horse. The other two followed with the worms seemingly allowing the men to mount them. Again, for many minutes, the riders and their strange steeds danced and cavorted in the now-narrowing light, and I couldn`t take my gaze away. And then the impossible happened and man seemed somehow to merge with worm! Human legs were somehow absorbed into the body of the creatures and they became like the product of some brain-damaged geneticist. Human-worm hybrid creatures, fat slithering maggoty bodies peaked with the upper-body of a cheering and waving man, these blasphemies of nature were now cavorting right underneath the sand, disappearing completely underground for a few seconds before coming rushing back through the sand again in triumph. They weaved and danced and cavorted for maybe a minute and then without warning all three creatures, their human torsos still attached, simultaneously dug under the sand and disappeared.

  A loud cheering and whistling began from the audience and it seemed to me at that moment that I was the only spectator who was still mesmerized and shocked by what I`d seen. Everyone else just seemed to take it as natural what had occurred, and recognizing that the show was over, they began leaving their seats.

  On the way out I questioned a few people as to what had occurred but all I got in reply was a blank stare, and one man said "Great show, don`t you think." It was about then that I guessed at a mass hallucination, and for a few seconds I toyed with the idea of going down and talking with some of the organizers. But the call of a stiff drink was now uppermost in my mind, so I slowly retired to my guesthouse where I had a double brandy and hastened to bed.

  I couldn`t sleep that first night, and I spent many hours trying to recall where I had once read of similar subterranean creatures. At last it came to me; I`m sure you have heard of the ferocious and treacherous dholes of certain Arabic myth-cycles. I believe they were popular subjects in stories of weird fiction in the nineteen-thirties. Perhaps, Sherwood, you would care to enlighten me as to the nature and belief of these "dhole" creatures. I plan, myself, when I reach New York to do some serious research into the subject and I may even take an unplanned detour to Miskatonic University in Arkham where I believe their libraries of ancient myths and cultures are rather extensive.

  I ventured back to the arena the following day but it was completely deserted, with only occasional litter and tumbleweeds dancing on the breeze.

  Anyway, my friend, I hope this letter is of interest to you, and if you are replying directly then I ask you not to forward to the current address. I am moving out of Kingspeake later today, and will forward you my new address as soon as I settle. I am growing apprehensive of this place, and wish to stay here no longer.

  Ah, but, Sherwood, I have not yet told you about the nightmares, the very reason for me wanting to step onto a Greyhound bus and get out of this area. For in my slumber I see once again the mighty worm-man creatures, dancing and diving through and beneath the sand. I observe again the little pattering motion of the sand behind the feet of the ordinary people and the manner in which these natives did not seem overwhelmed by such a strange show. But worst of all, and this fact is slowly making me doubt my sanity, I see myself walking through a vast desert, piled high with dunes, and completely bereft of any other living soul. And just behind my feet, perhaps six inches away on the ground, the sand is trembling.

  - Your humbled friend,

  Thomas Jackson

  Afterword - RIDE THE WILD WORM was among the first clutch of stories I wrote, at a time when I was heavily into Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. I remember that this is a story where I had the title first. I was thinking about Lovecrafts creatures while listening to the Queen album, “INNUENDO”, specifically the song “Ride The Wild Wind”. The story sort of wrote itself from there. It originally appeared on the “Nightscapes” web-site, and is taken from my forthcoming collection, which, like many things in Lovecraft’s writings, remains as yet a “nameless horror.”

  Copyright Michael Carter 1999

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