“The Red Worm” by Isaac Aday

Sam Karrington’s size-six loafers kicked back and forth atop the wooden bench under the train stop awning. The train would be here soon, he thought—no need to get too comfortable.  All the signs were there. The long trail of gray smoke that had been a mere ghost five minutes prior had solidified, darkened, and narrowed quite a bit. The grainy odor of burning coal could be perceived on the wet, woodsy wind with a little imagination. The vibrations of the trains enormous metal wheels could be felt if he stood on the tracks and kept still long enough. Surely it would be here soon. Five minutes tops. 

The crowds of farmers and businessmen waiting for the train grew larger as time went on. Leather briefcases and tightly-pressed slacks meddled with blue-jeans and dirt in an attempt to escape the drizzle of rain under the lone awning. The ones in jeans reminded Sam of Daddy. 

“Sam, Sammy, look,” he heard. It was his sister Louisa. She was crouched over a piece of the wet pavement just a few feet away from the tracks, pointing at something on the ground. “It’s a worm, a worm. Way out here.”

A dozen eyes turned to Sam to see what his response would be.

“It’s just my kid sister,” he stuttered to the onlookers, “Just gotta play her games and all. Mom left me in charge.”

Jumping off the bench, he meandered over in her direction. Indeed, it was a worm—no, not a worm, but a caterpillar about an inch and a half long, tiny cilia decorating its transparent-red, waxy body. It was crawling slowly across the concrete, the waves of its segmented body pushing it forward, then backwards—mesmerizing the two children as they watched. Sam had never seen one like it before. 

“We have to go put him in the bushes,” Louisa’s southern voice was reminiscent of a banjo with strings pulled too tight. Her stubby fingers reached out to grab the creature—but Sam caught her by the arm. 

“No—that’ll kill ‘im. You gotta just let ‘im go where he wants. It’ll hurt ‘im if you try to pick ‘im up.”

Louisa’s face was overcome with innocent, childish horror. Her cheeks quickly faded from healthy ice-cream pink to freckled crimson—her innocent eyes filled with watery astonishment. She stood up and backed away, still warily fixated on the minute movements of the little creature as it continued to elongate and contract with no real purpose or direction. Rather than stepping over it, she walked six or so feet out of its way. 

The train was closer now. Sam took Louisa by the hand and guided her back to the bench. They were silent for a moment. 

“Will the worm be alright, Sammy?” She was still watching it from afar.

“Yeah—he’ll be fine. I reckon he knows which way the trees are.” Sam was red.

A loud whistle blew—nearly deafening the two children. The train was very close now. The crowds were growing antsy—checking their bags, retrieving their tickets from the insides of their coats.
“But when all the people—”

“It’ll be fine—don’t worry about ‘im. Mom put me in charge.”

The angular black form of the train was visible from where they sat. Another ear-shattering whistle slammed through their tiny heads. 

“But that’s where—” she cried, “He hasn’t—Sammy!”

“Louisa!” Acting on pure impulse, he slapped the back of her head. Terror swept across her pale face as she clutched her curly head with both tiny hands and stared back at him in confusion.

“Mom put me in charge,” he commanded, tears in his eyes, “I’m not going to go save your stupid worm in the middle of the rain. I’m a big kid now—an adult. Adults don’t play with worms in the rain.”

Louisa nodded through silent tears, still holding the back of her head with both hands. The train had arrived now, and the entrance to the cars was opening just a foot away from where the red worm was still elongating and contracting aimlessly in circles. Sam’s eyes widened as the crowds approached to give the conductor their tickets.

Isaac Aday is a graduate student of Literature at Azusa Pacific University–though he will be transferring this next Fall to the University of Texas at Dallas to study Russian literature. Isaac has always loved explored creative writing since he was a child, and has received some more recent training during his graduate studies at Azusa Pacific University on how to develop creative writing. 

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