The Wormulet: A Re-Tale
Dad’s mixing eggs in the blender again. Keeps staying up late at night watching the Rocky movie. He’s not working out though, he’s just taking the protein. I get shoved in a dumpster by the dumpster kids on my way to school. They take my snack money. I hide out for too long in there. It smells mostly like fish and fruit peels. Some oil gets on my grey sweatshirt. It sucks.
When the coast is clear I jump out. Never been in this alley before. Never seen this bookstore before. I duck in, just to be safe, bide myself some more time. Old geezer inside smells like moth balls. Like moth ball soup. He’s got glasses as thick as aquarium glass. I haven’t been in one of those in a long time. I miss ‘em, miss the way the fish swim to the glass and show me their bellies. I miss the sting rays, the darkness, the quiet.
Old man says, “help you with something?”
“I want to look at that one,” I tell him, pointing at the old book behind the glass.
“Whaddayawanna look at that one fir?” he says.
“I just wanna,” I practically scream.
“Shouldn’t look at that one. Nothing but trouble - that one.”
What’s the old geezer on about? Nothing but trouble? Just a book to me.
A cat jumps off a shelf behind a row of books and makes a big scream. Doesn’t even phase the geezer. Then sirens blast and he’s at the window, red and blue lights against his face.
I snatch the book from behind the glass. I’m no stealer usually. I’m a good kid. My dad drinks eggs. Makes me eggs, regular. We watch TV at night, mostly that Rocky movie. I don’t cause trouble. But I want the book so I snatch it up. I put it in my bag and before the geezer returns to me, I’m turning to him at the window.
“Thanks for nothing, Mister,” I say.
“You’ll be back,” says the geezer, but I seriously doubt it.
I get to school and the dumpster kids are waiting for me. Waiting to shove me into a locker. Waiting to stain my sweet sweatshirt some more. I run. I run through the halls and up the stairs into an old crawlspace. I lose them. And then I’m alone. It’s just me. I remember my backpack and I look inside at the old geezer’s book. I slide the heavy thing out and open its dusty pages.
In the beginning of the world, there was rocks and rock people, bats and bat people, big turtles, and horse riders. There is a baby princess who tells me her world’s dying. And she calls me by my name, which makes me pull away from this book real quick. What the heck? How’d she know my name? She says it again on the page, says to stay with her, to listen. So I keep reading on. She says there’s a big awful nothing that’s erasing her world. It’s gonna erase the rocks and the lakes and the fish and the rock people and the bats. There’s a snail rider too - he’s on the way out. They like to race one another, they say, they all can move real quick when they want to. I wouldn’t mind having a real fast snail myself, and I’m sad that these weirdos are gonna lose their world. So, I ask, “What can I do?”
They say there’s a magnificent warrior named Tre-tre, they tell me he’s a horse rider. They say he’s ridden horses around the world. This kid and his horse, they say, are the savior and his beast, respectively. They say I gotta pay attention to this guy. The baby princess is all soft eyes at me and says, "please Bashti, just follow Tre-tre."
Tre-tre and Or-ox are on the move. They’re questing for a mystic to tell them the big news about the nothing. It’s clear the darkness is spreading, lot’s of nothing creeping up in the place of lakes and dirt and rivers and forests. It’s a worldwide disappearing act here. Dad would say, “it’s like a goddamn magic show.” But dad’s not here.
I’m about to put the thing down because I’m feeling far too emotional about the things going down and the fact that the baby princess knows my name. Then Or-ox approaches a mountain and the mountain becomes a turtle. I can’t look away. This turtle creeps its big face and long neck out of its hillside shell and blinks long and hard at Tre-tre. It’s the freaking mystic. And the mystic has nothing to say. He sneezes on Tre-tre and Tre-tre gets angry. The turtle blinks long and hard, and seems ready to go back to sleep. But Tre-tre is persistent, he yells at the mystic, tells him he needs to know the next steps in the big plan. The turtle is like fine, go into the mountains, and good luck twerp.
Immediately after this Tre-tre steers Or-ox into a sandpit. And like that, before I even got to know him, his horse gets stuck and then drowned. This is the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. Tre-tre cries and cries and yells out his buddy’s name, crawls into the pit to try and pull him out. He’s saying “Or-ox! Or-ox!” And the horse doesn’t budge. And then the sinking and the drowning. I cry and yell for Or-ox too and I feel like Tre-tre can hear me, but I’m still just sitting in this crawlspace being way too into this book.
Horseless Tre-tre begins to sink into the sadness near the turtle mountain. The world is ending. His horse is gone. His leather attire is cold in the cold and hot in the heat. There seems to be no wins. He is all misery now. Once he felt helpful and hopeful and true of heart. He is meant to be fighting in the name of the baby princess and the old ogres that used to walk these lands. He’s not much for the end of all things.
When Tre-tre is quite fed up he screams from the pit where he is now shoulder deep. He is tired of the shouting at the nothing, and the nothing creeping up on him, and all the bad things in the world creeping up on him at all times. He is tired of being horseless, he misses his beloved Or-ox. The world is not the same as it once was. And then, from the clouds bursts a beautiful white dog-faced dragon. He has scales and fur and shaggy ears and a calm soothing voice.
Tre-tre reaches up and the oh so clean dog-faced dragon swoops him on his back and they travel high above the planet across all the nothing and everything. He takes him 9956 miles of his 10,000 mile journey. The dog-faced dragon laughs and laughs and reminds Tre-tre that after all this flying he still hasn’t asked his name. And Tre-tre says, what is your name? And old dog-face laughs again and says, “I’m Florecore!” Tre-tre laughs and laughs and says, "higher Florecore, higher!” They laugh until Tre-tre falls asleep.
He wakes up to the smells of home cooking. He’s in a net bed, in a warm room the shape of an acorn. A little booger of an elf is stirring worms into a stew. He’s smelling his worm soup and he’s all rosy cheeks and powdered sugar. He’s a pleasant looking little bugger. He snaps his suspenders and taps his plump little elf wife’s shoulder and whispers, “it’s almost ready” like it's the first worm soup he’s ever made.
Tre-tre smiles at this, looking at the little fellow. He yawns and nearly knocks half the tiny house down. The clatter startles the elves who pop over to the giant amongst them.
“He’s awake!” yells the old elf man.
“Oh my!” screams the lady of the house.
“Are you elves?” asks Tre-tre.
“Of course,” they reply folding their arms across their chests.
“I’ve never met an elf before,” says Tre-tre
“Well, pleased to meet you,” says the old fella extending his hand.
“And I am pleased to meet you, I’m Tre-tre, the warrior,” says Tre-tre.
“I’ve heard of a warrior by that name. But that man was paired with a horse,” says the elf man.
“I had a horse. My horse is gone,” answers Tre-tre.
“The warrior has an ancient relic across his chest,” says the elf man.
“I wear this around my neck,”:says Tre-tre, revealing an amulet of ancient power and grace. On it two worms form a delicate knot and meet to form a perfect circle.
“Oh! It is he!” yells the wife.
“Quiet you,” yells the husband.
“I will not,” yells the wife.
“The wormulet is not proof!” shouts the elf man.
“Wormulet?" asks Tre-tre, holding the amulet up. "Do you know what this means?"
“You don’t know what it means?” asks the old bugger.
“I’ve had it since I was a boy,” answers Tre-tre.
“It is a source of great power," says the old elf. "It says you are the one that holds the power to stop it.”
“Stop what?” asks Tre-tre.
“He’s too young,” says the old elf man to his elf wife.
“He’s not so young,” says the elf woman.
“He doesn’t even know what it means,” says the elf man.
“I can hear you,” says Tre-tre.
“Yes, yes, perhaps a test,” says the elf man. “There are three tests that will prove if you are the one. Just being here means you've already passed two”
“Well, he has the wormulet,” interjects the elf man's elf wife.
“Perhaps a bit of this worm soup first,” says the elf man.
The three of them fill the tiny home with slurps. The soup is a huge success. They slurp worms and steam rises from their black ceramic cups. The whole little hut smells of mushrooms and stock. They are filled with warmth and happiness. The warrior watches the people he’s meant to be saving bask in his presence, bursting with ancient joy. Of course he is the warrior.
The elf man shows Tre-tre his telescope, and the basket he has attached to strings to get to and from his viewing post. He tells Tre-tre that in order to prove his worth to the baby princess and the mystics, and the elflings, and even old dog-faced Florecore, that he must run past the twin quasars of rock, two laser eyed-stone demons in Athenian dress.
“Dammit,” shouts Tre-tre. “That sounds really tough.”
But everyone gives him a big hug, and he tells elf man, “get in that bucket, and don’t take your eyes off me because I’m definitely running past those Athenian dressed stoneys.” Everyone cheers Tre-tre and he just starts running like crazy.
I find myself cheering too, in the crawlspace. It is well past dark. I think of dad, and how we could be watching the Rocky movie again, but like, that’s silly, and I bite into a big sandwich I forgot I stashed. Or maybe it wasn’t there at all. But in the book Tre-tre eats a sandwich too, even after all the worm soup, which is crazy, and also, while he's running. Cool, super freaking cool.
When Tre-tre reaches the stone goblins with the laser eyes, the twin quasars of rock, or whatever, he quickens his pace. The elf man is nearly breaking his basket as he hops up and down and shouts into his telescope. Florecore bites his lower lip and watches on too, barely able to handle the suspense.
And then Tre-tre reaches the stone men, and the goblins laser beam at Tre-tre and it looks like they're going to hit him! They miss him! They miss Tre-tre and instead they blow up their own selves. And now it seems there is nothing that Tre-tre can’t do. And he goes and finds the nothing, which is generally clouds and smoke, but appears to him now as a wolf.
This wolf dressed nothing is a big bad beasty. And Tre-tre rolls up his leather sleeves and says, "no way." And they fight. And it’s very dangerous, and there is much blood. But Tre-tre tells the nothing that he is nothing, and that nothing cannot even exist because even a nothing is something, and thus he negates himself by being, which is super deep.
Tre-tre thinks of his wormulet, and he thinks of the worms in the soup and the worms eating the worms and making the circle. He looks at the nothing and says "A circle isn’t nothing." Then he says, "Or-ox wasn’t nothing!" Then he screams at the nothing and the nothing gets scared. Then the nothing explodes into a million pieces and it is so freaking sweet.
I can’t believe all I’ve read. It’s daylight now, and I’ve been in the crawlspace for a whole night reading about the most excellent adventures of Tre-tre. I climb out and school is just getting out, and from nowhere are the freaking dumpster kids. I start running and they’re totally chasing me to the dumpster. And then one says, “and I’ll take that book in your bag too.”
And I stop in my tracks, and my hands turn to rock fists. “No way!” I scream.
I remove the book, and that’s when I notice it: the wormulet. It is on the cover of the book. I carefully remove it from the book’s hold and place it against my chest and out of the clear blue sky comes a white force. It’s Florecore, laughing as he zooms to the earth. He laughs and laughs. He lands at my feet and the dumpster kids have no idea what to make of it.
“Bashti,” he yells and I climb atop the scaly dog-faced beast. We scare the dumpster kids into the dumpsters themselves. It is as if the world keeps high-fiving me. We soar into the sky and I can hear the grooving pulses of a rising chorus of synth rock all around us, the world is alive and new. We fly high above the world and even out of the country laughing all the while. I yell, “Florecore!” And Florecore yells, “Bashti!” And we freeze frame like angels against the day sky.