By Earl Fowler
It rains a lot here in Victoria in the winter. Perhaps you’ve heard. I’m not sure Harry and Meghan did a lot of research on the topic.
In any case, as a kindly old sot with diddly squat to do most days, I have been a frequent picker upper lately of earthworms stranded on driveways, roads and sidewalks and a faithful depositor of them safely and gently on the fresh bedding soils of sweet Mother Earth. It was the soil they were fleeing in the first place, I suppose, in their ill-thought-out, all-consuming panic to avoid drowning.
Becoming stranded on a surface you can’t dig into when you feel the need later on is not a viable long-term strategy for worms (or retirees). After all, ganglia aren't much for brains.
So here’s my idea for a Kilgore Trout-style science fiction story, only nowhere as good as Kilgore Trout’s ideas.
Mankind destroys itself, which seems more or less inevitable. Earthworms, being ever resourceful and low maintenance, are among the few creatures that survive. Eventually, being in the main the placid, rational creatures we observe today, they evolve brains out of ventral ganglia big enough to trace their common ancestry back to one of the worms I saved.
Their science even becomes good enough to reconstruct the life of that worm, including how it managed to avoid becoming a flattened, desiccated question mark on some desolate parking lot on Vancouver Island in the year 2020 CE. They use that same knowledge to reassemble the human being who saved the worm, exactly as he was in what is to them the distant past.
The man is jarred awake from a 35-million-year sleep to find himself with all his memories intact, surrounded by inquisitive, intelligent, probing earthworms who can’t wait to see what he’ll do next. They quiver with excitement. Though modest and self-effacing as only segmented tubes can be, they are proud of their amazing opus and can’t help anticipating a Lazarus-like scene of unadulterated wonder and gratitude.
The man stretches, rubs his eyes, realizes he is still 65 years old and that the paper wasn’t delivered this morning and there is no voicemail machine available where he could leave a rambling gripe. Moreover, all the senior discounts and blue plate specials for which he has coupons in his wallet have expired.
There is no possibility of booking an Alaskan cruise, the Canadiens won’t meet the Red Wings on Sportsnet (not entirely negative) and there’s no way to swing by the bank to make a small deposit or buy traveller’s cheques.
Even though the evidence of their existence palpably surrounds him, the man tells the worms he doesn’t believe in them, scoops them into a bucket and scatters them at random throughout the ruins of an ancient parking lot. The sun dries them out and they die. Left to his own devices, the man — I, me — wonders what time Murder, She Wrote will be on.
It will be a rerun, of course, but who the hell ever remembers who the murderer was anyway?