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Oct
21

if man makes himself a worm

Some writers when dealing with the forthcoming premise would be inclined to explain it away with reincarnation, but I much prefer introducing a pair of mischievous gods or bored aliens. More along the lines of the movie Trading Places where someone is introduced into a scenario that, at least on the surface, they seem ill-equipped to adapt to and a wager is placed on their success or failure.

In this case switching out the brains of a human and an earthworm at birth. Hence the gods and aliens, Randolph and Mortimer Duke don’t have the resources necessary for this type of endeavor.

Obviously the earthworm is going to end up institutionalized without much upside. Nothing to talk about there. The interesting part of this, and where money is sure to change hands, will be the human brain stuck in an earthworm.

Your initial reaction might be that a human is wildly overqualified for the role of an earthworm, and you might be one hundred percent spot on, but let’s take a moment to think it through just the same.

Don’t ask me why you’re willing to spend any time thinking through a human brain in an earthworm, only you can answer that question.

To begin with, the earthworm won’t know it has a human brain. It will assume that it’s an earthworm. It will start off with a baby’s brain and go from there. Dumb as a brick.

Given that a human lifespan is around 80 years and an earthworm, under the best of conditions, lives only four, that means that the baby stage of development in an earthworm would only be 60 days. Ironically the sexual organs* of an earthworm actually begin to develop between 60 and 90 days so it fits in perfectly with this story (the sure sign of next-level storytelling). They only have to wrestle with those rebellious teenage years** for 30 days or so.

After that the two mischievous gods or bored aliens start to get interested.

(*Given that earthworms are hermaphrodites, meaning an individual has both male and female reproductive organs, the movie version of this story might be Really Trading Places)

(**What a rebellious worm looks like is anyone’s guess)

What would a human brain make of living underground and, more importantly to deities or bugged-eyed space creatures with cash on the line, what possible achievements could they hope to accomplish as an earthworm? How do you distinguish yourself if you’re in the phylum Annelida ?

As an invertebrate that is basically a mobile digestive system, mouth at one and anus at the other, they spend their short lives wriggling through the dirt and doing their best to avoid ending up on a fishing hook.

How could a human brain possibly make an earthworm noteworthy?

For example, no amount of coordination or leadership skills would help a group of earthworms kill a predatory bird. Plan as you like, there will never be a “Get ‘em boys!” moment (hopefully that elicited the image of twenty or so worms jumping on top of a robin… to no effect). They don’t have hands so they can’t wield tools or weapons.

Earthworms don’t even have eyes, they only sense light through special photosensitive cells in their skin called “light cells of Hess.”

Now I’m certain that when you read “light cells of Hess” you immediately felt that this next sentence would go on to reference some legendary character out of mythology named Hess (music swelled in the background). The kind of character that would inspire an earthworm to heroic deeds (the heart began to race). The kind of deeds that would more than justify one god or alien giving the other god or alien a very smug look and a quick “I tried to tell you as much.”

“There it is,” I can practically hear you saying to yourself, “the justification for reading this dumb story. My time has not been completely squandered!”

But alas, the “light of Hess” is actually named after Walter Hesse, the scientist who discovered the cells. A very dull scientist at that.

They didn’t even bother to get the name right. Talk about something that would make a worm roll its eyes… if it had them.

I guess it could shake its head a bit.

In retrospect I think mischievous gods, bored aliens, ‘some writers’ and, of course, you would all agree that earthworms were a poor choice for this wager.

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