a night breeze
a cold hiss whispering the sand through the marram grass
through the hourglass
the sigh of entropy
can you hear it? the gnawing of the nothing worms
Come closer to the fire. Help yourself to some stone soup while it’s hot; I have plenty. Get cozy now. I’m going to tell you a bed-time story. About how I lost my eyes.
One day, when I was going about from place to place (as was my habit), I met my old friend coyote on the road. He had just learned a new trick and offered to show me.
It was a good trick; you throw your eyes up into a tree and you can see for miles and miles. I got my eyes so far up in the tree, I saw all the way to the edge of the world where the sleeping dragon rests his head, breathing over the waters.
But coyote forgot the rules about calling them back. We called and called while the sun beat down and our eyes shriveled and blackened on the tree.
There we were, the two of us stumbling about blind in the desert until we lost each other, lost ourselves. I walked in the dark until I could walk no more and lay down in the dirt.
Worm found me there. Thinking me dead, he began nibbling at my toes, making me sit up and shout. Horrified by his mistake (and by my sorry state) and being a small and vulnerable creature himself, Worm wished to comfort me.
“There, there” said Worm, “I’m here now, you’re not alone anymore. I’m sorry I tried to eat you. Tell me how a creature such as yourself came to be lying so corpse-like that I mistook you for my dinner.”
So I told Worm what happened, and he laughed at me a little for playing Sillybuggers with Coyote, and cried with me because I lost my eyes and didn’t know what to do. And then he had an idea.
“I know!” said Worm, “Why don’t I give you one of my eyes? I’ve got quite a few of them and I’m sure I could spare you one.”
So we put one of Worm’s tiny eyes in one of my empty sockets. I had to tip my head back to keep it in. There was light again in my head, and joy and hope for a moment, but still I could not see, for Worm’s eyes weren’t really eyes at all, telling only light from dark as he felt his way along with his skin.
Oh, poor Worm! Living his life blind, thinking he saw everything there was to see! Now it was my turn to comfort Worm, and I cried with him because he had never seen the stars in the night sky, didn’t know there even were such things as stars or sky, knowing only cold dark earth and warm bright air.
I knew such sadness then, and guilt, for Worm had been content with his world before he found me crippled by my own folly and only tried to help. Now it seemed my foolishness had undone us both and I was ashamed. Worm didn’t want to go home, to live among the blind who thought they saw everything. What would he say? And how would it help anyway, to tell them what he could not show them, or even see himself?
“I didn’t like it much there anyway.” said Worm “Everyone thinks they know all there is to know about the world, but I always thought there ought to be more and went out looking for it all the time. That’s why I was up here on the surface; otherwise I would never have found you.” And I loved him dearly in that moment, because I understood his was a soul so pure that his simple wish for magick drew me to him and saved my life. So I swore to him to always be his friend and promised I would not rest until I found a way for him to see the world for himself.
“Let’s stay together then,” said Worm “and you can tell me all the things you’ve seen, so when I see them for myself I will know what I am looking at.” So I started with the topside of trees (him already knowing them from underneath) and how they sway with the breeze and bend in the wind. Then I told about how the world is a ball forever turning so that all things on its surface can have warmth and light, but still rest in darkness, and about the beautiful, beautiful sunrise that I couldn’t describe to him, not knowing what colours were, making us cry some more. So I told about how Rooster crows to meet the dawn and did the noise and everything, thinking to make him laugh.
But Worm said “Wait! I know that sound! I hear it every day, just before the surface gets warm and bright.” And then I had an idea of my own.
As dawn approached we listened, and we stumbled and crawled towards Rooster’s big, bright noise. When we got close I sat down to wait. “Crawl up into my eye socket Worm,” I said “and when Rooster comes, follow my lead. When I start running, try not to fall out.”
It wasn’t long before Rooster came strutting up to see what we were about. “Mr.Rooster, Sir!” I said “How nice to see you on this very fine morning!” Rooster scratched around in the dirt for a moment, and I could hear him clucking and puffing as he considered us.
“Do you see me?” he asked “You appear to have no eyes. And is that a worm in one of the empty sockets? I could eat that for you if you like.”
“Ah, you noticed my seeing-eye worm. Very observant of you.”
Rooster crowed with laughter “Seeing-eye worm! Don’t be absurd! Everybody knows worms are blind!”
“Everybody except the worms,” I said “and the fact that they believe they can see makes them open to suggestion. If you’re clever it’s not hard to persuade them they can see the future. Would you like me to show you? I’m still training this one, but he’s already quite good. Worm! Do you see Rooster there?” I could feel Worm wriggle in my eye socket, as he stuck his head out at Rooster.
“Yes, of course I see him.” said Worm.
“Are his comb and wattles nice and red? Has he sharp spurs? Do his feathers shine in the sun?”
“Oh, Mr.Rooster is a fine, fine creature indeed!” said Worm, catching on quick “Feathers that shine to shame the sun itself! Spurs so sharp you’d put your eye out just looking at them. And his wattles and comb? So rich and red and splendid I have never seen the like.”
“Astounding!” said Rooster, flattered and puffing out his chest “He really can see. Can he tell my future? Have you taught him yet?”
“Not yet. But it doesn’t work like that anyhow. I can only train him to see my future. I suppose I could give him to you, and then you could train him to see yours. But then I’d be blind again.”
Rooster thought for a moment. “I have an idea.” he said “You can have one of my eyes in exchange for the worm.”
“Alright then. But you better give me your eye first, so I can help you get him in the socket. He’s going to be a tight fit.”
So Rooster gave me his eye and I got ready to run away, but he said “The worm got me thinking, saying how fine I looked and all, and I wondered if I could get a look at myself through that eye before we get on to the worm training.” and seeing as I was about to cheat him I thought, why not? and used my magick so he could look at himself out of his own eye.
“Oh my!” said Rooster, puffing to his proudest and fullest “My, oh my! What a very fine thing I am indeed, such a noble figure! The very pinnacle of avian perfection…” he stopped, head cocked to one side as we both stared into his empty eye socket “…almost the very pinnacle…” and then he was off, strutting away, at great speed accross the desert.
“Rooster!?” I shouted after him “Where are you going?” And Rooster (who always fancied himself a warrior, and a bit of an outlaw to boot) shouted back “To get an eye patch!” And then he was gone.
“Well, that was easier than I expected.” I said, turning away. But as I turned, Rooster’s eye swivelled in my head, still fixed on his own magnificent retreating behind, and would look at nothing else until it disappeared over the horizon. Then, it would look only at Worm, still in the other socket, making me cross eyed.
I sat down in the dirt again, feeling sorry for myself. “Why didn’t it work?” I wondered aloud.
“You know why.” Worm said, quietly “We tricked him.”
“No we didn’t. He ran away. And besides, what’s wrong with doing tricks? They’ve always worked before.”
“We did something bad.” said Worm “Rooster was vain to begin with and I puffed him up, made him feel special in his own eye, that you let him look through. I’m worried about him.”
“But he was going to eat you.”
“I know” said Worm “That’s not the point.”
Sorrow and shame made a hole in me then, because I understood at last. “Stay with me Worm.” I pleaded “The world cannot be safe from me without you.”
“I will stay with you” said Worm “not to keep the world safe, but because you are my friend.”
I would have cried out a great river if I had my own eyes, and I could not close the hole in my heart. But Worm stayed with me until I could walk once more. “What was the very last thing you saw with your eyes?” he said, hoping to distract me from my pain.
“The last thing I saw was the sea, and the dragon’s head, where it lies sleeping on the shore.”
“Could we get there, the two of us, do you think? I should like to meet a dragon, even one that’s fast asleep. That would be a fine thing.”
So Worm and I set out to find the dragon on the shore. We went slow, because I could only look at Worm, but I held him out in front and didn’t stumble too much. I didn’t mind looking at Worm all day because he was my friend and I loved him and he was very beautiful to me, and I didn’t really want to look at anything else in case the hole in my heart got bigger. Looking at Worm day after day, my heart began to heal a little and every day the hole was just a little smaller.
But still I was broken, and often I would forget where we were going, or that we were going anywhere at all and Worm kept me safe and guided me until, one day I smelled the sea and heard the waves and Worm whispered to me “We’re here my Love. Sit with me and rest a while.”
“But we can’t stop. You have to meet your dragon. You must have that at least.”
“He’s here. I can feel him dreaming. You can stop now.”
I lay down in the sand, curled against his cold stone nose with Worm curled against mine, letting the waves wash sorrow in and out through the hole in my heart, nothing in me but sadness and my love for Worm and all the sorrow of how I hurt him so, until at last I fell far into a long sleep.
I awoke to the sound of voices on what seemed a different shore, brighter somehow. I rubbed my eyes, which seemed to be back in my head, and realized I could see. But not Worm! Where was Worm? I cried out for him looking around for the source of the voices and found myself looking straight into the open eye of the great dragon, and there was dear, dear Worm sitting on his nose.
“Are you feeling better?” he asked “Dragon showed me how to weave with silk, and I made the hole a bit smaller while you slept.”
“Much better, thank you.” I said, and I did. The three of us talked awhile but I don’t remember what the dragon said. Worm knows, but he’s not telling. Then the dragon closed his eye and seemed to sleep again.
“Time to go.” said Worm
“When we go back we’ll be blind again, won’t we? I’m so sorry Worm, I really wanted you to see and I let you down. Can you forgive me?”
And Worm said “You didn’t let me down, you brought me here, where I could never have come without you. And dragon taught me how to see while you were sleeping. I can do it here because of dragon’s magick and it turns out worms and dragons are the same, so I can take the magick back with me. But I won’t be able to do it there unless I get an eye and I need brain to make it work. What do you say my friend? We would be together.”
And since every part of me cried out YES it was done in an instant. I woke up a while ago, really this time, a little way down the shore there and I could see again. But I didn’t look for Worm because I could feel him in my head and in my heart and I saw with his eye.
The hole in my heart is still there, but I kept my promise and so it is filled with love. It will close when the world is mended, says Worm, so we have a purpose and much work to do. But he said we should camp here a bit first, so perhaps he knew that you were coming.
Can you sleep yet? Lay down by the fire with us a while and close your eyes and dream of dragons.