Worms are eating my brain. I haven’t seen them yet, but I can feel them munch munch munching around in there. With every bite they take my brain shrinks. I wish they’d cut it out. There are enough brainless people in the world as it is. Take my best friend Nancy, for example. She’s the most brainless person you’ll ever meet, and I hate her guts. I really do. I wouldn’t even call her my best friend, but we share an apartment and sometimes she lets me use her shampoo when mine’s run out. It smells vulgar, like the candles they sell at convenience stores. I like to rub it into my skull until I almost puke from the smell of it. Gives the worms a kick.


Nancy asks me if I’m going to my appointment today. It’s Tuesday, and I always have an appointment on Tuesdays. I’ve had an appointment every goddamn Tuesday for the three years we’ve lived together, but she always asks anyway. I told you she was brainless. I nod as I pick at a dry piece of toast. Good, good, she tells me. I can’t hear the rest of what she says because she’s too busy blow drying her hair, head upside down, bottle red strands dripping on the linoleum.


Honk. Honk.


Nancy’s boyfriend must be here. That’s how he says hello. Nancy’s boyfriend has large arms and always wears polos with some tiny animal stitched on them. An alligator or a whale or some shit. With his smooth, round face, perfectly combed hair, and animal shirts, he looks like an overgrown toddler. He’s even got the temper tantrums.




I can feel the worms trying to roll their nonexistent eyes. Nancy totters out of her room in vacuum-sealed jeans and a frilly red shirt that clashes with her hair. Do I look ok? She doesn’t wait for me to respond before throwing on her puffiest winter coat and painting a few more globs of mascara on her eyelashes. I hope your appointment goes well, she says. And then she’s out the door. I check the clock and toss the rest of my toast in the trash, then grab the warmest items within my reach. I’m gonna be late, but that’s nothing new.


I feel ridiculous wearing this hat on the bus. It’s bright pink and lumpy and has a giant pom-pom on the top. Nancy made it for me for my birthday. She bought the yarn special and everything, but I wish she hadn’t bothered. It’s hideous. I think about taking it off. Letting the worms die. No more munching. But I don’t want my ears to get frostbite.


At least I’m not the most ridiculous person here. There’s the candy cane mom with her blonde little toothache of a daughter. Their matching pink chinks make me want to vomit. Up front, there’s a man with his legs spread so far apart he’s taking up three seats. You can tell just by looking that he’s overcompensating. Then in the back there’s a pointy-faced woman in black talking on the phone way too loud about her sister’s divorce. Apparently, Mark wouldn’t have cheated if Sharon wasn’t such a frigid bitch. They’re all brainless. So very brainless. But somehow I’m the one with worms.


Dr. Lindsey’s office is twenty different shades of beige and smells like a hospital waiting room, like wilting flowers trying to cover the stench of death. How are things going with your roommate? Dr. Lindsey taps a pen on her desk as she waits for my answer.



Are you lying?

No. (Yes)

Did you lie just now?

No. (Yes)

Is she still seeing that guy?


I shrug. Dr. Lindsey puts her pen down and asks if there’s anything specific I’d like to discuss. There are worms eating my brain, I say. Dr. Lindsey stares at me and picks her pen back up. Literally or metaphorically? Does it matter? I watch Dr. Lindsey jot down a note. She does that a lot. She says it’s just there for future reference, but I know the truth. She thinks I’m crazy. She’d never say it. Psychologists aren’t supposed to use that word anymore. Dr. Lindsey won’t even let me say it. The “c” word she calls it. It’s stigmatizing. And inaccurate. At least that’s what she says. But I am crazy. If you think about it, it explains a lot. It really does.


What do the worms do?

Do you really want to know?

I do.


I consider saying: They eat my brain. They burrow through my synapses and play volleyball with my memories. They breakfast in my cerebral cortex and dine in my occipital lobe. They have book club in my pituitary and batting practice on my brain stem. They munch munch munch all day and all night and roll their nonexistent eyes and rub their mucousy bodies against each other to make a slithery, swampy, squishy, squelchy noise that echoes through all the cavities in my head so that I can’t sleep at night.


Instead, I say: Nothing.


On the bus ride home, all I can think about is that I have to pee. I clench my thighs together every time the bus stops, and I slip and slide as I hurry down the ice-covered sidewalk. I jog up the stairs, fumble with the keys in my gloved hands, kick off my boots, and stop face-to-face with the locked bathroom door. I hear retching on the other side, the splash of vomit in the toilet. Nancy must’ve come back early. It’s a weird time to be puking-drunk, but that’s Nancy for you. Always doing the brainless thing. That or she ate those leftovers in the fridge. She keeps promising to throw them out because they’re growing mold in three different colors.


I pound on the bathroom door and say I have to pee. The toilet flushes, and Nancy staggers out. I pinch my nose and try not to breathe as I go inside. I release a never-ending stream and cast my eye over the room, looking for something to think about. Better not to give the worms an inch.


In the corner there’s a large spider looking very pleased with itself as it sucks the life out of a fly. The sink is drip drip dripping even though it’s off. The tiny little plink of water grates on my ears. Next to the toilet there’s a trash can with a pregnancy test in it. I squint. It looks positive.


Back in my room, I try to read, but the worms make it difficult. They’ve decided to throw an impromptu baby shower in my temporal lobe, and their nasty little worm bodies won’t stop squiggling to the beat of whatever music they’re playing. It doesn’t help that Nancy’s boyfriend is back, and this time he’s in our apartment, screaming with his nasally toddler voice. I try to ignore him, but the worms are dancing the Macarena and Nancy’s boyfriend keeps yelling, You piece of shit what the fuck is wrong with you, and the words blur on the page in front of me and Nancy’s crying and now there’s a conga line of worms in my cerebellum.


Nancy’s boyfriend’s face is bright pink, and he looks exactly like a giant cartoon baby. He’s screaming and spitting and it would almost be funny except Nancy’s curled up on the couch with mascara running down her cheeks. I clear my throat. He looks startled.


You need to get the hell out of here.

I’ll leave when we’re finished.

Oh we’re finished.


I push and shoo him out the door before he has time to think about what’s happening and I close it and lock it behind him with the deadbolt and the little chain thing the previous tenant put in.


Nancy hiccups and wipes her eyes, smearing mascara across her face. I don’t know what to say, so I bring her a glass of water from the kitchen. She takes it and holds it without taking a sip. Are you ok? It’s the best I can come up with. I don’t know, she says. I go quiet because I’m not sure what else to do, and she just stares at the water. This is gonna sound crazy, she says. (There’s the “c” word. I’m not supposed to use the “c” word.) And I dunno, maybe I am crazy, she says, but sometimes I just feel like, I dunno, like, there’s something really wrong with me, you know? Like I should be able to figure my life out, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t because there are, like, these worms in my brain, and I’ve tried everything I can think of, but I can’t get them out.


I stare at Nancy, and she shakes her head. I’m just crazy, she says, don’t listen to me. I sit down on the couch and pull at a loose thread on one of the pillows. Nancy picks a bit of gunk out of the water and tries not to look at me. The worms burrow deep into the recesses of my brain, and I say, I know exactly what you mean.


Rachel Wilson

Rachel Wilson (she/her) earned her MFA in Writing for Screen and Television from the University of Southern California. Her play Narwhals and Other Things I’m Sorry For was a finalist in the Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Literary Festival One-Act Play Writing Contest. She currently lives with her cat and writes down the stories that haunt her brain.

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