My uncle was the first in our family to get them. The oozy green, worm-like creatures latched to the back of his head in plain sight. My family cried for him, holding up mirrors for him, screaming at him to notice. But it didn’t make a difference. He couldn’t see them, couldn’t feel them wriggling behind his skull, burrowing ever deeper by the day. The experts claimed only the victims could remove them. They said that a single touch from an outside source would cause them to go into some kind of overdrive, eating their way through the marrow more vigorously. No one dared even attempt it.
I’d soon find myself spending my days trawling through google, reading advice threads desperately looking for a way to make him see they were there. My browser tabs would be filled with more of the same. Hopeless tales, scrawled in blocks upon blocks of typo-filled digital text. Panicked strangers crying out for help, for some magic solution, the same way I was. Linked photos of hollowed out skulls and wild, acidic green eyes.
A few success stories would occasionally rise to the top, a news piece interviewing a former victim, describing their own roads to the startling revelation that these things were chewing away at their skulls. Stories so familiar, but so different from our own, with the missing link that differentiated our experiences remaining ever intangible. I startle awake every night, feeling the back of my own head, worried not just that someday I will feel something wet and wiggling, but worried that when that day comes, I won’t be afraid.
Some say they come from the internet. Travel through the signals, something like that. That’s one theory, anyway. Others say they are transferred through speech. A spell of sorts, spun into spontaneous existence through cursed language or arcane symbols. Maybe both are true. I find myself soon avoiding the topic altogether. Maybe they feed off attention. Maybe they NEED it to live. Maybe if we all starve them of it together, they will cease to be, drop off like so many dried up slugs. But then I see in spite of that, they have appeared on my brother as well.
By the time I see my brother, he’s already in the late stages of the process. His eyes turning a sour shade of yellow-green, the back of his head half-gone, just a large cavity filled to the brim with the writhing mass, dripping with slime. I know there’s no use speaking to him now, but I can’t help myself. If there’s any chance, any chance at all he can hear me, the urge to try again remains. He laughs, calls me crazy. But then, something strange. Something new. He starts to ask me questions. Innocent ones at first, but ever-questioning, like he’s trying to lead me somewhere. An ideological trap of sorts. I panic and jump out of his line of questions, excuse myself away.
But those questions linger. I feel them…tingle.