Wormgirl by Natalie Terezi Rei Watts

I’m a wormgirl. I tf’d into a wormgirl. I drank the E621 juice and wriggled out of my spine like it were a dorsal jailcell and splurted to the floor in a pile of my expelling testosterone effluvia, a waste substance that was bitter to the touch and smelled like reeking Dudefluid, a dangerous toxin for all [noun]girl revolutionaries. I quickly secreted my own estrogen and wriggled in it like a ballpit. My estrogen pile was lovely, it was home. However, becoming a wormgirl unsheaths you from the natural protection human endoprisons provide, and you are forced to confront the two dangerous forces all wormgirls face, birds and landlords. For this I had to resheath my body.

Today I wake up to the sound of a pigeon screaming across the pigeonwaves for food. I scramble into a defensive trefoil with my setaeswords bared but it never attacks, because it was outside, and I was inside, and now I’m awake a full hour before I have to head for work with less sleep than I had in college powering my body. I gradually squirm out of the estrogen pile, photoreceptors sore (as the dull wood and concrete swims back into view I wish the cries were from a pigeongirl instead of just a normal animal pigeon, since that would actually be hot). Using the spiral tunnel I dug through one of the bed legs I crawl up to the mattress I keep my endoprison on and, inputting the access code through the sural keypad, hop into the spine cockpit.

Arteries pump. Nerves spark. The torso rises and I slam my head against the ceiling. The termitewoman above me knocks on the floor and I shout “sorry.”

(Brushing my chin I feel a slight fleck of stubble, something I’ve neglected to check for in a while. Blegh.)

Once I get all the Ordinary Morning Human Things done I stumble out the doorway and tumble my way down to the bus stop, wind grazing my human nerves and cloud cover dampening my human sight. On the right a Human Dude nails a Dude Rights sign into his property to replace the one someone defaced with a hammer and sickle a few nights back, while further into the foliage crowding the street a catnb wearing an oversized “ASSIGNED INCHAD AT BIRTH” shirt side-eyes me as sh* vapes LaCroix on a tree branch. I tug at my ligaments to give a thumbs up. Sh* gives one back.

At the bus stop I encounter more of my fellow revolutionary creatures but none of us can be as bold as sh* is — we have jobs, and we’re tired, and we can’t cause problems constantly when we put all of our determination into just staying alive. A scorpionboy leans against a rusted stop sign with nys tail tucked into nys sweats, mask over nys chelicerae, shades over nys eyes; a shrikegirl sits on the bench with vaer phone angled so no one can see the messages vae’s beaming over the birdnet; a slimevoidgender, doing ███ best to seem human, simply wears a necktie around the part of ███ gelatin closest in shape to a head. All of us have our survival strategies, and it’s the best we can hope to manage.

When I’m on the bus someone notices the light pouring through a crack in my spine — I’m passing the time by playing a copy of MK Sissy Ultra Yuri Hypercule 9 ported into my medulla — and they ask me how I managed, y’know, that. They squirm in their seat and I can see a demongirl rights pin on their satchel next to the pronouns badge. I say I took MSG. They ask if it was just MSG. I say yep. I reach into one of my hoodie pouches and, finding the ziplock nice and intact, take out a baggy of MSG mixed with mud. I say the mud was specifically for wormgender tf but the salt will still work fine. They pocket it and start darting their eyes around to make sure no one notices their incipient sin against human nature.

I’d like to cherish the thought of having made someone’s life better but I’m not offered the chance. Once the bus grinds to a halt I’m at work, and once I’m thrust through the doorway and into the cubicle it’s time to be a Dude. Offices are the battlegrounds where all Dudes are forged — they get torched by the flickering overhead fluorescents, melted by the Dell monitor warmth, dissolved in spreadsheets. You are reconfigured, remunerated. All of your parts are processed through a tunnel of synergized chutes and capital-value conveyor belts, and, once your parts are disposed of in manilla folder waste bin, have you successfully become Profit. Not human, not [noun][gender], simply Profit. When you step out of the office to regain your humanity (as one does on the daily) do you truly know what it means to live like this.

Of course, I can’t be reforged into a Dude, because worms get compressed too easily under manilla folders. So I instead take a stealth approach. When I’m not yanking my fingers up and down to hammer out quarterly earnings on the keyboard I stay around the water cooler, waiting for someone to pass by, and, when they try to shuffle over to their desk, ensnare them with a friendly remark about how much I hate my wife. I don’t even need to sound sincere; they’ll fall for it hook line and sinker. From there I don’t have to say a word; Dudes are conditioned so half of their lexicon is vile misogynistic insults and the other half palaver about fishing, and the instant they receive the signal the conversational onslaught starts. This works in my favor, since, if I am always seen as the Dude Who Starts Conversations At The Water Cooler, then I am recognized to be a part of the office microcosm, and if I am part of the office microcosm then I am their irreplaceable fulcrum their quotidian reality rests upon. If I were fired their sense of existence would shatter.

I can tell how much is hidden under their conditioning, though. One Dude I encountered had a crack in his speech, a slight tectonic ravine that was dragging itself open as the continents of his brain shifted, and in it I saw the faint glimmer of what looked like water, water rushing through his head, splashing against the rock closing it in and rising, desperately rising out, hoping to overflow from the ravine and actually expose sincerity for once, drown the rote speech in a flood of tears and prayers so that something good may happen for once in his life. But the deluge never came, and the honesty was aborted before the next joke about the ol’ ball and chain dribbled like pus from his lips. All I did was squeeze my lungs into a laughing pattern; I can’t crack his endoprison open and let his water flow without compromising myself.

I leave the office at 6PM. My fingers are sore; I need to find replacements before carpal tunnel leaves this set unusable. Ceiling fluorescents are burned into my retinas. My shirt reeks of manilla. In the streets it drizzles, and below the darkened clouds the streetlights click into bloom. Most have sputtering bulbs, the light never reaching far.

It’s fucking miserable to live like this.

As I drag one foot after the next over the pavement I notice something interesting along the road, though. At the edge where the blacktop meets the curb, a thin sliver of terrain yet to be disrupted by tire tracks or stray rainboots, I see a puddle of mud that’s built up over the past few days of rainfall. In it, amid the splashing rain and chunks of what is most likely dogshit, is a thin track — curved at the edges, trailing in a winding path only an annelid could follow. At the end is the faintest, already washing away imprint of a sneaker, and then the dirty tracks of shoes traversing off into the normal urban commodityscape.

I sigh, jerk an arm over to slightly tug up my jacket, and resume my momentum towards the bus stop a block over. At the very least it’s nice to know you aren’t the only weirdo who tf’d cirself into a worm out there. Might need to check out a few communal dirt mounds to see who else is hanging around the neighborhood.

First published in YONQ Issue 2