They always called me the worm inside the walnut, but I never knew what they meant.
All I knew was that they were a pack of jokers in a crooked deck of cards; even the cool kids weren’t safe from their scorn. They had their own brand of comedy, shall I say. You know, most kids at that age would put paint on your chair, so it made your arse cheeks look like a 3D Twister board, or tie your shoelaces together in class, the usual stuff, really. But not those jokers, they wanted a piece of you, a chunk of your soul – something they could keep stashed away – and once they did, you could never get it back. Well, never say never – that’s my advice.
“Walnut worm, walnut worm,” they chanted the day they took me for bait.
I didn’t know what they were talking about.
I guessed they meant that I was a sour surprise in what would normally be an enjoyable experience: biting into walnut to satisfy your hunger, only to find an ugly little worm squirming around in its nutty flesh. I thought that was why they kept calling me walnut worm, but then again, I was probably giving them too much credit. They weren’t exactly the book-reading types.
They told me to head behind the bleachers out in the sports field after school as Mandy Marsden wanted to meet me. In case you don’t already know, she was the hottest girl in school and even the popular boys didn’t know how to act around her. Mandy’s mum was just like her when she was the same age, but she ended up fat and shacked up in a camper van with seven kids – I always hoped Mandy would end up that way too.
Well, I’m not too stupid. I knew when I turned up Mandy wouldn’t be standing there, inviting me in with her cherry blossom lips, but I was curious as to what would be waiting for me under those bleachers. Probably unprovoked pain and punishment I thought, as I skipped across the field.
Before I even got close, the pack advanced in balaclavas, and before I knew it, I was curled up on the floor, cowering with busted lips and broken fingers, being crushed under the weight of a thousand walnuts and my own slice of public humiliation. You see, there are hundreds of walnut trees in this neck of the woods, so for no real reason, that day, the pack decided to gather sacks of them up and shoot them at me with slingshots. I thought I was going to die.
As they swarmed and laughed and spat, I began to sob, but then I realised something: walnut worms are actually called mealworms, and they’re celebrated in some countries, so if I was supposed to be a big old walnut worm, I should stand proud. And so I did.
I filled my lungs with as much air as I could muster, I spat out a couple of teeth and rose to my feet to fight back, but when my eyes came into focus no one was there.
I went back to the school block, but there wasn’t a soul around. I tried to walk home, but I couldn’t get past the front path of the school; there was an invisible fence stopping me from going any further and the only place I could go, other than the school, was the damned walnut tree field. I’ve been stuck here walking around in circles and eating walnuts for the past decade (I think). I haven’t aged a day.
I don’t know what happened or why, all I do know is that it’s just me and the walnuts and the worms, and it’s likely to be that way forever. Although sometimes, I do hear voices coming from the sky, but I can’t make out the words as they’re so muffled.
I think I once heard the word ‘visiting’, but I can’t be sure. I’ve stopped trying to escape the shackles of the school now; it’s just a waste of time and energy. I wonder if there’s anyone else out there in the same predicament me?
I don’t know why I’m talking to you; you’re just a worm.