My drummer wants to know what the fuckís the matter with me, catching my arm at the bar.
Heís sweating like he just jogged the New York City marathon.
Me, Iím trying not to look him in the eye as I wave for Tommy, the bartender. Iím scared if I look too hard at anyone I might see something crawl out of their nose or ear.
I held up two fingers to Tommy meaning I need a double shot this time.
My drummer says I played lead in the last set like I havenít yet learned guitar.
Do my fingers hurt?
Or am I stoned again?
I gulp down my drink telling him Iím trying to get stoned.
But that wonít satisfy Curtis, who gives me a lecture on how he joined the band because of me, and if Iím washed up, he ainít staying.
I tell him Iím scared, and when he asks of what, Iím scared to tell him, making him promise not to laugh if I do come out with him, and he promises.
This time I look at him square in the face, and I donít see what Iíve seen on so many other faces lately, no crawling green-scaled earth (if thatís where theyíre from) worms, no slowly altering flesh, just a set of concerned and angry eyes staring at back me.
It takes a lot to set Curtis off, but once he gets launched, itís hard to calm.
I know Iíve pushed him too far, fumbling over riffs I know by heard, missing beats each time my heart beat skips at some new sight of warms. I am making the band sound bad, but only Curtis has the guts to tell me that to my face.
Yet even when Iím ready to tell him all, I hesitate, knowing he will think Iím making up a yarn and heíll get even more peeved.
He might even walk out, leaving us high and dry for a drummer.
He wonít believe me. If anything, heíll think Iím even crazier than he thought before which to anybodyís mind is pretty crazy.
I hardly believe what Iím seeing myself, struggling to make sense of it all, thinking maybe I am going insane, hoping I am because if what Iím seeing it true, then I might just kill myself to keep from getting caught up in it.
How do I tell Curtis that I started noticing worms around me weeks ago, not just at the club, but on the streets where we walk, in restaurants where we eat, at airports while weíre waiting for flights, even in the hotel when weíre trying to sleep between gigs.
Sure, itís foolish. But at first, I tried to convince myself it was my eye sight. Some people see spots and known they need glasses, I see worms.
But I know better now, and knew better then, but I still cling to hopeful theories such as this being a flash back from my days when I did too much acid, although I donít recall ever seeing worms when I really was high, and wonder how I can always have the same flashback.
These arenít ordinary worms either. Not the kind I used to torture as a kid.
These worms are encrusted that look more like a lizard than anything I cut up or jabbed with a fishing hook.
Yet even this comparison doesnít quiet fit.
No lizard I ever saw has the kind of eyes these little beasts have or such mouths filled with razor sharp teeth. I call these worms only because they donít have legs, but these donít do things worms do or lizards, weaving through peopleís anatomies without the people even being aware of it.
What scares me most is the thought that these things might be weaving through me without my knowing it either.
They are always gnawing at something, and the sound of it drives me as bonkers as seeing them does, but sometimes I donít see the worms, but I always hear them, day and night, regardless of where I am or where I go, or what I do to distract myself.
When I donít see them, Iím more terrified than when I do, wondering what mischief they are up to. My imagination paints into every scene their perpetually gnawing mouths.
I tell Curtis I believe weíve been invaded.
Despite his promise, he explodes with an uncontrollable laugh.
Invade by what, he asks? The Russians?
Something farther away than the Russians, I suspect, I tell him.
The laugh dies on Curtisís face and a look of deep concern comes into his eyes, as he squints at me trying to determine if Iím pulling his leg or not.
When he decides Iím not kidding, he gets scared.
I tell him itís the only thing that explains all the things Iím seeing, and he asks if Iím seeing them now, and after I glance around the club a moment, I say no. Not at the moment, nor are any of the people showing signs of transformation.
He asks what I mean by this last bit and I tell him people change after theyíve been invaded by the worms, their flesh gets a death-like color, and their eyes grow glassy and dead, too. Some even bleed from the ear after the worms dig there long enough.
Curtis sweats more than ever now as he looks around for someone Ė perhaps one of the other band members Ė who he can call on for help.
Iím not crazy, I tell him. He says, of course not, then waves frantically at Roger are bass player, who is busy trying to pick up a chick at the far end of the bar.
Itís the pressure, Curtis tells me, starting to pat my shoulder, and then pulling his hand back as if he believes what I have might be catchy, and Iím not sure it isnít.
I havenít the nerve to tell him the rest, about the bugs I used to see, and how these vanished over time when the worms appeared, just as the worms now are vanishing because the rats have come.
I see them fighting all the time, often over possession of one of us.
Just tonight, I saw a full war waged near the river and the bodies of rats floating down stream, bleeding.
I tell Curtis I think the worms will win in the end because they can get inside peopleís bodies while the rats canít.
Now Curtis is so frantic with fright he is waving Tommy over and asking if maybe he might be good enough to call an ambulance for me.
Tommy knowing us shakes his head saying heís not going to let us out of our contract over some new stunt. Last month, one of us started a fire in the trash and called the fire department just so we didnít have to play the last set. Now weíre trying to make out like one of us is going crazy and he would be crazy if he fell for it.
Curtis pleads. But Tommy is firm in his resolve.
But wonít do any good anyway. Right in the middle of this talk I see a wormís head pop out from inside one of Tommyís ears and know that he wonít be much good to us soon.
So I hold up two fingers and Tommy refills my glass.
The only thing I can do is drink Ė that makes the worms vanish at least for a while.