Wisely did Ibn Schacabao say, that happy is the tomb where no wizard hath lain, and happy the town at night whose wizards are all ashes. For it is of old rumour that the soul of the devil-bought hastes not from his charnel clay, butfats and instructs the very worm that gnaws; till out of corruption horrid life springs, and the dull scavengers of earth wax crafty to vex it and swell monstrous to plague it. Great holes secretly are digged where earth's pores ought to suffice, and things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl. The Festival, H.P. Lovecraft
Not quite eyes, but close enough. They look like lumps of white phosphorus hidden inside a cistern. Cheap, almost accidental. The watery disks flicker to life and blink at the pale half-colors. The eyes are new. They were not there yesterday.
But the mouth was. Perhaps it has always been there. A red tongue flickers through the sphincter-like opening, licks the dirt from the lips. Tastes the air. New scents for old things: baby-soft mice in their holes, the bacterial engine warming a corpse, blue smoke from the campfires, pinpricks of dead pollen.
And it remembers.
It remembers the long midnight and the lookout's shout and the desperate flight. It remembers dying, the axe breaking the skull and gouging a new fontanel. The beard of the axe dug deep, fingers pulling through red ribbons. A moment of transfiguration, and then nothing at all.
It has no skull anymore. Its head is a muscular appendage, ringed with annular muscles and tactile hairs.
It was a wizard once, it thinks. Tangled skeins of magic were once knitted by its nimble fingers. Where did the fingers go? Trying to remember is like picking at a scab. It picks and it picks and it is not disturbed by how much it bleeds because it needs to remember what the flesh was like beneath the scab, but then the pain is too much and it must cease.
It had a family, and it had companions. It had a cat, a familiar. The cat is about twenty feet away, and its tiny corpse makes a tiny sound as it is stirred by the multitudes of maggots, undergoing their sundry transformations into flies.
It had a name, but it does not know it. It will know it again when it is called again. Perhaps.
The thing crawls from the eye socket of the dead wizard. It is frustrated at its lack of hands, but its vermiform body propels it smoothly. It exits the skull wetly. After a pornographic panoply of sounds it plops into the red-wet grass. The newborn looks up and sees starlight for the first time.
No, that's not right. The reborn looks up and sees starlight again. No, that doesn't seem right either. It doesn’t know how this has happened, but it knows it has escaped death. It has already grown eyes. Perhaps things will soon be set right.
But they do not. It is trapped inside a stranger's body, one that is tiny and feeble. The shock and the optimism from that first night are replaced with a crinkled, impotent rage that you and I will never know. It is the salt-stung frustration of incompleteness. It spends nights weeping under toadstools. It can barely speak, though it tries its best. Its vermiform mouth slobbers and strains, until finally it chews the words out, trying to summon a name, a history, a home.
But it remembers the old incantations, even if the only consonants available to it are labial and glottal. Spells were once golden birds that flew from its lips, their wings beating to a syllabic. Now, its spells are stillborn things that struggle for a moment before dying, sometimes accomplishing their goals, sometimes not.
And as the days turn to years, the desperation mounts. In the beating rains of black forests, watery eyes will peer down a burrow, meeting the gaze of the rabbit trembling in his home. The worm-thing will spit curses and spells, and the rabbit will blacken and die. And the frustrated worm will crawl down and tear open its belly. It will spend some days inside the rabbit, gnawing and brooding. It will seek solace but find only entrails.
And then, through happy circumstance, it will murder a man.
The man will never know what killed him. He will never see what crawls out from between the tree roots, gliding though the grass like a snake. He will never hear the sibilant syllables gurgled out in wet victory. He will never see its soft mouth lick apart the soft lamina of his eye and slip inside. Like a rat chewing wires, it will suck the nerves out from his eye socket, and slip into his brain.
It will emerge from the man’s belly days later amid a drumroll of corpse gas. It has grown fat and quick. What was once small enough to wrap between cupped hands is now a muscular appendage as big as a baby's arm. It will stumble off on newly formed legs, seeking shelter from the lashes of the sun. It found no answers in the man’s brain, only a greater form of alienation.
A few more murders. A few more nights spent inside the corpses, cocooned in isolation and sleepless introspection. It has arms and hands and fingers and a half-remembered face. It has paved over gravelly uncertainty with dreadful conclusions. It has killed and it has dined. When it was cornered, it lashed out with poisonous phantasms and paralytic manifestations. When it was pursued, it pulled the wet earth over itself and dug deep. Deeper than the footsteps and the shovels.
The worm that dreamed it was a man has learned that it is neither. And above the echoes of esoteric thought and the abandoned aspirations of personhood, the tubular brain sings the inexorable Creed of the Worm: Burrow and watch. Creep and kill. Eat and grow.
SummaryVolguloi are formed with a certain species of worm eats the brain of a wizard. After a long meal, the worm emerges from the skull greatly changed. It has half-remembered memories, and it can cast spells. It has a halfway formed mouth, and a set of ambitions that involve recovering its identity and eating more human brains.
The first goal is impossible, since the identity is illusory. The second goal is the central nature of all volguloi, and if left to their own devices, it is one that they invariably reach.
The more brains they eat, the bigger they become. As big as a child, or perhaps a man, or perhaps even larger if their diet is rich enough. They invariably go mad from the conflux of competing memories, though their spellcasting becomes potent under the strange tides of arcane cerebrospinal fluids. They wax clever and canny, and older ones will harbor secret ambitions and speak speak several languages in a bubbling, imprecise tongue.
Not only do they grow in size, but their shapes become more refined. Clavicles, fingernails, and sinuses will all eventually emerge from the wet clay of their bodies. They eventually resemble their prey, but it is only a monstrous imitation. Nothing will ever hide their nature. From their unnatural births to their writhing deaths, they are worms.