It was a time of domestic discontent in the fifth loop of the small intestine.
“You,” Mr/Mrs Tapeworm said severely, “should take a Look at Religion.”
His/her son/daughter shook a mutinous scolex. “Why should I? I have no time for all that stuff.”
Mr/Mrs Tapeworm sighed. “Look, Taenia,” he/she said, “you shouldn’t talk like that. The Lord provides us with everything, a home and shelter, food and drink and everything else. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Taenia’s suckers puckered sullenly. “Like that’s something we should be grateful for. It’s only a human, not a lord of any kind.”
Mr/Mrs Tapeworm gave a shocked gasp. “Don’t say things like that, Taenia. What will the neighbours think?”
“Who cares what they think? Who cares what anyone thinks? It’s still only a human.”
Mr/Mrs Tapeworm looked with great sorrow at his/her son/daughter. “I don’t know what I did wrong,” he/she said, “for you to turn out like this. Why can’t you be more like Solium in the next intestinal loop, or Saginata upstream? They’re religious. They’ve accepted the Lord as their personal Host. Everyone knows they worship Him all right!”
“Yeah, those two. You ever tried hanging out with them? I’d rather be flushed out.”
His/her parent blanched an even whiter shade of white with horror. “Don’t say things like that,” he/she whispered, turning his/her front end round to check for anyone listening. “That’s the kind of thing that gets one into trouble.”
“Why should it? If your Lord really exists, and isn’t just a human, why should it care if someone as lowly as me doesn’t worship it?”
“We aren’t lowly,” Mr/Mrs Tapeworm said sharply. “We’re the Lord’s most favoured creations.”
“Oh, come on. Seriously, Mom/Dad, how much lowlier can one get than us? We’re worms. Hell, we’re flatworms.”
“If you had a mouth,” Mr/Mrs Tapeworm said angrily, “I’d wash it out with soap for cursing, if only I’d had soap and if I’d had hands. Don’t you know it’s a sin to curse?”
“And what if it’s a sin? Will your Lord put me in paradise if I don’t commit sin? Mom/Dad, there’s no such thing as paradise. We live in a stream of liquid food and shit. Once we’re out of here, all we do is get flushed out into the Light and wither and shrivel away. That’s all there is.”
“That’s heresy.” Now Mr/Mrs Tapeworm was white with fury. “There is no such thing as the Light, only the great and endless, comforting Darkness. Who’s been stuffing all that atheist nonsense into your scolex? Tell me!”
“Nobody has to tell me,” Taenia muttered. “All it takes is common sense, that’s all.”
“If you had a room,” Mr/Mrs Tapeworm spluttered, gnashing his/her rostellum hooks, “I’d send you to it. I can’t even tell you to get out of my sight, because I don’t have eyes, and there’s no light in here anyway. I don’t know what I did to deserve you.”
“Don’t worry,” Taenia said. “I’ll go away and leave you alone. Like it’s going to make a difference anyway. Sooner or later, even if nothing else happens, this human will die, and then it’s curtains for us.” Contracting his/her longitudinal muscles in peristaltic waves, he/she wriggled off down the intestine.
Left alone, a deeply troubled Mr/Mrs Tapeworm huddled into a recess of the intestinal wall, laying himself/herself between the rows of waving villi, and reverently attached his/her scolex to the mucosal lining. “Our Lord, who art our Heaven,” he/she began praying, while his/her body continued to bathe in the warm, wonderful flow of nutrients the benevolent deity provided endlessly, the deity from whom an ungrateful child had turned away. As always, as he/she prayed, he/she relaxed, peace coming into his/her soul. It came to him/her that Taenia would soon stop thinking of heresies like the Light. Everything would be fine, in just a little while.
For the name of the Lord was sacred, and He provided all the good things of life. He was benevolent to all His creatures, of which the tapeworm race was the greatest, and if they would only believe, He would take care of them all for ever and ever, Amen.
And meanwhile, not too far upstream, the first of a pair of anti-worm pills was already dissolving.
Copyright B Purkayastha 2012