2022 Barrett Winner
5th Place Georgia Beatty
Things started simple enough - I was going about my life as a veterinarian. I worked primarily with pets and strays, lots of cats, dogs, and illnesses. For whatever reason, there seemed to be a sudden increase in animals with worms, both in pets and in strays. I couldn't figure out what it could be. My team and I did everything we could, even going so far as to quarantine the afflicted animals.
I first noticed the changes a week into the spontaneous outbreak. While it was normal for there to be swelling near an animal's stomach, this was absurd. A tiny purse dog had an abdomen the size of a grapefruit. Week-old kittens seemed to double in size and couldn't move at all. Beyond that, upon examining a stool sample, there seemed to not only be live worms, but hundreds of tiny eggs, some hatching right before my eyes. I had to take my break early to vomit in the restroom.
Every night I would go to bed and find myself unable to sleep, curious and confused by this worm mutation. I started forgetting to eat, and found that I felt sick at the very prospect of food. All I could think about were the worms. Wiggling. Hatching.
As days passed, the animals looked worse and worse.
And as the days passed I looked worse and worse.
My team and I spent hours working to help the animals, or even to figure out what was going on. These worms were nothing like any of us had ever seen.
After about two weeks of trying to remove the worms, something… happened.
We were working with a dog, a small one, whose stomach had grown enormous, making the skin tight and irritated. We had been in the middle of attempting to get a stool sample, when it happened.
The poor animal's stomach broke open from all the pressure.
All I could process was the worms. Billions of them. So many that there was nothing else in the mess. Just white, wriggling worms. My hands shook. I couldn't move. I heard screaming and retching behind me.
I don’t remember leaving or cleaning up, but the next thing I know, half my team is handing me resignation forms and requesting my signature. That day, my hair started falling out. My stomach was bloated. My sight was fuzzy.
I couldn't get out of bed. I woke up, and couldn't will myself to move. I knew that I needed to be at work, with half my team gone, there was no way that the others could handle the hell taking place alone.
The moment I stood up, I knew I was going to be sick. I clamped my hand over my mouth and bolted to the bathroom.
Once I was retching and felt that there could be nothing else in my stomach I paused. Disgusted, I looked closer at the puke with the awful curiosity that one only gets from total desensitization. Though, no amount of desensitization could let me process what I was looking at.
A scream fell from my mouth, along with two more worms. The sight made me want to vomit all over again, but my swollen stomach had nothing but worms to offer.
I was crying. I flushed the toilet to just get them away from me. I stood, gripping the counter for support, and looked to the mirror to try and pull myself together so I could call in sick. Then I saw it. Nestled along my eyes waterline and stuck in the tears tracking down my face.
I shrieked again. Falling back and hitting the bathroom floor. I had started crying again but I didn't know when. I could feel pressure building in my stomach.
There was pressure behind my eyes.
Maybe I was panicking.
But I saw…
Can humans get worms?
I felt the pressure in my stomach and eyes break. And everything went dark. I couldn't see, but I could feel what was no longer there and I could smell. Oh god, the smell. I had no idea when they had gotten inside me, but they had been there for a while. It took far too long, but eventually I stopped feeling anything. But not before I felt something on my tongue.