Herbl the mud worm lived a quiet life, in a quiet patch of mud, in a quiet corner of a cozy forest. It was a good life, and a very unassuming one. Very rarely would anyone or anything bother Herbl, which was just fine. No one would have either, had they known that Herbl was so busy with such an incredibly important job, controlling the fate world and everything on it. But who could have known such a thing, when not even Herbl was aware.
“Ooooh that’s nice, “ Herbl thought, one pleasant day. “The dirt is just warm enough and the breeze is just right.
Herbl joyfully shimmled just a little to the left. The combination of thought and motion had a parallel effect in the Pacificas, where a mild and pleasant day brought the natives would rejoice, though completely oblivious to the contributions of their tiny benefactor.
Perhaps, on a different day, a resting jagwillow would block the sun and the ground would become just a little too cool. “Bother!” Herbl would sigh and resignedly squirm just a little to the right, searching a little more comfort.
With the sign, and the squirm, a strong wind would suddenly drive a bitter snow storm into the Andelicas, chilling everything in its path.
Once, a trumpeting phant had charged through and come just a fraction of an inch of Herbl. The terror felt by the little mud worm triggered a cataclysmic earthquake to the Nigh Deltas, bringing about the worst, and last, day for all the inhabitants of the region. But such is life and death.
It is not known how such a tiny being came to control the elements, even of life and death, of an entire world. There was no magic, no machinery, no divine empowerment or interference. It’s just the way it was. Stranger things have happened before, and stranger things will happen again.
One day a change came to the forest. Something different was in the air, a smell of oil and metal. The ground began to shake and rumbled as never before. Men and machines marched on the forest, devastating all that lay in their path, leaving nothing but destruction behind.
Herbl was gripping the underside of a particularly delicious and tender fallen leaf, having a mid-morning snack. The din of the approaching destruction crew sent vibrations travelling through the ground. The vibrations were so strong that they loosened the worms grip on its only possession. As the ground shook, and the worm was separated from its meal, so did the earth shake beneath the Western Ocean, triggering a violent wave that would scour away the coastal farms of the Eastern Continent.
As the men and their metal army approached, and the ground shook even harder. They shouted back and forth.
“Move that rig over here!”
“Rip those ones down first, then these ones over here!”
“Hey, watch IT! That was too close!”
An errant blade blew by and tore into a hillside, bringing it to a sudden halt. A shower of dirt and rocks sprayed little Herbl. Somewhere, a mountain collapsed and buried a town. Herbl felt the wind, unusual since it was usually held at bay by the trees, but there were almost no trees left to hold it. An unusual cold pierced the north, while in the south a storm grew into a frenzy.
As the men and machines drew nearer, as the remaining trees fell and the canopy changed from green to blue to silver and orange, and as and the rumbling and tearing and rending and shouting drowned out all else, Herbl frantically tried to retreat into the safety of the ground. The grey muddy tread of a heavy boot came down, blocking the sky. As the boot landed everything, everywhere, went black.
Evan Dickson attended my 2015 Short Story Writing Course at the City Centre Community School.