A little worm slimes its way through the grass and the bracken, and looks up to the sky. Learned in the classics and, indeed, abreast of current ‘pop cultural’ events, his little brain cycles around his slimy head. A delicate chain bobs around his neck (his neck being the whole length of his body, which is just one long neck really); he bought it after watching Normal Worms. Maybe if he looked like worm-Connell, he imagines, things would have been different. Maybe worm-Sharon wouldn’t have left him for worm-Darren. But, he reflects, there is no point in ruminating on the what-ifs. After all, worm-Darren will have to put up with worm-Sharon’s obsession with true crime documentaries now, not him. Still, though, what if?

What if, when the leaves turn green in the spring they brought with them a scent of fresh apple, and the dappled light through the green leaves was apple-dappled green? Wouldn’t the stream that ran through the rocks that your grandparents showed you, with the stones that hop across like a passage to Fairyland, smell beautiful if it was apple-dappled in the growing light of a pregnant spring? If the beams of great Phoebus lit up apple-green leaves and when the moon rose the smell lingered like a beautiful pre-Covid breath on the air, wouldn’t you look back on the apple-green spring days and covet them in your head when you were forty-years-old and tired? 

And what if, when Orpheus went to the underworld, the age-old ague of uncertainty had not plagued him because he could smell, so very close to the surface of the world, the apple-green smell of Persephone? Wouldn’t the nights (apple-scent lingering but fading) feel far safer if his lover was not, as she is as we speak right now, in hell?  

But what if, when every year at apple-time (as spring would come to be known) the apple-smell appeared, everyone would feel sick and would moan at the apple-smell and the dappled-appled light? Would people sneeze and would their noses drip when the apple-smell stung their eyes? Would we curse those apple-smelled months and wish the dappled light of the green-leaf springtime were un-appled? 

Such is the nature of a haunting what-if. Conjecture is the bane of a life lived in the world: we must, like Orpheus, live in a now that is dappled by the strength of what is. 

The worm shakes his slimy little head. ‘But what do I know?’ he asks, and utters the age-old maxim: 

‘I’m just a worm’.

Artwork by Amir Pichhadze