Three weeks ago, my wife Jen woke me up in the middle of the night and told me our six year old daughter Alice wouldn’t stop crying and screaming. Hearing the said extremely violent racket crashing away downstairs, I asked Jen if she knew why. She said Alice complained that she felt a severe pain in her head. Apparently, the pain was so bad she chucked things around the house and broke a window.
Hurrying downstairs immediately after I’d slipped on my dressing gown, I saw that our living room had been transformed into a skip full of broken ornaments, most prominently a smashed TV. Small fragments of broken glass covered everything; the room looked as if it had been ransacked by a gang of burglars with mallets. Definitely not as if a six year old girl had been having a tantrum. But the condition of my house was a minuscule worry compared to Alice, who I saw bunched up in one corner of the room, clutching her head furiously. My daughter had seemed to run out of energy after her episode and lay quivering on the floor like a jelly, but I could tell that the pain had not yet departed.
I picked Alice up and asked her how bad her head felt. Drops of tears and snot fell like rain onto the ribbed lapel of my dressing gown. Her face ashen, she wheezed, "Daddy, someone’s scraping my brain from my bone."
My whole body went stiff and I called an ambulance right away.
The paramedics arrived around five minutes later and had they not seen the shattered glass spilling from the window frame into the front yard, they would never have believed my story.
Alice was looking perfectly normal apart from a few cuts on her hands, no longer clutching her temple. Her usual obedient, quiet mannerisms resumed. She said the pain had "pained it bored" in a few minutes, and that she was "as perfectly fine as a daisy" and just wanted to go back to bed.
Undoubtedly, everyone was still concerned; mostly me, still as pale as a Swiss cheese (Daddy, someone’s scraping my brain from my bone). Jen, I and the paramedics all apprehensively insisted she was taken quickly to the hospital and given a check-up, and at least get her wounds dressed. She allowed herself to be escorted there, tired but showing no further signs of pain or anxiety.
Alice’s transition from the hellish blazing fire into the simply mild disposition was so startlingly rapid that it, in itself, was disquieting. We returned home a few hours later, as the doctors said she was indeed "as perfectly fine as a daisy:" a head scan revealed no injuries and the pain was probably due to getting up from a horizontal position too quickly. She slept in our room for three nights after the incident, and that seemed to be the end of it.
I returned home from work one day to the sweet mouth-watering smell of chicken, which Jen had cooked up. I was surprised Alice wasn’t downstairs yet; it was her favourite meal, and on days when we had roast chicken, she would always be the first one in the dining room. Assuming Alice was upstairs playing with her dolls or her new crafts kit, I called her and her brother Josh downstairs for dinner. Josh was down a minute later, but Alice seemed to be taking longer. I called her repeatedly, turning the volume up a notch each time, but she would neither reply nor come downstairs.
Going up to her room myself, I opened the door to see her pulling a miniature denim skirt onto her doll.
"Alice, darling, it's dinnertime. Quick, go downstairs now."
"Alice, come downstairs." She blatantly shunned me.
Stepping into the room, I yelled at her and asked why she was ignoring my calls.
"Why are you shouting?" she asked, looking at me felinely, like a startled cat.
Surprised, I answered, "Because you’re not coming downstairs to eat."
"You never called me."
"I called you lots of times; loudly, as well. Josh heard me, and his room is further from the staircase than yours. And I thought you liked chicken; didn’t you smell the nice aroma?"
"No. I didn’t hear you either. You could’ve said it louder. Plus, Josh didn’t tell me."
In an annoyed manner, she brushed past me and went downstairs. She should’ve at least heard Josh’s footsteps. I could’ve sworn I’d bellowed "dinnertime" in my loudest possible voice. She’d had an argument with her mother, or a bad day at school, maybe? She was obviously irritating me on purpose. Attention-seeking?
Over the next few days, Jen told me that Alice was finding school more of a struggle than before. She had to be moved closer to the white-board as she couldn’t read the writing from where she used to sit, and sometimes complained of blurred vision. Her appetite decreased dramatically; she stopped eating foods that usually had to be hidden away from her for safekeeping to make sure she didn’t overindulge; such as candy and custard cream doughnuts, most significantly: roast chicken. Jen suggested she was just tired, because she also skipped swimming and dance, activities she used to enjoy.
Then just last week, after I came home from work, I noticed Alice wasn’t downstairs. I decided to try calling her name, wondering whether she would decide to ignore me once more. This time she came down after a minute. I asked her why she’d decided to ignore me the last time I called her.
"Did you?" she asked.
It turned out she actually hadn’t heard me this time either. With two mischievous kids to deal with all the time, I had become a pro when it came to spotting a fib. But it seemed too real for that. Perhaps she was really going deaf, or we were all living in another universe.
It was Josh who had prompted Alice to go downstairs after hearing me call her. Furthermore, he said that even though he was in her room, she kept on telling him to get closer because she couldn’t hear what he was saying. After a concerning discussion with Jen, who had also been noticing similar problems, we both decided we would take Alice for a sight and hearing check-up in the morning.
During the night, I heard quiet noises around the house such as knocking and clicking, or the occasional creak of a door hinge. At first I dismissed them, but after hearing the sound of distinct footsteps outside my room, I started to become concerned. I got up to see if all the windows in our room were closed – and they were. Marginally bewildered, I went out to see who was walking around the house. Beams of bright yellow light escaped from the edges around the door of Alice’s room.
"What are you doing up so late, Alice?"
A strange metallic smell caught my attention, before I even approached the room.
A horrific sight greeted my eyes as I opened the door, and I instantly recoiled in shock and terror. Alice’s face was in an unrecognisable state; blood covered her head and clothes and there were blonde hairs everywhere. Her lips were missing, exposing her teeth which were also covered in red, and there were patches of clearly exposed flesh along her left arm. A finger was almost completely stripped of flesh and solid bone protruded out of it. Worst of all was a large gash in her head, where blood was still oozing out. In her right hand was a pair of scissors. Blood stained the walls and the circle of carpet around her. Waves of panic struck me like solar flares. For a moment, it occurred to me that I could still be asleep, possibly having a nightmare. I slapped myself twice, delivering each strike with great force in a desperate attempt to return to reality. However, the scene continued to remain in front of me, disturbing and vivid.
When she looked straight at me, I nearly jumped out of my skin.
"Holy - oh my goodness, Alice!" I screamed in shock. "Did you do this to yourself? Why did you do this?"
She kept on staring at me, and a terrifying realisation dawned upon me; for some reason, she couldn’t hear me. I shouted at the top of my voice.
"Why did you do this to yourself? Doesn't it hurt?"
Alice inhaled sharply in fear.
"It was like before, daddy, I felt something was scraping me. It was between my brain and my hair, like before, but this time it was inside my arm as well. It’s scraping me everywhere! It was between my arm bone and my arm skin, daddy, you have to help me get it out!"
Right after she stopped speaking, she felt it return. Her shoulder writhed in discomfort, and she plunged the scissors into her collarbone trying desperately to separate her flesh from her bones and remove whatever was in between, "scraping" her. I grabbed her hand and restrained her before she could do any more damage, yelling at her to stop. She resisted my strength, trying as hard as possible to cut herself again. After a while, she shrieked loudly then gave up, her tiny body limp and convulsing in my arms. I choked on my saliva; I had never been more terrified in my life.
"Daddy, someone’s scraping my brain from my bone," echoed in my head on repeat, like the screaming of a fire-engine siren.
I looked at the wounds she had inflicted upon her arm. Suddenly, I noticed several tiny moving strands no more than three millimetres long, each slithering and slipping in the blood. I squinted, questioning my eyesight, then reflexively recoiled in disgust as a larger brown strand the size of my pinkie emerged from beneath the open wound in her elbow. This made Alice shriek in pain, and she clenched her fists tight. The worm had a dark brown back and a lighter, cream-coloured belly like a slug. It advanced by dragging itself forward using its tiny pincers to cling onto skin in front of it. Its body was composed of tiny rings which expanded and contracted as it moved, creating compressions and rarefactions, like a slinky. They came in various sizes; some crawled onto the skin whilst others buried back into the flesh. Lifting my head, I noticed that from her head wound, fatter, longer worms now came squirming out of the dark red patch in large numbers.
"It itches, daddy! It hurts, get them out, get them out!"
Jen had gotten up and before she could ask what was going on, I told her to call a goddamn ambulance.
Alice was quickly anaesthetised at the hospital. Full body scans showed nothing, therefore the surgeons began an internal investigation. Two hours later, they reported that the cause of the worms’ presence might have been the result of ingesting food contaminated with eggs. As the worms hatched as tiny worm-maggots and multiplied inside the lining of her stomach, they made their way to the brain where they ate large amounts of it then buried deeper, thus causing the unexplainable pain three weeks ago. But it stopped quickly, because the maggots had significantly weakened the sense receptors in the brain, making Alice almost immune to pain and with this, her sight, smell, hearing and the general performance of her sense organs also deteriorated. Then, they multiplied further and infested other parts of her body, eating away at her flesh.
How and when did Alice ingest those eggs? At school? Perhaps it was our fault. But surely we, as responsible parents, would check before feeding her something which seemed dodgy or contaminated? This deeply terrifying mystery hammers an iron stake of fear into the centre of my heart; the possibility that we did this to our own child is unbearable to think about. Moreover, it causes me great consternation that the species of the vile, ominous creature, which has left us in the dark screaming for answers, is yet still unknown. Testing is currently being carried out.
What if they weren’t something mankind had ever been exposed to before?
Alice is undergoing surgery; we're told the extent of damage to her brain is severe. Jen and I are both shattered, weeping with trepidation, wishing we’d done something earlier. Josh is silently staring at the floor, wide-eyed in horror; perhaps wondering whether he’d had a lucky escape himself from something lurking in our home cooking. As of now, there seems to be little hope left. But we are still holding on, still praying that by some miracle, our baby will return from the operating theatre alive.
Written by Rinskuro13