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Me, Torres, and Orlando all walk through the woods together. We’re going to check on the river running through the college campus we work at. Technically, we’re landscapers, but the higher ups are too cheap to hire actual water inspectors.

Or at least that’s what Orlando and Torres say. They’ve been working here longer than me. I heard they’ve been in hot water with the campus authorities since last fall. Apparently, Orlando accidentally cut a guy in half with a chainsaw. It’s a long story.

Torres reads today’s newspaper to us as we go.

“Listen to this, guys,” Torres laughs. “Mob kills and buries two. Superhuman vigilante slaughters thirteen. Owl kills man for missing language lessons. Who in their right mind would read this nonsense?”

“It’s not nonsense,” I retort. “It’s scary!”

“Geez, Jules, don’t get so worked up,” Torres replies. “I’m only saying.”

Orlando crouches by the river. “Looks like there are worms living in it.”

“What?” I ask.

“Worms!” Orlando replies. He pulls out a cup and scoops up a sizable water sample. There are long gray worms swimming around in it.

“Worms?” I ask. What are giant worms doing in the river on campus? Did the science department dump some of their experiments in it? Are the worms even of this world? They don’t look natural to me.

“Hey, they've got to be better than spiders,” Torres replies slyly. “Oh, and by the way, I dare you to drink that, Orlando.”


“Torres, are you-” I start.

Orlando gives us a cheeky grin, then gulps down the entire sample. I can’t believe my eyes.

Torres pumps his arms in the air and whoops with joy. “Yeah, baby! That’s what I’m talking about!”

Orlando nods and smiles. I shake my head.

“Orlando, do you even know what the hell those were?!” I snap.

Orlando shrugs. “Where I come from, the water is way worse.”

“Good God, Jules, unclench your ass for a minute,” Torres says, patting me on the back. I flinch. Torres continues. “What’s the worst that could happen? Orlando’s a big guy.”

I hope Torres is right. I hope Orlando won’t get sick. But if he does, maybe we can sue the campus. What are all these worms, anyway? How’d they get here?

The next day, Torres and I go inside one of the buildings to clean it. Technically we’re landscapers, but the campus is too cheap to hire actual janitors.

“Where’s Orlando?” Torres asks impatiently. “He was supposed to be here an hour ago.”

“Maybe he got sick,” I retort. “From the dirty water you dared him to drink.”

“Oh, come on!” Torres says. “Orlando’s a big guy. He’ll be just fine. Look! Here he is now.”

Orlando comes through the door. “Sorry I’m late,” he says sluggishly. “I got caught in traffic. What’s wrong?”

Orlando has worms sticking out of every pore in his body.

“Mother of God!” I exclaim.

Torres goes pale. “Uh… I need to use the bathroom,” he mutters. He turns around and runs away.

“What?” Orlando asks. His voice is slow and he looks exhausted. “What’s wrong?”

“Orlando, you…” I start. What am I supposed to tell him, that he looks like a rotten carcass? “You’ve changed.”

Orlando blinks at me. I blink back at him.

“For the better, right?” he asks hopefully.

I wince and take a step away from him.

“For the better, right?” he asks again.

A student pauses as she walks past Orlando. She turns and raises an eyebrow at him. Some of the worms jump out of Orlando and burrow into her body. She falls to the ground, twitching and convulsing. A second later, she’s got worms coming out of every pore in her body, too. Only she’s on all fours and growling, like she’s gone feral or something.

She jumps on another student from behind and bites his neck. The kid screams and falls forward. As the infected student mauls her victim, worms crawl out of her body and into the dying boy. Soon he’s covered in worms, too. Snarling, he gets to his feet and rushes at two other girls, who scream in terror. The infected girl joins him.

While the two girls are getting mauled, I turn around and walk out the door. Nope. No way in hell. They might pay me to trim the trees, inspect the water, and mop the floors, but they’re not paying me to fight monsters.

“Where are you going?” Orlando asks. “Don’t we have a building to clean?”

Mr. Bingo comes up the stairs to the building as I go down them. I heard two girls had a knife fight in his class last fall.

“What’s all the commotion?” he asks, not looking up from his phone. He grins slyly. “Has there been another man-eating plant incident?”

He looks up. I hear him scream in terror. I keep walking.

I go straight home and take the rest of the day off. I watch the whole debacle unfold on the news channel- within hours, the whole campus is overrun by the worm-ridden dead. Most seem feral, but for some reason, Orlando still seems half-sane. I think that makes him even scarier.

“The campus has been surrounded by a police barricade,” the news reporter announces. “It will be firebombed bright and early tomorrow. Now back to you, Louis.”

I sigh and sit back in my chair. First thing tomorrow, I’ll have to read the classifieds. I hope wherever I end up working next, it’ll be better than that place. I never would have started working there to begin with if I’d been given a choice. But it’s a tough economy these days.