Dominitus regarded himself to be a good old man. And like many a good old man, he had taken to the art of gardening in his declining years. And like many who take the art of gardening in their declining years, he found himself contending with worms. And like many who contend with worms while taking to the art of gardening in their declining years, he’d suffered a momentary compulsion to place a live one in his mouth.
But unlike most who contended with worms while taking to the art of gardening in their declining years, he had not dismissed the thought from his mind and continued on with his day worm-free. On the contrary. Dominitus had placed a live one in his mouth. And had swallowed it.
He still believed himself to be a good old man. Despite God’s creature now writhing in the blessed inner sanctum of his belly. Despite the residue of soil left behind on his tongue. Despite the miniscule tunnel in the monastery’s earth where the worm had recently resided and, by all rights, should have resided still.
Beside him, Brother Leviticus cleared his throat. The worm consumption, it seems, had not gone unnoticed. Levi (as Dominitus thought of him in his most private moments, after dark, when he was in solitude with the angels who saw and forgave all upon the instant) looked to have been brought to the very limit of his vow of silence. His eyes were bulging like sprouting onions, his lips as dry as shrivelled pea pods. Had he just witnessed what he thought he had witnessed? Was Brother Dominitus in need of spiritual aid? Despite the belly-writhing, the soily tongue, the wormless tunnel in the earth, Dominitus smiled. And then he nodded. And then he turned on his heel.
And, like many who fail to reject the compulsion to swallow a live worm while taking to the art of gardening in their declining years in the company of the living flesh whom they desired the most, Dominitus walked away, careful to affect the sort of carefree stroll one would expect of a simple, carefree man. He did not rush, he did not hurry, and he did not look back at Levi. Instead, he maintained that very same casual stroll through the side door, along the cloister, up the spiral staircase, to his bedroom. He shut the door behind him, stripped off and knelt, once again, with the angels.
David Hartley writes stories in a room that also contains four guinea pigs. They shout at him if he slacks off. His latest collection is 'Fauna'; eleven weird stories about animals published by Fly on the Wall. @DHartleyWriter