I Am A Mongolian Death Worm by Lindz McLeod
In the arid dunes of the Gobi desert, I burrow under the surface to wait out the heat of the
midday sun. I have no head or legs; my body is a ripe carmine, an unsheathed lipstick tunnelling
through silken sands. The aureole grains—too light to be called safety-yellow—dribble from my
ridges when I emerge. I am so poisonous that to touch me is instant death to any animal. I can shoot
venom from bulging sacs under the face I don’t have. Imagine that—no face. No eyes, no mouth, no
mask to disguise my real emotions. I don’t tell lies. I don’t tell the truth, either, but the sand covers a
multitude of sins.
Despite what you’ve heard, I cannot shock my prey using electrical stimuli. That was just a
rumour, drummed up by locals. Not everything you see or hear is true. Out here, it may seem
possible—even plausible—but let me assure you that I rely solely on the twin powers of poison and
Your approach foments ripples in the ground, grooves on a record cutting too deeply to be
heard. Halt, lest you stray too far from hearth and home. A candle often gutters before extinguishing
itself; a warning, wick bent sideways like a beckoning finger, before being snuffed out into absence.
Do not pour the glass of wine.
Do not invite me to sit down.
Do not beg me, soundlessly, to linger.
Do not glance at the clock.
Do check your phone.
Do reply to your wife’s last text.
Do fetch my jacket.
Do stand and usher me out.
You seem assured that these offerings—iron-wrought, clanging praise, and sugar-shy
compliments— will be well-met, received with french speckles and wild rosettes and a lolling dip
from left to right, but I recognize the tango swoop of slow, meticulous rot, fluffing over one mottled
fruit at a time. Braided halters, consisting of words strung up on a single long hair, line your walls,
drooping like elderly chins. These harnesses are no more sweet than my venom sacs; they pain the
victim just as much. I’m certain you’ve laid awake wondering how my poison feels. I can tell you it
tastes like rusted casket hinges, feels the last shriek of tangled hooves disappearing under sun-
washed fur. The green taste of scissors snipping. The sound of cold butter.
Here is the bedroom. Yes. I see that, with the eyes I don’t have. I consent, with the mouth I
don’t have. I smile, with the face I don’t have. And you insist on having me, even though I am
nothing and mean nobody and afterwards you will be nowhere and will feel no one. A molten
candle, moulted down to a stub.
Listen, man-who-wishes-to-be-a-stranger. If I am a Mongolian Death Worm, then you are a
Originally published by Bear Creek Gazette 2021
Lindz McLeod is a queer, working-class, Scottish writer and editor who dabbles in the surreal. Her prose has been published by Apex, Catapult, Pseudopod, The Razor, and many more. Her work includes the short story collection TURDUCKEN (Bear Creek Press, 2022) and her debut novel BEAST (Brigids Gate Press, 2023). She is a full member of the SFWA, a Rogue Mentor to six talented mentees, and is represented by Laura Zats at Headwater Literary Management.