Finally, all the pesky environmental protection laws had been defeated and steel drilling rigs covered the coastline. One by one, native species of flora and fauna died off, except for the Pacific greenworm. The greenworm flourished without its former predators and swiftly mutated into a new creature that could absorb nutrients from steel. There was a lot of steel around, and the worms were hungry.
At the university laboratory, the brilliant microbiology team studied the mutant worms in an attempt to understand how to kill them and protect the oil industry.
“Shouldn’t we be wearing full protective gear?” Ashley Adams asked, her voice wavering, since she was new on the team, yet worried they weren’t following proper procedure.
Team leader Brock Butler shook his head. “No need for that expense,” he said decisively. “These little worms are only harmful in water. Plus we aren’t made of steel!”
Chris Campbell sneezed and said, “Hey guys, I’m leaving early for break. I haven’t been feeling well today.”
Cantankerous old Grandpa Campbell knocked on the bedroom door. “Ain’t you up yet, Chrissy? I got sumthin to show you.”
Chris slipped her arms into her bathrobe, shivering and shaking. Her chest felt crushed, and she knew she was much sicker than a week ago when she went on Spring Break. She shuffled over to the front door where Grandpa was pointing. “Oh, my God.”
A bright green film covered everything: the porch, the walkway, the cars, the trees. It was as if the sky had dumped green snow as a belated St. Patrick’s joke. “What is that?”
“Worms,” Grandpa said. “They’s eating up the world. And they started in your school stuff. I threw your backpack on the porch when I first saw them, and the next day there were a million. Now a hundred million. A billion!”
“That can’t be,” Chris said. “They only live in the ocean and eat steel!”
Grandpa waved his hands. “You got eyes same as me. Look! That ain’t the ocean out there. And those worms are eating my trees.”
“I have to call my team.”
“School’s gone,” Grandpa said. “Was on the news. Worms ate everyone. From the inside out. They ate the buildings too. And the computers.”
Chris had a coughing fit. Worms. Ate people. From the inside out. “Grandpa,” she gasped. “I have them.”
“No doubt. And it’s too late for me.” He nodded. “I handled your bags.”
“What are we going to do?” Chris stared out at the bright green cars that used to be a white Corolla and a black Ford pickup.
“How about a martini?” Grandpa suggested. “We have time for maybe two each.”
Chris frowned. “Time? Before what?”
“Russia and China are about to nuke us, to stop the worms from spreading over there.” Grandpa walked into the kitchen and opened the liquor cabinet.
“But doesn’t our government have something to say about that? Can’t they protect us?”
“Naw, honey.” Grandpa took down two glasses. “They’ve all fled the country.”