The dog barking outside at a Harley woke me from a dream. My eyes creaked open, fighting their crusty bonds, and there, on the buffalo print sheet 2 inches away, was something that forced a most unladylike URGHHNNN! from my lips. Its twisted, brown and beige mottled body lay still, presumably lying in wait for its prey to give chase. It had watched me sleep for hours, possibly all night, certainly planning to start its meal with the eyes that stared at it in horror at first light.
“What. Is. That.” I whispered, before tentatively reaching my hand out to towards it.
The light had changed in the room already, as my eyes focused and opened fully. “Is it green now?” I wondered as my fingers crept closer. It still hadn’t moved, despite a bent form that bespoke slithering.
I touched it and it remained motionless. Its body was hard, brittle even, and as I held it up to the stream of sun forcing its way through the hole in the curtain the cat had chewed, I saw the color return to brown and beige, relieving me of the fear I’d been sleeping with a hornworm inches from my face. I nearly wet myself in delayed fright and then checked the bed for others.
Should you like to ensure nightmares tonight, look up hornworms on the internet. Last summer, I had several on my tomato plant. These are 6-inch-long beasties, fat as ballpark hot dogs, antifreeze green with white slashes down the length of their bodies — thick, rippling bodies covered in tiny, suctioning hooves, several clawlike appendages at the front, a single bent horn like a scythe at the back, and a fat forehead that’d make Peyton Manning jealous.
There’s no doubt in my mind that when Frank Herbert penned “Dune,” his inspiration for the terrifying sandworms — the nearly indestructible desert monsters worshipped and feared as gods, the worms Paul Atreides describes as having mouths 80 meters in diameter and “crystal teeth with the curved shape of crysknives glinting around the rim … the bellows breath of cinnamon, subtle aldehydes … acids” — was Satan’s caterpillar, the hornworm.
I shuddered, wondering if I’d been sleeping all night with a wannabe sandworm inches from my face. I steeled my nerves and decisively snapped its body in half, revealing it was nothing more than a shred of the Kashi whole wheat biscuit I’d snuck into bed around 2 a.m. I expected J. Walter Weatherman from “Arrested Development” to pounce from the closet, shouting, “And THAT’S why you don’t eat in bed!” as I screamed and ran in circles around the room.