"It isn't just people who fight this infection. The land fights it too - and loses. Our family lived on 40 acres by the river for close to 100 years. We had good bottomland that would grow most anything you planted, and an orchard of trees that my great-grandfather put in over the course of his life.
I was standing in the field one evening just about sundown when I heard my land's pain. In the distance I heard the crack of snapping wood, and when I looked toward the east I saw the trees in the orchard shaking, as if there was a strong wind moving through them. One of them had already fallen, and broke a limb as it went down. Now one by one they were trembling more and more violently and then suddenly lurching over in all directions, like drunks who can't stay on their feet. Some of them toppled over completely, groaning and snapping as they went down. Others just leaned over like that tower in Pisa, as if they wanted to fall and just couldn't make it all the way to the ground.
I started running then, running toward the orchard as if I could somehow save them. I wasn't more than halfway there when I took a step that suddenly betrayed my weight, and I found myself buried to my calf in a soft, wet mess.
There was a rustle and a whisper all around me, a vibration in the earth. Slowly I was sinking further into the soft ground, struggling not to fall face first into the heaving mass in front of me which already had my leg and seemed to press and squeeze around my foot like a cold toothless mouth.
Looking down at the mess slowly rising, my blood ran cold. I was up nearly to my knee in a swarming mass of earthworms, their bodies all squirming wet and flowing around me in a single direction.
It was as if the earth had suddenly turned into water. I'd never seen worms act that way in my life, and I never could have dreamed they could just show up in such quantity, so closely packed together, and all be moving in the same direction. But they were flowing past me to the west, streaming in their slow squirming passage around my leg as if I were a rock in the streambed.
Around me I could hear the land groan, the trees shuddering and trembling with undermined roots as they collapsed. I didn't know it then, but the earthworms were just a warning."
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