There’s a scene in the book Fever Dream by the Argentinian writer Samanta Schweblin that’s one of the more unnerving things I’ve read in years. The entire book is just that. Unnerving. It’s a fever dream after all. It does what it says on the can as they say. It’s an allegory too. One about ecological poisoning in the grand tradition of South American surrealist literature. The main character is a woman named Amanda who is dying for reasons we don’t understand at first and she’s relaying the last day she can remember to a child named David who may or may not be inside of her head. David is a scary child trope of sorts who says spooky opaque shit and fucks with animals and so on but it doesn’t matter he is nonetheless a very scary child. Unnerving like I said.
When the book opens David is acting as something like an infernal inquisitor and an usher into the afterlife. He’s trying to lead Amanda to the appearance of the worms.
“It’s the worms,” he tells her. “You have to be patient and wait. And while we wait, we have to find the exact moment when the worms come into being.”
Do you ever wonder that yourself? When was the exact moment the worms came into being? Whatever it is you think that means. It probably means something different to every single one of us. Maybe it means nothing too and that’s fine.
Once the worms exist though they exist.
So Amanda tries remembering a day she spent talking with David’s mother while her daughter Nina played by a well. We’re already on edge at this point because we’ve heard about something terrible that’s happened to David so it’s established that this is a world where terrible things can and do happen to children.