by M.D Schultz
A brief overview of an unusual discovery in the study of parasites.
| Case study 365012 Gideon worm / God's ear
Several years ago, my friend and colleague Dr. Samuel Gideon contacted me for help in the matter of this strange case. He was investigating reports of unusual wildlife activity in the rainforests of Africa. The stories of red river hogs speaking various native languages seemed fanciful at best but the respected Dr. Gideon insisted they were true. That summer, I led a team of investigators along the edge of the Congo river. In exchange for food and textiles, we were graciously accommodated by the local tribes. They even shared stories and helped guide expeditions into the heart of the rain forests. It wasn't long before my friend introduced me to the unexplained. As scientists, it is our job to dissect and describe the unknown to the best of our abilities. This case would prove that sometimes even the best of explanations is haunted by an air of mystery. That year, I discovered over 186 rain-forest species with the ability to speak the local dialect. Swahili, Shona, Oromo, Arabic, English and much more were spoken in strange patterns. Large mammalian, avian, and reptilian species seemed to mimic words as they were spoken like a parrot. Sentences were never complete and nor was anything spoken done so in an understandable manner. These animals simply seemed to repeat words as they heard them in mixed vocal patterns. Unusual to say the least for animals previously reported to be incapable of such feats.
Under the knife, we discovered that these organisms were infected with strange intestinal parasites. Furthermore, we found rudimentary vocal cords in the throats of these animals made of membranous tissue that was genetically identical to the intestinal worms. We later discovered the parasites to have similarities to trematodes of the genus Schistosoma which are responsible for the common disease Schistosomiasis. Like most trematodes, both parasites exhibit a complex life cycle relying on a freshwater snail as a secondary host, and the infectious stage of both parasites involves a larval worm burrowing through the skin of a host animal. These parasites then enter the vasculature and settle around hepatic portal veins near the liver. However, this is where the similarities end.
The later dubbed Gideon worm can undergo rapid cellular changes depending on its environment. Although a great majority of the parasites draw nutrients from the intestines, a few immature worms can travel through the bloodstream to the throat and undergo metamorphosis becoming vocal reeds. This new structure appears to be accepted and nourished by the host organism. During live vivisection of local swine, we observed this migration and metamorphosis within 24 hours of removing the vocal cords. In addition, we noted several side effects outside of unusual speech patterns associated with the Gideon worm. Most notably were swollen necks and the inability to communicate with other members of the same species. This was, of course, detrimental to reproduction and herd survival. My initial hypothesis was that the Gideon worm was utilizing these animals to draw more complex mammals to infected water supplies. Alarmingly, this parasite appeared to be specifically targeting human beings. However, this discovery came too late.
There was a breach in protocol and twelve members of my investigation team, including my friend Dr. Samuel Gideon, became ill with symptoms attributed to our parasite. I must admit to some professional curiosity for we had yet discovered any human cases and the results were as disturbing as they were fascinating. At first, the infection appeared to behave like what we observed in swine. The parasites inhabited the vasculature of the intestines with a few exceptions moving to the throat. The changes that follow appear to involve the hosts own vocal chords. The immature worms fuse with the surrounding tissue forcing rapid cellular changes akin to cancerous growth. At this time patients lose the ability to speak and communicate rational thought through sign language or otherwise. Although yet unexplained, the parasites can seemingly modulate the behavior of the host. After 24 hours, the metamorphosis is complete and the vocal cords are replaced with what looks like a malformed membranous tuning fork. Like all previous cases, the necks of human hosts swell to accommodate this structure. I later confirmed that the noises produced by this organ are inaudible to the human ear ranging from 20 kHz to over 200 kHz. In addition, the sounds exhibit a random pulsing pattern with no comprehensible meaning. Patients at this time look to be screaming with their faces frozen in a horrified expression. This led to the name screaming sickness.
My final hypothesis was the most disturbing. The Gideon worm infects lesser organisms allowing them to adopt human vocal patterns. These sick animals then attract human hosts to infected water supplies. Humans, known as carriers, then return to their villages and tribes where they undergo mental and physical changes. Since the noise they produce is inaudible to the human ear, most assume the symptoms to be of mental illness and the patients are either killed or cared for the latter being the majority. However, if a human being is truly the final host of this parasite what benefit does the Gideon worm achieve through producing ultrasounds? I believe that we are not the final host and the worm is attempting to attract a higher organism just as it did with the other species. The more superstitious and/or religious members of my group believe the parasite is trying to communicate with God. Such belief led to the Gideon worms second name God's ear.
As a final note, we discovered silicon derivatives within the tissue of the Gideon worm. This proved that the parasite originated from the parallel realm. Based on these facts, and the potential threat to human life, the Fifth Chapter dispatched a team to eradicate the Gideon worm. Large amounts of copper sulfate were dumped into the Congo river to kill the aquatic snail required by the parasite. Fortunately, due to the similarities between the Gideon worm and trematodes in the genus Schistosoma, the public was informed that such efforts were being made to help treat schistosomiasis. Any human patients exhibiting symptoms of screaming sickness were euthanized immediately. As a note, the extinction of four species and the elimination of several African tribes was considered acceptable collateral damage. All family members of deceased staff were informed in a timely manner citing a terrible Ebola outbreak. Dr. Samuel Gideon is the last known case of screaming sickness and is heavily sedated under my care. Any researchers and staff are to follow approved protocol when undergoing study of the patient. Although I will continue my research into this so called "Gods Speech," all matters pertaining to this case are to be considered closed.