The Last Days of the Worm, a collaborative prose chapbook by Ben John Smith, Ryan Quinn Flanagan and Rich Wink is a dystopian noir where each of the four main players are as lacking in moral fibre as they are steeped in vice and cynicism. In the not-too-distant future, shortly after Richard Branson purchased the moon and died, in the wake of the Middle Eastern oil drought and broken by the final financial crash, humankind accept their fate; sickness, addiction and an untimely death.
This non-linear short story of a self-imploding society begins, ends and centres around Miss Sharlot “kilowatts” Watson. A pro by trade, she is equally accustomed to absurd fetish and wilful violence, a lonely figure who epitomizes toxicity yet is no stranger to an altogether feminine tenderness, of which she can switch on and off according to circumstance.
Gartner, Mitch and Penny Pincher are all intrinsically involved in Kilowatts’ unfortunate tale, and murder is on all of their minds. Gartner and Mitch are fairly typical in their efforts toward satisfaction and control. Penny Pincher, however, is in a league of his own; brutalized by an unnecessarily cruel past, trapped in the clutches of an indelible lust for the death of innocence and utterly hooked on a complex ritual of baleful hatred, this beast is a new breed of monster for a new age of narcissism. Such is Penny Pincher’s hunger for death, it even overshadows the helminthophobic nightmare that is Wormboy; a worm-like underground creature who feeds on human carrion.
In The Last Days of the Worm, death is a vice amongst varying levels of squalor and savagery. Whether one’s tastes stem from the traditions of pills, booze, cigarettes and sex, or if reliant on a unique set of particulars for thrill and release, sooner or later everyone ends up in The Milk House; a bar and brothel where cocks fight with razor blades tied to their feet and the dancers squeeze a handful of tit and sputter their patrons with warm breast milk.
Make no bones about it, this book is as gratuitous as sin. And all the better for it. If, like me, you have felt cheated by all those volumes reputed as transgressive, gritty and dark, only to find they never quite got dark enough, this is the book to restore your faith in depraved literature. There is more here, though, than meeting a morbid reader’s need for the bastardisation of “happily ever after.” While there is an argument for art created on a foundation of trash, it isn’t a necessary one for the purpose of this review.
The near future here is a conclusion opined on the direction of popular culture. It is nostalgic of retro porn and out-dated technology while aware of their part in our moral decline. Movies are defunct, and rightly so, since they ceased breaking and mending our hearts. Connection is limited to that of cyber jargon. The bereaved are consoled by emoticons and the masses are entertained by the live streaming of people crying twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The Last Days of the Worm is undeniably filthy, the dirt here, though, is of the sort that strengthens the immunity against the sickness upon us and the illness to come.
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