“I don’t like those new neighbors.”

“Oh of course you don’t. You don’t like anything new. But still, we need to be nice to them. We need to go over there and tell them ‘welcome to the Big Apple!'”

“There won’t be a Big Apple left after they’re done with it, yo mark my words.”

“Oh, stop. You’re always exaggerating.”

“Exaggerating? Have you seeen how they live? Have you seen their kids running around all over the place? I swear I saw one of them bite the head off a little critter the other day.”

“So what if they did? Kids will be kids.”

“I’m telling you: life inside the Big Apple just isn’t the same when a family of ladybugs like that moves in. Worms like us won’t be able to catch a break, and before you know it, birds’ll get us all.”

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The dreamworm is named not for its physical form–for it has none–but rather for its way of tunneling through the subconscious and drawing its sustenance therefrom.

It’s often held up as an example of an utterly alien form of life, but there is considerable debate if it in fact is alive at all. Much like a virus, the dreamworm seems to exist solely to propagate itself and is entirely parasitic, unable to perform any actions without a host. Some have argued that dreamworms may in fact be using dreams to do more than sustain their reproduction, but because they are so difficult to isolate and study, this remains at best a controversial supposition.

All that’s known for certain is that the dreamworm takes the form of a recurring character or image in the dream of a sapient being. Dreamworms that exist in other animals known to dream, like dogs, have been hypothesized, but as animals cannot communicate their dreams, this presents a number of problems and remains an open question.

The recurring character or image can be anything: a setting, a prop, even a person. The only thing that is known for sure is that the character or image is never something the dreamer knows to exist in waking life. There are similarities, and it is theorized that the dreamworm draws upon existing dream-images and modifies them, but the actual images are always sui generis unique.

Dreamworm reproduction occurs when a sapient being describes the dream to another. This transmission can be verbal or through a medium such as art–anything that makes another sapient think about the image as presented will do. The infected will then begin seeing a dreamworm of their own, typically the same one they were exposed to. Over time, though, the dreamworms do have a tendency to mutuate based ont he usual content of their hosts’ dreams. They have also been known to arise seemingly spontaneously.

This mutable tendency makes classifying dreamworms a nightmare (no pun intended). There seems to be a number of quasi-stable families, and some dreamworms are not known to mutate at all. The Gray Man, for example, is a highly virulent dreamworm that takes the form of a faceless man in mid-century gray business attire. During some of the larger outbreaks, such as the one reported by Army psychologists on Tinian in early 1945, up to 90% of the resident populations were infected by the Gray Man.

Infections can result in loss of sleep, loss of restful sleep, and subtler psychological effects. The dreamworm infestation on Tinian was later blamed for a spate of 13 murders and 29 assaults at the military base there, for instance. Eventually–particularly once they have reproduced–the dreamworms disappear in 1-2 months. Whether this is due to some immune response of the sapient mind or simply the creatures’ natural life cycle is unknown.

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