Leather Flatworm

Leather Flatworms are a parasitic invertebrate native to the Kuthary Swampland. It can survive only in fresh water and will die if exposed to saltwater. Eggs in saltwater will collapse and eventually disintegrate.   
Fully grown the Leather Flatworm can reach lengths of eighty feet or more, depending on the size of the host. Once they exit the host they appear as long, flat, brownish, leather-like strips with no discernible head. It manipulates it's body to maneuver in the water, but if out of the water can do little more than wiggle helplessly. 
 
Infestation of the flatworm begins when the host consumes dirty water that contains the flatworm eggs. These eggs have a tough exterior that keeps the egg in a form of stasis. This exterior is stripped away by the host creature's stomach acid and the egg begins to grow. By the time the egg enters the intestine they are ready to hatch into the larva stage and attach itself to the intestine wall. Once attached the flatworm begins it's growth period by consuming the nutrients from the food passing into the intestine and from slowly pulling nutrients from the host's blood. The flatworm also injects a mild toxin into the host to increase their appetite. As the worm grows the toxin becomes stronger until the host has a constant need to consume food.  Leather flatworms will grow to completely fill the intestines, often causing the host abdomen to bloat. Once the worm has filled all available space the host is near to starvation and dehydration. This begins the end of the life cycle for the flatworm. A different type of toxin is introduced to the host which causes them an unbearable thirst. This usually drives the host to see out water supplies and eventually drown themselves. Once the host dies, the flatworm exits the anus and into the water where it lays it's eggs. Adult flatworms are unable to feed once they leave their host and their sole purpose is to continue to spawn eggs until it eventually dies of starvation.  
 

Life Cycle

The Leather Flaworm has six stages in it's life cycle:
  • Stage 1 - First 12 hours. Host has consumed eggs but they have not passed into the intestines.
  • Stage 2 - 12-48 hours. Eggs have passed into the intestines and hatched into larva.
  • Stage 3 - Days 3-12. Larva have attached themselves to the intestinal wall. Host shows signs of mild increased appetite. 
  • Stage 4 - Days 12+ Flatworm reaches adulthood. Host has insatiable hunger and thirst. The longer this goes on the abdomen of the host begins to bloat. 
  • Stage 5 - Varies depending on size of host and severity of infestation. Flatworm fully matures and begins to store eggs along it's length. Host no longer hungry but has unquenchable thirst. Within hours the host is driven to seek out a large water source and submerge themselves, eventually drowning. 
  • Stage 6 - Flatworm exits anus and begins to excrete eggs until it eventually starves to death.
Write about a dangerous insect or animal in your world.
Uses
Despite it's danger to communities, the natives of the Kuthary swamps have found that they can harvest fully grown leather flatworms and pack them with salt to dehydrate them. Once dried the bodies of the worms are a tough, flexible and water resistant strip they can use for various applications.

Leather flatworms have also been used as a method of sabotaging water supplies. Because the eggs are in stasis until consumed, all one has to do is keep them in a container of water and then pour that container into whatever water supply they wish to infest. Boiling water will destroy the eggs, as will adding sufficient salt.
Treatment
People with Leather Flatworm infestations are have several treatments available to them depending on which stage they are in. Mild infestations can be treated with a mixture of herbs and medicines. Severe infestations may require controlled poisons or magical treatments. If a host has reached stage 5, there is no further treatment and the best course of action is to prevent them from reaching water and contaminating it.


Cover image: by Lethann Aeda

Comments

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16 Jan, 2021 12:47

Eighty feet?! Yikes. D:   I do like the detail that they have been used to sabotage water supplies. That's slightly terrifying.

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea! Please check out my peculiar plants entry! :)
Sage Rynn19
Wendy Vlemings (Rynn19)
24 Jan, 2021 05:16

Yikes! This is super scary. Well written though! :)

Author of Ealdwyll, a fantasy world full of mystery.