Original story by Christine Emming
Magic mushroom villages dotted the hillsides of northern Minnesota. Almost nobody ever found them, tucked beneath the knees of oaks, along the hems of hills.
Oof liked it that way: a secret life. they didn’t have long, mushrooms, so why shouldn’t they live happily? Three days ago it had rained. A real downpour, the elder Olf said, nodding sagely on a gummy stem. Oof, then just a spore in the leaf litter, dividing into hyphae, became. Two hyphae met and fused, and Oof grew. First the tiniest whisper of a mushroom, the stem a needle, then finger-sized, then more. All around grew more, and more. By the time elder Olf’s head toppled to the ground and the mushroom siblings cheered, they stood taller than a mouse on its hind legs.
They knew this because of the bite on Aav’s cap. All of them could peer inside Aav’s head, watch the white flesh brown as the sun moved across the sky. By morning, Aav looked weepy, wilted.
“Are you releasing spores?” Oof asked through the mycilium connecting them like an underground web. Aav’s slow nod may have just been the wind. Shrugging, the mushroom siblings cheered for Aav. And sure enough, spores caught the wind and bubbled off. One stream stuck near Oof’s toe, where the gust it rode sent it spiraling to ground. Oof liked thinking a spore would be here to fuse with theirs and live just here in this perfect rift of the valley. Happily, Oof sent warm into the mycilium and felt the warm return, bigger.
Sun blazed, but the mushroom village breathed moist air beneath oak limbs. They stretched, unfurling crinkled caps ever higher. When robins flew near, they crouched. From the sky the mushroom siblings matched the leaf litter. Fear still spread through trembling mycilium and Oof quaked. But the robins complained about worms and who flew slowest before launching into the sky with such flutter, they sent leaves down from the oak. New oak leaves tented Eeb, by morning just a lump in the litter. The siblings did not cheer for Eeb.
In the afternoon rain that day, a light shower, Oof grew taller. A squirrel riffled the oak leaves on a hunt for acorns and found Aag, Uun and Uut. They were gone in three trips, and the siblings fear quivered until dark. Fog crept up from the lake til no one could see and sogginess settled over the hillside.
Feeling droop set in, Oof began coaxing spores to grow, to loosen, to become. Oof wanted to continue, felt the siblings’ urgency. Oof wanted to be cheered by the mushroom wisps abloom near the tree. Two more disappearing suns passed before spores began to emerge.
Oof wished for a breeze as the spores finally released. Many fell to ground before the lightest wind gripped the rest and flew them off. The mushroom siblings, old and new, cheered for Oof. The ridges on the cap stiffened, as if in salute. It was done! Oof’s last happiness traveled through the mycilium, a warmth for all.
© 2021 Christine Emming. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.