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Written by   26
6 months ago

The day Ava's husband died, three hundred tiny trees burst from the forest floor. Her tears had the soil and begged life forth. In a hundred years, this forest would shelter a young boy seeking asylum, locking into firm place a further chain of events that would lead to the beginning of a long awaited new world. However, Ava was not to know this, and never would, because the future is so unknown to all of us, and so had little consolation for her loss.

Seven days a week, for nine months a year, Ava and he joined the mushroom pickers in the thousands of acres of forests to look for tricholoma spirabilis, the Life Giver. It was discovered by Anna the Dark, who was lost for a hundred and five years in the very hills in which Ava was earning her living. When Anna emerged from the forest she was heavily pregnant with Ava's mother, who was to discover the new species of fungi on the eve of her own disappearance but thankfully left copious amounts of drawings and notes that detailed the qualities of this new species, including it's ability to oxygenate the blood at a time when humanity needed it the most. People needed to breath. That was as sure as death and taxes.

As for Ava's grandmother, when asked about her disappearance and the paternity of her green eyed girl, she would open her arms out wide and smile, which was as much an answer as anyone would ever recieve. She was both revered and feared a little, but people would come to her to ask her about which plants would heal a broken heart and broken bone alike. She had a way of knowing.

Despite her illustrious ancestry, Ava was not immune to any of the tragedies that befell her fellow pickers. Death from exposure was common - it was achingly cold here in the winter and hypothermia would creep if one did not pay attention. Many of the pickers were missing the tips of fingers from where frostbite had settled as they searched beneath the crystals of ice to find the precious fruit. In the spring, the giant horseflies, some of them the size of small dogs, could pierce the skin in a single bite and cause the muscles of the heart to contract and spasm. In summer, the heat was unbearable unless one moved very slowly in the shade of the gargantuan trees, but to move slow was often to lose wages, or to return to the markets with scant pickings and thus capacity to earn. The seasons were long and hard, respite coming only in the Autumn where unusually - for most fungi were autumnal gifts - the Life Giver deliquesced into a sanguineous fluid that nurtured the other life in the biosphere in ways that science was only just beginning to comprehend. These few relatively restful months were a time to rest and gather the other fungi and offerings that did not have as much market value and thus were not as highly sought over, but still could sustain a family for the rest of the year.

Ava's man was ten years her senior and taught her all she knew, given her mother had left her an orphan when she disappeared. He was tender in his offerings and she loved to hear him talk to the children about mycellium and hyphae as he read the forest for signs of spirabilis - a slight humping of the soil, a particular tree which opened every cell in it's roots, trunk and leaves to allow the fungi to thrive and in turn grew itself to provide in an endless reciprocity only gods could have brought into being.

His death was not a forest death, much to everyone's sadness. A forest death was a good death - the pickers appreciated their flesh would become soil, dissolved by the white threads of fungi they had followed all their life. Christianity had never served these folk - rebirth took new forms out of necessity. One had to believe in something, after all.

He had died because he had dared to stand up to the middle merchants who often took advantage of the migrant pickers and had mistook him for one. He refused to accept a low price and called the merchants exactly what everyone thought they were and were too scared to say, whereupon one took a pistol from the folds of his cloak and shot him through the heart. A trillion spirabilis spores filled the area and shimmered when he died, and at least half the marketplace said that the air left their lungs simultaneously, such was he loved amongst his fellow men.

For Ava, however, despite the gift of the three hundred trees, the forest had much to answer for and owed her much, much more. As a girl in a particular time and place, she had no idea that her beloved's death was just a butterfly's flapping wing which would, after a century or so, bring the world into newness and a connected, fertile and beautiful beingness that she could only dream about in the tiny corners of her subconcious mind in dreams where she flew like a goshawk over the forest with a lightness in her chest no one on earth had ever known. However, in this moment, she was an amoeba unaware of itself, searching, blind. She was full of hot and wet questions: why had she been left alone again? How would she guide her people? How could she, descendant of Anna the Dark, possibly take his place, when he left her only half equipped with scant knowledge of the forest that could lead them out of this dark age in human history? Why were the merchants so cruel? Why were they bound in these cycles of prejudice and poverty, slavery and servitude? Whilst Ava and her partner may have been born in these forests, they were still economic migrants, forced into these edges of society yet bound to contribute to the larger, and barely given any honour nor reward for it. The mutualism of the forest was a perfectly organized system. The capitalist economy which utilized it was not.

And thus, in despair, and despite the burgeoning trees, Ava continued to cry - for her lost love, for her lost mother. No wonder they had left, she thought. What place does the world have for the ones who are one with the forest? Who are misunderstood, misaligned, their beliefs ridiculed, their science mocked?

But as the pickers and forest dwellers know, it is also the way of the forest to reveal what one needs the most, and at this moment, she needed the guidance of lost love, and so the forest moved in action to supply her need, obedient and empathetic.

As the hundred year future forest rose from her tears, so too did the tricholoma, whispering to her with citrus, earthy breathiness as they rose from the soil. The shape that took form was her husband. The hyphae tips had found their way to his corpse in the market place had dissolved both flesh and spirit and retreated here, beautiful constellations of fungal pathways that had run along tunnels of bark and through the gaps in soil to join her where she grieved.They had wilded their way to the granddaughter of Anna the Dark, taking on the dead man's form.

He was there to give her what she needed to know to lead her people forward. His beard was fringed with hoarfrost, his fingertips stained with spores, his eyes periwinkle blue, lips stained wine purple. The dead man was beautiful, a dru of snow gums, a pan of the eucalyptus. He cupped his amaranthine hands and huffs and puffs so the spores of the Life Giver clouds around her, dressing Ava in velvet green. She filled with wonder and love and breath.

Ah, the pain of life, she thought. It is this I must bear. It is okay. It is okay. We go forward, still. What it is, she thinks, to love and create, feel joy and euphoria. From the dark forest floor bursts forth fruiting bodies, from the cracked seed held tight in black soil propels the nascent tree. One must treasure such intensity.

It was not long after she would feel, unexpectedly, the flutterings of a child, and although impossible, it was not so incomprehensible. He had come to her, after all. In the future, her child will birth another child, and then another, until one day, a distant offspring of hers will seek asylum in the forest, and the dryads and drus will rise up against those that chase him down, and then all will be set free.

But for now, Ava wipes the salt from her eyes and waves to her beautiful man as he disappears back into the mist that swirls about the trees.

She resumes filling her basket for the market, nibbling on a spirabilis, nourishing her and her unborn child with oxygen, with life, so that they may give birth to the future.

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The collages are my own, made from stock images and my own fungi photos.

With Love, @dansontela

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Written by   26
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