I held my hand on my warm, wet chest, morbidly picking and poking at the throbbing marks of the claws on my flesh. I dropped my simple wooden spear, black with the charring in my fire, rough from the sharpening by my knife, and stained with the blood of the thing that attacked me. It fell into the soft, muddy ground and began to sink into the peat-covered swamp. I trudged through the sludge that went up to my knees, and I braced my back against a moss-covered tree that stretched high into the cloudy sky. I collapsed there, and I waited.
Waited for what? I was alone out here. The nearest village was miles away, and I had no guarantee their doctors could help me. My only hope was to sit and wait for a miracle, it seemed. A fog rolled in surprisingly fast, cooling my skin, dulling the sounds of insects and animals lurking in the swamp. Heh, at least my final moments would be quiet. Then, from the mist came my miracle.
I could see a figure in the distance. It was a gangly silhouette, seeming to writhe or rock back and forth like a snake, but it had a strange, triangular head, rounded on the top. As it came closer, I began to see its pale, delicate skin and flowing white gown to match. I saw its long face, with a small, sweet smile and its eyes covered by its strange, wide-brimmed and droopy hat. The figure didn’t seem to walk, so much as glide through the swamp, and its long, lanky body and arms seemed to move without bones, like noodles. I should’ve been scared of the figure, but I didn’t think that it could get any worse. Besides, the figure didn’t seem to mean any harm. It spoke to me in a gentle whisper, with a voice like a quiet child.
“You are dying,” it pointed out.
“Yeah,” I said, “What’s it to you?”
“I can fix that.”
“You wouldn’t happen to have some bandages and ointment on you, would you?” I chuckled hollowly at my own little joke, and it laughed along with me.
“No, no I wouldn’t. Your body’s beyond saving, I’m afraid.”
“I can save you, but I can’t save your body. Do you want my help?”
It was being a bit vague, but what the hell did I have to lose? “Done,” I said.
The figure nodded once, with that same placid smile. It laid its long hands and boneless fingers on my head. Its hands were cool, but comfortable. It leaned down slowly with its noodly body, and gently, softly, it kissed my forehead. Then it stood up to its full height, and glided away.
I felt a pleasant little tickle where it’d kissed me. I reached up my hand to touch the spot. I felt a mushroom growing from it. I felt the tingle growing, spreading. I could feel more little mushrooms sprouting up from my hair, little ridges of fungi on my face, more and more of my body becoming a little fungal mass. I could’ve broken the mushrooms, could’ve brushed them off, but I didn’t want to disturb the fragile little things. Besides, they were already inside me, the mushrooms were just the parts sticking out.
I could hear the childlike little voices of my new friends. They were so happy, so playful. They loved that tree I was leaning against. They wanted to be with it too. So, I let them spread their tendrils into the bark. I let them root me to the wood. I closed my eyes, and I went to sleep. I’m never alone anymore, and I can feel every root and branch and tendril in the swamp. Feel free to visit us any time; you’re always welcome to join us.