“I’m indelible,” he said.

“You’re inedible,” I corrected. “But you won’t be here forever.”

From his tone, I could tell he was scarcely older than the young sunrise; last night’s blossom, perhaps. The gray light seeped in around us, offering hazy views of the morning fog, though I couldn’t see past an inch; all was surreal and intoxicated by swamp gas.

I asked, “Can I tell you some things, mushroom to mushroom?”

“Fine,” he snapped, his voice echoing into infinite mist.

“Well, who of mushrooms needs men?” I questioned.

“None, I suppose.”

“And the other way around?”

The small ‘shroom stood idly, I’m sure, struck hard by my enigmatic question. He hushed wholly, in harmony with branches that seldom creaked, leaf litter that rarely quivered, wind that never howled, and bog that rarely burped. I decided to pick at his soft, naïve brain, perhaps ruffle his cap a little.

“You don’t know everything, little guy. Safety has its boundaries, its trials; I don’t know what you heard as a spore, free-floating and worriless, but this place isn’t as perfect as its stories. Why, my neighbor, a Morel, was once plucked from that very spot.”

We each stood motionless, as expected, and I relied on him to acknowledge the obvious — that the Morel had met his end just past my own stalk, not an inch past, which was marked by the flatly sheared stump, a pale pearl circle in the early light and vapor.

“And he was tough, too,” I added. “Are you tough?”

“Tougher than hickory bark,” the scrappy youngster said.

“You know, deer trudge through that marsh, all desperate for a meal, and I’ve seen them macerate many a mushroom in these parts before, just a few feet up the shoreline. Their two-toed hooves crushing what’s left on their way out. A whole family lived over there, but there’s just leaf litter now.”

He squealed a little but then rolled into the fakest cough, and I snickered softly.

“Don’t fret, I said you were inedible,” I chuckled. “You’re too revolting for any cuisine, for tongues or toes.”

“And I said I was indelible,” he giggled back, with one hoarse note at his sentence’s end — an ominous quirk.

A stillness ensued, stiller than ever, and I grew perplexed as to what he meant; my frills began to itch with the onset of toxic silence.

“It was all in fair fun,” I reassured aloud, utterly sincere.

The fog gently burned away after the triumphant emergence of the sun, and the peachy torrent of light would soon resolve my wondering. I suppose he was that livid; I guess a simple greeting would have better worked. The day had grown gloomy, at least in my mind.

I could see a stalk’s width farther with every passing minute — and that’s my own stalk, mind you. Burgundy-black needles and rich, feathery, leaf green moss lined the glossy mud. Above suspended the budding boughs of April, which were, to me, regal luxuries and no better an indicator of a new, healthy day. Though the sight before me was too startling, too rare, to spare a glance to anything else. No mushroom stood proud, meek, or otherwise, but a beast drooled from the mouth, its saliva more tainted than my own gleaming skin. My cap drooped, and I shuddered in place. Terrified, I leaned back; I bowed my stalk, and its stalk eyes bent forward, warped with deception and wrath and the need for a game, a race.

I galloped, or tried, but the snail outran me.

Tim Galati loves to explore wilderness and waterways in the state of New York, often writing about the odd phenomena he encounters. He enjoys writing everything from poetry to novels.

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