Glow beneath the leaves
An edited and improved version of this story is now available for purchase as part of the ‘Prophecies of the Drowned Oracle’ collection.
It was a sunny day. Summer sat on her veranda enjoying the sun in the morning. It was the beginning of spring and one of the first of such sunny days in a long time.
The sun on her skin felt heavenly. The warmth slowly seeped into her. Through her skin and clothes until she was as warm as in front of her fireplace.
Then a shadow passed over the garden. Summer frowned and pulled her cardigan over her shoulders. She looked up to see a dark grey cloud covering the sun. It wasn’t big, but it moved agonisingly slow.
She slumped back in her chair with a sigh. She stared over her shadow-cast garden.
The flowers were budding, some were even already in bloom. She saw a bumblebee buzzing around over a purple flower.
Then she noticed something odd, a glow coming from underneath the plant. A warm orange. She definitely didn’t have any lamps placed randomly underneath her flowers, so she decided to check it out.
The damp grass tickled her bare feet as she walked. She kneeled in front of the plant and gently pushed the leaves out of the way.
She gasped. It was a mushroom. A glowing mushroom. She stared at it, hardly believing what she was seeing. A long delicate stem, topped with a gently curving cap. The glow came from underneath the cap, but was strong enough to shine through the membrane and show off the spore chambers and a few air bubbles.
Summer stared, and stared, until she realised she was crying and wiped at her eyes. She’d never seen something this beautiful, this wonderful, this amazing. And it was in her garden. Her garden. All for her. She sniffled and carefully reached out a hand to touch the cap. It felt like any mushroom, soft and silky.
She sat there for a long time, just watching it, enjoying how the glow strengthened when the sun shone on it, as if competing with the sun itself. After who knows how long, she went inside to grab her camera and take a picture. She spent some more time like this, getting every angle imaginable.
“Thank you,” she whispered at it as she went inside for the night.
Janine sat on the bench in her garden. At her feet, the ravens hopped closer. Bending over, Janine gently placed some seed on the ground. Slowly, as to not scare the little ones away.
The biggest raven, the one Janine called Mercury, hopped to the seeds first. Then he looked back to the little one and called out. Hesitantly, the youngest raven hopped after Mercury. He looked at Janine warily, and she did her best to stay still and not startle the chick.
Max, Mercury’s partner, hopped next to the little one. With both his parents nearby, he felt confident enough to eat some of the seeds off the ground. Janine smiled. It was a special day when her friends had a chick to show her. Ravens don’t have children every year, and even when they do have one, they don’t always make it for long enough to bring to Janine.
Janine often wondered if the ravens brought their chicks along just for the food, or if they also wanted to show them to Janine. It seemed that when Max and Mercury had a new chick, they’d be a little more affectionate with Janine than usual. Just to show to the chick that Janine wasn’t a threat. It was very possible this was the case. Ravens are very smart creatures and are even thought to have empathy. There are people who believe ravens can tell each other stories. Janine wasn’t sure about that, but she did know for sure that they had a great memory.
She’d befriended these ravens twenty years ago. Ravens can get very old. In captivity, they’ve been known to surpass sixty years of age. In the wild they’re estimated to get about twenty. Janine was of the opinion that this was a low estimate. A number more to do with an average than an actual reflection of their possible lifespan. In any case, she expected to be able to enjoy her time with her friends for twenty years more.
Even if Max and Mercury would pass on, their children would still be there. They didn’t visit as often, but like this newest little one, all of them had been introduced to Janine. All of them knew her as a friend, and would know to come to her for shelter and food should they need it.
A faint beep from his pocket. He looks around, only one woman within range. He makes a note to keep his distance. He doesn’t want a cold.
He continues his path. His footsteps clacking on the stone streets. His phone makes various bleeps as he enters the crowds of the subway. A few beeps in there as well, one ring. Too many people, the sounds are as useless as the glob of foundation on that man’s pimple.
The train starts, he holds onto the top rail with his gloved hand. A little warm for wool, but he was out of disposables. Everyone in the compartment sways to the left, then right, then settles. Someone coughs on the other end of the compartment, five people bump into him as a empty circle forms where the cough came from.
Next stop. The whole compartment fills with beeps as one woman enters. The woman shrinks away from the glares, but doesn’t leave. She stands just inside the door and stays there when it closes. She doesn’t try for the seats, doesn’t touch a railing.
She steps off at the next stop. The others leaving avoid her to the point you’d think she had more than just a cold.
Next stop, five people enter. Bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep. A man stands up for the elderly lady who stepped on and offers her his seat. The lady thanks him and sits down.
The train starts again. An advertisement scrolls by above the heads of the people on the opposite side of the hallway. Don’t forget to review the sound alert for CXB34b. An optional alert. There was only one doctor that warned against the viral spreading capabilities of this cancer after all, but the sound had been added just in case. People could decide for themselves if they want to be alerted or not.
Next stop. One person enters to complete silence. It takes a moment to register, for the dread, anger, resentment, to crystallise and show on the faces of the people packed into the compartment. No sound means no phone. No phone means there’s something worse than a cold to hide.
The person hides their face under their purple brimmed hat, but he’s sure they still feel the stares. It’s only out of fear that no one moves to push them out. But fear doesn’t stop the quick fingers of people texting the police. It’s not technically illegal to not have a phone, but it is illegal to walk around with certain contagious medical problems…