The second in a series of short stories:
Had I placed my hand two inches to the left, a whole world would have been destroyed. A minute mushroom grew out of a miniature mound of moss and had I not been paying attention when pushing the gate open, these musings would have been on a different topic altogether.
But as it happens, my attentiveness made me examine the detail of this tiny world. So often overlooked for the big and bold extravaganzas of dramatic skies and majestic trees, rare birds and whole changing landscapes. And yet here was a perfectly formed landscape all of its own.
Nestled snugly in the crevices of the rotting wood of the crossbar was a river of moss, flowing along the whole width of the surface. Needing only moisture to germinate and mature, it had established itself in this canyon and was now holding its own weight in water, making this an attractive spot for the fungus spore to settle. Feeding off the rotting wood and drinking from the moss’s reservoir, it grew into a perfectly formed specimen of its bigger relatives in the grass beyond. The moss was not content however to simply fill and mould itself, to be a submissive host, it too was growing upwards, eager not to be a mere covering but to make an impact. Grasslike shoots stood swaying in the breeze, just about the same height as the mushroom, was there potential to outshine this visitor? The Seta and Calyptra, the stem and the capsule, make up this field of tendrils, words that sound like names. Names of fairies.
For it was fairies that I thought of first when I saw this scene. This must be where they live. In the dark cave of the cavity in the upright post, coming out to sun themselves in the weakening rays of the autumn sun, sitting on the mushroom’s hat. With no single origin and present in nearly all folklore across Europe and Persia, they are creatures caught between heaven and hell, not angel or demon, blamed for sickness and mischief, stealers of children, leavers of changelings. Atmospheric ghostly light in swamps and marshes was attributed to them, the ‘will o’ the whisps’, leading travellers astray.
Since we could speak a language we have told the tales of our peoples and have included embodiments of our fears of not understanding the acts of nature as well as teaching a respect for it. Whether you have childhood memories of bedtime stories or folklore, an actual belief in other beings or a simple wonder at the detail in our natural world, bafflement is fundamental for our existence.
When I went back the next day, somebody had put their hand across this world. It was gone. We had better ring the church bells for the fairies will be cross.