Wednesday, January 4, 2012


The Process of the Fungus
By Tim Gerstmar

It was springtime and all the little green things were growing. Ron sat on his front porch wearing the pajamas they gave him at the hospital and looking out over the burgeoning yard. In the past few weeks things had gotten greener. Shoots and vines crept up the picket fence, bushes blossomed, and the moss shimmered on the rocks like felt under the bright sun. What Ron found most pleasant, however, was the strange green vines that seemed to come from nowhere and cover everything. They twisted like chlorophyll-filled noodles, and wove a pattern around the yard that made him believe for the first time in his miserable life that nature was an artist. He wanted to get up and go for a walk, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to go ten feet without collapsing.

He brought the iced tea that his wife made to his lips and felt the cool, moist glass under his thick caterpillar-like fingers. His cough had gotten worse, and that worried him. He was feeling extremely weak, but he demanded they let him out of the hospital nonetheless. What the hell did they know?

He drained his glass, and he was still thirsty. He called for Gina, but she did not respond. “Gina!” he yelled even louder. This sent him into a coughing fit that lasted a good minute. When he recovered, he noticed some strange green bile in the tissue that he hadn’t seen before, but at this point nothing surprised him. “Gina, come here a minute,” he rasped. It was no use. She couldn’t hear him. He filed it away as something to tell the doctors about when he went in on Tuesday. At least it was a good day, a wonderful day, and that made him feel a little better.

The dappled sunlight on the yard played tricks on his eyes, and he could swear he saw things moving across it, shapes and patterns shifting with a rhythm and a purpose. It was so different from anything he had ever seen that he was at once captivated and fearful. This odd dance of light held his attention so hypnotically that he couldn’t drop his gaze, and the plants and shapes writhed and wiggled. Then there came a low humming sound that began to change in tone and pitch, whispering and burbling like some quiet, unearthly language.

Suddenly, he felt the urge to stand. He got up slowly, fearing the intense pain that always accompanied any movement he tried to make these days, but there was no pain. In fact, he felt a surge of energy. He stood effortlessly and looked out over the dew soaked-lawn. He kicked off his hospital slippers and walked down the porch steps and into the yard, the soft grass caressing his bare feet, moving of its own accord. The entire world was green, and green it would remain. Where he walked was no longer his yard. The cool earth felt brisk on his toes. The wind tickled his skin and left goose pimples. There was revitalization in his organs as they surged and coursed with new life. He moved to the hillside, covered with twisting tubers and candy green nettles. He laid himself down on the earth and felt his tiny chest hairs stand on end. He rolled, feeling the ground and its moist contents stick and suction to his body. Out of his mouth he could feel tiny tendrils, his children moving out into the open air, grasping for sunlight and water.

The plants moved around him, and his flesh slowly disappeared beneath a gnarled covering of green. Tiny insects swirled above the vines that crisscrossed his chest in an elaborate cat’s cradle. Along his cheeks, fresh stems fixed themselves, pumping chlorophyll through him. Moss covered the top of his head, slowly fading down his neck like new hair, tiny leaves sprouted under his eyes and reached for the sun. The grass tickled his sides and his legs, and settled around him like a comforting blanket. Soon birds were landing on his shape, and the song of the summer burbled and chirped from the trees around him. He couldn’t believe that he was free. “Welcome,” a voice said.

When Gina came out onto the porch with another glass of iced tea, Ron was nowhere to be seen. Her eyes widened when she saw how fast the vegetation in the backyard had grown. “Ronny? Where are you?” There was still no answer. She put the glass down and put both hands on the porch railing and wondered how everything got so green. There was a rustle out in the far end of the yard, and for a second she swore she saw a hunched green shape moving off into the forest.

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Tim Gerstmar was born in 1972 and grew up in Massachusetts. He has had a varied career, including a stint in the U.S. Navy and ten years of teaching ESL in the U.S., Korea, and Thailand. Tim writes short fiction during his free time.


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