Of Monster and Mushrooms
Chapter 2, Amanita
By Lesley Herron
Attila tried to rub the tired from his eyes, one hand digging into flesh the other against leather. He had caught sight of his reflection in one of the many specimen jars and was surprised to barely recognize his own face. His normally clean shaven baby face, as Brig called it, was rough with stubble. Dark circles had taken up residence under his only visible eye. He wiggled his eyebrows seductively at himself, the almost manly appearance ruined only by a scrap of paper wedged in his hair. He fished it out and flicked it back to the ground with a flourish.
Attila flopped back on the floor dramatically, sprawling out against the stone tiles. The doctor had left him two days ago on a supply run. And even though there was a twinge of panic inside him every time his mind wandered to Brig, or to what Errik’s prolonged absence would mean for Brig, he couldn’t help but wallow in the feeling of utter boredom. He had gone through every readable book the doctor owned, 873 volumes in all. Most of them had been boring medical journals. He had enjoyed the one from the 17th century. Doctors wearing masks, and cloaks, the infant age of technology. . . germs. It had been a very good read the first three times, but now. Now he was bored.
He let out a loud and over exaggerated sigh, and his arms flopped around beside him in a halfhearted tantrum. Papers rustled around him like a snow globe. Something caught his eye amidst the flurry. He sat up and squinted carefully at the farthest bookcase. He thought he had seen something move. He stared at the jars, scrutinizing them for a brief minute. He was certain of it this time. The creature in the smallest jar on the top shelf had moved.
He got to his feet and moved to a container no larger than a pickle jar, the creature inside was some form of mutated bird-mouse. It had the body and tail of a mouse and the hind legs, feathers, and head of a bird. He removed the jar to get a better look at the creature he suspected of foul play. Heh. Fowl. Play. Heh heh. If the creature hadn’t been covered by debilitating amounts of mushrooms and spores growing off it, Attila would have assumed the doctor had sewn the two creatures together.
But the creature had failed to move. At all. Attila gave it one last scrutinizing look and set the stubborn thing back on the shelf. Interest peaked in one of the other jars, Attila leaned against one of the shelves to get a closer look. The entire bookcase began to teeter, unsteadily, backward. Oh no, oh no no no no no. Attila panicked and grabbed the shelf to steady it.
The bookcase ceased it’s rocking. And in the sigh of relief that escaped his lips, the entire bookcase collapsed around Attila. Jars smashed to the floor, some shattering and covering him in a thick slimy layer of preservatives. Some bounced off the ground and rolled in odd directions. One jar smashed into Attila’s foot, leaving him wincing in pain.
“What. The. Hell?,” came Errik’s voice from the doorway. He had dropped the contents of his arms in disbelief. Several rolling jars made their escape through the open door behind him.
Attila turned around, holding the only piece of the bookcase that hadn’t been destroyed. The shelf was proof of his guilt for the crime of the destruction of countless hours of cultivation and research. He quickly dropped it behind his back as he made his way towards Errik. “It’s ok! I didn’t get hurt. You should really invest in better furniture though, that thing almost killed me.”
Errik stared at Attila, waiting for an actual explanation on why he had so thoroughly destroyed his home and life’s work. It wasn’t just the bookcase, either. Errik had never been a particularly neat person, but the level of destruction caused by one man was unbelievable. Books were strewn across the floor, some lay open face up, others had been wedged back into random places with what looked like silverware protruding from their pages as bookmarks. He was certain his rare edition of ‘Spores and Fungi of the Mediterranean’ was being used to prop up the wobbly leg of his desk.
“Where have you been? It’s been days!,” Attila cried.
“It was only two days…?”
“Like I said, days!” Attila paused to scratch at his stubble thoughtfully. “I got bored.,” he confessed.
“I can see that…”
“Ah, well. I fixed a couple of things up for you. Your radio wasn’t picking up any frequencies, so I tuned that all up. You can get all the way out Three Hub!”
“Radio? I don’t own a . . .” Errik looked over in the direction that Attila was pointing to, and was surprised to see his, usually small, analog clock hooked up to what looked like his microwave and a fan. He dragged a hand down across his face, trying to contain his outrage.
Working technology, out where he lived, wasn’t easy to keep in that state. The dry desert air, heat, and dust usually destroyed his tech in months. But this man had dismantled every piece of tech he owned in a matter of days. Errik was sure he couldn’t pass his current state of ‘flabbergast’ if he tried. “Why did you, uh, fix it?”
“No need to thank me. I build stuff when I’m bored. Or nervous, hungry, happy, horny. Occasionally when I’m sleeping. One time, I even built a miniature atom smasher while taking a bath. You know what? I think I might have one of them, what do you call ’em, conditions?” Attila retrieved a book on psychology from the wash basin and began flicking through pages. “Also, I changed the light bulb in your lamp. Reading in the dark is bad for your eyes, you know.”
Errik blinked slowly a for a few seconds, bracing himself for what he was about to see. He turned to see his desk, usually clean and organized, was almost buried underneath a very clearly overpowered searchlight. Is…is that my toilet seat? The polished coating of the desktop was starting to smoke under the lamps magnified beam. Errik placed his fingers against his lips, whether to keep his silence or to keep him from throwing up he had yet to decide.
Attila gave up his search and tossed the book back in the sink. “Oh, and here. I optimized your toothbrush.” He snatched something from the back of the sink that was far too large to be a toothbrush.
“My what?,” he squeaked, his voice a little higher to match his rising disbelief.
Attila handed him a contraption that looked as if it might be used to blast a new tunnel in a mine shaft. His toothbrush had been strapped to two D batteries, with duct tape. Wires crisscrossed the length of the brush, connecting to a motion activated apparatus on the bristles. Two large buttons loomed on either side of the left battery, one red and one green.
“I’ve increased its cleaning output by 637%! Plaque doesn’t stand a friggin’ chance against this baby,” Attila said, his voice haughty with delight, “Just be careful because tooth enamel doesn’t do much better.”
There were two things that Errik was absolutely certain of at this moment. One was that this had to be a bad dream. Attila was worse than the worst roommate he ever had. And two, that there wasn’t enough money or alcohol left in the world to get him to use that thing in his mouth. “I, uh. I don’t know what to say.” What could he say? Thanks for destroying ten years of research, ruining my only functioning clock, and rendering my toothbrush into an overpowered marital aid? Out of morbid curiosity, Errik attempted to turn on his toothbrush.
“Oh, hang on! Don’t touch the red button!” Attila shouted at him suddenly, snatching the toothbrush back, “I haven’t worked out all the kinks.”
He was wrong, Errik thought. He could reach a new level of flabbergast. He watched as Attila pulled a small screwdriver from an inside pocket of his poncho and set to work adjusting wires and jabbing around the clunky gears and moving parts of the toothbrush. Certain the thing would explode before too long, Errik spoke up. “Well, I’ve gotten the things we will likely need for our journey. Everything is ready to go, so whenever you are. . .”
“Great!,” Attila replied happily. He put his screwdriver and the atomic toothbrush back in his poncho. He tossed his hat on his head and strode, jovially towards the door.
“Hang on. You can’t go outside without a breather, remember?”
“A mask?” Perhaps he could use that toothbrush to scrub this from his brain.
“Oh. Well, I don’t have one. But I’m sure I could build one. It’ll only take me a moment!”
Errik watched in fear as Attila began scanning the rest of the room for something else to destroy. Attila had begun to reach for the tablet on the desk when Errik grabbed him. “I’m sure I have a spare in my supply closet. Just. Just don’t touch anything until I’ve checked. Alright?”
Attila made a face but complied in silence.
Errik entered a small closet and kicked open the trunk that sat at the bottom. He knelt down and began to search through the inner contents. He pulled out several moth-eaten traveling cloaks and scarves, a shriveled and mutated radish, a can of potatoes, until he finally managed to unearth an old gas mask. It was a green leather, with two large breathing filters around the nose. He slammed the lid closed and the shock caused a shelf above him to collapse, showering him with old traveling gear. Maybe Attila was right, he should invest in better furniture.
Errik jumped to his feet, flailing beneath the death grip of old coats and over-sized hats. He spun to see what had happened to Attila. “Wha-!?”
Attila was sprinting towards him at full speed, vaulting over chairs and tables. One hand grabbed Errik by the shirt collar, wrenching him away from the closet. The other hand dived into his poncho and emerged holding a small, silver cylinder with a pin near the top.
Errik’s face drained as Attila pulled the pin with his teeth. Oh crap.
Without even looking, Attila tossed what appeared to be a flash bang over his shoulder in the direction of the closet. He upturned a desk and threw Errik behind it, shielding him with his own body.
The entire room was engulfed in a blinding flash of light. The sound that accompanied it was thunderous, and then a sharp, piercing ringing. And then silence.
Errik waited a few moments before he dared to open his eyes. He groaned and wished he hadn’t. The flash bang had successfully demolished a massive chunk of the eastern wall of his home. The wooden beams of the ceiling lay in a mangled heap of broken stone and brick. Papers were slowly ruffling to the ground, and another bookcase of specimen jars had been destroyed. The only things left were shards of glass still seesawing in a puddle of preservative fluid.
The worst of it was what had been on the other side of the wall when it went. Errik could just make out the sad looking antennae, of his car, poking out from beneath the rubble. There was a small plume of smoke issuing, unmistakably, from where the engine was. Errik could feel a tremor under his right eye as he slowly turned to face Attila. What kind of moron would create a flash bang with more destructive force than a rocket launcher?
“Did I get it?” Attila, who had been ‘tarred and feathered’ from the preservative fluids and papers, was trying to catch his breath as if he had just run a mile. He met Errik’s gaze with a small triumphant gleam in his eyes.
“Get. What?,” Errik replied between grit teeth.
“The monster in that closet! It was coming right for you.” Attila responded, gesturing to the closet that was still very clearly standing. “The one with the red beak and dead eyes,”
Willing himself to keep his composure, Errik took a deep breath in through his nostrils. He exhaled slowly through tight lips before he strode over to the closet. He reached into the darkness, without even looking, and flourished the thing he was sure Attila had seen. “You mean. This?”
Attila stared at the thing Errik was holding in his hands and suddenly felt his ears go red. It was nothing more than an old plague doctor mask like he had seen in that book. It was red, beaked, and covered in rich red fabric. It had two large mirrored eye lenses and was paired along a hat and cowl. Attila gave the doctor a nervous laugh followed by a sheepish grin. “You know what they say, better safe than sorry.”
Errik Checked his map again. At the rate they were going they might just make it to shelter by nightfall. He folded the map carefully and tucked it into a pocket in this thick overcoat. There was a ‘pop’ behind him and he turned to look.
Attila was stooping down to pick up yet another bug and placed it in a small jar. He screwed the lid on, and said, “Sorry about your office.” He placed the jar in a pack overflowing with similar jars. “I have really bad depth perception.” he pointed to his eye patch as though it explained away the entire situation.
The sun was baking them as they trudged slowly along a worn desert path. Errik was busy trying to ignore the sudden buzzing in his brain. And that twitch under his right eye again. He said nothing in reply to Attila’s apology, instead motioned that they should keep walking. It was a kind gesture, trying to replace his specimen collection, but one that was accomplishing nothing but slowing them down and amassing an impressive collection of cockroaches.
“Couldn’t we just cut through the forest?,” Attila asked. He glanced over at the edge of the mushroom forest, they were now skirting around. On one side of them, endless desert shimmered in the afternoon heat. On the other side, forty foot tall mushrooms stood as sentries to a fungal rain forest. The trunks were wide and thick, making it impossible to see more than two rows of trees in. But the beams of warm sunlight were tempting them into the shade.
Errik shook his head. “It’s not safe. I know you want to find your friend, but we can’t just go marching through there on foot. It’s not just the Unseen we have to worry about. The forest is home to a whole host of animals that thrive among the spores. And I’m sure plenty would love nothing more than a fresh meal.” Errik clapped a hand on Attila’s shoulder. The pat was an acceptance of his apology and perhaps one of his own. The longer it took them to find Attila’s friend, the less likely it would be that they’d find Brig alive. “Come on, let’s keep moving. It’ll be dark soon, and I’d like to be clear of the forests’ edge before then.”
“Is it really that dangerous at night?,” Attila asked, innocently. He was busy trapping a handful of beetles in an empty jar and missed the blank, albeit masked, look that his friend was giving him. He stood and slapped a hand against the nearest trunk of a small, twenty-foot mushroom. “I mean, how scary can an animal be if it lives in a giant mushroom?”
The silence around them was rent by a loud, slow creaking noise. Like thousand-year-old floor boards being trod on. The noise was followed by long, low growl. The tree was moving. Or rather the thing behind it was. A large creature, the shape, and texture of a moss covered boulder slowly emerged. It stared at the two of them with small, beady black eyes, before it spat out the chunk of mushroom bark it had been chewing. It let out another low growl and slowly started to advance on them. Its head was shaped like a brick with an underbite, with large blunt teeth jutting up from his bottom lip. Its body resembled that of a gorilla, but like a gorilla roughly carved from stone. Instead of fur, the creature was covered in the same red spongy moss that blanketed the forest floor. And nestled in the moss, in large groups, were tiny mushrooms.
Attila looked at the small, empty jar in his hand and then back at the creature lumbering slowly towards them. “Um, do you have a bigger jar?,” Attila joked.
“What are you doing? Get away from it!!,” Errik ordered, as he himself began backpedaling.
“What are you talking about? Didn’t you see it chowing down on ‘shroom bark? It’s clearly an herbivore!,” Attila deduced, as he moved to close the gap between him and the monster. He slapped the brute on the shoulder a couple of times as if to prove it’s peacefulness.
If you ever wonder what might happen to a bee when it bothers a bear, this would make a great analogy, Errik thought. “Not an herbivore. An omnivore…”
The creature gave a loud angry roar and snatched Attila up with its monstrous hand. Fingers the size of thermos cups wrapped tightly around Attila’s left leg and it wrenched him up into the air. It slammed him down into the ground and lifted him back up again. It held him so their faces were level with each other before it gave another ear-splitting roar. “Oh, right. I see the incisors now.” The creature began to trudge deeper into the forest, dragging Attila behind him.
Attila began to frantically search through his poncho for anything. Blasting cap? Nope. A spark plug? Nu’uh. Brig’s beef jerky? Gross. How long has that been in there? He pulled out a long stretch of lacy black fabric, and his cheeks flushed with color. Crankshaft’s bra? How did that get in there? He returned the undergarment to his poncho for safe keeping and continued to dig. His fingers gripped around something promising. Anti-fungal cream? Oo. So close! Attila finally fished out the modified toothbrush, and a smile broke over his face. He pushed the red button and jammed the toothbrush between the creatures massive fingers.
The effect, while not what the invention was intended for, was immediate. The toothbrush exploded in a fiery cloud of battery acid and reinforced bristles. The creature roared in pain, and relinquished its grip on Attila, but only because it was now missing most of its fingers.
Attila scrambled to his feet, still in shock over the exploding toothbrush. Of course! He hadn’t taken into account the conflicting polarity as it cycled through the multiple capacitors. Duh. He began to make for the forest’s edge, his feet tripping over moss clumps and fallen and rotten mushroom logs. He had just made it into open air when a thunderous crack rent the air behind him. The creature had ripped up a smaller mushroom tree and had hurled it in his direction. Attila ducked in time to avoid being knocked out by the world’s largest pizza topping but tripped over his poncho in the process. He sprawled, face down in the dried nettle of forest moss trying to regain the air in his lungs. He felt a sting in his knees, as he tried to get to his feet. A strong grip grabbed him and yanked him upright.
The creature, still outraged at the loss of a meal, not to mention a few fingers, was now spoiled for choices. But perhaps it was the sight of Errik’s bright red bird-beaked mask that set it off. It bristled the moss on its back and gave another mighty roar before snatching Errik off his feet and slamming him into the ground.
Errik’s teeth rattled. Ah. Territorial. Good to know. He was being squished beneath the creatures massive hand. It pressed against him impossibly hard, forcing him into the earth. Lights popped in his vision, and air was becoming a problem. The creature gave one final angry roar, before rearing back to deliver the final blow.
The air around them exploded with an orange glow. Fire rolled off the monster’s body and pooled on the dirt beneath it. The last thing Errik saw was a towering wall of flame, and a creature howling in pain. Then the darkness overtook his vision.
Attila watched as the monster tore off back into the forest, leaving a trail of cinders in its wake. He looked for the source of the fire, unsure if its wielder was a friend or a foe. Standing before the two of them was a man, or at least he thought it was a man. He was holding what could only be described as a sixteen barreled flame thrower. It was built like a Gatling gun and seemed twice as heavy. It’s owner held it using a harness, both hands, and a very sturdy stance. All in all, it was the most redundant, unnecessarily complex weapon Attila had ever seen. “Friggin’ hell, man, can I give it a try?!” He was on it in a second, gushing over the multiple combustion chambers.
The flame Gatling dropped to the ground with a sizzle, the muzzle still red hot and steaming. The man studied him, an errant flame flickered its way up his right sleeve.
“Whoa, fire!” Attila pounced, swatting at the man’s arm like, well, like his arm was on fire. The man did his best to fight off the onslaught. “You’re. . .” Slap. “On. . .” Shove. “Fire. . !” Kick.
Attila relented only after noticing the man’s face. He wore a mask that looked as if it had been hastily welded from scrap metal, save for the single slit of dark red glass over his eyes. Still, it did nothing to hide the intense glare that Attila could feel penetrating through the metal visage.
Attila backed up hastily. “I, uh. . . I’ll just stand over here.” Attila took another step back and trod on something soft. Looking down to see what it had been, he knelt down next to his friend and, perhaps a little harder then he meant to, jammed a finger into Errik’s neck, looking for a pulse. Errik awoke long enough to cry out in agony, then passed out again.
The masked man looked around at the wreckage the mushroom beast had wrought, “You two should be more careful.” The man’s voice was like mechanized gravel. But Attila couldn’t decide if that was his normal voice or a by-product of the mask.
Errik shifted slightly and groaned. A moment of consciousness allowed him to recognize, just barely, the figure standing above him. He gave a meek, unseen smile before adding, “ Oh…hey bro…” before he passed out again.
With an air of undeniable inconvenience, the man visibly sighed, “Dammit.”
This was part two of a piece written by Lesley Herron. It’s part of a crossover fan fiction for a book series in the works by Author J.D. Wiley. It’s her subtle way to encourage him to hurry it up, dammit. She tossed together this piece using a couple of his characters with some of her own.
Lesley Herron would prefer to remain unlisted. If you wish to contact her you can do so through me. Simply leave a comment down below or send me a message.
J.D. Wiley can be found at http://www.TheJDWiley.com
If you liked this piece, keep an eye out for the next chapter coming soon!