I woke up and there was one.
It was next to my computer. The orange phosphorescence was very pale, almost impossible to notice. At first I had thought the orange glow was from an indicator light.
I sat up and looked at it. Why did that grow in here? I’m pretty tidy. This wasn’t the kind of room where mushrooms were likely to sprout.
I got up, walked over, and crouched down to examine it at eye level. Yes, it definitely had a subtle but distinctive glow. The stem was thick; the cap was a flat, whorled. The edge of the cap had planty fingers all the way around, like an anemone. My desk was smooth laminate, so there wasn’t much room for the roots of the mushroom to take hold, if there were any roots. The mushroom just went straight down and ended, as if it had been balanced there.
I could have plucked it. But it was interesting. How had it gotten here? What did it mean?
So, after examining it from all angles, I went back to bed.
In the morning, it was gone. I couldn’t figure out whether it had been a dream or not.
Today was Saturday, so I spent my time at home I took out the trash. I washed my clothes. I vacuumed. I lifted some free weights. I stayed up late watching movies. I drifted off.
I woke up and there were six.
The TV was still on, but the movie had ended and a screen saver was up. In the blue electronic light, the mushrooms were clearly visible. They had sprouted up on the carpet, on the corner of the entertainment center. There was one beside me on the couch. Maybe I needed to clean more.
I grabbed the remote and turned the TV off. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust, and then I saw the orange glow again.
They were beautiful. I’d never seen mushrooms like that before. The endless universe of lobes and circles and folds on the cap. The little light gray gills on the bottom. The strong stem. The curious way they cut right into the floor. In no way did they conform to what mushrooms were supposed to be, but I couldn’t quantify exactly what was different.
I could have plucked them. But I hated to do it; they were like little markers of what was wrong, of exactly where I needed to clean. Instead I took a picture and texted it to my plant-loving brother.
Can you identify this mushroom? I asked.
It was 3 AM, so I went back to sleep. He would find it in the morning.
When I woke up the next day, they were gone. But I knew it hadn’t been a dream. I still had the picture in my phone as proof.
My brother had texted me back. I’m not sure.
Another popped up right behind it. How are you doing lately? It’s been a while. Have you talked to mom?
I deleted the texts. He couldn’t dictate my relationships with others.
It was Sunday. I folded my laundry. I vacuumed. I dusted. I wiped down the counters. I cleaned the windows. I shaved my head. I played video games. I drifted off.
I woke up and there were forty-two.
I counted each one over and over. Forty-two. This was really interesting. I know that I had cleaned this carpet. Tomorrow I’ll have to go over it again more thoroughly.
I could have plucked them. But I was grateful to them. Watching movies in their company had a surreal effect. The whole room was given a soft orange glow. It was fun.
That morning, I woke up to a missed call from my brother. My mom also texted me, but I didn’t open it to read it. Fuck ‘em.
I stood up and felt a little dizzy, so I had a big glass of water for breakfast, then washed the glass. Of course the mushrooms were gone; it was daylight. But sometimes, I could almost see them out of the corners of my eyes.
The phone rang. It was work. I didn’t answer.
I took a shower. When I got out, I noticed that the mushrooms were visible in the shadowy places of my room. If I covered the windows, maybe I could see them more clearly.
Yes. Pulling the drapes let the dark in and revealed the state of the room. There were so many, so many. They filled the room, grew out of the walls. They had spread into the bathroom, the kitchen. They were in my cabinets.
The light hid things. This was truth.
The phone rang. It was my brother again. I didn’t answer.
I know how this goes. This is what always happens. Mom will turn up and start knocking on the door. They don’t want me to know the truth. They don’t want me to see these things, these beautiful things. I’ll lock the door. I’ll pretend I”m not home. I won’t let them pull me out into the light. Not this time. Every mushroom is an arrow to a flaw. I’ll clean underneath each one.
I vacuumed the couch. I shook out the rugs. I tweezed my eyelashes. I scrubbed the tile.