A Place in the Forest, Part VIII

As if reading his mind, Mava stopped quite suddenly several paces ahead of Ivan.  She didn’t turn to look at him, but he thought he could read something in the stillness of her silver-haired head, the poised look of her long, down-turned pointed pink ears that showed like fins on either side. “We’re here,” she said softly, and her hands drifted up dreamily to rest on the smooth bark of the young beech tree next to her.  Ivan looked around.  There was nothing different about the landscape from what he could tell, no sign of a settlement.  As he opened his mouth with a question, the wind shifted towards him, carrying with it a fragrance–something unfamiliar yet nostalgic, delicate and earthy–filling his lungs with something like memory, stealing away the words he would have said.

When Mava at last turned to face him, Ivan didn’t know how long he had been standing there open-mouthed, adrift.  She smiled gently and he blushed, realizing how ridiculous he must look.  He made an effort to collect his wits.  Now, looking into her eyes, he realized that what he had sensed in her posture was accurate: Mava was apprehensive, hesitating, the two vibrant blue eyes staring at him with a penetrative gaze that did not match the softness of her smile.  And yet, in the center of her forehead…Ivan felt an irrepressible shiver run through him.  Mava’s third eye, larger and more dilated than the other two, was rolling upward into her head with every indication of deep pleasure, the lower lid trembling slightly.  In fact, Ivan suddenly realized that Mava’s whole body seemed to be vibrating, subtly, almost imperceptibly, making him feel the need to shake his head, blink hard, try to clear his vision.  The evening sun came through the trees behind Ivan at a low angle, illuminating Mava so she glowed even more than usual.  She beamed.

Ivan,” she said.  But her voice had changed.  There seemed to be almost an echo, a layering, as if she was speaking with many voices at once.  It was spectral, unsettling.  It took all of Ivan’s self-control to resist the urge to take a step back. “Very soon we will be together,” she was saying, apparently unperturbed by the fear emanating from him, though he knew she could sense it. “But before that happens, we think you should look.”

“Look,” Ivan repeated anxiously. “Look at what?  Why do you sound like that Mava?”

Below,” Mava intoned in the same choral thrum, extending an arm to gesture beyond the beech tree she was still touching.  Steeling himself, Ivan forced his legs to move, bringing him closer to his friend.  As he drew level with her he realized that just past where they were standing the forest floor descended quite suddenly, steeply enough that one would have to move in zigzags to scale it.  At the bottom of the drop, the trees opened out into a broad clearing and there it was.  Mava’s home.  Ivan felt the dread deepening in his belly as he tried to make sense of what he was seeing.

The clearing was centrally dominated by what could only be a mushroom.  It was as big as a house, an impossibly massive fat pink fleshy growth the exact color of Mava’s vivid skin.  The stalk was bulbous, squat, the cap slightly domed with a bizarre fringe growing from beneath it like lace, ropes of tissue irregularly woven together.  Extending all around the mushroom in a circular configuration were a series of much smaller pink fungal protrusions, varying in shape and size.  There was something about these forms that made Ivan profoundly uneasy, and he found his eyes unwilling to rest on any one of them for long.  Instead he watched the pink people–Mava’s people–moving among the growths around the gigantic mushroom.  There were a score or more of them from what Ivan could see at this distance, some dressed in gray shapeless clothing like Mava’s but more of them naked. “What…” Ivan’s voice sounded strangled and harsh in his own ears.  He stopped, swallowed, fought the revulsion rising in him. “What is that?” he managed to ask, unable to keep the note of accusation from tingeing his words.

That is Pey,” Mava said blissfully, the sibilant multiplicity of voices making Ivan shudder. 

There was a crackle of undergrowth, and Ivan’s heart leapt wildly.  Whirling to his right, he found himself just steps away from two more pink people, both naked, both taller than him, both male.  They were smiling, their arms extended, palms open toward him.  Their third eyes, just like Mava’s, were both rolling upward unnervingly.  “Ivan,” they said in unison.  Behind him, he heard Mava say it too.  Ivan felt like a trapped animal.  Mava’s hand dropped softly onto his shoulder, sending warmth and reassurance into his body.  He could feel the waves of her intention, perfectly matched by the energy radiating from the two strangers.  You are safe, they were telling him.  

But it was too much.  It was far too much.  Ivan pulled himself out of her grasp, backing away warily until he felt a tree against him.  Mava drifted over to the others and they stood in a bizarre trio, all three gazing at him with the same unmistakable love. “It is alright,” they chorused. “We have been longing to see you.” 

“What is this?” Ivan demanded, angry and strangled.  He fixed his glare on Mava, concentrating his fury on her as if he would crumple the unguarded tenderness she wore on her face. “What are you?”

The three faces adopted identical expressions of vulnerability mixed with hope.  “We are Pey,” they said together, and Ivan suddenly realized the spectral echo of voices was coming from the people below, drifting upward a breath of a second later from the many people who wandered around the sprawling giant fungus, that not just these three but all of them were speaking together, feeling together, moving together.  Overwhelmed, Ivan began to cry. “Mava,” he wept helplessly.  Wearing looks of deep concern, Mava and her companions moved towards him.  

Ivan turned and ran.   

By queenofelves

Writer, artist, and magic-user. Lover of fantasy and romantic poetry. Always exploring!


  1. Beautiful….glad Ivan’s instincts kicked in and he started to listen to them……so easy to get sucked in if you dont


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