A Place in the Forest, Part XI

“I think I knew,” Ivan said slowly. “Back then I mean.  I knew but I didn’t want to know.”

“When we showed you Pey,” Mava replied knowingly, then added with a hint of reproach, “You didn’t like it.”

The two of them were sitting a little way downstream from the clearing, beyond the fern grove, where the edge of the brook became sandy and the waterfall’s gentle roar was softened by distance.  They both had their feet in the water, unconsciously close to each other, the sides of their bodies connected.

“It was too strange,” Ivan said by way of explanation, his eyes searching the trees on the far side of the brook as if to recall the experience by finding it outlined there. 

“Humans often fear what is new,” Mava offered almost apologetically. “But we had hoped…because of the time we had spent together…that you would accept our reality.”

Ivan glanced sideways at Mava.  The masculine face that returned his gaze was nothing like the Mava he was familiar with.  Remembering her, he felt his stomach lurch suddenly in that dizzying way.  This being was not her, and yet…

And yet, in the eyes that stared into his own, he found her.  Unmistakeable, undeniable.  As he let the feeling, the knowing, sweep over him, Mava’s three pupils dilated in tandem, pulling him in even more deeply.  He had been here before.

“But you’re not–her,” Ivan protested, as if he was responding to something spoken.  With a wrench, he turned away and focused on the glassy ripples of the water moving past them.  He gasped slightly as the connection was broken. “I mean, I understand–I think.  That somehow you are one.  That you’re all one.  But you’re different from her.  You don’t act like her.  You don’t talk like her.”

Mava smiled.  Ivan didn’t have to be looking at him to know that.  Mava’s smiles could be felt. “I think what you’re describing is the human concept of personality,” Mava said, clearly delighted. “When we stay close to where we are fruiting, we don’t discern differences in our bodies.  All thoughts are had as one, all senses, desires, movements, are experienced as a whole.  Then we are Pey.  But when we send one of our bodies farther away, then it becomes Mava.  Something more like a singularity, an individual.  Our different bodies then express different things, different facets of the whole being.”  Mava paused and pondered the side of Ivan’s face, trying to gauge how he was taking this information. “It’s an illusion,” he went on gently. “There is no separateness, not really.”  He placed a hand softly on Ivan’s forearm. “Not even for you.”

“Fruiting,” Ivan repeated quietly.  There was a tense silence that seemed to go on for a long time.  Ivan felt the resistance rising in his chest: a rejection of what he was learning.  It felt almost identical to anger.  Humans often fear what is new.  He took a deep breath, felt Mava’s hand on his arm, remembered her face.  For a moment he felt her there beside him: the same hopeful trust, the same openness–the same love.  Strengthened, Ivan managed to continue in a steady voice. “You mean that thing you showed me.  The mushroom thing.  That’s you?”

He tried hard to keep the disgust out of his voice, but he could feel Mava sensing it.  The fuschia-skinned hand began to withdraw from his arm.  Ivan seized it, held it.  He turned to Mava with tears in his eyes again. “I’m trying to understand,” he said. “I don’t hate you.”

“No Ivan,” Mava replied calmly. “You love me.”

Ivan could not hold the three-eyed stare for longer than a moment this time.  Abruptly he stood up and waded farther into the water, running his hands through his dark curls and feeling the urge to scream. “Can’t she come back?” he asked suddenly, with a note of pleading. “If you’re her, and she’s you, and you’re all that–that–thing–then what difference does it make?”

He could feel Mava studying him.  He felt more naked now with those eyes fixated on his back than he had the first time they swam together.

“It makes no difference to me,” Mava said levelly. “What difference does it make to you?”

Ivan turned to face his friend, feeling truly angry now. “I think you know,” he retorted.

“I think I do,” Mava agreed, standing up and facing him squarely.  Ivan realized suddenly that this version of Mava was bigger than he was–taller and heavier.  He resisted the urge to take a step back and instead lifted his chin slightly. “I am not a human, Ivan,” Mava said, his voice deeper and more serious than before.  His physical body seemed to grow slightly as he spoke, becoming even taller and more formidable.  A cloud passed in front of the sun, shrouding the scene in sudden gloom even as Mava’s skin became more radiant, almost dazzling.  “The female form you have grown attached to is also not human.  We are forms; expressions; tendrils; dreams of the Mushroom God.  We reproduce by dividing ourselves into more bodies, more dreams.  Do not delude yourself with your human urge to possess, to procreate.  The forest is our habitat; our bodies will not survive beyond it.”

Ivan felt that the rage in him must be flaring as brightly as Mava’s flesh.  The inability to hide his thoughts and emotions had never infuriated him so completely before.  He was stripped, exposed, helpless before this being that was Mava and not-Mava.  “I didn’t ask to love you!” he shouted.  A sharp wind began to whip the air around the two of them and the darkening sky took on the greenish tint of an impending thunderstorm, clouds gathering thickly.

“Liar,” Mava said.

Stunned, Ivan watched the wind lift Mava’s silvery hair, sweeping it almost directly up into a swirling column as if a tornado had formed tightly around him.  He had never seen Mava become angry like this.  

“From the moment you saw me, you wanted nothing more than to love me,” Mava said with the same deep wrath, mercilessly disconnecting Ivan from any semblance of self-protection. “You want it still, and now you blame me for your own refusal to do so.  You deny yourself the thing that you want, and seek to punish the world for it.”

Ivan stared, open-mouthed, defenseless.    

“We will send you the body you want,” Mava told him, and a crash of thunder tore the air above them.  A deluge of rain began, cold, hard drops that poured down in sheets and took Ivan’s breath away.  He could barely see Mava’s body now, as the water filled his eyes and ran into his mouth, but he could hear the voice, this terrible new voice that seemed to be Mava finally revealing itself, as if it was tired of coddling him, tired of pretending to be other than what it was.

A god.

Ivan realized he was on his hands and knees in the water, head bowed beneath the weight of the rain pummeling him.  Would he be pushed into the brook and drowned by Mava’s wrath?  His shoulders strained with the effort of holding himself.  Breathing was torturous, the rain filling his nose and mouth; would he drown in this rain?  Mava’s voice seemed to have become the thunder itself, smashing around him almost like physical blows.

We will send you the body you want.  But do not do what you are planning to do. 

With a final deafening crack of thunder, Mava was gone.  Abruptly the rain ceased, leaving Ivan gasping and trembling, his palms pressed against the smooth pebbles of the riverbed, fingers digging down into the mud.  For a long time he was able to do no more than remain where he was and regain his breath.  Gradually, the last of the storm clouds rolled away and the sun returned brilliantly, lying like a supportive touch on the back of his body, beginning to melt away some of the shock.

Revealing his fury.  

By queenofelves

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


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