An Affliction of Blight

”It’s a decent campsite and I’m tired of walking anyway.”

”Yeah, this will have to do.” We had walked most of the day looking for an escape from work for the weekend. “Weird how it’s so foggy all of a sudden.”

”Who knows man? Maybe that’s why I see all these mushrooms everywhere.”

I had seen them too but where else would you find mushrooms other than a forest? There did seem to be a lot of them though.

”It’s funny,” I said. “The last time I was out here I found this diary or journal or whatever and the guy mentioned mushrooms.”

”Really? What else did it say?”

”I don’t know. It seemed old because the language is a little funny like old timey. I didn’t really read it, I just threw it in my pack. It’s actually still in there,” I said sheepishly, knowing I should do a better job of cleaning my pack.

”It was odd because there was this notebook on the ground and a bunch of old clothes with mushrooms growing everywhere around the clothes, even inside the shirt and pants like someone planted them inside there as some kind of art or something.”

”Well once we get this fire cranked up, you can break that journal out and tell me all about it. We won’t have much else to do anyway.”

”Sounds good. This fog is getting so thick, it’s hard to see much and a fire should help.”

Once we got a good fire going, it did seem to burn away the fog so I took out the notebook I found and said “Let’s see what we have.”

I started to read.

“A heavy fog lay upon the dawn as I took my first steps into the morning air. I was not accustomed to taking my morning stroll so early but a restless sleep forced an early rise. Looking back, I realized that it was no ordinary mist that hung in the air but at the time I was new to that atmosphere in time and place so took it to be standard procedure. A short path led from the cottage into some light woods with a pleasant stream whereupon I occasioned to breakfast from time to time. I planned to be back long before early morning hunger pangs set in however so thought nothing more of taking provisions than I would a trip down the front lane.

As I approached the wood there seemed to be a dull pallor upon them that I had not noticed before but being a man of some scientific study, I attributed this to a queer play of light through the haze. As I moved closer, I noticed a strange smooth bark had overtaken the trunks of the closest trees. Rather, it appeared not to be bark at all but almost a soft skin, quite dirty but obviously light in coloring. Knowing that certain Beech or varieties of Elm exhibited such bark, I was not surprised in the least and would have thought no more upon the subject save that on leaning upon the nearest trunk, there was a firm but spongy give to the texture. I was slightly alarmed at this discovery but had no idea to which cause I might attribute it. I peered into the fog above but could not see more than a few meters. I could not tell if there was blight upon the leaves or any disfigurement in the crown of the tree to affirm my suspicion of a sickness in the old forest.

This was in my mind a minor calamity however and provided nothing about which to be distressed. I had never studied these woods in depth so had no prior knowledge with which to base my theory of disease. Promising to myself to keep a closer eye on my surroundings in the immediate future, I planned to continue my stroll. There were minor health problems keeping me from performing my normal duties at the university where I currently enjoyed employment. The health staff had advised I take a walk every day soon after waking to help with circulation and a late shortness of breath. Furthermore, no blight in known history has ever affected the physiology of man so I had nothing to fear.

The air brightened somewhat as the day wore on, though the fog continued as thick and troublesome as ever. There was no danger; I could see well for a few strides in any direction, and the path was clearly marked but my frustration only increased as I found I could not leave the path for any distance to peruse the many rock outcroppings or mysterious plants in the distant haze. And there appeared to be no slackening of mysterious conditions upon the trees which were close at hand. No living trunks bore any resemblance to the few dead and weathered ones lying upon the ground and even these were hard enough to visualize as a blanket of mushroom-like fungus appeared to be covering every withered or decaying plant that had the misfortune to perish of late. This fact was not too alarming as this practice is common in any great plant habitat but the breadth and extent that was conveyed here tended to overwhelm the senses. Certain meadows were chanced upon, only to discover that the blanket-fungus extended too far into the whitish mist to see its end.

I began to be troubled by this fact as I moved deeper into the wood. The trees never became “normal” as I had hoped they would and the mushroom family appeared to have taken over everything in sight. I determined at once to turn back and head for home. I began to quickly make my way over ground that I admit I had not paid much attention to before. Was the ground this covered in toadstools upon my entrance? The fungal spores appeared to be everywhere and though I couldn’t be sure, some of the former mentioned blanket-fungus seemed to have moved, or at least to have died out in one location only to have sprouted up quickly in another. Could it be that here was a new species of mass plant life heretofore undiscovered in the world of science? Though my studied mind’s curiosity was piqued, I knew that there were things amiss in these woods and that the best practice in such situations was to leave entirely and come back under a new light, on a different day, and after much rest. Yes, rest is what I felt I needed now more than anything. The heat of the day and the stifling heaviness lying upon the air was wearing on me more than I had noticed. But I must trudge on, must make it back to the warmth of my own bed.

I walked for perhaps several more hours and was growing increasingly hungry. I knew I was on the correct path for though the tree trunks still appeared to be covered in a uniform spongy, milky white blight, the ground was clear here and I remembered certain parts of this path from previous walks. It couldn’t be far now I thought and yet I was so very tired. The intensity of the fog seemed to have increased until I felt as if I was veritably swimming through the air as I walked. But then a clearing ahead told me that I was close to home. I noticed something was not quite right however as I saw no greenery through the opening, only more of the wretched mushrooms and blanket-fungus covering all. I began to worry and started off at a run only to realize that upon clearing the forest, the haze which heretofore was truly a blessing in disguise, had lifted. I gazed in wonder and horror at all that surrounded me: the familiar blanket-fungus covered everything to my eye’s horizon. There was no house; merely an ugly, squat toadstool of roughly equivalent size and proportion, whose stem was as fat as the crown. I slowly turned and glanced upwards only to find that the trees I had been traversing through were not trees at all and the smooth fungal caps adorning each confirmed what I had quickly surmised.

I now know of nothing else to do save rest, which I so desperately need and so as I write these last few lines: To whomever finds this, please note that a man once lived here.”