Interloper: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Silence
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Solitude is an invaluable precaution, you know. Only people who need what I have to offer ever find me, as is my design. Precautions are necessary for doing good, as throwing oneself into the fray with no plan will always result in more harm than benefit. Alas, one cannot propagate the good without unintended harm.

The forest is quiet outside. To most, this is unnerving enough to keep them far, far away from my humble abode. Something about the human psyche keeps them separated from what is unnatural, and nothing is more unnatural than a quiet forest. Enough superstition here for their safekeeping, especially as the silence grows ever larger.

What few visitors I do get are nearly always planned for and taken care of.


Truth be told, I don't know when I first saw them. Maybe I had seen them out of the corner of my eye before, flitting in and about the stalks of fungus which had overtaken even the roots of the trees surrounding my little slice of the world. Maybe they had been amongst the treetops, untouched by the spores which hung heavy in the air. Maybe they hadn't been present at all. When you spend so long in one place, though, you become attuned to it, and begin to notice even the most minor of disturbances. A change in the winds, a drop in humidity, anything so long as it is perceptible and it is yours. Around then is when I truly laid eyes on them first.

They were a thin figure, quite easy to miss, but I just barely heard their breathing over the silence of the woods. Their eyes were closed, but through the way their chest heaved while they breathed in the miasma of this place, I could tell they were not of the nearby town. Their movements were nearly manic and frenzied, not languid and devoid of life as the townspeople were. Not knowing what to do, I sat, watched, and listened while the mysterious figure continued to breathe, twitching. They, too, stood with their eyes closed, simply breathing. I knew that this would be dangerous for the interloper, as the fungus had already begun to take root in their lungs. At first, I called out only gently, to avoid startling them.

Unfortunately, gentleness is not always recieved in kind.

I find it suprising that someone can run that fast, but I suppose a burst of manic energy would do something similar. I gave pursuit, but before long it was just me and the silent sentinels of the trees. The air was less heavy here. It was an odd feeling, to be out where it was not. It felt almost sickly sweet, dancing on the border between delicious and disgusting. It was cloying in the way a corpse smells from a distance, divorced from the putrid scents of rotting meat, bearing only the inviting allure of sustenance to any of nature's carrion-feeders. Further out laid fresh carrion for the fungus to envelop and strip bare, but it would not happen that day. I would not venture beyond the boundaries of my woods, and I returned home.

I continued to see them, now and again. Always on the periphery of my view, darting amongst the fungus which littered the ground, spires each taller than myself. They would flit between them as if a nervous butterfly, never staying too long in once place for fear of being found. I would pursue them, as it is something which consumes without regard, and must be held in check, but they did not know. How could they know?

If I had to guess, they did it because of relief. Relief is a powerful thing, after all, and to experience a respite (however long) can keep one coming back for more. It takes rose-coloured glasses to ignore the gnawing in your lungs and in your chest, but freedom from your lifelong burden is often an unrivaled analgesic. I wish I could have explained to them that painkillers don't cure.

Each day I saw them, and each day I pursued, and each day they ran off. Each day they got a little bit slower, but still out of reach. Maybe I stopped trying. It's clear some people don't wanted to be helped, and want to make their own way in the world. It's unfortunate that some turn to dangerous methods to keep themselves standing, if only for a little while, but what can one do. Such is the way of it.

It was many years ago I saw them for the last time. They once again stood in the same clearing in which I found them first. I could hardly believe my eyes: what stood before me was more fungus than human, wreathed in a crown or halo of vibrant green. They shook with each breath, and spores hung thick in the air around them. They looked nearly majestic; a fallen angel too damaged on the descent to ever rise again. They turned to look at me, with eyes that could not see, and walked backwards into the darkness.

I do not know why I didn't follow, what force kept me rooted to the earth like the trees that obscured my vision. Perhaps I knew in my heart they were too far gone. It had taken hold in them, far beyond what any would dare harbor, but they managed to exist in spite of it. More than I can say of myself, at least.

When I walk back to my home after investigating any of the myriad of distances which come to me in this place, I kick a cloud of dust, and see where it lands. I watch the cloud of rust and dirt and spores, of dead and dying things, and of things just birthing into this new world. I see it sprawled across the foliage like a map of the stars in the sky, and I imagine where you are now, where it is now, and what you have done.

Oh, what have you done?


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