An ethereal omniscience

By Rory McAlpine

“Can you not see it,” she asked, her eyes are so close I can pick out every flickering detail. The subtle contraction of her pupils like beating hearts, the shifting light and shade in the irises like sun dappling the gloomy organs of a rainforest. She answers herself, “I can see it”.

She pokes my face; her nails are sharp. “Have some,” she unfurls her fingers and nestled in her palm is a limp mushroom. “I took it from the Coven, they left the greenhouse open.” I felt as if hundreds of eyes had just settled on us. Who knew if the witches were watching us as their precious fungus wilted between us? The very thought made me want to run, but as my mind tugged my body remained as if the puppeteers string had been cut and they were pulling on strands of thin air.

Who knew if the witches were watching us as their precious fungus wilted between us?

“It’s everything”, she murmured. Her voice had taken on a strange quality, as if her words had turned to honey, slowly and thickly filling the air around us, irresistibly sweet. Of course, I was curious. The mushrooms were
harvested by the Elders on their annual expeditions south. They returned from these visits with just these mushrooms, which they hurriedly but gently place into the greenhouse ponds.

Before long the murky ponds with their coils of steam were covered with bobbing mushrooms, marinating in the oppressive heat of the greenhouse. No one ever asked about the mushrooms, and no one was ever told. Simply because some things you could sense not to ask. Yet curiosity left unfed takes root like madness in the brain, filtering your every thought and redirecting your imagination until the unknown becomes known.

Yet curiosity left unfed takes root like madness in the brain

“Give me some,” I whispered, I had lost control of my tongue. She placed the mushroom under my noise and squeezed the head. The spores ascended quickly in swirl of amber flecks, like sparks freed from a disturbed fire. I inhaled in one long breath, almost involuntarily, as the spores appeared to seek out my nose and, like the tail of a comet, disappear upwards.

When I move my head the world smears, as the colours bleed into one another, and swirl into patterns, as though I’m painting with my eyes. Then after a few seconds everything falls back into place. Well, not really. It all looks so strange. So different. I feel light, lighter than usual, but I look down and my body is still there. But is it my body? I move, the hand moves, the leg moves, but did I do that? I try to steady myself, but the colour seems to be mixing again, losing all definition, gradually everything begins bleeding into everything else. I stumble slightly, well the body stumbles but I don’t feel it. I feel like a balloon, weightless and heading to the sky, held to the earth by a single strand.

I feel like a balloon, weightless and heading to the sky, held to earth by a single strand

The bookcases in front of me are bending and folding like belly dancers. She is beside me again, asking “can you see it”. It? I’m not sure. But I can see the words coming out her mouth. I couldn’t see words before, I’m
pretty sure. What, can I see what? I frantically ask myself. I look at the wallpaper; I’ve never noticed it before.
Hundreds of intertwining roses crossing each other and blooming all the way to the ceiling They’re moving. The roses petals are folding back up into tightly held buds. I blink and the flowers begin curling back into buds, in a process of anti- bloom. The antithesis of growth.

“Look”, she cradles my chin and pushes my head to the ceiling. I’m worried my eyeballs might roll back into my head like potted snooker balls, but they just spin like a freestanding world globe. Now I’m looking at the ceiling. Except there is no ceiling. Rather, the room is open to the sky, but no sky I have seen before. Imagine Van Gogh’s starry night, then you might have some idea of what I see.

The only way I can think to describe it is like a velvet sheet of the universe’s inky blue sky, embellished with trails of comets like spiderwebs, twinkling stars and spinning planets, clouds of emerald sparkles, and flashes of light that retract and bloom again and again. It was as if someone had condensed all the wonder and awe of the universe on a single canvas. An ethereal omniscience, as though I possess the mind of a God.

“What is it?”, I asked. She whispered in response, “everything”.

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