“Routine falls into habit, habit into life, and each day, humanity falls victim to their idiosyncrasies.” A farmer reads off a wooden, peeling plaque early in the morning. The shimmer of the cherry-blossom summer sun greets him as he does this. His lips lap themselves around the words effortlessly like a flutist around a reed. Unlike the flutist however, the farmer’s musical instrument does not require anything more than his anatomy; for he is producing vocabulary symphonies. Random letters form words, words mold into sounds, and sounds soon become music. In the early morning, with the glimmer of the sun over the horizon, one would think that the farmer had an orchestra around him. Perhaps when the phrase escaped the dark pit of his vocal cords, there was indeed an orchestra playing with his voice. Maybe. At least his silhouette gave off the illusion that he was cradling a violin.
Sadly, no soul was there to sift through what was illusion and what reality. Instead, the farmer lets his voice echo amongst the poorly painted walls so that they too may enjoy the pleasantries of a symphony in the morning. It may have not been Beethoven, but Beethoven was only a man, and so was the farmer. They at least shared that in common. Who knows then, maybe the farmer was producing Beethoven. No one was around to clap if he was anyways.
Each morning, as his eyes danced around the plaque, and as the walls wished that they could dance to the sound of his voice, he begins his ritual. His head tilts, his hands clench, and he stares into the depth of the endless sky. He is determining the weather for the day. Although some may consider such a method rudimentary and prone to failure, unlike most human beings, the farmer trusts his eyes. To him, simplicity is the most trusted complexity. For what is the complex but simple steps that have been built upon?
In a bucolic life where the line between humanity and nature melts away like ice during summer, simplicity is the ritual. Life plays itself in skipping stones. Every morning, a little life. Every dinner, a little satisfied. Every sleep, a little death. So the days roll on carelessly, save for the harvest. It is beyond complex; filled with great intricacies that require the utmost care. One of these is a constant checking up on the weather for under its reign, the idyllic life balances. The farmer is one of these individuals who tiptoes on the weather’s tightrope. Some days, he falls. Others, he wobbles his way step by step by step. But by checking the weather in the morning, he is giving himself a fighting chance in the world and more importantly, in the harvest. To him, the sky is a palm of God, and he is its palm reader. Fortune favours foresight, he always said when he was discouraged with his daily tasks.
After years spent watching the gods comb the heavens, he understands their ways. Billowing, square clouds suggest a forthcoming, unrelenting storm. Wispy, thin clouds foreshadow a looming dry season. And so on. Every inch of the blue sea above him was predictable, down to the last evaporated water molecule.
Today, however, he saw a cloud formation the likes of which he had never before. He heard it first. A loud crack, almost like lightning, had swelled in his ears. The shear echo of the sound waves alone shook his wooden, dilapidated home, and so he was forced outside. A quick gust of wind welcomed him as his feet awkwardly skipped on the wooden porch. Warmth sizzled underneath his toes. Rays of sunlight beat down on his messy hair. He could still hear, even after the aftermath of the crushing sound, his voice echoing somewhere in the wind.
While tuning into the familiarity, and feeling his feet beginning to tap to the melody innate in his voice, he saw it. A billowing tower of smoke draped in the sky. It was nestled in between the quotidian blueness of atmosphere and the indifferent sun that was illuminating it. But even though it was beside such common sights, the cloud did not fit in. This is because it was in the shape of the mushroom, and mushrooms weren’t supposed to grow from the soil of the sky.
Orange coloured its sides while gray coated the rest of the cloud. It flickered in this colouring, and the farmer was reminded of a goldfish flapping around in a fire, slowly turning gray under the heat. The cloud was a consistent shade of the orange and gray colour except for the very middle where there was complete blackness. Even the word blackness fails to describe what he saw. Or, he thought, it doesn’t. The colour, if he can call it that, may have been so black that he actually couldn’t see it, and thus was gazing into nothing. Imagine that. Nothing. It’s hard to imagine because nothing is still something. So he instead thought that at the very center of the mysterious cloud, there was the first evidence that some places were left unfinished at the time of creation. God must have forgotten about that cloud at the beginning of time. Even a God cannot plan everything, he knew. There are things people have to plan for themselves too.
But still, he attempted to peer inside the darkness. He was awestruck. As his eyes strained their visual limitations, he felt a pain in his heart. It was as if life was being vacuumed right out of him from the inside out. To make matters worse, darkness, it seemed, had took over of the only organ he knew that could provide light. His heart. The once friendly beat was lost somewhere, and he was left jittering and shaking with frost building up the walls of his veins. No longer could he hear his voice. No longer was the sun smiling on him. His shadow was lost sometime in between.
Yet he continued to stress his eyes, starring at a weather pattern he didn’t quite understand. Confusion wouldn’t explain what was racing through his mind. For some reason, the only explanation he could reckon was that some little boy had had an immense tantrum, decided to paint the clouds in a fiery emulsion as vengeance to the world, and to put the cherry on the proverbial cake, grew a mushroom to spout from the sky the farmer had once known.
Funny thing about that is that mushrooms aren’t meant to spout or even grow for that matter. They are the carrion feeders of the plant Kingdom, feeding off the dead of this world. If there isn’t death, there aren’t mushrooms. Maybe, the farmer thought, there was something dying wherever the cloud was looming from. That’d explain why he felt the way he did. Dead. His feelings were consuming the sky and a mushroom was growing in whatever was left.
Maybe, but he was very much alive. Death, he was told once, brings life. But it was hard to believe that idea in the face of the unknown. His life was around him: the crops, his home, the Earth. They had not died. They were thriving. He was. Where would he fit now with a sky he thought he could master, a melodious voice with no one to sing to, and a heartbeat that was a faint echo in a labyrinth of empty veins and arteries? Nowhere, his musical voice chimed to himself. A bird called in the distance.
With that, he let his emotions slip and decided to focus on the weather for the day. That is what was important. Ritual. His life depended on it. So he, like every other day before, tilted his head, clenched his hands, and looked up at the sky. Even in the face of the unknown, a man can take comfort in habit.
While he was attempting to figure out what the mushroom meant for the weather, a large flash of whiteness showered his body. He could not see. He was afraid to move. Blindness was supposed to be black, he thought. No, no. That was the Black Death. So his cerebral musings roamed. It seemed he couldn’t think straight either. Yet, in his moment of confusion, he was paradoxically lucid for he realized that most of humanity cannot think straight anyways. In a scenario they don’t understand, in the whiteness around them, in a fate they try to trapeze through like a balancing act, humanity muddles everything in thought. Their confusion spawns confusion. Their stupidity spawns stupidity. They can never just be. They think. They exist. They try to decipher the world.
Then, they die.
Some days later, mushrooms bloom.