To 2015 - 2016

By Allison Rothrock

  1. Kaleidoshroom
    By Sherry Luo, 12
A fat beetle slid along my curtain, silhouetted against its whiteness.
It sunk down, into the wrinkles and folds of fabric. It was slow, full of winter. How strange and alone it looked, so small against the still whitish.
I tapped it lightly into my hand. The creature was some uncommon definition of beautiful: it had a dark pinpoint head and darker legs like lines of ink and a light back delicately carved with thin russet fractals, little veins. Veins like the stripes of obsidian and feldspar that radiated out from the mountains. And the spider-weaving of the fragile leaf-skeletons that happened after winter had licked the trees clean--tiny perfect fossils.
It was a beetle, hardly a month old and already full, finished. I was threadily jealous. It was young, but old and pure, complete--metamorphosed on the whim of nature.  Until we were flushed out; by doom, fear, loss. But he was adult, but unsoiled, untarnished--he was made whole not like humans, not by carving away scars but by simply being.
You don’t need pain. I thought he was a conceptual perfection.
In my head, I laughed a pleasing laugh that I couldn’t quite make out loud and decided that I was neurotic.
I gently caressed it into the open mouth of my pitcher plant.
The little lid on top of the pitcher slowly closed, leaving only the tiniest of slivers between its lips. The body of its pitcher felt exactly like a fat stomach as I tipped it towards me, just enough to see inside. He was writhing, kicking and terrified and stupid in the water. Flailing, he sent up teeny splashes with limp, ruined wings. Then thrashing turned to wriggling and wriggling turned to twitching and twitching turned to stillness in the water.  
As I let the fat-happy pitcher swing back into its place, something at its root caught my eye.
In the shade of one of its little leaves was a new mushroom, so thin and small its stalk and cap were still one blobby melding. It would’ve looked just like a loose root if there hadn’t been the tiniest little place at the top—it was not quite a cavity yet, but still it was there, a sort of flatness like a breath in a sentence.
“What are you doing in my plant?” I inquired coolly, looking down at the half-formed cap.
It was still.
I couldn’t imagine a less responsive creature. It didn’t shiver or flutter or even lie there in wise resolute like a plant; instead it did nothing but lay in the soil and be that shade of white-grey, the same color I had seen before in pictures of pickled little things in jars. Salamanders, fetuses, fish, spiders, and all sorts of other tiny, scaly things—turned sallow in a vacuum of chemicals.
A cold, slow uneasiness crept up from my stomach. I decided that the mushroom needed to leave.  
I slipped downstairs, into the buzzing darkness of the kitchen, almost-quiet, save for the occasional mutter of the freezer. The bluish lights of the refrigerator hung suspended in night like misplaced stars.
I found the lighter, in the drawer that had measuring cups and clicked it. Nothing. I tried it again and again, but the tip remained empty and dark.
The lighter. The lighter was out.
I shuffled through a few more drawers until I found a box of matches. Contented, I retreated to my room to deal with the imposter.
I knew nothing about lighting matches, aside from what the television said. As it turns out, the television was quite a bit wrong, not for the first time. It was a bit more like drawing with a charcoal pencil, in a thick stroke. But drawing flame instead of grey abstract.
I dropped the match.

For a moment, the fire hung in equilibrium with the mushroom, the flame’s silent light against the dampness of its ashen skin. Then the fire caught and the mushroom doubled over and its pickled flesh seized up with dark wrinkles, the misshapen dead-baby finger receding into blackness.​