Taking Your Inner Artist on the Hero’s Journey : Week 5
When we last left our hero, he had overcome the besetting ways of comparison, thief of joy that it is. He had set out to take up his journey once more, when he came across a mysterious trail of increasingly colorful fungi. Let’s watch.
As Jack followed the trail of fungi further into the forest, his sense of unease grew. Their unpleasant smell was becoming increasingly powerful, their colors brighter and their size more…sizable. He noticed how tangled the woods around him were becoming; this was clearly a more abandoned piece of the forest. He could hear something, too, but it was hard to tell where it was coming from. It was quiet but persistent, steady yet alarming. It was as if something was breathing just on the back of his neck but there was nobody there. It was growing darker the further into the woods he followed this trail, which allowed him to see that these fungi weren’t only colorful, they were also bioluminescent.
He admired their nocturnal beauty even as his unease grew, but he could also see that the more of these fungi there were, the less there was of anything else. The sound of birdsong had faded in the distance where the sunshine was. The only thing growing here was the fungi. The air felt thick and stale in his lungs.
As he walked on, the sound that was just detectable moments before became more audible and he could almost make out words. It was as if a thousand whispers were emerging like mist in his mind. The further he walked into the woods, the more clear they became. They were asking questions.
‘What if this doesn’t work?’
‘What if you try your hardest and you still can’t do it?’
‘What if you got confused, and you stumbled into someone else’s dream?’
‘What if this story is meant for you, but you’re just not enough to see it through?’
Jack’s insides started to hollow out again. It was as if someone was speaking his worries to him. And then for a moment, he couldn’t hear them - because he found where the trail led.
There, standing directly in his path, was a giant mushroom. It, too, was bioluminescent, almost radiant in the darkness. A brightly glowing blue and green that lit up the forest floor. And then it spoke.
“Hello, Jack”, its voice scratched the inside of his mind. “We meet at last.”
“Who are you?”, he asked aloud. “How are you glowing like that?”
“I am the Queen of the Underwood” it responded. “I rule this place, and I will be here for a long time.”
Dumbfounded, Jack could make no response. He’d heard of this thing. “You call yourself queen”, he said, finally. “But who appointed you?”
The mushroom flushed a bright blue, which Jack took for laughter. “Queens such as myself are never appointed. We simply grow, and take over. By the time we are noticed, we are immutable facets of the landscape, as good as a mountain.”
Jack thought of how little else was growing here.
“If you’re ruling this place, why are you poisoning it? It seems an odd way to care for your own kingdom.”
She flushed bright blue again. “Oh Jack”, she said. “You do have such a funny way of thinking about things. I am in charge, you see. I’m here simply to be in power over this place. It’s not for me to care for everything.”
Jack heard chittering in the undergrowth. He noticed similarly neon shapes moving, partially hidden by sticks and dead leaves. He bent to take a closer look. He saw tiny pixies flitting around the base of the mushroom, adding water and damp soil around it.
“You see how they love me, Jack?”, the Queen asked, imperiously. “You see how they want me to stay alive? They ADORE me, Jack.” She flushed a deep red.
Jack had never seen pixies like these before. The pixies back home were relatively harmless, but everyone knew to leave them well alone. They always had a mean streak, for some reason.
“What pixies are these?”, he asked the Queen.
“They live in the Underdark. They’ve been wanting the opportunity to be closer to all that the Sun provides, but, poor things, they simply can’t stand the Sun.”
He heard a hundred tiny voices hissing and looked to see the pixies baring tiny, pointed fangs. He felt uneasy.
“So I took care of that for them”, the Queen cackled, flushing purple. “I grew so tall that I could shade out the Sun and create a home away from home for my beloved subjects.”
He thought he could hear them singing but it wasn’t quite loud enough to understand. He didn’t like the sound of it, though. It sent chills down his spine and brought up the goose pimples on his arms.
Jack began to regret following the trail of fungi. This didn’t seem like a good place.
This Queen of the Underwood had a bit of a malevolent tinge to her, and Jack had a feeling that in a battle of wits, she would be the one to win. He decided to turn back and carry on with his journey.
“Leaving so soon?”, she laughed at his retreating form. “I’ll be waiting!”
That’s right, he thought to himself, hoping she couldn’t hear. She will always be waiting.