“Aren’t you lonely?” The Chorus asked. Blood or something else pounded in his head.
“That’s what it said on the stupid tracts in the men’s room.” A wave of nausea hit. He tasted bile. The truffles from earlier were disagreeing with him. Debating. Debasing. De basement. What was that music? Something pounding. Rumbling.
“Did you eat them?”
“Did you read them?”
“Oh. Hah! Yeah but they didn’t-” He gulped. “Whew. Feel sick. Head hurts. I hear moaning. Singing? What is that?”
“You don’t have to be alone. You don’t have to hide. Come to Mother.”
“Mother…Hubbard? Hah! Who’s that? Who’s crying? Who is this?
“The Mother beckons you.”
“Okay. Whew. Those ‘shrooms were good, but they upset my-” He winced. “My foot’s asleep…leg hurts…why do my legs hurt?”
“Because you are struggling with your isolation. Relax. Let us welcome you.”
“No, I stepped on something…a…devil’s snuffbox. It popped open and dust or something came out.”
His feet were astonishingly bare, covered in tannish-brown dust (or something) with tiny bumps like the sprinkles on those flat chocolates no one ever bought at the movies. The droning became pounding, moaning, wailing. The light was too sharp. The air was too bright. Who’d he do those ‘shrooms with? Why were they in the men’s room? And where?
“When you are welcomed into The Chorus there will be no isolation. Let go. Let it happen. We welcome you.”
His mouth was dry in spite of all that kombucha tea he’d drunk with… whoever. Remembering who was like trying to talk to someone in a dream. They changed into other people when you looked away. The tea was weird but it at least it was cold. Now the ground was cold, weird and rough under his hands. Rough, grey, hard, gritty. The pounding wouldn’t stop. A vast swooshing sound bore down on him like the sky was trying to iron the wrinkles out of him. So loud.
“Are you roofies? Am I drugged? Where the hell am I? Why can’t I move?”
“You are moving…to a new level of consciousness.”
“Moving on up!” He tittered. “Oh, no. I sound crazy.” He held his hands to his face as if they had answers on their palms. Instead, they had beige spots and a dusting of whitish powder.
A pall of smoke washed over him. He thought he saw dozens of hurrying legs within it. He heard a rhythmic wailing. Car alarms? Sirens. The whoosh pushed him down again, his face ground into the rough… pavement. He was in the road. He watched ants scurrying across the bumps in the asphalt. They were carrying stringy white somethings on their heads. They processed in a long spiral that wound inward until they disappeared down a crack in the sidewalk. Squinting through the haze he saw crowds of people, many running, making a horrible racket, but some walking along, seemingly unperturbed.
“Something. Not right. Can’t walk. Can’t open mouth.”
“There is no need for those things. We hear you. We know you. You are exactly where you need to be.”
He realized he’d been picking absentmindedly at something in his eye. Focusing his vision down at his own cheek, he could see a whitish filament sticking up in front of it. He gave it a tug. It didn’t take much to pull loose. It didn’t hurt like a hair or eyelash would have. He examined it between his finger and thumb. It had a tiny dark pinhead of some kind on one end. It wasn’t a hair, but something fibrous. Suddenly it curled like a fern frond. He grunted in shock, dropping it.
An acrid breeze dispersed the smoke. The feet hurried by in their shoes and boots and sandals, the legs, the pants and skirts, the arms carrying purses, canes and shopping bags. A brown dog flailed in the street nearby, covered in those fibers. It labored, thrashing like it couldn’t get to its feet, either. The droning-moaning resumed.
“Where are the phones? All these people. Walking.”
“No one needs a phone once they are welcomed. Let us welcome you.”
The ground shook – a huge rumbling blast like in the movies. A wave of hot atmosphere blew over his sprawling form. He strained to focus on the distance, saw flames, little ants crawling down the sides of the buildings. Falling, not crawling. His eyes wouldn’t stay trained on anything that distant. He looked back at the dog. The throng walking around went about their business. He realized he was naked.
“The Mother Truffle lives in the earth and the water and the air. Now she lives in the meat. The meat is welcome. The meat will never be alone. The meat will not go to waste.”
“No…you. You are not. You’re not a church. Those tracts in the – NO! I won’t…we won’t let you…”
“The Chorus welcomes all meat. The meat will sing as one. Never alone. The Mother Truffle permeates.”
“Screw your ‘Mother’! No! I won’t! I’ll. I will get up…I’m going to open my mouth. Right now. And yell. Right now. Show you. Going to yell.”
He shook with terrible effort as he raised his head, pushing his body up to rest on one hip. His trailing legs were numb, useless. He took in the deepest breath he could manage but it didn’t feel that deep. He forced his jaw to move, splitting his fused lips open with a moist squelch like stepping on a rotten peach. With all the breath he could muster he squawked drily, “Stop…You.” He fell back, exhausted.
If the dirt of the field, the fallen leaves of the trees, the moss-covered stones, the fairy circles in the woods, the worms in ground and grave, and every creeping, crawling thing possessed one united voice — that voice was in his head, and it laughed now.
“Look at yourself. Look at where you are. Do you see something you can stop?”
He looked down at his trembling arms, covered in little round fruiting bodies of white, beige, and brown.
“We are part of the soil, the water and air. We have always been part of you. You have eaten us and made us part of your Corpus. We now make you part of our Chorus.”
“N-I will fight you…We- people, will fight you.” He strained to use words. “You can’t. Have us.”
The rush of walking, running legs suddenly ceased as every living being that he could see stopped as if on cue. Deliberately, all heads turned toward him, gazing with impassive, implacable eyes. The sudden hush made distant sounds emerge. Screams. Gunshots. Cars accelerating, crashing. Alarms. The elevated train screeched to a halt where no station stood.
A guttering, baritone vocalization from behind him set his hair on end. He turned to see it was coming from the stricken dog. The howl crescendoed, leaping an octave as it mutated into a gargling caterwaul like a sad, strangled goose.
The dog, now covered in a forest of wispy dew-covered tendrils, began to thrash, its eyes askew, shocking white as foam slopped from its mouth. The caterwaul turned into a ragged, resonating shriek. A bulge the size of a medicine ball swelled up from its abdomen – livid, moist, and taut. The dog’s thrashing slowed to an enfeebled pantomime. From the unmoving throng, a woman in grey slacks stepped off the curb, directly onto the dog’s ballooning belly. Her strap-sandaled foot plunged straight through. The pressure rushed out with a sharp, powdery pop! A billow of white bloomed out like someone sneezing into the flour. The dog’s body shriveled with a dry crackle, then lay silent and still. The ivory dust gathered into a swirl on the breeze, wafting down the street, a ghost late for an appointment.
The swoosh returned. He craned his neck to follow as it roared overhead. A slim, dark triangle spun like a cast-off leaf before clipping the corner of a skyscraper, bursting apart into a blossom of flame. The conflagration ejected smoking metal chunks onto the pavement below.
“Can’t have you? How is it that you think we’ve been talking this whole time?”
Another careening sliver soon followed– this one trailing a white line of smoke as it arced past the buildings toward the river in a way that he could tell it shouldn’t. It came down with a tremendous WHUMP! and a plume of spray. Both were quickly swallowed by the cold, dirty water.
He turned his head back, his eyes imploring the tableau on the sidewalk. Every being spoke simultaneously, including himself, his bloody jaw working robotically, a strangled voice croaking helplessly along with them.
“We’ve already eaten each other.”
The Meat’s field of vision filled with the curling fibers from under its eyelids. It took in a sharp, ragged breath. Its shoulders shrugged then fell, wracked with useless sobs. A mournful gargling filled its ears but its head was filled with the harmony of The Chorus. All chanted together in fellowship.