Saturday, February 19, 2022
You’ve reached The Armadillo Files. Stand by for a wild and crazy ride.
When mentioning my weird imagination, more than a few people have asked me if I was doing drugs, specifically the psychedelic kind. After this chapter you might ask the same question. The answer is “No.” Although lately I’ve been intrigued by the healthful properties and nutritional aspects of some of those fabulous fungi. Since I’m not on medication, I sometimes look for natural things to help with my PTSD anxiety issues. Lion’s mane mushrooms sounded promising, but I haven’t noticed any results. However, they’re super-cool looking, and that got into this chapter.
Photographer Tim Price at Off Center & Not Even let me use some of his beautiful mushroom and fungi photos for a serial in the past, and I’m featuring them today.
Random Reader Things
Today’s random reader things are from GP Cox at Pacific Paratrooper. Months ago when I was preparing to start this serial, I asked GP to give me some kickoff sets of things. One of the first items he mentioned was cave (episode 1). In a roundabout way, that cave led me to the Calutron Girls and Oak Ridge, TN. Now we’re getting back to the cave, so it’s fitting that another set of things from GP fueled this chapter: stopwatch, hurricane lamp, and sledgehammer.
Previously in The Armadillo Files
Somebody somewhere messed around with history. Fang started fading in and out of existence. Going back in time to 1877, Dilly and Fang met another operative, Henry Apesly. They figured out that a bad case of love at first sight caused Henry to change the timeline, and Fang’s ancestor died instead of Henry’s beloved. The trio set out for Sweetwater, Tennessee and the Lost Sea, in search of the Time Manatees. Can they set things straight? You can find all the past chapters by going to the categories on the right side of the screen. Click on Armadillo Files.
23 — Shall we go looking for mushrooms?
Hearing yummy sounds behind me, I turned to see Fang on hands and knees. He moved around some leaves and was about to pick some pretty mushrooms.
“Leave those alone, Fang. They’re toadstools, not mushrooms. They’re poison,” I warned him.
A sick look went across his face. He got up and dusted bits of leaves from his blue jeans.
Silhouetted by sunlight from the cave’s opening, Henry rummaged for something. Fang asked what he was doing, and Henry muttered about matches.
“Do you mean to tell me that you have contraband books, but you don’t have a flashlight?” Fang snarked.
“Ah!” Henry exclaimed as he produced a hurricane lamp. “Now, where are the matches?”
In a moment, light bloomed from the lamp. Apesly touched a spot on the cave wall, and the slab of rock rumbled to conceal the opening.
I shivered, thinking about being closed up in that cave.
“It’s okay, Dilly. I’ve been here before. Although it was in a different when,” Fang tried to reassure me. “Try to relax. We have to get our heads in the right place if we’re going to see the manatees.”
“Fang, I’m a botanist not a biologist, but I’m from Florida. I know that manatees have to live in the water,” I reminded him. “Sorry. I don’t mean to be snippy. I know you aren’t well. This place is making me really uncomfortable.”
“Oh, there’s plenty of water. You’ll see,” Henry said with a chuckle as he led us on a downward sloping path. “Hey Pinky, have you seen Thor’s hammer yet? You weren’t looking, were you?” he added on an annoyed sigh. “It’s okay. Just hang in there.”
“You aren’t the only one with contraband,” Fang muttered as he searched his pockets.
Fang brought out a penlight. He pointed the light, so show all the cave walls. Muttering about having gone too far, he backtracked a few paces. However, he shrugged and rejoined us.
We continued behind Henry. After a moment, Fang pointed the light and exclaimed. I examined a drawing on the cave wall. It was a petroglyph of a sledgehammer.
“There’s Thor’s hammer. It’s pointing to the left,” Fang remarked and Henry grunted.
They both felt up and down the wall. Fang mumbled about “found it,” and grabbed a stalagmite. Although, based on his groans, finding whatever it was didn’t do the trick. Fang was the taller of the two. I didn’t think Henry could reach it. Although I didn’t take into account, Henry’s oddly long arms. He stretched and together they managed to push a stalagmite to one side.
Once again, a slab of stone moved, but this time it shifted and turned. It reminded me of the turning bookcase in a horror movie. Henry and Fang disappeared.
They had both lights with them! I suppressed a scream, left alone in the total darkness of the cave. A second later the rock made a half turn. Fang stuck his head out and grinned.
“Don’t just stand there, Dilly. Come on,” he told me as if I had dawdled.
I didn’t see what Henry did, but suddenly light shone from every nook and cranny. The lights were small and gentle, but there were so many that it was easy to see.
Stepping into the hidden chamber, I gasped. A vast underground lake stretched before me. A trout jumped into the air and splashed back into the lake. The sound echoed. Henry muttered about dinner and smacked his lips.
Apesly took a stopwatch from his trouser pocket. He pressed the buttons and the clock started ticking. It seemed loud in the silence. He looked gravely at Fang and me.
“We only have a few hours to summon the Time Manatees. Otherwise, they’ll assume that we’re indigenous lifeforms who have stumbled into this place accidentally,” he stated.
I turned to Fang in confusion. He nodded. Then he began shining that penlight into corners and shadows. I asked what he hoped to find.
“We have to get on the right mental frequency to call the Time Manatees. Oh, there it is!” he cried in glee, illuminating a shaggy growth with long dangling spines.
“Hericium erinaceus. That’s a lion’s mane mushroom,” I began. “Or at least I think it is. I’ve never seen one that color. Fang, wait!”
Fang broke off a handful of the shaggy parts and stuffed them into his mouth. He passed some to Henry, who ate them happily.
Lion’s mane should be edible, but I wasn’t familiar with that particular kind. Henry laughed with his mouth full. Disgusting as that was, he put my fear at ease.
“You’re right that these aren’t ordinary lion’s mane mushrooms,” he started, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. “They really do have to be used carefully. But they’re the quickest way to get on the same frequency as the Time Manatees.”
“Here, Dilly. It will be a show of respect if you eat at least a little. Although the manatees probably won’t be offended if you’re not in tune. You’re just a regular human,” Fang said as he held out the fringy fungi.
The ticking of the stopwatch seemed loud in the vast cave. Henry moved to the edge of the lake. A trout jumped from the water again. Henry’s arm appeared to stretch far over the water as he caught the fish with his bare hands. Fang’s pink hair glowed. His armadillo tail swung out, keeping time with the tick of the stopwatch.
Or maybe it was just the mushrooms.
♦ ♦ ♦
Brown Mushrooms by Shonen Knife
Now I’m starting to wonder about those Time Manatees, if magic mushrooms have to be used to “get on their frequency.” Do we anybody at this point? Tune in for more next weekend.
Elsewhere in the Teagan-verse,
I know that I keep saying “coming soon,” but I’m still working on “Dead of Winter: Journey 13,” doing the best I can to climb over the mounds of PTSD.
Hugs on the wing!
The history, particularly military aspects of this story probably make it difficult… However, this story isn’t really about religion or politics. So, please remember that this is my sanctuary — a place for all of us to be safe and away from political and religious commentary. Kindly keep that in mind with your comments.
Journey 12 of Dead of Winter is now available.
Dead of Winter — All the Journeys
Universal Purchase Links
Journey 12, Goddesses
Journey 11, the Sumelazon Escarpment
Journey 10, Pergesca
Journey 9, Doors of Attunement
Journey 8, The Lost Library
Journey 7, Revenant Pass
Journey 6, The Fluting Fell
Journey 5, Llyn Pistyll Falls
Journey 4, The Old Road
Journey 3, the Fever Field
Journey 2, Penllyn
Journey 1, Forlorn Peak
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2021 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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