People Growing Fungal Figure

“We must time this perfectly,” the teacher says, “if the molds don’t fruit at the right time, this entire experiment is pointless.” She looks on at her students, gathered in a small clearing in the forest.

The children nod, but they don’t seem to put as much weight into this idea as the teacher. For the past decade, she’s brought students here. Not her best students, by any stretch. But the ones who follow orders.

The teacher sighs, then walks over over to a wireframe body. “We’ll wrap this with the bread,” the children each seem to suddenly notice the bags of bread in front of them, “then spray it down with these water bottles. When we’re done, we cover it with this, and wait,” she flicks a large plastic bag into the air, gesturing like a magician revealing her latest trick.

The children moan, but get to work. The white bread is easy to manipulate and the kids cover the wireframe completely in less than an hour. When they’re finished, they each smile and look on. These kids aren’t used to succeeding. It feels nice.

The teacher grabs a water bottle, and demonstrates the amount of sprays (two) to give each piece of bread. The children follow suit, mostly following her advice.

When they’re done, they all look on together. Covered in wet bread, the wireframe feels more lifelike. It resembles a person, at least from a distance. The students seem proud.

The teacher covers the bread figure with the bag and ties it tight at the bottom. “Okay kids, we’ll come back in two weeks to see what we’ve created!” She’s bubbly now, proud too, of the accomplishment. It doesn’t take much, these days.

In two weeks, the group returns. The teacher gathers the kids around the breaded statue, still covered by the plastic bag. “Are you ready to see what you’ve created?” The children seems happy and attentive. She pauses, wanting them to enjoy this brief moment of purity. When the excitement feels too unbearable, she pulls off the plastic bag to reveal the figure, now covered in a dark green mold.

The children suck in a joyous gasp. “It’s beautiful,” one mutters. The rest look on, quietly.

The mold-covered figure begins to move. It’s so subtle it seems like an optical illusion at first. The children aren’t sure how to react. “Where’s the teacher?” one asks. The kids look around. The teacher is gone.

A sound similar to laughter surrounds the group, originating from the molded figure. The kids can’t move. They’re not strapped down by fear, it’s something else. Something physical. The laughter echoes across the clearing.

A year later, the teacher returns to the area. She doesn’t even bother looking at the wireframe, just squares herself to address her students, “We must time this perfectly,” she says.