Saturday, May 29, 2010

Close Encounters

I was cooking dinner this evening and went out in the dark to pick some parsley. In the darkness I encountered a gleaming white lattice ball, I thought it was some kind of plastic packaging at first. I touched it (I touched it) and it was moist and slimy and then behind it I saw the 'egg' from which it had sprung, a sort of burst open mushroom. There was another on the verge of emerging under the mint bushes, and as I prodded it with a stick I saw it spring free and open out. I called Martin. It was dark and the photos aren't great but here they are.
There was something intensely alive about it, between plant and animal. Neither Martin nor I had ever seen anything like it before, and I am not ashamed to say that it freaked me out (remember I touched it. Remember it was slimy.) It was alien and other, the smell, the spawning... it looked almost like something manufactured (packaging or a deteriorating soccer ball, rotted down to it's web skeleton), but at the same time, so...not human.
It smelt both sour and oversweet, sort of yoghurty, like yakult.
It was freakish but beautiful too, which is why I kept trying to get the perfect photograph, despite the terrible light.
Martin was smarter than me. He didn't touch it. He did take one over to the neighbours, strung on a stick, to see if they could identify it. Leaving me alone with the other one. I could hear their voices carrying in the night, their nervous (or unnerved) laughter as they confessed it was nothing either of them had encountered before, and I was comforted by the sounds of them, and by the warm lighted house behind me, and my children playing with their reassuringly plastic toys as I fiddled with my iphone, trying to get a photo that captured not only the beauty of the object but the feelings of otherworldliness it aroused on me. But the smell grew more intense, saturating the interior of not only my nose but also my throat and I couldn't bear it anymore. Martin came back and I stood up and re-entered the warm house, leaving him to throw it away.

I googled it (hint, never google "fungus balls", because you get...er...intimate medical conditions.) In the end this is what I came up with: Ileodictyon gracile.