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Rated: E · Chapter · Fantasy · #2289044
Merlin navigates through a mysterious world learning to breathe life underwater.
Chapter 3 Cascading Radiance
Merlin reached a river filled with bioluminescent bubbles formed by the cellular membranes of an extinct species of amphibious moss that traced the flow lines of the stream. He reached out to drink the water but when he touched it, there was no feeling of wetness. The fluid sank into his body and he felt himself being regenerated, nutrition leaking into his bloodstream without having consumed any physical material.
“Follow the river.”
Merlin looked around for the speaker but couldn’t see anyone around. “Will it lead me where I need to go?”
A toad on the other side of the river hopped up to get his attention as it spoke again. “Where else would it lead? It could lead you everywhere, but there’s only one place you need to be, so that’s where you’ll end up.”
Merlin smiled and nodded. “Thank you, I will.”
He began to walk along the riverside but the toad said, “You can’t follow the flow from outside it, you have to be a part of it.” It watched as Merlin looked around for something to ride downstream with, but there were no boats here, and there never would be. After a moment the toad said, “Just walk inside it. You don’t need a shell to make you feel safe, you can be fully immersed and allow it to become part of you. How else can it take you where you want to go?” Merlin was about to step inside but the toad added, “just don’t touch the mushrooms.” Then it disappeared with an innocent, mischievous giggle.
Merlin looked around again but couldn’t see any mushrooms. The riverbed was studded with skeletons and as he stepped in, the one closest to him begin to change shape. As it shifted and waved like a mirage, he could make out the outline of a mushroom, weaving its mycelia to take the form of the bones of departed visitors. When it finally settled on a shape it had taken the visage of a human skull, warning him that he would join the others here if he should come too close.
The glowing bubble swam around his legs as he stepped carefully through the deceptively perilous riverbed. It’s course almost seemed to be changing direction with every step he took, as if space itself was distorting around him in response to his actions. The river had been up to his knees when he entered but now it was past his hips and still climbing.
Ahead there was a large salmon with a dorsal wing protruding from its back like a sail, basking in the waters, just being a part of the stream and waiting for food to appear. Remembering what the toad had said, Merlin thought, shouldn’t I try to be part of the stream, like this fish? He expected it to swim away as he approached but instead it seemed to dissolve and became yet another mushroom, a much larger one that morphed into a gigantic humanoid rib cage, wider than his own.
Merlin stopped and stared, the path was almost completely blocked by the spectral rib cage and it would be too dangerous to squeeze past it. He sighed, watching the bubbles dance around it carefree. I guess if I was part of the stream it would just carry me past, he thought, I could just allow it to move me where I need. It occurred to him that could be exactly the answer, to be part of the stream is to release control and let it move you as it wishes. Just like the bubbles.
The water was almost up to his chin. He inhaled deeply and as he exhaled he relaxed every muscle in his body, trying to open every pore to let the water seep in, to be completely saturated in the river and let the currents determine where he needed to go.
He was suddenly swept up and flew past the mushroom, watching as the forest passed by around him. The stream no longer seemed to change shape, holding the same bends as it went, and he trusted that he’d arrive at the perfect region of this confusing, maze-like forest space, exactly when the rushing waters wanted him there.
After flowing through the woods for what seemed like hours, he came to a place where the stream began to flow upward in a cascade. The cliff face was studded with trees that seems to grow in every direction, some with roots protruding outward as the branches reached through the rock to absorb the light of crystals whose glow could be seen through the stone, as if their light made matter more permeable to their vibrations.
High above him, he could see the waterfall dipping into an enormous whirlpool that drained into the rock face.
By his feet there was a small stone glowing faintly, he picked it up and held it in the palm of his hand, then threw it into the cascade and it floated steadily upward, seemingly undisturbed by the turbulence of the rushing waters. The trees nearby swayed closer to the stone as it passed and roots came out of the cliff face trying to reach it. The higher it rose the more faint its glow became, until to hovered lifeless over the center of the whirlpool.
Merlin looked around but couldn't locate the source of this voice either. It was a lighthearted feminine voice, almost a laugh. It seemed to have spoken into his ear without being said by anyone. He looked around at the cliff, there were plenty of jagged rock and protruding wooden limbs to climb up. "I can do that, no problem," he said to himself.
He began to step out of the water to dry off before climbing but the voice said with a giggle, "climb the water, silly."
He looked dubiously at the cascade falling upward and wondered what this would feel like. "Is it dangerous?" He waited for an answer but there was none.
After a minute of mental preparation he inhaled deeply and plunged himself into the water. He reached through the rushing torrent and tried to clutch the rocks but they slipped out of his hands as if refusing to assist his ascent. He tried and tried but couldn't get off the ground. Suddenly he realized he'd been holding his breathe too long and needed air. He turned around to go back to the surface but something pushed him back, holding him where he was as if trying to drown him.
He struggled and pushed back as hard as he could but this invisible force refused to let him reach the surface. "Breathe." This voice was deeper, a soft masculine voice. He pushed harder and harder, desperate to heed the advice of his attacker. Finally he couldn't go on anymore and his body forced itself to inhale.
Light. He inhaled light. He could feel it pour into his body, purifying him on every level. He felt himself rise beyond the need for air, he could simply inhale the light offered by the stream. That alone was what his bodies needed, he could feel them absorbing and becoming the radiance offered to him.
The force disappeared and he was free to move again. "Breathe the water, silly," he said to himself and felt that same girly, childlike giggle ripple through him. He felt a desire to remain there forever, breathing and subsisting solely on this feeling. But deep inside he knew that something far better waited above. "Climb the water," he thought, "well if I can breathe light, why not?"
He bid goodbye to the mushrooms waiting to become his corpse and reached out to grab hold of the rising waters. To his surprise, they held him. He pulled himself up and took a foothold, reaching out higher to pull further up. He could feel the rushing streams pushing him up as he moved and as he looked out at the trees swaying in the breeze, an image of a serpent flashed in his mind. He stopped climbing as a man and began to spin and twist, pushing upward with each motion to swim upward as the rushing cascade ushered him forward.
Filled with joyous exuberance, he laughed as he danced his ascension along, playing like a salmon swimming upriver to its mating bed, his heart singing out the beauty of the experience.
When he reached the whirlpool he didn't know whether to continue to dance carefree, still unsure how dangerous all this might be, but his heart would not let its exuberance be spoiled now and he braved the unknown with a fierce determination. He allowed the spirals to revolve around the center with him in it. Every time he tried to swim through the currents to get to the center he ended up getting pushed to the surface, and the closer he got to the center of the vortex, the closer he came to reaching the fresh air he'd been so desperate for a few moments ago.
Finally he felt he wasn't able to stay in the waters any longer. Taking a deep breath of light, he allowed himself to get pushed out, hoping to fall directly inside the vertex. Instead he collided head-on into the stone he'd tossed upstream. It didn't even budge when he fell onto it and despite his desire to return to the water he felt an urge to cling to the stone, holding it in one hand. Why was this stone just hovering here? It seemed to be waiting for something but he didn't know what.
After a moment he knew he wouldn't be able to hold his breathe much longer and he'd need to return to the water soon. He felt a deep need for more light. He asked himself "why won't this stone just move?" It seemed so happy to float along back when it had light. He blew the last of his breathe into it, and it flew straight down into the black void of the vortex, dragging Merlin in with it.

Chapter 4 Aetherial Dragons
As the spores of the Cosmic Mushroom grew into thriving abundance, the life began to evolve beyond its original template. Some beings took spherical shapes and became worlds, playing in circles near each other in familial star systems. These worlds became home to their own children, some with physical bodies and some existing solely in the astral.
Life inevitably returns to a form imitating its creator, the templates they derive from reassert themselves across aeons of growth. As children of each world slowly expanded their own levels of consciousness, they began to recognize themselves as extensions of the same being, aetherial cells in the brain of each world. These collective minds evolved into unity once again and learned to operate as interconnected communities, taking forms resembling the moss from which all life originates.
Ages of the multiverse progressed and soon, the first worlds seeded evolved into unity spanning across galaxies and then entire universes, all distributing light across the primordial void in vast networks of mycelial consciousness.
As this occurred, the Primordial Moss had still continued growing and when it encompassed the worlds first seeded by the Cosmic Mushroom, an increasing pressure compressed the cells of these universes into dense clusters, strung together into compacted quantum strings, too pure a form of consciousness to play host to matter as we know it. They had grown into what we now call the Tree of Life.
Each string in this immense tree became its own distinct consciousness, taking on unique personalities, goals and energies. These beings called themselves dragons and, using the knowledge they’d accumulated over the course of countless aeons, they reached out across the moss to where the Cosmic Mushroom was seeding billions of new children. The dragons smiled down and knew that these children would evolve into unity, into astral moss, just as they had so long ago. But this time, the children of light would not be alone. The dragons would guide them upwards, teach them to find within themselves a trace of their pure, untaintable essence and evolve into their own mycelial consciousness.
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