THE CAVE DELICACY
About eight months ago, after receiving a large inheritance, I decided to move to a small island in the south Pacific. Three of my new friends, Terry, Steve, and his little sister, Barbara, happened to be sitting around at my house watching a beautiful summer day slowly grind away when somebody came up with the great idea to go check out the old Crestmore Caverns about six miles out of town. Since none of us had ever gone out there, we decided it was time we did to see what this big attraction was for the tourists who passed through the small town.
The main cavern was set into a mountainside, with an ominous opening that resembled a mouth.
That should have been the first red flag.
Terry, as always, led the way, shining his flashlight off the moss covered walls and telling us to keep our heads down as the roof of the cave held a lot of stalactites just waiting to penetrate our uncovered skulls. When we were about a hundred yards in, Barbara noticed some orange and blue moss growing from one of them. It wasn’t like any other we’d seen so far.
Terry wasn’t just the leader, so to speak, but a risk taker and general butthead, as well.
“Hey, Barbara,” he said. “You know that twenty bucks you owe me? I’ll let it slide if you take a bite of that stuff.”
Barbara, being the ditzy teenybopper that she was, decided to take up him up on it.
She tore a piece off of it, held her nose, and daintily dropped it into her mouth.
“Well?” Steve asked her. “What’s it taste like?”
She swallowed and looked at her older brother. “Like chicken,” she said with a smile, and then actually took another piece and put it in her mouth.
“Seriously?” Steve said as he tore off some of the moss and stuck it in his mouth.
“You know that stuff could be poisonous,” I warned. But no sooner had I said that than Terry was chewing on his own piece of this new delicacy.
Steve swallowed and looked at me. “You should try some, Alex,” he said. “It really does taste like chicken. Of course it doesn’t have the same texture, but it tastes just the same.”
“You’re all nuts,” I said. “Somebody’s going to have to go back and tell the cops where the bodies are.”
Terry thought that was pretty funny.
“What’s the matter, Alex?” he said. “Are you ‘chicken’?” And then he started laughing harder at his little joke. Barbara and Steve quickly joined in.
I don’t normally give in to peer pressure, but seeing those three idiots laughing convulsively must have done something to me.
“Ah, what the hell,” I said. I tore off a chunk and popped it in my mouth.
And it really did taste like chicken.
After our little laughing fits finished a few minutes later, we spent the next two hours exploring the rest of Crestmore Caverns. We didn’t find any more of that fungus, and I’m not sure if we even looked that hard for it. But the best part was that none of us got sick or died that day.
It was the next day when we realized something had gone terribly wrong by eating that stuff.
Around six o’clock the next morning, right before sunrise, I woke up to Terry pounding furiously at my door.
“Look at me!” he yelled before I even had the door halfway open. “Look at these!”
At first I didn’t know what he was talking about, but upon closer inspection I could see his concern. The hair on his arms had been replaced with a fine down of feathers.
“Oh, Jesus,” I said as he pushed his way past me into the house.
I checked my own hairy arms. No feathers, just hair.
Just then a car came screeching to a halt in my driveway. Steve got out and rushed up to the door.
“Alex, something’s wrong with my sister!”
“Let me guess. She’s growing feathers.”
He looked at me like I was crazy.
“What? No, she’s over at my house, and she’s…she’s…"
“She’s laying eggs!”
I almost burst out laughing. The image of little Barbara Taylor squatting and dropping eggs out of her backside was too much for my mind to take, but somehow I kept a straight face.
Then I noticed something about Steve. His legs kept pumping up and down as he stood there, and his head was making jerky motions toward the ground.
“Steve,” I asked. “Are you alright?”
Without breaking stride, or whatever it was his legs were doing on my porch, he said, “Yeah, I’m fine.” He obviously didn’t realize his own movements. “But I think it has something to do with that fungus we ate.”
Terry came out. He’d apparently heard Steve’s story.
“You’re damn right it has something to do with that fungus.” Then he looked at me. “Hey, why hasn’t something happened to you?” he asked. “You ate it too.”
I shrugged my shoulders. I had no idea why I wasn’t affected by that fowl tasting stuff. We all ate some of it, but they ate a lot more of it than I did, which is why I guess nothing happened to me.
At least so quickly.
But the next morning was a little different. I once again woke up before sunrise and walked out on my front porch. It was going to be another beautiful summer day. I watched intently as the sun peeked its head over the top of the mountain, and then I craned my head up to the sky and opened my mouth.
The neighbors still complain to this day that if I don’t get rid of that rooster pretty soon, they’re going to call the cops.