And now, Scary-Crayon presents...
MOLD COUNTRY
by: Wes

The mold grew everywhere.

It crept over every inanimate surface and every living creature. Table and pen, plant and animal -- there was nothing that was not somehow engulfed by the soft fuzz and light green tincture that accompanied the mold's embrace. The drinking water swam with it. And where in our clean nation, with our anti-bacterial handsoaps and disinfectant wipes, we might balk at even the thought of lifting a glass filled with this murky substance masquerading as "spring water" to our lips -- though, it must be admitted, this water had, in fact, been procured from a spring -- the people of the country where the mold grew downed glass after glass without so much as a second thought. When the clumps of fungus were too large and thick to swallow, they briefly sucked on them like lozenges as they talked before turning their heads in mid-sentence and nonchalantly spitting the balls of mold onto the pavement, where they spread flat and stuck like wet skin to the concrete flesh beneath. On warm afternoons the children laughed and played in the park -- though with the green covering everything, it might be said that the children played everywhere, for the park had no limits. Yet even in this country, you would smile upon seeing the children delighting and frolicking in their soft green world. In a certain light, however, this happy scene would strike you as far less comforting. Depending upon the position of the sun, you might catch sight of the thousand tiny spores that issued forth when they exhaled, dancing in their breath like dust in the air of a crumbling mausoleum when streaks of sunlight pierce the ancient grime on its stained-glass windows.

So it was that one humid night a young scholar tumbled from her bed and, sleepwalking, appeared on a hidden stretch of road with her thumb out and awoke the next morning in a small town far from the country where the mold grew. At first, aside from the hardness of the chairs (lacking the familiar fungal cushion) and the absence of the green color on all things, she noticed little difference between this new land and that of her birth. Yet upon consulting the statistics and talking with the people, she soon discovered that the people of this town not only lived longer and fuller lives but seemed to be extraordinarily intelligent -- all of the children eagerly completed their homework, and she found herself able to hold an engaging conversation with even the slowest of the adults. And to drink a glass of water without ever having to spit!

"Perhaps," thought she, "the mold is the problem."

And so, several years later, with a bundle of cleaning supplies tied to her back and an electric air purifier in a suitcase, the young scholar returned to the country where the mold grew with intent to rid the place of its fungal epidemic. But no sooner had she stepped into its limits than she fell to her knees and began wheezing with considerable violence. In the months that she had been away, her lungs had grown used to the absence of tiny mold spores -- and for a person in good health, the air of her homeland was toxic.

"Quickly!" she gasped, begging the children who had gathered around her at the state's entrance to bring an extension cord. If she could plug in the air purifier, the young scholar reasoned, perhaps she could catch her breath long enough to retreat to less hazardous surroundings and rethink her strategy to rid her home of the fungus. This thought made her smile as the children ran off in the direction of help, but they were not even out of her sight when they forgot all about their life-and-death mission and began kicking around a ball of mold and laughing with delight. Before the scholar expired, the last things she saw were the spores, flitting to and fro just in front of her eyes. Within hours the mold had completely covered her, and to this day her corpse remains undisturbed.

But weep not for this young scholar from the country where the mold grew! For a time, though brief, she enjoyed the company of better persons and a higher standard of living than the people of her sad green homeland ever knew. Besides, her plan to cleanse the place of the mold was doomed to fail -- how could one appliance purify the air of an entire nation? -- and, as she would not have given up the mission, the rest of her days would undoubtedly have been filled with bitterness and frustration. For even if her plan had come to fruition, she would never have lived to see the country reach that level of prosperity and achievement that she had witnessed in that distant town where she had briefly dwelled.

In later generations, it is true, she would have been celebrated for the benefits she had bestowed upon her nation and its inhabitants. In her day, however, the people would have griped, "Never mind this clean air and polished surface nonsense -- never bothered me none, that's for sure." Then, cursing softly to themselves, they would have leaned back in their hard wooden rockers and muttered, "Why, I remember the days when every chair had its own cushion."

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