Harmonies of Fungi

Manisha Sahoo

Suru paused at the Natural Condiments shelf and scrunched her nose.

What had she to get?

Young sprigs of wild cumin, inside-out cardamoms and—
She pinched at her belly under the shirt and began to whistle the first few bars of Harmony of Fleshlings. Tapping the end of her pointed boots on the tiled floor, she stared at the lonely contents in her basket and frowned.

What else had she to get?

Charu had asked for some very specific things, and she had insisted Suru make a list, lest she forgets.

The same Suru now found her mind blank even as her rendition of In Harmony of Fleshlings transitioned towards the end of its first verse. A sudden overlap of whistling took her by surprise, and she looked over her shoulder.

The witch browsing the opposite shelf locked eyes with her and bent her head in
an awkward greeting which Suru turned away from. Charu’s distant voice had taken over her head, commanding her attention instead.

Are you writing them down— Suru, are you writing down—?

Suru waited for the aisle to empty out before she wheeled on her heels and
considered the Modified Spices shelf. But it did not feel right! Charu would never
concoct a potion with these new-fangled, “tainted” spices.

Are you writing down wild cumin— inside-out cardamoms?

She had written all three of those cursed items down… and left the list on her
dresser. Suru slapped her forehead even as she continued In Harmony of Fleshlings into its second verse.

Could Charu have wanted some Modified Spice for the potion though? Could that be the reason her brain had misplaced the third ingredient, because it was so utterly out of character for Charu?

Suru scratched under her chin and scanned the rows of betel-infused peppers,
powder of dried jackfruit-grape hybrid, cream of corny walnuts, mint, et cetera, et cetera– nothing rang a bell. She did remember feeling overly disgusted at the idea of fetching the final item–

And like a hex cast with perfection, she recalled it. Young sprigs of wild cumin, inside-out cardamoms, and, of course, the stinking bunch of flesh-eater mushrooms. Her whistling had not been in vain after all, she concluded in triumph as she skipped along to the last aisle in the store.

Fungi Lane.

Suru scrunched her nose, plugged two fingers into them, and entered the dreaded length of tight, narrow space. Pleasant as gooseflesh-inducing scents were, mushrooms never made the cut. There could not be any brewing maniac who would find their aroma charming. Nevertheless, these pesky fungi and their innumerous varieties had vital duties to perform in almost every potion or hex they brewed.

If she did not love Charu, she would not be venturing down this— oh, hateful of
all witches, this would not do!

Gagging, Suru grabbed a handful of the dripping, brownish-green, long-stemmed
fungi by their caps, chucked them into the basket, and made a run for the checkout counter.

She returned home in a huff and dropped the grocery bag in Charu’s lap, who, Suru noticed, had not yet set up anything. She seemed to have instead taken a sweet little nap in her armchair, warming by the fireplace.

“Where’s— why are you not ready?” she demanded, glowering, while Charu
peered into the bag and counted under her breath.

She looked up at Suru and shrugged. “The corpse has not rotted yet. How could
we boil it?”

Suru collapsed into the other armchair and sunk into its cushion, groaning and
sniffling. “You— you get Home Delivery next time, you understand? I am not running stupid errands for you anymore! Especially when there are those loathsome mushrooms involved.”

“Come now, relax. Hum that annoying song of yours—”

Of Harmony… in Fleshlings? I’m too tired—”

“No! What are you saying? The song’s called Boil a Corpse, you nitwitch. It’s
why I even went ahead and made you a carcass in the first place. A special treat for your birthday, so you could sing the song while I have fun. The flesh-eater mushrooms are called Harmonies. How did you even get those so mixed up? Y–you lost the list somewhere, didn’t you? I bet you even got all confused at the grocery store! Oh! What should I do with that brain of yours, dig it out and boil it with that rotting pile of mush? Would that be an improvement?”

Manisha Sahoo (she/her), from Odisha, India, has a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering and a Master’s in English. Her stories have appeared in Rivanna Review, as well as in several anthologies including Everything Changed After That and Sharing Lipstick. She has also twice received Honorable Mention in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest.
You can find her at https://www.instagram.com/leesplash/ or at her blog https://byleesplash.wordpress.com/

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