Fungal Halo

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The Whisper picked its way through the grassy field with slow steps, careful not to disturb what rested in this place.

The sheer fabric of its black dress caught the breeze, and for a moment it tasted what it was searching for on the wind.

It angled its path left.

Its feet knew when to stop.

The Whisper set its bag down and knelt to put its fingertips to the earth, feeling a trembling beyond the physical that marked this spot as the location of a restless spirit.

With precise movements, it clicked open the latch on its bag and began.

In moments, the key implements of its trade were laid out neatly on a thick rectangle of fabric, and its hands were already in motion painting a circle around the spot—over dirt and grass—with a thick brush. Foci and catalysts were arranged in practiced patterns.

In the center it placed a blank, unpainted, almost featureless, wooden head.

The Whisper did not yet know whose head this carving would become. The final details had to wait until then.

The knife it gripped was custom-made like all its tools. Others would struggle if they tried to hold it—the knife was only mostly part of this world—but the Whisper’s grip was practiced and sure as it made a neat incision in the air and peeled back a thin flap to work through.

It found the end of the splinter that the world had callused over. She was deeper than expected, and some digging into the wound that the knife had opened was required to extract her.

The air bled as the Whisper drew this spike of pain up and out of the incision.

From rigidity to wriggling distress, she squirmed in the Whisper’s hand, trying to return to the place she had been embedded for who-knows-how-long.

With confidence born of experience, it slammed her into the carving, trapping her in the head that had been prepared for her.

The wound hovering above the captive spirt oozed more than most, leaving a smear of pulsing nacre where the Whisper had made its incision.

It wiped away as much as it could with its hand, licking its fingers clean before reaching for the cloth sachet laid out among the tools.

It chewed the sachet rapidly, the intense aromatics overwhelming its senses despite their familiarity, and then the Whisper gave its namesake to the air where it had made its slice.

Perfumed breath slid across and into the thin slit in the world’s hide.

The bleeding halted.

The blood exploded into life within it, shattering mind and thought, but this too had been prepared for.

In an ichorous fugue it packed its gear away into the bag with the same care it took to unpack it. Its body was trained and well-behaved when its mind couldn’t reach it.

The head stirred and whimpered while she was wrapped in soft cloth and nestled among the bag’s recently used instruments.

They’d have much to discuss very soon, but for now she would have to sleep in the dark until the Whisper returned to its house and to her new sisters.