The Custodians

Prompt Day #133: Begin a new paragraph with this sentence “The mold was spreading.”


The Custodians


The mold was spreading. Gayle could see that. She wasn’t surprised, not really. She knew she was a hoarder, she even watched that TV show where they always tried to help clean up hoarders’ houses. She’d never do that though. She didn’t need those people snooping around her home. They would tell her the house was rotting away around her and then they would try to throw all of it in the trash. But look at it now. Sure at first the food containers and wrappers were unsightly, but now there were brilliant colors growing over their surface. Gayle didn’t even notice the smell everyone else had complained about.

Everyone else had left her; her friends were first but then her husband left when the toilet clogged up, overflowed and the floor caved in. It made things easier for her, she had no one to check on her, no one to answer to. She could lay amongst the soft piles of trash and watch her soaps without guilt. There was always food somewhere that was still edible, and when there wasn’t, she still had the car; McDonalds was right down the street. She did miss her cat, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, but it was possible she would turn up someday. She might be living somewhere else in the house that Gayle could no longer get to.

This mold, though, was spreading and Gayle was pretty sure it would eat away at the trash so she didn’t try to clean it up. It started in the kitchen. Slimy yellow bubbles spread over the cascade of old food spilling forth from the broken refrigerator. It was actually beautiful in its own way. She remembered poking it with her finger. It wasn’t as slimy as it looked, but it was soft like pudding skin. She checked on it daily as if it were a plant she was growing in a garden. Not to be outdone, the edge of the hole in the bathroom floor cultivated its own colony of fungus: a bouquet of what looked like black broccoli interspersed with tiny orange tentacles. It was her favorite. She found that if she watered it, it grew quickly. She enjoyed seeing it coat the interior of the bathroom. Giving all the enamel surfaces a softer, lusher feel. Her home was becoming an above ground coral reef.

The mold started talking to her, whispering really, once it had established a colony in every room of the house. At night there were stories of what the Earth was like before humans. It described landscapes of color and textures. Fairy tale lands where every organism was interconnected to the next, each existing for the greater good of the whole. During the day, the mold kept quiet, conceding to her soap operas. Sometimes, but only during commercial breaks, it would praise her: Our queen to whom we owe our very existence.

The bedroom was the first to completely succumb to the mold. Lovely salmon colored discs shimmered on the walls and undulated like waves all over the floor. Gayle walked barefoot into the room and felt the once rough and irregular contours created by her stacks of trash now smoothed. The discs hugged her feet like a thick shag carpet. For you, our queen it sang to her and up from a covered heap in the center of the floor came the bloated, rotting carcass of a cat.

“Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle!” Gayle said grabbing what was left of her pet and kissing it. She snuggled it against her bosom. “Thank you” She said to the mold.

One day, when Gayle walked into her living room, she found her beloved TV was gone; buried under a chaotic mess of yellow. A hollowed divot existed near the edge of what could easily have been a room coated in silly string. The hollow represented the only place in the house where the floor could be seen before the mold began to grow. Her TV was on. She could hear it in that vicinity but she could no longer see it. We need you, Gayle. The mold said. The TV was keeping you from us. It explained. She looked down at Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle dangling over her arm and realized the mold was right. She’d been neglecting the ones who needed her most.

“I’m sorry” She said. “You’re right. It’s ok.”

Rest here, let us tell you a story

Gayle curled up in the depression that fit her body like a newly knitted mitten. She spooned with the putrefied corpse of her cat and listened to the many voices speaking as one.

In the time before man, the mighty gods rained lightning and thunder upon the earth and in the wake of the storms we came to be. We waited for life to begin around us for only when there is life, can we then grow from death. Life scorns us, disgusted by our very existence because we are but a reminder of the thing which you cannot escape. Death, destruction, decay. We are the custodians of the Earth.

Gayle felt her eyes grow heavy, her stomach rumbled and she wondered semi-consciously when it was that she last ate. She began to dig under the mesh of rhizomes seeking sustenance. Just then thin tendrils combed through her hair, spreading across her scalp, massaging her temples.

Ssshhh, lie back. Rest now. Soon you will be a part of our family, one of us, dear queen, and you will no longer feel the pangs of hunger. When you are one of us, you will never again be alone. We will be your family and we will be one body.

“I’m cold” Gayle said and shivered.

Let us help you

Her feet suddenly felt as if they’d been slipped into a warm jelly bath. She wriggled her toes. They were tingling and then they were the jelly.

Just then, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle’s bloated belly exploded releasing a mist of orange snow that fell slowly onto Gayle’s torso. On contact with her skin, each spore put down roots that branched out reaching and eventually connecting with its neighbor’s roots thereby forming a lacework across Gayle’s middle.

You are Becoming, now. Soon there will be no need for stories for our past will be yours. You will see and know all that we have seen and known. Do you understand?

Gayle opened her mouth to answer the question but an elongated grey phallus-like growth erupted from Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle’s mouth and dove into her own. It continued to lengthen as it worked its way down her throat and into her windpipe where it rooted itself. Gayle tried to choke it out. She writhed with what little strength she had left. Her legs had been dissolved into the black mold that had warmed her dying feet and her hands were pinned down by shelf like fungus. The orange spores spread out in flat crop circles, frequently touching and overlapping in morbid Venn Diagrams of “What Gayle Was”, “What Gayle Is” and “What Gayle Will Be”.

As death spread its own tendrils through her brain, Gayle experienced a feeling of diluting. She was melting flat and spreading out infinitely in all directions. In death, she was no longer one but many. She was no longer finite but ancient and brand new at the same time. Her home imploded with the weight of the life it was hosting. Amidst the death, decay and destruction the custodians began again.