I’ve often watched you walking in the woods. I approve: nature is the best therapy. Some doctors prescribe time in gardens and parks, or on beaches, to help calm troubled minds and boost the immune system.
The day you hugged the oak, I felt the full weight of your pain: your dark palette of bruises; your fractured lip; an eye so swollen you couldn’t see out of it. We fungi are linked to each other and to the trees. I felt your fear, your anger, your despair coursing through the sap in those ancient branches, right down to my creeping filaments.
The great outdoors has many things up its sleeve for when urgent action is needed. The mighty oak and I are old friends. We both agree: this man is no good for you; nor for any other woman.
My name is Amanita virosa, otherwise known as Destroying Angel. I’m beautiful, like you, but dangerous, like him. If you really want him out of your life for good, this is how I can help.
First, you must find me. Now’s a good time. I pop up between July and November. Go for your usual walk in the woods on the day before the bin men come. Take disposable gloves and a small paper bag. Look all around on the ground, especially where it’s damp and near birch trees. I’ll be waiting near the base of a trunk. My cap is white, my gills are white, my skirt, if I’m wearing one, is white. In fact, I’m pure white: which is often taken as a sign of virtue, but we haven’t got time to debate that now. Let’s just say appearances can be deceptive, but you already know that, because of him.
When you find me, be sure to follow each of these steps exactly:
- Put the gloves on.
- Pull me up from the soil, then pop me in the bag.
- Keep the gloves on. Go straight home.
- Let yourself in. Touching nothing, kick the door closed and go into the kitchen.
- Put the bag, with me inside it, in the sink.
- Go into the bathroom. Again, making sure to touch nothing on the way.
- Wash your hands and your door key with the gloves on.
- Take the gloves off.
- Wash your hands and the key again, with the hottest water you can bear.
- Dry them and put the key away in its usual place.
- Take the gloves outside. Put them in the landfill bin.
- Clean round the front door lock and handle with disinfectant.
- Go back into the kitchen.
- Fetch a knife and fork and a saucepan.
- Use the fork to get me out of the bag and leave me in the sink.
- Take the bag out and throw it in the same bin as the gloves.
- Back in the kitchen, hold me on the fork and wash off any soil.
- Put me in the saucepan and cut me up.
- Now wash the knife and fork in very hot, soapy water.
- Then put them in the dishwasher (belt and braces).
- Wash out and disinfect the sink.
- Add whatever he likes to the pan, cover with water and let it simmer away.
- One portion of this soup served to him, and to him alone, will do the trick.
- Pour any leftover soup down the sink, followed by lots of boiling water.
- Wash out the saucepan, his bowl and spoon. Put them in the dishwasher.
- Clean out the sink, as before.
The effects should start some time during the next twenty-four hours. Classic tummy upset first: stomach pain; vomiting; diarrhoea, for a day or two. Then, he will be deceived into thinking he’s getting better. It won’t last. My toxin will be making its way to his liver and kidneys.
If you accept my offer, take care to do everything as I have instructed. If you ingest any trace of me yourself, there’s nothing I can do to save you.
Good luck, my dear. I hope to see you in the woods again soon.
Ruth has been writing short fiction since retiring from teaching modern languages. She’s had several published in independent magazines, such as Scribble, and others placed and shortlisted in competitions.
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