This is a post by guest blogger Ellen Bulger.
In Pareidolia 5.0, I’m ramping it up a notch. The game has changed:
YOU are a fast-talking wannabe shaman in a not-as-distant-as-we’d-like future that is straight out of a Paolo Bacigalupi novel. That is to say, the petrofuels are gone, the climate has degraded and civilization as we know it is hanging on by a thread. Safety nets are no longer an issue, because save for the few whose ancestors were Bushes or Romneys or the likes of the Koch Brothers (Did those guys breed? Can creepy fucks with asbestos hearts actually reproduce?) everybody is at goddamn rock bottom. At least Mad Max had a dog. You had to eat yours.
Those one percenters who were stockpiling and prepping while the rest were distracted by bread and circuses (fake news and gonzo politics) provided a sort of a future for their descendants. Maybe those people are happy. It’s not like they spend nights sleepless with remorse, tossing and aching about social injustice and the suffering of other people. It’s not like they ever gave a damn about the glorious diversity of life on Earth. So maybe, so long as they have opulent surroundings and drugs and servants and maybe some slaves to abuse, they’re happy as clams. Maybe it is even more delicious for them when they know everything else has gone to shit. Yeah, probably that is exactly it. Ugh.
Sadly, your great great great great grand parents were just typical schmucks. It is not good for you in this brutal new world. No sirree. You have to live by your wits and the best thing you’ve come up with is being a cosmic con artist, that is to say, a holy man/woman. Woo woo woo. Woo for the life of you. Woo for food, for partners, for power, for survival. Woo is what you gotta do.
You’ve been traveling with a ragged band who hunt rats and gather various mushrooms to survive. You happen to suck at rat hunting. The only other job in the tribe is either as a strong arm to keep the cannibals at bay, or else the front line “gourmets”, the ones who taste whatever mushrooms have been most recently found FIRST. Because even if your taxonomy is awesome (and in this scenario, yours is NOT), there are invasive species that are look-alikes popping up all the time. Not to mention that you can never tell if the collection site has soil contaminated with old pesticide or industrial products or any of a number of other choice goodies that do not degrade in the environment, but that concentrate in the mushroom tissues like wrinkled old rich snobs clog the bars at country clubs.
So you and your group are foraging up the Naugatuck River corridor. Back in the day, this was breathtaking place. Back in the day, when there were highways and cars and fuel, a drive up the Route 8 corridor in the fall was stunning. But that was long ago, back before the ALBs and the EMTs and what all else killed all the hardwoods. But the rocks are still pretty and there are some scrubby trees and brush. And the topography of the place at least means your guys know where the likely ambushes are.
Things are as good as they can get for you in this post-oil world of long-gone gyres and rising sea levels. Except that there are fifty pounds of shelf fungus that look a lot like yummy Laetiporus. Only these ‘shrooms are purple and seem to move a bit. They freak you out. You thought you saw one of them eat a mouse. But times are tough and there are a crapload of them sitting by the fire, waiting to be cooked. Too much food to waste, if they are good. And it is your turn to be the taster.
Got all that? Good.
So your band comes across this:
The leaders of the tribe get very excited. They haven’t seen anything like it before and wonder what it is, what means. And they turn to you, because you have traveled a bit and even know how to read. They turn to you. They ask you what it is. It isn’t much to work with, I admit. But life is like that. Life is EXACTLY like that. This might be your only chance. If you are clever enough, you might be able to pass that big old plate of steaming purple mushrooms off on somebody else to eat.
NOW, for the sixth time, I ask you; WHAT DO YOU SEE?
Think hard. Put some cortical back into it!