The End of Suffering - Part 2
The End of Suffering
The first signs of human activities were subtle, she saw paths from barefoot feet that snaked through bushes. Here and there a tree had been cut, and the chirping of birds was just a tad quieter. Following a path, it was not long before she stumbled upon an opening. There she saw them: Humans. More than she had seen in her lifetime. These humans were not survivors, they were alive. Their tall figures, almost naked like hers, were well fed, their skins had a golden glow and their faces were warm and welcoming. Never had Akhila seen such beautiful beings.
As the girl peaked through the trees she continued to observe the strangers, trying to access the situation. The tribe was a diverse collection. They all seemed to be completely at peace, perfectly comfortable as they were- sitting or lying. Some were stroking each other's hair, just like her mother had done when Akhila was younger. Simple, yet charming huts from clay and wood were scattered on the edges of the clearing, and in the forest, they were adorned with simple patterns in red paint. Two naked, knee-high kids were rolling through the grass, their laughter filling the air with sweet innocence. The people shared their living space with many animals, who did not seem to fear humans, unlike the wretched beasts Akhila knew from the scorched emptiness. She saw birds of many colors, bright little winged insects that sat on flowers, a buzz of bees that caused a background hum.
Akhila gathered all the confidence and trust she could find in herself and stepped out from the shadow of the trees. Instantly a sea of heads turned to observe the intruder, countless pairs of eyes scanned the girl. A young woman approached her and reached out a hand. Like a spooked animal Akhila jumped away, alert and ready to sprint back to the safety of the forest. The woman smiled and repeated the gesture. The two women's hands touched each other and an electrifying pulse ran through Akhila's body. Others approached to investigate her. Suddenly an older man was loosening the improvised rope-belt around her hip, which carried her things and her knife, he then proceeded to disappear with all her earthly possession behind a moss-covered mud hut. Akhila was dizzy with all the inputs, as more and more people approached her to touch her hair, give her fruit or hold her hand for a second or two. Ravished she devoured a piece of long yellow fruit, then some more berries, and rich nuts. She chewed greedily, but then a feeling of unease made her stop. Why had no one said anything? Why were they all just staring at her and giving her food?
“My name is Akhila” she directed at everyone and no one. Yet no one spoke, they just smiled as they started to back off. Their glittering eyes watching her incessantly.
“Did you create this?” she inquired. Again she was answered with silence.
A rush of fear paralyzed her body. Could these people be a threat to her? Would they want to eat her? Surely they would find no joy in gnawing on her skinny bones, considering the amount of food they had available. She was just evaluating her chances of escape, as the people seemed to lose interest. A child approached her and gave her a hug. This calmed her down, but the confusion about their lack of communication persisted. Did they lose the ability to talk? Had they acquired the skill to communicate telepathically?
The child reached for her hand. ‘You are safe.’ she suddenly heard in her brain. It wasn’t a voice, but more like a feeling which her brain could translate into her language. Instantly her heart slowed down- she was safe indeed. The voice knew, the voice could be trusted. These people were not like her, but they were not a threat, she understood this now.
The child dragged her away from the crowd. ‘Come with me and I will explain.’ the voice said. Hand in hand they walked into the forest. After having walked for a minute or two the child gestured to sit on the ground, Akhila did as she was told.
The ominous voice started to transfer knowledge:
‘Greetings. I am the restorer of balance. I turn death to life. I help plants communicate with each other. And for millions of years, I have overseen the natural processes on this planet. You see the universe has a natural way of staying in equilibrium, and I am the intelligence that keeps it this way. Human consciousness was an evolutionary error, but when I noticed their sentience, I was sure we could be allies, and exist together. For many thousands of years, humans lived in equilibrium with the world, I often communicated with them, teaching them the flow of everything. Suddenly, a mere couple of centuries ago. everything went wrong. Humans believed themselves gods, and they managed to kill almost everything in the pursuit of their superiority and greed. I stayed underground as the fires stormed the surface of this planet, and burnt everything to ashes. I’ve been working hard to restore the past beauty and abundance of life.'
Akhila tried to make sense of what she was being told. She had the feeling that this presence was older and wiser than anything she had ever experienced or was capable of comprehending.
“Why are you talking to me?”
‘I am sure you are aware of the feeling of emptiness that pesters every human existence? This hole inside you, which won’t be filled? Humans tried to fill their void will possessions, with substances, with faith. But no human could ever be truly satisfied with life.This is what consciousness did, it disconnected your species from the universe and turned them into individuals., and with that against themselves. I have undone this error. I have freed humanity from the curse of what you call self-awareness.‘
Akhila found herself sitting on lush grass leaning against a tree. Her hand was still clinging on to the child's hand. The face of the child was kind, it’s dark brown eyes seemed in total peace, its lips formed a satisfied smile.
“What are you?”
‘Look under that tree branch.’
Akhila turned over a rotting branch that lay next to her. She saw a couple of insects scramble away as the sunlight struck them. She leaned in closer and saw tiny hairy white roots that twined through soil and wood.
‘I am no plant, nor animal. I am no single organism. I am a network, a system of organic intelligence. I am a fungus.’
Akhila had learned about mushrooms, but mainly for food purposes. Her mind was racing, but at the same time, she knew not what to think.
“What will you do with me?”
‘Through the past decades of heat I have evolved, now I can live in symbioses with you. This has given me the possibility to take humans back to the simple but fulfilling existence of just being. If you are inclined, then I can make you whole, child. You will never have to battle with uncertainty, with worries, with greed, with emotions, or with self-hatred ever again. Imagine a state of constant bliss, a state of flow, undisturbed by anything. This is what humans have always wanted. If you agree I will inhabit your brain, and give you the gift of a peaceful life.’
There was nothing left to be said. The sentience knew her decision, maybe even before she knew herself. She watched the white strings of matter, rising from the ground, oozing out of the child's hand, slowly crawling up her arm. Like worms, squirming and wiggling up her skin. They felt cool, almost wet, an unstoppable force of living white hairs. She took a deep breath and thought about her mother one last time. On her back, she felt the bark of the tree, the trunk- strong and steady, ready to support her. She closed her eyes. The mycelium reached her neck, and for a second it felt as if she was choking. The feeling passed. Like a heavy spiderweb, the roots spread across her face, just to crawl into her ears. A flash of impressions exploded in her mind, as every neuron fired simultaneously. She experienced every lifeform the fungi had ever connected with, for a brief, euphoric moment.
And then there was no more Akhila.