EXCERPTS FROM THE NOTES OF AN APPRENTICE MUSHISHI
by Tari Gwaemir
A description of mushi.
Mushi found in darkness
Morphology unknown as it crumbles to fine dust when exposed to light. Known to reflect sounds at supersonic frequencies; its presence detected in deep, narrow caves from the commotion of bats rendered blind by the cacophony.
A translucent, gelatinous body. Rotationally symmetric, like a softened crystal.
It lives on the underside of fern fronds and in the burrows of tall anthills--an inhabitant of shadows. On occasion it has been known to attach itself to a person's heels, but it is always forced to flee by noon.
A famous case: a boy infected after wandering in dense forest by a hitherto unknown species. His fingers became hypersensitive to the point where they could no longer bear to touch any solid surface. The very air felt like a bombardment of dust against his skin. The mushishi consulted could find no cure. The boy bled to death after attempting to amputate his left hand.
"I suspect that the mirages seen at the eye of a snowstorm are no mere hallucinations."
Seen above a hot spring: a pale-yellow mist that contracts and expands with the heat. It exudes a bitter but elusive scent. Local inhabitants mention that on certain clear nights, it acquires an iridescence not unlike the inside of an oyster shell. Ginko suspects that it might secrete Luminosity.
A shrine to a mountain kami, a gathering place for many mushi. Among the species observed, there are unusual variants on otherwise recognizable forms. Six appendages instead of two. Coiled bodies that once were spiroid. Certain new symbioses have been observed as well: one species found to feed on the fluid secretions of another, in return for providing a host body. This fluid has a thick, viscous texture, not unlike pine sap, although it has no color.
Mushi that take human form
At an inn that I came across during my early travels, I heard a story of the ghost that haunted the local well. The voice of a girl who could not be seen but wailed for her mother in a loud, keening voice at twilight. She did not appear every evening, but only on cloudy days before it rained: a sort of barometer for the villagers. Nonetheless, they found the sound disconcerting, and in return for my meal at the inn, I went to take a look.
At twilight, the girl coalesced from microscopic particles in the air. Of indeterminate age, though I would judge her to be ten at most. Her face was expressionless even as she cried--a sound so heartbreaking that mothers who came to draw water from the well could not help shedding tears. I tried to speak to her, but she showed no sign of understanding or even noticing my presence.
Certain mushi are sensitive to intense emotions, but it was the first instance I've heard of where a human left an emotional imprint that endured long enough to continually attract mushi to the location. The mushi lie dormant underground, until a storm is imminent, in which case they flock to the surface at places like this well. Once, a child was abandoned by its mother here, and her fear and desperation have lingered in the air ever since.
Another story, told to me long ago. Once a young priestess broke her vows and ran away with a man she had met visiting her temple. A common occurence, but no one at the temple could remember seeing this mysterious visitor, and when she settled in a village in another valley, she wore her hair as a married woman but had no husband. However, her fields were tilled and yielded a modest harvest every year, though she lived alone and never seemed to work outside. For this reason, she was shunned and regarded as a witch. A mushishi passed by her house and was startled to notice the presence of a mushi, entirely human in appearance, living with this woman. It spoke human language haltingly but poetically.
It said: "I waited for her, and when I found her I remembered I was once human."
It said: "She sees me. When she looks at me, I become a self, unique and separate. But I am not distinct; day by day I blur into her."
The mushishi told the woman, "He is not human."
She said, "I know. When he touches me, I don't feel warmth from his skin, only a sense of vibrancy, an energy that I can't describe. We live mostly in silence, for he forgets how to speak and I forget the words I have to say. He spends his days outside in the fields, I live inside the house. I don't see him except at night. But I am always aware of his presence; we are never disconnected."
"Is such a relationship possible?"
"Every movement of mine responds to his, no matter where he is. Because of me, he learns to be human, and because of him, I learn to be alive."
"And when you die?"
She smiled in response: a tranquil, alien expression, an almost inhuman peace. The mushi's face mirrored hers.
A green so rich, so bright that it turns the passing sunlight into the color of young leaves.