Sam stood on a big rock in the viridescent forest and aimed his arrow at the sky. He longed to taste real blood as he lined up the tip of it with an invisible target. He pretended to fire and made sounds like any young man would – shwoosh shwoosh shwap – and he didn’t even know anything about real life and pointless killing. Sam didn’t know much about most things in the world. His headful of thoughts was always dreamy and swimming backward in another colorful dimension. That’s why Sam wasn’t allowed into the king’s army. Even though he had come of age and was required to sign up, the powerful ones told him he was too crazy and therefore unfit for battle.
“Hogwash!” he cried out, suddenly looking down at the ground and seeing the smiling face of a mushroom with an orange cap and a thick ivory stalk.
And the mushroom opened its eyes and seemed concern. “What’s the problem, Sam? Are you having difficulties adjusting to the norms of society again?”
“You got that right, Mr. Mushroom. I just want to fight like all the others. It’s my duty and yet they won’t let me – they call me Stupid Sam.”
The mushroom worked two small, odd hands attached to thin, frail arms and lit a cigarette. He began to smoke it as he tried to give Sam some advice. “Maybe you are destined for greater things than just killing innocent others by order of some bozo who thinks he’s God. Did you ever think about that?”
“If I can’t fight then I am nothing,” Sam explained, frustrated. “Do you expect me to tend sheep in a golden field for the whole of my life? No fair maiden would want someone as wishy-washy as that.”
“Personally, I think that sounds kind of nice,” the mushroom told him. “I would like that a whole lot better than getting axed or shot with an arrow or slit with a sword because of someone else’s frivolous dispute.”
Sam got agitated. “Have you ever heard of bravery or honor!? Have you ever heard of taking a stand and fighting for your kingdom?”
“Have you ever heard of kindness and love? Have you ever heard of living together in peace and harmony? Have you ever heard of being decent to your fellow man?” Mr. Mushroom shot back.
Sam scoffed. “Oh, what the hell do you know? Look at you. You’re just a bleeding-heart sissy-pants mushroom living in the forest. You don’t even have legs! You have a single stalk. What a loser. I bet you’ve never gotten any action in your whole life.”
“Oh yes I have! I’ve spilled my spores countless times. And I’m not a sissy! And I happen to like living in the forest. All my friends are here, I’m popular, it’s generally quiet, and I don’t even mind the rain.”
“Oh, stop talking like a little girl!”
“Maybe you just need to settle down a little bit. I don’t like your attitude, Sam, and you’re scaring me.”
“Well, I’m not surprised you’re frightened… I can be quite fierce if I need to be.” Sam turned around and watched the clouds race by. “I’m sure I can enlist in an army somewhere else. Nobody has to know. I can take on a new identity.”
“You would misrepresent yourself and fight for the enemy?”
Sam whipped his head around toward the mushroom. “Don’t you get it? We are the enemy. We’re no different than any other enemy in the world. We’re all enemies! What difference does it make who I fight for!? Everyone loses in the end.”
“But that’s treason… They’ll cut your head off for sure.”
Sam chuckled. “I don’t care Mr. Mushroom. People are stupid and I’ll get away with it. I was bred to fight and fight I will — no matter what side I’m on. I’m a natural born killer.”
Sam slung the bow around to rest on his back and drew the sword sheathed at his side. He studied the blade against the sky. The mushroom grew ever more nervous. “What are you going to do with that?” he squeaked.
Sam quickly turned, jumped off the rock, and drew closer to the mushroom. “Maybe I’ll undo your cap for you. Would you like that? Or maybe I’ll slice your stalk and leave you crippled.”
The mushroom tried to pull himself from the ground and run — but of course he couldn’t. “Oh… Come on Sam. What an awful thing to even think. I didn’t do anything. I’m just a mushroom. Please don’t hurt me. Why do you have this thirst for destroying life merely because it exists unparallel to your own? What hypocrisies and atrocities have they filled your mind with?”
“What are you talking about?” Sam wanted to know.
The mushroom stammered. “Have you ever considered the thought that maybe it’s not you that is crazy? Have you ever considered the thought that it is they, your heartless, morally blind, asinine, and ignorant leaders, who are the crazy ones? Hmmm?”
“You’re trying to trick me, Mr. Mushroom, aren’t you? Is this some sort of brainwashing technique you’re trying to use on me? Are you utilizing your psychedelic properties to sway me toward wrongdoing?”
“No Sam! I’m trying to save your soul. You’re becoming one of the very sheep you do not desire to tend.”
Sam touched his chin and walked in slow circles. He looked down at the mushroom and pointed with the tip of his sword. “You know… Maybe you can help me out.”
“What is it, Sam? I’ll do anything. Just don’t hurt me. I want to live. I just want to live as I am without judgment or scorn!”
“Suppose I cut you from the ground and returned to the village hoisting my prize high. Yeah. That’s the ticket. Then they would all see what a great warrior I truly am. Then they would have to let me join the king’s army. They would probably make me an officer.”
“Are you off your meds? You’re filling your head with false and grandiose ideas, Sam. And on top of that, you would be hurting me. I was hoping we were becoming friends.”
“Oh shut up, mushroom! I’m trying to think. And I don’t need any friends.”
“Please, Sam. Consider this. I don’t think the village idiots would be all that impressed by a mere mushroom.”
“Of course they would. You’re poisonous aren’t you?”
“Not really. Unless you ingest too much of me, which is highly unlikely since my psychotropic compounds would render the consumer unable to do so because, well, frankly, they would be trippin’ balls.”
“Well, then surely you are an extremely rare mushroom?”
“No. There are entire colonies of mushrooms just like me.”
Frustrated, Sam shook a fist out in front of himself. “Damn it! Do you at least go well with a fine meat and two vegetables stew?”
“Actually, I’ve been told I have very little desirable flavor. The truth is, I’m quite bitter.”
“Wait a minute… This is all another one of your mind games. You’re trying to convince me that you’re not a grand prize, when in fact, you are.” Sam held his sword high and was set to cut the mushroom down when an arrow suddenly pierced his throat. He fell to the ground, gurgling, and soon after died.
After a few moments passed, the mushroom, shocked and now spattered with Sam’s blood, called out in quaking fear. “Who did that!? Are you still there?” A figure wobbled between some distant trees. The mushroom strained his voice to make it louder. “Please! I want to talk to you! Help!” And suddenly there was someone standing over him. He was portly, nearly blocking out the entirety of the sun with his grotesque body.
“A mushroom that talks,” the stranger said in a nasally and somewhat whiny voice. “Now that is a grand prize — but killing you would make your talent useless. And I don’t like things that are useless. Only losers are useless.”
“Who the hell are you?” the mushroom asked.
“How could you not know who I am? I am Gordon the Great. I am the king of this entire realm. I’m a very important king — very popular with the people. Just ask anyone. People love me. And these are very fine people that say this. They say it all the time. You’ll hear it. Wherever you go.”
The mushroom looked him up and down with great suspicion and disbelief. “You don’t look much like a king to me,” he said. “Frankly, you kind of sound and look like an asshole.”
The king sneered and pouted his overly ripe face. “I don’t like mushrooms that don’t like me. That’s just sad. You’re a very sad mushroom. I can have you beheaded for talking to me that way… And many people, all over the whole kingdom, they will like that. They really will. They will be huge fans of it. Huge.”
The king finally turned his attention to Sam’s lifeless body on the ground. “Who is this I killed?”
“He was a great warrior.”
The king knelt down beside the body and turned the face toward him. He studied it. “It seems I have slayed Stupid Sam,” he said. “How unfortunate. I don’t like people who get slayed.”
“He wasn’t stupid,” the mushroom asserted. “He had a bright future and you destroyed it because all you care about is killing and destruction and polluting the forests and the valleys and the seas, and all because of your damn money.”
Gordon the Great rose and rolled his eyes and chuckled. “You only say that because you’re poor.” Then he made a goofy face and twiddled his fingers in the air, mocking the mushroom. He stepped forward and raised his kingly boot above the trembling fungi in an action of impending stomping.
But then the king suddenly stopped and turned his head. “Do you hear that?”
“What is it?” the frightened mushroom wanted to know.
“It sounds like the kingdom is being attacked,” Gordon the Great answered. “I must run and hide!”
But before he ran off, the cowardly king brought the bottom of his boot down upon the helpless mushroom, seething with ugliness and all the hatefulness he had inside him, and smashed it into an unrecognizable mush.