Almost everyone in China knew the story of the Queen of the West’s Jade Lake. For Fatty and I, we had not only heard of it, but had also probably been there.
That happened many years ago in Tamu-Tuo. If I remembered correctly, the Queen of the West’s Jade Lake was a huge muddy pool.(1)
But I didn’t want to show off in front of Wen Binghui at this time, so I merely said to him, “You’d better speak quickly.”
“You go into that building first, and I can finish explaining along the way.” When Wen Binghui said this, I saw Fatty raise his hand and signal to me that he was going to listen to Wen Binghui and go into the building first. I raised my head and signaled to him that I agreed with this plan. Then, the two of us—armed with our guns—began to carefully approach the ancient building from two directions.
Wen Binghui continued speaking into our headsets, “If you’ve read ‘Journey to the West’, you’ll have noticed two details: one is that the flat peach and ginseng fruit have very similar effects and growth cycles, but the flat peach’s name is very strange. The Chinese character for ‘flat’ has always been considered evil,(2) so isn’t it kind of unlucky to use it to describe a type of food? In fact, this is all a misunderstanding. In ancient times, there was a kind of tree called Panqu, which looked like a snake covered in bugs. The fruit this tree bore was called flat grapes. As time went on and the story became distorted, these flat grapes became flat peaches, and the tree became a peach tree.”(3)
As we listened, Fatty and I finally arrived in front of the ancient building’s door. It was made of wood that had rotted with time, and there were three drum patterns carved on both sides. They were very special, but they were so old that the wood had rotted and was full of holes.
“The things that really prolong your life if you eat them are the flat grapes; in other words, the things that fall from the trees here. Later, some scholars said that this kind of tree doesn’t exist, and it’s actually just a kind of bacterial sack produced by plants that are infected with a fungus.” Wen Binghui continued, “Wherever this thing falls, it will start to take root and grow a root sack, just like a baby. If it happens to fall on you, it will immediately take root under your skin.”
“This root sack doesn’t change with the sun and the moon and turn into a person, does it?” Fatty asked. “Like by sucking my flesh and blood?”
“That I don’t know, but be sure you don’t get hit by this fruit. Wherever it hits you, it will blossom and bear fruit. Do you remember that saying that ginseng fruit will disappear once it hits the ground? Actually, it doesn’t disappear but turns into hypha that immediately takes root.”
There was a porch in front of the huge door, which Fatty and I stepped onto. We found that the ancient building must have been hit by this fruit for many years, because there were black, baby-shaped stains covering almost every inch of the outer walls.
We could also see some small, fleshy, bud-like things on top of these black stains, but I didn’t know what they were.
“If you get infected with fungi whenever you touch it, how can you obtain immortality after eating it?” I asked. “Your words are too contradictory.”
“Obviously, you don’t eat it raw,” Wen Binghui said.
I used my flashlight to take a look at those baby-shaped shadows on the walls and found that all the fleshy bud-like things were growing from the shadows’ eyes. Not only did it look very strange, but they were so densely packed together that they looked like barnacles on dry land.
To be honest, I had a very bad feeling at this time. It was already unbelievable that we found an ancient building deep beneath the Kunlun Mountain, but now, upon closer inspection, there was even this strange fungus all around the building. The whole building was almost like some kind of giant fungus nest.
But this thing was in our way, and the satellite phone’s signal was coming from under the building, so we’d have to go through it anyway.
Fatty obviously didn’t believe Wen Binghui’s words and started shining his flashlight on the huge decayed wooden door.
Not only were the gaps in the wood very big, but the whole door was skewed, so we could directly see the situation inside. In the space behind the wooden door, there was a statue of a beast’s head hidden in the darkness. Although the flashlight could only give us a rough picture, we could definitely tell that there was something big behind it.
Fatty and I examined it for a long time and felt that this statue should be part of a huge bronze censer. The thousand layers of rust on it were very exaggerated, which seemed to indicate that it was extremely old. It may have even been made when bronzeware first appeared.
It was full of various-sized holes that had formed from decay, which made it look like a hornet’s nest. Fatty shined his flashlight through these holes and said to me, “More likely than not, this is another coffin. It’s probably just like that one we saw before, except it’s four times bigger.”
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(1) I think he’s referring to chapter 22 of “Graveyard of a Queen”.
(2) The character is 蟠 (pinyin is pán) and it means “to coil”.
(3) Per Seph: ginseng fruit in “Journey to the West” is a mystical fruit that is shaped like a child and will give longevity to whoever eats it. It can’t touch the ground; otherwise, it will be absorbed into the earth and disappear. Baidu link here. And as mentioned in last chapter’s TN note, flat peaches are peaches of immortality that the Queen of the West grew and gave to guests.
2 thoughts on “Chapter 3 Fungus Nest”
Thank you for the chapter!
Seeds when touched grow roots under your skin.. Huh you don’t say.
Thank you for adding another item to my list of terrifying things in the nature.