Jakob Millard


The wall separated Julitta from the moors and the tangle of woods beyond. She wasn’t meant to be out after dark, but she needed to see the mushrooms again. Images of amorphous shadowy shapes flashed through her head; shapes with claws, shapes with hoods, shapes with limbs far too long. She scolded herself and shook the images from her head before jumping the cobblestone wall and darting towards the blotch of trees against the evening sky.

The mushroom’s soft green glow illuminated the path ahead and she found her way through the woods quickly to the dark crescent of earth that cradled them. They were still the most beautiful thing she had ever seen, she almost gasped when they came into view. She had been here every afternoon for the last week and already they had grown so much. She sat by them and found herself transfixed once again by their speckled heads and frilly skirts that shimmered and swayed in place.

She wasn’t sure how long she sat watching them, but when she looked up it was dark save for their glow. She couldn’t put off the inevitable any longer, she had to go home. But, how could she leave them again? No, not this time. Never again. Julitta shivered as she removed her coat, a necessary sacrifice she decided. She piled the mushrooms along with as much dirt as she could carry onto its folds, then pulled it into a parcel. She slugged it all the way home before the dark shapes could catch her.

She arrived home, but stopped dead at the door. What if her parents didn’t approve, threw her mushrooms away — what if they, she shuddered, ate them? She skulked around to the back of the house, ducking under windows and left her parcel under her window.

Her dad was in the kitchen as she entered. His voice was stern and he scolded her for being late, for being filthy, and where was her coat? She discreetly rolled her eyes, of course they would never understand. He told her to wash up for dinner and she bowed her head and apologised. She rushed to her bedroom, her fingers twitching and heart racing in anticipation. She opened her window and grabbed the parcel, and unfurled it to reveal the soothing glow of the mushrooms in the damp dark earth.

She emptied the parcel into the corner against the black mould she had been growing. The mushrooms shimmered happily in the warm light of her bedside lamp. She took clothes from her floor and piled them over her new mushroom patch, then washed her hands and left them for dinner.

As soon as she could, she excused herself and quietly locked her door. She uncovered the mushrooms and took out her sketchbook and began to draw them, over and over until she could get their pose just right. Green illuminations bounced around her room and across her face as she drew, and she could swear — they were speaking. Just a faint whisper, a twinkling of static, almost imperceptible if you weren’t paying attention. But Julitta was paying attention. She was listening intently. It sounded like chanting, gentle, but nothing like a human voice. It was the sound of the woods, of rustling leaves, the scuttling of insect legs. Perhaps she imagined it, just her mind playing tricks on her and trying to make sense of meaningless sounds, but — no, there it was, grow grow grow grow.

The rattle of her door handle interrupted her concentration, she jumped to her feet and covered her mushrooms in a flurry. There was an impatient thump on the door, “Julitta, time for bed.”

She ran to unlock the door, her face bright red. “Yes mama,” she replied.

She shouldn’t have rushed, if she had looked back just for a moment she would have noticed the faint glow from between her fluffy jump and a pair of jeans.

She returned to her parents stern, fury coursing through their stony faces, her mushrooms discovered. Too soon, much too soon. Her dad grabbed her by the arm and pointed, they both shouted, too loudly, too quickly. She didn’t listen to a word they said — she was listening for whispers.

Grow grow grow grow

She slipped out of her dad’s arms and put herself between them and her mushrooms, and they chanted louder now.

Grow grow grow grow

Leave them alone, they need me!” she screamed.

Grow grow grow grow

“Silly girl, move.”

Grow grow grow grow

“Listen to them, can’t you hear them?” Julitta stomped on the shaky bare floor boards and screeched as loud as she could. Her mum picked her up and she thrashed against her with her whole body, kicking and slapping, but her mum’s grip was iron tight. There was nothing she could do. Her mushrooms were defenceless against the onslaught that followed. By the time her mum loosened her grip all that was left was damp floorboard and grains of soil.

Her mum tried to comfort her but Julitta covered her ears and curled up like a woodlouse and sobbed. Her mum sat a while stroking her head but Julitta didn’t stop until she was gone. Once she was, Julitta lay silently on her back, listening to her breath as her tears dried.

The room was quiet other than for her breath. The house was silent too, and the world was asleep. Even the owls. She lay there and stared at the ceiling. She felt so powerless, so heartbroken, and yet… beneath her heart beat, beneath her breath she could hear, ever so faintly, quieter than even her body —

Grow grow grow grow

She turned her head towards the sound. Beneath the bed, resting between two floorboards, so small that she almost mistook it for the lights in her eyes, was a pin-prick of green light. She held her breath, and yes there it was —

Grow grow grow grow

She climbed under the bed and took it, it was so small, but it was whole and alive and it wanted to grow.

She picked at a small hole in the wall under her bed. She put her little finger inside and pulled and the paper thin plasterboard pulled away with her. She did it slowly, removing the plasterboard piece by piece until it was a hole the size of her fist that looked into the space between the walls. She climbed quietly through the window and took in her hands just a handful of earth, more than enough for such a small mushroom. She pushed both the earth and the mushroom through the hole in the wall where they could grow without the foul hands and interventions of adults. She crawled into bed, but she could hear it through the walls now, a gentle beat lulling her into a deep and dreamless sleep.

Grow grow grow grow

She was woken up by the morning light shining in her eyes. She rolled over, annoyed that she’d forgotten to close the curtains, but it didn’t help. The light still glared through her eyelids. She gave up, and stretched out her aching body before slowly peeling back her eyelids. She could scarcely suppress her joy, she wanted to laugh, clap, and sing, maybe even dance. There was no morning sun, it was still dark through the windows. From her floorboards and walls and even the ceiling shone green light, pulsing to the beat of her heart.

Grow grow grow grow




Jakob Millard likes to write working class gothic fiction, enjoys socialism, ghosts, frogs, and stans Robert Smith. They’re editor and designer for Placeholder Press and its imprint of oddities and mirages, Misplacement Magazine. Pisces/Gemini/Sagittarius.