I was putting a serious effort towards accepting the weirdness of my new home. It wasn’t easy. Every time I took something for granted, assuming it would behave like it did on Earth, I found myself amazingly wrong. This was awkward. But since there wasn’t much I could do about the weirdness, I had finally decided to see if I could be more levelheaded about the situation. If nothing else, I was tired of my roommate making fun of me when I freaked out.
So it was with this in mind that I followed him on a mushroom-collecting trip through the woods. I had no intention of eating the things — even mundane Earth fungus was something I steered clear of — but the pointy-eared bastard wanted some, and he’d talked me into coming along.
He gave me vague guidelines and a basket, and said to keep an eye out for bright colors among the dirt. I simply nodded.
And I felt quite proud of myself when a cluster of tiny gnome-like beings popped up from a hole and scuttled across my shoes. I didn’t make a sound. I jumped and shook the last of them off, but I didn’t scream like a child, so that was progress. The roomie didn’t even notice.
After a few more minutes of walking, we reached a colorful glen with all sorts of weird things growing. He was off like a shot.
“Ooh, hogswart! And ferrywhether, and molestongue… Look at the size of that one!” He was all over the place like a toddler on Christmas. I stood with my basket and tried to decide which bizarro thing to pick first.
Well, we were there for mushrooms, and that purple thing looked like a mushroom. Of course, it also looked like an octopus. There were tentacle arms festooned with suction cups all along the rim of the mushroom’s cap. And they moved, of course. Picking this thing would surely be unpleasant.
After a moment of dithering, I settled on a twig and a scrap of bark; I distracted the tentacles with the stick before digging it out of the ground with the bark. Feeling proud of myself again, I maneuvered the grabby thing onto the bark, and was halfway over to the bucket when I caught my roommate’s eyes.
His expression looked like I was inches away from a land mine. I froze.
“Drop it,” he said in a strained whisper. I did, letting go of both stick and bark, and taking a huge step back.
My optimistic and cheerful roommate leveled a blast of pure magic at it, more wide-eyed and frightened than I’d ever seen him. I had to look away from the painful brightness. When I turned back, he was still holding the pose with his hands out, just waiting for something to move.
The mushroom, the basket, and a dozen square yards of forest floor were charred ruin. Nothing moved.
I looked back at him, heart pounding. “Poisonous?”
“Very,” he said. “How about you hold my basket, and I pick?”
I didn’t argue. But I did file the incident away for use in future discussions of my tendency to “overreact.”