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The symbiotic relationship between the great fungal entity and the fortunate Australian tribe has evolved for tens of thousands of years by this time, bringing about changes in both, as well as leading to much more advanced ways to exploit the arrangement for all involved.
Over time the tribe has come to accept the great fungal entity as a form of intelligence in its own right. The tribe has benefited far too much from its presence and guidance for it not to be so. Now they know the entity as the Ancient One.
The tribe's predecessors and the Ancient One together faced an immense challenge some 15,000 years earlier, as a wave of new immigrants, and a population explosion in Australia itself led to the Great Burning of the continent. A terrible toll on the fauna and flora of Australia was exacted by the flames. Those who set the fires often had arguably good reasons-- but there was a huge cost to be paid for their actions in the aftermath, such as starvation, since much of the megafauna and the plants and animals they lived off of were wiped out. Many of these had previously been important food sources for human Australians as well. For these and other reasons, starvation and even some instances of cannibalism stalked the continent for centuries afterward.
The Ancient One however proved very resilient to the Great Burning-- and showed the tribe the way to survive and prosper along with it. Together they successfully fended off the worst of the attacks by other tribes over the centuries, which then stretched into millennia. The Ancient One was usually able to warn the tribe of approaching intruders long before the tribe itself could sense them. It also provided them with weapons of sorts-- puff balls of spores which could be placed in the path of enemies, spitting out a cloud when stepped upon that could kill or drive mad with fear those who breathed it in. The Ancient One also provided many other benefits and aids. In return, the tribe cared for the Ancient One, insuring it the extra moisture and protection from insects and vermin it desired.
Over time the Ancient One has made it known to the tribe that an eventual ending would come to their union. But they might both live on in another way, if suitable preparations were made. The tribe of course had learned to trust and believe the Ancient One as it had done nothing but protect and heal them for untold past generations. And so it accepted its latest imparted wisdom.
Eventually the Ancient One was perceived to have chosen a favorite from among the tribe's young, with which to create its first direct walking representative among the people.
The Chosen One was carefully prepared according to the Ancient One's instructions, then ritually buried alive near the heart of the subterranean growth.
More than a year later the Chosen One re-emerged from his grave, terrifying many among the tribe, despite their fore-knowledge of and preparation for the event.
The Chosen One now appeared to move, think, and speak very slowly a portion of the time, much like how the Ancient One itself was perceived in certain ceremonies; but his slowed words proved immensely wise and his actions astonishingly efficient; he seemed to know and see things no one else could. At other times the Chosen One reverted back to his old self, indistinguishable from how he was before burial and speaking at normal human rates-- except for the permanently pale, gaunt, and leathery look acquired from joining with the Ancient One for the year underground. When he fast-spoke though, he lost much of the wisdom and economy seen in his slower words and actions.
As the generations passed the tribe gained still more respect and fear for the Chosen One-- as he did not age and die like everyone else. Perhaps several times during a normal lifetime the Chosen One returned to his original communion burial site for anywhere from a few months to several years-- but then always re-emerged again, often long after the tribe was convinced he would arise no more. More typically, the Chosen One would often spend some hours resting in a dark pond or swamp, or lying prone in sunlight. But he rarely lost consciousness during such times.
Often the Chosen One told the tribe of strange sights, events, animals, and people he had seen in faraway lands and times (through communion with the Ancient One).
The tribe laughed when they learned of how the Ancient One rendered itself invisible even to the smartest peoples of both past and future times, and this and other worlds.
The Chosen One told them the Ancient One was a special being composed of many single particles of such small size and complexity very very few beings might see it without magical aids. Particles which bonded with other life of a somewhat complementary nature-- like the Chosen One himself. Of course, prior to the bonding with the Chosen One, the Ancient One had long ago bound itself to the fibrous underground roots-- the form in which the tribe had first encountered the entity.
"Astonishing" purple crystals containing miniscule amounts of salt water have been found in freshly fallen meteorites by NASA. The water is as old or older than the Earth itself. It may be the Earth obtained much of its own water from sources such as this. The water also hints at possible "organic chemistry" occuring in such environments, in outer space.
Unfortunately, a comprehensive analysis of the contents of these crystals must await further advances in scientific instrument technology.
-- "Ancient meteorite hints at origins of Earth's water" By PETER N. SPOTTS, August 28, 1999. http://www.nandotimes.com, Nando Media/Christian Science Monitor Service
A 1998 meteor shower in Texas left behind rocks containing "...purple-tinged salt crystals..." hiding tiny amounts of water as old as the formation of the Solar System. The water itself may contain vapor samples of the solar nebula gas from which the planets formed. Salt crystals normally lack color; cosmic radiation however will darken them.
-- Found: Primordial Water By Ron Cowen, From Science News, Vol. 156, No. 18, October 30, 1999, p. 284, Science Service. http://www.sciserv.org/]
A test tube worth of crystalline purple protein (bacteriorhodopsin) produced by the salt marsh microorganism Halobacterium halobium may be able to store up to to ten Gigabytes of digital information.
-- SOMEDAY, A SEEING-EYE GERM? By Nellie Andreeva EDITED BY ELLEN LICKING, Developments to Watch, Business Week: November 9, 1998, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
During a 1979 meteor shower in Texas three warm purple jelly-like blobs were discovered in a homeowner's yard. One melted or evaporated away while two others were commandeered by NASA. An Associated Press report the next day implied the blobs were only industrial waste of some kind (but it appears from one of the citations above that NASA had begun taking such things more seriously as the years passed).
The event bears similarities to reports of pwdre ser falls documented throughout past european history, including one in 1978 in England. (pwdre ser is Welsh for star jelly).
-- PURPLE BLOBS IN TEXAS From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies ["http://www.knowledge.co.uk/frontiers/"] #9, Winter 1979 by William R. Corliss, citing "NASA Scientists to Prob Mystery of 2 Purple Blobs Found in Texas," Baltimore Sun, September 8, 1979
In late 1983 unidentified jelly-like blobs pelted part of North Reading Massachusetts. They smelled of oil and were white or grayish in appearance. They seemed to quickly dissappear into the pavement (melting? evaporating?). Analysis by state experts determined they were not toxic. There were no indications they fell from passing airplanes.
-- VANISHING GOO From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies ["http://www.knowledge.co.uk/frontiers/"] #40, JUL-AUG 1985 by William R. Corliss, citing "Vanishing Goo," Fortean Times, no. 43, p. 23, Spring 1985. Extracted from USA Today of December 22, 1983, and Hilary Belcher and Erica Swale; "Catch a Falling Star," Folklore, 95: 210, 1984
Then, wherever suitable minerals were present, the hybrid lifeform produced tiny crystalline shards among its root system, in which its most complex functions might be performed. The tiny crystals were near imperceptible to natural vision, and in any case virtually indistinguishable from other, lesser crystals which commonly occur on most worlds...
When the Chosen One was asked how he knew these things, he told them the Ancient One possessed distant brothers/sisters spread all over the world, and they all communicated on the wind and sea with small bits of themselves, over thousands of years.
He also told them that still further away was another world, where only a very few such entities lived, and much smaller and weaker than the Ancient One here. The tribe's entity required tens to hundreds of thousands of years, if not more, to communicate with those. The other world was a very cold, windy (though near airless), and dry place now, but long ago was considerably more hospitable-- for entities like the Ancient One, anyway.
The Chosen One then spoke of yet other worlds, still further removed from the second, and so far away as to lie on the very fringe of the awareness of all the Ancient Ones in the Earth combined. Most were so cold and still as to be very nearly dead. But beyond those were several warmer and wetter places, a couple with a population of entities comparable to the Earth itself.
The Chosen One told his people that even the long lived entities themselves must pass through many generations to learn news from those furthest worlds. But those furthest worlds themselves knew of others further away still. And so there was no true end to the entities, or to all life itself, for that matter.
-- SPORES STILL VIABLE AFTER 7,000 YEARS From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies ["http://www.knowledge.co.uk/frontiers/"] #32, MAR-APR 1984 by William R. Corliss, citing "Spores Still Viable after 7,000 Years," Science_News, 124:280, 1983
Experiments indicate that Bacillus subtilis spores traveling in the protected environment of molecular clouds in space might live for tens to hundreds of millions of years in the medium. This could allow not only the transport of life between planets, but even solar systems. Asteroid or comet impacts could launch such spores into space from a planet's surface. The spores would require some ultraviolet protection of some sort to survive capture by a planet passing through a molecular cloud.
-- CAN SPORES SURVIVE IN INTERSTELLAR SPACE? From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies ["http://www.knowledge.co.uk/frontiers/"] #42, NOV-DEC 1985 by William R. Corliss, citing Peter Weber, and J. Mayo Greenberg; "Can Spores Survive in Interstellar Space?" Nature, 316:403, 1985
Bacteria existing in prehistoric sea-salt crystals a half mile underground revived after dormancy of 250 million years? Perhaps even 500 million? Living bacteria also found in the guts of 125 million year old insects trapped in amber? Possibly yes to all.
A mysterious rod-shaped organism as yet unmatched to the DNA of any known Earth life also seemed to emerge from a dissolution of similar crystals. Researchers have been unable to estimate the age of this reddish creature. They suspect it is related to archaea.
-- Prehistoric bacteria revived from buried salt By J. Travis From Science News, Vol. 155, No. 24, June 12, 1999, p. 373, http://www.sciserv.org/
The tribe had come to learn much about the Ancient One over past millennia. They now knew that the Ancient One needed and wanted their help as much as they did the entity's.
Human beings might be much smaller, shorter lived, and less knowledgable and perceptive than the Ancient One, but they were also much more mobile and immensely faster physically speaking. Plus, they had eyes, ears, noses, hands, and fingers good at many useful tasks. Human beings could offer much expanded manipulation and observation of the local environment, including protecting the Ancient One from dangers it wasn't well equipped to handle or detect itself.
The Ancient One told them it and its brethren had sought out mutually beneficial arrangements such as this with beings such as themselves for as long as memory could reach into the past. But beings such as the tribe members were rare finds. Though the Ancient One possessed dim memories of tribe-like peoples on a faraway world in the deep past, for now Earth had the only such tribe in its direct knowledge.
In return for the tribe's aid, the Ancient One could provide them with wondrous tales of the Great Beyond, brief periods of ecstacy to counter the daily grind of hunting and gathering and parenting, and increase the creativity and innovation and comradery among the tribe. The Ancient One also served as a slow but deep repository of ancient tribal knowledge and history, which helped them be better prepared astronomy and weather-wise for various periodic events which might otherwise threaten them with disaster or divisiveness stemming from fear and uncertainty; elements which dramatically affected many other Australian tribes forced to endure life without a direct connection to an Ancient One of their own.
Finally, the crisis of which the Ancient One had warned the tribe for generations was realized.
It struck the tribe at a critical time; both the Ancient One and the Chosen One were busy budding a replacement in the communion grave, and so inaccessible to the tribe when they were suddenly assaulted by enemies in force. Such a budding was a rare event, taking place only every 150 years or so-- but during the several year long process the tribe must necessarily fend for themselves.
When the newly grown Chosen One arose from the earth, the tribe was all either dead or gone. He was freshly young and alone; but he possessed all the knowledge of his previous incarnation.
A small part of the Chosen One felt sadness and anger at the wholly unnecessary and unwarranted massacre. His human portions had dearly loved many of the last generation of the tribe he'd known, and held great affection for even more.
But the rest of him knew only a very small part of those struck down was truly and permanently gone. Much of their essence lived on, in ways beyond the understanding of present day human beings. Even if living humans knew the truth, he was sure its utterly alien nature compared to their fleshy experience would repel them. It required time and direct experience to adequately comprehend the matter. For those reasons he had always taken great care in choosing what he told the tribe about such matters, and how.
The massacre had been inevitable. His people (humans) were still immature, and subject to the winds of impulse and animalistic needs. The time had finally come to expand his tribal affiliation to include the entire continent, and possibly more.
The Chosen One would travel the continent, spreading true knowledge and history to all who would listen. He would also be spreading spores of the Ancient One. And connecting himself to the humans of the continent in ways imperceptible to them, but essential to his own approaching tasks.
A time of worldshaking conflict was coming. To the north sparks of this world's first advanced civilizations were catching hold. At one particular time and place among the possibles, the molecular keys of life themselves would also be plentiful, and might draw the attention of the aborning civilization there. But humanity was far too young to use such tools without supervision. The power would come too easily and quickly, and they would surely hurt themselves, as countless other animals achieving sentience elsewhere under similar circumstances had. The Chosen One could not recall the details of those events; they were too far removed in space and time from here and now. But he instinctively knew his own responsibilities in the matter. It best served humanity to learn and do many other things, before unfolding the knowledge of the keys.
It also best served the Ancient One as well-- since the Ancient One would prefer for a healthy and robust human tribe to be around a hundred to two hundred millennia from now to help with its own progeny. By that point it was hoped the mentoring process might be reversed, with the humans helping the Ancient One's children to evolve further along their own course, rather than vice versa. This role switch played out successfully on some worlds, at some times. During others...well, sadness prevailed.
Fast-movers like the human tribe often killed themselves in the end-- frequently before they could even reach into the void between worlds.
Unfortunately, the Chosen One had only some 20,000 years or so to prepare for his first major challenge. There were only two others like him on Earth at present, with no other guaranteed to fully mature in time. Indeed, the trio might find its numbers actually diminished, if certain untoward events came about. They all had to remember not to get stuck on a sea bottom or in a cave-in somewhere, and to avoid being frozen or incinerated (e.g., give a wide berth to certain surface volcanoes which were ripe for eruption, or their subterranean magma root flows)...just about any other annoyance could be dealt with on a reasonable time scale.
|-- The Amazing Fungi! ["http://daphne.palomar.edu/wayne/ww0504.htm"]|
Each had their own formidable jobs to do over coming millennia. One lived a hermit's life on the eastern coast of the continent one day to be called North America, waiting for a particular gene pool of human beings which were due there soon. The other resided in a region someday to be named Turkey. All of them wondered what the future (and their stewardship) would bring for this world.
The Chosen Ones enjoyed several advantages over others of this world's fast-movers. They were virtually immortal (with a few caveats). They knew many of the Ways of the Underworld-- a vast system of cavernous wormhole-like channels throughout the Earth, which could be used for near global travel from one place to another, avoiding many hazards/obstacles of surface travel such as inclement weather, impassable terrain, hostile local peoples and large animals, and more. The Ways in some cases could transform global journeys to treks not much different from lengthy walks with a bit of climbing here and there....
However, the Ways could still be perilous in some regions, and during various times. One Chosen One had remained below too long and been trapped during an earthslip which doomed him to an indefinite stay. He had been forced to take up residence in a waterworld slowly descending towards the core, all its complex life captured from a seafloor subduction slowly unraveling in complexity until mostly far simpler organisms remained. The Chosen One too had been forced to dissolve into a different form, to survive. To this day he was their deepest representative in the Earth.
The Ways could be treacherous not merely because of the occasional earthslip, but also inattention on the part of a Chosen One following such paths. Virtually all the Ways were darker than the darkest surface night. So the eyes of fast surface hosts were useless. Physical animal forms were also prone to severe injury and unreasoning, hysterical fear in the Ways-- both elements that the slow spirit within had to control continuously when treading the Ways. A Chosen One typically crawled, swam, wiggled, or climbed their entire way through the caverns; walking was only sometimes an option. Walking was in fact the least favored form of locomotion along the Ways; swimming was the second-least favored. Both were risky in terms of injury and becoming lost in the Ways. Both could move a Chosen One too fast through the Ways for a guiding crystal to adequately perform its navigation chores. Plus, underground stream currents could often be unpredictable in direction and strength, even with the help of the crystals.
The knowledge of the Ways had been gained over hundreds of millions of years by traveling particulate crystals from the various fungal entities presently on Earth. Such crystals recorded their routes magnetically as they traveled suspended in flowing liquids through the cracks, crevices, and porous rocks of the underground. Over time a fraction of the crystals found their way back to one entity or another, and all shared the new knowledge with their distant family members.
Of course, the resulting maps were not perfect; movements in the Earth over time decreased their accuracy, and there were some sizable gaps in continuity in any case-- such as beneath the Pacific Ocean. It was apallingly necessary to go round the long way to get to the Americas from Australia, via the Ways. If not for the peculiar vulnerabilities of the Chosen, it would be better to travel by sea than the Ways to get there. Anyway, the accuracy of the crystals enjoyed longer lifespans at greater depths, and suffered the shortest-lived accuracy for the uppermost few hundred feet of Earth. This meant that sometimes a Chosen One could travel for thousands of miles underground only to find the exit at the end to be sealed. This left only the options of waiting for an earthslip to reopen the exit, digging out themselves, or seeking another exit nearby that was connected to the present passageway somewhere miles behind the Chosen One.