A small society of mushroom farmers lived deep in the underground. The only light came from their torches. They were simple, peaceful folk, who needed only mushrooms and laughter to survive and thrive. None of them had ever left their underground home. I am not sure any of them would have known how. But they were in trouble. There was about to be an eruption of lava into their cave home, and if they did not escape right away, they would all die. I was the only person who knew about the impending lava doom. But, having materialized from what must have seemed to them to be another world (and which perhaps was), it took a bit of time to convince them of their danger, and that it was important they evacuate immediately.
But I did convince them to follow me, and I led all of them up a series of ladders and staircases. There must have been almost a hundred of them living there, and making sure they all kept climbing was a chore. As they followed me up, we could hear the lava destroying their former home as it filled the rooms. But I knew it would continue rising and destroying any living thing in its path. So we had to keep moving on. We climbed up ladder after ladder, staircase after staircase, through rocky underground rooms, magma fumes burning right behind us all the time.
After a very long climb, we were finally able to get far ahead of the lava, which was continuing to rise beneath us. We came to a standstill in what seemed to be the very last underground room. We could not find the way out of this room, but we knew we were close to the surface of the Earth because there were thin beams of light struggling to shine through vine covered windows on either side of the room. Since we had some time to think before the red hot lava consumed us all, we took in the room: it was gigantic; at least a thousand feet long and half as wide. There were hundreds of desks on the floor in what may once have been organized rows. There was a large desk at the far end of the room. It was a classroom. It had been a classroom a long time ago, at any rate. The desks were covered in moss, and vines and ivy hung from the walls. Whatever was taught in this classroom was long ago forgotten.
Our plan at this point was to stand on the desks and make our last stand against the oncoming magma flow as best we could. Suddenly, the entire room filled with tiny multi-colored beads that seemed to come from no where. They came in either black, white, red, yellow or blue, they were roundish and about three millimeters in diameter. They became attracted to various objects in the room, as if they were magnets. As they attached themselves to the objects, they appeared to become self-aware. It was as if they learned from the objects wordlessly. Once they had done this, they attached themselves to each other, apparently eager to communicate with their own kind about their newfound consciousness. As they did so, they formed spheres of beads. In each sphere of beads, all of the myriad of colored beads became the average of the colors in the group. For instance, a sphere made up of just black and white beads became grey, and a sphere made up of blue and red beads became purple, and a sphere made up of blue and red and a few white and black beads became some sort of a mauve. This happened over and over again, until the entire room was filled with inch and a half diameter spheres of thousands of different colors. I had almost forgotten about the lava when it started to enter the room.
This was it. We moved all the children to the back. I suppose we thought they should live a minute longer than everyone else, but now that I look back on it, it wouldn’t make much difference. The elders stood in front just waiting to die. But the lava, instead of filling room, was consumed by the bead-spheres. As the spheres took in the lava, they formed giant bubbles made up of many spheres, which got larger and larger as the lava flowed in. Some of the people accidentally were touched by lava, but rather than die, they expanded like the bead-sphere-bubbles. I was afraid they would explode. But eventually the lava stopped flowing, the expanded people returned to normal, and the beads fell to the floor, finished with what I suppose was their work. We were alive. All of us had survived and we had the beads to thank.
After we cleaned up the former classroom, we built a tiny city in its place. This would be the new home of the mushroom farmers. Their aspirations had changed. I could see in their eyes that they wanted to connect with the world in a different way. They wanted to understand things they had not even considered before. They had seen more in one day than they had seen in their entire lives up to that point. From now on, their lives would be not just about mushrooms, but about the search for meaning and truth in the universe. It was then that someone discovered an opening to the outside world. We went through the opening.
We all stood atop a mile-high grass-covered tower of rock admiring the view. In one direction, a sparkling blue sea reflected the sun and the sky. In another direction, the land: grass, forest and swamp gathered together like old friends. The clouds were large and fluffy and looked as though they would taste like flowers, if, somehow, one could eat them. Miles away, there was another tower, much like ours (I say “ours” because I had become one of them). The other tower also contained within it a society. We could tell, because they had put buildings and an air terminal on the top of their tower. They had massive airships for traveling to places we had probably not even dreamed of. We made a mental note that we should try to communicate with them in the future.