“Better than Mathematicians”

(c) Nin Harris 2010 —

Maryani watched, not without sympathy, as the hapless anthropologist trudged away from her door, his shoulders slumped. He was the third one this week to visit her since the last Ferahian ship arrived on the docks just beyond Mykologosia. He would probably be back again tomorrow. She had no idea how or why the Ferahian vessel had picked them up, but, being dedicated ethnographers, they had lost no time in trying to find out more about the city-state. After all, who could resist a multi-ethnic metropolis that had grown around a colony of oversized mushrooms, turned into houses by both humans and non-humans alike? A mushroom colony! How quaint!

Anthropologists who believed they had discovered Faerie were no different from those explorers who had traversed the continents of Asia or Africa centuries past. Maryani should know, being one of the more senior members of the city-state who had arrived on Yrejveree from Asia, or Africa, or even South America. Somehow, the salient fact of their inherent diversity or their hybrid human population was always overlooked. Somehow, they were always misread as being Continental or even, heaven forbid, medieval!

She remembered a travel-piece she had helped to proof-read by a hippie backpacker, sometime in the late `70s. He had been floundering about Mykologosia, taking instant photographs which were always turning up blank. He wasn’t exactly the smartest human to visit Mykologosia, but he had been rather good-looking in the disheveled, pseudo-intellectual hippie way that turned her on.

The backpacker, who was a medievalist by profession in the real world raved in the pamphlet about a “glimpse into the idyllic market places of faerieland”, using various fantastical superlatives. He did not even acknowledge the fact that the proof-reader that he had been happily coupling with nightly for a week was unequivocally a golden brown business woman from South East Asia with a razor-sharp tongue and business acumen enough to have a tiny empire on an island on the edge of the Known World. Her daughter’s father, an addled mathematician who had somehow discovered Yrejveree through someone’s unattended laboratory, was no different. He had drifted into her life as dreamily as he had drifted out of it and she was quite sure he had never quite registered the corporeal fact of her existence or the fact that if one did not use protection, even in Faerie, there would be by-blows.

Manfred had ranted about these “wankers who think we’re Fantasy bleeding Island with funny midgets” to her more than once, but she had to admit, they did have a full cast of fantastic creatures, enough to cause cynics to snicker at their predicament. Manfred was one of them. A Tomcatting Fae with the ears to match and a seductive smile to lure the more naive of their female visitors. Some days, just watching the street outside her comfortable home was enough to make her see screaming capitol letters on artfully aged pamphlets. Faerie creatures by the gross! Pirates! Mermaids! Why, even drunken poets, as well. You couldn’t avoid them, or the beatnik artists, or the performers who quoted Artaud and Brecht as they copulated in dingy cafes. Mykologosia was no different from any place where sentient creatures congregated, actually. They were as much a part of Yrejveree as were her sunburnt Ferahian pirates and her Nepalese friends who ran the best confectionery syndicate this side of Faerie.

Detailing the actual and exact racial composition of Mykologosia was a delicate thing. It was also a mess that she wouldn’t wish on any anthropologist. Not the one who had rang her doorbell earlier, not the one that she had very efficiently taken care of the week before. She had to admit, ethnographers made for the best fertilizers, better than mathematicians or astrophysicists. Her neighbours would be well-fed on her banquets for months as a result of the garden’s yield.

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