i moss

by Jieyan W., 16

Come a little closer. There is something here to see.

Beneath your feet are bursting red toadstools and thick, sharp grass. Black trees tower in front of you. The only light you have is the faint sparkling of the fireflies.

But we are not here to gaze at the wonders of the forest. Nor are we here to hunt for monsters and fairies. We are here to look at the most mundane thing possible: the moss that crawls in the corners, hugs the rotting tree trunks, and hides under the hardened roots. It is soft and quiet, unremarkably moist.

We pass by the moss every day, trampling it with our feet. We scrape it off our garden fences and leave it to shrivel to death on the ground.

We never think about why it is always present, why it seems to magically grow on our walls. It can leap from its home in the woods and into the cities and invade our sewers and our streets. Lurking in every corner, it watches us from afar before we unceremoniously and ruthlessly rip it apart.

This is perhaps the most terrifying thing about moss — it is pervasive, fearless, senseless. Yet we are blind to it. We do not stop to wonder why such a vigorous creature condemns itself to such a lowly existence.

While it is ignored and kicked aside, the moss takes notes. It is constantly processing information about the environment around it. Its memory is infinite. It knows where you were born and can calculate when you will die. The text of all the books in the libraries around the world are held in one cell of its brain.

The moss’s power is something that you cannot fathom. If you could peer into its mind, your brain would — quite literally — melt.

Then, what is more incomprehensible, is the moss’s decision to focus on you, to focus on us. We are but a small dot along the vast green horizon. The universe is at the moss’s fingertips. Yet the moss chooses to devote much of its energies to you. It holds the memory of your name and the cries you made as a child close to its heart. When you grew up, it kept track of your loves, your victories, and your grief. Even when you were asleep, the moss never left you, and now your dreams are its dreams — weightless but powerful.

The truth is that the moss has existed for so long that it wonders what it is like to grow up and fear an unavoidable, irreversible death. It has been deprived of innocence; it cannot feel the astonishment we feel when we discover new colors and layers in the world. Its pulse doesn’t quicken when it looks down a ravine or climbs to the top of a mountain. What the moss yearns above all else is to be erased from existence and reborn. It wants to savor the thrill of jumping into the unknown, taking risks that can either end its life or lift it beyond the sky.

But this is beyond the moss’s powers. It can know everything, yet it has no control over its own life. It is an eternal observer, immortal and unmoving. So, the moss follows us. It watches our every move, absorbing and analyzing our actions so that it can live vicariously through us. Right now, the moss is looking through you. What do you feel? Shock? Surprise? Apathy? The moss is examining you with all its computing power. It wants to figure out what makes you human, what makes you experience the world with such passion and fire.

When you die, the moss will not grieve for you. It does not know how to. But it will remember you like the stars in the sky — bright, numerous, and ever-present.

Moscow, Idaho