The lines of communication between an entity and its food are universally limited. As soon as we can talk to something we tend to think twice about eating it. In Avet, you will find several exceptions to this rule. For instance the Xrixin Beetle, a common source of nourishment for phantoms, will almost always lead to terminal indigestion if snatched out of the wild and gobbled up. Yet when raised from infancy to trust its caretakers and accept its place in the natural cycle, such toxicity will never even develop inside the organic system. One last conversation always takes place between the Beetle and the phantom who plans to devour it; and the greater the emotional and intellectual connection resulting from this talk, the tastier and more nutritious its culinary outcome will be.

As might be expected, there is no comparable situation among Avet’s vegetable population. Throughout the vast diversity of plant life none possess any method for directly communicating with the phantom citizens who sow, harvest, and eat them. And yet there is an ubiquitous phenomena which has raised doubts for some. Shortly after sunset many trees growing in urban areas will release a microscopic pollen which slips through open windows, chimneys, keyholes, drains, and ventilation systems to be inhaled by sleeping phantoms. Lodged firmly in the sinus cavity these spores emit chemicals which traverse the blood brain barrier and catalyze dream state activity of such vivid imagery that upon waking the recipient will not find a moment’s peace until they have obsessively transcribed their apparitions into physical form: whether through abstract poetry, surreal paintings and sculptures, vicious polemics against long-begrudged neighbors, political manifestos, declarations of eternal love for strangers, housing for the homeless, banquets for the poor, disarmament treaties, escalators to heaven, wind up toys, spurious encyclopedias, or infectious melodies.

When one of these woodland inspired productions is encountered, swift and unusual emotional reactions often result, including long sustained wailing sounds, temporary paralysis, and most notably the lachrymation of opaque orange tears. Afflicted phantoms tend to sustain brief loss of motor function, collapse onto their hands and knees, and shed these orange tears into the soil.

Such experiences have occurred for so long they have no origin in the written history. For centuries attitudes toward them vacillated among various regional cultures of superstition, capturing the entire spectrum between shunned and desired, good and ill fortune, cause for celebration and ritual cleansing. Nearly a hundred years ago Avet endured a brief political terror which championed the destruction of all spore-spawned artwork and the madhouse incarceration of those who suffered its effects. All this stopped abruptly after the fall of the reactionary regime, but stories are still told of the night when soldiers made their greatest sweep and scourge of materials. When the bonfire was lit the inferno produced a cloud of smoke an ash so high it seeded the clouds, which dumped a torrent of orange rain to douse the fire, preserving several relics at the bottom of the pile. These items did not get burned again, but were buried somewhere in the heartland. Two seasons later several new forests reportedly sprang up in the middle of nowhere. Serious thinkers of the time refused to regard this as anything but a coincidence.

And yet recent research has revealed that the mysterious orange tears contain trace amounts of phytohormones such as phenylacetic acid, nitric oxide, and certain rare jasmonates and karrikins. Due to the presence of so many plant hormones, prevailing theory relegates the phenomenon to a class of endozoochory, where instead of transmitting the means of reproduction, the hosts aid in producing ideal soil conditions for any seeds lucky enough to make or have made their way to that patch of ground.

To many contemporary thinkers, such ideas are too far fetched. To others they are too materialistic. The most recent non-scientific literature on the subject attributes the entire process to a primitive attempt by the plant world to communicate and bond with the phantom population. It may be the case that the dreams, the art produced, and the resulting tears are all secondary byproducts of an experimental mediary language. Most of what is both strange and harmless will eventually make its way into the snake oil bottles of remedy peddlers, and stories continue to circulate of phantoms who purchase tinctures of orange tears for stress reduction, euphoria, and mild aphrodisiac. One rumor, which has only grown more prevalent over the years, claims the consumers of this medicine can be seen wandering out into groves at night, pressing their foreheads against the trunks of trees, and falling asleep. When they wake up they have no memory of leaving their homes. A mild acrid taste remains on their tongues for several days, and many report an elevated craving for the flesh of animals.