The mountain had been there for a very long time. The rock had as well. It had originally been part of the mountain, much higher up, countless years ago, but the weather, as always, took its toll, and part of a slope sheared off in a rockslide, cracking and breaking on the way down. And the rock settled into a new spot. And it stayed there for a very long time. Although not all that long, as rocks count things.
The spore blew onto the rock one day. It caught in a crevice and stayed. It had the right amount of sunlight and the right amount of moisture and it just worked. It couldn't have picked a better place. Not that they could choose. It was lucky.
The rock almost didn't notice. Rocks aren't, by nature, particularly talkative. So it doesn't particularly occur to them that anyone might have anything to say to them. But the voice was insistent. There was no way it was going to be ignored.
:C'mon, rock, I know you're there. Knock knock.:
:Ah, see, there we go! Hi, rock!:
:Who are you? Where are you?:
:I'm Clint. I'm on your back, and I'm a-likin' it. Get it?:
:Because I'm a lichen?:
:What's a lichen?: You see, the rock had never had a lichen before. Or, at least, not a lichen that had ever actually decided that talking to a rock would be a good thing to do. Clint wasn't what anyone would call your average everyday lichen.
:A lichen is what I am. We find good places to grow and we grow. And you're a good place to grow, rock.:
The rock felt almost strangely pleased by that. He hadn't considered that as a potential positive quality of him. Of course, in general, rocks didn't really think about growing. Once they were exposed to the air and the wind and the water, it was just a matter of the long process of wearing away down to gravel and dust and nothingness. Growth was an uncommon concept to the rock. :This pleases you?:
:Of course it does! Do you have a name, rock?:
:I don't think so. How do you get a name?:
:You know, I'm not really sure. I came up with my own. I thought it sounded pretty neat. Doesn't it? Clint clint clint cliiiiiiinnnnnnt.:
The rock had to admit that there was a certain something there. :I suppose, yes. So do I just come up with my own too?:
:If you want.:
:Well, what about rock?:
:No, that's what you are. Like I'm a lichen. You're a rock.:
:So that's not a good name, then?:
:Well, if you want to be just like any other rock. But you're obviously not like any other rock because you're my rock and that automatically makes you better than all the other rocks.:
The rock was a bit pleased by that as well. :Well, how about Fffffff.:
The lichen didn't respond at first. :What? As a name?:
:It's the sound the wind makes.:
:It's missing something.:
:I don't know that I really want to be named by the wind exactly, either. The wind does too much.:
:I suppose it would, if you were a rock, yes. But the wind brought me here, at least, so it's got that going for it?:
:Perhaps so. Maybe it just needs a little more.:
:How about Phil?:
The rock thought about that for a bit. :Why Phil?:
:Well, I've got the lllllllll in Clint. So I decided to add it to your fffffff wind-noise. ffffff-llllllll.:
:Phil. Phil. Okay. I suppose I can be Phil.:
:It's nice to talk to you, Phil.:
:It's nice to talk to you, too, I think, Clint. It's nice to talk to anyone, I suppose.:
:Thanks! It would be really annoying if it wasn't nice to talk to each other. Because I'm going to be here for a while. Can't exactly move, on account of being a lichen.:
:Of course.: Not that he actually knew enough about lichens, or even really all that much about mobility. Rocks were largely creatures of inertia. And rocks that know a great deal about movement don't tend to be the kinds of rocks that pick up lichen.
But he did know, and know well, the ffffffff sound of the coming wind. And the rumblyhiss noise of a rainstorm. They were coming, and never boded well. They were instruments of erosion. They made rocks less than they were. They needed to be weathered.
And so they came. But Phil was a bit perplexed. :Clint?:
:I know that it's raining and the wind is blowing right now.:
:Yeah. It definitely is. The rain's pretty nice.:
:But... it's not hurting as much as it usually does.:
:Of course it isn't, Phil.: Clint had a tinge to the words that Phil would have called like laughter if he knew about laughter. He just knew it was different. :I'm here. I get the wind and the rain. Don't worry. As long as I'm here, I've got your back.:
Phil was quiet for a while as the wind and rain buffeted the side of the mountain. When it was over, he just quietly said, :Thank you.:
He'd decided, then, that having a lichen was a thing worth likin', after all. And then even though he'd never actually been lonely when he was alone... maybe, just maybe, he liked not being alone just a bit more.