Fungus Among Us
My wife isn’t the woman she used to be.
When we were younger, we traveled the world looking for transcendence. We wanted to be gods who tread the same dirt as their creations. Money wasn’t an issue to us; we could always manage to find it. We backpacked Europe during the Federation Wars. We parachuted into the Asian Confederacy during the Japanese rebellions. After the Texan Militia massacres and the bombing of Mexico City, we ran with bandits down the long road to South America and freed American prisoners of war.
Our love life was violently ecstatic. We knew things about each others’ soul that allowed us each to explore the chasm that is the human psyche and use what we found there for pleasure … and pain.
We weren’t perfect. Our travels kept us thin and lean, but “healthy” is the last word I’d use to describe us. Going against Federation regulations, we grew our own tobacco and marijuana and just about anything else you could grow, process, and ingest. We burned ourselves in the ritual of Tczatloc in Peru, scarring ourselves with iron and suffering through the painful visions of the hallucinogenic properties of the Ramaat infection it created. We drank the blood of newborns murdered in China during the Dysgenic Movement.
My wife was viciously intelligent and we worked together flawlessly through everything life could throw at us.
Now we live here in this small habitat, away from the world and away from what we used to be. We reached an age where running became difficult. Climbing fences and dodging bullets brought lingering pains worse than the sting of barbed wire or the bite of shrapnel.
My wife first showed signs of change after our third year here. I blame myself. I went through a bout of depression after I was cut from the Colonial Council. We had a fight, a continuation of hostilities I had instigated with various other colonials after the incident at the Council Habitat. I brought my anger home to her and she absorbed it until I had nothing left.
She took to staring out at the plains without saying anything for long periods of time. I would work on the vaporizers and mend the connections between the Northern Arterial Pipeline and our small habitat, while she would stay inside and look through her window at nothing. I would drive my utility hauler in front of the window, but she wouldn’t look at me.
When the Chatter outbreak spread through the colony, we survived. The entire western hemisphere was evacuated and our beautiful little Martian home was abandoned by humanity.
After correspondence with the Martian Colonial government, my wife and I were allowed to remain here and keep our connection to the lifeline that is the Arterial pipeline coming down to us from the icecaps.
I imagine her running through the last rainforests with a J37 Incinerator strapped over her shoulders.
I can see her garrote the President of the Western American Alliance.
I can feel her pressing the hot barrel of a laser rifle against my chest, right above my heart.
And now she stands rigid, her skin the color of stone, her eyes black and glossy. The spore-releasing stalks that are a trademark of the Chatter fungus branch out from her body and twist in strange helix patterns. There in front of the window, the suns rays activated the latent fungus within her and she died as the fungus spread faster than she could react.
Every two weeks, I strip down to nakedness in preparation for the release of spores. My body is not what it used be. As I sit, my belly pushes my legs apart. The spore shower covers me in a fine powdery snow. I open my mouth and choke myself on the spore cloud – I rub it vigorously into my eyes – I cut gashes in my skin and press the powder into my flesh.
I am immune to its colonization efforts.
There are days I stare out that window with her, and I think of killing myself. In all our travels, we came to believe in perpetuity of passion. I don’t know if she is in there, past those obsidian orbs, but I cannot take the chance that she is not.
I long for infection, but my damned body is stronger than my love.