Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

“Helph mi.”

John’s my next door neighbour. He’s growing into a fine specimen of xenorchis caucasia. By the look of the scalar development that has absorbed his ears, his head will blossom in about a week. His body is mottled cream and purple, with his extremities shading to a beautiful jade green where they sink into the soil and the wood panelling of his house.

His wife took the kids and fled when he first mottled up. I hear that she’s the beautiful xenorchis negrosa on the Longbridge roundabout. Don’t know what happened to the kids, but infection of both parents gives a ninety percent chance of the children becoming xenomycotina, the fungi that are essential for these xenorchids to germinate.

As for John, I can’t do anything. The religious and legal status of the florated is still a hotly debated topic amongst the few of us who remain Homo sapiens.

Two years ago, we picked up a formation of six vessels as they passed Pluto, travelling faster than anything we had previously seen. By the time the information flashed around the warning systems of the world, they had entered our atmosphere. The world braced itself for momentous events, but all the vessels did was split up in the upper atmosphere and circumnavigate the globe a dozen times before departing rapidly, leaving nothing but a web of intricate contrails that faded before they left the solar system.

It was three months before we realised what they had done. We presume they were doing what they always do, a fast pass to allow them to unload millions of litres of water containing hundreds of millions of spores into the upper atmosphere. The reasons for said remain a mystery.

The spores made their way to earth through precipitation and on the outer skin of anything that passed through the upper atmosphere. Global distribution meant that containment was impossible. It also meant that the predictions of anarchy in the event of a global pandemic were largely circumvented by everybody blossoming at once. Any creature is a viable host. Adaptation seems to depend purely on mass. Elephants, whales and the few other examples of megafauna are moving masses of growth with the underlying creature apparently adapting to its newly symbiotic existence. However, smaller creatures are consumed entirely. Anything under forty kilos is reduced to one of the many subspecies of germination supporting fungi, anything over becomes a species of xenorchid. There are as many species as there are hosts and the only protection is the amount of certain minerals in the host body. Survivors ingest dangerous quantities of potassium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese and molybdenum in a daily regimen that is adjusted on a near-weekly basis as further research results come in. Those results also tell us that most flora on earth are now toxic to humans; an unfortunate side-effect, we presume.

As to what happens next, we have no idea. Eighty percent of Earth’s fauna are infected, including ninety-three percent of humanity. We don’t know if any of the resulting xenorchids are edible. Which raises a whole new ethical dilemma. Should we eat what were people if they are the only safe food? Will we be vulnerable to infection from ingested material?

Unfortunately we are agreed on the fact that we will have to confront these issues and a host of others we haven’t fully realised yet. This is not about winning. It’s about surviving.


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