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My story in the magazine is titled ‘The Sporulation of Sarpanch Sam’. It is a science fiction story in which strange spores have wiped out most of the human population. These spores have fused with the genomes of the remaining humans to form a new species of photosynthetic humans who learn to live in harmony with nature.
Please read the story and let me know what you think of it.
Here is an excerpt from the story:
As Sam saw his reflection in the mirror he was sure that he would be dead soon. It had been long since he had last thought of death and this time he found himself strangely content at the idea of it like he was reaching the end of a good story. The sun was rising and it highlighted the pinkness of his skin. It was the first time since he had been infected half a century ago that he was seeing his skin again. He had lost most of the fungal mycelium covering his skin. Even his hair was losing its green color and becoming black, he had forgotten how black his hair had been. There was no denying it anymore, the fungal part of his genome had made its decision and he was going to sporulate soon. He turned around to check his back and it was smooth as humans! Just a week ago it had been covered in what looked like a forest of thin and long umbrella-like trees.
He allowed himself a bit of nostalgia, the occasion called for it he thought. His life had changed more than fifty years ago when he had first heard of the outbreak of the fungal infection. It had been referred to as ‘the mycelium’ as if it were a mob family. But Sam, like a lot of other people, had not taken it seriously, it was a fungal infection after all, how dangerous could it be? But it had proven to be worse than the black plague, millions of people and even more animals were dead in weeks. It was a worldwide panic and soon the whole globe seemed to be covered in mold, like it were a week-old piece of bread. The fungal spores were everywhere, in the air, the water, and the soil, there was no way of escaping them. The spores even thrived in the most common soaps and disinfectants. Most of the cities and even several countries were dead in a matter of months, but the mycelium continued to thrive.
He had lost all of his family and friends to the fungal spores but he remembered his dog the most clearly. One day the dog had come back with a patch of green on her nose. He had thought that it was probably grass that she had rolled in. By the morning, the dog had been entirely covered in a web of white and green strands as if someone had covered her with noodles as a prank. There was nothing they could do, but drench her in a ton of disinfectant and drag her as far away from home as they could. But that same evening his grandmother also caught the spores. She took several baths in disinfectant and all the anti-fungal medicines she could get her hands on, and it seemed to slow the infection by a few minutes at best. When she knew she was beyond rescue she just decided to walk away and leave her loved ones alone. Of course, none of them would agree to it and hence they all followed her, walking a few feet behind her not knowing where they were going.
By the end of the second day, grandmother had been completely covered in the mycelium and refused to eat anything as she was not hungry. By the fourth day, she looked more like a green fluffy stuffed toy and less like a human. That day, when they woke up, she was gone. They searched long and hard for her before realizing that she had sporulated and there was nothing left of her. She had swollen like a ripe pod, and she made a balloon-like popping noise and burst open releasing millions of tiny pollen-like spores, that scattered in all directions and hung around them. By then both his parents had also grown green patches on them.
In a week he had lost everyone he cared for in a cloud of spores, in what seemed like a weird pilgrimage where everyone literally seemed to become one with everything. By the end of the week, he did not doubt that he would be infected, he just wished that it had happened before everyone else.