The Tongueless Fish
August 2, 2015 9:55 AM   Subscribe

"I’ve been infected by a parasite. I won’t tell you what because I don’t want you to search for it. By the time this reaches you it won’t matter much, anyway. In fact, I’m forbidding you right now from looking for anything or asking anyone. Apparently I have about twelve hours as myself. They won’t say what happens next, because it’s kind of unpredictable. There are lots of animals who’ve had it, but only two people. They won’t tell me." -- The Glad Hosts, a SF short story by Rebecca Campbell
posted by The Whelk (51 comments total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
 
Okay, I can tell you from post title alone this won't end well.

/clicks anyway.
posted by Artw at 9:59 AM on August 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is great! And horrible! And great! I find mind-altering parasites really fascinating both scientifically and as a horror concept.
posted by Zarkonnen at 10:02 AM on August 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well, that was calmly, quietly, utterly horrifying, in a fashion reminiscent of James Tiptree, Jr.

The planet's name, Shanti, comes, of course, from the Upanishads, which T. S. Eliot appropriated as his ending to The Waste Land, glossing it, "'The Peace which passeth understanding' is a feeble translation of the content of this word."
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:17 AM on August 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


Oh! It's a love story! It ends well!

/goes to pet the cat some more.
posted by Artw at 10:19 AM on August 2, 2015 [22 favorites]


...Jesus
posted by Ashen at 10:23 AM on August 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean I've never experienced body horror so deep in my life and I'm pretty much whimpering quietly in a corner now, so thanks for that I suppose
posted by Ashen at 10:25 AM on August 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


KITTIES ARE LOVE!
posted by Artw at 10:26 AM on August 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


Those critters sound sweet! I like this story. The earlier parts in particular reminded me of the Trill stuff from DS9.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:27 AM on August 2, 2015


Not Conspiracy and anyway those guys are totes misunderstood!
posted by Artw at 10:33 AM on August 2, 2015


aaaaaaaaa
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:44 AM on August 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hey everyone, did you hear about that monk who spent his life sat on top of a pole? That sounds awesome! We should all do that!
posted by Artw at 10:46 AM on August 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'm reminded of this previous tale.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 10:50 AM on August 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Very nicely told. Enjoyed it a lot.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:25 AM on August 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


thatttt wasssss soooo good
posted by lokta at 11:25 AM on August 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are there parasites around that will remove this story from my brain because it was horrifying?
posted by jeather at 11:30 AM on August 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Come sit on top of this pole! It makes everything better! Everything!
posted by Artw at 11:31 AM on August 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


And I thought you were talking about this HORROR.
posted by boilermonster at 11:38 AM on August 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Shanti's not the only Eliot here...
posted by Devonian at 11:55 AM on August 2, 2015


Surprisingly not horrified here. Thanks for sharing this lovely tale. With us. With all of us.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:01 PM on August 2, 2015 [11 favorites]


Well. Shouldn't have read this during dinner.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:14 PM on August 2, 2015


A bit unsettled, but not horrified. It was a great little story.
posted by KGMoney at 12:34 PM on August 2, 2015


Moments of sublime beauty. But yes, I did read it a bit too proximate to lunch.

A lovely catch.
posted by mrdaneri at 12:42 PM on August 2, 2015


That was a good read, but super creepy, especially near the end. It makes me very happy to not be cognitively aware of my likely toxoplasmosis infection.
posted by wierdo at 12:45 PM on August 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh, I forgot to add a bit of a amuse bouche.

Octavia Buthler's Bloodchild.

Bon appetit!
posted by mrdaneri at 12:55 PM on August 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Well, since we mentioned Tiptree...

Do you hear, my little red? Hold me softly. The cold grows.
posted by Artw at 12:57 PM on August 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


Dandelions, an old-world invader species, arriving with the first North American settlers, and equally voracious.

First settlers as in many millennia ago, maybe? Wikipedia calls dandelions "native to Eurasia and North America", and I don't remember them having been mentioned during discussion of invasive species.

An excellent story, anyways.
posted by XMLicious at 1:22 PM on August 2, 2015


I've read all three stories posted here. Now my stomach is in knots and I want more.
If anyone wants to share a link, please do!
posted by Omnomnom at 2:22 PM on August 2, 2015


I enjoyed it as a moody piece/body horror story, but had many *many* questions for the scientists/medical teams that were supposedly taking care of her.
posted by emjaybee at 3:10 PM on August 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


This is what I felt like being pregnant. Really, just me?!
posted by mgrrl at 3:31 PM on August 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


Very cool story. It also kind of reminded me of Jeff VanderMeer's pretty good novel Annihilation, which had a more abstract depiction of an intelligent parasitic infection.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 3:33 PM on August 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here you go, Omnomnom.
posted by modernserf at 3:36 PM on August 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've read all three stories posted here. Now my stomach is in knots and I want more. If anyone wants to share a link, please do!

In part just because it's body horror short fiction posted recently on the blue, I was reminded of this FPP ("The New Middle Class" by Dolan Morgan).
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:37 PM on August 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is that a pony request for parasitic horrors?
posted by Artw at 3:42 PM on August 2, 2015


it's like Alien on mushrooms or something
posted by angrycat at 4:17 PM on August 2, 2015


Could always add a dash of The Thing fan-fic.
posted by Artw at 4:23 PM on August 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was excited to see this, because Rebecca Campbell is a friend of mine. I hope I'm not offside when I say that if you liked this one, check out another short story of hers, "Sarah and the Body," or her novel, The Paradise Engine.
posted by synecdoche at 4:50 PM on August 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


Reminds me of a comic.
posted by pmv at 4:50 PM on August 2, 2015


Another one for Omnomnom (the short story version of Blood Music.)
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 4:57 PM on August 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Gah, Moggadeet sounds just like Humbert Humbert.
posted by gingerest at 5:03 PM on August 2, 2015


If you want to feel sympathy for a horrible human-controlling monster from beyond, I highly recommend the interactive fiction game Coloratura. From the blurb:
Stolen away by apathetic Blind Ones, your only desire is to return to your Cellarium and the Song of the Universe. They should understand. You shall make them to understand.
A research vessel has recovered a strange artifact from the bottom of the ocean. You play as the sentient blob that was living in that artifact, who only wants to go back down there where it won't hurt like it does on the surface, and try to communicate that with the crew. It doesn't go well.

The game does a great job of conveying how you sense the world, and machines, and people, in an alien way. And like all the best IF does, uses the act of playing the game to guide you to feel how your character feels.
posted by traveler_ at 5:34 PM on August 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


Campbell's Sarah and the Body was so unsettling.

I loved it.
posted by mrdaneri at 7:02 PM on August 2, 2015


That was amazing. Thank you synecdoche. I feel like me and she share a lot of experience.
posted by lokta at 7:33 PM on August 2, 2015


My favorite part of this story is that it is entirely fiction, especially the bit about mind controlling parasites, or any kind of parasite for that matter, existing on Earth.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:20 AM on August 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


Having just spent the weekend playing Alpha Centauri for the first time, that was spookily similar in theme. Great post!
posted by Acey at 6:09 AM on August 3, 2015


I just set aside the time to read this properly. Hm.

I'm with the 'horror, not SF' side of the house on this. There's too much unexplored that jolted me out of the story, and out of her head, because it didn't gel with the created world around her, even through possible filters of her changing consciousness. Which is fine, that's not what the story's about, but don't go into the cellar looking for that.

Always had a soft spot for the "aliens come, do something horrid to us, but everyone who's had that done thinks it's fantastic" storyline, because what does that say about autonomy and responsibility? I suppose that's how I see cults anyway, which makes it more fun to explore, and I also half-remember vairous psychedelic 60s stories where man-the-explorer becomes man-alien-the-symbiont-superaware-being. Remember, and wish to be.
posted by Devonian at 8:51 AM on August 3, 2015


I liked that, but one thing that caught me about its world is that real parasites co-evolved with their hosts. If the Shanti lifeforms can work out from scratch how to take over a completely unfamiliar biology, starting from a single spore in the bloodstream, then they're not so much parasites as all-conquering superbeings like the magic quantum bacteria in Blood Music or The Blight from Fire Upon The Deep.

If so then all the colonists are doomed and Earth's chances are not looking so hot given that there have been return voyages of any kind whatsoever.
posted by Slogby at 2:47 PM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I hear ya, Slogby. I'm tempering it a bit along the lines of 'well, they need some sort of Shanti-only protein' to facilitate cell division or something. Because yeah, otherwise, universe-conquering-tide, etc. and I didn't pick up that vibe from the story.
posted by mrdaneri at 3:35 PM on August 3, 2015


It seems as explainable, or more so, than many of the common devices in SF. For example, the story itself seems to hint a bit when it says it "amounted to a biological weapon". In any case, an explanation of what's going on would probably be just as fascinating as the story.
posted by XMLicious at 4:31 PM on August 3, 2015


and I also half-remember various psychedelic 60s stories where man-the-explorer becomes man-alien-the-symbiont-superaware-being

Are you thinking of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch?
posted by Pyry at 5:40 PM on August 3, 2015


I wish I could tell you that Mai is doing well, that she’s not in pain, that she loves Shanti and is happy here, but I am not sure what these words mean, exactly.

Wow.

As Doktor Zed mentioned way upthread, "Shanti" is Sanskrit for peace, and Sanskrit hymns end with "Om shanti, shanti, shanti" - which is nicely echoed in the text by "This is home, this is home, this is home."

I'm perfectly happy with this as SF - from the infectee's point of view, there need not be an explanation for anything, and it makes for a wonderfully creepy story. But yeah, I would have SO MANY questions for the medical team observing her and caring for her. (Although it sounds like all that involved was keeping her kinda' quarantined and preparing a massive dose of morphine for the end.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 3:57 PM on August 4, 2015 [1 favorite]




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