With the bitter taste of the fungal solution on her lips, Alice kisses Hunt goodnight. It is 3am, a time she often greets with wild-eyed desperation as Hunt snores beside her. But she is not desperate now. Hunt is not snoring.
“My body is yours,” Hunt said, thirty years ago on their wedding night. He got hard at the prospect of submission he never really offered in the day-to-day. When she worked up the courage to suggest an equal marriage, Alice was humiliated by her tears. Hunt couldn’t know her devotion to her work at the laboratory, the beauty of those flayed bodies—white mice in which the fungal cilia took on first the shape, and then the function of internal organs. So many failures. Little deaths. The fungus oozing black, staining the fur around mouth, ears and anus. But eventually, symbiosis. Equilateral control. True love.
She can feel the cilia’s fingers reaching deep inside her now. It tingles. How much longer will it take for her human body to subside? In mammalian sporocarp development, the fungus consumes the oxygen in the blood, emitting carbon dioxide. After host death, the fungus produces methane. A temporary indignity.
The gun in Alice’s hand is still warm. She settles into bed, avoiding the blood pooling around Hunt’s ear. She takes his hand. When her lungs shudder for the last time and the nitrogen in her blood begins its transformation to fungal proteins, the gun is resting in the hollow between her thighs. The cilial hairs on the lovers’ fingers are already intertwined.