There is something wrong with me!
I cannot hide it anymore. It’s becoming more and more evident each and every day and my family is becoming suspicious. Even before, I’ve never really fit in and I have always been considered the peculiar one, but they can tell this is different. They can sense something is not quite right. I see their sideways glances and curious stares that linger in my direction just a bit too long for my comfort. Some even reach out to me, but I draw away. I can’t let them get too close to me. They would know, without a doubt, that I am different and I am dirty!
Once, there was a time when my entire world revolved around my mother. She spoke with such authority and strength, yet her voice was tempered with tenderness and affection. She loved to sing to all her children, and none could match her tone in sound or beauty. The melodies she created were the only reward I ever desired. It was all I ever needed. I never imagined there could be something else, until the day, I thought I heard the song from the singing of another. For one brief second, I listened to this strange voice instead of my mother. A momentary distraction, that’s all it was. That was all it needed.
Nothing is the same anymore.
I go about my day and perform my duties. I do everything I am supposed to do, but it is different now. I am different. The sweet, soothing melody of my mother’s voice echoes in the distance, but now there is another voice. A dark and cold voice clouds my mind and distorts my thoughts. Its tongue whispers to me from inside and nowhere. At first, it was but a murmur, distant and far. Every second it grows closer with each second. I can almost feel its tongue licking and caressing my skin. I can fell hot breath flow from its whispers. I cry out for help, but it revokes my speech. It takes control of my legs and forces me away from the sight of the others; my mother is completely unaware of my absence. I fight back with the strength that comes from fear and panic, but it overpowers me and manages me like a puppet on a string. Exhaustion overcomes me. It laughs at me, then lifts one leg in front of the other. It marches me out into the forest beyond the safety of my home, granting no rest or reprieve. Farther and farther I go, the voice of my mother fades in the distance. Overcome with terror, I begin my desperate fight to regain control of my body, and it answers my struggles. It mocks me as it makes it known; it is not just an imaginary voice harmlessly coming from my mind. It is much, much more than that.
I can now feel it moving inside of my head.
Flashes of light to explode in front of my eyes from the slithering mass pressing against the inside of my skull. It halts my body in an unfamiliar place, deep within the forest. An invisible hand forcibly grabs the back of my head and slams it to the ground. It pries my mouth open to an abnormal width and clamps my mandibles down on the long stem of a large and green leaf.
I feel the muscles in my six extremities being severed, making them useless and immobile. The slithering and squirming inside my head grow faster! Its body slides and presses against the bone of my skull! It meticulously explores every dent and groove of its prison until it finds the spot it was hunting for! It pushes! The pressure and pain build, and the lights grow dim before my eyes!
Darkness falls over my eyes, and the chill of the forest floor devour me. Stillness and silence settle upon me with a soft and delicate touch. Suddenly, I think I hear faint singing coming from the distance. It’s a melody I know very well; a tune often sung by my mother. It takes away all the fear and pain of the moment. I begin to hum along to the comforting lullaby being sung just for me.
Darkness falls completely with the explosion of a fleshy, wet stalk emerging from the gaping hole on top of my head.
The ancient organism emerges from the shell that was its womb, now dead below it. It reaches up towards the sky, like the phoenix of old, and basks in its magnificence. It is always invigorated by its rebirth.
It will now begin to grow; that is all it needs to do. In time, its spores will appear and start to fruit all over its body. The spores are separate but still of one mind and one body. They will leave this place and travel on the currents of the air and cross the lands near and far. They will search and listen for the voice of another royal mother. Their only desire is for her children to hear its song instead of hers. Just a single moment is all it needs.
O. unilateralis is a specialized fungal parasite that infects, manipulates and kills formicine ants. It has been referred to as the:
Zombie Ant Fungus
Under the control of the fungus, the Infected ants are forced to abandon their colony and travel along the forest floor where they will clamp themselves to the underside of a leaf and remain until death from the fungal spores emerging from the head of the ant.
Latin- In the Broad Sense