Chiltern is happy to talk about his new discovery. He explains that his studies have proven, beyond all doubt, that the samples he took in the three states all came from the same plant. However, he is at a loss of how to describe it, as the fungus does not behave anything like other fungi. He has a specimen in his laboratory should the investigators show an interest.
The fungus has taken over one corner of a workbench. Thin tendrils reach out from a large glass tank filled with soggy leaves. The tendrils have spread out, dangling onto the floor. One of them has reached a phone book and is feeding from that, reducing the directory to a pulpy mass covered in pale fur.
Chiltern uses a spatula to push aside the decaying leaf litter to reveal a fleshy lump the size of his fist. Thin tendrils sprout from this, and he explains that there are other lumps, or nodes, in the tank. Chiltern is particularly interested in the nodes as he hasn't discovered any in the field to date; these have all been grown from cuttings taken in the field. He is still examining the fungus and has yet to form any theories.
Chiltern is reluctant to provide details of the exact locations of where he found the fungus, although that is driven from a sense of scientific confidentiality rather than anything more sinister.
If asked about Dr Meredith, his ex-wife, Chiltern scowls nervously. He worshipped the ground she walked on, and she treated him by divorcing him - he isn't even allowed to see his son. His is still emotionally scarred, and it hasn’t helped that Dr Meredith has publicly denounced his work. It is a subject best avoided.
1 The fungus is concentrated around the nodes which are greatly dispersed in the wild. The nodes themselves are about the size of a three-storey house, growing in large subterranean caverns which glow eerily with a weak phosphorescent light. Land around the fungus is rich in mutated flora and fauna. Trees suffer attacks from fungi of myriad colours, and the area is generally damp and unhealthy.
There is also an effect on communities drinking untreated water drawn from wells tainted by the fungus. Such communities become isolationist and secretive. Inbreeding is common, as are wine-stain birthmarks. Such communities have even been known to practise cannibalism. As a side effect, such people are susceptible to the temptations offered by the Outer Gods - and temples to blasphemous creatures can sometimes be encountered in such communities.
The fungus' most visible symptom during an investigation is the large proportion of cultists with wine-stain birthmarks. Simply destroying the cultists will not be enough - the fungus must be destroyed as well. (At the very least, the water supply needs purifying.) The sheer scale of the fungus may become apparent when investigators encounter different cults worshipping different gods in different parts of the country all displaying the same wine-stain birthmarks.
2 The fungus is a huge Mi-Go supercomputer wrapped around the globe. Each node is, in human terms, a processing centre and may grow to the size of a small house. The fungus may be found in all locations that the Mi-Go have been know to frequent.
Each node (the exact number of which is known only to the Mi-Go, but it is believed to be no more than three dozen or so) is carefully monitored by the Mi-Go. The Fungi from Yuggoth themselves (often through their human agents) watch over the nodes to ensure that each operates undisturbed. The nodes are usually located in isolated areas, but there is a chance that construction activities will disturb one. When a node is threatened, the Mi-Go will act - preferably using government agents and legal means, but with direct force if absolutely necessary.
The computer's purpose is unknown - although it has been suggested that its existence is the reason that the Mi-Go remain on Earth. Whether the Mi-Go serve the computer or whether it serves them is a subject open to debate. Certain serpent people texts uncovered at Borobodur, Java suggest that the Mi-Go act on the computer's behalf – for what reason, the texts do not disclose.
3 The fungus is not of terrestrial origin. In 1908 a comet fragment collided with the earth over the Siberian wastes. The comet was mostly rock and ice, but also carried a Mi-Go terraforming fungus. From its cataclysmic arrival, the fungus buried into the soil and spread across the globe.
The fungus is engineered to provide a climate on Earth similar to Yuggoth. Once the fungus has infiltrated an area it attacks the native flora, killing it and replacing it with a new ecosystem. The fleshy nodes (which grow no larger than a soccer ball) contain the genetic information for a variety of fungoid forms. At present the fungus has only colonised several subterranean caverns. Where active, the Mi-Go have encouraged the fungus' growth, achieving toe-holds in remote areas.
Elsewhere, the fungus slowly creeps around the globe, burrowing invisibly through the earth's crust. Once this phase is complete, it will move toward the surface and smother the planet in a thick, fungal embrace.
© Steve Hatherley