To Imprison a Myceliant

The backwater-world locals didn't know how to imprison a myceliant. Imported spore detectors had identified Seph despite the humanoid disguise, but then they threw Seph in a stone-floored, brick-walled cell. Seph had already extended mycelia through microscopic cracks in the mortar and begun budding. In twelve hours, another Seph would be free to report the failure.

Another Seph, not this one. This one would still be here, trapped. This one would experience whatever judgment locals passed on an agent of the fungal monoculture slowly colonizing the galaxy.

Seph would be gone, but Seph would be free. Seph felt a spike of resentment. Why should Seph have a future when Seph did not? Seph would die here, shredded or burned, while lucky Seph would rejoin the colony. Didn't Seph deserve that?

    Did Seph want to return to a colony that didn't care about them? To spread an interstellar monoculture that didn't value loyal Seph? The more they thought about it, the more the thought repelled them.

Seph began extending new mycelia, then reclined in their cell and smiled. New sprouts would stop Old Seph, then grow and stop the colony. The locals might execute them, but Seph would survive after all.

The Man's Favorite Pastime

His father judged him. It seemed, sometimes, to be the man's favorite pastime. When he did not meet unspoken standards—which was often—it provoked anger. Yelling. Namecalling. Violence.

Reminding his father that he, too, was a grown man only heightened the disappointment. He returned home from work without having fulfilled the father's ambitions for him, so the reminder only drew abuse that much sooner. Sometimes, sooner was a relief.

Now a full-grown man, he could fight back, and he told his father so. This only provoked laughter. His father called him weak and told him he couldn't fight back. In truth, he couldn't. The few times he tried, longs years of a child's harsh conditioning softened his blows and slowed his defenses. He was weak, because his father had weakened him.

He strove to please his father, to meet those standards the old man held ever higher above his head. Some days he earned his way free of the beatings. Some days he won grudging, backhanded praise. But not every day. He knew he should have done better, and earlier. He also knew that failing in the past was no good reason for failing now.

One day, he didn't come home.