This week’s piece of weird fiction being discussed over at LibraryThing.
Review: “The Cage”, Jeff VanderMeer, 2001.
Fungi and weird fiction have a long history together. And why not? Fungi are strange and correctly associated with rot, disease, and death.
Vandermeer’s Ambergis Cycle, from which this story is taken is, I gather from secondhand sources, heavily invested in that association.
Ambergis is a city threatened by lethal fungi outbreaks. City patrols look for outbreaks. People check their home fungal guards. Those who fall victim to the “gray caps” have their houses bordered up and bodies burned.
Protagonist Robert Hoegbottom sells second hand goods and sometimes bribes the soldiers standing guard over such houses and see if the quarantined survivors want to sell any part of their estate.
The story opens with an inventory of one such estate. Presiding over the sale is a black dressed solicitor, his face masked like “those who believed in the dangers of the ‘Invisible World’ newly mapped by the Kalif’s scientists”. There is also the widow dressed in white with her hands recently hacked off and bandaged. Presumably she has picked up some fungal infection. And there is a small boy, the only one of the four children that survived the visitation.
We learn that the grey caps appear suddenly from underground and disappear just as quickly.Continue reading