Where “Apocalypse” meets Lovecraft, Beauty exists. And it is horrible & disturbing and tender & loving all in one. In secluded Valley of Rocks surrounded by woods, dwell perhaps the last bastion of boys and men, survivalists. Their women were all felled by a fungal epidemic. Left to their own devices, they struggle to not descend into Lord of the Flies territory.
Metamorphosis occurs. The older men fight against it keeping to older ways and precepts. The younger are changing. Gender roles are morphing, almost to the point of allegorical gender dysphoria or body dysmorphia. Sexuality veers fluid. Holding the Group together are the nightly bonfires and Nate’s stories of where they’ve been and where they’re going. He is their history and entertainment and moral compass all in one. And this is his story to tell.
But fungus is taking over the forest, and hallucinations and change are coming:
The idea of this was worse when it was happening to someone else. Now it is me and it is inevitable, and nothing inevitable is ever that bad. If I have to live with it, then how can it be unbearable?
Besides, bodies betray us. That is what they do. They die and this is, at least, not death. I will choose any option but death. This body wants the story to go on.
I highly recommend this novella. As disturbing and horrific as it veers, what most fascinated me was the natural world analogs for the tale’s events: metamorphosis, parasitic fungi, sequential hermaphroditism . . .