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In this universe, humans discovered a previously unknown fungus. Similar to the cordyceps fungus, this particular organism uses its spores to enter the body of its host, and grows within it. It will eventually leave the host dead and release more spores.

But let's say this does not happen. Although there is a high rate of mortality in the beginning, eventually the fungus adapts to the host body so that it can still spread its spores without killing the human. After all, this would just lead to heavy quarantine and an eventual extermination of infected humans.

So instead the fungus just inhabits the host body, and has the infected humans find fresh, uninfected humans to spread the spores into. At this point, they would still be marginalized, if not actively hunted by the military and governments to ensure more people don't get infected.

So how do these fungus people survive when the whole world is out to get them? Some ideas I played around with:

  • By the time they've adapted to staying within the host body without killing it, a lot of people have died already and society is in chaos, which makes it easier for them to fight or evade military/police/government/bounty hunter forces

  • Maybe they mess with the host body's genetic makeup to give them ehnanced physical attributes - numbing pain, heightening adrenaline etc.

  • Infected humans recognize each other and eventually they form their own groups and societies, where they can look out for each other - they are still "humans", with human thoughts, feelings and emotions. They just happen to have a deadly organism in their body whose bidding they also need to do

What are some other features of this "fungus people" society that you would expect to see?

EDIT: Adding some more detail to make it easier to answer:

The initial “outbreak” killed off a huge portion of the American population. The ensuing disease and sickness from the dead bodies and rotting corpses killed even more. The military firebombed/napalmed large portions of the country to control the outbreak, killing even more. There are only a few million survivors, scattered across the country in colonies and settlements. The government is in disarray, with the remnants doing what they can fight the growing infected civilization.

The infected are scattered across the country as well and have developed their own communities, looking for survivors to infect as compelled by the organism within them. They have come to accept this new status quo and actively seek to help their fungus buddies

Incubation period was short initially but started getting longer as the fungus adapted to the host body. This allowed for the infected to escape notice from authorities and vanish into the wilds

It started with one case – the patient zero who discovered it – and rapidly spread throughout the world. For the purposes of the story, I’m sticking to the United States.

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    $\begingroup$ This question seems too broad and primarily opinion-based. Please edit the scope of the question so that answers can be judged on their correctness. $\endgroup$ – overlord Oct 22 '19 at 17:14
  • $\begingroup$ Question upvoted. Thank you for adding more details. $\endgroup$ – overlord Oct 22 '19 at 17:49
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    $\begingroup$ What is the intelligence capacity for the fungus? Does it completely take over the human's brain, or does it have its own sentience? $\endgroup$ – overlord Oct 22 '19 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ This is one aspect I'm still trying to decide on. What i was thinking was that initially, it operates completely by instinct and for survival/multiplication purpose, but eventually, as it begins to proliferate within the human body and grow inside the host, it develops. Maybe it doesn't have sentience, in the way we do, but some kind of awareness and very basic intelligence to realize that it can potentially have a mutually-beneficial relationship with its host if it doesn't kill it first. $\endgroup$ – Space_Cadet Oct 22 '19 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ asking about mushroom adaptations that animals don't have might help your quest for specificity $\endgroup$ – kleer001 Oct 22 '19 at 23:28
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I would expect the fungus to provide something for its host in a symbiotic relationship. Perhaps the fungus can help the humans digest previously indigestible food stuffs allowing them to survive more easily in wild and remote areas where they might have to hide.

Some key elements that need to be considered. How long is the incubation period? Short incubation periods would aid the authorities in identifying and tracking any newly infected people, but long incubation periods would make this very difficult.

How easy is it to identify a person with the fungus during incubation and after. If it is easy then it will be hard for the fungus infected to escape the authorities and vice versa.

How does the infection start - with many cases or just one? And how devastated do nations become before the authorities catch on to what is happening?

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  • $\begingroup$ Added some more details going off of your questions above! $\endgroup$ – Space_Cadet Oct 22 '19 at 17:44
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Number 1 piece of advice from an amateur mycologist (me):

Consider the mycelium!

Watch this TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/paul_stamets_on_6_ways_mushrooms_can_save_the_world

Being able to metabolize without breathing oxygen. Be that underwater or underground. This would help people survive being chased. Mycelium draws their energy and minerals directly from dead soil. This would also include being able to metabolize the most rotten and decaying animal corpse. Mushrooms are the lowest and more important part of the web of life.

Long range communication. Through direct contact with mycelial networks in the soil. So, a little limited. Real world mushrooms, mycelial sheets in forests exchange many types of molecules just under the forest floor. Spores are also tiny and information dense. You could have a long range and very slow and diffuse natural-internet this way.

Mental immortality, species level memory. Consider the mycelium of the fungus is the actual persistent part of the body while the "mushroom" is the fruiting/reproductive body.

This is the largest organism in the world. It's likely really really really old.

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20141114-the-biggest-organism-in-the-world

Cure mental illnesses/cancer. Consider the magic mushroom and the fact that mushrooms are natural geniuses in molecular engineering. This would be a great reason for regular humans to keep the infected around.

This is the mushroom guy, Paul Stamets. He's written a few books, has an active social media presence.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Stamets

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  • $\begingroup$ Downvoted this answer. The question seems primarily opinion-based, and probably shouldn't have been answered before the OP made clarifications and limited the scope of the question. $\endgroup$ – overlord Oct 22 '19 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ @overlord All my answers are current or scientifically suspected properties of fungi and could be rolled into OPs fungus/human hybrid society $\endgroup$ – kleer001 Oct 22 '19 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ I have nothing against your answer. Just try not to answer ambiguous or unclear questions until they have been edited and their specifications are clarified. $\endgroup$ – overlord Oct 22 '19 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ @overlord fair enough, except that I answered before the question was flagged as needing clarification as it was clear enough for me. $\endgroup$ – kleer001 Oct 22 '19 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ Fair enough, I have changed my vote. $\endgroup$ – overlord Oct 22 '19 at 20:52

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