“This packs a punch.” — Publishers Weekly
“One of the most unique and engaging voices in genre fiction.” — Booklist
“In this rich and nuanced universe, Mohamed offers an emotionally fierce and human story that takes the time and space to personalize apocalypse.” — STARRED review, Quill & Quire
A novella set in post–climate disaster Alberta; a woman infected with a mysterious parasite must choose whether to pursue a rare opportunity far from home or stay and help rebuild her community
The world is nothing like it once was: climate disasters have wracked the continent, causing food shortages, ending industry, and leaving little behind. Then came Cad, mysterious mind-altering fungi that invade the bodies of the now scattered citizenry. Reid, a young woman who carries this parasite, has been given a chance to get away — to move to one of the last remnants of pre-disaster society — but she can’t bring herself to abandon her mother and the community that relies on her. When she’s offered a coveted place on a dangerous and profitable mission, she jumps at the opportunity to set her family up for life, but how can Reid ask people to put their trust in her when she can’t even trust her own mind?
With keen insight and biting prose, Premee Mohamed delivers a deeply personal tale in this post-apocalyptic hopepunk novella that reflects on the meaning of community and asks what we owe to those who have lifted us up.
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Cad doesn’t move sideways. It appears spontaneously: and then, implacably, silently, it moves down through genes and time like water seeking its lowest level. A heritable symbiont, they used to call it; once and only once, I cried out to Henryk, But it’s not, it’s a fucking parasite, and the pain that shot through me was impossible to describe. Perhaps if I had been hit by lightning I would have had the words. Sight gone, sound gone, a roaring whiteness, transfixed throat to heels as if on a pole of molten metal hurled by a god. I never said it again.
This thing is of me, does not belong to me. Is its own thing. Speaks its own tongue. A semi-sapient fungus scribbling across my skin and the skin of my ancestors in crayon colours, turquoise, viridian, cerulean, pine. I imagine it listening now, keenly, sipping my happiness. Hatred twists my face for a moment before I can force it back down.
“Are you okay?” Henryk says, as if we had not both said aloud that the worst punishment for a child molester should be the transmission of my own disease. “Is it … do you think it’s …”
“Getting worse? I don’t think so.”
“But you would know.”
“Yeah. It makes sure you know.” I don’t want to think about it anymore. Quick, change the subject. Easy enough, given the morning’s coup. “Look at what I got.”
“Holy shit. Holy shit. Is that — it can’t!”
His shock is gratifying. I didn’t think I’d get to tell him first, but I wanted to tell someone. I’m glad it was him, I realize. Everything he feels just pours from him like sunshine from an open window, he cannot help it, he has no shadows in him.
“How is this even possible?!” He throws an arm awkwardly around my shoulder, startling me nearly off the step. “Reid! Oh my God. You got in! Look at you! You got in! Do you know what the odds are against that? Do you know —”
“Actually, they put it in the letter. See.” I unfold the crackling thing, Dear Ms. Reid Graham, We have received your application to Howse University and are extremely pleased to confirm your acceptance, and hand it to him. His fingers are black with dirt, but the paper seems to disregard it; nothing transfers.