The Voice in the Night
|"The Voice in the Night"|
|Author||William Hope Hodgson|
|Genre(s)||Science fiction, horror|
|Published in||Blue Book Magazine|
|Publication date||November 1907|
The story has been adapted a number of times, most prominently in the 1963 Japanese film Matango.
Weird fungi in the shape of animals or humans are a recurring theme in Hodgson's stories and novels; for example, in the novel The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" the survivors of a shipwreck come across tree-like plants that mimic (or, perhaps, have absorbed) birds and people.
After its first outing, the story was reprinted numerous times: in collections of Hodgson's stories like Deep Waters, in more general anthologies like Beyond Time and Space, as well as in other publications like Twilight Zone Magazine. It also appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's paperback anthology Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories They Wouldn't Let Me Do on TV which appeared in several imprints, e.g. Simon and Schuster (1957); most recently by Amereon Ltd (January 2002) ISBN 0848819853
In this story, a schooner at sea ("becalmed in the Northern Pacific") is approached in the middle of "a dark, starless night" by a small rowboat. The passenger aboard the ship, who refuses to bring his boat close alongside and requests that the sailors on the schooner put away their lantern, tells a disturbing tale. Initially begging food for his fiancée, he receives a box of foodstuffs, floated to him in a wooden box. Later that same evening he returns to report that his fiancée is grateful for the food, but will soon die, and he tells the sailors his full story.
He and his fiancée, aboard the ship Albatross, were abandoned by the ship's crew, who took the lifeboats. Building a raft, the two escaped from the sinking vessel and found another nearby ship in a lagoon, apparently abandoned, and covered with a fungus-like growth. They attempt to remove this growth from the living quarters but are unable to do so; it continues to spread, and so they return to their raft. The nearby island, however, is also covered with this growth. Eventually the speaker and his fiancee find the fungus growing on their skin and feel an uncontrollable urge to eat the fungus. They discover that other humans on the island have apparently been entirely absorbed and become one with the strange fungal growth.
As the speaker in the rowboat rows away, just as the sky is lightening, the narrator can dimly see a grotesquely misshapen form in the rowboat, scarcely recognisable as human.
The story has been filmed twice. The first and more faithful adaptation, under the title "Voice in the Night," was made as an episode of the television series Suspicion (1958). This was one of 10 episodes of Suspicion made by Shamley Productions, the company established by Alfred Hitchcock to produce his television series. It was directed by Arthur Hiller from a script by Stirling Silliphant. It starred (in the order they were billed in the titles and credits) Barbara Rush, James Donald, Patrick McNee, and James Coburn.
The second filmed adaptation was the Japanese motion picture Matango (1963), shown on American television under the title Attack of the Mushroom People.
Episode 229 of the Japanese anime Naruto Shippuden, titled, "Eat or Die! Mushrooms from Hell!", is an adaptation of this story where mushrooms overtake the ship on which the team is sailing. Upon being eaten, the mushrooms sprout from the eater's skin and influence their actions.
The story acted as the springboard for the story "Forbidden Fruit" in The Haunt of Fear No. 9.
"Gray Matter", a short story by Stephen King first published in the October 1973 issue of Cavalier magazine, and later collected in King's 1978 collection Night Shift, is the story of a man who, having become reclusive after a work-related accident, drinks a bad can of beer and is ultimately overtaken by fungal growth from within.
John Brosnan's novel The Fungus from 1985 has a similar plot, where mutated fungi destroy England, and those infected die or become mutated mushroom people, depending on what kind of fungus they have become infected with.
Brian Lumley's short story "Fruiting Bodies", which won the British Fantasy Award in 1989, concerns a strange fungus that slowly destroys a town and ultimately consumes the bodies of the last remaining residents, but keeps their form. The story ends ominously as wood from the town has been harvested for use in homes across England, and the narrator has inhaled spores from the strange fungi. Lumley has named "The Voice in the Night" as one of his favourite stories.
The concept of fungal symbiosis or assimilation of humans is also frequently found in the work of Jeff VanderMeer, especially in his "Ambergris" novels and short stories.
- McCarty, John and Kelleher, Brian. Alfred Hitchcock Presents: An Illustrated Guide to the Ten-Year Television Career of the Master of Suspense. St. Martin's Press, New York, 1985. Pages 326–329.
- "Voice in the Night," Suspicion, National Broadcasting Company, 1958.
- Matango at the Comic Book DB
- Lineage of the Elementals at Roots of the Swamp Thing
- "An Interview with Brian Lumley", by Robert M. Price, Nightscapes No. 5