Distal Polyp Parasitosis Condition in Manifold Sky | World Anvil

Distal Polyp Parasitosis

Distal Polyp Parasitosis is caused when Distal polyps infest a host creature, eventually subsuming enough of the host's body volume that the polyps can 'puppet' the host body into a more comfortable environment for the alien parasites.

Transmission & Vectors

Distal polyps are fist-sized tunicates native to the Distal Tesseract, being identifiable by their long, tubular bodies terminating in an anchoring "root bud," transparent white bodies, and a ring of pigment that glows bright purple in cubes with at least one layer residing within the Distal Tesseract. These polyps are normally not dangerous, but their tendency to move and act as hives and anchor their roots into any creature who brushes past as a way of distributing budded offspring make them a hazard to creatures traveling on foot.


Once anchored into a warm body, Distal polyps' roots grow and interlace beneath the dermis of the host, eventually penetrating into the body cavities over time. This destructive invasion of the host's body is the primary cause of damage to the host; the polyps cannot digest a mammalian host, as the polyps' biology is based on dextro-amino acids (versus the levo-amino acids of most mammals). It is believed that Distal polyps exhibit this behavior because they would otherwise propagate on warm bodies of carrion or decaying plant matter and are unable to differentiate between living and non-living bodies in this regard despite having a rudimentary nervous system and sensory tissues.


An infested host has visible polyps rooted to their flesh. As the roots of the polyps grow, the victim is wracked with an excruciating, tearing pain. All polyps (whether from multiple parasites picked up during transmission or by the budding of a single polyp) will begin to wiggle and cause their colored rings to flash in unison, indicating that their roots are intertwined. Over the course of two to four days, the host will weaken and begin to lose voluntary control over their limbs; invasive roots are beginning to choke off the circulatory system, pinch nerves, and resist the efforts of the host to move. Finally, within five to seven days, the host will no longer be able to control their own movements. At this point, the parasites will puppet the body into a dark or shadowy area and begin to propagate into a fresh colony of polyps, eventually killing the host due to organ infiltration, ischemia, or co-morbid infection of root infiltration sites.   Dead hosts or those in the final stage of the disease may become aggressors against any creature standing between the host and a dark place, as the polyps move the body in an attempt to defend their mobile breeding ground; opponents struck by the infected victim may then, themselves, become infected.


Because Distal polyps are native to the unique environment of the Distal Tesseract, removing the host from any cube with any layer belonging to the Distal Tesseract will prevent the polyps from spreading further. Additionally, exposing the polyps to bright, direct sunlight will cause them to die off and the roots to stop burrowing, at which point they can be removed. Antibiotics administered during the recovery phase can help decrease the risk of post-infection gangrene.


Treatment by sunlight is effective, with early treatment offering the best prognosis. Once the roots connect to one another within the body, surgery may be required to remove them. After three days, root infiltration into the host body is usually so extensive that mortality is likely even with treatment, as the wound channels created by the roots become infected or allow broken veins to open as the roots wither. After five days, palliative care and euthanasia become the only treatments available.


Victims of Distal polyp parasitosis may suffer severe damage to their dermal tissues, with infections being a common cause of death after initial treatment. Scarring along the wound tracts created by the Distal polyps' roots is common and only reversible in cases where the parasitosis is treated early.


Full-body coverage with thick clothing is the only known way to completely prevent Distal polyp parasitosis. Auto-armor is frequently employed by explorers or military units expecting to go into regions known to be infested with Distal polyps. Patches of Distal polyps can be destroyed by fire, spraying with specialized poisons, or continuous exposure to bright, direct sunlight. Infected victims in the final, aggressive phase of the disease may be killed at range to prevent the spread of infection or infestation; melee attacks are not recommended for this purpose, as the victim may spread loose polyps to an attacker at close range.


Distal polyp parasitosis is considered somewhat rare, as the Distal Tesseract is far from the Medial Tesseract where human hosts live and cube layers with adjacent Distal Tesseract layers are generally not inhabited precisely due to the risk of infestation. Verdials (also known as Caudans) are known to be almost entirely immune to Distal polyp parasitosis, and this is believed to have something to do with the lichen-like symbiotic organisms that reside on and within these people.


The first recorded case of Distal polyp parasitosis occurred when the military expedition aboard the Voxelian airship GAV Fool's Share found their way into the Distal Tesseract. Two of the ship's four soldiers recovered samples of the polyps and their breeding mound "soil" during the course of an airborne insertion to investigate an odd patch of "glowing shrubbery" disovered on Distal B2.   Upon their sample jar being opened in the airship's research bay, polyps leapt out to attach to the face of the expedition's ecologist; upon attempting to save the man, a soldier and the team medic were similarly infected. At this point, quarantine procedures were initiated, the research bay was sealed and flooded with exhaust gasses, and the airship headed to the (then uninhabited) Eastern C cube to wait out the quarantine period. Within ten days, the polyps had perished and begun to wither away, being unable to digest human flesh. All remaining specimens perished when exposed to sunlight during the trip to the expeditions research base on Eastern A3, leading to the discovery of the sunlight treatment by subsequent researchers.

Cultural Reception

The body-penetrating, puppeteering, and alien nature of Distal polyp parasitosis has made the condition the subject of numerous radio plays and novels, with dramatizations of the case of the ill-fated GAV Fool's Share practically launching the body horror genre. Victims with persistent scarring face some discrimination in public, though they are regarded with respect in military and mercantile circles for their bodily fortitude in the face of the dangers of unexplored cubes.
Affected Species

Cover image: by BCGR_Wurth


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