Where evolution is a gradual process - if not always a steady one - metamorphosis can create sudden and brutal shifts that we are ill-equipped and ill-prepared to handle.
A rare type of flora with an apparent aversion to the presence and proximity of human settlements, Yeshua’s Gate has been discovered, thought lost and then rediscovered half a dozen times over the last few thousand years. Only found underground, it is typically buried at least a couple of feet deep in the rocky or sandy soil of arid climates. Given its appearance - it looks like a clump of greying, desiccated roots - even when it is uncovered it is usually mistaken for the detritus of some other, long-dead plant and discarded, disregarded. Most of Yeshua’s Gate is uninteresting, with only its flower (properly prepared and subsequently consumed) connected to its unique properties.
The buds are rubbery, offering a pliant resistance to efforts and attempts to cut or crush or grind them open. Watered - or submerged in water - they shrivel and pucker into brittle little beads, ashen and dusty, which crumble into flakes under the slightest touch. They can only be induced to open, to blossom, by fire; the white-hot caress of flames an urgent and desperate appeal that they cannot ignore. What blooms in that heat is, at first glance, a disappointment. Unremarkable and rather unimpressive yellow flowers, their value is not aesthetic (or only modestly and incidentally so), their beauty being in their great and transformative purpose of their potential.
A single flower of Yeshua’s Gate, plucked still-warm from the flames that caused it to bloom, is sufficient. Chewed to an astringent pulp so bitter that the sensation borders on painful - perhaps a warning not to proceed - once the whole thing is swallowed its effects are felt immediately and are dramatic to observe. It starts with violent shivering, tremors that border on a fit, that build into a convulsing crescendo and a few moments of living rigor. Breathless, airless silence cuts through any efforts to scream as muscles lock in taut extremis. Panic is inevitable, a biological reflex even to those who are well-versed in the appropriate lore and expecting this bracing loss of somatic autonomy.
Unnerving as the experience must be, it is a veritable pleasure relative to the discomforts that follow. Consuming the Yeshua's Gate is, in ritual terms, akin to offering one's body up as a crucible, but the vessel must be purified before it can be put to work. What exactly count and qualify as impurities is mostly unclear, and there are reasons to think that the metrics are not strictly or solely physical. However they are defined or identified, their purging is absolute and violent. Converted into a thick black ooze - an inert, tar-like secretion - they are aggressively expelled from the mouth and leak (fortunately less forcefully) from the ears and nose and, sometimes, even through the tear ducts.
Despite staining ink black marks on anything it touches, including the skin of the unfortunate from whom it has emerged, the ooze does not seem to present any danger. In fact, it breaks down quickly, dissipating and dissolving without a trace and before any real efforts to analyse its composition can be made. Anecdotally, it is believed to be odourless and not to be flammable, though the few witnesses who have watched someone harvest and consume Yeshua’s Gate have understandably tended to have been focused more acutely on what was happening to that person. The purification is, of course (and despite potentially being coveted as an end in-and-of-itself), only the first step in the process: A preparation for the strange alchemy that is to follow.
Once properly sanctified, the vessel must be fired in order to provide the energy necessary for the incipient transformation to proceed. Where a simple, wood-fuelled fire is enough to allow the initial buds to bloom, what follows has a far deeper and more calamitous appetite: Everything within a dozen feet of the person who consumed the Yeshua’s Gate cools and freezes as the temperature drops fiercely, precipitously, and - for most living things - fatally. The unnatural suddenness of the chill is enough to permanently alter the nature of the affected area, with some suspected sites identified by their propensity to sit several degrees below the ambient temperature of the surrounding environs.
While accounts are limited and differ greatly from instance to instance, it seems fair to assume that anyone who emerges from the icy desolation is no longer altogether human (at least as most would understand and accept the term). They often retain the outward aspects of their former self - though there are several anecdotes concerning extensive physical metamorphoses - but even those who are not transformed into avatars of living light or riven with pulsating psychic rocks are fundamentally altered. The most profound changes seem to be perceptual; differences in the way the affected experience and, consequently, interact with the world. New senses beget new abilities and new behaviours, actions impenetrable and othering and impossible.
No matter what happens, it seems that the vast majority of those who have been transformed by Yeshua’s Gate end up disappearing - either immediately or shortly thereafter. Certainly, there is limited evidence that any returned to their old lives, or even went on to meaningfully interact with a world to which they had become essentially and irrevocably alien. It is generally assumed that the alteration (some prefer ‘elevation’) of their perception inevitably led to a re-evaluation and reprioritisation of prior mores and morals: That the concerns and connections that previously drove them become more distant and more abstract until they become entirely unimportant. Metamorphosis so absolute that it is not entirely dissimilar to - and perhaps not quite distinct enough from - death.
There is little in what we know for certain that ought to encourage or inspire anyone to even seek out Yeshua’s Gate, let alone to subject themselves to the agonies of consuming it. It is an act of faith - by definition (and necessity) unfounded - and an assumption that the reward for the requisite toil and trauma must be a prize commensurate to the enormous risks and dangers inherent. The promise of knowledge is alluring though, however nebulous and ill-defined that knowledge is, and it is likely only the sheer scarcity of Yeshua’s Gate that prevents more people from attempting to access it. It grows in secret, in solitude, leaving very little evidence of its existence.