"The Voice in the Night" is a famous short story by the English author William Hope Hodgson. First published in The Blue Book Magazine in November 1907, the story has been collected in numerous anthologies.
In the story, a small boat approaches a schooner at night and a mysterious voice asks the sailors for food. Although clearly desperate, the Voice refuses to come closer into the light. Suspicion quickly turns into sympathy for the schooner's captain when the Voice reveals that he has a starving female companion waiting on a nearby island. A few hours after gratefully departing with the provisions, the Voice returns to tell his story — about the horrifying fate of a shipwrecked couple stranded on a strange island.
"The Voice in the Night" was adapted in 1958 as an episode of the television series Suspicion produced by Alfred Hitchcock. The story also inspired the Japanese science-fiction horror film Matango (1963).
George is standing alone at night on the deck of a schooner which is becalmed in the northern Pacific Ocean. His friend Will, the captain of the ship, and the small crew are all asleep. Suddenly a strange voice cries out "Schooner, ahoy!" from the port side. There is apparently a small boat somewhere in the darkness. George tells the boat to come alongside, but the Voice refuses. Becoming suspicious, George takes out a lamp and knocks on the deck to wake Will. As soon as George looks out over the railing with the lamp, the Voice quickly oars away.
Will comes up to the deck. George tells him what has happened. The Voice says he will come closer only if they promise not to shine the light. Will begins to ask questions. The Voice, now sounding quite hopeless, gives up and begins to row away. As he is leaving, however, he tells Will that he and his female companion who is waiting on a nearby island are extremely hungry. At the mention of a female, Will quickly tells George to put away the light. He then goes down to get some food. The Voice is clearly desperate for the provisions, but he still refuses to come nearer. George realizes that the poor man is suffering from some unknown horror. Overcome with sympathy, he helps Will put the food into a box and push it towards the boat. The Voice calls out a heartfelt blessing before rowing away. Nearly three hours later, the boat returns and the Voice calls out. He tells George and Will that he and the lady believe that their encounter tonight is a sign that God wishes their story to be told. He then begins to tell the following story.
The Voice and his fiancée were passengers on the ship Albatross which went missing six months ago. The ship was damaged in a storm, and the crew abandoned ship leaving behind the young couple. The couple loaded supplies on a small raft and left before the ship sank down completely. After drifting for four days in a strange mist, they found themselves in a lagoon. There was a large ship moored in the lagoon which had apparently been long deserted. Its deck was covered in strange gray fungi, and nodules of the fungus were found everywhere, even inside cabins. The couple found some food in storage, fixed the freshwater pump, scraped the fungus off the floors and walls of two cabins and settled down. The fungi grew back within twenty-four hours and grew more each day. The couple finally decided to leave the ship when the young woman found a patch growing on her pillow on the seventh morning.
All along the shore were wild growths of the same fungus, some in mounds and others shaped like grotesque and gnarled trees. After coasting along the shoreline for some distance, the couple finally came to a sandy beach free of the growths and constructed tents out of the ship's sails. They lived there happily for four weeks until they found patches of growth on their bodies. They were then forced to abandon any thought of leaving the island lest they spread the infection. After a few months, having exhausted the ship's supplies, the young man caught his fiancée eating a piece of the fungus. Later that day, he was taking a walk inland when he heard a strange sound and saw a mass of fungus swaying alongside the sandy path. The mass, in the shape of a distorted human creature, stretched out a branch and touched him. The young man screamed and ran back, but he had gotten a taste of the sweet fungus. Overcome with desire, he began to eat. When he returned to the beach afterwards, he did not tell his fiancée that he had seen what had happened to the crew of the ship in the lagoon.
The Voice thanks Will and George again for their kindness then bids them good-bye. In the light of the early dawn, George catches sight of the figure on the boat; a great gray sponge nodding along with the movement of the oar.