At first the ring was small; hardly a ring at all, just a loose collection of fungal clumps in the grass. I was all for hitting it up with some sort of pesticide to protect my lawn, but Michelle thought it looked cute, a tiny ring for tiny people to hold tiny councils in, right? So I agreed we’d leave it, just for a couple of weeks, so it could grow and we take some pictures for Facebook. Hey look at us, we’ve got fairies at the bottom of the garden!
So after a week it was about a foot across, and looked pretty cool, a full and thick ring of mushrooms that had left the regrown grass in its centre a wilder, brighter colour than the lawn around it. The only downside was that some local predator had left half a dead rat next to it. So no photograph that weekend, we said, and the pesticide stayed in the shed.
Things got away from me over the next week, as they often do, and so by the time I was back out in the garden it had grown again, with a lush patch of grass growing in a dense, nearly solid brown ring of fungus. Nothing dead this time, so we got a good image up on the internet (27 likes, 5 retweets!) before I hit it with all the shop-bought chemical warfare I could find.
That night we were awoken by something in the shed. There was banging, and crashing, even quick flashes of light, and I was dispatched out with the old golf club we kept near the bed in order to sort out who – or what – ever was in there. I threw open the door with a shout, and then, I was told later, yelped with fright as a fox, streaked with blood and saliva, shot past me into the darkness. I remember wondering how it got in there, but before long I was worried about other things.
The ring was unaffected by the poison, and in fact it seemed to grow bigger overnight. A streak of blood ran from the ring to the shed, and the grass outside it, closest to the ring itself, was taking on a sickly, grey-brown hue even as the grass inside bloomed with wildflowers. I took the morning off work and decided to take the lawnmower to it, only to find it had been damaged in the shed invasion. As I stormed back to the house, I could have sworn I heard laughter, distant on the wind.
Within a couple of days it has spread until it covered nearly a third of the garden, and we awoke to a dead cat lying in the centre of the ring. As I stepped over to remove it, I felt dizzy, the world spinning around me for a moment before Michelle grabbed my arm and I sank back onto the damp grass. We agreed I must be pretty squeamish and we retreated inside to watch the TV. By the evening, the cat was gone and the ring was larger still.
Last Friday we found a badger in the ring, and we left it alone. On Sunday one of our neighbours called, asking us if we’d seen their Labrador. We didn’t mention the ragged collar we’d seen, before that too had vanished. Tonight, Michelle didn’t come home, and there is no answer on her phone. I tell myself she’s had enough, and has gone somewhere to drown her sorrows, or just get a good night’s sleep.
That’s what I tell myself, over and over.
It’s night now. The Ring covers the lawn, it’s mushroom wall standing over 12 inches high. The wind laughs at me, rising higher and higher. There is banging on the doors and windows, and lights flashing in the darkness. Inside there is only me, and my golf club, waiting. Just… waiting.