's 2016 Horror Write-off:

Amanita Aurum

Submitted by Thomas Wisdom

The toxic smell is the worst thing, I think.

They're forming a ring, about a hundred meters from my house, growing on whatever they can send their million hands into. Tiny glimmering things, like gilded sequins, shaking out their miasmic spores at every raindrop or footfall. I don't think anyone else notices they're a ring, though. It criss-crosses houses, roads, and walls, interrupting the circle in so many places. I think that's why nobody else notices them. The circle started out broken.

It was after a week, I think, that the metaphorical noose began to tighten. The mushrooms at the outer edge rotted away with incredible rapidity, while those spores finally began to germinate. It was only the mushrooms near the inside- nearer to me- that survived. I did some research at the library after I stumbled over a band of fungus that was a few inches closer that I had expected.

There's a phenomenon affecting some species of mushroom. When the fungus's mycelium grows outward, it sprouts new fruiting bodies as the center dies. But this ring was growing inward; the only way that made sense is if the mycelium network was already there.

When I got home, the mushrooms were taller.

I'm sorry if these entries are getting more disconnected. When I got home from work today, the mushrooms turned to look at me. I like the attention. Some of my food has mold on it, like glitter or ash. I just scraped it into the garbage and ate the rest anyway.

I'm not going to work today. The mushrooms are almost as tall as me now, and they're right outside my house. When I stepped outside, one of them wrenched itself off its base and fell at my feet. I'm going to cook it up. Will update later.

The mushroom looks almost like a person. It has a narrowed neck, a stalk flattened forward and back like a body and arms, divots for eyes. Texture of pulled pork, taste of something I can't recognize. It tastes good, though.

I don't remember writing previous entry. Could not find good mushroom recipe, so I ate it by itself. I left the windows open tonight. I like the smell. Nobody ever comes here anymore anyway.

The mushrooms are growing inside the house now. I think I'm their queen. They turn to face me- in reverence? I don't know. I ate another one today. Didn't even need to cook it. They're fine raw.

I bit my lip today, hard enough to draw blood. It tasted exactly like the mushrooms. I don't remember if it always tasted like that. There's a loose tile in the kitchen. I would call someone, but they would hurt the mushrooms. I took the tile up, and there was mycelium under it, thick as a tree root and too strong to cut. I remember my research on fairy rings.

Most of the mushrooms are ripping themselves out of the ground. Some of them are tearing their stalks in two. Some of them are still moving. I think they're trying to walk.

I'm going down into my basement. That's where the center of the ring is. Right there, dead center. I was right, but I was wrong. I was right. For the ring to grow inwards, the center, the parent, must still be alive. I was wrong.

I was never the queen at all.

It's the biggest mushroom yet. Its face is carved and notched into a glorious visage. Its arms reach towards me.

It's beautiful.

She's beautiful.

My Queen.

She looks just like me.