The tent appeared in Katie’s garden overnight, crumpled and spattered with mildew. Slack guy ropes strewn across the lawn, eight of the once-neon cords pegged at odd angles into the crumbling mud of the flowerbeds.
Katie spent 20 minutes staring at the canvas from behind the kitchen window’s deformed glass. In her hands, a cup of coffee cooled to the point of undrinkable. Katie tipped the liquid down the sink, slid into her dressing gown, and walked down the back steps.
The concrete was slick with early morning dew and green, thick, slime. She held onto the metal bannister, avoiding the numerous corroded edges grasping at her hand. Dew soaked through her slippers in a second. Frozen webs spreading across her skin.
Closer to the tent, Katie stared at the blackened mildew on the fly sheet. A shifting Rorschach test of spores. The pattern changed to an outline of Manitoba, the profile view of a young man with his jaw missing. A convulsing dog dying alone in the woods. While she watched, the mould spread, obscuring more of the dirty white canvas. Kneeling down, she slid her fingers beneath the ground sheet. Her hand went under as far as the cuticles and then met resistance—as if the material was stitched into the clay underneath the dead and dying turf.
Stepping carefully over slack cords, she moved around to the front and ran a fingernail down the rusted teeth of the zip. No slider body to open the doors. Katie grasped the fabric of the two doors, the tent flexing as she pulled. The zip stayed shut. Tight-lipped.
Steve’s work has appeared in Mad Scientist Journal, Cabinet des Fees, and Café Irreal. His short story “Call Out”, which was published by Innsmouth Magazine, was chosen for Best Horror of the Year, Volume 6. Steve publishes a newsletter which features flash fiction at tinyletter.com/stevetoase. His story “Start the Day with an Espresso” was published in Strangelet 1.2.