Mantula Part Three: One Hundred Bucks is Lucky

Gagged on pop culture, polluted by 

depression, comes Mantula!

A special fiction series!

Mantula-3-Use

Airplanes always scared the crap out of me. I can’t understand why something so heavy stays up in the air without just dropping like a brick from a window. Passenger jets, to me, are like coffins with wings. I felt like I was being swallowed into the belly of a metal mortician every time I stepped foot in one.

But falling from the sky without the benefit of wings, metal or not, felt entirely different. It almost felt like a dream. The air was louder, windier, than I expected, but I didn’t think it would take very long for it to all go away. I was wrong. For some reason, my hairy little body started drifting sideways, almost as if I were flying. I wasn’t exactly falling to my death, which kind of sucked.

It could have been that I shot webs out of the black spinnerets on my backside, creating a spider-chute like Spider-Man or something. My flight to the bottom of Coffee Pot Rock went way slower than I thought it would, and I didn’t end up splatting to death like I wanted. I nearly crashed into a car when I got low enough over State Route 89A. I thought for sure I’d splatter all over the windshield. My guts, I was thinking, would have been too plentiful for the wipers to handle.

Before that I saw this helicopter-thing following me for a minute there. Turns out it was smaller than a real copter, though. A drone of some sort I think – silver with four small props at each corner of the box-shaped thing. Not sure if it saw me or not, but I got a good look at it before the wind blew me away.

I hoped I’d fall into a pile of goop at some point. That’s what I wanted. But it’s not what happened. Instead I got blown over Sedona’s main road, after getting loose from the car I nearly smacked into, and landed in a mound of dirt on the shoulder. I managed to survive the experience without so much as a single damn scratch. Not that I could tell on my new bod.

Once past the car, I skittered and flopped my way back onto the sidewalk and under a small rose bush, near what looked like a spa of some sort. Sedona was full of these places. Locals really couldn’t afford them. But actors liked them. Folks like Robert Downey Jr. and Nicholas Cage came here a lot I heard. Not sure if they went to spas or just hiked, but they were spotted here frequently. The fact that I’d graduated from scrambling and flopping, to skittering and flopping, didn’t really make me happy, but it got me under the bush faster. I was off the street and out of the dark night. With luck no one would see me.

The earth felt cool and safe against the hairy bulb at my rear, my abdomen I think, and I hunkered down for a quick respite from the insanity of my life. I looked at my pedipalps by the orange glow of 89A’s new street lamps. Pedipalps, I remembered, were the name for the stiff joints next to my mouth. I examined the way they looked through my freaked-out kaleidoscope eyes. That’s when I spotted the bill laying a few inches away. I focused my eyes on it and mentally ticked off the one and two zeros. A one hundred dollar bill! I went over to it and knocked a few dried leaves from the top of it. I scooped it up and started folding the thing.

What would a tarantula need one hundred dollars for? The absurdity crossed my mind, but I gripped the wadded bill anyway. I’d be stupid to toss it.

It was at that point I noticed something even weirder. A quail hung out in the bushes next to mine, partially lit by the nearby street lamp. He gave me a curious look before reaching down to peck at something by his feet. The bird must have been standing super still before, otherwise I would have noticed him. It made me a little uncomfortable. While I could remember a bit about tarantulas, as I once tried to convince my dead mom that one would make a good pet (not to mention make me the cool kid on the block), I couldn’t remember what they ate – or what ate them. But this quail seemed a little off.

Notepads and quails.

I realized he wasn’t pecking at the ground for food. He had something in his mouth, a pen by the look of it, and was holding it in his beak and scratching something in the ground with it. I then realized he wasn’t scratching in the ground. A notebook sat in the dirt by his clawed little feet. The quail, using his beak, was trying to write something if you can believe that.

When he finished, the feathered thing with the dark blob at the top of his head, spat out the pen and picked up the notebook. A saw one word scrawled on the grime-streaked paper, which the quail held up for me to see. It looked like a two-year-old had written it. That one word made my heart skip a beat.

Human?


Mantula will return. Click here to read a news article about his recent encounter with the drone.

Has Mantula been caught on camera? By a drone?

(News article from the Sedona Daily Reader)

Raining tarantulas?

Drone spots flying arachnid over red rocks

By KIP MOONEY

Sedona Daily Reader

Mantula-Screengrab

Screen capture provided by Flight Services, L.L.C.

SEDONA, Ariz. – Sedona Eye’s maiden flight took a turn for the weird on Tuesday when the controversial drone’s robotic cameras captured what appeared to be a tarantula flying through the air.

A screen capture provided by Flight Services, L.L.C. owner Diana Sturgis, backed up that claim on Wednesday. According to Sturgis, the Eye was coming in for a landing at the West Sedona Sugarloaf Trailhead when something passed in front it. That something, after closer examination, proved to be what looked like an Arizona Blonde Tarantula, typically known as the Desert Tarantula, she said.

“Once we grabbed an image from the playback and got a good look at it, we were pretty amazed to see this giant spider staring back at us,” Sturgis said. “Our sUAS (Small unmanned aircraft systems) was at least 600 feet in the air at that point.”

Sturgis compared the image to a Google search for Arizona tarantulas and quickly determined the type of arachnid spotted high in the air over the city, but nowhere did her search reveal an uncanny ability to fly without wings.

“The sUAS didn’t track where it went unfortunately. What was a tarantula doing soaring through the air so high up?” she asked.

Neil Thomas, Arizona Fish and Game biologist, offered a likely explanation for the odd sighting. According to him, it isn’t uncommon for a bird of prey to capture a tarantula to enjoy as a light snack while looking for larger meals.

“A juvenile Northern Goshawk, for example, might snatch one off the ground. In this case, it might have dropped the thing later, and from a decent height,” Thomas said.

Discounting a suicide attempt from the tip of Coffee Pot Rock, Sturgis said she was inclined to believe Thomas’s explanation.

“It’s still a weird sight. Not what we were expecting to see fly across the camera,” she said.

The Sedona Eye, operating on an FAA flight permit granted to Flight Services last December, has met with a great deal of resistance from community members in recent months, who fear the drone could be used for spying and government purposes. Sturgis, meanwhile, has said the Eye would only be used for permitted applications related to public safety and agricultural work. A second test flight is planned for next month, she added.

“We’ll likely stick with the same flight plan, but I hope there aren’t any more flying spiders this time,” Stugis joked.

Mantula will return.

Mantula Part Two: Something Else

Gagged on pop culture, polluted by 

depression, comes Mantula!

A special fiction series!

Mantula-2

It might have been all of two seconds or maybe it was less than that. One look at those beady little black eyes and that seething dark carapace and I scrambled off. It seemed so alien, so ghastly, that I could barely think straight. Stumbling backwards, I made for the end of the sidewalk. I flopped and scrambled, scrambled and flopped, but I got there eventually. I tried to will myself back to my crappy little apartment, hoping I would wake up there in a sweaty haze of dementia, but I knew it wouldn’t happen. I could tell I wasn’t asleep. Everything felt too real, too conscious, for a dream to explain. And that realization made me feel even worse.

It’s funny. I hate my crappy little apartment. It’s nothing more than a tomb. I drink my Crown there. I sleep there. I don’t have a life there. I rarely ever leave. At some point I’d have to, I know. The money will run out soon. Maybe in a month, maybe less, and I’d have to do something. I figured I had two choices: either get a job… or do something else. A third option crossed my mind too. I could take my last fifty bucks, drive to the casino, and try and turn it into five hundred. Anything is possible.

At the end of the sidewalk was a street. I flopped and scrambled across it. There I got a good look at my location. I wasn’t far from my place. The red rocks of Sedona didn’t look bigger through my eight eyes, but they did look farther away. My apartment, situated in the slum section of Cottonwood, might as well have been on the moon. I’d never make the fifteen mile hike down State Route 89A. Looking above me, through the haze of humidity and hundred-degree air, I got a good look at Coffee Pot Rock, one of the city’s more popular red rock landmarks. I knew then where to go. I even knew how to get up there. I’d taken my son there once years ago and stressed the whole time that he might slip and fall.

Being a tarantula, being me in a tarantula, cinched the deal. I’d go for choice number two; I’d do something else, and jump from the coffee spout-shaped tip of that famous rock. With any luck I’d splat all over the back of a privileged trustafarian out hiking without a care in the world. I flopped and scrambled, scrambled and flopped, and headed up the street.

All kinds of cars drove by. Pink Jeeps, luxury sedans, expensive SUVs, the toys of the rich, they all rumbled past me. I considered camping out in the roadway and just letting one of them pop me like a furry black balloon. It would be over in the blink of an eye. I’d be a greasy hot pancake on the roadway, picked at by crows, and then gone. But the idea of Coffee Pot Rock appealed to me. I didn’t want to go out in an average way. Who wants that?

Most of the hike went by in something of a blur. I thought of my boy. And I thought of Batman. It’s funny, considering my weird day, but I found myself laughing a bit. My insides didn’t seem capable of laughter as we know the function, but in my head, I started cracking up. I could see my son standing over me. The hot winds mussed up his long brown hair as he pointed and laughed. Like always, he wore his black Batman t-shirt that was two sizes too big.

He’d shout. “Look at you, Dad! You’re a man and a tarantula in one. A mantula!”

I’d try to answer in my best Batman Begins voice. “I am Mantula!” We’d both laugh.

The little fantasy got me to the end of the street and well into the shrubbery and bushes at the base of the rock. I started climbing then. Getting there was far easier than expected. As an arachnid, the climb was easy peasy. I thought I’d stumble and fall, but I didn’t, not even once. I found these little claws at the ends of my ugly legs. They came out as soon I started the ascent. With those things I barely noticed I’d become vertical. I may as well be on the street. But I didn’t focus on it, nor did I think about my destination, just my son’s laughter.

It followed high atop Coffee Pot Rock. The sky had turned a pinkish color by the time I got to the edge. It took some maneuvering, through crags, cracks, and other obstacles. I had to hide from a hawk of some sort at one point, but I made it. I was at the edge. All of Sedona spread out beneath me. I could see everything, all the precious red rocks and the tourist dollars they represented, all the hungry men and women begging for those dollars and all the happiness they have that I never will.

CoffepotRock-1

Doug jumps from Coffee Pot Rock without much prior thought.

I take one last look at my furry stick legs, checking to be sure they hadn’t turned back to my human ones, and see only the nastiness. I spring from the edge without another thought. It could be I’ll fall like a rock, explode like a spidery water
melon when I hit bottom, and wake up in my crappy little apartment.
Or I’ll see heaven, or hell, or whatever comes after this.

The setting sun catches me for a moment. Wind cradles my eight legs and I feel swept away in its grip. It feels like a lover’s silky embrace. And I am falling.

Mantula will return.

 

Mantula Part One: Meet Doug

Gagged on pop culture, polluted by 

depression, comes Mantula!

A special fiction series!

Mantula-1

I’ve woken up inside the body of something I cannot identify; only I know it isn’t what I fell asleep in. Falling asleep isn’t exactly accurate I suppose. I passed out. But I know I didn’t look like this, or feel like this. Everything is crazy and distorted, junked up with multiple facets – like looking through a kaleidoscope or something crazy like that.

I want to puke; only I can’t. My mouth isn’t what it used to be. It doesn’t seem to work the same way.

Whenever I try to move I see a flash of black furry sticks, but it’s all loopy. I’m looking at two of them, but on twenty different television sets. And I cannot close my eyes. I know I was human once. I was a guy in a bad way, like a lot of dudes I know. Life had me in a chokehold. And I wasn’t fighting back anymore.

Crown Royal made it all better. It really did. I stopped seeing my little boy with it. He’s there every other time though. Every single time I close my eyes he is there waving at me as the car drives off.

But now I can’t close my damn eyes, so I won’t see him again until all this is sorted out. I don’t even have a headache. But I can’t walk either. Every time I try to move I see those furry sticks. They feel light and powerful at the same time, like cords of aluminum, but they couldn’t belong to me, could they?

I have to focus; have to make a move here. It takes a few minutes, but I’m able to sort of shift all the televisions into a single concentrated image. I can see better like this, but I have to focus hard on it, more than I’ve concentrated in a long time.

I’m on a sidewalk somewhere, near a couple of warehouse-sized blue dumpsters, and it’s hot and humid as hell out. Luckily I’m in the shadow of the dumpsters and not baking out in the direct light. Trash is scattered all over the place. Up ahead I see a shattered rear-view mirror sitting on the asphalt next to the dumpster. I flop and scramble, flop and scramble, scramble and flop, then drag myself across the concrete. It’s not easy. The legs are everywhere and really hard to wrap a thought around. Not like my own legs, which I could operate without thinking, without caring. These things weren’t the same. As I squirmed closer, I realized how big that rear-view mirror looked.

Only it wasn’t any more gigantic than a regular mirror. It was me that had a problem. I was a hell of a lot smaller than I was the last time I looked.

These legs began to make sense.

Sure enough, once I got to the shattered glass and got a good look into a shard of it, I got my confirmation. I wasn’t the same man I used to be. Hell, I wasn’t a man at all. I’d become a tarantula, all furry and covered in nastiness, but still me on the inside. By the way my gross little body covered much of the rear-view mirror, I could tell I was a big one too. At least as big as a grown man’s hand.

The whole thing kind of pissed me off.

Doug will return in future installments.

 

Earth can(not) be saved – by ROM

Dear ROM: Spaceknight,

rom-1I fear the Dire Wraiths have returned once again.

You left our verdant world at a time ripe with tragedy and conflict. Challenger exploded, Reagan sat in office, and the Middle East waged war when you left our world for the depths of space.

But the conflicts and tragedy continued – are worse, in fact, than they were in the turbulent 80’s. You remember the Contra scandal? The Chernobyl incident? We’ve had more of that. Much more.

There you sit with the Earth woman Brandy Clark on far-off Galador, surrounded by an army of Spaceknight protectors, after you yourself shed your plandanium armor in order to repopulate your world – and you think the vile shape-changers are banished beyond reach. But they’ve returned.

There can be no other reason for Earth’s recent spate of profound, imbecilic repetition.

Turn your Analyzer on Donald Sterling and you will see a Wraith that looks oddly like V. Stiviano. Send them both to Limbo before their next interview.

States within our American government still flounder and debate the rights of gay couples and whether they can legally marry.

This can only be the work of Wraithkind.

Use the Neutralizer to discern the cause of this stale debate. Let it dial back the clock to see where it began. You’ll find a Wraith at the helm, squirming like a hooked fish under the weapon’s ruby-red beam, ashamed at having it’s plot to slow Earth’s social progress, if not reverse it, foiled. You may find Tammy Faye Bakker imprinted there. Send those debaters to Limbo without further ado.

That same Wraithling is likely the root of Selfies. Who else but a Wraith could start this disturbingly narcissistic trend?

Use your Universal Translator to decipher Lolspeak and emoticons. Learn of the Wraith plot to dumbify our culture, yanking humanity back to the use of prehistoric pictograms. Marvel at the ease to which they accomplish their plot. Then throw them screaming to Limbo.

Without you, ROM, our planet is doomed. Please return.

Love,

Nerdling

OUT NOW: ‘Talk Jock Twits: A Quirky Novella’

 

“Talk Jock Twits” takes a trippy, frank look at the odd little world of AM conservative talk radio. In TJT, younBookCoverPreview TJT-1g writer Josh White finds himself immersed in the seedy occupation with little training, or common sense, to guide him. He’s soon in too deep, however. He’s become addicted to the small town fame, the local love, and finds his inner narcissist to powerful to resist. Check out an excerpt below!

“AM radio stations are foggy territories full of lies, deceit, pot, oral sex and tiny-ass paychecks. White entered the world thanks to a newspaper. It was as if it were part of some preconceived plan set forth eons ago by the decision of a tadpole to go left into the murky brown goo rather than right into the murky green goo. From that moment events gathered, went left three times, right once, a good marriage in the seventeenth century, all leading to that moment when White opened the door to the radio station and made the bell tinkle to announce his arrival.”

- Talk Jock Twits by Patrick Whitehurst

Talk Jock Twits is available now on Amazon.com. Click here to order.

 

BOOK NEWS: ‘Talk Jock Twits’ coming soon.

 

Small town writer Josh White thinks he’s on the road to notoriety and, better yet, popularity when he begins working for a local talk radio station in Trapper, Arizona. Instead he finds himself immersed in a seedy underworld of drugs, sex and backstabbing bastards. Welcome to the world of Talk Jock Twits.Talk Jock Twit

My upcoming novella “Talk Jock Twits” started back in the 1990s when I worked for a small AM station in Williams, Arizona. After drowning in the job for a few years, doing everything from running baseball games at night to hosting a short-lived weekend talk show, I bowed out of the biz and resolved to never again work in the odd little field. But I never forgot it. A decade later I unearthed some of my notes, sort of a journal that described those days of radio craziness, and started fleshing out what would become this little novella.

So, while some of the experiences are real, the story itself is not. While the characters on based on real life people, some of whom I still know and call friends, their names and actions have been altered. A few people might still get pissed off about it, however, since I write cynically. But this is a fiction novel. Some may call me an ass for writing it. Some may think it’s a terrible example of a regal occupation.

But for those suffering from the scars of talk jock bloodshed, call it therapy.