NEWS: Now everyone can check in

Gagged on pop culture, polluted by depression, comes Mantula! A special fiction series!

Check-In Screen Shot

NEWS: Don’t forget to check in to “Mantula’s Crappy Little Apartment” the next time you happen to be playing around on Facebook while visiting lovely Cottonwood, Arizona.

Maybe you’re having drinks at the Chaparral Bar near downtown, or hooking up with someone on Tinder, or just licking on a cone at the Dairy Queen on Main Street; it doesn’t matter what your awesome adventure is. You could even be geo-caching or wondering about the viticultural significance of the town; they’re all things Doug Mantula and Glenn ManQuail could help you out with.

And if you feel like it, leave a sterling five star review while you’re there!

MANTULA Part Eleven: Touring the Crappy Apartment

Mant-11

We made our way up the wet stairs leading to my crappy little apartment with little incident.

Monsoonal moisture pounded Cottonwood and we were both elated we’d soon escape the torrential downpour pelting the rundown Arizona city. I knew the front door would be locked. I always locked it. Even on a drinking binge, such as had been the case the night before I woke up as a tarantula. The window was another matter. I was pretty sure I’d left it cracked just a hair to let in the cool air from the rain a couple of days ago. Sure enough, as we got to the landing and stared up at the door, which loomed in front of me like a mountain of flat sheet metal, I could see a slight opening in the window next to it.

Unfortunately it wasn’t big enough for even me to get through.

I leaned forward, still riding atop Glenn, while my bird-turned-horse took a look at the window over our tiny heads. “Do you think we’ll be able to crack it open a little further?” I asked him.

“Oh, hell yeah. Dude, we didn’t come all this way just to give up at your doorstep. Right?”

I could hear the conviction in his mental voice. “Maybe if you can hop up there we can both brace ourselves and give it a good push. We just need to nudge it a little.”

Without another word, the quail sailed to the windowsill in a flurry of wet feathers that nearly made me drop my hundred-dollar bill. He balanced himself on the slim stucco ledge, clutching the metal slider beneath the window with one foot. I leaned forward, planting one hooked leg on the window and another against the aluminum sill itself, thinking I would try it alone—just to see what kind of a challenge it would present. With a simple push in both directions, the window slid open wide enough for ManQuail and I to hop in.

The quail looked up at me, startled. “Holy crap, man! Since when can a little tarantula throw open a window like that? That’s like some super strength crap right there!”

“I’m a little surprised too,” I admitted. “But what the hell. We’re in.”

ManQuail dropped into the apartment. We were finally out of the rain and I was back inside my crappy little apartment. I dropped from my traveling companion’s back and did a quick dash into the middle of the living room. From there I had a good view into the kitchen, where I expected to see my human body.

It wasn’t there.

ManQuail busied himself looking around the place. A sole light, from a table lamp purchased at a dollar store, shone weakly near the refrigerator, bathing the area in a dark glow. The lamp sat atop a round, thrift store kitchen table wedged half in the living room and half in the kitchen area. On top of that sat my refurbished desktop computer. Drawings my son drew covered the wall over the table. For some reason it made me uncomfortable that Glenn could see them. They were all that hung on the walls.

His voice sounded distant in my head. “You have a kid? You never told me that.”

I made my way into the kitchen. A cup had spilled on the floor. The Crown Royal inside it had gone sticky while I’d been away. I’d used a coffee mug with a photo of John Steinbeck to drink it. The mug hadn’t broke, but it was undoubtedly glued by old whiskey to the floor. I found my cell phone next to that. I could see the light over the screen blinking on and off. I had messages. What I didn’t see was my body. (STORY CONTINUES BELOW)

Glenn admires a drawing by Doug’s son.

- Illustration by Ben Whitehurst.

The quail pointed a feathered wing at the wall of drawings. “He drew a spider for you? That drawing could be you!”

Leaving the kitchen, I made my way into the apartment’s single bedroom. There in the corner I saw the single mattress I slept on. No human body there either. I could see my clothes, however, piled in the corner where I tossed them all wrinkled and smelly.

I checked the bathroom next, joined by ManQuail, and found nothing but a toilet that needed flushed. My body wasn’t there either.

“You know what this means,” ManQuail whispered. “Your body turned into the tarantula body. That must mean mine did too. We could change back maybe. Someday. But maybe.”

“I was hoping I’d be here.”

ManQuail’s voice sounded encouraging. “This could be a good thing, man. Think about it. There might be a way to change back.”

Outside, the monsoon grew in intensity. Rain came down in sheets. I could see a few hail balls in the mix, but I wasn’t tall enough to look out the window to see whether they were collecting on the ground. Thunder rumbled heavily somewhere in the distance. I made my way to the small couch against the wall. The end of it touched the round kitchen table, which would make it easy for me to get up there if need be. ManQuail, meanwhile, trotted around the place like a frisky puppy. He seemed happy just to be out of the downpour. I made my way quietly up the base of the couch and settled into a sitting position in the middle of the cushion. I set my hundred-dollar bill beside me and watched the rain fall outside.

“Not a bad place,” Glenn said. “Anything in the fridge? Food or whatnot?”

“If you can get the door open, be my guest.”

He stopped and looked at me. “You could do it no problem. Not sure I could.”

“Give me a minute. I just want to think for a while.”

“Hey, we’re going to be here a long time. Plenty of time to think,” he replied.

He was right, of course. What did I expect anyway? Would the sight of my dead body make me happy?

Would anything?

So I got up to open the refrigerator for ManQuail and decided to test the limits of my hairy, ugly tarantula body.

MANTULA Part Ten: Doug and Glenn cross the street

Mant-10Rain fell in icy sheets the morning we escaped from the crazy woman’s house in Cottonwood. I could feel the monsoonal moisture seeping intomy body and creating a slick, watery layer between ManQuail and myself. Every drop that hit my body felt like an icy stinger shot from heaven itself. The downpour continued all morning, but we were making good headway on our quest to reach my apartment. Rain had tousled the tuft of feathers and down atop my companion’s head, including his black plume, which had fallen like a limp noodle over his right eye. 

The wet bird mumbled. “Are we at Twelfth Street yet?”

“Another block I think. Do you need a rest? Should I get off?”

Water dribbled off his beak when he looked back at me. “No, man. I’m just tired of getting rained on. I would rather get there as fast as I can.”

Thinking of the naked woman who’d, only a half hour before, chased us from her home, I decided the rain wasn’t all that bad. In fact, it had a cleansing effect. Seeing that Glenn and I hid in her closet and watched her disrobe, even though I tried to look away, the whole episode had me feeling a bit dirty. And the early morning monsoon did the trick in washing some of that away. If I ever ran into her again, however, I was betting the whole affair wasn’t something she’d easily forgive.

“A little rain is better than a crazy woman in a bathrobe,” I joked.

“She’ll get hers someday, man. It’s like I always say, what goes around comes around. Her bad attitude will bring bad attitudes back on her,” Glenn prophesied. “We just look like a couple of animals. She could have been more chill about the whole thing.”

I admitted that I would have done the same thing were I in her shoes.

“She was crazy, though. You’re just a dude stuck in a tarantula body, but cool besides that,” he said.

We hung a right on Elm, then made our way down Twelfth. The Adobe Apartments were located right across the street from the fairgrounds, a small patch of grass city officials used to hold a majority of their local events. When I’d moved into the place a few months before, the fair had been in full swing. From my little apartment I could hear music, screaming kids and screeching car tires almost all night.

We were only a fewManQuailStarsMeme blocks away, but we’d have to cross Highway 89A, which led from Main Street up to Jerome on the middle of Mingus Mountain. To me, Jerome was about the only interesting spot in the whole of the Verde Valley. Sedona was simply too elitist and pricey for the average Joe, not to mention boring as hell, and they like it that way. Cottonwood is where the people live who work in Sedona–basically the opposite of Sedona, trashy and cheap, but also boring as hell. It’s possible to like both spots I suppose, but not for me. Jerome, while too small to enjoy for long, has a hint of character, a taste of interest that very nearly adds up to a gulp. You can drink it all in after half a day. And I’m not the only one who liked the former mining, turned art, colony. One look at the traffic pouring up and down 89A and that became clear to anyone.

The rain kept most from noticing the wet bird with the equally wet arachnid on his back. Our travels were ours alone. But that would change when we got to the intersection. Cars raced up and down the four lane stretch of wet road leading up to the mining colony. Each passing vehicle sent a spray of water into the air. The mist by this point didn’t feel as cool and refreshing as it would have a day earlier. I was drenched and wanted nothing more than to dry off in my crappy place. I was also curious to see whether or not my human body would be sitting there, or laying there, on the floor of the kitchen. That’s the last place I remembered being, so that’s where I pictured myself. It could be it was already starting to smell, as I was sure I had died. A small part of me thought I could be asleep and that, touching myself, I’d wake up back where I belonged. It was a long shot, but possible.

ManQuail poised himself on the side of the road. “Are you ready, Doug?”

“We’ll have to go fast, Glenn. Wait for a break and run like hell.”

My bird companion sounded a little unsure, so I clutched his downy feathers as hard as I could with my six legs. The other two held the hundred dollar bill tight. “It’s hard to see with all the spray, but I’m thinking… now!”

With that he dashed onto the asphalt. It was like diving into a flood zone. Noise filled my senses. I heard the gargle of water and the screech of brakes, a blaring car horn that vibrated my entire body. Somewhere a dark shape, the size of a whale, sailed inches from us. In my head I heard ManQuail curse. He altered his course. I think we turned back the way we came. Another whale-sized shape blurred before me and was gone in a spray of oceanic water. Horns and wrenching metal filled my head, drowning out the bird’s cursing, and I felt him change course again. For a moment the rain stopped. We passed under a vehicle, hissing steam, and emerged into the flood again. I heard shouts and noticed red lights, brake lights I think, reflected in the water all around us. ManQuail dropped his head and charged forward. We emerged a moment later on the opposite side of 89A. We’d made it across.

Looking back, I saw a pile of cars at the intersection. At least three were clustered there, not moving, with smoke and steam rising from various area of damage. ManQuail kept his little legs peddling. As we made our way toward the Adobe Apartments people began to emerge from the vehicles. One of them aimed a cell phone our way and appeared to be snapping photos.

“Great. Someone’s taking pictures of us. Look at the crazy tarantula riding on the back of a quail in the middle of a rainstorm after causing a pileup on the highway,” I said.

ManQuail shot under a bush in response to the news and we disappeared from view. It kept the rain at bay a bit too, which was a nice break. “We don’t want people to see where we’re headed,” he told me.

Minutes later we emerged onto the parking lot which divided the apartments in the complex. Pools of water covered the place, reflecting yellow spools of light from the globe lamps situated throughout the property. We’d made it home.

MANTULA Part Nine: For Mature Readers

Mant-9

Doug, AKA Mantula, likes what he sees in Cottonwood, Ariz.

It had been a long time since I’d seen a beautiful woman take her clothes off. It had been so long that I had a difficult time remembering when exactly, but I remembered the feeling immediately, that sexual mix of shock of awe. Shame played a small part as well. Usually when a woman took her clothes off in front of someone, she knew that other party was in the room. She’d put on a show for that someone they would always remember or simply, unceremoniously drop her garments to the floor and leap into bed to sleep. In either case, she knew eyes were on her. In this case, the beautiful woman in question had no idea we were, ManQuail and myself, hiding in the shadows of her closet.

And I felt compelled to watch, at least for a moment.

The woman let her skirt fall to her feet and daintily stepped out of it. I could see a flash of white panties as she unbuttoned her white blouse. She fiddled with it quickly, still humming some unintelligible tune to herself, and let it slide from her arms to the floor, revealing a white lace bra and curving soft flesh underneath. She kicked her heels off next, then reached behind her to unfasten the bra. Letting that fall from her, she bent over and slid the panties to her ankles. Her black hair hung over her shoulders, hiding her face, as she pulled the skimpy garment over her feet. Stepping away from them, now completely nude, the woman sat on the edge of her bed. I could barely keep my eyes from her milky flesh and supple curves. Were I still in the body of a man, I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from joining her there.

The blood raced through my hairy, eight-legged body. I figured ManQuail was equally excited by the show. But the shame wore on me then, and I turned away, staring into the darkness of the closet, as the nude woman reclined atop her bed. But I hadn’t tuned out long when Glenn sucked in a mental rush of breath.

He exclaimed loudly in my head. “Holy cow. Look what she has!” 

The woman pulled a cylindrical device from under the pillow next to her. The thing looked purple from where we were hiding and was shaped similar to a plump banana. The gadget quickly disappeared under the blanket. I could hear a low humming sound seconds later. The woman began to moan, slowly at first, but the moans grew louder and far more passionate. My cheeks would have turned red had I still had them. I turned away from the private spectacle, wondering what my son would think were he watching the scene.

“We need to get out of here, Glenn,” I reminded my companion. “If you could peel yourself away, now would be the best time to sneak out of here–while she’s preoccupied.”

He flapped a wing at me irritably. “One more second.”

Rather than answer, I sprang onto his back, clutching my hundred dollar bill at the same time, which wasn’t very easy. “No, now. Maybe we can find an open window or something. Let’s give this strange woman some privacy.”

Sighing, the quail stepped out of the shadows with me holding onto his fluffy back. Truth was, I wanted to stick around a bit too. The stirrings that woman created deep in my soul were something sweet and pure, yet carnal and passionate at the same time. I could watch her all day, and all night too for that matter. But something dark drove me. And I had to heed its call. This beautiful woman, her interest in me, Glenn; it could all go to hell for all I really cared.

I heard a feminine gasp as ManQuail trotted toward the bedroom door. I looked behind us, not because I wanted to see her in the throes of passion, but because that gasp didn’t sound passionate at all. It sounded more like a gasp of surprise, or a gasp of absolute disgust.

She’d seen us.

I shouted to ManQuail as she let out her first scream of anger. “You better start running, Glenn!”

We bounded out of the room and into the rest of the house, the hundred dollar bill flapping behind ManQuail like a green cape. The woman’s purple device smacked against the wall behind our backs. I could hear the woman leap from her bed shouting, “You! It’s you!”

She chased after us, cursing, while struggling into a baby blue terry cloth robe. I looked behind me in time to see her charging from the room. The robe only went down to her knees and she hadn’t taken the time to tie the thing shut around her waist. I couldn’t help but take in the view while my steed searched eagerly for an escape. Luckily he found one. An open window presented itself to us just as our host grabbed a framed painting from the wall and chucked it our way. The two-foot painting, which appeared to be of a weathered, old woman in a high-backed chair, crashed to the floor beneath us just as ManQuail took flight through the window. We barely avoided getting beaned by it.

Once outside, we found ourselves in a barren yard covered in gravel. I could hear the woman charging to the front door. She cussed and yelled. By the time she made it into the yard, however, we’d popped on top of a nearby chain link fence. I barely managed to hold onto my money and the feathers of my companion at the same time. The woman chased us across the yard, heedless of her robe flapping behind her, and of her own bare body. We disappeared into the neighbor’s yard, darted quickly under a bush, and kept on running. We lost her in no time.

“That woman would have smashed us into hamburger,” ManQuail panted. “And I think she recognized you.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I told him. “We won’t see her again. Now let’s figure out where we are so I can tell you how to get to my apartment.”

I was wrong of course. I would see her again. I just didn’t know it at the time.

MANTULA Part Eight: To the ‘Wood’

Mant-8

I could feel the little passenger car vibrate under me as my stalker, who made me a bit nervous, drove the twenty-minute stretch between Cottonwood and the city of Sedona.

I considered falling asleep for the ride,but my companion wouldn’t have it. Maybe he’d done so much meth in his human life that some of it carried over into his quail life. Glenn had more energy than that lame electric pink bunny that was popular on TV commercials back in the day. He squirmed so much in the gym bag we were hiding in that I feared our unknowing cab driver would see it. Luckily she was too busy talking to a reporter on the telephone to notice much else. And yet again, she was talking to him about me–particularly about my end-of-days leap off Coffee Pot Rock yesterday, which had been caught on camera by a drone the woman owned.

It seemed Mantula and his new sidekick ManQuail was already making the news. That would make my son laugh, I was sure. Were he watching, I’m sure my whole predicament was cracking him up.

ManQuail interrupted my thoughts. “So we got a little sidetracked and you never answered my question.”

“What question?”

“Your addiction, man! What was it?”

Ever since Glenn mentioned his “cure” from the disease of methamphetamines, I’d been pondering that very question. Besides having woken up in the body of a hairy insect with eight legs, nothing else felt different. He told me about Dick and Christine and the others as well, and they all reported cures from their various addictions. I had no addiction that I could recall and, as a result, nothing that felt removed from my life after I woke up as a bug.

So I answered his question. “I don’t feel any different, Glenn. I wasn’t addicted to anything in the first place.”

“You had to be. You can tell me, man. Everybody who wakes up as an insect or a bird had an addiction. It’s the way it works,” he replied.

“Look, I wasn’t hooked on anything. I don’t drink really, except recently, but I’ve never been an alcoholic, and I don’t smoke. No drugs, either. No addictions to anything.”

“Dude, that can’t be right.”

I growled. “I’m not lying, Glenn. I can’t think of anything. I feel the same way today as I did when I was a man.”

“That can’t be right,” he mumbled to himself. “There’s always an addiction.” He eyeballed the hundred-dollar bill I sat on with his sideways bird gaze. “Maybe it’s money. You could have a money addiction.”

“Glenn, everyone has a money addiction.”

“But maybe yours is unnaturally strong or something. You ever think about that?”

I positioned myself over the bill, covering it with my body. “I wouldn’t still want it then, would I? Wouldn’t I be cured of the money addiction now? Well guess what, I still want it. So try again.”

Up in the driver’s seat, I could hear the woman talking to the reporter. He’d apparently called back again. I figured we had to be getting close to Cottonwood by this time. Thunder rumbled the skies above us. I could also hear the faint sounds of rain hitting the roof of the car.

“I just don’t get it. Maybe it will come to you,” Glenn continued. “We all had an addiction, man. I know that much.”

“If I think of something I’ll let you know.”

A few minutes later we pulled to a stop. ManQuail and I buried ourselves under the smelly gym clothes to avoid being seen when she got out of the car. I figured she’d just disappear into her house. Neither of us expected her to open the passenger door and reach for the bag we’d picked to hide inside, but that’s exactly what she did. ManQuail fell on top of me as a result of the sudden gravitational shift, but didn’t move after landing on my back. He played it cool, which was a good thing. I doubted the two of us weighed all that much, however. A few drops of cool, moist rain landed on my legs and seeped through the hair on my legs.

Humming, she carried us at her side, up what sounded like a short set of stairs, and into her home. She hefted us a bit further once inside, her footsteps echoing in the place, and then finally set us down. Breathing a sigh of relief, I listened to her footsteps walk away before shoving my bird companion off of me.

“Let’s get the hell out of here,” I said.

Quietly, we both lunged from the bag and found ourselves in the woman’s bedroom near the foot of her bed. Boxes lay scattered throughout the place. Some were turned on their side with apparel spilled out on the floor. Rather than dart into one of them, ManQuail dashed into a nearby closet. I skittered and flopped right behind him. Once in shadow, we turned back to watch for our host. I could hear her footsteps heading back to the room. The woman with the business attire hummed her way over to a dresser in the far corner. Once there she began to remove her large silver hoop earrings.

For now, we were safe. We’d also made it to Cottonwood, but where in Cottonwood? It could be we were miles from my crappy little apartment, but I supposed we would cross that bridge when we got to it.

For now we’d have to wait things out. Maybe when the woman went to bed we’d find a way to sneak our way to freedom. Being that it was still morning, we might have a while to sit there in the closet.

But then she yawned, and it raised my hopes a bit. She did say she hadn’t slept last night after all. Placing her earrings on the dresser, she reached over her head and pulled her bun loose. Waves of black hair cascaded over shoulder. The woman kicked off her high heels before reaching around her waist to unzip her skirt.

We had a perfect view of the whole thing.

ManQuail giggled and said, “Oh hell yeah.”

car-1

Mantula and ManQuail hitch a ride to Cottonwood, Ariz.

 

MANTULA Part Seven: Not Quite a Carjacking

Gagged on pop culture, polluted by

depression, comes Mantula!

A special fiction series!

My second day as a tarantula quickly turMantula-7ned out tobe just as weird as the first one. Here I sat in a meditation garden in Sedona, speaking telepathically with a former meth addict who was now a quail, about heading to my apartment in Cottonwood. I also had a hundred dollar bill in my possession, as if there was anything I could do with it, but I thought, “You never know,” and held onto it.

“How in the hell would we get there, Glenn?” I asked the bird. “Hitchhike? When we’re as small as we are, it would take forever to get there.”

Not only that, I thought, but also predators are all over the place in Arizona, especially in the Verde Valley. I’ve seen javelina, coyotes, snakes of every length and design, and birds bigger than a microwave oven. It was only a matter of time before one of them made a lunch out of me. And maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing either. But I also wasn’t thrilled with the idea of being eaten alive. Animals, however, cared less for the price of life than people did. Not when it wasn’t their life at any rate. They didn’t mind eating another animal while it was still alive so long as it didn’t fight back. Eventually it would die and that was good enough.

“Not sure how we would get there,” ManQuail said. “You’re right about animals too. Lots of big cats out there hankering for a bit of quail meat. But we can always find a way. It’s like I always say: be the change you want to see in the world.”

I scowled. “You actually say that?”

Before he could answer, we heard an approaching voice at the far end of the garden. The voice, a female by the sound of it, got closer as she talked.

“I know. That’s why I’m here, Darren,” she said. “It’s the damnedest thing, and definitely worth looking into, but it’s been hours now. It’s probably gone. But I may as well take a peek anyway. Yes, yes. I know it’s not work-related. The thing did fall in front of the Eye though, then ran away into the night holding a hundred dollar bill. Don’t you think it’s worth checking out?”

I burrowed a little deeper into the soil as the woman came into view. Just to be sure, I used my stick legs to kick some dirt over my money. She looked to be in her forties perhaps, tall, thin, with jet-black hair tied into a severe bun behind her head. The woman wore a business suit, grey skirt that stopped just over her knees, a white blouse and a grey blazer. I ran my eyes over the curves of her body, taking in her shapeliness, then realized ManQuail was doing the same thing.

“She’s a hottie,” he said in my head. “And stop calling me ManQuail. Otherwise I’ll call you Mantula.”

“I don’t care what you call me,” I answered. “And stop reading my thoughts.”

“Sorry, man. Can’t help it.”

Speaking to no one in particular I asked, “This woman is talking about me?”

“It sure sounds like it.”

The woman bent over to examine a nearby rose bush. As she held the phone to her ear, she squatted down and looked carefully into the shadows. I knew she was looking for me.

“Why not share the image of it with the press? Sure, send it to him,” the woman said. “And let him know I’ll call him while I’m headed to Cottonwood for an interview. I haven’t gotten any sleep since last night and I still have a lot of unpacking to do at the new place. Talking about the flying tarantula might make for a good story, and good press for the drones, right?” (CONTINUED BELOW)

 

ManQuail meme!

ManQuail chimed in at that moment. “She must have parked outside the garden in the parking lot. Let’s check it out!”

I followed him, not sure about his plan, but I didn’t want to hang out in the garden with some strange woman digging through the bushes looking for me. With her back turned near the fountain, we darted out as quickly as we could. I kept the money flapping in the air over my head. I wasn’t about to give it up. We ducked under a gap in the fence and bounced into the parking lot. Luckily there was only one car parked in the lot, a silver Camry, or something along those lines. Even luckier, the windows were down.

“I’m not so sure about this, Glenn. If that woman is curious about me, and out there looking for me in the meditation garden, should I really try to stow away in her car?”

“You heard her. She lives in Cottonwood! This is the change we want to be!”

I lurched my body, imitating a shrug again, and thought, “What the hell?”

To be honest, I was just flying by the seat of my pants and had no idea what I was getting myself into.

ManQuail lowered his back to me. “Get on my back. Just do it. It’s nothing for me to leap through that open window, even with you holding on.”

I climbed atop the bird. He smelled kind of musky, like dirt I suppose, which made sense. I’d no sooner positioned myself between his stubby wings than he took flight. It was brief, but it made my stomach flip. A second later we’d plopped onto the backseat. The car felt humid and hot, a product of the monsoon season, but it was also dark, which counted as a good thing for the two of us. Boxes were scatted all over the place. There were a few clothing bags as well, including one quite close to where we landed. I couldn’t smell like I could before yesterday, but the old gym clothes I saw stuffed in there probably had a sweaty funk to them. Nonetheless, we chose to hide ourselves in that bag just as the woman made her way out of the garden into the parking lot. She hung up her phone, humming what sounded like the theme song to Flash Gordon by Queen.

“Flash, ah ah! He’ll save every one of us.”

And we were off to Cottonwood.

Mantula will return.

Mantula Part Six: ManQuail’s Backstory

Mantula 6

Gagged on pop culture, polluted by

depression, comes Mantula!

A special fiction series!

Besides figuring out how to speak telepathically, Glenn knew a thing or two about my predicament, which he shared, but didn’t seem as bothered by it as me. He’d been in the body of a quail for almost a year he told me. I sat there, under the bushes in the meditation garden, and let him talk. There was no way I’d remain a friggin’ tarantula for a year. I’d do something else before that happened.

ManQuail spurted out his story like a broken fire hydrant. He spewed the information more than he told it.

“It takes some getting used to, of course. But it ain’t all bad, man. When I woke up in this quail body I found I didn’t want meth any more. I had no cravings. I wasn’t grinding my teeth like I used to, and I wasn’t scratching at my arms and face like before. I kept thinking mosquitoes, or ‘no-see-ums’ were attacking me. I don’t even have teeth to grind now, but that’s not why I don’t grind. I suppose I could grind my beak. But here’s why: all the nasty shit was just gone. I don’t need to touch that shit ever again.

“Do I miss my human body? Of course, but not as much as I did at first. I was a mess, man. I had sores, lost a shit-ton of weight, had more missing teeth than a hillbilly, and I didn’t give a damn. I lived at home with my mom and dad. They have a big old trailer over in Camp Verde. When this happened, I was right on the verge of stealing all the money they had in the bank. I really was. I went to bed one night like always, on my single mattress that I slept on in the corner of my room, thinking I’d take their life savings the next day, maybe even off them, and live in the trailer by myself with their money. It wouldn’t be hard to get my hands on their credit and debit cards. They even let me bank for them before I got hooked on drugs. It was the meth making me do it, because the next day when I opened my eyes, I found myself here in Sedona as this bird. And no shit, the first thing I thought of was how bad I felt for thinking those things about my old mom and my old dad. Looking back on it, I was like another person, someone angry and jazzed for my own desperate needs. I wasn’t Glenn any more. The closest I can describe it is that I was like a zombie.

“But that’s the thing, man. I was cured of the addiction. I wasn’t that asshole zombie that thought about killing his parents in the same breath he thought about what to make for lunch. And I was excited to be free of the addiction.

ManQuailHookup-1

ManQuail tries to hook up with a female quail he called Gwen.

“For a while I just wandered around, kind of lost and confused. But then I ran into this rhinoceros beetle named Dick. He taught me about meditation and a bunch of other shit right in this very garden. It turns out Dick was a gambler. He spent his days on the reservation spending his paychecks. Things got bad for him when his wife and kids up and split. I’ve met others too. There was a dove named Christine who was addicted to shopping, this Tom guy who loved everything to do with the Phoenix Suns, and what’s weird is they were all cured when they woke up as little critters. Unfortunately I’ve kind of lost track of them. They all kind of wandered off.

“But they’re always bugs and birds. Weird, man. Not sure why that is. Depressed ones are usually reptiles and rodents, like mice and frogs. They don’t cure as easy, and they’re usually pretty pissy, of course. Most of the time, they disappear pretty fast. Most of this I learned from Dick. He was good at sharing information, very patient kind of dude, but he didn’t even know the answer to why. Why was this happening to us? Why Sedona? Did it happen everywhere? Those kind of questions he couldn’t answer. Shit, I don’t know the answers either. Mostly I wander around playing dumb. Just being a bird. And I don’t care.

“For a minute I tried to hook up with this female. But I think I freaked her out too much. I kept trying to talk to her like I am with you. Being a regular quail, it didn’t work on her, though. She kept running from me. I chased her around for a week or so, but she eventually shook me. I called her Gwen, but she’s old news. I just wandered around for a while, at least until I saw you with that hundred dollar bill.”

I finally decided to chime in. “Maybe you can answer this question for me. How long was I out, between passing out as a human and waking up as this thing, how many days have I missed, or years, or what?”

“That’s easy, man. It’s a twenty-four switch. We all checked on that. Dick told me right off the bat too. You weren’t out all that long.”

“I wonder if my body’s still on the floor of my apartment then. I suppose it could be.”

“That I can’t answer, man. No one I remember talking to ever knew what happened to their human form. Could be it vanished when you woke up in this form.”

It didn’t matter anyway, I thought. Whether I had a human body or not, the answer to that question was all the way in Cottonwood.

“In Cottonwood?” ManQuail chimed in on my thoughts. “You have a place in Cottonwood?”

“If I’ve only been out twenty-four hours, yeah. I have a place.”

“Dude, we should go there!”