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