Gagged on pop culture, polluted by 

depression, comes Mantula!

A special fiction series!


Glenn seemed to have a much easier go of walking than I did. Maybe because the bird only had two legs to work with, like when he was a human, so it wasn’t difficult to get used to. I had eight friggin’ legs. That made it harder for me – that and I insisted on brining the hundred-dollar bill with me. I skittered and flopped after him as best I could, but he had to stop a lot to wait for me. Luckily, he knew his way through the underbrush pretty well, despite the night skies overhead. We soon made our way under a few fences and through a wide gutter placed at the foot of a concrete wall.

How long had this meth-head been in the body of a quail? I couldn’t really ask him that question since he’d left his notepad behind. He seemed to know far more about my predicament than I did. He didn’t seem that worried about it either, which was weird. Could be he liked being a man in the body of a quail. Maybe his human life sucked ass. He did say he was hooked on meth after all. That’s nasty stuff.

After a few minutes we came out into a small hidden garden area lit by strands of white Christmas lights. The strand clung to the sides, and was draped over the top, of an oak trellis. A series of solar lights, staked into the ground, formed a path that could be seen easily in the darkness. The lights glowed rainbow hues as we strolled into the garden. Shrubs and small trees surrounded us. A small fountain bubbled water nearby, with additional recessed lights submerged under the soothing pond. While there were stone benches through the meditation garden, ManQuail chose a spot for us off the gravel trail where we would be submerged under low-hanging leaves and out of sight from human eyes. At my tiny size, the garden looked like a forest.

With a simple head gesture, he called me over. We both settled in the darkness to clear our minds, or rest, or just sleep. I wasn’t exactly sure what the quail expected of me. I could see him watching me from the side of his head. The light of the pool reflected off his weird little eyeballs. Those little beady black eyes were making sure I didn’t try to bolt again. I thought about bailing, of course, but I was also feeling pretty damn tired. I’d already committed to coming here with him, so why not ride it out a bit further and see what happened? So I spread my hundred out like an expensive throw rug and sprawled out on top of it. Someday (God help me) maybe I’d get used to how floppy my legs were.

I nestled into the money and dirt and let the gargling pond fill my ears. It couldn’t be that late, but it felt like it. As far as I figured, it was still early evening, but this was also Sedona. Here folks with white hair rule the town. The streets roll up by nine at night. Even on Friday. They cherish dark skies and quiet evenings in which to plan their next metaphysical experience. Some nights you can hear drum circles, but they usually sound pretty far away. The cops probably get called nonetheless. Cottonwood, where I lived, sounded more like a drum circle manned by police sirens and totally off-key. Shouts, squealing brakes, the laughter of children (my son included), and ambulances are pretty much the name of the game day and night there.

But, early or not, I fell asleep. I dreamed of climbing Coffee Pot Rock, sitting at the edge with my son in my lap. But I wasn’t afraid I’d lose him. I wasn’t worried about the height at all. We just enjoyed how the sun felt on our faces. We laughed and chatted and, just like we used to, didn’t get serious. Rather we made up our own super heroes, our favorite thing to talk about. He was good at it.

But then I woke up. I could see the morning light edging over the lush meditation garden, bathing the chilly water in the pond with a pinkish hue. I’d slept through the entire night. Slowly, wishing I could still drink coffee, I stared at my legs. They were furry and hideous. The crap storm that is my life continues for a new day, I thought to myself.

I heard a sigh in my head, followed by a strange voice. It was a man’s voice, but high-pitched and rather whiny.

“It is what it is,” the strange voice said.

I tried to shake my head, but it wouldn’t shake, and tried to scratch it. That did work, but the voice was still there.

The whiny voice sighed. “It’s me. It’s Glenn. The quail. My meditation worked. It always does. Now we can talk to each other through our minds, man.”

I looked up, seeing him before, with his one eye cocked in my direction.

“You can hear me?”

The quail nodded. The flap on his head fell across his cheek. “I can now. The meditation garden does the trick every time. We’re tuned in to each other’s frequency now.”

“That’s not creepy at all,” I said.

Mantula will return.

Published by patrickwhitehurst

Patrick Whitehurst is a fiction and non-fiction author who's written for a number of northern Arizona newspapers over the years, covering everything from the death of the nineteen Granite Mountain Hotshots to Barack Obama's visit to Grand Canyon. In his spare time he enjoys painting, blogging, the open water, and reading everything he can get his hands on. Whitehurst is a graduate of Northern Arizona University and currently lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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