MANTULA Part Twenty-Two: No Grandma No

Large raindroMant-22ps splattered all around us as we searched for a way back inside the home of Diana Sturgis. I began to feel a slight chill the longer we remained outside, not that the weather affected me much. But any creature, if you keep it outside long enough, will start to feel the effects of the elements. Even tarantulas. ManQuail, however, seemed even sturdier than me. He didn’t bitch at all. It could be I provided a decent break from the rain on his back. Or the little black flop atop his head helped keep moisture at bay.

“There,” he whispered, as if worried Diana would overhear our mental conversation. “I see a window cracked open over there. She must be letting some of the cooler air circulate in the house like we do.”

I looked up, eyeballing the entrance. Sure enough, it wouldn’t be a problem at all for us to get inside. I hoped we would get away undetected for a few minutes, just long enough for me to figure out a way to communicate with the woman somehow. With luck I’d find a pen and writing pad, or even a computer that I could type a quick note with.

It hadn’t been that long since we snuck a ride from Sedona to Cottonwood with the woman, then got carried into her home in time to watch her take her clothes off, so she might be a little pissed about that still. Nonetheless, she was also very curious about me, and I about her, so I kept my fingers crossed there wouldn’t be an attack.

“Let’s get in there,” I said to Glenn. “As soon as we’re inside, head for cover.”

(STORY CONTINUED BELOW)

Doug and Glenn sneak into a Cottonwood home.

ManQuail sprang from the mud surrounding the property and darted into the home. As we flew I glanced about as best I could to see if we were going to drop in her lap. Not that I would have minded that, but it wouldn’t make introductions easy. Luckily we landed right in the middle of her bathroom.

Upon touching down, Glenn darted to the cracked-open door and hid us in the shadows. Beneath the window I saw a claw-foot, deep bathtub full of steaming hot water and bubble bath. Lit candles were visible on a small table nearby. Obvisouly Diana Sturgis was about to take a nice relaxing bath. We were about to ruin that for her just like we ruined her day the last time. Another inch or two off on his landing, I realized, and ManQuail and I would have been dunked in that tub.

We stayed put for a moment, making sure the coast was clear, before finding better cover. I heard no footsteps or any sounds whatsoever. Glenn inched out slightly and we found ourselves peering down a dark hallway. By the glow of the candles in the bathroom, we snuck along the wall until it opened into what appeared to be a guest bedroom. Seeing no one inside, we crept in. Just as did so, I heard footsteps in the hallway. Humming, Diana Sturgis made her way toward the bathroom wearing a blue plaid robe and carrying a mug of tea. Her humming continued into the candle-lit room. A moment later we heard the door close.

ManQuail breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s perfect. She’ll in there for a while. That gives us time to look around!”

“Let’s just find something to write with. We’ll leave her a note and find a place to hide until we know she’ll talk to us,” I said. “If she goes nuts, we’ll have to get the hell out of here fast.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

ManQuail back into the hallway, but stopped in mid-turn. He sucked in his breath, his body trembling suddenly. I turned to see what had brought us to a halt. The image at the end of the hallway jarred me. It was the old hag, dripping with worms and covered in green skin and olive-colored scabs. Maggots and filth dripped from her body as she swaggered toward us.

The woman held her arms out as if she hoped to catch us in a bear hug. “It’s her,” ManQuail panted. I could hear the panic in his voice. I was on the verge of an attack myself. Little worms and other bugs fell from her extended finger tips. They vanished before they hit the carpet. The old woman glowed as she staggered forward. It was a dull light, greenish in hue, but it lit the dark hallway just enough to make out her dark hollow eyes and the craggy slit of her puckered mouth.

She hissed and she ambled in our direction. “Bugs and birds. Reptiles and rodents. Despicable. Deplorable. All hated moments.”

I prayed she would fall over into a pile of dust, vanish into thin air; something. But she didn’t. The witchy kept coming at us.

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