MANTULA Part 35: Battle of the Cursed Part I – The Terror of Mantipede

Doug has a hard time concentrating.

I found the only lighter we had in the place and got the incense sticks lit for Glenn. He dashed off like a good little soldier with a cape of gray smoke trailing behind him. I turned the lighter onto my candle next, wondering what sort of strange Pagan ritual I was about to undertake. The whole thing seemed oddly un-Catholic, but then again I was never a very good Catholic myself, so I had no reservations about following his instructions. As long as it worked, I couldn’t care less.

As I set to work on my task, my thoughts drifted to all the enemies I had made since turning into Mantula. My first priority was dealing with the curse, though I had quite the new nemesis lurking outside waiting to dash my brains out against the table. Charlie would have loved the name Mantipede. It would have cracked him up. Just like Mantula and ManQuail would crack him up. I just wondered how powerful that nasty looking centipede would be if we locked horns. Hopefully I wouldn’t find out. I wasn’t feeling all that confident about my human-man strength at this point in the game.

I melted the wax into the center of the bowl, then stuck the candle on it. At that moment the flame went out. I waited to relight it, however, until after I filled the bowl with water. With that done, I lit the candle again and started focusing on the curse. This would be the hard part. There were too many distractions going on around me. First off, the army of nastiness outside would, I was sure, bust into our crappy little apartment at any moment. Secondly, a cussing quail ran all around me every few minutes holding sticks of stinky incense. Combine the two and I was lucky to get even the smallest bit of focus loose on the world. I tried though, I centered my mind on how I was once a man, a father, and even a husband – once upon a time. There was nothing exceptional about me, I thought, only that I tried to be a good man to my wife and son. They were my world. And when my wife was gone, I tried to be a good dad. There were no six pack abs on my stomach, no prizes for scientific achievements on my mantle (I didn’t even have a mantle), but I had a healthy and happy boy, so that counted for something I think. Then I focused on what I had become, a suicidal tarantula hell bent on ending his own life. I thought of the beginning of my twisted tale, then focused on how I’d grown, how my human strength remained, and how I wanted nothing more than to go back to who I was. Only different. I knew I wouldn’t be alone when this ended; I had a new friend in Glenn. And there was Diana Sturgis to think about, though I tried not to do that while meditating over the black candle.

“F#cking Sh#t,” ManQuail uttered his usual expletives, but with a note of urgency. I looked up in time to see him dash from the window and jump atop the kitchen table. He pecked at the keyboard with his beak, then turned for me to read the words.

He wrote, “The apartment complex across the street is on fire.

“Thanks, Glenn. Trying to concentrate. Keep spreading the incense around. Try not to look out the window.”

I concentrated again on my disgusting spider body, but in my head I kept seeing the apartment across the way engulfed in flames. People were scattering outside for sure, grabbing their favorite belongings and making a mad dash for safety. Lurking in the shadows were the firebugs, watching, waiting. Never had there been a collection of arsonists like these guys, I figured, not birds and bugs, reptiles and rodents. Who would suspect a giant centipede with a matchbook?
I wondered how long we had until the army set our section of the complex on fire. Probably only minutes. I looked at my black candle. It had hardly gone down at all. The downstairs door thumped closed beneath me. Feet on stairs. A loud thumping on our front door

“Anyone in there? Hello?”

The wife from below. I hadn’t seen her since I laid out her abusive husband. I heard Glenn cuss from the bedroom.

“Hello? If there’s anyone in there, you need to get out now. The apartments are on fire! Hello?”

She pounded again, but quickly thumped her way downstairs after realizing no one was home. We were home of course, but we never answered the door. Especially not today. In the distance were sirens. The Cottonwood Fire Department would, with luck, get here in time. At least in enough time to save our section. I didn’t want to draw this candle-burning thing out.

I tried to drown out all other thoughts as I watched the flickering flame on the candle. It sure burned slowly. Not like the apartments, I’d bet. I sensed ManQuail next to me. He used the lighter on a few new sticks of incense and started smoking up the living room again. I focused on a visual image of the crazy old witch Jackie Sturgis, her hate and anger towards the Catholic saints that brought Glenn back to life, and started praying (yes, praying) for her to find peace. Not only that, but I prayed for a peaceful ending to the whole situation. It was probably the wrong thing to do on retrospect. Because at the moment, we heard a clamor on the outside porch. Lots of scurrying and clawing at our door. Maybe if I hadn’t prayed for a peaceful ending, there would have been one. I guess I will never know.

 (CONTINUED BELOW)

Baldy finally faces Doug.

I turned just as the first furry creature smashed through the living room window. It was a rat I think, but following it were two quails, a scrub jay, and a bunch of bugs. Beyond them I could see nothing but gray skies. The army roared toward me like a gross tidal wave of segmented bodies, feathers, and unwashed rodent fur. Whether the gray skies were approaching thunderstorms or smoke from the burning buildings I couldn’t tell. There were more immediate concerns on my mind.

The War of the Cursed had begun.

My human-sized strength made it easy to swat the first few away. I even managed to keep any of their weird little bodies from snuffing out the candle. I smacked at a titmouse, knocked a gecko across the room, and batted at a fellow tarantula. They were nothing against my strength – insects to a lumberjack. What I didn’t like was the hummingbird that dove in for the kill. The thing’s beak stabbed at me painfully, but then ManQuail appeared out of nowhere. He sailed through the room like a champ and grabbed that little bird right out of the sky. As he took the enemy down, I saw he still held incense in his hand. I yelled for my friend to stick close to me. His strength wasn’t on par with my own, though you wouldn’t be able to tell by the effort he was putting in.

“Keep the candle from going out!” I shouted at him while bitch-slapping a horny toad. How many of these cursed creatures were there? I looked over the sea of attackers flooding into the crappy little apartment and saw no sign of Mantipede. What I did notice was that these creatures, just like my friend and I, had grown far larger than we were supposed to be. The curse was wearing off for all of us it seemed, and it made for something of a grotesque sight.

I heard an unknown voice in my head. “That’s the quail we saw in the window,” it shouted. I realized the voice belonged to a small brown snake that had just slithered into the room. It figured they spotted Glenn when he looked out of the window. Thanks, buddy.

But then it dawned on me. I could hear all of their voices. As the curse weakened, so did the mental barriers between all of us. I continued to toss bodies across the room while Glenn flapped and pecked at a rat to keep it away from the burning black candle.

 “Listen to me!” I shouted. “I am not the enemy here. The curse is the enemy! We’re getting rid of it! I am not the cause of all of this!”

Someone shouted back at me. “You lie!”

“Sit and spin, douche bag!”

So much for anything resembling peace. I kept beating them down, finding myself quickly surrounded. The more I fought them off, the more I realized they seemed to be stronger too. It was as if the candle melting, the incense burning, were releasing their strength as well. Mine had come from a glitch in the curse, from crossed spiritual wires that couldn’t decide whether I should be depressed or addicted, when in reality I was both, but they had never had that strength. None of the other cursed creatures had, at least not until now.

“Move aside you filthy bastards!”

I looked just in time to see a large centipede drop from the windowsill. “Let me get a crack at this ass. I’ve been waiting a long time to come up against this one.”

Mantipede appeared in front of me. Also known as Baldy, this was a guy who definitely hated me. I could feel it bleeding from his pores, if centipedes had pores. The tone of his voice told me everything, however. Usually that’s all one needs is to hear the tone in someone’s voice to gauge the level of terror they should feel.

This guy wanted to kill me hard.

MANTULA will return

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MANTULA Part Thirty-Four: A Strategy of Insanity

Mant-34

It didn’t take long for a plan to take shape, even if it was an insane one. Kolbe emailed me the details and said there would be little time to prepare. The curse, he explained, had weakened only a little, and we had to do more to keep it from soaking in again. In the meantime, he had his own orders.

____________________________________________________________________

From: Maximilian ‘Raymund’ Kolbe

Subject: Mission

Date: August 20 2014 10:11 AM

To: Doug Lansing

CC: Dymphna Gurrll

Not too thrilled to share this news, but you will have to get ready sooner than later. A centipede has been mobilizing those in the Sedona area afflicted by the curse. He’s been at it over the last several days and got himself a small army of birds, insects, rodents and reptiles. This centipede is the guy I told you about. Jackie Sturgis has obviously gotten to him and let him know exactly where he can find you. The centipede, a criminally-minded drifter who goes by the nickname Baldy, has convinced the cursed ones that you are cause of the curse and that, to kill you, their problems will be solved. I’m sending over a few things you can use to lift the curse a bit more. Remember, you’re growing larger as the curse weakens, so you and Glenn will have that going in your favor. The others are growing as well, but slower than you. If you can fend them off, I will do what I can to shake off the effects completely. Use your strength, but try not hurt these poor folks too badly.

Maximilian Kolbe

Patron Saint

“God dwells in our midst, in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.”

Incense-1Glenn gasped behind me and uttered a curse. I turned swiftly, ready to take on anything, only to see a rock pigeon land in the open window. It carried a small pouch, which it quickly set to opening with its small beak. “F#cking Sh#t,” ManQuail uttered. Inside the pouch were sticks of incense, a small black bowl and a black candle. Careful not to break anything, the pigeon set the items in the window sill, retrieved a small note from the pouch, which it set next to the other items, then flapped its wings and darted off into the morning sky without uttering another word.

“I think those are from Saint Kolbe,” I told Glenn. He’d already flapped over to the window to retrieve the items. He brought the note to me first, which I opened. Inside were instructions from Kolbe. The guy didn’t waste any time.

I thanked Glenn and told him to put the rest of the stuff next to me on the kitchen table while I scanned through the note.

It read:

Hey,

Have Glenn burn the incense throughout the apartment. It will help cleanse the place. Dymphna and I are getting ready head over to your lady’s house. This is where Jackie died, where she made her curse, and where she appears the most. We’ll do our best to set her soul to rest there. Your apartment is already surrounded, so do what you can there. Here are the instructions for the bowl and the candle. Affix the candle to the inside of the bowl by melting some of the wax to hold it in place. Fill the bowl with water. Meditate on the curse, think hard about it, and light the candle. Continue to focus on the curse as much as possible until the candle is melted and the water puts out the flame. That and the incense should help immensely. When the candle goes out, dig a hole outside, and pour the water into it. Put the candle into it and cover it back up again. That’s it. Good luck with all of that.

After reading the note, I went to the window. Sure enough, I spied a small congregation of the cursed outside by the pine trees that lined the edge of the apartment property. There were a few quails under the base of one of the trees, standing next to a handful of scraggly-looking rats and mice. Lizards and a few slithering snakes moved around in the shadows as well. Among them, I made out a giant centipede. It appeared to be scanning the apartments, probably looking for one that looked like a tarantula and a quail lived inside. This large insect, this “Mantipede,” has to be the one who hated me. I ducked back inside the apartment and hoped no one saw me.

If I could shake my head, it would have been moving like a bobble head. “This is insane,” I muttered. “Glenn, don’t go near the window. There’s a small army of things out there looking for us. But I don’t think they know what apartment we’re in just yet. It won’t take them long to figure it out, though.”

“F#ck.”

“Yeah,” I answered. “I need to get to work on this candle thing. You light this incense and spread them all over the apartment. This stuff is supposed to do things for our curse, so you may start feeling weird again as the curse weakens.”

“Sh#t.”

“Yeah.”

MANTULA WILL RETURN