MANTULA Part Forty – Mantula will not return

Doug kind of likes California

California’s nice if you can find parking. There’s ocean here where I live with Diana, fog in the summer, rain, humpback whales breaching in Monterey Bay, and dolphins of all types shoot the tubes along Marina Beach. It’s a lovely place. It’s also a place where regular folk are choked out of residence by the almighty dollar. That’s too bad. People in Cottonwood might like to visit here, but they’d never afford the rent. I wouldn’t be able to afford it. There are too many tech-made cash buyers hoping to short-term rental the hell out of the place.

We’re in the old Sturgis house. There’s something of a creepy feel to the little place and not just because the home, worth a fat million here and about one-hundred and fifty thousand dollars anywhere else, is more than one hundred years old, but because I knew the cantankerous old lady who used to sleep under this worn-out roof. That wormy old witch still gives me nightmares, but Diana says they’ll go away as time passes. She’s at rest now anyway. We saw to that. We’re starting a new life here, one still connected to the old one, but with a twist. I still have my apartment in Cottonwood for one thing, renovated after the fire, and memories of my son remain there. But I’m doing good work now, work he would be proud of. When I go out to visit, I stay there; otherwise I let Glenn live in the place rent free. He’s got a job to do anyway. We both do.

Our coastal place is old adobe-style architecture and made from original materials harvested around Monterey at the time. The windows are small and sunlight is in short supply within the cramped little pad. It’s these shadowy areas I get the creeps in. But I’m getting used to it. I might be missing most of my left leg below the knee, but I’m still something of a hero. I’m still Mantula. I’ll barge dumbly into any situation.

Only I need a little physical therapy first. Kolbe said he couldn’t interfere any further than he has already, so I was on my own when it came to the missing leg. Kip Mooney was serving time for it at least, that and for burning down my crappy little apartment. The saints had used up most of their mystical, Catholic magic setting things right with the old witch. Dymphna hasn’t said a word since the whole thing. Not to me anyway. But Kolbe still sends emails once in a while, reminding Glenn and I of our task. Keep the curse at bay by helping the cursed, helping those around us who suffer. Lucky for me there’s no quota. “We don’t know if the Sturgis Curse will return. We must act proactively to keep on top of any possible issues,” Kolbe told me before I left Arizona.

I laughed. “You just don’t want I bunch of cursed psychopaths running around your town again.”

“It got annoying.”


Say goodbye to Glenn and Doug!

Glenn and I have a pretty good set up when it comes to providing help. We’ve been told we can switch bodies at will pretty much whenever we choose. It seems all of the cursed can, but Kolbe doesn’t want to make a big deal of the fact. Anyone who suffered under the Sturgis curse can alternate back and forth. I doubt any of us have returned to our creature bodies, however. I may try it at some point, but I’m in no hurry to go back to my hairy little existence. Glenn wants to give it a shot. He has this big idea of us going on patrol when I come visit for the holidays.

Until that happens, he’s keeping busy with the people of northern Arizona.


From: Glenn Darling

Subject: Wassup Turkey?

Date: November 26 2014 10:37 AM

To: Doug Lansing

How you living, bestie? We are all set for a full house turkey day here. That one girl, Sandra, who was a sparrow, is cooking two big old birds for everyone and we got others bringing stuffing, pie, candied yams, mashed taters and everything else Thanksgiving is famous for. It’s going to be a killer day. Have to say it’s been tough keeping everyone together and sane. Had a guy go off the wagon, back onto meth, and he split. But overall I dig it here and I like being busy. Sandra’s pretty hot too. She hasn’t cut herself for like over a week, which is killer. Hey, when you come out, don’t forget to bring salt water taffy like you promised. Tell your woman wazzup. Hope you two have a fun Thanksgiving. We’re probably going to do a Godzilla marathon.



Glenn still needed to work on his hipness, but reading such cheer from him made me smile. He was needed there. He had a purpose, which is something I doubt he’d ever had before.

I didn’t need any purpose. The woman sitting like an angel next to me on the beach, currently with a mouth full of egg salad, while I read ManQuail’s email, amounted to all the purpose I needed in life. Diana Sturgis should be a saint for all the crap she’s had to endure in her life, especially lately. With the curse over and the evil spirit laid to rest, she was taking a bit of time off from the drone business, letting her partners run the company for a month or two. We planned to make the most of that time, mostly right here on the beach.

MANTULA Will Not Return

MANTULA Part Thirty-Nine: The Battle of the Cursed Part V: Finale!

Doug fights through a room full of weirdness.

The inevitable chop never crashed hell upon my outstretched hand and head. Instead the ax fell to the ground, right beside me and my dismembered leg, with a quiet thud. Thanks to a well-placed kick by one of my quickly-disappearing spider legs (undoubtedly a reflex action), the ax slipped through the reporter’s fingers without causing further damage. It no sooner fell than Glenn careened into my attacker, pushing him from me. Kip Mooney stumbled away from the freakish-looking man-bird, weaponless, and quickly fled toward the front door of the house. I breathed a pained sigh of relief. Surprisingly, I could feel the pain ebb, as if my changing body were healing the wound faster than it would normally take. For that I was thankful, but a new leg would have been nice too.

“Oh my God,” Glenn gasped. “Your leg! Doug, look what he did to your leg!”

I struggled to my feet. “Help me up, Glenn! He’s going into the house. We have to stop him before he hurts Diana.”

Glenn seemed to go woozy at the sight of my appendage. Seeing it laying there was something I was trying very hard to ignore. “I think I’m going to hurl…” he muttered.

“There’s no time for that now,” I told him.  “We have to get inside.” With Glenn’s help, and the limited assistance of my short spider legs, I hobbled and hopped to the front door. We barged in without a second thought and there we saw our man standing at the living room entry with his mouth agape. By this point we were very nearly returned to our human sizes. I took in Glenn’s appearance, noting his skinny, sullen features and dirty blonde hair, as an aside. At that point I noticed what else was going on in the house – what had frozen Mooney in place – and it was trippy.

Tiny, six foot tornadoes of destruction swirled about Diana’s home in various rooms, crossing the hall, tearing up the kitchen, and generally causing havoc. Three alone spun and shimmied through her living room. The maelstrom cut up everything in its path. Bits of broken wood from the coffee table, fabric from the shredded couch; all joined in on the fun. The strange lights were everywhere, swirling into the tornadoes, moving languidly on invisible rivers of air, and swirling into bubbly masses against the ceiling. Greens, reds, golds and blues mixed together to create a creepy sense of holiday cheer in the psychotic Sturgis home. They were like orbs of light or giant dust mites like what you see in old photos. Either way it was nothing I wanted to touch.

Noticing Mooney’s apprehension to move, his shock at the strange sight that greeted him upon entering, I took the advantage. It was my turn to catch the space cadet off guard. With a solid leaping punch to the jaw, the newspaper reporter crumpled into an unconscious ball on the floor. I barely managed to land on my feet after delivering the blow, but ManQuail, nearly all man now, was there to catch me. I couldn’t care less about Mooney after that. If one of these weird tornadoes were to chop into him while he lay there sleeping, good riddance.

I started scanning the room, looking for Diana or one of the saints, or even the wormy witch, but I saw no one. We’d have to search the house, which wouldn’t be easy considering I could barely walk, but Glenn and I managed together. With one arm over his shoulder, we hobbled as one into the kitchen, avoiding the razor sharp tornadoes, and there found the rest of the party.

The wormy witch stood in the center of the room, surrounded by an intense army of glowing globs of light, not to mention a half dozen of the tornadoes. She faced us, her black eyes open and rotted mouth agape. Her hair danced around her hair like a million octopus tentacles. Worms flew from her body into the swirling mass of debris surrounding her. What was odd (as if nothing else were) was that she seemed to made of stone. Save for her hair and the worms, nothing else about her moved. Standing at either end of the kitchen were the two saints. Dymphna and Kolbe were both rooted to the spot, their lips muttering words I couldn’t make out. They were likely praying. I realized pretty quickly this was a battle I couldn’t take part in.

ManQuail leaned in to shout in my ear. “Doug, over there!” He pointed to the hallway. There, with her feet in the kitchen and the rest near a swirling tornado of energy, lay Diana.

I made a break for her and ignored the odd battle in front of me. The tornado edged dangerously close to her head. Had Glenn and I not yanked her away, it would have sliced into scalp. She stirred slightly as we pulled her into the living room, dodging tornadoes as we went along. Orbs of light bounced against us as we moved through the maelstrom. They tingled against my skin, but caused no further damage that I could tell. Diana had been knocked unconscious by debris thrown from the tornado, not the globs of light, but the same couldn’t be said for the wormy witch. The ghost of old Jacki Sturgis acted like a magnet to the orbs. They congregated over her body, something that didn’t seem to go over to well in her book. She started shrieking as the number of colored orbs grew.

Luckily for us, the tornadoes started to recede at about the same time. Within seconds there were only a few left in the kitchen and none from my vantage point in the living room.

I sat down on the floor next to Diana and placed her head in my lap, both to prop her up a bit and to check her pulse. She seemed to be okay, only sleeping and missing all the excitement. Glenn, meanwhile, checked in on the still knocked-out reporter. Besides being knocked out, he didn’t look any worse for wear.  While the storm died down, the wormy witch’s screams intensified. I could barely see her under the orbs of light. Then, almost as soon as it began, it stopped dead. It was if the witch never existed. As she vanished into thin air, so too did the orbs of light. We were all alone in a dark house full of unconscious people and carnage, but the battle seemed to be over.

Dymphna and Kolbe strolled out of the kitchen, looking a little tired perhaps, but otherwise the same as they always looked – one like a rather grumpy, balding older man and the other a young girl who looked like she didn’t want to be there, basically like most teenagers. They stopped at my feet and looked down at me. Kolbe shook his head when he saw what was left of my leg.

“That’s a shame,” he said. “It looks like you’ve lost part of your leg. I hope you don’t expect us to help you with a new one.”

“It would be nice.”

“There’s nothing we can do for that I’m afraid. Even if we did, we’re out of juice. Getting this curse lifted, resting the spirit of Jacki Sturgis, took nearly everything we had.”

“Is she gone? Is it over?” Glenn asked.

Dymphna nodded her head and mumbled a reply. “Thanks to you two, and our efforts, all has been set right. Her soul is at rest, but it was not easy to get her there.”


ManQuail meme!

Glenn smiled. “It’s like I always say, I love it when a plan comes together.”

Kolbe motioned to the door. “We’d better be off. I’ll check in later, Doug. You better get that leg looked at by a doctor.”

“I was really hoping you could use some Catholic magic to grow my leg back, Kolbe.”

“I’ll bet you were,” he said, then closed the door on his way out. I could hear sirens in the distance. It sounded as though they were getting closer, which meant one of Diana’s neighbors had called the cops.

“Good,” Glenn said. “Hopefully the cops will get here soon enough to get rid of this trash. Just seeing him makes me angry.” He kicked his former drug dealer’s foot lightly as if to emphasize his point.

I heard a voice whisper in my lap. “Doug? Is that you?”

I stared down at my beautiful friend, the woman I couldn’t stop thinking about, with two human eyes instead of eight spider ones. “It’s me,” I replied. “Nice to meet you in person, Diana Sturgis.”

She laughed a little. “You’re one handsome man, Doug Lansing.”


MANTULA Part Thirty-Eight: The Battle of the Cursed Part IV: Beware the Man with the Ax

Doug begins to be human.

Smoke choked the streets. I felt as if I were still standing next to the fire, even though ManQuail and I were now far from the burning apartment complex. I’d probably been burned – if only slightly – or my spidery human flesh was just way too sensitive. I focused on the path ahead. So far no one else wandered into view. We could see our quarry; a scrambling, crazed figure in the dark up ahead. Kip Mooney wasn’t moving as fast as he could have been, due to the tools he carried, not to mention the gas jug.

Still, with our bodies slowly returning to human form, catching up to him proved sluggish. We kept tripping over our own feet. Along the way we spied the remnants of Mantipede’s army. They were running from the burning apartment, some attempting to fly as they had before all hell broke loose this evening, but failing miserably. What was left of Mantipede’s team, more than a dozen, but less than twenty, scattered to the four winds. None of them made a move to attack us while we chased after our man. They either failed to notice us or no longer cared. I figured it was the latter. The curse of the Sturgis Witch had gone down in flame and failure, but the dregs were slow to depart. Our change back to our human forms seemed to be taking time. ManQuail had a theory about that, which he shared as we gained on our target – and got closer to Diana’s home.

“Her soul hasn’t been set to rest yet,” he said, panting slightly. I still found it odd to hear him speak out loud. He didn’t have an accent, but there was something a little Southern about his speech, like growing up in the backwoods of Camp Verde had created an inflection all its own. “Could be the saints are still fighting with that crazy old lady.”

I nodded, finding myself short of breath as well. “She won’t make anything easy, Glenn. But our goal is this guy. We can’t let anything happen to Diana.”

“You know, I figured your voice would sound like that,” my friend replied. “Sort of educated. Like a rich white guy used to giving orders. No offense of course.”

“I don’t give orders, Glenn. I just like to be left alone.”

“She’ll be okay, buddy.”

We rounded the corner of Diana’s street just in time to see the newspaper reporter shaking the dregs of his red gasoline jug against the side of her house. He laid the jug at his feet, next to a large wood ax, and started to search his pockets. He operated by the glow of the lights inside the house, which served to outline his criminal behavior. Glenn and I zeroed in on him silently, agreeing with a nod to approach silently, and I made my move just as he pulled a Zippo from his jeans. Being the size of a good-sized dog made things easier for me, though I still hadn’t gotten all the way use to being any larger than a bagel. I careened into the man like a bullet. The lighter flew from his fingers and disappeared somewhere in Diana’s yard. Hopefully he had no other means to start a fire on his person, matches or something, though I had no intention of letting him have access to his pockets again.


Odd, blinking lights can be seen inside the home of Diana Sturgis.

He screamed in terror as we both fell to the ground. “My God! It’s you, isn’t it? The spider? The one who attacked me?” Mooney pushed at my large hairy arms and brought his knee up into my gut. I felt the pain, wincing silently, but wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of hearing me cry out. Glenn appeared at my side. By the light of the home I could see a flash of light hair and a beak where a mouth should be. He grabbed the reporter’s arms, holding them down, which left me open to land a hairy fist into his face. It surprised me to realize I had hands again, still covered in stiff tarantula hair, but otherwise back to human form. The other legs had been changing too. Four of them were shrinking, two were turning into legs, and I began to get a little more excited about the change than I should have under the circumstances.

Mooney took advantage of my momentary pause with another solid kick to my nether regions. Things must have been growing back in that department, just as they were everywhere else, because it hurt like hell. I fell to the side, knocking into my friend, which forced ManQuail to release his hold. That lapse was all the time the crazed arsonist needed to leap to his feet. Not only that, but he grabbed the ax on his way up. He held the weapon in both hands. I couldn’t tell, but it looked like he might have been smiling. Maybe he was more insane than I thought? His eyes glowed manically in the glow of the house. That glow, I realized, changed colors, kind of like the blinking lights of a Christmas tree. I saw yellows and reds, greens and blues, and an assortment of other colors. Either things were getting really weird in there or Diana had decided to hold a rave.

ManQuail shouted. “Doug, look out!”

Driven by fear, by rage, or an assortment of both, Mooney swung the ax. And he swung it hard. I pushed Glenn out of the way of the deadly weapon, cursing myself for getting distracted once again, and made to leap to safety myself, but I was too late. For a split second I thought I had done just that, that the ax missed me, but then I felt a flash of hot pain sear through my lower body like a firestorm. A dark lump of meat fell from my body. I fell sideways, landing on my side and saw part of my leg on the ground by my face. It wasn’t connected to the rest of me.

The ax swung down again, only this time it hit the dirt an inch or so from my nose. Mooney laughed and raised the ax over his head, intending to deliver the killing blow. Blood poured from my wound, pain seared the edge of my vision, but I could see ManQuail getting to his feet. I held up a human arm in a vain attempt to block the falling ax and doubted my friend would be able to prevent the inevitable chop.