MANTULA Part Eight: To the ‘Wood’


I could feel the little passenger car vibrate under me as my stalker, who made me a bit nervous, drove the twenty-minute stretch between Cottonwood and the city of Sedona.

I considered falling asleep for the ride,but my companion wouldn’t have it. Maybe he’d done so much meth in his human life that some of it carried over into his quail life. Glenn had more energy than that lame electric pink bunny that was popular on TV commercials back in the day. He squirmed so much in the gym bag we were hiding in that I feared our unknowing cab driver would see it. Luckily she was too busy talking to a reporter on the telephone to notice much else. And yet again, she was talking to him about me–particularly about my end-of-days leap off Coffee Pot Rock yesterday, which had been caught on camera by a drone the woman owned.

It seemed Mantula and his new sidekick ManQuail was already making the news. That would make my son laugh, I was sure. Were he watching, I’m sure my whole predicament was cracking him up.

ManQuail interrupted my thoughts. “So we got a little sidetracked and you never answered my question.”

“What question?”

“Your addiction, man! What was it?”

Ever since Glenn mentioned his “cure” from the disease of methamphetamines, I’d been pondering that very question. Besides having woken up in the body of a hairy insect with eight legs, nothing else felt different. He told me about Dick and Christine and the others as well, and they all reported cures from their various addictions. I had no addiction that I could recall and, as a result, nothing that felt removed from my life after I woke up as a bug.

So I answered his question. “I don’t feel any different, Glenn. I wasn’t addicted to anything in the first place.”

“You had to be. You can tell me, man. Everybody who wakes up as an insect or a bird had an addiction. It’s the way it works,” he replied.

“Look, I wasn’t hooked on anything. I don’t drink really, except recently, but I’ve never been an alcoholic, and I don’t smoke. No drugs, either. No addictions to anything.”

“Dude, that can’t be right.”

I growled. “I’m not lying, Glenn. I can’t think of anything. I feel the same way today as I did when I was a man.”

“That can’t be right,” he mumbled to himself. “There’s always an addiction.” He eyeballed the hundred-dollar bill I sat on with his sideways bird gaze. “Maybe it’s money. You could have a money addiction.”

“Glenn, everyone has a money addiction.”

“But maybe yours is unnaturally strong or something. You ever think about that?”

I positioned myself over the bill, covering it with my body. “I wouldn’t still want it then, would I? Wouldn’t I be cured of the money addiction now? Well guess what, I still want it. So try again.”

Up in the driver’s seat, I could hear the woman talking to the reporter. He’d apparently called back again. I figured we had to be getting close to Cottonwood by this time. Thunder rumbled the skies above us. I could also hear the faint sounds of rain hitting the roof of the car.

“I just don’t get it. Maybe it will come to you,” Glenn continued. “We all had an addiction, man. I know that much.”

“If I think of something I’ll let you know.”

A few minutes later we pulled to a stop. ManQuail and I buried ourselves under the smelly gym clothes to avoid being seen when she got out of the car. I figured she’d just disappear into her house. Neither of us expected her to open the passenger door and reach for the bag we’d picked to hide inside, but that’s exactly what she did. ManQuail fell on top of me as a result of the sudden gravitational shift, but didn’t move after landing on my back. He played it cool, which was a good thing. I doubted the two of us weighed all that much, however. A few drops of cool, moist rain landed on my legs and seeped through the hair on my legs.

Humming, she carried us at her side, up what sounded like a short set of stairs, and into her home. She hefted us a bit further once inside, her footsteps echoing in the place, and then finally set us down. Breathing a sigh of relief, I listened to her footsteps walk away before shoving my bird companion off of me.

“Let’s get the hell out of here,” I said.

Quietly, we both lunged from the bag and found ourselves in the woman’s bedroom near the foot of her bed. Boxes lay scattered throughout the place. Some were turned on their side with apparel spilled out on the floor. Rather than dart into one of them, ManQuail dashed into a nearby closet. I skittered and flopped right behind him. Once in shadow, we turned back to watch for our host. I could hear her footsteps heading back to the room. The woman with the business attire hummed her way over to a dresser in the far corner. Once there she began to remove her large silver hoop earrings.

For now, we were safe. We’d also made it to Cottonwood, but where in Cottonwood? It could be we were miles from my crappy little apartment, but I supposed we would cross that bridge when we got to it.

For now we’d have to wait things out. Maybe when the woman went to bed we’d find a way to sneak our way to freedom. Being that it was still morning, we might have a while to sit there in the closet.

But then she yawned, and it raised my hopes a bit. She did say she hadn’t slept last night after all. Placing her earrings on the dresser, she reached over her head and pulled her bun loose. Waves of black hair cascaded over shoulder. The woman kicked off her high heels before reaching around her waist to unzip her skirt.

We had a perfect view of the whole thing.

ManQuail giggled and said, “Oh hell yeah.”

Mantula and ManQuail hitch a ride to Cottonwood, Ariz.


MANTULA Part Seven: Not Quite a Carjacking

Gagged on pop culture, polluted by

depression, comes Mantula!

A special fiction series!

My second day as a tarantula quickly turMantula-7ned out tobe just as weird as the first one. Here I sat in a meditation garden in Sedona, speaking telepathically with a former meth addict who was now a quail, about heading to my apartment in Cottonwood. I also had a hundred dollar bill in my possession, as if there was anything I could do with it, but I thought, “You never know,” and held onto it.

“How in the hell would we get there, Glenn?” I asked the bird. “Hitchhike? When we’re as small as we are, it would take forever to get there.”

Not only that, I thought, but also predators are all over the place in Arizona, especially in the Verde Valley. I’ve seen javelina, coyotes, snakes of every length and design, and birds bigger than a microwave oven. It was only a matter of time before one of them made a lunch out of me. And maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing either. But I also wasn’t thrilled with the idea of being eaten alive. Animals, however, cared less for the price of life than people did. Not when it wasn’t their life at any rate. They didn’t mind eating another animal while it was still alive so long as it didn’t fight back. Eventually it would die and that was good enough.

“Not sure how we would get there,” ManQuail said. “You’re right about animals too. Lots of big cats out there hankering for a bit of quail meat. But we can always find a way. It’s like I always say: be the change you want to see in the world.”

I scowled. “You actually say that?”

Before he could answer, we heard an approaching voice at the far end of the garden. The voice, a female by the sound of it, got closer as she talked.

“I know. That’s why I’m here, Darren,” she said. “It’s the damnedest thing, and definitely worth looking into, but it’s been hours now. It’s probably gone. But I may as well take a peek anyway. Yes, yes. I know it’s not work-related. The thing did fall in front of the Eye though, then ran away into the night holding a hundred dollar bill. Don’t you think it’s worth checking out?”

I burrowed a little deeper into the soil as the woman came into view. Just to be sure, I used my stick legs to kick some dirt over my money. She looked to be in her forties perhaps, tall, thin, with jet-black hair tied into a severe bun behind her head. The woman wore a business suit, grey skirt that stopped just over her knees, a white blouse and a grey blazer. I ran my eyes over the curves of her body, taking in her shapeliness, then realized ManQuail was doing the same thing.

“She’s a hottie,” he said in my head. “And stop calling me ManQuail. Otherwise I’ll call you Mantula.”

“I don’t care what you call me,” I answered. “And stop reading my thoughts.”

“Sorry, man. Can’t help it.”

Speaking to no one in particular I asked, “This woman is talking about me?”

“It sure sounds like it.”

The woman bent over to examine a nearby rose bush. As she held the phone to her ear, she squatted down and looked carefully into the shadows. I knew she was looking for me.

“Why not share the image of it with the press? Sure, send it to him,” the woman said. “And let him know I’ll call him while I’m headed to Cottonwood for an interview. I haven’t gotten any sleep since last night and I still have a lot of unpacking to do at the new place. Talking about the flying tarantula might make for a good story, and good press for the drones, right?” (CONTINUED BELOW)


ManQuail meme!

ManQuail chimed in at that moment. “She must have parked outside the garden in the parking lot. Let’s check it out!”

I followed him, not sure about his plan, but I didn’t want to hang out in the garden with some strange woman digging through the bushes looking for me. With her back turned near the fountain, we darted out as quickly as we could. I kept the money flapping in the air over my head. I wasn’t about to give it up. We ducked under a gap in the fence and bounced into the parking lot. Luckily there was only one car parked in the lot, a silver Camry, or something along those lines. Even luckier, the windows were down.

“I’m not so sure about this, Glenn. If that woman is curious about me, and out there looking for me in the meditation garden, should I really try to stow away in her car?”

“You heard her. She lives in Cottonwood! This is the change we want to be!”

I lurched my body, imitating a shrug again, and thought, “What the hell?”

To be honest, I was just flying by the seat of my pants and had no idea what I was getting myself into.

ManQuail lowered his back to me. “Get on my back. Just do it. It’s nothing for me to leap through that open window, even with you holding on.”

I climbed atop the bird. He smelled kind of musky, like dirt I suppose, which made sense. I’d no sooner positioned myself between his stubby wings than he took flight. It was brief, but it made my stomach flip. A second later we’d plopped onto the backseat. The car felt humid and hot, a product of the monsoon season, but it was also dark, which counted as a good thing for the two of us. Boxes were scatted all over the place. There were a few clothing bags as well, including one quite close to where we landed. I couldn’t smell like I could before yesterday, but the old gym clothes I saw stuffed in there probably had a sweaty funk to them. Nonetheless, we chose to hide ourselves in that bag just as the woman made her way out of the garden into the parking lot. She hung up her phone, humming what sounded like the theme song to Flash Gordon by Queen.

“Flash, ah ah! He’ll save every one of us.”

And we were off to Cottonwood.

Mantula will return.

Mantula Part Six: ManQuail’s Backstory

Mantula 6

Gagged on pop culture, polluted by

depression, comes Mantula!

A special fiction series!

Besides figuring out how to speak telepathically, Glenn knew a thing or two about my predicament, which he shared, but didn’t seem as bothered by it as me. He’d been in the body of a quail for almost a year he told me. I sat there, under the bushes in the meditation garden, and let him talk. There was no way I’d remain a friggin’ tarantula for a year. I’d do something else before that happened.

ManQuail spurted out his story like a broken fire hydrant. He spewed the information more than he told it.

“It takes some getting used to, of course. But it ain’t all bad, man. When I woke up in this quail body I found I didn’t want meth any more. I had no cravings. I wasn’t grinding my teeth like I used to, and I wasn’t scratching at my arms and face like before. I kept thinking mosquitoes, or ‘no-see-ums’ were attacking me. I don’t even have teeth to grind now, but that’s not why I don’t grind. I suppose I could grind my beak. But here’s why: all the nasty shit was just gone. I don’t need to touch that shit ever again.

“Do I miss my human body? Of course, but not as much as I did at first. I was a mess, man. I had sores, lost a shit-ton of weight, had more missing teeth than a hillbilly, and I didn’t give a damn. I lived at home with my mom and dad. They have a big old trailer over in Camp Verde. When this happened, I was right on the verge of stealing all the money they had in the bank. I really was. I went to bed one night like always, on my single mattress that I slept on in the corner of my room, thinking I’d take their life savings the next day, maybe even off them, and live in the trailer by myself with their money. It wouldn’t be hard to get my hands on their credit and debit cards. They even let me bank for them before I got hooked on drugs. It was the meth making me do it, because the next day when I opened my eyes, I found myself here in Sedona as this bird. And no shit, the first thing I thought of was how bad I felt for thinking those things about my old mom and my old dad. Looking back on it, I was like another person, someone angry and jazzed for my own desperate needs. I wasn’t Glenn any more. The closest I can describe it is that I was like a zombie.

“But that’s the thing, man. I was cured of the addiction. I wasn’t that asshole zombie that thought about killing his parents in the same breath he thought about what to make for lunch. And I was excited to be free of the addiction.

ManQuail tries to hook up with a female quail he called Gwen.

“For a while I just wandered around, kind of lost and confused. But then I ran into this rhinoceros beetle named Dick. He taught me about meditation and a bunch of other shit right in this very garden. It turns out Dick was a gambler. He spent his days on the reservation spending his paychecks. Things got bad for him when his wife and kids up and split. I’ve met others too. There was a dove named Christine who was addicted to shopping, this Tom guy who loved everything to do with the Phoenix Suns, and what’s weird is they were all cured when they woke up as little critters. Unfortunately I’ve kind of lost track of them. They all kind of wandered off.

“But they’re always bugs and birds. Weird, man. Not sure why that is. Depressed ones are usually reptiles and rodents, like mice and frogs. They don’t cure as easy, and they’re usually pretty pissy, of course. Most of the time, they disappear pretty fast. Most of this I learned from Dick. He was good at sharing information, very patient kind of dude, but he didn’t even know the answer to why. Why was this happening to us? Why Sedona? Did it happen everywhere? Those kind of questions he couldn’t answer. Shit, I don’t know the answers either. Mostly I wander around playing dumb. Just being a bird. And I don’t care.

“For a minute I tried to hook up with this female. But I think I freaked her out too much. I kept trying to talk to her like I am with you. Being a regular quail, it didn’t work on her, though. She kept running from me. I chased her around for a week or so, but she eventually shook me. I called her Gwen, but she’s old news. I just wandered around for a while, at least until I saw you with that hundred dollar bill.”

I finally decided to chime in. “Maybe you can answer this question for me. How long was I out, between passing out as a human and waking up as this thing, how many days have I missed, or years, or what?”

“That’s easy, man. It’s a twenty-four switch. We all checked on that. Dick told me right off the bat too. You weren’t out all that long.”

“I wonder if my body’s still on the floor of my apartment then. I suppose it could be.”

“That I can’t answer, man. No one I remember talking to ever knew what happened to their human form. Could be it vanished when you woke up in this form.”

It didn’t matter anyway, I thought. Whether I had a human body or not, the answer to that question was all the way in Cottonwood.

“In Cottonwood?” ManQuail chimed in on my thoughts. “You have a place in Cottonwood?”

“If I’ve only been out twenty-four hours, yeah. I have a place.”

“Dude, we should go there!”

Mantula Cardboard Figure Contest!

Win your very own handmade MANTULA cardboard figure. You could be one of four to get a Doug of your own by commenting below on what you would do if you woke up in the body of an eight-legged tarantula! Each cardboard Mantula comes with a letter from the man himself! Four winners will be drawn at random. Contest ends Sept. 1!


View the blog and leave a comment on the post by clicking here.



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.

Mantula Part Four: A Quail on Meth

Gagged on pop culture, polluted by
depression, comes Mantula!
A special fiction series!
Since waking up in the body of an ugly, hairy tarantula earlier today, my life has gone from weird to just plain insane. If being a large arachnid wasn’t bad enough, my goal of “doing something else” – which meant springing to my death off Coffee Pot Rock – didn’t work out as planned. I ended up drifting over State Route 89A in Sedona and getting stuck on the windshield wiper of a speeding car. From there I got thrown on the shoulder of the highway and landed near a bush. Pretty sure the car I bounced off of crashed as a result of my unannounced landing too.

But then the insanity began. I found a one hundred dollar bill under the bush near me, which counted as the only lucky thing to happen to me in months. Not long after that I ran into a quail that wrote on a notepad. He wrote a single word, “Human?,” on that notepad. He was talking to me.

My mind reeled at this point. Oddly enough, I could still see my son’s face in the back of my mind, but he wasn’t at the forefront of my thoughts. Honestly I was hoping to be a skid mark on a trail by now, and as a result, be with him.

I lifted a shaky spider leg and scrawled as best I could in the dirt. By the light of the street lamp, the quail could just make out what I wrote. I had to put my Benjamin Franklin down to do it, but I doubted the quail would steal it. My son would call me Mantula and I was sure he’d call this oddball bird “ManQuail.”

In the dirt, I wrote the word. “Yes.”

Seeing that, the quail started scribbling frantically.

“Knew it when U grabbed the $100. Name?”

“Doug,” I wrote back.

“Glenn,” wrote the quail.

He stepped closer, somehow managing to drag the notepad with his clawed foot, and carried the pen in his mouth. I stayed put for the moment, but felt like I was about to pass out. Maybe that’s how it would end for me. Simply by falling asleep and not waking up again.

I scratched in the dirt. “Hi.”

“Hi,” Glenn replied. Then he added a question. “What’s ur adiktion?”

I stared at him for a moment before replying. My addiction? What the hell was this bird talking about?


“What R U adikted 2?”

I tried to shrug, and then realized it probably looked more like a pushup. But then again, I was writing notes to a quail, a ManQuail, so what did it matter?

I replied, “nothing.”

Glenn wrote back. “Sure. Meth 4 me. All of us have adiktion.”

I took my hundred-dollar bill at that point and skittered and flopped my way out from under the bush without a reply. Was the quail giving me a guilt trip? Things had gotten so insane, that I could no longer make sense of them. Addictions? A quail on meth? To hell with this.

Unfortunately I didn’t make it far. I aimed for the darkness beyond the glow of the streetlight, thinking it would swallow me up. There’d be no more nonsense. I could focus on doing something else, focus on my son’s smiling image. Were I with him, we’d be laughing about this whole thing together I bet. It would be so much better than hanging out with Glenn the ManQuail and his questions.

But the orange glow of the street didn’t give way to darkness. Instead I found myself lit up in a spotlight. Someone, or something, had me trapped in a flashlight beam. I felt naked and exposed. Especially seeing as how I had a hundred in my stick-legged hands. It was then I heard the whooshing noise. It sounded like a ceiling fan set on overdrive. I looked up into the light, wondering if I’d feel a boot squish onto my back, and made out what looked to be small helicopter by the light of the street lamp. The drone. Somehow it had followed me from my skydive off Coffee Pot Rock and now had me pinned in a spotlight!

I guess seeing a tarantula fall out of the sky would be worth following, if just to see where it landed, but I didn’t like being in the limelight. And definitely not by some weird flying robot, with who-knew-who watching at the other end of its camera eye.

I hightailed it back under the shrub. Glenn ManQuail was still hiding under the bushes with his pen and notepad. His head was cocked to the side as he peeked out at the flying machine. I skittered back to where I’d been, keeping an eye on the drone myself. After a few moments of hovering there, the light switched off and the thing finally whooshed away.

When I looked back at the bird, I found he’d written another note.

“WTF was that?”

I scribbled a reply in the dirt. “No idea.”

There was no way I was going to scrawl out in the dirt how I’d tried to commit suicide and seen that thing in the air after I jumped.

ManQuail wrote more. “You should come with me. There’s a meditation garden not far from here.”

I figured WTF.

Mantula will return.

Mantula Part Three: One Hundred Bucks is Lucky

Gagged on pop culture, polluted by 

depression, comes Mantula!

A special fiction series!


Airplanes always scared the crap out of me. I can’t understand why something so heavy stays up in the air without just dropping like a brick from a window. Passenger jets, to me, are like coffins with wings. I felt like I was being swallowed into the belly of a metal mortician every time I stepped foot in one.

But falling from the sky without the benefit of wings, metal or not, felt entirely different. It almost felt like a dream. The air was louder, windier, than I expected, but I didn’t think it would take very long for it to all go away. I was wrong. For some reason, my hairy little body started drifting sideways, almost as if I were flying. I wasn’t exactly falling to my death, which kind of sucked.

It could have been that I shot webs out of the black spinnerets on my backside, creating a spider-chute like Spider-Man or something. My flight to the bottom of Coffee Pot Rock went way slower than I thought it would, and I didn’t end up splatting to death like I wanted. I nearly crashed into a car when I got low enough over State Route 89A. I thought for sure I’d splatter all over the windshield. My guts, I was thinking, would have been too plentiful for the wipers to handle.

Before that I saw this helicopter-thing following me for a minute there. Turns out it was smaller than a real copter, though. A drone of some sort I think – silver with four small props at each corner of the box-shaped thing. Not sure if it saw me or not, but I got a good look at it before the wind blew me away.

I hoped I’d fall into a pile of goop at some point. That’s what I wanted. But it’s not what happened. Instead I got blown over Sedona’s main road, after getting loose from the car I nearly smacked into, and landed in a mound of dirt on the shoulder. I managed to survive the experience without so much as a single damn scratch. Not that I could tell on my new bod.

Once past the car, I skittered and flopped my way back onto the sidewalk and under a small rose bush, near what looked like a spa of some sort. Sedona was full of these places. Locals really couldn’t afford them. But actors liked them. Folks like Robert Downey Jr. and Nicholas Cage came here a lot I heard. Not sure if they went to spas or just hiked, but they were spotted here frequently. The fact that I’d graduated from scrambling and flopping, to skittering and flopping, didn’t really make me happy, but it got me under the bush faster. I was off the street and out of the dark night. With luck no one would see me.

The earth felt cool and safe against the hairy bulb at my rear, my abdomen I think, and I hunkered down for a quick respite from the insanity of my life. I looked at my pedipalps by the orange glow of 89A’s new street lamps. Pedipalps, I remembered, were the name for the stiff joints next to my mouth. I examined the way they looked through my freaked-out kaleidoscope eyes. That’s when I spotted the bill laying a few inches away. I focused my eyes on it and mentally ticked off the one and two zeros. A one hundred dollar bill! I went over to it and knocked a few dried leaves from the top of it. I scooped it up and started folding the thing.

What would a tarantula need one hundred dollars for? The absurdity crossed my mind, but I gripped the wadded bill anyway. I’d be stupid to toss it.

It was at that point I noticed something even weirder. A quail hung out in the bushes next to mine, partially lit by the nearby street lamp. He gave me a curious look before reaching down to peck at something by his feet. The bird must have been standing super still before, otherwise I would have noticed him. It made me a little uncomfortable. While I could remember a bit about tarantulas, as I once tried to convince my dead mom that one would make a good pet (not to mention make me the cool kid on the block), I couldn’t remember what they ate – or what ate them. But this quail seemed a little off.

Notepads and quails.

I realized he wasn’t pecking at the ground for food. He had something in his mouth, a pen by the look of it, and was holding it in his beak and scratching something in the ground with it. I then realized he wasn’t scratching in the ground. A notebook sat in the dirt by his clawed little feet. The quail, using his beak, was trying to write something if you can believe that.

When he finished, the feathered thing with the dark blob at the top of his head, spat out the pen and picked up the notebook. A saw one word scrawled on the grime-streaked paper, which the quail held up for me to see. It looked like a two-year-old had written it. That one word made my heart skip a beat.


Mantula will return. Click here to read a news article about his recent encounter with the drone.

Has Mantula been caught on camera? By a drone?

(News article from the Sedona Daily Reader)

Raining tarantulas?

Drone spots flying arachnid over red rocks


Sedona Daily Reader

Screen capture provided by Flight Services, L.L.C.

SEDONA, Ariz. – Sedona Eye’s maiden flight took a turn for the weird on Tuesday when the controversial drone’s robotic cameras captured what appeared to be a tarantula flying through the air.

A screen capture provided by Flight Services, L.L.C. owner Diana Sturgis, backed up that claim on Wednesday. According to Sturgis, the Eye was coming in for a landing at the West Sedona Sugarloaf Trailhead when something passed in front it. That something, after closer examination, proved to be what looked like an Arizona Blonde Tarantula, typically known as the Desert Tarantula, she said.

“Once we grabbed an image from the playback and got a good look at it, we were pretty amazed to see this giant spider staring back at us,” Sturgis said. “Our sUAS (Small unmanned aircraft systems) was at least 600 feet in the air at that point.”

Sturgis compared the image to a Google search for Arizona tarantulas and quickly determined the type of arachnid spotted high in the air over the city, but nowhere did her search reveal an uncanny ability to fly without wings.

“The sUAS didn’t track where it went unfortunately. What was a tarantula doing soaring through the air so high up?” she asked.

Neil Thomas, Arizona Fish and Game biologist, offered a likely explanation for the odd sighting. According to him, it isn’t uncommon for a bird of prey to capture a tarantula to enjoy as a light snack while looking for larger meals.

“A juvenile Northern Goshawk, for example, might snatch one off the ground. In this case, it might have dropped the thing later, and from a decent height,” Thomas said.

Discounting a suicide attempt from the tip of Coffee Pot Rock, Sturgis said she was inclined to believe Thomas’s explanation.

“It’s still a weird sight. Not what we were expecting to see fly across the camera,” she said.

The Sedona Eye, operating on an FAA flight permit granted to Flight Services last December, has met with a great deal of resistance from community members in recent months, who fear the drone could be used for spying and government purposes. Sturgis, meanwhile, has said the Eye would only be used for permitted applications related to public safety and agricultural work. A second test flight is planned for next month, she added.

“We’ll likely stick with the same flight plan, but I hope there aren’t any more flying spiders this time,” Stugis joked.

Mantula will return.

Mantula Part Two: Something Else

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.

Doug jumps from Coffee Pot Rock without much prior thought.

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.


Mantula Part One: Meet Doug

Gagged on pop culture, polluted by 

depression, comes Mantula!

A special fiction series!


I’ve woken up inside the body of something I cannot identify; only I know it isn’t what I fell asleep in. Falling asleep isn’t exactly accurate I suppose. I passed out. But I know I didn’t look like this, or feel like this. Everything is crazy and distorted, junked up with multiple facets – like looking through a kaleidoscope or something crazy like that.

I want to puke; only I can’t. My mouth isn’t what it used to be. It doesn’t seem to work the same way.

Whenever I try to move I see a flash of black furry sticks, but it’s all loopy. I’m looking at two of them, but on twenty different television sets. And I cannot close my eyes. I know I was human once. I was a guy in a bad way, like a lot of dudes I know. Life had me in a chokehold. And I wasn’t fighting back anymore.

Crown Royal made it all better. It really did. I stopped seeing my little boy with it. He’s there every other time though. Every single time I close my eyes he is there waving at me as the car drives off.

But now I can’t close my damn eyes, so I won’t see him again until all this is sorted out. I don’t even have a headache. But I can’t walk either. Every time I try to move I see those furry sticks. They feel light and powerful at the same time, like cords of aluminum, but they couldn’t belong to me, could they?

I have to focus; have to make a move here. It takes a few minutes, but I’m able to sort of shift all the televisions into a single concentrated image. I can see better like this, but I have to focus hard on it, more than I’ve concentrated in a long time.

I’m on a sidewalk somewhere, near a couple of warehouse-sized blue dumpsters, and it’s hot and humid as hell out. Luckily I’m in the shadow of the dumpsters and not baking out in the direct light. Trash is scattered all over the place. Up ahead I see a shattered rear-view mirror sitting on the asphalt next to the dumpster. I flop and scramble, flop and scramble, scramble and flop, then drag myself across the concrete. It’s not easy. The legs are everywhere and really hard to wrap a thought around. Not like my own legs, which I could operate without thinking, without caring. These things weren’t the same. As I squirmed closer, I realized how big that rear-view mirror looked.

Only it wasn’t any more gigantic than a regular mirror. It was me that had a problem. I was a hell of a lot smaller than I was the last time I looked.

These legs began to make sense.

Sure enough, once I got to the shattered glass and got a good look into a shard of it, I got my confirmation. I wasn’t the same man I used to be. Hell, I wasn’t a man at all. I’d become a tarantula, all furry and covered in nastiness, but still me on the inside. By the way my gross little body covered much of the rear-view mirror, I could tell I was a big one too. At least as big as a grown man’s hand.

The whole thing kind of pissed me off.

Doug will return in future installments.