's 2018 Horror Write-off:

When I Turned Into a Mantis

Submitted by Sam Miller (email)

I open my eyes and see the morning light streaming through my bedroom window. I see many angles of the morning light streaming through my bedroom window. Everything is tinged this strange shade of green, it’s all wrong, why are there so many windows? My head feels really light, I’m so delirious… Trying to lift myself up, I bend at my waist, but notice just how large and heavy my legs underneath the covers seem to have gotten… Then I notice what has happened to my hands. In shock and surprise, my eyes gaze down and see a pair of giant green claws where my hands used to be, shiny and smooth on one side but peppered with rows of hooks on the other. A pair of small tarsi waggle on the end of these new limbs, my eyes exploring the strange new body I have suddenly woken up into. Where my torso used to be is a long thin twig of a thorax, and from the wriggling underneath my thick blanket I can tell I have four more legs under there as well. Struggling under the heavy blanket, I sway from side to side, hoping to fall out of the bed and onto my newfound legs.

After a number of attempts at tumbling out of the bed, I do eventually get out from under the blanket, falling onto the floor with a loud thud as my heavy carapaced body smacks against it. I try to let out a groan in pain, but all that comes out of my mouth is a slow and low hissing sound and the strange clacking of mandibles, as I struggle to my feet and clumsily step around on my floor. Yesterday night I was just a normal kid, sleeping before having to go to school the next day, today I’m in the body of a giant clumsy mantis, and I have no clue how to control it! I stumble around my room, knocking things over onto the floor as my thick fat abdomen swings around with my uncertain steps. My brain grows only more delirious as I gaze out of these massive eyes, seeing angles I was never meant to see. I hear my mother’s voice calling from downstairs, and I crawl over to my door, slowly figuring out how to pull it open with my preying claws. I attempt to call down to her, just to say something, anything, just to let her know that I’m awake, that I’m okay, but nothing comes out except for that horrible whining hiss and that clickety clacking.

I push my door shut again, slamming it into the door frame, as I crawl back to my bed and crawl back under the covers, huddling and shivering in the comfort that my heavy blanket affords me. My six legs and two antennae twitch incessantly, and my eyes bombard me with a neverending cacophony of sights and angles. I hear the door to my room open, and then I hear my mother’s voice again. She sounds concerned, I must look like an absolute fool, huddled under my blanket like this, the mound of my abdomen looking like an arch in my back. She tries to step over the objects strewn throughout my room, but accidentally steps on something hard or sharp, I don’t quite know, and I hear her grasp her foot and breathe in sharply. I feel so bad… I just wish I hadn’t got her all worried like this. After recuperating from her misstep, she comes over to my bed and gently touches my abdomen through the covers. I can feel her nails on me, just before her hand recoils at the touch of something harder than a child’s skin. She asks me something. I can only barely understand her. I think my ears must be covered by the blanket or by my bed, since they are definitely not on my head anymore. I hate the colors and angles my eyes make me see, I hate them I hate them.

My mother’s hand starts to pull back the heavy warm blanket, letting the morning light shine through to my green chitinous head. Screaming in fear and surprise at not seeing her child under the sheets, she rushes back over to the door, turning around to see me stumble to my feet and try to tell her that it’s me, it’s me! I suddenly start to float upwards, my large sheer wings flapping in the air and causing papers to fly about my room. The only thing that comes out of my mouth is that annoying hissing, and the image of the flying giant mantis hissing at her causes my mother to flee the room, her stomping steps racing down the stairway. This reminds me a lot of a book I read for class one time, but that’s only in the back of my mind as I follow after her, crawling down the staircase just tight enough to squeeze on my fat insectile body. My claws and legs leave huge gashes in the walls and floor as I clumsily try to fit down the stairwell, coming to see my mother and father in the living room at the bottom of the staircase, holding each other and discussing something in hushed tones I cannot hear. My father sees me first, letting out a loud yell at me, yelling and screaming angrily for me to shoo, to go away. I try to tell him too, I try to tell the both of them, I’m their kid! I can’t even totally make out what is being said, it just disorients me more and more. With all the light filling up this room from the great big window on one side of it my eyes are filled ever more with innumerable colors and shapes and angles, and I struggle to take it all in, to take in the sounds and the sights and the fear. I fly up to the ceiling and hide my face behind my long claws, only to be met with strikes from a broom my father keeps in the closet at the foot of the stairs. I let out soft sad hisses, but ultimately he forces me down, and in my uncertain stumbling state I knock over furniture and knick knacks, and ultimately break through the great big window, landing on my back on the front lawn.

I can hear my father and mother yelling at me through the window, yelling at me for breaking it. My legs waggle in the air helplessly, unable to get to my feet, as I start to sway from side to side to right myself. As I get to my four feet, I can hear my father crying from the living room window. I look up and see many images of my mother hugging him, them holding each other in a close embrace. She notices me staring up at them with my large mantis eyes and yells down at me, telling me to go away. Limping down the lawn, I open my wings wide and fly off. I would cry if I could.

Struggling to stay in the air, I try to just fly away, just to get away, and end up flying out of the suburbs and into the downtown of the city, fearful of every single disorienting thing around me. I was definitely seen by people on the streets below, but I just couldn’t care, I was focusing on the struggle to just get to the city and hide. I have to hide, I have to hide. Reaching the deep downtown of the city, I try to flit and fly between the tall buildings, crawling on their sides as I grow more used to controlling this insect body. Taking a moment to stop on the roof of a squat building, I think to myself where I can go… There’s a park in the downtown, I can go there! I crawl down the side of the building, letting out somewhat giddy little clicks and hisses. I start to feel hungry… I guess I didn’t eat breakfast huh… I really should have… I can’t enter a restaurant like this, I can’t enter a store like this, it’ll just freak people out like it did with mom and dad…

I take off for the park, hitting a building right as I take to the air, clumsily righting myself and flying with more confidence and skill. My mandibles chitter and clack together as I look down, seeing passersby that do not notice me, and the occasional stranger that sees the giant flying bug in the sky above them. I slowly fly down and hunker down in a filthy alleyway, hearing the hissing of cats and the skittering of rats in its depths. I know the park is just a few blocks away but I am just… so hungry… I need to eat, I need to eat. My disorienting eyes catch a tasty sight. A dog! A dog! I see a stray dog in the alleyway, a nice plump dog, it must be getting fed by someone on this street. Maybe it’s someone’s dog? I don’t see a collar as I’m biting into its neck. I don’t taste a collar. My claws are sunk deep in the dog’s fur and flesh as my mandibles slice and scoop up the tasty dog flesh. It barks at me as I bite into it but its barks slowly turn into soft whines and then no sound at all, no sound at all. I feel a crunch under my mandibles, a crunch of bone. Oh god I just ate a dog! I just ate someone’s dog, oh no oh no oh no. I shouldn’t have done that, I shouldn’t have done that. My mouth keeps on taking chunks out of the dog’s flesh but I don’t want to, I don’t want to, this is wrong I don’t like this. I flutter my wings and force myself away from it, the limp and bloody corpse of the poor thing lying dead and wet on the ground. Disoriented, confused, and fearful, I crawl up a wall and fly into the sky, fluttering over to the park and huddling inside of a bush.

The sun travels overhead as I hide within this bush, my antennae wiggling in the air and my eyes gazing in all directions. I lift my long thorax out of the bush some time later, the sun looks low in the sky, like it’s the afternoon. I see a little girl over by the playground swings… she looks just like my sister, with curly hair in a small little afro. She notices me over in the bushes, and runs over, making me panic as she approaches. I slide my thorax back down into the bushes, chittering my mandibles together in an attempt to scare her off, but her little tiny hand just reaches in bravely and softly pets my hard carapaced head. She coos out some kind phrase that I can only barely understand, as I lift my head out of the bush and let out a soft little pleased purr… Then her mother calls over to her, and she runs off, waving back to me as I wave at her with one of my hooked claws. I lower my thorax and curl up under the cover of the leaves, chittering softly… Then a saw used to trim the bushes hits my chitinous head.

The groundskeeper, holding the machine in his hand, pulls it back and lifts my lifeless carapace up so he can see it. He says, “Wow, the bugs in this city just keep getting bigger,” and then drops me into the trash on his little cart.