An Extremely Dramatic and Perhaps Slightly Exaggerated Re-telling of True Life Events
Experienced Twice by Yours Truly
Life Lived in Fear of Bugs by Yours Truly
Quiet, hot, still.
It was a warm, late-summer’s day when we had our first encounter. The clouds were gently swaying in the sky above. I could hear the gentle rustling of the trees as the wind softly caressed their leaves, whispering to me, beckoning me to come rest beneath their soft shadows. The birds chattered to each other while gliding through the air. People chattered as they made their way down the street, making idle small talk with their neighbors. Buses groaned. Doors slammed. Sirens sang in the distance. Together, they all painted the picture of bustling, everyday life. The sun wasn’t yet very far over the horizon as the Earth slowly turned, just trying to get through what would have ordinarily been a very, well, ordinary day.
It started out ordinary, anyway. It was a Saturday, the long-awaited and cherished weekend glory. I woke up at a largely unextraordinary hour. I dragged myself off of my flattened sofa. I went about my morning. I readied myself to go downtown and meet some friends. Hat on, shoes found, keys grabbed. I twisted the lock to my safe haven, and out the door I went, ready to take on a brand new day.
I was brave, I was fearless, and I was excited for the day that was to come. I don’t even remember what exactly I was so excited for. Maybe just to see my friends, to be outside, to go exploring. The door shut behind me, and I turned the key back into the lock. I whipped around, ready to descend the four flights of stairs that would take me back safely to the ground below.
And then I saw It.
The vivid, ferocious terror. Staring. Waiting. Analyzing. Scoping out its next target. I froze in shock, heart beating faster and louder. BaBUM, BaBUM, BaBUM, BaBUM. What should I do? Should I stay there? Should I turn the key back in the door and flee to the safety of my quarters? Should I run?
What could have possibly frightened me so, you might ask? An animal? A Kappa? A ghost? A murderous clown with an axe and a machete and an ear-to-ear red stained grin?
None of the above.
It was The Mantis.
The terror of the insect world. A vibrant shade of bright green with tinges of rust speckled along its side. Back legs with serrated edges like those terrifying knives that you use to slice up meat. Scythe-like upper appendages in place of where more standard insect legs would normally be. The sword like limbs that looked like they could easily rip into my flesh. A face like that of your stereotypical extraterrestrial. And as the icing on the cake–its size was not that of your typical insect. The size of maybe a pinky finger? No, ma’am. Or sir. Whoever you are. The size of my thumb? Nope. What about my palm? Pff not even close.
The monstrosity was the size of my entire outstretched hand, fingers, palm and all.
As I stood there, foolishly and carelessly pondering my life choices as my life flashed before my eyes, it turned. Slowly, but surely, yes, The Mantis began to turn its little Mantis head toward mine.
It quickly snapped its head in my direction. No more playing games. No more taunting its prey, lulling me into a false sense of security.
It wanted my blood. I could tell that it was out for blood. I felt threatened. I felt uneasy. In a moment of panic, adrenaline kicked in, and Fight or Flight chose to flee. I had never seen a mantis of such size. I didn’t comprehend what it might be able to do to me. Could it bite? Slice? I didn’t want to take the chance.
I flew down the stairwell, much to the probable annoyance of the surrounding neighbors. What’s that weirdo foreigner doing now? They probably thought to themselves.
Too frightened to turn around to see if it was in swift pursuit, I continued on toward the station. For a few hours, I forgot about The Mantis. I went about my day. I ate delicious vegetarian food. I did some shopping. Then I went home.
For that brief homeward bound period, I forgot all about The Mantis. I figured that it would be gone by now, surely. My apartment’s hallway was no place for a Mantis, surely. The hallway was on the fourth floor. There were no trees. No bushes. No plants. No source of sustenance for The Mantis. It was not its home; it didn’t belong. No place for a Mantis.
The Mantis thought otherwise. It lingered. I turned the corner from the stairwell into the hallway, and there it was. Staring. Waiting. It was all part of The Hunt.
In fear, I entered my abode as quickly as I could. I went about my evening, praying The Mantis away in my dreams. And maybe someone was listening, because come daybreak, my unwelcome visitor had vanished, without a trace. My mind was at ease. I thought I was safe, now. I thought that that would be the only visit from my oppressor.
I lived my life in safety and security for the several weeks that followed. Typhoons came and went. Students came and went. Dusk and dawn came and went.
It all came and went.
The days grew shorter, the nights grew longer, the waves in the ocean grew stronger. The oppressive heat of summer gradually faded away, leaving in its wake a slightly more pleasant version of itself known as autumn. The air grew crisper, fresher, and it felt like a new era was dawning.
That is, until The Visitor made an unwelcome return.
It was yet another Saturday morning. I again woke up at an unremarkable hour. I did unremarkable things. I enjoyed my Saturday for what it was: just a simple, unremarkable day. Until I exited my haven.
Why I left that day, I don’t know. I was having a lazy Saturday of relaxation, enjoying the low hum of my airconditioner. But for some reason, I felt the need to step out. Something caught my eye to my left, and I glanced upward toward the ceiling.
There it was. It had returned. The Mantis.
This time I was brave. I approached my assailant to get a closer look. I craved the photographic evidence of my trauma that I only acquired in dark, grainy relief during my first assault. I crept closer. Quietly tip-toeing toward it, I quickly snapped some photos, afraid to get much closer than I already was. Evidently I was right to not attempt to get any closer, because at the moment, it turned its little Mantis head toward mine, and then kicked one of its long, Jack-Skellington-esque serrated legs in my direction. Fearful, I left, and did whatever it is I set out to do when I left my house.
Later, I returned, and there it was. Still lingering. Waiting. Hunting. I went back inside my home, and as I did during my first visit, I prayed The Mantis away in my dreams. It didn’t work this time.
In the morning, I cracked open my door solely to check if The Mantis was still there. It was. Hours passed, and not wanting to live my life in fear of an insect, I ventured out of my house once again for a quick trip to the grocery store. I left, did my shopping, came back. I couldn’t have been gone for more than fifteen minutes, at most.
I never expected to see what I did as I ascended the stairs. As I approached the last few steps, a bird whirred past my face. I thought nothing of it. I stepped into the hallway, creeping my face around the wall to see if The Mantis was still there. But it wasn’t.
It left? I thought. I’m free? Yes, I was free. But not for the reasons that I thought I would be. My eyes wandered down the floor beneath my feet. And it was there that I saw the scattered, gruesome remains of The Mantis. It had been murdered.
For a moment I just stared at the Mantis parts fluttering in the slight breeze. What could have possibly happened? Not that I really care, I was happy that it would never terrorize me again. Approximate time of death, 2:16 p.m. on Sunday, October 2nd. That was that.
I do wonder how my friend met his untimely end. Perhaps a Lady Mantis came by and cannibalized him. Perhaps the bird that I saw flying past my face as I approached the top of the steps ate him. It was probably the bird. Why both The Mantis and The Bird thought that a treeless, concrete jungle of a fourth floor apartment building hallway were great places to (A) just chill and (B) find food are still beyond me. And perhaps the mystery of The Mantis will never truly be solved.
It’s just another cold case, never to be solved.
But bother me, he shall no more.
The green monster is gone. The villain known as kamakiri, literally, “sickle cut” in the Japanese language, would torture my soul no more.
I was free.
I am free.