Mantises, thin and long, like stick insects, with bobbing heads and bulging eyes, had begun sprouting like weed on Jonathan’s pillow. Only on his pillow. The first day he spotted them, they were only two, starkly dark against white linen, tracing his movements with their bulging eyes, front legs outstretched and ready to strike.
“Aren’t they cool?” he beckoned to his twin toddlers to come over and see. It was seven in the evening and he was getting the kids ready for bed. They squealed with excitement, as only toddlers can squeal, as each wingless mantis hopped about on the bed with every unsuccessfully attempt to catch them. “Did you know those things practice sexual cannibalism?” Jonathan later told his wife, Patricia, and laughed out loud at her facial expression of shock. “And guess what, it’s the females that do the dreadful deed!” he added, roaring with laughter. “Aren’t you glad we aren’t like them?” She winked at him and they both laughed.
Cool mantises become uncool
The next evening, the mantises had increased to eight, all lined up on his pillow, as if waiting for instructions. “Didn’t Clarice clean up the house today? Where are these things coming from?” He was getting concerned and didn’t call on the kids to come see. “I’m sure she did honey; she cleans the house every day. But I’ll make sure she pays particular attention to our bedroom tomorrow” Patricia reassured him. “Funny how they always choose my pillow! Look at yours, totally empty!” He said. Patricia laughed and made a funny face at him before adding “Something to do with your hair, maybe?” And she laughed some more, but he didn’t laugh.
When ‘uncool’ mantises make you uncool
It was an anxious walk to the room for Jonathan the following night, as they got the kids ready for bed. He had checked earlier, just before the 18:30 News, and there was nothing. Still, he was anxious. He turned on the lights and froze on the spot, eyes fixed on his pillow. Sure enough, there they were! A seemingly growing mob of mantises, on his pillow!
“What the ___? Where the hell are these things coming from?” Jonathan yelled as he stomped towards his pillow. “Clarice did clean our bedroom today. I even supervised it myself. I don’t understand…” Patricia was talking fast and rushing to fetch the pesticide from their bathroom. Jonathan grabbed a slipper from the shoe rack, hurled himself at their bed and began hitting furiously about, until Patricia screamed for him to stop. “They’re only insects, honey” She said, her voice laced in panic. Jonathan slowly looked up, panting. The crisp white linen Clarice had put on early that morning was now rumpled and smeared in blobs of brown paste from crushed insect bodies. Clinging tightly to Patricia were their kids, eyes wide open in horror, silently watching him.