Mantis

Mantis

In the night, there is nothing to keep me company but my own reflection: veiled in flickering blue light, my body is a stale branch, a pair of foggy globe eyes. At the foot of my terrarium, Jessica growls in her sleep, tail slapping moonlit tile. She is dreaming of here, of now; even sleeping, she is more awake than I am.

I once felt cool air envelop my body, whistle through tall grass so that every gust sounded like the earth itself was screaming. But all I hear now are the sounds of doors closing and opening, human feet sticking to tile. Inside my glass box, air doesn’t move, doesn’t feel like anything. Time has melted between painted pebbles, hardened at the bottom of my cage. I clasp my hands together. I had never before called it praying. But I pray, now. I pray god not to leave for good. In the shadows of my terrarium, I have been seeing god’s ghost, ebbing, whispering for me to follow. If I don’t leave soon, shapes will cease to have any meaning. Light will be a different kind of darkness. When that time comes, it will be too late to save myself.

Morning, the sun warms the dead roof above my head.

“You have to let me out,” I tell Jessica. “I’m dying in here and nobody is looking, nobody will save me.”

She barks, and I know she means that she will save me. Tail wagging, love glazing her black gumball eyes. She would do anything.

“Can’t you see that I’m not well?”

“Yes!” she barks, though she cannot see, living, as she does, outside the glass box. “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

An alarm rings. Shuffling. Our captor’s door opens. She snakes out, gigantic, clearing her coated throat. Her stomach growls, rocks tumbling. She is always hungry. Her breath rakes, whistles, never stops. Jessica jerks up, trails our captor to the kitchen, tongue hanging out in joyful submission.

I didn’t like Jessica very much, at first. The way she collapsed in gratitude when our captor tied a leash around her neck. I tormented her. Amused myself by convincing her that our captor hid dog treats at the bottom of the garbage can, watching her writhe with shame when our captor came home to a mess on the kitchen floor. It was love or shame, with Jessica. I’d seen her curl up in self-loathing after an entitled child kicked her in the ribs. That was the first time I felt anything but disdain for her: a strange desire to comfort her. The next day, while our captor was running an errand, I told her where the dog treats really were, showed her how to take only a few each day so as not to arouse suspicion. And with that, a single act of kindness after months of cruelty, she gave all of her love to me. And it was nice, her love, unearned as it was. It gave texture to the trickle of days.

Swivelling on her desk chair, our captor speaks into her headset. She laughs, her mouth a toothy beak. She punctuates the seconds with plastic clicks. As the day progresses she smells increasingly like bile, but Jessica doesn’t notice. Under the desk, she licks our captor’s foot. On its arch, between the toes. The foot pushes her down, she stays. When our captor distractedly runs her toes through the thin hair of Jessica’s exposed belly, Jessica stretches on her back, moans her dog moan. Behind glass walls, my green blood runs cold.

When daylight thins to bland lemon, our captor slips on shoes, jangles keys. The front door clicks shut. She could be gone minutes, hours.

“Pull up a chair,” I say to Jessica, “and get the lid off this thing.”

Her claws click across the hard floor. She bites down on the leg of a kitchen chair and pulls, slobbering.

“Quickly,” I say, eyes on the front door.

She clenches, one large muscle, and drags the chair to the terrarium.

“Good girl,” I say, and she curls her lips, tightens her teeth into a silly smile. She can’t help herself.

Following my instructions, she tips the lid of the terrarium with her nose. A loud clatter. My eyes dart: the front door doesn’t move.

“Now take me into your mouth,” I instruct her.

I remember the first time I saw Jessica chew a bone. Tongue lapping, teeth relentless. She was determined to get every last bit of flavour. I knew, then, nothing would ever taste as good to me. I knew there was no way for me but out.

Digging her nose into the terrarium, Jessica laps me up so that I rest on her tongue. She waits for my next order. Inside, she is wet with devotion. It gathers in clouds, rains down for no reason. I look into the tunnel of her throat and it is long, dark. At the end of it, a spark of love: god in the flesh. If I have ever done a noble thing in my life – and it is likely that I haven’t – it will be this: giving myself to her the way she gives herself to everyone, everything.

“Good girl,” I say, and she tightens her teeth into a smile.

Myriam Lacroix is a queer writer from Montreal. Femme, tender, sick, hopeful. She is an MFA candidate in fiction at Syracuse University. Her work has appeared in Blue Mesa Review, was a finalist in the Gigantic Sequins Flash Fiction Contest, and was recently nominated for a Best of the Net Award.

One comment

  1. Joe Moore says:

    She is very cute. I loved her smile. I used to go for a walk in the morning with my buddy Jack. He is very active and naughty. I’m an essay writer, a morning walk with my Jack helps me to relax and focus on work. He is the best friend of me.

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