Mantis Memory Beads

For every life I take, I add a bead to the bracelet. I select his bead while he doses in the sheets beside me. Sweet man. All of them were sweet—the beads on my bracelet. Elsewise our children would grow to be monsters.

“What are you doing?” he asks from the shadows.

I jump. The air conditioning in the hotel kicks on with a whine and a frigid, musty air hits my face and bare shoulders. I draw the comforter around me, too cold now for my camisole.

“Choosing something to remember our evening,” I say. I hadn’t expected him to waken.

“Will we have another?”

“No,” I tell him. I don’t like to lie to them.

A look of sadness crosses his face. This is why I behead them while they sleep. I prefer when they die dreaming of new love. I’m a romantic.

“This isn’t going to be easy for either of us,” I say.

I move to get up. My messenger bag has my kukri knife. Best to do this now. But his expression hardens.

He grabs my wrist and beads spill from my memory box and go ticking across the sticky hardwood floors. Instead of apologizing, he tightens his grip.


I’ve never before felt pain at the hands of one of the fathers.

“So you’re just going to leave,” he says.

“No, I…”

“You think you’re so special. You think you can do better than me?”

He pushes me off the bed, knocking my head against the nightstand. The lamp falls and shatters. I hadn’t imagined the kind-faced man with his soft body had such strength.

“You’re nothing but a slut!”

He scrambles naked from the bed and crawls toward me. I am a Mantis—a predator. So I recognize the look of murder in his eyes. How severe, my misjudgment of his character!

I crabwalk backwards across broken glass toward the messenger bag slung across the desk chair. My hand is almost to the shoulder strap when he seizes my ankle and pulls me toward him. Shards of the lamp slice my bare legs.

“There’s no one you can call for help, slut,” he says.

He grabs the brass base of the broken lamp and raises it above my head. With one surge backwards, I grab the leg of the chair and pull it down. I block his fatal blow with the bag and roll out of reach. He roars with rage.

I open the bag and take hold of the kukri handle. He grabs both my ankles and pulls me toward him again. But I have my knife.

It is horrible.

Never would I choose to cut a throat. I can see his eyes; his pain and his realization. He makes unforgettable gurgles as his lungs try for air and inhale only blood. I’ll never purge those sounds from my dreams. I prefer the back of the neck. It’s instant. I’m a Mantis, not a monster.

I wait until the noises have stopped before I drink. They all have to die so that I can drink and survive the impending birth. In two weeks I will enter my trance and lay my eggs—his offspring. I kneel on the cold, gummy floor and weep.

My bracelet glints at me in the moonlight. All those kind-hearted fathers I killed, all to ensure that my children would be tender too. Would kill only from need and never for pleasure. I’ll never remember where I’ve laid them, the monsters that we spawned tonight. How will I stop them?



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