Mantis Story

    I caught my breath as I stood from the forest floor. The teleportation process had been wholly uncomfortable, just as my friend had warned me. The lush green woods around me were wondrous, vast and full of life and sounds. The perfect hunting grounds. I set down my bag and stretched. My stomach churned and rumbled as another form appeared next to me. Fiona, a mushroom witch with a love for fungus, things that are dark green and horrible swamps, “I told you it would work, Erica,” She commented as she set down her mushroom themed bag and took off her mushroom-cap shaped hat to wipe her forehead after a rigorous casting session.   
    I grunted, “It was risky,” I told her in a disinterested tone.  
    “And? It worked. We are here... The new world.” 
    We were not supposed to be in this world yet, the first invasion force would arrive tonight in force. The humans of this world were unskilled in martial combat, relying on vehicles and ranged weaponry and artillery to fight their battles. I wondered how well they would fare without any of those things against trained mamano, eager for their husbands and fresh start in life, “Yes,” I had my usual cold and emotionless look on my face, “So we are,” I flexed my arm and examined the scythes attached to my wrists. My body ached and cried out in anguish when I attempted to exert myself. I needed to rest, “You have held up your end of the deal,” I glanced at Fiona. 
    “As have you. I could not have completed that ritual alone or fought off those beasts. Thank you. I can hear the swamp calling out to me. I will be off. If you find yourself with spare food or other resources, come trade with me,” Fiona smiled at me, “My card,” She handed me a thick slip of paper with a mushroom drawn on it and covered in sparkles. 
    I grunted and threw my bag over my shoulder. I tightened the binds that clung the animal fur to my body as I left the company of the mad witch. The sun was low in the sky, night would come soon as would the cold of the darkness. The inviting glow of the moon made itself known, glistening off the green of my natural armor. I searched for a good spot for my tent, I had decided to hunt in the morning. My ears perked up and antenna twitched. Something was rumbling down a gravel path roughly a quarter of a mile away. ‘Some horrid beast must call this forest home,’ I told myself. I dashed through the woods towards the noise as it abruptly came to a stop. My muscles ached and complained but I needed to see what had made that noise. I stopped at the edge of a clearing. A human man was standing next to an iron war machine, something I had been told about months ago, a ‘car.’ It was massive and blue, soon it would cease functioning as other monsters flooded into the world. The man was frantically moving items and bags into a wooden building, a quaint, comfortable looking cabin that reminded me of the one I grew up in. He stopped and looked around, the panic obvious on his face. He had short brown hair and wore a strange brown coat covered in pockets on the chest and odd blue pants. He waved around a tiny magic wand at the car causing it to make a loud clicking noise and even louder honking noise, similar to a goose. The noise made me shudder. He went into the cabin and seemed to near instantly light a fire inside as light shined through the windows. I watched him frantically close all the curtains in the home, blocking my curious view of him. I shook my head. I needed to be careful around that one, I did not know much about magic, but I knew to fear and respect casters. I decided to set up nearby, out of his vision. I needed to keep an eye on him if I was to share the forest with him. I would try to stay out of sight, perhaps I would leave offerings to appease him in case he can see through other planes and spy on me. I walked more than five minutes from his cabin and started to set up my little tent. The tent was made of animal skins draped around a single pole with one entrance. It kept the rain and wind out and trapped heat inside. I quickly got my abode set up and threw my bags inside before ducking inside myself. I draped a fur over myself and lay awake, many thoughts running through my head, but the most important was to mark out my territory and catch food tomorrow. I was afraid to use traps, perhaps that human wizard might stumble upon them and then find me. I would do without them for now. 
    My insatiable hunger had let me deeper into the woods in search of big game. The few rabbits and tubers I had cooked and eaten for lunch had not sated me. I needed more meat and hopefully good furs to trade for salts. I had brought very little through the portal with me and required more for preserving meats. I was perched high in the air on a tree branch as I waited for a small herd of deer to pass through. The few hours I had spent scaring the herd in this direction and waiting here were both killing me. I had my eyes on the biggest of the herd, a big male with large horns. Just thinking of the meat I could eat for a few weeks made me salivate.  Few things made my heart beat faster than the thrill of the hunt. My mother used to tell my sisters and I the same thing was true for her at our age. Her entire life changed when she met my father. I did not understand it, but she was persistent that I would someday. I heard a noise as the group of deer trotted towards my position. Their hooves clacked on the large flat stones around the area I sat. I waited for my target to move into the perfect spot before attacking. Without a sound, I leapt from my position and descended upon the beast. My scythes made quick work of it, easily piecing vital organs and killing near instantly. As the big deer fell to the ground, the rest of the herd sprinted off, making sure I would not take one of them too. I looked over the body, poking and feeling its warmth before deciding where to cut into its hide. 
    The hairs on my back stood up. I had eyes upon me. I stood and readied my scythes, flipping around to face whoever had spied on me and protect my kill. I saw a man, the one from last night that lived in the cabin.Somehow, he had managed to sneak up on me. He stopped and stared at me with fear in his eyes. He carried a metallic object in both hands. I had seen them in writing pertaining to this world, it was the main weapon of this world, a firearm. He stared at me, wide eyed and confused as he stepped towards me non threateningly. I adopted a more calm stance and waited for him to speak. He stopped around eight feet away from me, “H-hi,” He stammered. I stared at him, unsure how to respond, “Oh, here,” He pulled back a handle and two thumb sized red cylinders fell out into his hand, one from a hole on the side and one from the bottom, “Nothing in the chamber,” He showed me the empty hole on the side. He put the cylinders in his pocket and strapped the firearm to his back, “Can... You understand me?” He asked slowly.  
    “Yes I can, human,” I informed him with my usual neutral tone.  
    “Uh,” He nervously scratched his arm, “Looks like we were hunting the same thing.” 
    “Yes. I beat you to it.” 
    “Y-yeah, you did. I won’t fight you for it. Its... I didn’t expect to meet someone like you so soon. I thought those portals were going to unleash like, demons or something. But, uh... I heard the truth from some other guys on the radio and some smooth talking lady got on at some point and talked about mamano and all that stuff. I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see some flying bird ladies,” He spoke quickly and nervously. 
    “Do you have salts to trade?” I got straight to the point. 
    “Salts? Yeah I’ve got a lot. Do you need some spices too?” 
    “Just salt for preservation.” 
    “I could just run it through the ol’ meat smoker for you,” He offered with a small smile. 
    “What do you mean?” 
    “My grandfather set up a smoker years ago to preserve meat when we’re out here hunting.” 
    I paused, unsure why he was being friendly with me, “I will trade you a portion of my kill if you can preserve it with this,” I paused as I thought of the word, “Magic device.” 
    “Magic?” He chuckled, “Um, let me help you carry that. We can field strip it closer to the cabin.” 
    “No need,” I lifted the deer myself over my shoulders after tying its limbs together with a length of rope to keep them from moving around, “Lead.” 
    “W-what are you?” He asked, amazed. 
    “Mantis. Erica,” I introduced myself, trying to be polite. 
    “Mantis Erica? Oh! You’re a mantis girl, right?” He laughed with embarrassment, “I’m James. Let me show you the way there,” He pulled a small bronze colored object and flipped it open. He turned to face north and then turned to a large piece of paper, “East...” He mumbled and motioned for me to follow him. James stomped loudly through the underbrush, hardly trying to hide himself from the creatures of the woods around us. I did not fare much better in trying to conceal myself. We were both quiet during the walk. James wore the same clothing as yesterday. With a quick glance over him, I could see he carried another firearm at his hip along with a large knife and another, albeit tiny, knife.  
    “Have you lived in the woods your whole life?” I asked. 
    He shook his head, “Nah. Do I seem like a pro outdoorsman?” He sounded excited. 
    I was painfully honest, “Not really.” 
    “Ah,” He sighed, “I live in the city, to be honest. The cabin used to be my grandfather’s. He taught me everything I know about outdoors stuff. Hunting, field stripping, cooking, shooting, drinking. All that.” 
    “You seem sad when you speak of him.” 
    “I-I miss him.” 
    I was unsure what to say, “I am sure he was a good man.” 
    James gave me one of the most genuine smiles I had ever seen. I was almost taken aback by the sadness and happiness on his face, “Thank you,” It made my heart pound, “Sorry, I’m being weird. I’ve just been cooped up in my house for like a month then dashed out here just last night. I’ve been craving human contact,” He glanced back at me, “Even if you don’t talk much. Cabin is just over here. I’ll grab a tarp from inside.” 
    I watched him unlock and open the door to his cabin. He painstakingly took his boots off and stomped into the cabin. I did not wait for him to return before field dressing the deer. I expertly cut my kill open and removed its innards, careful not to cut open its stomach or bladder. James returned and laid out a thick, reflective sheet. He tried to assist me in the skinning process but I stopped him, “I would prefer to do the process myself,” I informed him. 
    “Alright,” He sighed as I moved the carcass onto the tarp he had laid out. He watched me skin the kill in near silence as I used only my scythes, “You look like you’ve done this a million times,” He commented.  
    “That number is much too high,” I gave him a glance as though he was an idiot. 
    “I-I was exaggerating,” He mumbled, “Can I atleast help you cut it up and remove the bones?” 
    “I will do that as well. You are helping me preserve it. I will do all the work.” 
    “Fine,” He stood and wandered back inside, taking extra care to remove his boots again. I continued my work as I did my best to ignore him and my still-beating heart. James returned once more with a bottle filled with brown liquid and three small glasses. He retrieved two chairs and a small table from a shed against the wooden building and set them out, “May I bury the intestines and such for you?” 
    “Most humans I meet try to get out of as much work as possible. If you truly wish to do that, I will not stop you. I appreciate you wishing to return it to the earth rather than burning or dumping it in a well.” 
    “Yeah, well. Its just what I’ve been taught. I feel like you would have gotten along with the old man.” 
    “Oh?” I did my best to keep my usual disinterested tone. 
    “Yeah. Well, he would have liked you at least. Anyways,” He grabbed a shovel and dug a hole a few feet into the treeline as I got to cutting the meat into long, thick chunks. James collected a bucket of water from a nearby well and brought it over to me. I washed the meat of dirt and anything else that might have gotten onto it. James used lengths of ropes to tie up the meat, “Over here,” He led me to the side of the cabin and a small room. There was a large metal hatch on one side. He opened it up and started hanging meat from the top. I assisted him and watched him start a fire at the bottom of the metal container. 
    “Now what?” 
    “Well, we’re going to cook the meat to preserve it. The cooked outside prevents bacteria from forming on it,” He explained as he added more coals to the fire. 
    “How long will this take?” 
    “A few hours. You’re welcome to stick around or I can just hang onto it for you if you wish to fetch it later.” 
    “I will fetch it tonight. I shall return to the hunt,” I spoke against my fluttering heart, my hunger was suppressed by my strange feelings. My desire for the hunt was gone as well with this strange feeling. It was not adrenaline pumping through my veins, but something else, something I had never felt before. I turned heel and dashed out into the woods, eager to put some distance between that man and myself. James was no wizard, that much was obvious. A real wizard would never sully their hands with skinning meat, digging holes or lighting fires. He was a normal human man. I did not understand what to think now. He knew a lot about this world and its technologies. He could be useful to my survival here. But would I grow soft if I began to rely on human technologies? My mother seemed soft from living with my father. On the other hand, I still had an innate need to reproduce. I felt it once a year in mid spring, I had been suppressing it ever since I hit young womanhood. But mid spring was just around the bend. I was unsure if I would be able to continue to hold it in. I slowed my dash to a slow walk and turned around, back towards the cabin. I could see the smoke of the fire and could almost feel his smile and gaze once more. I turned back to the cabin and crept towards it. I needed to watch him more-- to learn from him, of course. 
    I watched him work, chopping wood while singing to himself. I wondered if he did it to reminisce or out of boredom. I watched him start a small fire in a pit and sit in one of the chairs he brought out earlier. He turned to the empty chair on his right with a frown. He sighed and reached into a strange white container and pulled out some packaged meat. He put a cylinder of meat on a thin metal pole and held it over the flames. He watched the flames lap at the meat before pouring two glasses of the brown liquid. I quickly realised it was alcohol. He raised one to the sky and spoke loudly, “This ones for you, old man,” He sighed and dumped it in the fire. He threw the other one down his throat and sat back, relaxing. He absentmindedly turned the meat over and poked at a rock with his foot. His relaxed expression turned to one of pain and sadness as he put a hand over his face. My heart hurt as I watched him wallow in sadness. I wanted to run away from these feelings. I felt like I needed to protect him more than anything. He carefully removed the meat from its pole after a few more minutes and placed it on bread. He sprayed a red and a yellow paste on the meat before consuming it. He had a small smile on his face as he grabbed another drink. My pounding heart was begging my brain and muscles to walk myself into that clearing near the cabin, but my brain felt something else; fear. I slinked away from the cabin and made my way deeper into the forest. I needed to speak with someone, the only other person I knew. I pulled the fungus adorned card from my bag and tore it up, throwing its bits to the wind. I watched as a small trail of mushrooms grew from the earth to lead me deeper into the woods.  
    I skulked through the swamp. The overcast sky hid the sun behind a thick layer of light grey clouds. I did my best to make as little noise as possible as I waded through the thick swamp water. The warm, humid air felt like it was weighing me down. The trail of mushrooms led me to a little abode in the middle of a grouping of trees. The home was a shack hastily built of mushrooms and bark. I neared, making a bit more noise to make my presence known. Huge mushroom caps rose below me and brought me above the water and created a dry path to the entrance of Fiona’s shack. The front door was opened for me. I entered the cozy little cabin and was unsurprised by how it was furnished. Mushroom themed stools, a table and small glowing mushrooms on bark made shelves, “Erica, my dear!” Fiona greeted me as she toiled over an iron cauldron, “Go, take a seat, I will join you soon,” I did as she instructed, weary from my multi hour long trek, “I felt like you would come.” 
    I grunted, “How?” 
    “The roots of the earth, the fungus, tell me many things. The smallest of mushrooms answer to me and my sisters.” 
    “So you were spying on me.” 
    “I do not choose what to see. Yet. I have not been out to cultivate the fungus outside of the swamp,” She grinned at me, “That boy is quite handsome.” 
    Anger flashed across my face, “Stay away from him,” I growled without even thinking of my words or actions. 
    Fiona laughed at me, “The cool and collected mantis has grown some emotions!”  
    I frowned, “I-- I have no clue what to do.” 
    “Darling,” She took the seat next to me. She set a cup of tea in front of me, mushroom cap tea. It was a surprisingly delicious sour liquid, “What have you taken a liking to in relation to him?” 
    “Well... He seems to be a skilled hunter, he managed to sneak up on me. His work ethic, how he revered a kill that was not even his as I would and his emotional, friendly composure made my heart flutter in ways I have never felt in my life. Fiona, what do I do?” I begged. 
    The witch chuckled, “I am quite jealous, Erica. To have a man that is just as enamored with you as you are with him. Ah, I wish I could feel that,” She took her mushroom themed hat off and set it on the table. She stared into her tea for a few moments.  
    “What do you mean he is enamored with me?” I prodded, unsure I saw the same things. 
    “The way he tried to help you asking for nothing in return, the way he speaks to you, the songs he sang of love and joy... I wish I had a man to sing about me,” She sighed. 
“What should I do?” I asked, still unsure of what my body was demanding of me. 
“Be what you are. Submit to your monstrous desires. It is the full moon tonight and your mating period has already started. Take what you deserve from him.” 
My heart was pounding with anticipation, “What- What if he does not think of me as a suitable mate and merely a passing fancy?” 
    “Change his mind. Simple as that.” 
    “Go, Erica. You should be with him right now. Let your carnal desires reign supreme.” 
    I stood up and stretched, “I-I have to go,” She was right. I was stupid to have come all this way just to have her tell me what I already knew. 
    “What are you so afraid of with him?” 
    “That I will lose my touch with that natural world. Human technology is fascinating but losing my will to hunt or cook would drive me mad.” 
    “Just imagine the two of you hunting, skinning and cooking together under a starry night sky. Doesn’t that sound romantic?” 
    “Y-yes. I must go now. Thank you.” 
    “Any time, my friend! You know where to find me if you need someone to just confirm what you’re already thinking!” She laughed as I finished off the tea and dashed from the shack back to my comfort of the woods. Giant mushrooms kept me from needing to set foot in the murky water, thankfully. I started running and did not stop. 
    My heart pounded as I came to a stop outside of the cabin. I could see it multiple yards away from me as I stood on the edge of the clearing, still concealed by the trees. The sky above me had become cloudless. The sky was dark blue with few starts hanging in a beautiful sky with the full moon in all its glory. James was not outside. I gathered all my strength and stomped into the clearing. I could smell the smoked meat as I approached. I stood at the front door on the deck and nervously grabbed the handle. I turned it and tried to open the door only to find it locked. I kept trying, praying it would just open for me so I may see him again. I heard a bolt being undone causing me to stop throttling the handle. James cracked the door open and peeked at me, “Oh, Erica,” He laughed nervously and fully opened the door, “Is everything alright?”  
    I nodded my head, “Yes. I... Just came back to collect my meat,” HIS meat. 
    “Oh, right. I was just packaging it up. You... Wanna come in?” 
    “I would... Love to.” 
    “Shoes off please,” He held the door open for me and stopped me on a cloth mat in front of the door, “Let me get you a towel to clean up. Were you playing around in that swamp west of here?” 
    “Yes,” I watched as he walked away from me to a sink on the other wall. I turned around and locked the door behind me. I would not be interrupted. The thrill of the hunt and the desire for man flesh kept adrenaline pumping through my veins. 
    “I used to play there when I was little. The frogs were fun to poke. Any good hunting?” 
    “No. A friend lives there.” 
    “A friend? Another monster living so close? Maybe I could meet them some day. What’s she like?” 
    I felt a surge of emotion, something akin to anger that he would DARE speak of another woman, “She plays with mushrooms,” I struggled to maintain my composure. 
    “Mushrooms? Like, psychedelics? Or just all kinds of fungus?” He handed me a damp towel and stepped back, watching me clean up. 
    “Fungus,” I growled out. 
    “Huh,” The awkwardness in the air was thick, “What about you? I don’t know a lot about you.” 
    As my anger dissipated, I finished my quick cleaning, “Not a lot to know. I hunt and trade furs I skin for supplies to do more hunting. It is a simple existence.” 
    “Do you like cooked meats? Or do you usually eat them raw?” 
    “Well, I’ve got some stew going. Make yourself comfortable and I’ll finish packing up your portion of the meat.” 
    “Okay,” I nodded and watched him move back to a small kitchen. I looked around, he had a couch, a large bed, some dressers and a closet in this cozy one room cabin. I followed him to the kitchen, waiting to spring my trap. James was just a little lamb that had invited the lion into his den. The lion was starving for him. I was starving.  
    James stirred his soup, “The soup needs another few hours, sorry if you were really hungry. Snack? I’ve got some other stuff, if you want.” 
    “I could go for a snack,” I inched closer to him. I knew what I wanted to eat. James turned his back to me. I had my opening. I grabbed him from behind and brought him to the wooden floor. In an instant, I planted myself on top of him, my scythe to his neck. James stared at me with wide eyes and a quivering lips. I had seen this before on humans and other monsters. It was like an animal staring it’s death in the face. I had no intention of hurting him, “I am hungry, James. Hungry for man flesh,” James kept looking at me with fear, “Fight back, James. Show me what you can do,” I whispered with disappointment. 
    His wide, afraid eyes slowly changed to a determined glare, “Fine,” He slowly reached to his belt and drew a push dagger. I easily took hold of his wrist and disarmed him, pushing the knife across the floor. I grabbed both of his wrists and held them above his head.  
    “Good. Good,” Without much thought, I licked his face. From the base of his chin up to his right temple, just to get a taste of him, “Wonderful!” I moaned. I switched to holding down both his hands with one arm and reached the other back. I sliced through his belts and began pulling his pants down. 
    “T-this isn’t really how I expected you to kill me,” He whimpered, looking like he was going to cry. 
    “Kill you?” I was so taken aback I released him, “Let me show you what I wish to do with you. Lie still,” I gently and awkwardly caressed his face. I finished removing his pants, revealing his soft member. I removed my own clothes and straddled him. I began moving my hips back and forth, grinding my hips against him. My instincts took over as I began to moan with pleasure. I had already caught my prey, now I was merely toying with him. James quickly got hard and looked at me with nervousness, “Let me see that smile again,” I panted as one of the first smiles in my entire life spread across my lips. I grasped his cock and stood it straight up, ready to penetrate me. I paused, panting and shaking nervously. I took a deep breath and pushed myself down onto him.  
    I quickly lost what little control I had over myself as I shuddered with an orgasm. I moved my hands to his shoulders, forcing him down with all my might. I placed a loving kiss on his lips. He still looked nervous and confused as I kept kissing him. His hands gently moved to my hips where I sat on his crotch, still taking his shaft to the hilt. My hips went back into action, moving up most of his cock then slamming back down on him. He threw his head back as I rode him like a horse. I grabbed his chin and forced his eyes to mine, “Look me in the eyes, James,” I growled. He nodded nervously as my rhythm continued.  
    He gasped, “I-- I’m gonna--” He groaned. I shut him up by kissing him again. I felt his penis throb as it shot its hot load inside of me.  
    I felt warm as a wave of joy rushed over me. I sat up with a smile on my face and rubbed my belly, imagining the child I may be having. James took a deep breath and gave me a weak smile. I hugged his neck and kissed him on the lips, “Did you think I would be sated after only one round? The hunt may be over, but I still wish to sink my teeth into my catch,” I giggled darkly, starting to move my hips again. He whimpered as I got rough with him, holding his hands above his head with a smug look on my face. I used only one hand and with the other I held onto his chin, smugly forcing him to look at me. 
    I snuggled up against my husband on the couch. His arm wrapped around me as he covered my body with a blanket. My nude body was covered by one of Jame’s shirts and he wore comfortable pants and a shirt. The fire crackled nearby. I moved my neck to kiss him on the chin, “I think I am okay with becoming soft if it is with you,” I mused. 
    “Soft? With the way you rode me for two hours?” He chuckled wearily, “I think I’m gonna be bedridden for a day or two.” 
    I grinned, “I will gladly take care of my mate if I need to. I pray you would do the same for me.” 
    “Of course I would,” He kissed me on the scalp, making my antenna wiggle happily, “Y’know. When we first met, I thought you hated me.” 
    “I am just quiet, dear.” 
    “Right, right,” James turned towards the ceiling and spoke, “Well, old man, I did it. Hope you’re proud of me, wherever you are. Cheers to you,” He chuckled as he reached for his glass. He handed me as well and clinked his glass against mine before downing the drink. I did the same and drank the foul liquid, “You don’t look like you’re a fan of it. More for me then.”
     I smiled with a true, genuine happiness in my heart, “Of  course, dear. To bed soon?” He nodded and laid back, content to just  enjoy my company.

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