C. Richard Patton
It was at the moment of my own death that I first saw the mantis. I was lying flat on my back. I could feel the wetness spreading up my left side, soaking through my t-shirt. The wetness was blood of course – my own blood. My wife came into my mind then: her blonde hair long and curled trailing behind her and still plenty more of it to frame her round, busy face. My ex-wife, I still had to correct myself. She wouldn’t be coming out here to the garage to find me. She wasn’t asleep in our bed, as she would have been a year ago. Closer to two years now, I guessed, but I was really in no shape to do the math.
I was shot, I knew that. Shot in my own suburban garage in the middle of the night. No wife living with me. There were no children asleep in the upstairs bedrooms, either. How old would they be? Seven, and five, maybe, if I had let us have them. I had regretted that at times. Did I regret it now? They would be losing a Dad, but I would have a legacy. Naw, no deathbed regrets. I always knew what avoiding kids meant. It was a trade-off: less responsibility for lesser joys; more personal freedom for less personal depth. Less expense, too: I was free to buy that two thousand dollar road bicycle that had been hanging on the garage wall. Is this how it happens? Is this how your life is reviewed before your death, not as a fast forwarded movie trailer filled with the highlights but as a set of obscure random snapshots, each flashed for an instant before your mind?
The expensive bike was gone, stolen by a thief in the night – a noisy bicycle thief in the night. Noisy, and armed. If only he had been a quiet low-life-scumbag, bike-stealing-bastard thief-in-the-night; then I would still be asleep in my bed, just with no more bicycle hanging in my garage.
My chest didn’t hurt, but my head sure did. I must have bounced it on the concrete floor when I fell. I sensed that I couldn’t move. I knew I was alone here. I knew I was in trouble, dying. My eyes focused on the bright bare curly cue light bulb in its simple socket against the unpainted plasterboard ceiling above me. More random thoughts: the bulb should last 10 years, the package had said. I only had about 10 more seconds, I guessed. That’s when I noticed the largest one of the insects that had gathered on the ceiling, around the curly cue light bulb. The other insects were all smaller: several plain brown moths, a couple of June bugs and some little flies or gnats that were just fading dark spots to me, some moving, most not; but then there was this big bug, imprinting its image on my brain as I closed my eyes. He was long, six or eight inches; slender, and green, and praying for me.
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Bio: C. Richard Patton writes with the Green Room Writing Group at 16 Main Gallery in Madison, Alabama. He has lived in Madison for 17 of the past 21 years. Alabama is his third southern state, living previously in Virginia and North Carolina. His poetry has appeared in "The Valley Planet" (Huntsville, AL) and "The Grains of Sand" (Raleigh, NC). He has recently turned his focus to fiction with a speculative bent.