Sunday, August 24, 2008

Here Be Monsters

On the outside of my house, to be specific. This afternoon I watched a praying mantis devour a cicada. This was interesting because the mantis was the size of my finger and the cicada was the size of my thumb.

I bravely crouched down and took pictures, but it turns out they are too horrifying to post, so instead I'll try to describe the situation. Remember, nature can be cruel. And warning: this is horrible.

The mantis grasped the cicada in its front legs. One of the sharp legs had gone through the cicada's wing and pierced its back through; the other had clamped across its face. I bent closer and said, "Oh-". The back of the cicada was gone and it was opened up like a bowl as the mantis chewed, scissoring its heart-shaped head back and forth.

The cicada's gossamer wing was fluttering and humming, and its legs twitched and wiggled as if it was trying to escape the great hook-legged horror that was wetly eating out the back of its head with neither haste nor mercy.

I leaned closer. There was a tiny cracking like matchsticks snapping as the mantis leaned and bit, leaned and bit. Chewed. Leaned and bit. Chewed. The cicada's legs crawled, brushing its hollowed head. Tiny cracklings.

BANG! My wife, inside, rapped on the window above me and for a moment the world was ending because I was the cicada and I was the mantis.

Be glad I have not posted the pictures!

How can I sum all this up in some witty yet meaningful writing advice? I don't know. I've been revising all weekend -- it's getting there! I don't hate it! Much! -- and I have nothing left except the capacity to be horrified and drawn in by a trauma, a drama, a small world I'd never expected and which entranced me. There: isn't that what a good story does?

Ugh. I can still hear the chewing.

p.s. The worst part was that six inches away was the brown husk of the shell the cicada had just emerged from. Not the best timing.

1 comment:

Peter S said...

Now I HAVE to see those pictures. Nature can be unbelievably terrifying, especially at the scale of insects. Ever seen an ultra-closeup of a tick? It puts ILM and other Hollywood creature workshops to shame.