Robin stared at the orchid mantis, trying to be as unblinking as it was staring back at him. The ceiling around it was made of the same stone that the floor was, not the segmented tiles like before. Robin felt his awareness of the room dimming as his vision tunneled towards the pink mantis on the ceiling. The mantis was still staring at him. Robin felt a burning in his chest, and realized he had not taken a breath for several moments. He let out his breath slowly, hoping the mantis would not move. He was not so lucky.
The orchid mantis slowly extended one of its claws, leaning forward like a cat. It was shaking and dancing slightly, just like it had when it was small. Robin knew they did it to imitate leaves and flower petals, but it was slightly eerie seeing the mantis “dance” when it was so big. The mantis extended another claw and stepped forward slowly. Robin took an involuntary step backwards. The mantis scuttled forward abruptly, moving in an explosive burst of speed, stopping directly above Robin on the ceiling. Robin slowly turned his head to look at it.
The mantis leaped downwards off of the ceiling towards Robin. Letting out a small scream, Robin skittered backwards, tripping on the hard stone floor. Landing with a hard thump, Robin felt the mantis land on his head and immediately dig in to his scalp with something. Robin froze again. He could feel blood trickling down his head from four different spots, all around the brim of his skull, but the mantis had stopped moving, clinging to his head.
Robin half-lay, half-sat on the floor of the underground room. He tried to control his breathing, focusing on it, trying to make his heart stop pounding so heavily and to clear the tunnel-vision from his eyes. The mantis wasn’t doing anything, so why should he? He wasn’t in any immediate danger, aside from a gigantic mutant orchid mantis on his head!
Robin focus his thoughts again, and kept trying to calm himself. What was that thing they taught people who were having panic attacks? Oh yeah, what did he see? Robin looked around the room. He saw stone floors. That was a little odd, maybe focus on something more normal/. He saw metal cabinets, same as they always had been. He saw the old stickers some forgotten employee had stuck to one of them, most of them of bands of which Robin had never heard. He saw the fruit fly cup on the floor, bulging.
Robin looked closer, trying not to turn his head quickly. The mantis still hadn’t moved. Robin managed to get his head twisted enough that he had a clear view of the fruit fly cup. It was definitely bulging, moving around like it had something living in it. Robin realized in the same moment that he thought it might be alive that he was definitely right, but only partially. It had hundreds of living things in it, and they were coming out of the crack in the lid from where Robin had dropped it.
The things coming out of the cup looked like oversized fruit flies. Roughly the size of a grape, they continued to pour out of the cup, seemingly in greater amounts than the cup should have been able to contain. Robin started to scoot away from the cup, but the mantis abruptly adjusted it’s grip with two legs, ripping two new holes in Robin’s scalp. Robin froze, unsure what to do. The fruit flies were still pouring out of the cup, and several were coming towards Robin. He had a brief thought of thankfulness that the mantis had been young and still eating melanogaster fruit flies, instead of the larger hydei, or even worse, the disturbing-looking black soldier flies.
The fruit flies had almost reached his leg when Robin felt blood trickling down onto his forehead. His heart rate spiked, and he froze completely again as the blood trickled down onto his eyes. He tried to blink it away, but it was too thick and cloying. He stayed frozen, trembling, as the blood dripped down his face.
Robin sat for a moment, blind, considering his options, his thoughts racing faster and faster as he slowly succumbed to the powerful instinct to flee. Suddenly, he felt something crawling on his hand on the ground in between his legs, and he lost control. Standing in a scramble of arms and legs, screaming the entire time, Robin stood up and frantically brushed his hands and body frantically, using his other hand to rub the blood from his eyes. This was easier than he expected it to be. Robin had cut his forehead at Science Camp once and he had learned that head cuts bled a lot. He heard and felt several crunches from beneath his feet. The mantis readjusted itself several times as Robin did this, but in his panic he ignored the pain. He felt it make a sudden jerking motion, and then it was still again.
Having cleared his vision and no longer able to feel anything besides the mantis crawling on him, Robin forced himself to stop moving and slowly rotated his eyes upward as far as he could. He could see the mantis in his upward peripheral vision. It was looking down at him.
Robin didn’t move, despite his fight-or-flight instinct screaming “FLIGHT!” at him yet again. The mantis was holding something struggling in its foreclaws, and it seemed to be ...devouring it. Robin felt himself calm down. He had fed this mantis for weeks now. When it was eating, it didn’t move. It could be a nuisance if it started eating outside of the enclosure, forcing the person feeding it to wait until it was done. It might even groom itself afterward, forcing the person to wait even longer before it would consent to moving.
Robin looked back down and paled. There were hundreds of the simultaneously gargantuan and tiny creatures on the floor. Robin moved slowly over to a steel table, doing his best to keep his head level. Glancing up, he saw that the mantis had almost fully devoured the fruit fly, which had stopped wiggling. Could Robin keep calling them fruit flies, he wondered? He decided to call them Grapeflies right then and there. He slowly stepped onto a stool, and then onto the table. Robin flinched as the mantis adjusted grip halfway through his motion, but he kept moving.
Finally on top of the table, Robin felt like he could finally breathe. He stared down at the mass of Grapeflies on the ground, his mouth slightly open and panting. These things couldn’t be natural. There were displays in this very museum about how the atmosphere could not support truly giant insects. Yet here they were, Robin thought, glancing up. The mantis stared back down at him, shoving the last wing of the Grapefly into its grasping mandibles.
Maybe that weird box from before had answers…? Robin thought about the box and tried to remember what it had looked like. To his surprise, the box reappeared in front of him, seeming to move with his head.
Robin had played a few video games here and there, mostly at friend’s houses. His own parents were too strict to allow such a thing, of course. His favorites had been Pokémon and Fire Emblem, both on his friend Madora’s Nintendo DS. He had also enjoyed watching her play World of Warcraft, but the time investment required for that game was always too much for a social visit. This box had some similar stuff to it… But it was so game-like, and this was reality. Robin frowned as he read through what he assumed were his “stats”.
Hadn’t there been a Title, or something like that? Lawblessed? As he thought about it, a box appeared.
|You have been blessed by the Ysari. Having been touched by Law itself, you have a greater chance of noticing the order of the world around you. You have a much greater chance of noticing small details. You have a much greater chance of learning skills, abilities, talents, powers, or perks that may be learned through imitation. +5 to Learning. +2 to INT. +4 to Perception.|
+5 to Learning…? What!? How was that going to help him deal with a swarm of Grapeflies!?