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Authors: Laura Dower

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BOOK: Return of Mega Mantis
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But it wasn’t gum. These were green bugs: tiny praying mantids hopping all over the place. Some were dead, but most had their tiny legs folded up like they were praying for real. I could feel their little black eyes on me.
“WHY ME?” I screamed. I would have given anything for a bottle of Bug-Off right about now.
I leaped over a cluster and ran toward the street.
But even after I’d made it off the porch, I was not bug-free. Something else tickled my cheek and I swatted.
No way! Now a mini swarm of gnats chased me! And the harder I tried to shoo them away, the closer they hovered.
“Get off!” I wailed, slapping my neck and arms and neck again. I dashed for the school bus stop, bobbing and weaving like a prizefighter.
But nothing shook off these gnats!
When the kids at the bus stop saw me coming, one yelled, “What’s your problem?”
Everyone was staring. A few kids doubled over with laughter at the sight of me. One pack of kids shuffled away from me as if I had cooties.
And the truth was I
have them. I had gnatties!
Play it cool,
I told myself. But when the swarm swooped in at me again, I flapped my arms like a chicken. These gnats were flying so close to my face that I could barely blink without a bug getting caught in my lashes!
I usually love being the center of attention, but this was too much.
Where’s an Invisibility Cloak when you really need one?
I turned around, swatting.
Ranger made a face. “Gee, you weren’t kidding when you said you saw weird bugs everywhere. You’re covered in fleas.”
“Same difference,” Ranger said.
I raised my eyebrow. “You should have seen the praying mantids on my porch!”
“Mantids? Praying? About what?”
“There were hundreds. They looked like . . .”
I stopped mid-sentence. It dawned on me that I knew
what those mantids looked like. Of course! They were miniature versions of the giant bug shadow I saw in my backyard . . .
“Mega Mantis!” I yelled out. “The new B-Monster in town is Mega Mantis! That’s it!”
“Huh?” Ranger said with disbelief. “Are you serious?”
Scenes from the original B-Monster
Mega Mantis
flick popped into my head. “Yes! Of course! Remember the pond scene?” I asked Ranger.
“Yes! When the bugs swarmed out of nowhere?”
“And attacked that little dog and carried him up into the sky?”
“Mega turned that pooch into a chew toy!” Ranger cried.
I shuddered. “I got swarm nightmares for weeks.”
Ranger waved his hands around my head. Now
was the swarm nightmare.
“But remember what Roger Rogers says in the movie?” Ranger asked.
Rogers was one of the big heroes in Oswald Leery’s Bs. We all wanted to be as brave as Roger Rogers.
“Of course I remember!” I said.
Together, we recited his most famous line from the movie. “Don’t mess with me. And don’t mess with the mantis!”
Then, from down the street, the school bus pulled into view.
“Aha!” I cried.
I put on my best ugly face and we muscled our way to the front of the bus line. We thought for sure that the gnats would follow. But strangely, the bugs headed for the bus headlights instead.
What a lucky break. They like lights even more than me!
The driver opened the doors and Ranger and I scrambled onto the bus. We collapsed in a backseat. I thought the gnats were gone for good. Then, a half mile down the road, my gigantic gnat swarm came back! The swarm showed up just outside my bus window. It looked like the swarm of flies from my bedroom window the day before.
Some people have animal magnetism; I guess I must have bug magnetism.
“Pssst!” Ranger whispered. “Remember in
Mega Mantis
, how all the people get followed by swarms? But the insects don’t swarm onto the bus to City Hall?”
“Right!” I said. “They won’t enter a moving vehicle!”
“We should contact Oswald Leery,” Ranger said. “I think we’re in big bug trouble.”
“Yeah,” I mumbled. “We need an emergency Monster Squad meeting. Sorry I missed the last one . . .”
“That’s okay. You’re still in the squad,” Ranger said.
I punched him in the shoulder with a smile. “Better be,” I said.
I complained a lot about my fellow Monster Squad members, but the truth was they weren’t all
dorky. Lindsey was nice. Stella was tough. Ranger was smart. We really were in this together.
Now if I could just figure out how to move from the school bus into the school building without getting swarmed, I’d be all set.
When the bus rounded the cul-de-sac outside the school’s main doors, Ranger and I planned our mad dash inside. If we moved fast enough, we could beat the gnats.
We covered our heads with our jackets and sprinted for the doors.
It worked!
When the bugs didn’t follow us inside, I thought maybe they’d leave us alone for a while. But the very first period, in the middle of my math test, I spotted something suspicious outside the classroom window.
The swarm! There must have been a thousand gnats! There were so many I think they began to block out the sun. I wanted to jump up and shout, “Excuse me, but doesn’t anyone else see what’s going on?”
But then I remembered: Only a few of us could see them.
As soon as the class bell rang, Monster Squad gathered in the hall. We kept our voices low.
“Did you see that?” Lindsey whispered.
I nodded. “A swarm like the one we saw outside the school bus window.”
I told everyone again about the bugs in my yard and the giant shadow I’d seen the night before. I was
the bugs meant a genuine B-Monster was lurking around and that that B-Monster was Mega Mantis.
“We need to keep track of all these details,” Stella said, as serious as ever.
“I’ll take plenty of pictures for reference,” Lindsey said, holding up her Sure Shot digital camera.
One of our fifth-grade teachers actually nicknamed Lindsey “Paparazzi,” just because she brings her camera everywhere. I think she always wears it because she wants to be like her grandpa Max. Max took pictures for B-Monster Studios back in the day.
As Lindsey snapped, my palms got sweatier. All these bugs were making me so nervous. If they kept following me, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stay on this Monster Squad mission. Meeting Mega face-to-face would give me hives.
“We need to do something!” Stella said. “This is one serious situation.”
I groaned. Stella walks around Riddle like she just drank a big cup of serious. And she acts tough like a ninja
all the time
, whether she’s in the karate studio or out.
I tried hard to think of something clever to say. I was about to speak, when something nipped at me. I reached for my neck.
“Yowch!” I cried. “One of the gnats bit me!”
How had it gotten inside?
Ranger held his hands up. “Oh no! Bugs are making contact. We don’t have much time. I think we should head up to Leery Castle after school. Walter will help us.”
We all nodded. On the Stella serious scale, this was definitely a ten-plus.
I watched the clock all day. When the end-of-day school bell rang, my nerve was back. The bugs had disappeared after lunch. I hadn’t seen a swarm—or even a lone gnat—in three whole hours. The moment the bell rang at the end of school, I met up with the others. We raced to the public bus stop, ready for the second official Monster Squad mission.
Lindsey couldn’t resist pulling out her camera.
“Say mozzarella!” Lindsey said, snapping. I made a funny face. Why can’t that girl just say, “Say cheese!” like a normal person?
“Hey, Lindsey!” Stella yelled. “Take a photo of
“Incoming!” Ranger cried. “What a cloud!”
“That’s too dark to be a cloud,” I cried, looking up. “Those are the gnats from outside the classroom!”
It looked like the swarm we’d been watching all day, only much,
“What’s the matter, Damon?
of a few bugs?” Stella teased.
“No! I don’t get scared, remember?” I snapped, trying to sound
like the word across the front of my T-shirt.
Stella laughed. “Yeah, sure you don’t get scared.” She assumed her most menacing karate stance. “I know how to handle a pack like that! Kiiiiya!”
I rolled my eyes. “First of all, the bugs are still miles away, Ninja. And second of all, you can’t karate-chop a pack of gnats, even if the cloud comes closer! I think that’s physically impossible.”
“Who says I can’t do it?” Stella snapped at me. “I can do whatever I want!”
Lindsey stepped in between us. “Guys, you can’t fight each other and expect to fight a B-Monster, too.”
“I think the cloud really is getting closer!” Ranger shouted.
Thankfully, no other people waiting for the bus could see the cloud like we could. They didn’t know it was made of bugs. They still believed the darkness was just a storm front. Maybe they thought we were doing some kind of rain dance.
Thankfully, we piled onto the bus before the cloud came any closer.
The ride seemed normal at first, except for the fact that my heart was beating like a bongo. Then, as we passed Round Ridge, the bus lurched. A warning bell went off. The driver turned off the engine.
Oh no,
I thought to myself.
We can’t stop. Not now.
“Attention, passengers,” the driver said. “We need to pull over for just a few moments. There’s a funny clunk in the trunk so I called dispatch for a service truck. I don’t want any of you to get stuck up on the mountain. From the looks of the sky out there, there’s bad weather coming, too, so I need to be extra careful . . .”
The other passengers began whispering and moving around. Ranger nudged me.
“A clunk in the trunk? What do you think is
going on?” he whispered.
“Maybe Mega Mantis is up ahead,” I said.
Stella glared. “SHHHHHH!”
“It can’t really be Mega,” she whispered.
“Maybe the bus is really broken,” Ranger replied.
A passenger standing next to us frowned. He peered out at the sky. “I didn’t know it was supposed to rain today,” he said.
“It’s not!” I cried. “But we think that might be a—”
“SHHHHH!” Stella slapped her hand over my mouth.
The man gave us a funny look and moved to the other side of the bus.
insane?” Stella hissed. “You can’t tell strangers about what’s
going on. You’ll cause a panic!”
“Actually, Stella,” Ranger said, “panic may be our best option. That cloud is really close to the bus now. I think we need to do something.”
“Like what?” Stella cried.
“Whatever we do, we’d better do it fast,” Ranger said.
Lindsey aimed her camera through the bus window, out at the still-darkening sky.
She snapped a few photos and turned to me.
“Damon,” Lindsey said, frowning, “I think we may be in trouble.”
Lindsey was right. I could see the black cloud getting closer . . . and closer . . .
The gnat cloud was about to swoop down all the way. And if that happened, the bus would get swallowed whole—with us inside!
“Everyone off the bus!” the driver said.
Without thinking, I dove for the door. “No!” I said. “We can’t go out there!”
“Step back, son,” the driver said.
Ranger pulled me back. “Damon,” he whispered. “Chill out. Everyone else thinks the gnat cloud is a rain cloud.”
BOOK: Return of Mega Mantis
2.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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