“You’re a liar!” Cynthia shouted. “I catch you cheating on me, and you deny it while a strange woman’s right here in our bed.”

“This ain’t a woman,” Harry said, pointing to the form hidden under blankets. “It’s an illusion.”

“Illusion? I’m gonna blow your freakin’ head off.” She grabbed a pistol from the nightstand and pointed at him.

“Wait! Don’t shoot! Let me explain!

“Better talk fast. You only have a few seconds.”

“When I left Clancy’s Bar, a giant praying mantis grabbed me and pulled me into an alley.”

“I’m about to kill your ass, and you’re actually lying. You’re nuts.” She aimed at his head.

“If you shoot, it’ll be first degree murder. Better hear me out, unless you wanna die by lethal injection. Now drop the gun and let me finish.”

“The gun stays in my hand. Go ahead, you sonovabitch. Give me your damn explanation. I could use a good laugh.”

“It pulled me into the alley and said, ‘Don’t be afraid. I won’t harm you. I just need some help. I’m on an important mission, but I’m tired, and need rest. Can you take me home with you?’ Well, I was totally amazed. And considering how ugly and scary it looked, I agreed. But I told it I wasn’t sure we’d be able to make it back to the house, considering somebody might see how horrible it looked, and create a disturbance. That might bring the cops. And the second they saw a giant praying mantis, they'd start shooting.”

“Oh brother. You’re liar of the century.”

“I ain’t lying. Just hear me out. So, it asked me what it should look like, that it was able to change its appearance. And I thought of you, my beautiful wife, and said if it could somehow change itself to look like you, then everything would probably be OK. And it did. But it was naked. I mean where would a giant praying mantis get women’s clothes all of a sudden---especially at night when all the stores are closed?”

“I think I’ll just shoot you and get this over with.” Cynthia said.

“When it asked what you looked like, I showed it your picture. It mumbled weird words, and poof! You were sitting next to me in the car. I couldn’t believe it. The only difference was that its voice isn’t the same as yours. You should hear how beautiful it sounds when it talks.”

“Mom was right. You’re a damn jerk. I shoulda married Frank.”

“When we came in the house, it saw your picture on the mantle—when you were a cheerleader in high school. Next thing I knew, it changed itself into a replica of you as a teen cheerleader. Wow! You were hot! Wish I’d known you back then. I remembered you kept your old cheerleading outfit in the trunk in the attic. So, I got it and the thing put it on.”

“I decided not to kill you,” Cynthia said. “Why waste bullets on a lunatic? I shoulda listened to my father, the neighbors, the pastor, and the guy at the Safeway checkout counter. They all knew about you.”

“They were right. I’m no good. But I can change. Let me finish telling you what happened.”

“Might as well hear the rest. By the way, your friend’s awfully quiet. What’s your name, you filthy whore?”

A beautiful voice said, “Gribble.”

“I see what you mean about her voice. A real Siren, she is. How much does she get for a quickie?”

Ignoring the question, Harry said, “So there it was, wearing your cheerleader outfit, looking like a duplicate of you at seventeen. It's beauty got to me. I couldn’t help myself. I picked it up and carried it to the bedroom. I thought I was gonna…well…then reality struck. ‘This is a giant praying mantis,’ I said to myself. ‘What you wanna do is unnatural. What if you end up fathering a giant praying mantis? The whole world will scream for your blood.’ So, I just put it in bed, because it said it was tired, and that’s why it’s in our bed. Then I went to the kitchen and made a salami sandwich. After that, I went outside to catch some flies for it, because that’s what praying mantises eat. So, right before you came into the bedroom, I had just sat down on the bed to give it the flies. Have you noticed that I’m fully dressed?”

“That’s the most bizarre thing I ever heard. Actually, I ain’t mad anymore. That doesn’t mean I ain’t gonna file for divorce. Hey, Floozie, get outta my bed. Don’t worry. I ain’t gonna shoot you.”

The bed covers flew off, revealing the bed’s occupant.

“Good lord! I can’t believe my eyes. I forgot how beautiful I was when I was a teen. This is amazing. Hold on a minute. Let me get my camera.”

Cynthia took dozens of photos, asking her duplicate to pose differently each time. Then she said, “Listen, Honey. Let me show you how we used to cheer for the team. Can you kick your left leg up high? Good. Can you say, rah-rah-shish- boom-bah?”

The duplicate imitated Cynthia perfectly.

“This is amazing,” Cynthia said. “Can you duplicate anybody?”

The thing nodded.

“Permanently?” Cynthia asked.

The thing nodded again.

Cynthia shot Harry in the head. She and the duplicate buried him in the back yard.

When both jumped into bed, Cynthia sighed deeply and said, “I always wanted to sleep with Tom Cruise.”

Copyright: © 2009 Michael A. Kechula
Michael A. Kechula is a retired tech writer. His fiction has won first place in eight contests and placed in seven others. He’s also won Editor’s Choice awards four times. His stories have been published by 114 magazines and 30 anthologies in Australia, Canada, England, India, Scotland, and US. He’s authored a book of flash and micro-fiction stories: “A Full Deck of Zombies--61 Speculative Fiction Tales.” eBook available at www.BooksForABuck.com and www.fictionwise.com Paperback available at www.amazon.com.

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