The short story below started off as a joke between friends. I took it too far (as most writers do) and wrote about it. Enjoy.
“I don’t think we should buy this house,” Angela said, brushing her hand along the sign, hanging on the porch. The weathered timber was rough under her fingers, the wood split and decaying.
“Why not?” Mark shoved his hands deep in his pockets and spun around on the spot. “It’s perfect. No one around for miles, beautiful high ceilings and a pool. You always wanted a pool,” he said inching over to the expanse of shimmering blue, nestled in grass that was jade velvet. There certainly wasn’t anything like this in their apartment in Brisbane.
“I know but…”
“And the price is right.” He turned to the real estate agent, who had been showing them houses for five weeks.
“Yes. The owners are willing to accept offers. Any offers.” She clutched at her handbag and pushed a curious lizard away with the toe of her shoe.
“I just don’t think that buying a place called ‘Frogs Hollow’ is a good idea, when I’m petrified of frogs.” Angela ducked under the sign and prodded at the moss growing on the weathered window frames.
The agent let out a little scream as the lizard darted towards her and she jumped onto the porch beside Angela.
“There aren’t any frogs here, look.” She held her arms wide, sweeping her hands over the bare porch and front yard. “I think the previous owners just liked frogs.”
Angela turned to her husband who was watching the agent with a scowl, probably thinking the same thing she was. How can a rural real estate agent be afraid of a lizard?
“Do you like it, Mark?”
“Yes,” his golden-brown eyes sincere. “I think we’ll be happy here.”
The agent was wrong, not surprisingly. Once they settled in and the movers had left, Angela started seeing more and more frogs every day. At first it was the odd one, sitting on the balcony railing, then one morning when she went to hang out the washing there were nine or ten surrounding the clothes line.
“It’s like they’re watching me. Those beady little eyes and that slick, acid green skin. That colour isn’t right, it’s too bright, I bet they’re poisonous. I can see them thinking about jumping at my throat and ripping out my jugular.”
Mark put down his fork, the lasagne only halfway to his lips.
“Yes, my jugular.”
“Honey,” his tone soft, soothing. “I don’t think frogs have teeth. Besides they’re tiny, just swat them away.”
She tried, she really tried. She would shoo them away when she hung out the washing. She would stomp her feet when she fed the chickens. She would clap her hands and wave her arms wildly as she got into the car.
“You have ranidaphobia. I asked someone on one of those Doctor websites. They said exposure should help you.”
“Great idea, Mark. I’ll just go for a midnight swim with those damn things. That should cure me.” She said ‘Mark’ like she meant ‘dickhead,’ and from the roll of his eyes, he knew it.
“If it doesn’t help, then at least you tried it. What’s the worst that can happen?”
“You’ll find me out there with frogs laying eggs inside my stomach cavity, because they’ve eaten all my intestines.”
“Right.” He pushed away from the table and bent in front of her. Gripping her legs, he hoisted her up and over his shoulder.
“Mark! Put me down!” She wriggled in his hold, and smacked her palms against his backside, until they stung.
Out in the humid night air, the cacophony of the frogs was deafening, and her stomach dropped into her mouth. “What are you doing?”
“I’m helping,” he laughed.
Even though she couldn’t see where they were going in the pitch dark, the smell of chlorine filled her nose. When the pool gate clicked open, she thrashed in his hold, tears spilling down her face. He kicked off his thongs and stepped into the inky water, moving deeper until her hair was wet as she dangled over his shoulder.
As he slid her down his body, she dug her fingernails into his biceps, and wrapped her legs around his waist, interlocking her ankles so he couldn’t let her go.
“Shhh,” he rubbed her back and pressed her trembling body against his. “See. Look.” He pointed to the side of the pool. Three frogs sat, jowly throats puffing in and out, their croaks freezing the blood in her veins.
“There’s only a couple, and they can’t hurt you.”
As her eyes adjusted to the dark, she narrowed her eyes at the rest of the pool and couldn’t see anymore.
“I’m going to go and get some candles, you get naked.” He wriggled his eyebrows and was gone before she could stop him. She shoved down the terror that was clawing her gut, he’d be right back. Yes. She could do this.
“Alright.” She stripped off her wet top and waded to the opposite edge from the beady eyed, green monsters, keeping the slimy bastards in her sight. “He’ll only be a minute,” she whispered, ignoring the vomit that was rising in the back of her throat. She crumpled the sopping shirt in her hand and placed it on the edge of the pool.
Something heavy hit her hand, and her heart stopped beating. Holding her breath, she turned her head slowly, and almost snatched her hand back when she saw the frog on it. It’s eyes iridescent in the dark as it watched her, then another appeared from the grass, and then another.
Soon she was surrounded, she couldn’t risk calling for Mark because it might make them jump at her. The water around her rippled, and little plops sounded as they jumped in the water behind her. The frog on her hand blinked once and then launched at her neck, it’s fangs sinking into her throat, severing her jugular.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in all my years as a herpetologist.”
“A what?” Mark said, from his hospital bed.
Angela would have found that funny. A herpetologist sounds like he should be the study of herpes, then sharp realisation hit him in the gut, Angela wouldn’t laugh at anything anymore. The paramedics had to sedate him to treat his injuries after the frogs turned on him. He managed to barricade himself in the house and call for help.
“I study amphibians. This species of frog isn’t native to Australia. The closest relative that I have found is the African bullfrog. They’re known to eat small animals, birds and the like.”
“So, what killed my wife?”
“It’s a hybrid species. I believe this army of frogs is new. I’ve called in Franceskins Callidayas. The first frogs that seem to be a predator to humans. Its common name will be the Frances frog. “
Mark closed his eyes once the herpes guy left, and the nurse gave him a nice dose of morphine. The sound of the frogs slurping and feasting on his wife’s body while she twitched never left him, not even under heavy sedation. The nurse checked something on his IV, and as she left and closed the door, the creaking of the hinges sounded like the croak of the Frances frog.
Something hit his leg. His head was too heavy to lift it to see what it was, maybe another hallucination, the drugs were making everything soft at the edges of his vision. Then the iridescent green flesh was in his eyeline, the heavy weight of the thing pressing on his chest, it tilted its bulbous head and croaked once.
He couldn’t even scream as it ate his tongue.
Photo by bl0ndeeo2 via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons