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The Frog and a Nightmare

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“Bubbles bubbles,” chimed in the frog to the harmonious song of the fireflies. He stuck out his sticky tongue at them and kept chiming. “Bubbles bubbles bubbles feathers.”

“Why are you singing?” asked a light, tweedy voice from under the dewy grass. “This is the song of the fireflies.”

The frog peered down from the top of his bulged mouth. Slowly, he could see a little baby spider crawling down from a long blade of grass. “Because I want to sing, what’s so wrong about it?”

“But it’s the fireflies’ job to weave dreams; you’re not allowed to interrupt or sing too. You can’t know what you’ll cause.”

“They’re lying. It’s harmless.”

“Sometimes even the fireflies admit that they can’t always predict the outcome of their singing.”

“Bubbles bubbles feathers.” The frog sang needless of the spider’s advice.

“Please.”

The frog peered down disrespectfully at the baby spider, as arrogant as a raven, at his many innocent eyes looking up back at him. With a quick flick of his tongue, he swallowed it up without even blinking.

“Bubbles.”

He suddenly heard a loud hum from behind him, then a sharp sting. “Ow!” he cried out, sending the still-alive-half-digested baby spider flying. “What did you do that for?” He glared at the bee who had grown another stinger on his wing (while the spider sulkily scurried away).

“The fireflies told me to.” The bee shrugged and hastily flew away. The frog stuck out his tongue at him, missing him by a hair. Licking his sting, he hopped to another location and sang again.

“Bubbles feather cockroach! Hummus gizzard cockroach! Cockroach!” he yelled in his hoarse voice up to the fading evening sky. He yelled at the silvery crescent moon starting to appear in the baby blue sky turning the edges of the world pink. The moon was blurry, as it always was in the same land of the same dreams.

“Leech!” he finalized his song with a cold hiss.

“Would you mind quieting down?” asked an old, wise voice. The frog looked under the rock on which he was plopped on. An old green serpent slithered into his sight. “I’ve had as much trouble as it is today. I’m sure the world could do without your voice tonight.”

“But that’s exactly it,” protested the frog, “it can’t.”

“Hmm,” the serpent gazed at him steadily, “you’ve never sang before.” He frowned.

“That’s why I discovered it. They need my bass voice, that’s why there’s as much trouble as there is in the other world. My voice is just the touch they need; only they don’t know it yet.”

“They’re very experienced, you know. They’ve been doing this for hundreds of years.”

“Yet they’ve never done it right.”

“How can you tell?” the serpent frowned.

“I just know. Besides, fireflies shouldn’t have the authority. They’re lazy and frolicky, and the only thing they take seriously is their stupid song.”

“But they don’t have the maximum authority.” The serpent told him. “Never known why animals tend to forget that.” He murmured to himself.

“But the others don’t sing. The others actually journey into the other world. And they rarely mingle with animals. They just hold counsel with the fireflies. And that’s what I mean by saying they’ve never done it right. They should never have asked the fireflies.”

“The storytellers are much wiser than you think,” The serpent gave the frog a final look and slithered back into his hole under the rock. “And don’t sing.” Added his echo.

The frog hopped away in a bad mood.

There was suddenly a hot steam of air and lilac smoke. The warm air sparkled as two people stepped onto the cool grass. One was a black man with a shaved head, his hand resting on the hilt of his gilded wooden stick. The other was a tall, young woman with short brown hair and a bruised cheek. She was holding a little girl, dressed in pajamas and a crazy mane of wavy blonde hair.

“Bah,” he mumbled, “storytellers.”

“Wait!” He heard the woman call after him.

“What?” he spat.

“Have the fireflies sung yet?” the man asked.

The frog glared at him the most hard and cold glare his clammy eyes could. “Yes.”

The man looked relieved. “Then it’s safe,” He told the woman while the both held the little girl’s hands as they walked into the woods beyond them.

The frog turned and hopped into the opposite direction as fast as he could. They disgusted him. He had gone a short way before he stopped dead in his hops. The storytellers didn’t usually bring people from the other world. Even less, children. Maybe his singing really had disturbed something which had echoed malevolently in the other world. Before he could think twice, he hopped back.

There was no sign of the storytellers. He just kept going in the direction he had seen them go until he finally reached a clearing in the woods. The frog held his breath when he saw a big group of storytellers huddled together. Against all his logic, he went closer.

“Something’s wrong,” The man and the woman he recognized were in the middle of the entire group. “There are nightmares everywhere.” She rubbed her bruised cheek. The frog could only hear certain parts of what she was saying.

“…And look what happened.” She shook her head at the little girl asleep in someone else’s arms. “Something was altered. A change in the tune, the song was different. The fireflies won’t let the nightmares in, their tone won’t permit it. But the tone changed and nightmares have slipped in.”

The frog’s insides went colder than they already were. So he had altered something. He smiled broad and wide and his eyes shone like silver coins. If he had had a tail he would’ve wagged it. Dreams dreams dreams. He had woven a dream.

A worm wiggled into his sight. “Hey you, the fireflies sent me for you. They have to speak with you. It’s urgent.”

“I don’t want to talk to them.”

“So what. Who cares? I didn’t want to come for you either.” Grumbling, the frog put the worm on his back and hopped in the direction of their so-called “Luciernagus Arboretum”.

“I don’t want to hop!” The worm protested. “Put me down!”

“Fine. You can wiggle back by yourself.”

The frog dumped the worm onto the grass. From the worm’s back unfolded two large, brown, slimy-looking wings. He opened his mouth to twice its size and bit the frog’s leg. Rising, the frog flew with the frog in its mouth to see the fireflies.

Before the worm had even landed on the Arboretum’s branches, the fireflies attacked the frog.

“You are not allowed to sing!” shouted the biggest one. “Now look what you’ve done!”

“Why can’t I sing? Besides, there’s no regretting it now,”

“We and the storytellers forge the dreams that keep that ugly little human world stuck together. Neither world can survive without the other; we’re two different apples on the same tree. Those humans cannot survive without their dreams (fragile things that they are) and our dreams can’t survive if there’s nobody to dream them. We let the right dreams in with the right tones. But there tones that must not be trodden on. Utterly forbidden. Yet you appear and release all the wrong tones into the human world!” the firefly never ceased to yell.

The frog understood. “The girl…?”

“She’s dead,” The firefly said flatly. “Don’t you know anything about nightmares?”

“No,”

“When humans die, they all become nightmares. All nightmares. Only about one in a billion becomes a storyteller. Nightmares, storytellers, they’re all dead. There are these other ones, the Destinies, who are inbetweeners and have decided to side with both sides of the dream. The girl’s father became a nightmare, haunted her in her dreams without knowing what he was doing until she eventually wasted away.”

“I did that?”

“Yes!” came a chorus of light, angry voices. “We’ll have to cut out your tongue,” added the big one.

“No!” yelled the frog. He jumped down from the tree. He hit his head with the roots. Dazed, he lay there at the foot of the tree, not moving. He waited for the fireflies to appear and cut out his tongue, but he didn’t see them.

All he’d known from before his conversation had been that all animals in this land were second halves of souls. Storytellers only cared about human dreams because animals all had access to this land, all had souls made of the stuff of dreams. For everything here was a dream, which was very different from being dead, he recalled when he saw the nightmare appear before him and stretch out its hand to him.

He’d died. Hit his head on the foot of the tree and died. Because they wouldn’t let him sing. He remembered the little girl as he nodded at the black cloud in front of him and became a nightmare.





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