Those of you who’ve been following my blog for a while know that in October I have a series called Witchy Weekends, and this year I’m continuing writing a fairy tale. You can read parts 1-4 here. Read on for part 5.
The Frog Wish (continued)
“Do you know if there’s any food here?” Eleanor asked after she’d been jogging after Reginald’s hopping form for at least fifteen minutes. At least this activity had taken the edge off the cold. He stopped and turned to look at her.
“I’ve been eating this whole time,” he said, “but my guess is you don’t like mosquitoes.”
“Clever of you.” She just barely prevented herself from snarking about frogs’ legs. “You said sometimes people come here? Humans? How long do they usually stay?”
And did they bring food with them? And did they come of their own volition? And were they trapped here? She had so many questions but didn’t think Reginald would bother answering if they come at him in a volley.
“There’s a market road about two clicks ahead.”
“Market of what? Is there a village around here somewhere?”
“All kinds of things. And maybe? I’ve never seen any settlements in these woods.”
Eleanor looked around at the silvery landscape. Trees as far as the eye could see, and only shadows between them. The trail they’d been traveling wasn’t even well established: she’d had to stop several times to extract pebbles or leafy twigs from her shoes. At least she’d put on sneakers when she started moving the bedroom furniture. Furniture she’d really love to get back to right this very minute. “How many times have you come here?”
“Are you kidding me?”
“Fine, don’t answer me. But I really need food, and so far I haven’t seen anything that might fit that description. For me, I mean.” Her stomach grumbled as if to emphasize the point. Reginald cocked his head at her belly, so she knew he’d heard it too.
“What do you like to eat?” he asked.
Why, is there a menu? What do you think humans eat? But she stopped herself from saying these things; maybe he really didn’t know, and she didn’t want him to only ribbit back at her, or worse, just leave her here.
She shrugged instead. “Preferably something I don’t have to catch wild and kill before I can eat it. Preferably no poisonous vegetation.”
Reginald snorted, inasmuch as a frog could snort. “Moira wouldn’t have landed you in some prehistoric wilderness. She likes you too much.”
Eleanor didn’t even know how to respond to that.
“I said there was a market road,” he continued in a condescending tone. “There are certain to be food stalls. We’ll see what’s there.” Then under his breath he muttered, “Impatient human.” The frog turned around and started hopping again before he could see Eleanor subtly flip him off.
She followed along but didn’t have to jog quite so much to keep up this time. She was glad for that; it was harder to jog with a dense brick of a book under one’s arm. She wished she had a pocket big enough for it, or maybe a messenger bag. Preferably a messenger bag full of sandwiches and soft drinks.
Soon the path they were on ended in a tangle of silver trees. “Now what?” she asked. Reginald made a few very deliberate hops in a crooked line into the thick of them, then turned back around to face her.
“We’ve arrived. Ribbit.” Then he hopped forward into the trees and disappeared.
“Wait! Where are you––” She picked her way through the copse, recoiling slightly at the cold metal feel of the slender tree trunks: they didn’t look like she should be able to move them so easily. She put one foot carefully ahead of the other, holding back the tension in each sapling to prevent it from slapping back at her. These slim trees weren’t as old as the forest around her; they must have been planted more recently.
Then her view opened on a bustling clearing filled with market stalls and all sort of creatures walking back and forth between them and interacting with each other. Deer, rabbits, very large birds, a few wolves, and a variety of people. All of them bathed in silver light, all of them quite animated toward each other, all of them completely silent.
No sounds, no smells, it was as if the entire view were a silent film reeling in front of her, and she had to imagine context as well as story. Even the clearing itself appeared to be farther away than she could trust herself to walk. She envisioned stepping up to one of the market stalls, but the ground in front of her would convey the scene quickly backward, away from her touch, the minute she stepped into it. Her stomach quivered again, but now she had no expectation of being able to calm it.
She took the last careful step out of the trees and looked around for Reginald. He was sitting on a gray tree stump sprinkled with black dust.
“I found you some people,” he said. “Happy now? Ribbit.”
Eleanor honestly couldn’t say.
Please join us for my online book launch of Homecoming, the second book in the Animal Affinities series! It will be on Saturday afternoon October 24th, wherever you have an internet connection. Click here for the details.
Want to read more of my writing that’s already published? Click here for poetry, click here for urban fantasy, and click here for realistic flash fiction. You can also buy my books at Blue Willow Bookshop and my books and poetry art cards at Ella’s Apothecary, and I hope you will!