Size / / /

The world is a frog

sometimes, in the rainy season. You

used to know that, but your hopes

made you forget. The green of the hills

are slick frogskin, the rivers

tributaries of lapping tongue, the warts

evident. Drive your rattling

truck into the hills, where

there are still caves and old

coal mines and flyspecked diners

in valleys. Scrape the bugs

from their windows, from your windshield,

stop by the bait shop for a bucket

of live crickets. Frogs want

simple things: insects for breakfast,

wetness, something to swallow. Wait until

the rain comes and beats down

the coal dust, and drive

your groaning truck to the mouth

of a cave or a mineshaft. Don't

think about the thing

in the back of your truck,

bigger than dead flies,

wetter. Park, and cut your lights,

and wait for night to fall.

The frog's green eyes will open,

and its mouth will gape, becoming

the cave, becoming a portal.

The entry to the land

of the dead is a frog's mouth

sometimes, when it rains. When

you run out of hope, you remember

that. Take your bucket

of dead crickets, your brown paper

sackful of flies, the heavy

bundle from the back

of your truck. Walk into

the frog's mouth, between

the fangs. Feed it. Maybe

it will swallow you. Maybe

its tongue will unfurl like

a path. Frogs don't

understand mercy

or forgiveness

but they understand hunger.

They understand swallowing.

They understand


Tim Pratt won a Hugo Award for his short fiction (and lost a Nebula and a World Fantasy Award), and his stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Year's Best Fantasy, and other nice places. He lives in Oakland, California, with his wife Heather Shaw and son River. For more information about him and his work, see his website. To contact him, send him email at
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