First, evil frogs talk. Then they kill.
“So,” says the evil frog.
It kicks its legs.
It’s sitting next to Marilyn on a branch overlooking the swamp. She looks a little green, but not so green as the evil frog.
“So,” she says.
The evil frog inflates the bladders by his head, as if an idea were coming to him, then lets them deflate and shakes his head.
“It’s not your fault,” Marilyn says. “Communities project their sins onto evil frogs, producing your blood thirst and various mutations.”
“That is good of you to say,” he concedes, “but I must make my own meaning.”
He emits a noise, burrup, which for all we know is his meaning; nothing further is said, for in the next moment, he is turning, webbed fingers opening around his palm, and the sigil of Carcaon (which was his name and his aspect) is burning like a coal therein.
They dance the great circle. Her wrist strikes his aside. Then there is only red and green.
She lands, lightly, in the swamp.
She leaves footprints, behind her, as she goes.
Later she hangs out in a hot spring with another frog.
“I loved once,” Marilyn says. “I loved so brightly. But the people of the town, they would not have me. They said, ‘frog hunters are green.'”
“It isn’t easy,” the frog admits.
This one is poisonous. Vapors waft off of it. If they talk too long she will die and won’t even get to fight it first. But it has a very approachable air that makes her want to talk longer than frog hunters usually talk with evil frogs.
“Did you know that we absorb it?” she says. “The green?”
“I did not.”
“We kill the frogs and take in their color, to remedy the fallen condition of humanity.”
“So in a way,” the frog says, “we are the same.”
“Always,” Marilyn says passionately. “I would so be insulting you if I did not feel empathy as I killed.”
The frog has no response to that.
It wants to complain or criticize—to observe that it is more concerned with killing than propriety—except that it has never particularly tried to feel as its victims must.
So he just sits, stewing in his poisonous vapors, and thinks, and after a while says, “I too have been a’ courting.”
“I thought that I would marry a lovely woman,” he says. “And poison her in the process of our love. But then a dove swept me up and carried me off to a distant land.”
It is wearing a dove feather in its baldness.
“That must have been a miracle,” Marilyn says. “Some kind of miracle bird.”
“Or a bird enemy of marriage.”
Marilyn nods. She drags herself out of the water. She sways. She is an ugly color, yellow brown.
“Time to kill?” the frog says politely.
Marilyn’s vision blurs.
“No,” she says. “It’s already done.”
She staggers away, two steps, three, then five.
The frog nods wisely.
“My poison mixes with the steam,” he says. “That’s why it’s hard to see.”
“Not me,” she says.
And she dunks her face once, twice, and three times in the swamp, before taking a few more steps away and vomiting noisily against a startled thrush until she looks a bit more green.
“You’ve boiled,” she says, at last.
“I wish I weren’t green,” she says.
She’s hunting for a third frog. She’s heard it’s drawn to sorrow. And indeed, no sooner has she spoken the words than it eddies up, like ichor on the marsh.
It is transparent, practically invisible. Its hand clasps over her mouth, dripping with slime, and it tries to draw her down.
She bites down, sucking in a mouthful of horrid frog, and gives a muffled scream.
She fumbles at her belt. She pulls out a frog hunter micro-dynamite. She slams it into the side of the frog and twists and pulls and breaks free as it bangs.
She gasps and shudders. It pulls back and wraps around a tree, sucking out the life force of the tree to heal its wound.
“Evil frogs talk,” Marilyn says, “then they fight.”
“There are rules,” Marilyn says.
Finally, it sighs.
“I have nothing to say to you, human,” it says. “I am frog. You are frog hunter. There is no point in conversation.”
“We have to make connections with the things we kill,” Marilyn says.
“That is your scruple.”
It is alien. She has never fought an evil frog so alien and cold.
“Why are you like this?” she protests.
It is silent. Ripples pass through it, this way, that way. Finally, as if the words are torn from it, it says, “I was the first. I was the frog of finding words. I was the frog of assumption of mastery of death. I sucked death into my air bladders. I rattled his bones. I spat him out and took power from him. Then he slunk away to live at the outskirts of the world. But I was green.”
She looks at him.
“It isn’t ea—” she starts.
“Shut up!” it howls.
So she falls silent.
Behind it the sky is full of the aurora; and it makes red and blue light to flicker in its skin.
“I was cursed with green,” it says. “It was my testing. And I could not bear it. And I said, ‘Lord, take this burden from me.’ And it was granted to me, my wish.”
“Colorless,” she says.
“It is better!” it says. “Better, this. I need no color. I live alone. I kill humans that come into my realm. Women, men, frog hunters, even the little girls and little boys and their hungry soul-devouring swords. Colorless I am supreme. But you trouble me with your words and make them itch inside my head.”
She looks down, briefly.
“I didn’t mean—” she says.
It hisses. It gives her no time to finish. It leaps into the air, spreading out like some great smothering tarp, and she is falling back and hoisting a twisted branch as if it were a spear.
Its ichor covers her as she emerges from the swamp. She is dripping with it.
Underneath it her face is the color of a peach, and the ichor trail behind her is wet and green.
It’s like it’s sucked the sin from her, she thinks, but something unaccountable’s been lost.