Fairy Tales on the Brain

by Brian Barnett

Dan’s Nissan backed out of the driveway and into the street. He drove away without as much as a phony smile or a fleeting wave. Within seconds his taillights disappeared around the corner. Yet another one-and-done dating experience.

Dejected, Nadine sighed heavily and stepped into her house. She passed her bookcase that was filled with various Disney movies, storybooks, and memorabilia. She placed her Styrofoam container of leftovers into the refrigerator and then flopped miserably onto her couch.

Why don’t men like me? Why am I so different from everyone else? Why can’t my Prince Charming just come and whisk me away?

She resisted the urge to cry. Her lips began to curl into a rigid frown and her eyes began to water.
No! she told herself.

She forced herself off of the couch and to the back window. She watched the shimmering surface of the community pond. It glistened peacefully in the moonlight. The pond always calmed her when she was upset. It was so tranquil.

The phone rang.


“Well,” it was Nadine’s mother, “how did it go?”

“Terrible, as always. We had nothing in common. He only thought about one thing...the stock market. I’m convinced that there is nobody out there for me.”

After a brief pause, her mother sighed and said, “Maybe you should just get your head out of the clouds. You know, you always read on those fairy tales and such-”

“Mom!” Nadine cut her mother off. “I don’t really want to hear it tonight. I’m tired and I just don’t feel like talking about it. These conversations tend to go on and on, and I don’t have the energy for it again tonight, okay?”

“Well, it’s just that I worry about you. I really hope you find someone soon, that’s all. There is somebody out there for you. He’s just not going to come to you wearing shining armor on some noble steed.”

“Maybe I’ll just find a frog prince then. He might just be in the pond out back.” Nadine forced a hollow laugh.

There was another brief pause before Nadine’s mother finally gave in, “Yes, well, make sure you have faith in that kiss. Otherwise, it may not come true.”

Nadine giggled at the strange advice. “I suppose so. Thanks mom.” She felt a bit better. Her mother always had a way of cheering her up, even if she liked to pry into her life from time to time. “I better get off here. I’m getting a little sleepy. Good night.”

“Good night.” The line clicked off.

Nadine looked once more at the moon’s sparkling reflection on the pond. She felt a slight tugging urge for a night stroll. The evening air had been cool and crisp during the date. It may be reinvigorating, she decided.

She slipped on a shawl and left her house. The evening air was crisp, indeed. A brief autumn wind that had blown over the pond gave her a chill. She shivered and rubbed her arms to warm them.

The pond was alive with crickets, frogs and various other nocturnal creatures. She strode out onto the small pier and sat in her favorite folding-chair. It was a basic aluminum-framed chair with vinyl bands weaved throughout. It was very comfortable.

She sighed heavily and watched the small ripples that tiny bugs created in the water. One of them was snatched up by a fish that rolled on the pond’s surface and then disappeared.

A vivid croak caused her to start violently. She turned to see a large frog behind the chair.

“Hey, little froggy,” she said, “How was your day?”

The frog croaked loudly and then hopped closer.

“That good, huh? Well, it’s good that somebody is having a decent day.” She sighed. “It’s kind of sad though, that my most meaningful conversation has been a one-sided one with a frog.”

It croaked again and leapt to her feet.

She nearly recoiled, but decided against it. It was only a frog. Besides, it may be her prince that she had been hoping for. She silently giggled at the ridiculous thought.

The frog croaked again and seemingly pawed at her foot as if it wanted to be picked up.

She tilted her head. A strange nervousness crept over her. She looked over her shoulder and then across the lake as if to find someone snickering in the bushes – someone who might have been waiting for her to do something stupid and then yell “gotcha!”

The frog struggled against the height of her shoe. It climbed up awkwardly and then pawed at her shin.

Surely it doesn’t want me to pick it up, does it? Maybe the fairy tales are based on fact. Maybe some frogs had been hexed. The storybooks always seem to have witches transforming men into frogs. Over the ages, people had been condemned to burn or hang for witchcraft. Two and two together makes frog princes?

She bent down slowly and picked up the frog. She felt another twinge of nerves that erupted in her chest. The frog pulled itself higher in her hands to get closer to her face.

Her mind began to race.

Could it just be coincidence? Could it be that, I, the biggest dreamer imaginable, could come across a frog that seemingly wants so desperately to be kissed? Maybe. But maybe it just so happened to come in my direction by coincidence. Then, maybe it just so happened to see something that it was not used to seeing. Or perhaps it felt territorial, or curious. It’s ridiculous to think that it is anything more than a strange coincidence.

Ridiculous, indeed.

The frog seemed to stare at Nadine. Its eyes, glassy and bulbous, gazed at her without blinking.

Nadine looked over her shoulder again. She glanced at the darkened weeds and cattails that lined the pond.

Finally she summoned the courage, or the gall, to reenact one of her favorite fairy tales. She brought the frog closer with shaky hands and then gave it a kiss.

As soon as her lips touched the frog’s mouth, she pulled away, ashamed and embarrassed with herself. She couldn’t believe the level that she had just lowered herself to. She gently placed the frog back onto the pier and began to walk back to the house.

The frog croaked. Then it croaked again, and again. It croaked repeatedly as if it was trying to speak – or worse - as if it was in pain.

Nadine turned and watched the frog. It bounced awkwardly and landed on its back. It bounced again and landed upright. It continued to croak repeatedly. With each croak, it sounded louder and more desperate.

Nadine held her hands to her mouth. She felt breathless. Had she hurt the frog somehow? On a stupid whim, did she somehow injure an innocent creature? She felt so stupid and helpless as she watched the poor creature writhe around on the pier.

Strange sounds came from the frog. A faint cracking and sloshing came from its limbs. Its arms and legs seemed to extend and grow. Its torso swelled and grew larger as well, all the while, disgusting sounds popped and grinded from the tiny, but growing body.

The croaking became more throaty and guttural. The frog’s features seemed to smooth into a more familiar form. Finally after what seemed like an hour, a strange man-sized form laid motionless on the pier.

Nadine took a step back as the creature rose to its feet. The transformation was not complete. The frog had nearly transformed into a human, but had not completely. She remembered her mother’s joking statement. “...make sure you have faith in that kiss. Otherwise, it may not come true.”

Nadine felt terrible. She had not had full faith in the kiss. The result was awful. A pathetic twist of nature that should never have had seen the light of day – an abomination.

Its skin was still green and splotchy, except for its white underbelly. Its legs were still immensely muscular and its feet were still webbed. It still glared at her with two large and bulbous, glassy eyes that were perched upon its massive head. Its throat swelled as large as a beach ball as it bellowed a massive croak.

It reached out one of its glistening arms to her and garbled something unintelligible.

She backed away another step. She was too horror-stricken to say anything.

It held out both arms as if to plead for her understanding. As if perhaps that it did not mean her harm and that it needed help to complete its transformation.

A tiny mosquito whizzed past Nadine’s ear. She shooed it away. Nighttime around the pond was a terrible time. Mosquitoes flew around by the thousands.

Nadine watched as the pathetic frog-man approached her in humility. Her heart began to soften toward the poor creature. Perhaps she could give it just one more kiss. Maybe the transformation would be completed and it would become a handsome man who would not leave her stranded on her doorstep without so much as a peck on the cheek.

She waved another mosquito away and smiled as reassuringly as she could muster. She could almost make out a smile on the frog-man’s massive mouth. This was it. She was about to unveil her soul mate.

Slowly, she stepped closer so that she would not scare him. She smiled again, more awkwardly. She was never good with intimacy. Again, the pesky mosquito whizzed past her ear. She felt it faintly against her cheek.

The frog-man’s eyes seemed to shift ever so slightly. In an incalculable fraction of a second, his long, sticky tongue slapped against the mosquito and partially wrapped around Nadine’s head.

He retracted his tongue nearly as quickly and snatched her head from her neck. He watched in pathetic horror as a fountain of blood sprayed from the gaping hole that he had created between her shoulders.

Her body collapsed to the pier and slowly bled out. The frog-man just stared with her head still in his mouth. He did not mean to take her head. He had just seen the delicious mosquito and got more than he had bargained for.

He rolled her head around a bit with his tongue almost apologetically. It tasted pretty good. He guiltily took a small nibble. It crunched similarly as a bug would have. Finally, he bit down hard. The head caved in under his massive bite pressure.

An explosion of flavor coated his mouth. The frog-man was delighted. As he chewed, he discovered that her head was far more flavorful than any bug that he had ever eaten. However, just like a bug, her head was filled with a soft, chewy inside that he loved so much.

Soon, much too soon, he was finished with her head. He became depressed. How would he ever come across another meal as pleasing as that woman’s head?

Across the pond, next to the woman’s house, he saw two people with armfuls of groceries who had exited a car. Her neighbors, perhaps? His stomach rumbled and churned with hunger. He could almost taste their heads now.

He leapt and disappeared into the darkness of the night. He was off to catch his next meal.

© 2010 Brian Barnett. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Brian Barnett has been published over forty times by fifteen different publications. He is currently co-editing an anthology titled, Toe Tags: 21 Spine-Tingling Tales from the Best New Authors of Horror with William Pauley III that will be published in October of 2009.
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