Just a warning. This story may get pretty graphic for some readers. It’s a different type of creepy than I usually go for. If you can handle it, enjoy. Based on a true story.
There were so many things I loved about my summer vacation. The morning mist that left dewdrops on the bright grass, the way the sun shone in the afternoon, and the light breeze that carried in from the shore. My favorite thing about summer was that I didn’t have to sit in a classroom for six long, dull hours a day. My sister, Gracie, and I would explore the neighborhood, as long as we were home before the light on the end of the street came on. Heck, we played outdoors so often that I even knew when the light was gunna change by the way that sunshine’s glow faded from our skin.
Sometimes we would play army. We’d crawl through the grass in the lot next door and hide near the trees and the fence. It was better when Scott and Jeremy played too, cause then we could make teams and build forts out of the branches that fell. The big, leafy ones that dangled, broken from the oak tree after the rainstorm, were the best ones. They were strong and when you poked them into the dirt, you could make a dense, leafy wall to hide behind. And hiding was important, cause if you got found, than the other team would run toward you with homemade water-bottle squirt guns. Sometime’s I’d go spy on the boys while they planned their most secure fort. They said it cheating, but alot of real army guys spy on their enemies, so I thought it was fair game.
We played a whole bunch of different games in that lot, mostly just me and Gracie. In the afternoon, my mom would ring a bell and wait out on the porch with Popsicles and all the kids would open her white picket fence and run into the yard. Sometimes she had snacks or juiceboxes too. We’d wipe our sweaty faces and run back out, excited to see what else our imagination could create.
Today, I wanted to play jungle. Me and Gracie got real low and started slithering through the tall grass. When you were lying so close to the ground, everything looked bigger. If you imagined hard enough, the tall grass were reeds and trees that stretched way above your head. You could imagine little fairies hiding between the dewy blades and giggling at you.
Suddenly, I heard something move, right next to my head. I sat upright and looked down, keeping a keen eye for another rustle. Gracie saw him first.
“Oh, LOOK! A lovely frog! Maybe we can invite him to tea!”
She knelt down and scooped him up. He blinked.
“Oh. My. GOOSHHH!” I giggled. “He is the cutest, fattest guy I have ever seen.”
“He is kinda slimy though.” She crinkled her nose and I held out my hands. She plopped his cold, squishy body into my hand. He blinked again.
Me and Gracie thought long and hard. Then our eyes widened as we came to the same conclusion and ran toward’s moms house, frog in tow.
“Mom! Mom!” I yelled, excitedly. My mother came outside, more curious than concerned, and let out a full bellied laugh when I presented her with my find.
“Can I keep him?” Me and Gracie made the biggest, roundest-eyeballed, please-faces that we possibly could. “I promise I’ll take good care of him!” My mother agreed, with a relenting sigh.
We got all sorts of things at the pet store, some dirt for him to lay in, a little log, and this huge book about all different kinds of frogs, with pictures. We got him this big aquarium where he could jump around, but when got home and set it all up, he snuggled into the dirt in one corner. Still, this was the best day ever. Gracie wanted to name him Billy, and I thought that was a good fit.
“What do they eat, mom?” I asked, eager to learn everything I could.
“Bugs.” She told me.
Fall was coming, you could tell cause the sun set sooner and the wind made you shudder when it blew. But me and Gracie were excited, because we had a new friend to spend our time with. Every day, we misted inside his aquarium, keeping him humid and moist, just like it felt outside earlier that summer. Me and Gracie took turns feeding him a big, fat, worm every day. It was rude to stare at people when they were eating, mom said, so we put his worm carefully in his food dish and left him be.
Billy didn’t move much. Sometimes he’d wiggle a little bit and get more comfortable, and sometimes he’d blink his eyes, but me and Gracie got pretty bored. I didn’t really want to get my hands all slimy so I didn’t hold him a lot. I was really hoping he would ribbit or maybe even hop like frogs always did on tv. Even though Billy was not that fun anymore, we still remembered to put a big fat worm in his glass box, and spray him so his skin stayed nice and soft.
I was doing my homework after school when I heard a quiet noise. It sounded like a soft, quiet rustle, but I couldn’t completely identify it. It sounded like it was coming from Billy’s cage, but I couldn’t really tell. I told Gracie to come listen. Maybe she could tell what the sound was. She put her ear up to the screen on the top of his box, real close. Her nose scrunched when she heard it, and I could tell that she was trying to think of an explanation.
“Maybe, if I pick him up?” She looked at me quizzically. I raised my shoulders so she took off the screen, slowly. We didn’t want to scare Billy or make him jump, so she moved really carefully and put her hand around the frog.
Her scream pierced the air louder than the time she broke her leg and she ripped her hand out of the aquarium lightning fast. As she did so, Billy’s fragile skin burst open along his back. Pink and grey flesh spilled out like soft jelly. Hundreds of spindly legged beetles climbed out of his pulsing, quivering body, covering the floor of the aquarium in seconds. Some of them had guts oozing from their pincers. I slammed the screen lid back on. Heart pounding, I carried the tank outside as quickly as I could. The beetles scratchy legs itched against each other’s shells. Their wings buzzed as they swarmed, growing aware of their confinement. I left it on the back porch, for mom to come help with. I was nauseous from the smell and the gruesome image.
I had learned a lot of things that summer. But some things, I learned too late. I had no idea that fat, white worms would burrow into the soil, and escape being eaten. I didn’t even know that they turned into beetles, who would start nibbling at the soft skin on Billy’s tummy, safely concealed under the soil, and then breed, as they crawled around in his insides. I didn’t notice when Billy stopped blinking, or when his gullet flexed, swollen with parasites, instead of air. I guess if I did know then we wouldn’t have been feeding a dead frog. To this very day me and Gracie still can’t sit and do homework in the quiet. My spine tingles and I’m scared my ears will pick up a little rustle in the corner where Billy sat.