Thursday, December 25, 2014

the toad and the sun

[While it's not necessary to do so, first reading these previous stories, featuring the same characters, may make this one more enjoyable. First. Second. Third.]

The sun baked the barren valley, washing out any hope of color. All things within it were bleached to the same yellow dun, the same dull ghostly shade of gold. Wave upon wave of hateful heat rose and reflected off the dead stones, distorting any hope of clarity.

The great bone yellow toad hoped ponderously forward. It barely felt the burning stones beneath it. The toad’s skin had grown thick, hard, and dry, all the better to keep the secrets of its wet, soft insides. It hopped evenly ahead, unstoppable and unending.

It, she rather, she would not be the last living thing – that was foretold to be her smaller softer sibling – but she would survive this war and many more before the end.

Finally, the toad stopped inside the crossroads in an abandoned shell of a dead desert town. Without ceremony, the creature opened her hulking jaws to wretch forth her passengers.

After much coughing and sputtering, the long, lean, and weather-beaten form of Rutherford stood on uneasy legs. It took some time for his eyes to adjust. He took a moment sigh at the slime coating his brand new blue and white checked shirt.

Only then did he help the short blonde beside him to her feet. Her long summer green dress fared no better at least, he noted silently.

“That ain’t hardly no way to travel, Sandra Ellen,” Rutherford remarked.

“Hush,” she scolded. “The Ghost of the Frog King is an excellent ally.”

“I’m relatively certain that there’s never been a frog on the whole damn planet that gave two shits what a human being thought of ‘em,” he said through a grin. “Why would their King be any different?”

“You’re probably right, but I prefer to take a more cautious tack in these matters.”

He changed the subject, “You really expect anybody to be still livin’ out here?”

“I’m not sure, but at the very least her library will be invaluable to our efforts.”

“Uh-huh. Now looting weird shit outta the wilderness that, at least, is something I know how to do. So where we goin’ girl? Ain’t gettin’ any cooler here.”

She sighed and turned her back to the sun, looking for the long shadow of the standing stone.

“Where else would we go? Head for the darkness, sir.”

“After you, ma’am,” he quipped before drawing his heavy revolver and taking the lead.

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