There were frogs everywhere. Of the carpet there could be seen not one inch and the amphibians also adorned the three piece suite, curtains, photos, nested tables, television stand, and mantelpiece. Tens of thousands of eyelids opened and closed at regular intervals and a small number of the many creatures shifted or squirmed over neighbours but there was an otherwise strange stillness to the room.
“There are frogs everywhere,” said Jay quietly, but not quietly enough. A wave of startled movement broke out near the taller of the two men’s feet but swiftly ebbed into the uneasy calm once more.
“I know,” whispered Luke. “I have the gift.”
Jay looked down at the top of his friend’s head, unable to see his face but certain it would show exaltation from the tone of voice. “There are frogs everywhere,” he repeated, quieter than before.
Luke looked up, smiling. “I can make the noise and summon them,” he said, and took a deep breath.
“Stop!” said Jay a little too forcefully as he grabbed his friend’s arm. A short chorus of croaks and other assorted noises broke out in the room and there was a concerted effort by several hundred of the room’s cold-blooded denizens to get away from the loud and scary man. A kaleidoscope of greens and yellows and browns with occasional gems of bright blues, reds, and oranges undulated across the floor.
After about a minute near-silence and near-stillness returned.
“You’ve ruined Katie’s birthday,” whispered Jay. He saw Luke’s shoulders drop slightly but there was no response. “Six today,” Jay continued, “and all she’ll remember is a semi-aquatic home invasion, her cake ruined, her friends in tears, and her screaming in terror in her room.”
“I’m sorry,” said Luke, and it sounded like he meant it.
“Why today? Why would you choose to try this gift out today of all days?”
Luke looked around the room, seemingly seeing it and studying it for the first time. He couldn’t deny that there were frogs everywhere; some were on the walls and a couple had even made it across the ceiling and set up home amongst the light fittings in its centre. And the smell hit him suddenly too. Frogs had a distinctive odour and in this volume it was quite overpowering.
“I’m sorry,” repeated Luke. “I’ve felt I had this gift all my life and I don’t know… I just felt compelled to try it today.”
“All your life!?” Jay said incredulously, keeping his voice low. “Even six months ago?” There was a barely perceptible nod by way of reply. “Six months ago! Damn! Our planet is invaded by things so alien we’ve still not agreed on names for them. Millions die, so much damage, and then they fall foul of some allergy to frogs which addles their brains or brain-equivalents and they all commit mass suicide in the sea. And you couldn’t have tried out your gift back then and ended everything quicker? When Jenny was alive? Damn! Damn it man!”
Luke wanted to say he was sorry again but kept his mouth shut. Two frogs in the room started croaking in turn. Competing with one another or simply communicating, neither Luke nor Jay knew.
Jay took a deep breath, fought the gag reflex briefly, and then said calmly: “Do you feel you have a gift for getting rid of the frogs?”
“Maybe,” said Luke with a strange shake of his head.
“What is it?” asked Jay with some trepidation.
“I think it summons horses. Frogs don’t like horses.”
Jay looked at his glistening living room and at the smashed windows in the bay window; the amphibians had caused quite a bit of damage getting in and horses would probably cause quite a bit more.
“Katie’s always wanted a pony,” said Jay after a moment. “Do it.”