Updated: Jul 19, 2020
She’d forgotten her knife.
It wasn’t that big of a deal, more of a precaution really, ever since she saw the story of a masked hiker who attacked a female runner in the woods. She almost threw her phone down in fury - the woods were supposed to be a safe place, especially for those who found solace in its winding paths and acres of green. Was there nowhere a woman could feel safe?
Her husband had gently reminded her that the woods have been a scary place since the dawn of time and suggested carrying a can of mace with her on her runs. She considered it for a moment, but she found she couldn’t imagine carrying some bulky container as she pounded the rocky paths, only to struggle with its operation when said attacker decided to make his move. So she settled on a knife, one that she could securely slip alongside her waist to use on anything that decided to prey on her. A pointless precaution, probably, but the sense of badass-ery it gave her as she ran could not be denied.
Today, however, she’d left it behind, but she decided not to be concerned. The trails were empty as the pre-vernal clouds dropped their cold rain onto the earth, scaring away those “nature-lovers” who disliked the slippery mud and quickly drenched hair. She was alone as she wound up and down the path by the creek, watching it rush and roar around its rocks like bodies of water do when reunited with their brethren, birthed out of the clouds above.
She ran until her lungs squeezed and she struggled to scoop in more restorative air, refusing to allow the pain to slow her down. She relished in the hammer of her heart, the ache screaming in leg muscles.
And then, she saw it, its discovery the thing that finally succeeded in tempering her rapid pace.
She attempted to catch her breath, trying to steady her vision so she could see through both its tremor and the constant rain drops that fell around her. The longer she stared, the more she was convinced that her mind was playing tricks on her, for there was no logical way that a man could be sitting so still on a rock in the middle of a rushing creek. It had to be some formation, a strangely angled tree or a cluster of garbage settled in just the right way. Except she was pretty damned sure it had eyes.
She gave up the fight to calm down, her exercising adrenaline quickly replaced by the fear of the unknown. She cursed herself for not bringing her knife, caught halfway between wanting to run back home the other way or creeping closer for a better look. Curiosity was the victor, taking over her legs as they pushed her closer to the lump of unknown amidst the waves.
The image of it grew clearer - a fat, motionless man, staring at her with bulging eyes from where he sat like a giant frog in the middle of the creek. He was shirtless, water pouring down purplish skin that appeared as if it had been forcibly stretched over his bulbous form.
Her rational mind and vision began its own argument, for there was no possible way that a grotesque, shirtless man was sitting in the middle of the creek staring at her. Perhaps she was hallucinating, perhaps she’d actually fainted somewhere along her trek and this was all some wily trick of the unconscious.
Her legs were now shaking as she grew closer.
He didn’t blink as she continued to stare at him, his mouth hanging open slackly as if frozen in place, water pooling at his folded legs. Frog was the perfect descriptor, she realized, as she observed his bald head and strange black eyes. The blob that sat before her looked like a giant, hideous frog.
The sensation to flee was finally growing stronger than her curiosity, as she looked around her, remembering how deep she was in the woods and how she was very much alone. She began to slowly back away, when she heard the sound - a low, rumbling croak, like the chorus of a hundred frogs, coming from the direction of the man.
And then she saw the pile of black clothing collected near the edge of the creek, an average sized shirt laid flat on the rocks. She saw his skin ripple and move as if filled with dozens of tiny creatures, the movement upsetting the stillness of his eyes that now rolled in opposite directions.
What she didn’t see, however, as she raced as fast as her legs had ever taken her back to her car near the start of the trail, was the tiny greenish brown frog that hopped out of his open mouth, and its brother, who found its way out through the torn flap of skin at his belly, apparently both finding the conditions inside their new home a bit too overcrowded for their liking.