Nov. 22, 2009

Chapter 17: Existence Fail

We continue to sit.

Chapter 18: Frog

Sen says, "So..."

There is a pause.

She says, "Stan, do you... mind if we join you for the rest of the movie?"

Instead of responding, Stan pulls a remote out of his sweat-pants pocket, and Quuhod goes back to his self-struggle.

And, instead of sitting in silence, at least now we've got a distraction.

***

Gully stands up and grabs us all some soda from the fridge. This movie isn't my favorite, honestly. A bit B-movie gruesome for my tastes, you know?

***

Yuck.

What I really like, I guess, are stories that remix existing tropes, ones that take a story we already know and force it into a new shape, take us to a place we couldn't otherwise predict.

Like, imagine this:

There's this guy, right?, a straight up fantasy prince, with a straight up fantasy curse on him: guy gets frogified. Same story thus far, if he kisses a princess, he goes back to being Handsome McRulerPants. Only, so the thing is, rather than a normal "sucks to be you" type of curse, this one's got a bright side. The guy can't die, but only as long as he's still a frog. (TWIST!) So, now the guy thinks, "Hey, great. Princesses aren't all that much fun anyhow; what do I care? I'm just gonna rule the world for eternity. Age of peace, loved by everyone, all that." Only, here's the thing. In the real world (or, you know, the fantasy world)? Frogs can't talk. He goes up to his old princely buddies (that is, his closest servants), and he tries to say, "Hey, fellas! How about we go swampin'?" Only, it comes out "CROAAAAAK!" and the servants start chasing after him calling him "Our tasty pal." But, he thinks, "You know what? Whatever. I'm still immortal. Forget civilization. I'm gonna be super awesome alone guy." And, he jumps off into the jungle and spends, like, a thousand years learning to knit (which is kind of a piece of shit when you're a frog), becoming a fantastic croak-singer, figuring out that frogs can actually swim upside-down, and it's maybe the best feeling ever, getting good at writing with mud on his finger, and doing all sorts of other things. Becoming a Renaissance Frog, basically. But, you know, after a while, he goes Groundhog Day, and he starts thinking, "I'm lonely," and "I'm unhappy," and "Living forever is boring," and he starts wondering if, you know, maybe he wants the good old human life after all. So, he heads out of the jungle thinking, "Now, I just gotta find a princess." But, the thing is, a thousand years is a long time, and technology has made some pretty dramatic changes. Turns out, his jungle is one of only a handful of fully wildernessy areas around without giant buildings, or highways, or factories, or young folks (really young to the frog) running around trying to experience the world before they turn 30. So, being accustomed to horse-drawn carriages, the frog is, needless to say, pretty freaked out by the world he finds waiting for him out of the jungle. Plus, engineering aside, folks have also been advancing magical practice, so now, being transmogrified is a fad, and the unfortunate side-effects of dark age magic (inability to talk, immortality) have all been overcome. There are all sorts of giant frogs, kangaroos, lions, and lizard dogs just chatting with each other outside of a school, or a girl in a suit and holding a briefcase downs a potion, is birdified (the suit becomes a tiny no-sleeved shirt; the briefcase becomes an even smaller bird), and soars off. This is bizarre for the frog not only because, holy crap there's lots of fast things and weirdo magic, but also: what the Hell? Women wear sharp-looking clothes and do things that aren't just about making men's life easier or looking good. And, it doesn't take a lot of listening into various conversations for him to learn some pretty disturbing news: his world has abandoned the feudal system, so princesses are hard to come by. In fact, there are basically, like, five left, and they're just figureheads and mostly pretty old (which, he thinks, "Well, so am I, but I'd look young if I got humanified. I don't want to be with an old lady!"), so... shit. What's he gonna do? Little old immortal frog in a foreign world that wouldn't even really value him if he returned, and no real way to change back into a human. But, he's just about used up all the charm of the jungle, and - home or no home - he doesn't want to go back. So, he's just hopping along, and he finds a park with a pond in it, and he just lives there for a while, hoping that maybe the feudal system will come back eventually. Which, then, duh, it's at that point that he falls in love. It's this girl who shows up every day at the park and hangs out with some pals, frisbeeing or picnicking or chatting, never too far from the pond. It's love at first sight, and second sight, and third sight... and, he just loves everything about her: how she looks, what she wears, the way she moves. Plus, get this, her nickname is "Princess"!. So, he thinks, "All right, kids. This is destiny. I gotta kick this sucker." And, he approaches the girl and her friends having a picnic, and he starts doing his awesome frog-singing, and everyone gets all quiet, and he hops up with some mud on his foot and starts writing on the picnic blanket. Since his singing is so totally incredible, nobody tries to stop him, and he writes the letter "I" and goes hopping away to get more mud, then he comes back and writes the letter "a," and so on and so forth, and now Princess and the rest are all just in shock, not knowing what to do with this sentient frog who isn't turning into a human or talking to them, and they're saying things like, "Dude! That frog is totally writing shit. Rad!" and "You rock, frog man!" and, eventually he gets it all out, "I am prince. I need princess kiss me," and the kids are all just rolling on the ground laughing their asses off, and they say, "Frog man's got the hots for Princess!" and "Princess, kiss the frog, Princess!" and the frog's just nodding and nodding, thinking, "Finally. This is finally gonna happen!" and Princess is all, "Ew! Yuck!" (to which her friends say, "he needs you, Princess; he needs you!") and then "Ew! Someone else kiss him!" ("You're the only princess here..." "I don't see any other princesses close by...") and then "Oh, all right, but only if you guys don't post this shit online and get my parents all worried and throw-me-out-of-school-erly," and she can't stop laughing, and she leans in, and she gives him the tiniest most closed mouth kiss of all time, but it's enough, and he becomes a real man again, and he's young and handsome and perfect, and he says, "M'lady! You have saved me! I am a long-lost prince, and you are my true love!" and everyone bursts out laughing, Princess included, and she (wiping her mouth) says, "I'm your what?!" He says, "True love, of course." She says, "True love? Ha, how bourgeois! You've known me how long?" He doesn't know what "bourgeois" means. He says, "I have known you since before you were born, since before I was born." Tears are coming out of her eyes now, and she can't talk for a while. She says, "Look, I'm not sleeping with you, jerk." The frog is affronted and confused, and he says, "But, we are meant to be. You are the most gorgeous girl I have ever laid eyes on." She's stops laughing. She says, "Yeah, because that's what I want, a guy who only cares how I look. That sounds great." He is flabbergasted. Princess says, "Now, croak off, ass hole. I'm trying to have fun with my friends." So, he walks off, and now he gets cold at night, and soon, his smell starts getting to him, so he has to find a place to live, but the castle's gone, and nobody recognizes him, and nobody's even willing to hire him (apparently frog skills and human skills aren't particularly interchangeable), but he eventually lands a gig as a construction worker, and he lives out the rest of his life tired and alone.

Contributed by:
Ratbaby

***

I open my eyes. There's a blanket over me, and nobody next to me. On the other couch is Gully, asleep, with a blanket over him. I sit up and look around. Sen is sitting against the wall behind my couch. She looks up at me and smiles, her eyes droopy. Stan is nowhere to be seen.

It's barely light outside, probably 7:30-ish. My tiredness hits me like a giraffe on ice.

Sen whispers, "We made a decision while you were asleep."

I whisper, "Yeah?"

She whispers, "You don't have to join in or anything. It's up to you."

I'm... not sure what to whisper to that.

She whispers, "We're gonna spend a couple of sick days, meet with some lawyers, see if we can't sue all these companies."

I whisper, "Yeah, okay..."

She whispers, "I mean, this can't be legal, right?"

I whisper, "No, I guess not..."

She whispers, "And, at night, we're gonna crash the smaller meetups. They should probably know that this sorta thing can happen, and some public sympathy wouldn't hurt our cause."

I whisper, "I... I guess..."

She whispers, "You don't have to come if you don't want. Gully's still on the fence."

I whisper, "Why... why only the smaller meetups?"

She whispers, "The bigger ones'll probably have some Meetup.com bigwigs at them, and anyway, they aren't in trouble like the smaller ones."

I nod.

She whispers, "Anyway, we're heading out of here in an hour or so, then going to pick up whatever stuff we need."

I whisper, "Great."

That gives me time to... uhh...

I feel my lack of laptop as a tingling like it something is missing. I pull out my phone just to fiddle with it. I used to be able to check e-mail on it, even on those rare occasions when my laptop wasn't readily at hand, but... I mean, what do you do when your identity vanishes? The Internet starts to seem like a lot less fun. I guess I understand what newcomers feel like, why people are so reluctant to join in. It's just, after a while, you start to feel like you're a part of something, a part of a group of people doing something interesting and new, if not important, and you fill up your time with little knickknacks and coolitries, and you tweet, and you retweet, and suddenly a whole week has gone by. But, when you lose your RSS Reader, and all of the recommendations of your kind-of-not-really-friends-anymore, where do you even look for things to do online?

Sen whispers, "Wanna go get some breakfast?"

I whisper, "Sure."

And, we sneak out of the house.

***

When we get back, Gully answers the door, and - coming inside - Stan is in the kitchen, filling a cooler.

Stan says, "And, they return."

Sen says, "What are you doing?"

Stan says, "Packing. We may be gone for a while."

Sen says, "What, are we going camping? Are we gonna be in the wilderness, no grocery store for hundreds of miles, dead if we run out of food?"

Stan's eyes narrow. He says, "I was trying to be helpful. But, if you prefer, I can look out only for myself."

Sen says, "Only three suitcases then?"

Stan says, "All I need is a gun and a pack of sandwiches."

Sen's eyes widen. She says, "A... what?"

Stan says, "It's a saying."

Sen says, "Whatever. Just don't actually bring a gun."

Stan says, "Wonderful. Yet more sound advice."

Sen rolls her eyes.

Stan says, "Do please enlighten us if you arrive at any more educational treasures."

Sen says, "Anyway, just make sure to leave some room in there. I'm gonna wanna cool stuff too."

Stan stops packing and looks at Sen. He says, "Aha! The cooler proves useful after all."

Sen says, "Yeah, well, if you're bringing it anyway..."

Stan is just looking at Sen.

Sen says, "I... just want to bring some apples, okay?!"

Stan says, "You're going to store your apples in my cooler?"

Sen rolls her eyes. She says, "No, I'm not. They're for apple bobbing." She pauses, and she and Stan are just looking at each other. She says, "Yes, what I'm saying is that I'm going to store some apples in your cooler. I like my apples crisp."

Stan continues to pack, and after a couple of minutes, he says, "I am ready."

Sen says, "So, who all's coming?"

Stan says, "Clearly, me."

Gully says, "Yeah, I'm in too."

Everyone turns to me.

Sen says, "No pressure, Rose."

Oh, fuck it. How else am I going to spend my time? I say, "I'm in too."

We all pile into our respective cars, except Stan with Gully, and drive, first to Gully's house (he runs in, comes out with a duffel bag, and he and Stan jump into Sen's car), and then to Sen's house (she was not joking about the apples; she has a giant bag of them, maybe ten), and finally to mine, and I grab some clothes, bread, peanut butter, my passport (who knows?), and my laptop.

I climb into Sen's car, in the back with Gully, and Sen looks at me through the rearview mirror. She smiles.

Nov. 23, 2009 →

Comments

  1. (Untitled)

    Written:
    Dec. 02, 2009, 06:04am
    By:
    Poppy
    Awesome story, Zuri!

Leave a Comment

Made available under the Creative Commons Attribution License

If you see this, please ignore everything from here on out on the page. (It's for people who have CSS and JavaScript enabled. [Which isn't you.])