Jonathan Wood’s story “Notes on the Dissection of an Imaginary Beetle” from Electric Velocipede 15/16 is available online.

Susannah Mandel’s short story “The Monkey and the Butterfly” is in Shimmer #11. She also has poems in the current issues of Sybil’s Garage, Goblin Fruit, and Peter Parasol.

Jason Erik Lundberg‘s fiction is forthcoming from Subterranean Magazine and Polyphony 7.

Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Talk to the Frog

by Luc Reid

“I think there’s been a mistake with my job placement,” I said, fingering the revolver nervously.

“Oh?” said the frog in the pearl gray suit. He didn’t seem very interested. Or surprised. He just sat behind his desk and leaned back in his emerald green Herman Miller chair, settling his cigar into the corner of his wide mouth. “Why don’t you tell me about it? Have a seat.”

The only seat was a wooden stool half-hidden under a potted ficus. I pulled it out so as not to be actually in the leaves of the ficus as I talked and sat on it. The frog frowned.

“Well, first of all,” I said, “I’m having some trouble working with talking animals.”

“What’s the matter? Skunks giving you lip? That’s just the way skunks are. You’ve got to have realistic expectations. They don’t mean anything by it.”

“It’s more that talking animals exist at all,” I said. “I’m just saying, it’s unnerving. A little beyond my … previous experience.”

The frog smiled widely. “Kind of a surprise, right? I love surprises. God, the stories I could tell you! But OK, beyond your previous experience. What else?”

“Well, there’s this gun,” I said. “I’ve never even shot a gun before. I don’t know–”

“What’s to know? They showed you how to work the safety, right?”

I nodded.

“So you point it, you pull the trigger. Somebody drops dead or they don’t. It’s simple.”

“But why do I have it in the first place? You don’t seriously expect me to shoot it? Who am I supposed to shoot?”

“Anyone. Everyone! It’s not my job, I’m not going to tell you how to do it.”

“Listen,” I said, standing up, “this is completely wrong. Yes, I needed a job, but nobody told me I wouldn’t be able to go back home after I got here. And I don’t want to shoot anybody. I’ve been telling these guys for days that I don’t belong here. They keep telling me I have to wait to talk to you, but you can’t do this, don’t you get that? This is America! You can’t keep a guy locked in a building and tell him to randomly shoot people!”

“No, you listen,” said the frog, leaning forward. “We can do anything we want. You walked in here of your own free will, and if we want to keep you here until you rot, we’ll do it. You’ll do what we say, act like we say, and if we tell you to go around shooting people, you’ll do it.”

“I’m not kidding,” I said. “You’re going to have to let me out of here.”

“And I’m not kidding that you’re not going anywhere,” said the frog. He reached for the intercom button on the phone, probably to call back those two rough-handed baboons who had shown me in.

I shot him.

Well, tried. I raised the gun and pulled the trigger; there was a bang, and then his tongue flicked out and seemed to knock the bullet aside–it was really too fast to see, but the bullet punched into the wall two feet to the side of where I aimed it. I noticed now that there were a few other holes in that wall.

The frog laughed. “That really wasn’t a surprise, but I still enjoyed it,” he said.

“What are you going to do with me now?” I said. “Are you going to kill me?”

“Kill you?” he laughed again, a deep, croaking sound. “I’m promoting you! Just wait ’til you see what I’ve got in mind. You’re a very lucky guy.”

I put the gun down on the stool. I wondered if the promotion came with a raise.

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