Here’s a bit of fun with ficton and fantasy. I’ll write the ending soon. 🙂
This short story was written for The Writer’s Tower FB Group, according to August’s theme of NAME. If one were to include the bonus words ‘asylum’ or ‘mustard’ in the submission, that would qualify the piece for a Writer’s Tower Medal! 🙂
The start of a new semester was normally a painful ritual, one that Eddy was more than familiar with. He was the one who wanted to go to college, so he had to grit his teeth and go through the motions. Three more semesters to go, then it will be all over, he kept reminding himself over and over again.
Every college had its own private code, and the seniors called the shots. The lecturers and administrators tried their best to maintain law and order to ensure the students got a decent education, but they were not the real bosses.
The seniors who called the shots in his college were aggressive and cocky. They gave kids like him a hard time because he was awkward and geeky. Who cared that he had been scoring A’s consistently? He was not fashionable, dressed in his fading baggy pants and mustard-yellow shirt that had seen better days. His somewhat crooked glasses perched precariously on his diminutive nose. He walked around with a shuffle, his tall frame stooping ever slightly so as to not draw too much attention to himself. He did not say the right things at the right time, and was snubbed by the popular guys in his year. They were athletic, suave and always preened to perfection. He shuddered to think how many hours of preening were required every day in order for them to emulate their favourite Korean pop stars.
Today was particularly bad. He arrived in college to see Leona, the most beautiful vision he had ever laid eyes on. The sight of her took his breath away, and he stood rooted to the ground, gazing admiringly at her as she joked and laughed with her friends.
The blow to his head took him completely by surprise. Brian had waylaid him from behind. He lost balance and tumbled to the floor. As he fell, Brian’s helpful friends shouted, “Timber!”
Well, he was tall, and he did make a loud thud when he landed on the floor, but that was not a nice thing to do. He found it strikingly weird that he saw the whole thing in slow-mo as he fell, as if he were an observer. The pain he felt was due to the embarrassment of falling flat in front of Leona rather than the impact from hitting the floor.
“Never look at my girl like that, stick man,” sneered Brian, baring his pearly white teeth. In his painful embarrassment, Eddy found time to be amused with the Korean pop get-up. What was Brian’s favourite group again? Was it Big Bang or Super Junior?
At the moment when all eyes were on him, Eddy felt like a refugee that needed asylum. It was a consolation though that Leona noticed his awkward position on the floor in the middle of the corridor and pulled Brian aside to stop him from beating Eddy up. It was enough of a diversion for Eddy to make his getaway. He was not the most graceful ‘stick man’, but he could be lightning fast when necessity dictates it.
Eddy shuffled out of the college compound, his ears still red from embarrassment. Of all the things that could happen… darn it! The few classes today had been a muted blur. He took down notes as he usually did at lectures, but he could not focus. The incident played in his mind over and over again. He thought about how he could have evaded the blow, how he should be more careful, but at the end, he still fell to the floor in front of Leona.
He took the bus home. Once he got down at his stop, he made a detour before going home. He was going to his favourite thinking spot. It was not much to most people. A small stream surrounded by groves of old trees. The place had seen better days. He did try to do his part by picking up rubbish and putting them in plastic bags he brought and disposing them at the dumpster located about 500m away from the place every week or so, but still, it was not enough.
He walked carefully along the stream, listening to the soothing sounds of running water and rustling leaves. Eventually, he arrived at a big boulder under a large shady rain tree. That was his spot, but he was dismayed to find that somebody had had a barbeque there recently and neglected to clean up before they left. He cursed under his breath as his picked up a small piece of rusting wire mesh with bits of charred dinner still stuck to it, empty beer cans and plastic bottles and bags. He put the rubbish into a black rubbish bag he had brought along in his backpack. After that, he washed his face and grubby hands in the cool water and lay on his back on his favourite rock. Still replaying the unfortunate incident in his mind, he threw pebbles absent-mindedly into the branches of the trees across the stream.
“Ouch!” A girl’s voice wailed, her form hidden by the obscuring dense foliage. Eddy snapped out of his misery momentarily in surprise. Had he injured someone with his pebbles?
A young girl not much older than Eddy stomped out from behind the trees, shouting insults at the top of her high-pitched voice. The sound was remarkably unpleasant to Eddy. Her slim, petite figure was all hard and angular in her fit of rage. Raven curls framed her fair face. Her brown eyes were daggers aimed at him. Eddy thought that if they had met under different circumstances, she might even have appeared pretty. Now, she just looked like a wailing witch itching to dig his eyes out.
“I’m sorry, okay? I didn’t mean to hit you with the pebbles.” That was all the awkward Eddy could think of at that point in time.
“I’m sorry!” The girl aped him, his posture, his facial expression, his tone of voice. “You aren’t sorry enough!”
“How can I make it up to you? Are you hurt? Can I bring you to a clinic?” He thought his second try at an apology was somewhat better.
“You clean up my stream and my forest, but that doesn’t mean you can do anything you want.” She was still angry, not willing to quit the fight yet.
“What? Are you stalking me? Is that how you know what I do here?” Now it was Eddy’s turn to get angry. “Don’t you dare do anything to me. I’ll call the police!”
“How dare you come into my home, hurt me and insult me!” The girl shouted. “You’re going to be really sorry.”
Eddy was surprised that she lowered her voice suddenly and muttered something at him over and over again in a language he did not understand. What was that? Was it some aboriginal dialect?
A strong gust of wind blew past. He looked up to see the leaves and branches swaying and whispering. When he looked back at the spot where she was standing with her hands on her narrow hips, she was gone. He searched behind the trees and along the river, but she was nowhere to be found. He felt a pang of guilt for causing her pain and hoped she was all right.
By that time, the sun was already low on the horizon. He picked up his bag of rubbish and delivered it to the dumpster, then walked home.
As he shuffled home, he mulled over the day’s events. One sorry incident after another. Could it get any worse? He felt oddly unsettled. There was a tingling sensation all over, which he attributed to nerves.
Right before he reached his house, he came to a deserted road. Seeing that there was not a car in sight, he crossed the road on the zebra crossing. Just then, a sports car turned a tight corner and screeched to a halt just inches away from him.
“Hey, toad! Can’t you see where you are going?” A 50-something Chinese man with fake-looking blonde hair shouted out from his open car window angrily.
“Another unlucky incident to add to my long list today,” Eddy thought to himself. He apologised profusely and quickly made his way back home.
The house was deserted as usual. Dad was away on a week-long business trip, while mum had to work late at an event. He read a little note on the fridge door – Dinner’s in the fridge. Please heat up in the microwave. I’ll be home late today. Love, mum.
Evening at home with me, myself and I, as usual, thought Eddy to himself. At least there was a low possibility of another unfortunately incident occurring?
The next day, he woke up feeling like he had a hangover, except he did not consume any alcohol the night before. Groggy, he shuffled to the bathroom to brush his teeth and freshen up before another challenging day at college. It was then that he looked at the mirror… and screamed!
In disbelief, he touched his face. Then he looked at his hands, body and legs. This could not be!
For starters, he was green. That was totally the wrong colour for a human. Secondly, he had webbing between his fingers and toes. Thirdly, he had warts all over. Fourthly, he had a very long sticky tongue. This was turning out to be a major nightmare! How could he leave the house like this? Is there such a disease that turned people into humanoid frogs overnight? Even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles look better than him now, except they were fictitious characters and he was not!
He paced round and round his room. How could this be? What to do? He could not even bring himself to wake his mother up and ask her for help.
Suddenly, it dawned on him… that man in the sports car yesterday called him a toad. However, he looked just like a regular angry Chinese man with a short fuse. He did not look the type to cause hocus-pocus mayhem, even though Eddy looked like a toad now.
Maybe that strange girl who shouted at me yesterday, Eddy thought. She was behaving weirdly before she disappeared. Could the girl have this much power? Well, he has to check all possibilities now, because he did not want to be a toad for the rest of his natural life.
His mind made up, he quickly put on a long-sleeved shirt, his faded long baggy pants, a jacket, socks, sneakers, sunglasses and a cowboy hat. He pulled up the collar of the jacket high to cover his green neck and looked in the mirror. Almost covered all the major green parts, he thought depressingly. He tip-toed out of the house and hurried towards his thinking spot at the stream, his frustration and desperation echoed in his awkward gait.
Alas, the petite girl with the curly raven locks was nowhere to be found. He walked up and down the side of the stream. Crossed it and look behind the trees. Nothing. Nobody was there. He called out to her, not knowing her name, but trying to sound sincere through the madness of his predicament.
At last, he sat down under a tree, tired out. He was broiling in his thick clothing in the hot and humid weather. Not daring to take anything off, he closed his eyes and dozed off.
“You have quite a predicament there,” a feminine voice said.
He jumped up in surprise. Since he was a toad now, the jump was pretty impressive.
“Who are you? How do you know what’s my problem?” He said guardedly.
“Everybody here knows. You pissed off a Class 1 Nymph. That was major news,” the bright-eyed girl said nonchalantly. “Nobody has pissed off a Class 1 Nymph in over five hundred years.”
Why did she not speak in a language that he understood?
At last, he managed to open his mouth and the words tumbled out, “What’s a Class 1 Nymph?”
“The one you hit with your pebbles yesterday.” The girl looked so young and innocent.
“Did she do this to me?” Eddy said numbly, waiting for the worse possible answer.
“Well, you really pissed Ira off, so she cast a spell on you.” The innocent look was getting under his skin for some reason.
“What spell is that?”
“She’s a namer, so she cast a special namer spell on you.”
“And what is a namer spell?” This was turning out to be some kind of scene from the Twilight Zone, the Twilight Saga and the Lord of the Rings combined.
“A namer spell makes you a shapeshifter. But you can’t control what you turn into. Others who name you will hold that power over you. That is the curse.”
“So the man in the sports car called me a toad and so I turned into one. Swell. Can the spell be reversed?” Eddy was not a natural comedian, but his situation seemed to have sparked some hidden talent for dry humour.
“Yes, it can be reversed. But there will be conditions for you to fulfil before Ira will be willing to undo the curse. That is the way of the nymphs.”
“Can’t you reverse the spell?” Eddy said hopefully.
“No, I’m afraid I can’t. Only Ira is a namer in this place. The rest of us here in this tiny forest are not.”
“Do I have a choice? Tell me what I have to do to not look like a toad or turn into something else tomorrow,” Eddy pleaded.
The nymph took pity on the young man. “Be here at the same time early tomorrow morning. I will consult Ira and let you know what she says.”
“All right, I’ll be here.”