by Luna Corbden
I am a toad. And I want you to lick me.
Your tongue won’t hurt me at all. It’s wide and rough and relatively short, but it will only tickle. I promise.
You think I’m merely an animal (you’d be wrong about that), not even a very smart animal, a fat round reptile (you’d be wrong about that, too), just out to catch flies from my hollow next to the desert river.
Come on, have a lick. You’re not doing it for the flavor. I’ve never tasted myself but judging from the looks on people’s faces, I’m not that great.
You know why you’re here.
That’s it. Draw me closer. You want to get the milky stuff leaking from my throat.
You’ve done worse – swallowed five spiders in your sleep, for instance. And that cold medicine your mom used to force on you. Don’t get me started on that new health drink. I’m sure I taste better than that.
Or maybe not.
You won’t know until you try. You can do it.
See that was pretty easy. Don’t worry about me. Now just close your eyes. This is the best part.
Colors dance before you. If your eyes were open – hey I said close them! If your eyes were open, everything might shift a little, off the rails, under the sideways. Vertical lines might seem to bend. Shapes distort. That boulder you’re looking at might twist into a knot.
It’s like staring a little too long at an optical illusion, isn’t it?
But now your eyes are closed. Not because I told you to. You can’t understand this nonsensical croaking any more than I can interpret your mammalian blabbing. You’ve closed your eyes because the twisting trees and the unnatural tilt of the sky made you dizzy.
I tried to warn you.
You immerse yourself in this experience, watching the abstract colors as they rollick across the backside of your eyelids. Time distorts now. You have one epiphany after another.
You think it’s a hallucination. I know better.
Have you ever seen the inside of another creature’s subconscious? Have you ever seen inside yours?
No, you haven’t. You’re too afraid to look. You are so terrified of your own mind that you do crazy things like travel across the country to consume amphibian-secreted “hallucinogens”. You do it for kicks. Maybe you delude yourself, saying you’re here on a spiritual journey. Either way, you’re unwilling to look at your own soul.
So instead, you unwittingly look into mine.
I smile at you with my wide mouth as your unsteady hand sets me back down under a dying scrub at the edge of the river. I squat on a crunchy brown leaf with my green toes curled around a fallen branch.
I could jump away in mock terror at being lifted into the air – and licked – by a giant. But I don’t.
Because I’ve been waiting for this. I’ve been waiting for you. I’ve been waiting for this communion.
As your mind mingles with my soul and tastes my vivid and colorful perceptions, my psyche frolics with yours. The high you experience is nothing compared to my ecstasy. Your pretense may be spiritual pilgrimage, yet you know nothing of the transcendence I feel.
I hop among the lily pads of your personas, those you show your parents, those you show your friends, those you show your lover, those you show yourself, and those you hide from even yourself. I submerse myself in your ideas, your dreams and aspirations, art you’ve never bothered to create, deep thoughts you’ve never had the courage to express.
I catalog them, in sequence, an index of human thought. And then I begin dissecting. As a specimen, you are like every human. There is your heart, your brain, your gut, your nervous system. Your emotional organs are laid bare under my microscope.
Mentally, I sketch. The data is transmitted and recorded forever.
After a half hour, your high wears off. My connection to you grows thin and snaps. I leap off the branch and sink slowly into the still, murky water. My eyes peek above the surface as you stumble off with declarations like, “Whoa man!” and “What a trip!”
You get back on your mountain bike or hop into your jeep, whooping it up with your friends or waxing long and mellow about your amazing spiritual connection to nature, or the divine in all things, or some claptrap nonsense. You think your life is changed.
You don’t even look back at me, and you will never pay me any mind. I am just a frog that secretes psychoactive chemicals.
And you are just an intriguing life form with several interesting talents.
Having much of a clue is not one of them.
* * *
About the Author
Luna Corbden (who also writes as Luna Lindsey) lives in Washington State. They are autistic and genderfluid. Their first story, about a hippopotamus, crawled out of their head at age 4. After running out of things to say about hippopotami, they switched to sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. Their stories have appeared in the Journal of Unlikely Entomology, Penumbra eMag, and Crossed Genres. They tweet like a bird @corbden. Their novel, Emerald City Dreamer, is about faeries in Seattle and the women who hunt them.