Becoming a prince

Submitted into Contest #44 in response to: Write a story that starts with a life-changing event.... view prompt



”The hardest part about becoming a frog was that his clothes no longer fit”

Konstantine pondered this for a minute as he lay there, feeling his back grow hotter by the second. It was mid-day and the sun stood high in the July sky. 

Why on earth would that be the hardest part?, he asked himself examining the statement made by Roald just a minute ago. Surely, there were far more difficulties associated with becoming a frog all of a sudden. Forget about clothes; you wouldn’t be able to drive your car, go to work, book a table, make money, see a movie. Dating would be doomed forever. Surely.

 Looking over at Roald who, despite all circumstances looked content on the flat rock next to him, he wondered if it was a riddle of some sort, or perhaps a stab at seeming philosophical. After all he didn’t know Roald very well, he might just be one of those faux-intellectuals with low self esteem who loved throwing memes around. Seemed friendly enough though, he thought, not at all worried and stressed the way Konstantine was. But then again, Roald had been a frog for much longer.

That morning he had dressed in colourful board shorts and a t-shirt from gymshark, it had taken him less than eight minutes to get his hair looking the perfect amount of messy and his sunglasses had disappeared seamlessly into his bleach blond locks. This was the same outfit he had spent what felt like an hour trying to get out of. 

At first it hade felt like falling, through one of those escape chutes the fire department uses to rescue people when conventional emergency exits had failed. He had tried it during the military. All of his buddies had laughed and joked about it, of course to hide the fact that they were all terrified. 

The chute was just a tight cloth tube almost entirely vertical, the lack of sight and the speed of which you passed through it, was scary enough to have your heart beating a hole through your chest. He prayed he never had to do it again.

The harsh rock underneath him was now starting to feel really hot against his stomach but he was not yet ready to move, the strange way his knees bent was unsettling, he could feel them against his body but tried hard not to think about it. He hadn’t looked at his hands for a long time. 

At first he had thought he was passing out as he seemed to turn around and into himself, the crushing darkness and weight of the fabric pushing against him on all sides. But instead of blacking out he panicked and instantly started flailing and kicking, trying to free himself, like an elephant in a collapsing circustent. Survival instinct is a funny thing, it is rarely activated or rational, but effective and instantly accessible without a moments notice. Konstantine had fought and struggled for a long time before he caught a glimpse of sunlight ahead, he wiggled and pushed himself towards freedom until he shot out into the world like a newborn. 

 - then he passed out.

”How you doing there buddy?” Roald still had his eyes closed and was facing the sun, his belly shimmered in the light. He was smiling but the yellow streaks leading from his mouth halfway down his body made it seem like a grin. 

”You are awfully quiet, you must have a thousand questions.”

Konstantine moved. The way his flat fingers stuck to the ground made him shiver.

”Is this a dream? It is right?” His voice reverberated inside his body and he instantly felt dizzy again. Roald turned to him, eyes big and shiny like pools of bronze.

”Have you ever passed out in a dream? What would be the point of that? No buddy, this is real, you should make peace with that.”

”But…it can’t be. I don’t believe in magic!” 

He really didn’t. Things were the way they were and never had he encountered anything that could not be explained. In fact, he prided himself on how rational he was and took great pleasure in shattering peoples silly superstitions and beliefs. 

A snort made the skin under Roalds throat rattle.

”What is magic, but a way to explain the unexplainable. Todays vaccines were yesterdays witchcraft. There’s so much between heaven and earth that can only be seen from one point of view.”

”But….we are frogs!?” 

”So we are. And there are worse things buddy. Believe me”

Konstantine looked at his hands again despite his tense unwillingness to do so, in fact his new eyes made it harder not to see them as they now seemed to provide a total visual field of 360 degrees. He could see Roald to his left, a field of grass to his right and a lake ahead, dry blades of grass as high as skyscrapers swaying back and and forth against the breeze - and then there were these hands. Bright green with yellow palms they looked sleek and moist like rubber water wings, and instead of five fingers he now had four long ones that resembled tentacles, with a flat bed of flesh on the tip of each finger. When he moved they slid across the ground like they were boneless. What could possibly be worse?

”But why? What happened? Am I dead?” 

”Do you feel dead?”

Konstantine could feel his heart ticking faster than it had ever done.

”No?….but I don’t understand what is happening! People don’t just turn into animals, that’s insane!”

”People turn into animals all the time!”, Roald said amusingly. ”The reason people don’t know about it is because no people are left to tell them”

”So it’s some kind of reincarnation then? I thought you said I wasn’t dead.!?”

”Again I ask, do you feel dead?”

Konstantine tried to shout in anger but all that came out was a load sharp croak that echoed around them.

”Damn you! I feel like a frog! Why do you have to be so goddamn elusive? I’ve seen kids movies, there’s always a wise owl, or a crazy cat, or some ninja rodent that talks in riddles! Why can’t you just speak clearly for once! What is going on with me! Why am I here!?”

For a minute, Roald didn’t answer, he just sat there in silence with his head turned towards the sun, the textures of his skin sparkled like newly blown glass. When he finally spoke, the sudden sound made everything else go quiet.

”Buddy, you are here because of you”

The sun had moved across the sky and shadows painted dark silhouettes across the ground.

”Because of me?” Konstantine was not as surprised as he tried to make it seem but could feel a growing unrest rise within him like air bubbles trapped in mud. ”I don’t understand!”

”All the species of earth does and acts exactly the way they are supposed to”, Roald said. ”They go by instinct, act out of hunger and doesn’t take, kill or love more than they have to. That is of course, all species except Man.” 

A fat fly buzzed past and Konstantine couldn’t help but follow it with his eyes. He hated the way it made him feel. Hungry. 

Roald continued:

”You see, Man, she takes whatever she wants, as much as she wants and acts the way she wants, based on how it makes her feel, not because of what she needs. Man is run by ego, and that is why Man has destroyed, killed and stolen so much of the earth and left so little for the rest of us, all the while feeling entitled to it, calling themselves masters. So the answer to your question; Yes, people do turn into animals sometimes - to learn humility.”

Konstantine could feel the anger boiling within him, his weird new frog body jerked and twisted around leaving traces of moisture on the rock beneath him.

”And how do you know all this? If you know so much, why are YOU here!? Why aren’t you off changing the world if you’re so perfect!?”

Roald didn’t move, didn’t turn away, just stood there calm and unfazed. Konstantine wished he could shut him up, just beat the smugness off his frog face.

”I used to have a wife” Roalds voice was low and deep. ”She wanted to start a family. She really wanted a family; with me, can you imagine? I told her, that in order to make a good home I needed to focus on my career. She understood. So we waited. And my career took off. In a short while I became very successful and life was good. Then she asked again if the time had come, to start having children. I told her we needed more money, more stability, after all, at that time I had only been a CEO for a year. So we waited. She waited.”

Their rock now lay completely in shadow and Roald started to move towards the lake where the sun still sparkled in the water. Without a word, Konstantine followed.

”After a while I started to get called away on meetings, business events, seminars. All just for show really, we spent perhaps a couple of hours off a three-day weekend talking about numbers and stats - the rest of the time we hung out in bars and casinos. Sure there were women, lots of women, those who fancied men with power, success and money, who wanted the company. We all knew what it meant, business transactions was all it was”

They left the hill and moved into the grass. The shore still lay far ahead but the sound of rippling water could now be heard as Roald continued:

”I was unfaithful, many times, and of course my wife knew, she was not stupid. She must have found a way of handling it, not by cheating herself, she wouldn’t do that, but by closing her heart to it. I still bought her stuff you know, theatre tickets, flowers, all the things clichés are made of. And she accepted them without a sound. She never scolded me, never yelled. I think it killed her spirit after awhile. Her soul.”

Konstantine really wished he didn’t have to hear this, he was cold and the blades of grass felt sticky and wet against his skin. 

 ”She still wanted a family even though she despised me, even though I hurt her. Truth be told, I never wanted kids, but after all this time and all my guilt I felt I owed her something. So we started to try” 

Roald let out a pained high-pitched call that made his whole body vibrate. 

”But by then it was too late. We were too old. When the doctor told us it wasn’t going to happen, that’s when she cried for the first time. After all I put her through, that’s when her heart finally broke. She didn’t leave, but she changed. And one day - I did too.”

Listening was not something Konstantine was comfortable with. Other peoples emotions, hearing about their days - that all got in the way, didn’t serve him, didn’t add anything useful. He had gotten good at smiling and nodding along, but used every chance he could to steer the conversations back unto himself. After all, he was more interested in other peoples thoughts on him, than what they thought in general. If he got to speak he could make them like him, but hearing them only served as a reminder of what he didn’t like about himself. Which was a lot.

This time he couldn’t just drown it out, couldn’t run away or make up some bullshit story in order to seem perfect and good. This time he was stuck in a new world, tethered to a strange new body, filled with new sensations - with a strange companion who spoke in riddles, but seemed to know the truth somehow, even though he himself hadn’t told him - and that scared him more than anything else.

The lake lay in front of them. The calm surface seemed to be a portal into an upside down world.

”That is my story”, Roald said. ”Now you know.”

”What does that have to do with me!?”, Konstantine said forcefully. ”I have never been married, I have never done any of those things, it doesn’t apply to me!” 

”You have never been married that is true, but you have broken many hearts, hurt many people, and only apologised when you needed the escape, not because they needed the apology”

”And how do YOU know all this?, I have never met you before in my life!” 

Roald stared calmly across the water.

”I know because I’m here to explain, once you get it, I’ll get to go back being just a frog. Are you ready to listen?”

A swarm of mosquitos flew by like a storm cloud.

When Konstantine didn’t reply Roald continued:

” You have mistreated people around you, people who liked you, even people who saw through you and honestly cared. You have kissed women who didn’t want you to and didn’t stop when they told you. You laughed it off when they tried, to save yourself from embarrassment .”

Konstantine could feel a knot start to turn in his stomach. All the shame and guilt he had bottled up suddenly rose to the surface like lava.

”That is such bullshit! I haven’t forced myself on anyone! Some girls even like it when a man takes charge. Then suddenly they feel bad about it because they have been told to be good girls, and that is not my fault! I shouldn’t be turned into a damn frog for doing something that didn’t hurt nobody!”

Roald turned towards him. His big yellow eyes shone like fire.

”People already saw you as a frog, you just didn’t care. You jumped from pond to pond, polluted it and then left when it became inconvenient to you. You didn’t change, didn’t grow, just kept going without consequences. So now, here you are.”

If this had been anywhere else, in the real world he might have struck Roald, kept up his facade of perceived strength , shouted something obscene and then left, possibly even cheered on by his comrades. But this was not that, he was no longer himself, the truth was as apparent as the webbing between his toes. When he spoke his voice was as thin as a dry reed.

”So….what can I do? I mean, I must be getting a second chance right?”

Roald looked at him.

”You have one. This is it.”

Elated, Konstantine spun around and almost fell over.

” I get it! I’ve seen the movies. I’m supposed to grow right? To learn and change my ways? Perhaps get a girl to love me - true loves kiss and all that? Then will I change back?"

The summer wind blew across the surface of the lake making the upside down tremble. 

”You don’t understand”, Roald said softly. ”This is not a movie or some fairytale. Change comes from within, not on the outside. Remember, we turn into animals to humble ourselves. You seem to think it’s a punishment, that turning back is the prize. I’m telling you it’s not.”

Konstantine froze, something about the tone of Roalds voice made him uneasy.

”B-but….it has to be!?”

A fish jumped in the water shattering the surface in a shimmering spray. The mist carried with it a sweet smell of seaweed and dirt. Roald sat perfectly still letting the cool air soothe him.

”There are two choices” he said finally. ”You can spend this life thinking about what you’ve lost, complain about missed opportunities, and cry about the fairness of it all. Perhaps along the way you go over what you did and how it affected others, maybe you come to realise where you went wrong and why it mattered.”

He let the next sentence hang in the air between them like breath on a cold day. 

”Or; You can live a good life - as a frog. The choice is yours.”

Konstantine felt his world crumble. Roald continued :

”Do you understand?”

Fear ripped through his body like jolts of electricity and Konstantine could feel his hind legs tighten as if preparing to launch him into the air. 

Tell me you understand!” Roalds voice boomed with an urgency that hadn’t been there before which shook Konstantine to his core.

”I UNDERSTAND!”, he cried, fear pressing down on him like concrete. 

He wanted to run, run, run away, away from this place and out of this dream but his feet stuck to the ground like anchors. He couldn’t move. 

In the grips of panic he noticed Roald still sitting calmly six inches to his left. As he watched the man-turned-frog, desperate for anything more he might tell him, Roald, with lighting speed, snapped his mouth open, shot out his tongue, and caught a huge black fly that was passing by. 

”Help me!” Konstantine screamed. ”Please help me, I don’t know what to do! I don’t know where to go!!”

But Roald only croaked in response, no longer a bearer of knowledge, but a simple frog who did what he was supposed to. 

Without warning, he jumped into the water, and in a splash of light -

he was gone.

June 03, 2020 23:42

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