I can feel it's tiny heart beat within my hand. It struggles and squirms against my grasp, trying to desperately free itself. Futily it kicks it's long legs, prompting me to strengthen my grip. The frogs eyes bulge and it pushes against my hand once again before relaxing. It's heart is now racing, purring like a little motor in my palm.
God I hated that taste. And that is right, I said taste. As in the taste of chocolate, or the taste of raspberries. See, ever since I was little I could taste the emotions of others. Just touch something and my mouth is instantly flooded with whatever that thing is feeling. Happiness? Tastes like bananas mixed with butter with just a hint of cinammon. Sorrow? Tastes like a cross between root beer and black licorice. And fear? Well fear tastes like you took a roll of pennies and shoved them in your mouth. Fear is sharp, bitter and metallic. Fear tastes just like the frog does right now. Fear tastes like copper.
I hear the cracking of branches and the splashing of water and I drop the frog in the bucket next to me and turn me head. Downstream I can see Sonja picking her way through the rocks. She hasn't noticed me yet and I watch her in silence. Even though the water of the little stream barely comes up to her ankles and her denim shorts only come down a couple of inches past her butt, she still gingerly holds the ends of them with two fingers. As though she is somehow keeping them from getting wet.
I laugh to myself as I watch her stumble over the rocks. She lets go of her shorts and holds her arms out in front of her to steady herself. She looks so awkward, with her long bony legs, like some weird water spider. A water spider with pigtails and the biggest brightest blue eyes I have ever seen.
She lifts her head to the sky, smiling as the sunlight caresses her face. Suddenly her brow furrows and I can see her nose scrunch up. A frown appears on her face. Her nostrils flare and her eyes open. She turns her head toward me.
She stares at me for a second. Our eyes lock. An obligatory smile comes over her face as she acknowledges my presence and I awkwardly hold my hand up to wave to her. She breaks the staring contest to look down at her feet as she grabs her shorts again and comes wading towards me.
I scoot over, making room on the rock I am sitting on, and she sits down beside me, hugging her legs and scrunching her legs to her chest.
"Haven't seen you in awhile." I say to her, staring out over the water and into the forest. I put my arms behind me and lean back, staring into the sky now.
She turns her head, placing it on her shoulder to look back at me. The sun is in her eyes and she is squinting. "I have been busy."
"Yeah right. I see you hanging out with those other kids. Have you forgotten us?" I cringe when the words come out of my mouth. I just know she is going to get defensive.
"You guys are like my family." Her voice is now squeaky and slightly higher. I can tell she is annoyed.
"And those people aren't." I say to her, "They will never understand us."
She says nothing and turns her head back to stare out over the water with me. I can't help myself. I reach out to touch her arm.
She recoils as my fingers touch her skin, jumping to her feet. With her other arm she now holds on to the spot where I had touched her. She is looking at me, possibly in anger. Possibly in disgust.
"You know you can't do that." She says. Her words are not a question. They are a statement of fact.
"I, I am sorry." I manage to stammer. She stares at me for another second, looking down at me as I stare back up, before she turns, grabbing back onto her shorts as she heads back the way she came.
I watch her leave and grab hold of my stomach. I feel sick. So sick. My stomach is in knots. I growl to myself as I let the waves of nausea pass. And I am angry. Hurt.
Hurt because of how she tasted when I touched her and angry because what she tasted like. She tasted like the frog. She tasted like... copper.
The realization makes me sick once again and I hold my stomach even tighter. My eyes start to water, but soon the pain subsides.
For awhile I sit and do nothing, but then my attention turns back to the frog I still have in my bucket. I grab it, holding it out over the water. Once again it struggles in my grasp, forcing me to hold it tighter.
"Am I a man or am I a monster?" I say to the passing breeze.
I can feel the frogs bones pop as I squeeze it in my hands. Blood, bile and guts ooze out from in between my fingers, plopping into the water in gritty drops.
I have answered my own question.
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