Being swallowed by a toad sucks. Kind of obvious when you think about it, but perhaps unsurprisingly, it wasn’t the kind of thing I’d spent much time contemplating before it happened to me. Getting to experience it first hand though meant that I had nothing but time to think about it.
“How am I still breathing if I’m inside a giant frog?” I asked.
“I’m not a frog,” the squishy, wet blackness around me said.
I might have screamed at that point. It was hard to tell since I couldn’t hear anything. I know I tried to scream though.
“That’s not going to help you,” the giant frog said.
“What have you done to me?” I asked when screaming didn’t work.
“You are confined,” the frog said.
“Confined where?” I asked.
“In my third, pre-digestion stomach,” the frog said.
“Third pre-digestion stomach?” I said. “Frog’s don’t have any pre-digestion stomachs, they’ve only got the one! Just a normal, regular stomach!”
“I am not a frog,” the frog said.
I would have shaken my head in frustration, but in addition to being blind and deaf, I was also apparently paralyzed. On the list of “Things That Suck” being swallowed by a giant frog was steadily climbing to the top of the pile.
“Why did you attack me?” I asked, hoping to steer the conversation into a more useful direction.
“You were trespassing,” the giant frog said.
“I was in an alley,” I said. “How is that trespassing?”
“You were trespassing on my lord’s privacy,” the frog said. “That is not allowed.”
“Your lord?” I asked.
“I am a Royal Vassal of His Majesty the Miser King”, the frog said. Pride echoed in his voice with each syllable. I had the sense that he probably practiced that phrase in front of a mirror a hundred times each night before he went to sleep.
“Maybe you’re majesty shouldn’t be having private conversations in the middle of the street then?” I said.
“Where the King chooses to converse and about what subjects is not for the likes of you to dictate,” the frog said.
“He’s not my king,” I said.
“That is a technicality which will be addressed shortly,” the frog said.
“Where are you taking me?” I asked.
“You are a prisoner,” the frog said. “Prisoners are taken to the dungeon.”
If being inside a frog was heading towards the top of the Things That Suck list, then I was pretty sure it was going to find “Imprisoned in a Dungeon” waiting for it when it got near the top. By rights the whole scenario should have left me a weeping, crazed mess, but there was something so impossible about a talking giant frog on top of all the other things that I’d seen that while I had to believe it was all happening, I couldn’t really process that any of it was more than dream.
“How are you even talking to me?” I asked.
“You are in the third pre-digestion stomach,” the giant frog said. “That is where food is placed which may not be food.”
“That explains exactly nothing,” I said.
“I can speak with you because I must be able to speak with you,” the frog said. “Otherwise, if you are not food, I might make the mistake of trying to digest you.”
“Well, I definitely don’t want to be digested,” I said. It seemed like a safe claim to make.
“Many sorts of food don’t wish to be digested,” the frog said. “What matters is whether the Miser King wishes you to be digested or not.”
“You only eat the people he tells you to?” I asked. It wasn’t a question I actually wanted an answer to but I was afraid to stop talking or I might go completely nuts.
“He is my lord,” the frog said. “I do not question my lord, his word is the whole of the law and is beyond reproach.”
“You never sneak a bite of a fly or something when no one’s looking?” I asked. A voice in my babbled that I should not tell the giant frog that it would be ok to eat me if his tummy wasn’t completely full. I ignored it. I got into this mess because I chose to start doing things. If I gave up on taking action I’d wind up either digested or whatever worst fate the Miser King had in store for me.
“We do not speak of our sins,” the frog said. “Only the King may know them. Only he may judge us.”
“Why would anyone judge you for eating?” I asked. It was an incredibly stupid question. I knew that the moment the words came out of me. We judge people for anything and everything they do, especially how and what they eat. It’s dumb and wrong, but the last time that stopped anyone from doing something was never as far as I could see. Fortunately the frog took the question in a different direction than I’d intended.
“We are not allowed to judge ourselves,” the frog said. “We do not have the King’s vision. We cannot see ourselves clearly. Only in his eyes is the truth of ourselves revealed, and thus only he may judge us.”
“What if he doesn’t judge you fairly though?” I asked.
“Each of us is flawed and sees things only from our own perspective,” the frog said. “What is fair to me, is not fair to you, because all fairness is subjective. Only by uniting behind a single vision, apart from each of us, can truly fair judgment be found.”
“Except none of that is true,” I said. “The King’s visions is only fair to him. There’s nothing that makes it more valid than my vision or yours. And we’re not limited to seeing things only from our own perspective. That’s what empathy is. Being able to see things from someone else’s point of view.”
“It is my belief that the King is the one above all, he sees all and judges all with perfect wisdom,” the frog said. “You cannot question me on this, my beliefs forbid it.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s not how beliefs are supposed to work,” I said.
“That is your belief,” the frog said.
There were arguments I could make to that. How questioning beliefs led to measurably better beliefs but I was getting the same sense that I got when I tried to have a discussion online. The frog didn’t want to discuss anything. He wanted to speak his beliefs and had zero interest in listening to anyone else. I’d yet to see anything productive come out of talking to people like that. The only good part of our little chat might have been that it reminded me that I needed to listen more. I already knew I didn’t like the Miser King, but that didn’t mean I shouldn’t hear to what other people had to say about him.
As it turned out, that proved to be easier than I expected. When we got to the dungeon the frog vomited me out onto the floor (which was exactly as unpleasant as it sounds). I shook my head and wiped my face, hoping that I wasn’t in too much trouble, only to find that waiting there for me was the Miser King himself!