His Highness, Her Highness

‘Are you sure it wasn’t a hoax?’ Mariana asked again.

Diego had a fierce look in his eyes.

‘Dude, I’m serious, it was a post from my weird, geeky friend who’s doing her PhD in frogs. No way it’s not true. There is a species of that frog here and we’re going to find it if you stop complaining.’

Gabriel was starting to sound moany.

‘We’ve been looking for hours, you guys. The Sun is about to set.’

‘Don’t you all think we should give it up already and start a fire?’ Ana said with a yawn.

‘I’m on the fire team!’ Mariana jumped up and down like an annoyed toddler.

Ana stretched her arms behind her head and stopped walking.

‘We should start the tents while it’s not dark too.’

‘Word!’ Gabriel and Mariana said in unison.

They could see the back of Diego’s head disappearing behind the trees.

‘You can be lazy and faithless all you want. I’ll keep looking. We’re getting high on that frog tonight and nothing’s gonna stop us!’

They were sitting around the little campfire, sharing a joint, when Diego came back from the woods with a crazy grin and something in his hands.

‘Found it! Just like the one in the picture! Dudes, we’re gonna get so high.’

‘Lemme see it. I just don’t buy it, the Brazilian Colorado River Toad. Why? How?’ Gabriel was skeptical.

‘Well, check it out for yourself.’ Diego showed them the frog, proudly.

Ana looked at the frog, then checked her phone.

‘It does look like the one in her picture.’

‘I told you!’ Diego sounded triumphant.

‘This is so exciting!’ Mariana was jumping up and down again, happily this time.

‘Well, ladies first. Wanna go, Mari?’

‘Hm, I don’t know. How do I do it?’

‘From what I know, you just gotta lick his back.’

‘Hm. Ok…’ Mariana seemed intrigued, half smiling. ‘Hand it over.’

‘Careful, it’s going to get away.’ Ana was still looking from the frog to the phone, joint in the corner of her mouth, maybe making a video, maybe taking selfies.

‘It’s not going to get away. It jumped on my hand when I found it. I was in fact holding that dead bug from this morning but it didn’t seem interested. It just came right to me.’

‘I don’t buy that either. I bet you dropped proper acid and you didn’t wanna share it with us, now all of a sudden you’re the frog whisperer and you’ve found a hallucinogen frog that doesn’t even exist here so you can get us high on placebo.’ It was hard to tell if Gabriel was serious or joking. The girls laughed, just in case.

‘It really doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. And it’s looking straight at me. I could even say it wants to be kissed.’ Mariana was holding the frog close to her face, the palm of her hand wide open. The frog quietly stared at her.

‘Are you both already that high?’ Gabriel smiled at the scene.

They all stood there a minute watching as the frog did nothing but blink occasionally.

‘Ok, I’m gonna do it!’ As Mariana said that she could swear she saw the frog close its eyes.

There was a PUFF and a curtain of smoke that seemed to come from every direction around Mariana. When the smoke was gone, there was a young naked Native South American man standing in front of her with a huge smile, breathing fast.

‘It worked!’

‘What?’ Mariana looked confused.

‘It worked! I can’t believe it! I’m sorry if I scared you, it was never my intention.’

‘Who are you?’ Mariana looked at him with that silly smile that accuses beforehand anything they do will be entertaining. The way you look at a small child you love playing a toy guitar. She was sure she was already seeing things.

‘I am an Enchanted Prince from an ancient people who lived in this land. I am now also the last of my kind.’ He paused for a while.

‘We were very happy here, and I was living the happiest moment in the life of a Prince. I had just been turned into a frog, which was the common marrying ritual for the royal family. If the love of the young suitor was strong enough, she would have the courage to kiss the groom and break the spell. It started as a serious tradition, but by the time I was about to do it, it was really just an excuse to see the big PUFF at the party. Most girls in my generation were into all sorts of weird stuff and wouldn’t specially mind kissing a frog. And my bride and I were very much in love so I was even finding it fun to be a frog, because I knew I was going to be turned back in half a Moon. Unfortunately, the Portuguese with their guns came to our village three days before our wedding and I was hanging with frogs, away from my bride. They took her before she could even undo the spell so that I could fight for my people and for her. I never saw her again. You remind me of my bride, young savior. Thank you.’

‘You’re welcome.’ Mariana was now fully smiling but had tears in her eyes.

‘Wow. I missed being human. I’ve been cursed for centuries. I thought this day would never come. It has been so long.’ The Prince paused again. Then he started over, as if talking about it made him more human.

‘I watched my whole village be taken and beaten and killed. Then I wandered through these woods as they got smaller and smaller. I watched roads, and then cities, be built and I felt the water get thicker and dirtier over the years, even more through my frog skin than a human ever would. Also, because of the spell I never died. I was trapped. It was so sad. Then a few years ago I saw this lady walking around here. She had frogs drawn on her T-shirt and her socks and her water bottle so I thought if she loved them so much maybe she’d kiss me if she saw me, so I jumped on her backpack. She did not kiss me. Instead, she took me to her laboratory. She was what you people call a Scientist. But I was not like the other frogs she kept there for Science, I was more like a pet. She told me she needed a friend and me jumping on her backpack was a sign that we should be friends. I’m not sure why she needed a non-human friend, but I sure needed some human company, so I stayed with her. She’d read and study with me on her shoulder, and she’d explain what she was reading, sometimes even practice for lectures. I learned to read and write simply because she wouldn’t stop reading aloud to me. I learned about many things over the last years, including the the Colorado River Toad. I also learned about the Internet and how people believe anything that is in it. She always got very worked up about that. I’d seen many of you kids camping out here to get high over the last few decades. One night, when she fell asleep on her desk with the computer on, I suddenly had a click. I posted a selfie she’d taken with me on her shoulder saying this frog was the Brazilian version of the Colorado River Toad. It took me a while to type with my sticky self, but she was having such a burnout that I had plenty of time to say the picture was taken in these woods and give instructions on how to get here. Then I kissed her goodbye, with the vague hope that it would work the other way around — which of course it didn’t because I didn’t have lips — and I came back here as fast as I could. It took me almost a whole Moon to get here with my little frog jumps. In that time it rained every day and every day it rained I thanked my ancestors who are now with the spirits of the rain. Nobody goes camping in the rain. While it rained I had enough time to move and would not miss anyone who’d come looking for me over the picture. With the help of my ancestors I didn’t miss anyone, you’re the first ones to get here and it worked. I can barely believe it! Thank you again, my savior! You remind me so much of my dear bride. It’s been so long and I missed her every day. I’m so lonely…’

Mariana looked overwhelmed.

‘You guys, have you licked it already? This is the trippiest trip I’ve ever been on.’ She slowly layed down on the grass by the fire and closed her eyes with a sigh, shedding a tear for the Prince and his bride and their people.