There once was an old man who lived by a lake. He stayed all alone in a cold, worn cabin where he kept to himself. The thing the old man liked most about this cabin was that he could hear everything and nothing all at once. Sometimes he could hear the chirping of crickets, the whistling of the wind, and the crashing of the rain against the windows of his cabin. Sometimes he could even hear dripping from his bathroom sink. No matter how many times he tried to fix that sink, it would continue to drip. Perhaps, that’s how he grew to appreciate it. Aside from all the common noises, he could also hear the deep, peaceful silence of nothing at all. This was the way the old man liked it.
One evening, the old man sat on his porch whilst looking towards the lake. Although he loved the seclusion of the cabin, he hated that lake. He would spend hours and hours wishing it away, but it never would disappear. It would simply stare back at him, blank and blue, cold and cruel. A fisherman, he was, but he refused to fish in the lake. He would walk miles to the nearest stream before casting a line in its murky depths.
After several hours of staring coldly out beyond his porch to the calm, still waters, the old man stood up and headed for the door. As he opened the door, the old man heard a toad croaking.
“Damned toads,” the old man muttered as he slammed the door behind him, making the windowed top of the door rattle.
As the old man ate his dinner, alone and in silence, the rain began to patter on the roof like tiny little feet. Even though he liked the silence, he also enjoyed the company of familiar sounds. Sounds like the raindrops above him and the creaking of his cabin against the wind. But just as the old man began to ease into the sounds of the storm, he heard the croaking again. It was quite disruptive, the croaking, and it put the old man on edge.
While washing his dishes, the old man peered out the window above the sink. He couldn’t see the toad, but he could certainly hear it.
An hour of rain accompanied with the ghastly croaking continued. The old man lost his patience, of which he had little. He couldn’t bear to hear the croaking any longer, so he got up from his recliner and marched to his front door. Again, the old man peered out into the area beyond his porch, but this time he could see the toad.
The toad was fat and slimy, and it was covered in what seemed to be thousands of warts. It disgusted the old man, but his eyes stayed glued to the lump of goo and lake water. As he examined the creature, the toad began making strange noises. The croaking faded into a gulping sound, as if the beast had something stuck in its throat. Its body flexed over and over as it gulped and gulped. Finally, the toad’s mouth opened, and with a thud, a finger fell onto the old man’s porch. With a look of satisfaction, the toad hopped away.
The old man opened the door to his cabin and approached the finger. Despite the finger being covered in gunk, the old man could see that it was a woman’s finger adorned with a diamond ring. In a fit of rage, the old man scooped up the finger, stomped down the stairs and through the mud, sliding around as he did so. As he got close enough to the lake, he threw the finger as hard as he could. With a sploosh, the finger plunged into the dark waters.
As the sky grew darker, the rain seemed to fall faster and harder, as if the two were somehow linked. The old man sat in his recliner, staring at the mess of mud on his boots and pants and the parade of shoe prints scattered around him. The mess bothered him, that was certain, but all he could do was hope that soon he’d fall asleep and forget about the toad, the croaking, and the finger that now sits at the bottom of the lake. After some time, the old man did just that and sank into a deep sleep.
When the old man began to wake, he noticed that the rain had stopped, but the wind continued to whip around and howl loudly. He sat still in his chair wondering if the finger was just a fabrication of the mind. However, just as this thought crossed his mind, he started to hear the croaking again.
“I’ve had enough of that damned croaking,” the old man hissed.
He rose from his chair and grabbed a shovel that was leaned against the wall near the front door. The old man stepped onto his porch but didn’t make it far. He was surrounded by thousands of toads, all croaking their gurgled croaks. Even though the toads appeared in unexplainable masses, the old man was not startled by them. He was afraid of something else.
In front of the glistening waters of the lake lurked something peculiar. There was a shadowed figure that laid just beyond the sea of toads. It was low to the ground, and it shuffled about the mud and rocks on the bay. The old man tried to focus his eyes, but it was too dark to see.
The cruel sound of the wind began to get louder and louder as the shadow inched over the muck and slime. But the old man began to hear something amidst the ruckus of the wind. He listened closely to see if he could distinguish the sound. It didn’t sound like words, but it certainly sounded like it belonged to something living, like the cry of a cat, horrible and ugly. Was that it? Was it just a large cat? But he knew it wasn’t a cat. He knew he heard the wind, and, with it, a human-like gurgling of someone who has been crying for so long that they can barely catch their breath.
And then he heard it.
Frightened, the old man ran back into his cabin and slammed the door. After what seemed like an eternity of fiddling with the locks, he heard a click and let out a sigh of relief. He held his ear against the door as he listened for the being from the lake. He heard no toads nor crying. Just the rain, the wind, and the drip dropping sounds coming from his bathroom sink.
This couldn’t be happening. This must all be a dream. The old man didn’t know what to do. He simply dropped to the floor. He looked at the shovel by his side and began to chuckle. What could he possibly do to the thousands of toads that would make them stop? He continued to laugh at the thought when a thump came from the bathroom. It wasn’t a normal thump. No. This was a wet, gooey thump that splattered as it hit the floor.
“A toad must’ve gotten in,” the old man muttered to himself.
He pushed himself up and walked slowly towards the bathroom. He peered around the corner but could not see anything. So, he inched further in. He searched around the floors and countertop. No sign of the toad. He finally walked into the bathroom and towards the bathtub. As he looked over the side of the tub, he heard something behind him.
The old man stood paralyzed.
“You left me with the toads, Henry. You left me to rot,” said the low gurgling voice.
The old man couldn’t believe it. He slowly turned around.
Surrounded by a dozen toads was a wet, dripping, goopy corpse without legs. His wife. Henry’s wife.
THE ENDRecommended3 Simily SnapsPublished in