I wanted to write something scary – or possibly even horrifying – for Halloween, but writing to disturb has run somewhat counter to my nature up to this point, and I found it weirdly difficult to not inject humour and some amount of hope. I stalled, then I wrote this lead-in, and now I will complete it, albeit in abridged, redacted form. WARNING: It is a bit disturbing, at least to me. This is why I cannot be a horror fiction writer, or for that matter, a field reporter of any kind.
Of the many and varied books one might happen across while browsing the cramped aisles of Frumpwart’s Rare Books at the edge of town, the most controversial and sought-after must surely be the limited edition copy of the handbook titled, What Most to Expect Whilst Being Consumed, the Horridly Abridged Version (by Sundry & Posthumous Authors Unknown).
The compact and unassuming field guide catalogs, in frequently vivid and unsettling detail, what the reader might wish to prepare themselves for, in the event of being captured and then eaten alive by any number of creatures – both monstrous and mundane – that might be found in the high, middling, and low places of the Westfarian Isles.
The book’s price is frankly absurd, as the shop’s owner, Elias Frumpwart, has never much wanted to part with the thing, and quite possibly never will. It lures curious customers from all corners of the realm, through his shop’s ever-open front door. Elias, it would seem, does not sleep.
I shall now read for you the entry on the Moribund Toad, which is not in fact a toad at all, but a being somewhat resembling one:
Moribund Toad – Subterranean, Nocturnal Hedgewilder
Average Dimensions: 1-2 Arms x 1-2 Arms x 2-3 Arms
The Moribund Toad, known for its pallid and lethargic hide, faint and continuous reek of decay, and ever-woeful expression, inhabits the dankest of places, where it can sit in peace and contemplate the cruelty of inescapable mortality.
Rarely moving at all once it has found a spot from which to hunt (which is more of a mind-numbing wait punctuated by a sudden, horrifying lashing-out of its powerful tongue, a thing capable of reaching 24 or more arms in length), the Moribund Toad is perhaps the most patient hunter in the Isles. It often forgets to eat, in fact, so preoccupied it can become with self-loathing and pity.
Little warning is typically to be found in and around the Moribund Toad’s hunting places, given it digests fully its meals, and releases the waste entirely through its oily, porous, translucent skin as a faintly poisonous mist. Since it moves nearly not at all, it can easily be mistaken for a large, frowning stone. Creatures with particularly good olfactory sense might detect it through scent, which is why the more clever individuals of its kind choose environments chock full of unpleasant smells, in order to mask their own.
If the Moribund Toad detects a Victim in its tongue-range before the Victim senses the danger (and the Toad has a clear shot, which it nearly always does), there is little to be done; silvered, serrated carving knives are the only known and commonly-affordable tool capable of cutting the thing, and then only with a great deal of effort.
The Victim of the Toad’s tongue grapple should most certainly wish to be caught by the skull, for then the ordeal will most often be over quickly enough. The alternatives are generally far worse. [the remainder of the abridged version’s three-page description of the sundry ways in which the Victim might be slowly dealt with and toyed with by the Toad, if not killed outright, are redacted in this particular article, out of respect for the families of those taken by the Moribund Toad, especially the townsfolk of Cranberry Bleaks, where the Moribund Toad population often gets quite out of control, especially around late October].
Exactly how the manual’s research was accomplished and then dutifully reported on – often up to and quite past the point where the researcher would be even capable of continuing to take notes – is a mystery that will perhaps never be resolved.
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