The unending rains have driven them into a frenzy. Tree frogs called in screechy wails, like fingernails scratching down a blackboard, over and over. Each night it got louder. The swamp behind May’s house vibrated with it. It drove her cat crazy.
May thought a storm woke her. But the frogs had drowned out the thunder. Each chorus sounded like they were scraping against the window, worrying the frame until it gave. She couldn’t sleep after that.
The lightening sky showed the window was clear, and she pulled the sliding glass door open, grateful the frogs were still deep in the swamp.
May’s bare foot slipped as the frog under it scooted away. She stumbled, pulling her foot back too late, and stepped down onto another frog, this one much smaller and squishy. She yiped and danced, searching for an open spot to put her foot.
But the deck was teeming. Torrents of frogs, buckets of them, writhed on the lanai.
The gap left by her foot filled with a tumbling mass of bodies. They slid over each other, arms and legs clawing to stay on top. The larger struggled to right themselves as the smaller ones clung on. Small, splayed hands touched her foot and gripped it. And the frogs began to climb.
Their bony fingers squeezed harder than she thought possible. Kicking hardly dislodged them and only threw her off balance until she put her foot down. They clamored onto her other foot, sticky arms pushing between her toes.
May jumped foot to foot and screamed, slinging off a few. She managed to stay upright for several steps before reaching the edge of the pool. Frogs several layers thick covered the water. They barely parted as she teetered and fell in.
Ropes of frog eggs wrapped around her legs and arms. They hung like weights and tangled together the more she thrashed. Frogs clung to her hair and stuck to her face as she surfaced. They wriggled nearly into her mouth as she gasped to take a breath.
May could see the open sliding glass door just beyond the pool. Frogs smacked against the glass, then leaped into the house beyond. A dozen landed the first time, then too many poured into the house to count. She saw more leap into the pool towards her, until more frogs blotted out her vision.
Three days later, the frogs left. Neighbors thought May must have left, too. She wasn’t the only one to abandon the town after the plague of frogs. They’d all left suddenly, their houses open to the elements.
At least they’d taken their pets with them, if nothing else.
Thirty-eight years ago this week, millions of spadefoot toads appeared in Longwood Florida. They piled up against houses and covered the streets. Residents shoveled them from their yards and pools. A few days later, the toads disappeared as suddenly as they’d come. Their story can be found in old media accounts and in EERIE FLORIDA by Mark Muncy and Kari Schultz.