The frogs started falling from the cloudless blue sky shortly before noon.
Zed muttered under his breath as one of the amphibians struck the back of his best suit with a sickening thwack. He gritted his teeth. World domination was all about making an imposing impression and he’d be covered in frog entrails for his first press conference.
“Locusts would have been just as appropriate and certainly less messy.” He enjoyed displaying his knowledge of local doomsday myths, even if there was no one to appreciate the effort he’d made aside from his hapless companion.
Bart shrugged as he kept pace with Zed in shambling steps that seemed certain to land him on his face before long. “I like the frogs. It’s my favorite of the plagues.”
“I would have thought boils more your thing.”
With a scowl, Bart turned toward Zed. Compared to the perfection that Zed’s race embodied, the creature lurching beside him was nothing short of grotesque, not to mention graceless and shabby. Boils might have been an improvement. Still, there wasn’t a better practitioner of the apocalyptic to be found on this miserable world, so Zed was forced to work with him. Not for the first time, Zed wondered how the misshapen monster blended in among the men.
“Locusts can be explained away.” Bart returned his concentration to his forward progress, which was in danger from the steadily increasing number of twisted amphibian corpses mounding in front of them. “Frogs cannot.”
Zed caught the curse before it escaped his lips. He was saddled with a being who was not only repulsive, but an artiste. Was there anything more inexcusably tedious? Likely not. “Frog guts can also not be laundered out of fine fabrics.” He swallowed his irritation and, because his superior would be more than a tad irritated if this simpleton ran off before the work was done, put on a more genial manner. “Let’s not quibble over the details. We’re here to end the world!”
Bart grumbled something incomprehensible and squinted up into the sky. Sighing heavily, Bart brought his ungainly bulk to a stop. He rifled through his worn and dirty satchel for several moments before coming up with a piece of black chalk. Lowering ponderously to the ground, Bart cleared an area and then began to draw sinuous symbols from right to left on the bare earth.
Zed pulled out his crisply creased pocket square and dabbed his face. The fact that Bart had so far escaped being pelted with the falling amphibians and their concussively-discharged viscera annoyed Zed to distraction. “How much longer?”
Beady eyes squinted up at him. “You ever try conjuring a world-ending plague out of the ether?” Bart emitted an annoyed snort into the silence of Zed’s non-response. “I thought not. It takes as long as it takes.” With no more explanation than that, Bart returned to his work.
“I’m concerned we won’t make my timeline.” When Bart ignored him, Zed continued, “Look, I understand the harbinger thing, and while I don’t approve of the mess, I can appreciate the artistry of what you’ve done here. I’m just concerned that all of this…” He gestured at the swiftly perishing frogs around them and their ill-fated brethren still falling from the sky. “Is more showy than required and has slowed us.”
Bart shifted back to sit on his rather predominant haunches with a sigh. “When you go into the business of plaguing, you can do it however you want. Until then, can you shut up so I can work?” With a short nod, Bart bent to his task once again.
The idea that his interruption might somehow distract the dim-witted henchman held Zed’s tongue more than the admonishment. He surveyed the area of desert around them, wondering why Bart had chosen this place. The bare ground and stark hills in the distance reminded him of home. Throat tickling, Zed coughed, but the irritation only grew worse with the rough passage of dry air.
Though in a parallel dimension, his home world occupied the same space as this one only a few times every year making it possible to open a portal between the two. If they missed this window, it would be months before the two planets were aligned again. Even with a plague, an invading army was still needed to subdue a population in the billions.
Bart began to hum. He rocked on his heels in time with the tuneless melody, still scrawling symbols in an ever-increasing arc before him. As the ritual went on, Zed’s eyes watered, no doubt because of the festering frogs on every side of him, until he had difficulty focusing on what Bart was doing.
Zed blinked. He discovered himself face down in frog guts with no idea how he’d gotten there or how long he’d been out. He pushed up slowly to his knees. The buzz of dizziness rang in his ears and he made the mistake of shaking his head in an attempt to rid himself of the annoying sound. An explosion of pain burst behind his eyes, almost sending him to the ground. He clutched his head, barely noticing the frog gore that covered his hands. When he finally regained his wits, he peered over the area around him. Bart hunkered on a dead tree nearby, consuming something disgusting encased in white bread, still untouched by the frogpocalypse.
“What happened?” Throat painful and dry, Zed’s normally perfect voice emerged as a rasping shadow of itself.
“You’re a plague vector. From the moment they step through the portal, your friends will begin dying, bleeding from every orifice.” Bart sneered. “With explosive boils, for good measure.”
Even worse than his pending death was the realization that he’d been outwitted. “Why?”
“The monkeys here may be primitive, but I’m rather fond of them. I can’t imagine anything more repulsive than a world inhabited with beings like you.”
An itch began, burning under Zed’s skin. A reedy scream tore his aching throat.