Words || Nathaniel Keesing
The scene is in London, and I’m walking into a fancy French restaurant with a date when my jaw drops. The walls were covered in gold, and ornate spires held the roof up. I had been transported 200 years back in time, where the poor were dying in the streets from starvation while the rich were dying in opulent brasseries from a spatchcock bone down their gullet. I felt like a Disney Princess, and thought it was the perfect night. I was wrong.
Have you ever tried frogs legs before? I did that night. They tasted like chicken, but saying that, most exotic meats taste like chicken to me. They were definitely a meh on the yuck-to-scrumptious spectrum, but it was my date’s turn to pay so I couldn’t complain.
Afterwards I travelled home with my belly full of amphibian meat, seriously considering veganism. I went to take a shower when I realised my chest had been engulfed by a red raw rash. I have never had an allergic reaction before; were frogs my secret Achilles heel?
The scene is now Present Day, and I am tasked with putting an end to the environmental disaster that is the cane toad. My method? Murder.
Look, I know they’re killing our wildlife and pushing native species, including other frogs, into extinction, but I feel bad whenever I deflea my cats – how on earth could I bring myself to kill one of these admittedly vile toads?
Cane toads are pretty much frogs on steroids, I told myself. If a little ribbit can cover me in a rash, what could a mega ribbit do to me? It was a matter of kill or be killed. At least, that’s how I justified my endeavor to murder a not-so-innocent animal.
If you haven’t heard, cane toads have reached Sydney now, which is absolutely insane. I remember going up to Queensland once and seeing hundreds of those monsters squished along the pavement, which is kinda fucked up now that I think about it. Was Sydney about to experience a cane toad plague of biblical proportions, unless I put a stop to the invasion from the north?
My first course of action was to google where I could find some of these demonic amphibians. I stumbled upon a website belonging to cane toad crusaders, Team BUFO. Their sidebar had links to ‘Toad Sex’ (not my kink, sorry), but most importantly, ‘Killing Toads’.
Apparently the most humane way to kill a cane toad is to put it in a bag or container and chuck it into the fridge until they’re in the land of nod (note to self; potential idea if I can’t go to sleep), then throw them in the freezer to a slow and painless death.
I thought to give these Toad Avengers a call to get some advice on my upcoming assassinations. Lead researcher, no answer. Water expert, no reply. Call after call, multiple emails, nothing. Had the Toad Avengers disassembled? Or perhaps… the toads killed them?
I had no choice, I had to find toad’s leader and end it. I was send coordinates to find my mark; a pocket of national park where it had been reported that a group of cane toads were spotted brazenly fornicating and breeding in a pond, to the panic of local residents.
I went to my kitchen and grabbed my deep dish Chinese takeaway container that I bought for the meal prep phase I never got around too, and headed out to Loftus, right at the edge of the Royal National Park just south of Sydney, to carry out my first murder.
I arrived at this sleepy suburb still unconvinced I had what it takes to go through with this. I ask some locals if they had ever seen a cane toad in the area. They replied no. Was I even in the right place? Or were they hiding amongst us, wearing the skin of Team BUFO to blend into society? I retreated away and continued my walk to the edge of the park.
Loftus is a bit of an oddity; the suburb is still in Sydney, but it feels like I’m 500km inland. On one side of me is the corner shops, and on the other is bush as far as the eye can see. There’s an abandoned tram museum, with half buried tracks running parallel to the road. There’s no obvious entry to the hiking track, so I walk alongside the highway, terrified I’d end up like those cane toads back in Queensland. I whip out my phone to find the entry to the bush.
The Mardi Gras playlist I was boogieing too was apparently too lit for my phone, and I’d have to make do with mother nature as my guide. Was this part of a plan by my warty nemesis to lure me here and get me lost with no way out? The odds were stacked against me, but the track is easy enough. It’s surprisingly peaceful out in the bush.
I must admit though, several dragonflies zoomed past my face and I did scream; I like to think it lulled the cane toads into a false sense of security, thinking I was easy pickings (I was).
One kilometre in and my camera starts acting funny, flashing the same frame of the ground and refusing to take pictures. Were Apple and the toads in cahoots? During this frustrating tech problem, I heard it.
Children. Laughing. Playing. At least 10 of them by the sounds of it. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING BUSH. I was freaked out to the extreme. I went off the path to see if I could see what the hell was going on. I was in the middle of nowhere, with only a vague sense of where I came from, when another bizarre sound filled the air; it was like the train station ding ding DING announcement sound, followed by a voice asking everyone to get ‘on the bus’.
I was too stunned to grasp what they were saying. Was the magic school bus taking a tour of the bush? Terrified, I wanted out.
I stumbled back onto the path and followed it onwards. I obviously took a wrong turn, because I walked into something out of The Blair Witch Project. The trees oozed red sap that looked like blood and some of their branches twisted liked an octopus. The path had a giant stone in the middle that looked like a massive demonic hand. Was I caught up in some twisted cane toad curse?
Terrified, I started running. Finally stumbling on an information center, I decided to ask for a way home. The lobby was filled with taxidermied animals; was I next to be added to the collection?
The lady, clearly ready to go home herself, asked why I was there. “I’m here to kill a cane toad” I tell her embarrassedly, confounded even worse when she tells me that I had been searching in the completely wrong part of the park. Oops. Adding insult to injury, apparently there hasn’t even been a sighting for several years. Perhaps I should have done more googling beforehand.
Following her instructions, I manage to find the tram tracks in the middle of the bush (this is some Lost shit) and follow them back home. Part of me was glad to have never had to hurt a cane toad, but after such a messed-up day, even though the Sydney toad’s are probably all dead now, they still managed to hurt me beyond the grave.