A child stands in a room on the ground floor of a grand old house. The room is wood-paneled, with high ceilings, a fireplace, and cases full of books built into the walls. It is furnished with wing-backed chairs in reddish-brown leather and small tables with reading lamps. Over the fireplace hangs a large copy of the painting “The Spirit of ’76.”
In the rooms overhead, the child hears heavy footsteps. She looks at the ceiling fearfully; those are the footfalls of her grandfather, who has been transformed into a monster. She is hiding from him here in the study. The room is still except for the movements of the monster and the quiet crackling of the fire.
Somewhere in the room a frog begins to croak, something between the high trill of a spring peeper and the deep boom of a bullfrog. The child is loathe to move for fear of making some noise that might attract the monster, but she is curious about the frog. She listens carefully; the sound seems to be coming from the area near the fireplace. She creeps toward that part of the room with painful caution, pausing frequently to listen for the monster, which can still be heard roaming upstairs.
The croaking sound is clearly coming from the immediate vicinity of the fireplace, not from the bookshelves on either side. But the hearth is wide and clear, offering no place for the frog to hide. The child ventures into the open area before the fireplace, trying to make sense of what her senses are telling her. She stares at the licking flames and glowing coals, feels their heat scorch her face. In a flash of horror she realizes that the croaking sound is coming from within the firebox.
Overwhelmed by the enormity of this paradox, she shifts uneasily, unconsciously. The ancient wood floor creaks loudly. She freezes, eyes and ears on the ceiling. The monster has also stopped. After a long moment it begins moving deliberately in the direction of the staircase. It has heard her.