The Golden Ox 2nd Place Winner – JEKYLL AND FORMALDEHYDE by Anissa Lynne Johnson

In the name of science, in a grand effort to better understand their own anatomy, a pair of teenaged humans hover over a lab station. Metal trays equipped with tweezers and scalpels. Goggles for potential projectiles. A bullfrog. An adult human assuming the alloparental role of teacher trains them in the knowledge and skills adulthood will require. Maybe. The teenaged humans must complete this training in order to spare themselves from the teacher’s wrath, poor grades potentially keeping them from advancing to the next stage in development: high school graduation. The teacher instructs the pupils to begin dissection. Locate each of the bullfrog’s organs. Jot down notes to prove their mastery. 

Scalpel in hand, the teenaged humans slice into the bullfrog’s olive green belly and open their incision with tweezers to begin the bulk of their training. Inside her, they find thousands of unfertilized eggs that announce to the pair, I should’ve been a mother

She’d retained these eggs in the late summer, waiting for the breeding season to choose a mate from the bullfrog chorus. Someone to make tadpoles with. Keep their species thriving for generations to come. But instead, a pair of hands reached into her pond and pulled her from the life cycle. 

All the way into this classroom, where two more pairs of hands hold her now, not at all interested in becoming biologists or doctors. The bullfrog’s eggs block the view of the organs they need to study, so the teenaged humans scoop them out onto brown paper towel. 

Yelling, Woah and Gross and Cool, but never, My God, what have I done? 

Anissa Lynne Johnson is a disabled writer from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She has work forthcoming in Sledgehammer Lit, Press Pause, Wig-Wag, and elsewhere. More often than not, Anissa can be founding walking in the woods or watching movies that *sigh* never win awards. Say hello on Twitter @anissaljohnson.