Wick bore the candle aloft. “You know what this is, don’t you?”

At the flick of a slimy finger, the frogs retreated. “Of course we do,” burbled their king. “That accursed spark is what allowed you to roast us for eating, powered the machines that drained our swamps.” He drew out his following words with thick malice: “It has brought nothing but death to my people, even here at our last outpost.”

“What if I told you,” said Wick, trying to be sly, “that this is the last flame in the world, and that the secret of its creation has been lost?”

The frog king lolled out its tongue in a moment of thought. “I would say that my people should attack you now, at all hazards, to ensure that it is drowned in the cleansing waters of the last refuge.”

“Consider this an opportunity,” Wick said. “The last fire is traveling to the summit that it might be rekindled in the souls of all my people. If you would allow me to pass, my people would be in your debt.”

“You do not have a good record of being beholden to those to whom you owe much,” sneered the frog king. “Ask the aurochs that, if you can find one.”

“The fire might be the only thing that can hold back the decay and rebuild our world,” Wick replied. “Surely you, in your wisdom, feel the end closing about all life even here in the last refuge.”

“You would have me put my trust in that which caused the decay in the first place? Perhaps it is simply time for us to fade quietly away with one last noble act.”

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I’ve noticed a condition I call “morning weakness,” and while some of my more macho acquaintances insist that there’s no such thing, others have confirmed to me that it is a very real medical condition. Now I’m not exactly Samson even at my prime, but it’s my experience that immediately upon waking, and for ten to fifteen minutes afterwards, I’m weak as a kitten (though an abnormally large kitten could probably overpower me too).

Ordinarily this is an annoyance more than anything. Let’s face it: the heaviest thing most people need to lift after getting out of bed is a toothbrush. But on occasion it’s put me at a severe disadvantage. My little brother, for example, had a habit when he was younger of jumping on me in bed and initiated a wrestling match that would invariable leave me pinned and helpless–a particular humiliation for someone four years older than him!

It’s also inconvenient when there’s an emergency. On the day in question, I was roused from my sleep by the whine of the fire alarm. Ordinarily there would be no problem; my room was right near the apartment’s central stairwell and safety.

No, the problem was my backpack, overloaded with books and my laptop computer. Morning weakness had set in and, try as I might, I couldn’t lift it or any of the items inside.