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The Frog Prince

Once upon a time there was a princess, beautiful as moonlight, but sighing as she meandered along the forest path one warm early summer in an intentionally unspecified year. "Oh me, oh my, how lonely and sad and pitiful it is to be a princess who does not want to marry the vapid prince that would benefit my father, the King's, geopolitical agenda. How I wish that there were some quick fix to this unsolvable problem."
A voice rose from a small pond, rimmed by bulrushes.
"This is your fortunate day, oh princess fair, for your wish has been granted."
"Who sprach?" she said. "Or who spake. Whatever. Danged if I can get my mind around this pseudo-Germanic Grimm-like genre convention."
"It was I," said the voice, "your enchanted prince."
"Where are you?" she said. "I don't see anyone in this clearing, in the midst of which is this small pond, rimmed by bulrushes."
"Of course you don't," said the voice. "Because I am in said pond."
She stepped closer to the edge of the pond.
"I still don't see any enchanted prince," she said, "intrigued as I am by the possibilities."
"It's because of the enchantment, of course," said the voice, still seductive, but with a slightly vexed subtext.
"Is it an invisibility potion, cape, cloak, or similar transformation to quasi-orthogonal coordinates as applied to Maxwell's equations in order to conceal a perturbation on a flat conducting plane, rather than a singular point, as when an object can be hidden underneath the perturbation?"
"No," said the voice, "that is what is sometimes referred to as a 'carpet' cloak. Be that as it may, my situation does not involve any metamaterial, or similar artificial structure for cloaking applications as a lattice design, a sequentially repeating network, of identical elements."
"Why then can't I see you?" said the princess, beautiful as moonlight. "Given that I have misconstrued the category of the enchantment?"
"Actually," he said, "you are looking at me. See, this is me, waving."
"All I see is a frog coincidentally waving a wet webbed paw," she said. "What are the odds?"
"The probability is zero that we have a coincidence here," said the frog. "The probability is one that I actually do appear to you as a frog, not because both the magnetic and electric components of the radiated light can be controlled at will, in any desired fashion as it travels, or more accurately propagates, through a cloaking metamaterial."
"But you do look like a frog," she said. "So what am I supposed to do?"
"You're supposed to kiss me, which will break the enchantment, and retro-transmogrify me to the prince that I was and, in a metaphysical sense, still am."
"You are certainly smarter and more conversational than the jerk that my father, the King, and my mother, the Queen wants me to marry. Are you handsome too?"
"Better than average as princes go," said the frog. "But I'm not claiming to be the most handsome. Let's say upper quintile. Maybe top 10 percent."
"Good enough for me," she said. And she kissed him.
There was a flash of rainbow colors, and a sound like tubular bells being struck by oaken mallets. The frog expanded to a prince, who promptly fell into the small pond, rimmed by bulrushes, crushing the lily pad on which his former instantiation had been perched.
"You do look like a prince," she said. "Albeit naked and dripping wet."
"I could hardly have appeared wearing an ermine-trimmed and gold-embossed cloak," he said. "Matter can be converted into energy, and all that, but the evil witch who ensorcelled me stole my clothes first, as part of a deception that I had been killed and the clothes removed from the body."
"I am not clear on the whole conservation of mass issue," she said. "Given that your current form is considerably more voluminous than a frog."
"And how good looking am I?" he said, " since that seems to be one of your criteria."
"Upper decile," she said. "No complaints. Are you by any chance rich?"
"Not at the moment," he said, "and discussion as to the size of your dowry would be awkward at this juncture." He got down on one knee, right there in the bulrushes.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Standard protocol," he said. "Will you do me the honor of accepting my hand in marriage, pending my credentials of princedom being fetched and validated by your father's court officials, and thus making me the happiest prince on Earth?"
"I was not sure," she said, "but once you stood up in the pond, and faced me, my decision was clear. Your face and membership in a royal family are not my only criteria," and she blushed.
Long story short, she took him home to meet her parents, and the couple was married in a colorful quasi-medieval ceremony. And they lived happily ever after, at least to a polynomial first approximation.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, October 7th, 2013

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