Well, what is a frog-tower, after all? Nobody outside of Iceland, it seems, has ever heard of them, and even those from outside my home province are apt to have forgotten them by now. But there are some for whom forgetting is impossible.

A frog-tower is a wooden cylinder, about 25 meters tall, with a richly accommodated room on the bottom floor and two less decorated rooms above it. Its name comes from the giant cartoon frog mask that decorates the top floor and looks out into the ocean. All frog masks, having different architects, are different—yet, at once, they are all deeply similar. Entering a frog-tower, one will invariably encounter a well-accommodated, comfortable kind of living room, or study. The father and mother will be sitting quietly in a corner, reading, doubtless nodding absent-mindedly at your arrival. Though the bottom floor is comfortable, the upper floors possess the thing which makes the frog-tower so unique to our country and our region in particular, for they are tied inseparably to the children of our land. From an early age, a child receives a frog-mask from a relative. If this never happens, he will whittle his own. Alongside the mask, there is a costume—meant to be worn exclusively within the frog-tower—which covers the skin entirely. Children are not allowed to speak in the frog-tower (this injunction is enforced by the parents below), and as a consequence, they often develop incredibly complex sets of codes and gestures that they use to speak to one another. Eventually, they are even able to communicate things that would be inexpressible within the confines of natural language. They speak to one another on the content of the unseen; they point to things which the rest of us no longer have the capacity to understand. Not long after they were first created, a kind of culture formed within the towers, a secret society still half-remembered by all of those who came up in my province.

Yet, like all secret societies—like all real magic in the world—the frog-tower was doomed to be forgotten. Still very young when I first returned to my home province, I had assumed that all the things that I had liked when I was young would last forever; that I would last forever. Such is youth’s eternal folly.

Meeting with a childhood friend, I had enjoyed a tasty, quiet dinner and spoken with him about our former lives. After a while, he stood up, thanked me rather awkwardly for the conversation, and said goodnight. It was still light out: he lived far north, and it was the time of year when the sun never sets.

Sitting in silence at the table, drinking the last dregs of the soup that he had prepared for me, I noticed for the first time his younger sister. I met her eyes and she met mine without wavering.

Her voice was as smooth and as pleasant as a stone in a river. “Would you like to visit the frog-tower nearby?”

We trekked for some time across the rolling, verdant hills. The sky was grey and silent overhead, and there was only a little wind in the smooth grass. At last, we crested a hill, and the frog-tower revealed itself to us.

I shut the door behind me and nodded to the man in the study. The girl took to the ladder and began to climb, disappearing quickly into the darkness above.

I hesitated a moment, my hand resting on the first rung. I glanced up at the man reading. He didn’t look up at me. Because of my fear of heights, the frog-towers had always seemed menacing to me. Now my old fear was coming back. The girl’s progress echoed in the dark. At last, I saw her shadow disappear, replaced by a cool grey square of sky. Her head looking over; her long hair flowing down. “Come on!”

I rose higher, climbing cautiously, and at last crawled up into the roof. The tower was very old. Time had worn holes in the walls and the ceiling. My breath caught in my throat, I felt I couldn’t move: I was as mute as an animal.

There was a group of children there, gesturing to one another. I felt like they were making fun of us.