There is one humid moment of silence.

Then Sparky laughs. A deep, burbling laugh. Like the laugh of a primordial mud creature, creeping up behind you, creeping up into your skull and slipping down deep into some murky swamp of your soul.

You resist the inexplicable urge to gag and choke and run. A shiver steals down your spine.

Sparky is still and silent once again. This straw-hatted sturgeon doesn’t want you take all the cats.

You think that much is clear.

[Let’s just…rewind time. Stand by the shore of the pond and take some deep breaths.] 5.

[Let’s ask about just one of the cats, then.] 13.