It’s a cat figurine. How much could it hurt you?

It looks like something you might find in the weird bargain aisle of a grocery store.

Look, it’s got a charming smile on its face. It does not look sinister, no matter what Sparky says.

You hear nothing but the heavy, wet sound of Sparky’s breathing. The thought of algae comes to your mind, unbidden. And thoughts of dark, wet, enclosed spaces.

You shiver involuntarily.

Sparky speaks. “I want…


…more peaceful.

In exchange, I want…

…the feather…

…of…those who fly…

…where clouds…


…when thunder…”

There is a horrendously loud crackling sound. You flinch a little, drawing back --- and then cower when you hear the deafening crack! of lightning and a blinding flash, followed by the tumbling roar of thunder.

When you open your eyes, you see a tall bird standing in the space between you and Sparky. Tall as an ostrich, but slimmer, statelier – and shining bright gold, glowing, as if it were made of the very lightning that you heard.

The bird is shaking hir head and rustling hir wings. Hir bright black eyes fix on Sparky. “Really, sturgeon?” How can a bird’s voice sound like thunder? “You’re trying this again?”

When Sparky doesn’t answer, this terrifying and beautiful lightening bird turns to you. Ze waves a wing towards the straw-hatted fish. “This creature has been trying for years to get one of my feathers!” Hir voice, though it rumbles loud and powerful as thunder, sounds like a secret spoken just for your ears.

Hir feathers alone seem to bristle with power, light and wonder and strength, but there is a kindness in those eyes you can’t ignore. “This sturgeon tries and tries, sending in one sad sap after another. I was hoping the little game had come to an end. Not so, I see. NOT SO!”

There is a mighty laugh, and you think you hear lightning strike, somewhere.

Bird’s eyes seem to glitter. Hir neck is long, hir crest spiky as the lightning ze represents. “You ought to know what you’re up against, if you choose to take on this foolish quest.” You hear the scratch of dirt, and look down to the bird’s feet. Hir long silver claws are scraping the ground as hir toes tighten. Ze stamps her foot now, with force, and the ground lights up, crawling with lines of blue electricity, branching like miniature bursts of lightning. It branches through the ground around hir, and then stops. Just before it reaches you, or Sparky.

Ze seems to smile as you meet hir eyes again. But you’re not sure if this smile is a kind one.

Ze looks over at the stall. At its dozens of tiny ceramic cats. “All the trouble some creatures will go to. All for some novelty they can call their own. Talk about silly. Irrational beings, all of you. Last one was after some rotten boards all painted up with patterns. Meaningless. Utterly meaningless.”

You hear thunder again. Far off, in the distance.

There is another extraordinarily loud crackling sound, another blinding flash, and you open your eyes to see the bird has vanished, just as quickly as ze appeared.

You get the odd sense that Sparky is smiling.

Are you going to try and get one of the lightning bird’s feathers?

All so you can buy this sinister little fake cat?

[Why, of course.]

[Why, I think not.] 5.