The trees lean back, so you can see the cerulean sky, and the perfectly circular pond that reflects it.

Sometimes you wonder how this pond came to be. You sometimes wonder if it has always been a koi pond, and if so, how it came to be so lost. Such circular perfection in a pond seems to scream humanity, but you wonder, too, if there are other explanations. You’ve asked around, but there are no answers. None that are willing to be told.

You can see the orange-white-black colors flashing beneath that blinding blue reflection. Dozens upon dozens of large koi call this pond home. They like to tell fortunes under the full moon. But they would not tell your fortune. “Next time,” their translator whispered, “next time.”

Near the edge of the pond, between water and tree, sits Sparky the Sturgeon’s Warehouse Extravaganza, a simple wooden stall that looks like it’s been here for nigh on fifty years. Plants have grown up around it. The wood is so worn and weathered it’s delightfully soft to the touch. You move forward, and touch it, now. Fingers smoothing down the grain.

Sparky Sturgeon smiles. Or you think Sparky smiles; you get that sense, somehow. It’s a little hard to say for sure, because Sparky is a giant fish. Not a normal fish, and not a normal sturgeon. You’re not sure how it is that Sparky can breathe so easily outside of water. You might’ve asked, but Pink Squirrel specifically warned you not to. And good sense simply demands that you offend as few giant fish as possible.

Sparky is sitting on the usual rickety stool, and wearing the usual almost-falling-to-pieces almost green with weather-wear straw hat. Today Sparky’s wares consist exclusively of cat figurines. More than twenty-five little ceramic cats, in various shapes, colors, poses and patterns, are lined up on the worn boards of Sparky’s stall. There are no price tags. There is only bartering and a great deal of negotiation, if you wish to purchase something. The meagre amount of human money that still sits in your wallet is absolutely useless here.

You did ask, once, not long after you first met, how Sparky acquires these odd, ever-changing wares. Sparky never answers questions like this. You know now that Sparky only ever answers direct questions about specific pieces of merchandise – and usually only the questions about how to buy them.

There are so many questions, in this place. So many questions. You suppose there will come a point, if you do stay here, when you accept all of these things without pause. Just as you are starting to accept some of them.

[See if the koi will answer to inquiries.] 12.

[Ask Sparky about purchasing a cat figurine.] 13.

[Ask Sparky about how strangely quiet it is today.] 14.

[Ask Sparky how his day has been so far.] 15.

[You know what, never mind – let’s go look around the forest. Perhaps you find fish to be unsettling.] 6.