Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 118,221,339 Issue: 237 | 2nd day of Hunting, Y8
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Silver Sky

by rainbow_daydreamer


Khara sat on the stone paving, the sunlight reflected in her soft fur.

     It was mid-morning on another perfect, golden day. Street traders haggled over items, their voices as harsh as the calling petpets that circled above the desert Kougra's head. This was Sakhmet City at its liveliest, but Khara had little time for it. Her head was tilted back into the slight desert breeze, one paw raised to keep the scorching light out of her grey eyes. Motionless except for the ruffling of her fur, she studied the horizon.

     It's coming. It'll be today. I can feel it.

     A shiver of excitement ran down the Kougra girl's spine. After days of sitting still like this in the marketplace, Khara felt unable to stay where she was any longer. She leapt to her paws and ran to the east wall, jumping onto the faded stone and staring into the distance. "It's coming. It's coming," she whispered, a smile breaking across her face.

     The sound that Khara heard couldn't be the voice of her sister calling. It was an illusion, just the sound of the wind on the desert sands creating a faint echo. Her name sounded so much like that constant whisper: Khara, Kharalle. She wished she had a name with a cooler, clearer sound, closer to that magical happening that had captured Khara's attention for the past few days. When she said that, her owner and her sister would laugh, but it was true.

     Now she could taste it, feel it, sense it. There was something different in the air, the sensation she'd been waiting for. Khara breathed it in, lost in her own thoughts. Her eyes began to lift towards the horizon again, but now she stopped herself, delaying the sight of what she knew would be there. The thrill of anticipation was intense now. Her fur bristled on her back, and her paws twitched, tired of remaining still.

     "It's coming!" she called, turning to look down into the market square. The traders, who knew the Kougra's graceful figure from before, began to pick up their belongings and wrap their merchandise in bundles. Within a few minutes, they were leaving in a scuffle of paws and wheeled carts.

     Now, at last, she couldn't wait any longer. Tilting her head into the sunlight, she gazed at the distant sky.

     It was silver.

     The colour of Khara's dreams.

     "Khara! Kharalle!" Someone was calling her name. She turned, reluctantly, to see a beautiful Faerie Cybunny standing below the high wall. "Khara, Lori's been looking all over for you. Why aren't you at home? What are you doing?"

     The Kougra didn't reply. Following her gaze, Sera saw the haze of silver colour on the horizon, coming closer.

     "Khara! You don't mean to say… Come home! Right this instant!"

     "Sera," sighed her sister with equal frustration. "Shouldn't you be at your classes right now? Leave me alone."

     "No. Not today. Lori will have a fit when she realises you're out here." Lifting the smaller Neopet by the scruff of her neck, Serabitha took off with her sister held tightly. Khara struggled, her eyes resting on the silver sky.

     "Please. It won't be long now, Sera?"

     "Come on."

     The Cybunny swooped down towards the little Sakhmet street where she lived. Pets and owners were hurrying indoors by now. Those already inside were opening windows momentarily, placing pot-plants and cacti on the window ledges, taking in the clothes they'd hung out to dry, or pulling reluctant Petpets out of the yard. A couple of the city's pets, homeless for one reason or another, dived under the shelter of building sites or shop stalls. Khara's simple words had set the town in a flurry of activity.

     "Sera! Kharalle!" A tall human girl, dressed in the gold and white of the latest Sakhmetian fashions, flung open the wooden door set into the stone pavement. She looked up anxiously from the staircase below. "Girls, I was so worried about you. Come in, quickly. The pets on the street are saying it won't be much longer…"

     Below the paving was the simple, clean basement flat where Khara and her family lived. A sleepy Anubis looked up from the rug, startled by the newcomers. Lori pushed the trapdoor shut and helped Sera unlace her shoes. "Where have you been all this time?"

     Khara wasn't listening. Jumping onto the beam that supported the ceiling, she pushed the skylight barely open and placed her muzzle against the frame, allowing her to look through the small gap. Now the streets were almost deserted, save for a few last Sakhmetians hurrying home. And just beyond the city wall, the sky was changing.

     "Look," Khara breathed. "Lori, the sky is turning silver."

     Sera's dark eyes took in the scene, and the Cybunny frowned fretfully. "Lori, there isn't a chance it'll miss us? Like that time when I was ten?"

     Please, say no, Lori, Khara begged silently. Now, looking at the silvery sky, she felt as though the wrong answer would break her heart.

     "Nope," Lori replied, as cheerfully as she could manage. She set a plate of scarab cookies on the table and opened a drawer, pulling out a heavy canvas screen. "I should think we're in for it this time, girls. Khara, will you help me pin this screen across the doorway?"

     Khara fumbled with the pins, her clumsy paws unsuited to the job and itching to return to her place by the skylight. It's not going to miss us. It's going to happen! It's coming!

     Lori finished fixing the screen across the doorway that led to the stairs. Taking Sera's paw, she took a box of candles from the cupboard. "Sera, light these candles. I'll make us some tea." With her free arm, she hugged the young Cybunny tightly. "Don't be scared, Sera. It'll be over before too long."

     Her eyes fell for a moment on Khara, who was sitting on the beam once again, her long tail twitching excitedly. The Desert Kougra stared into the darkening blue of the Sakhmetian sky, watching it change as she waited. Khara kept her eyes on the city wall where she'd sat, that same morning.

     Although she'd been prepared for hours, the shock still took her breath away when the silver sky gave way to... to something else.

     It was like a shimmering curtain, Khara thought, or a beautiful, beaded cloak being swept across Sakhmet. The stone wall changed from its soft golden colour to a dark chocolate brown in only a few moments. The pavements began to darken and gleam as Khara watched, fascinated.

     Come here, she thought, come to where I am. Even as she thought the words, she saw that the sky above her street was completely silver, the colour of enchantment and dreams.

     It would come. It was coming.

     Soon the sound of it was close by, then overhead: a rattling on the rooftops, a swishing of silk on the pavement. Khara tasted the strange coolness in the air, breathing as if she could drink it in, trying to quench her thirst. Her sister cowered in the brightest corner of the room, unable to do more than hide herself from the strange darkness. This was nothing like the bright days or the icy-cold Sakhmet nights that they were used to. Silver, the colour that you saw, Khara thought, when something mysterious and magical took away one of the most basic things in the universe: the sunlight.

     A few drops caught on the skylight that she held open. She touched one with her tongue, and found with her usual surprise that for all its magic, it tasted like ordinary water, nothing more special.

     "Khara, come down," Sera called. "You're making me feel dizzy."

     It was an hour or more before Khara obeyed. Her ears, sharpened and listening still, picked up a change in the rippling noise: silence where there had been sound, moving like a blanket across Sakhmet City. Khara's miracle was ending, as swiftly and smoothly as it had begun.

     Sera picked herself up, gathering a woollen shawl around her shoulders, and came to her sister's side to look out into the city.

     Above Khara's street, the silver sky was already turning to its ordinary, flat blue, lit by a few rays of golden sunlight. The Kougra looked down at the one droplet still lying in her paw, and clutched it as if she could keep it as a treasure.

     Outside, the plants were sprouting from between the paving stones. A few thirsty Petpets lapped at the puddles, surprised by the sudden gift of drinking water.

     For a few hours, the whole of Sakhmet would retain a little of the beauty it had been given. Then, for another year, the world would return to normal again, scorched and lifeless, with only the memory of the silver sky to hold onto.

     Khara padded quietly up the steps and out into the glistening streets.

     Already, some small part of her was waiting.

The End

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