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
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
"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?"
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
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
"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
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.