On some hot summer nights, gunpowder creatures came out to play in the sky. Pops and cracks split the air as they soared and dove, collided and exploded. Trailing sparks cascaded toward the ground, only to gather and rise again in bursts of white magnesium, blue copper, red strontium, and green barium. Their fiery wings drew ember patterns on the undersides of passing clouds and afterimages on the backs of my eyelids.
I stood below them, surrounded by forest and empty countryside, chin tipped back, mouth open in awe. These beauties tended to flock around cities, consuming the glow of streetlights. Never had I seen them in such a dark place as this, where without the competition of light pollution, their colors burned bright and true.
Despite the spectacle, fizzing near my ear drew my attention. Next to my face hovered an inquisitive little sparkler, too small to join the adults cavorting in the sky. It was shapeless as a star, no more than a palm-sized cluster of pale combusting chemicals centered around a white fire. I jerked my head back when it hovered closer, as if inspecting me. Heat licked at my cheeks, forcing my retreat.
“You can’t land on me, little one,” I told it, dusting glowing orange flecks from my arms.
For a moment, the sparkler’s light dimmed. Then it shot upward, spinning around my head in a dizzying whirl, shedding sparks into my hair. Resisting the urge to swat the delicate thing away, I patted the hot embers out, catching the metallic scent of singed hair.
“Go on,” I growled, “before I dump my water bottle on you.”
Flashing in panic, the sparkler zipped away. I couldn’t feel bad; no doubt I had patches of missing hair now.
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