by Merrie Haskell.
Read by M.K. Hobson.
Originally appeared in Electric Velocipede.
I shot the sparrow because I was starving. Though truthfully, I was aiming at a pheasant; the silver snow and the silver birches played tricks with the light, and as if by magic, pheasant turned into sparrow.
When I saw what my arrow had done, I cried with empty eyes, too dry to make tears. The sparrow wouldn’t amount to a mouthful of grotty bones–and even a starving woman knows songbirds are sacred to at least one goddess.
My knees plowed into the snow beside the small creature. “How, how, how?” I fretted. “How did you become a sparrow, pheasant?” The bird did not answer, but when I reached to remove the arrow piercing its body, the accusatory glare of a beadish eye stopped me. A trickle of blood slid from its nares, and the bright eye closed.
“Do not be dead!” I cried. “I would give anything for you not to be dead.”
And while the breath-mist of this rash statement still hung in the air, a bear-god waddled out of the forest, lumbering and large.
The bear-god said: “The sparrow will not die, if you live as my wife for a year and a day.”
I licked my lips, tasting the clear, salty snot that comes of crying, and said, “I already have a husband.”
The bear-god regarded me with placid eyes. “And I already have a wife.”
I stared at him, the dying sparrow lying in a bloody lump between us, struggling to breathe.
“Yes,” I said. “Yes, anything.”
Rated R for cross-species connubial arrangements.