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You crouch close to the ground as you scurry along, ducking your head to brace against the weather. It’s one of those shitty days that can’t make up its mind whether it’s raining or not, and the unpredictable wind is constantly switching between almost-a-hurricane gale and gentle, false-sense-of-security breeze. A gust ruffles the long mane that usually settles neatly down your neck and shoulders, and you determinedly force your ear tufts to stay in place, flattened down as much as you can get them. Like hell you’re letting your stripes get messed up, again.

Being so small is a pain when you also weigh barely anything, and you’re nearly taken off your feet as you scurry across a clearing alongside an inconveniently timed flurry. There’s a hollow in the roots of the ancient oak you're aiming for and you take advantage of the cover, collapsing your delicate legs and curling your body into a tiny ball. It takes a few wild swishes of your tail to rearrange the hair comfortably - if nothing else, it’s at least handy as a sail when trying to navigate a windy day.

You’d ventured away from home primarily to avoid the sandstorm edging closer, only to end up in a rainstorm instead - though at least the forest offers some coverage, which is more than can be said for the open desert. Water can be shaken off and the dampness will dry in the sun later, but sand clings relentlessly to your fur and will itch in amongst your nature features for weeks. At least here, in some old growth forest way north of your boundary, your tail is short and sleek instead of bushy with foliage. But either way, it's still annoying.

You heave a deep, tortured breath as a deluge of water soaks you once more. And then, even as that black cloud drifts away, its remnants caught by the leafy branches above continue to dribble down drip by drip, aimed right at you probably, purposefully ticking your flank and nose.

Just as you’re raising your head, glaring through squinted eyes for your next place of refuge to hole up in, a flicker of white catches your attention. It’s dark all around you in these dense woods, the sun blocked by thick clouds and the canopy of branches both, and it’s so far only been your flashy white (and slightly dirty) tail that stands out in the dull, earthy surroundings. The spectre appears again, a shock of light against the blackness, and you can’t resist scampering closer to check it out.

Thorns snag at your side as you weave through the feathery ferns and broadleaved shrubs, berries painting your paws as you duck between their ripe bushes. You catch another glimpse through a spiny branch and watch as it drifts on the wind, its dainty, wispy form ghostlike in this horror-esque scenery.

It’s an esk, smaller than yourself, for some reason attempting to fly. It has little brown origami wings that flutter helplessly, long toes flapping about to try and steer - though you’re not sure where it’s steering to, or if it knows itself, as its excessively long mane is giving it some trouble. It looks as sopping wet as you feel, with the long, clumped strands hanging limp and heavy from its neck, but also windblown - and there’s a lot of hair to be blown about. It’s a horrendous tangle swept across its face and knotted about its fiddly fungi nature features, with one chunk doggedly catching on a wing and knocking them further askew, and as you watch, a lock wraps around a forearm and wrenches it to one side, leaving the other half of its leg floating, unattached.

You stare in disbelief.

"Uuuuh, do you maybe want some help there?” you ask. A brief respite from the weather allows you to cautiously emerge from the berry bush you'd scooted beneath, until you can nose a little at the spirit’s dangling tail that twitches at your touch.

It turns in the air, loose mane picking up and swirling about its form with telekinesis, creating an eery, spidery, fingery appearance that makes your eyes widen and your soul freeze. And then it tilts its head to dislodge some of the unruly fringe, revealing two conjoined heads - and its four white eyes that stare endlessly right through you. Its speech is a whisper that caresses your mind, an androgynous echo that is only mostly English, and lilted like a poem:

“My rage swells like the / clashing waves, punching gales, all / I wish for is peace.”

You take a hasty step back. “You can absolutely have what you wish for, my friend,” you assure them, taking more increasingly hasty steps, and then giving in and turning on your heel and galloping off, now happily letting the wild wind push you forward.

You'll deal with the sandstorm next time.