Golden rays of sun pierced the dusty haze surrounding the city, baking it alive. It was a day when any sane person would have been relaxing inside with their face pressed against a fan. However, Aly had no such option. School was always open, come rain or shine.
Or heat, Aly thought bitterly, glaring up at the shimmering sun on her way home. The oppressive heat had driven almost everyone indoors, and the street was empty save for air-conditioned cars hurrying past and rows of hanging flower baskets. Ordinarily, the flowers would have been blooming in a riot of colour, but the city officials refused to waste water on them during a drought. Aly took a sip from her water bottle, although it only wetted her parched tongue and she had to endure the thirsty stares of the withered flowers in the hanging baskets.
That was when she noticed the toffee, sitting innocuously in the middle of the sidewalk, projecting an aura of buttery sweetness. She knelt down to examine it more closely, surprised that it had not yet melted into a sticky puddle. It was like no other toffee she had ever seen before (for one thing it seemed to be breathing), but she slipped it into her mouth anyway and its flavour flooded her tongue. The flavour was not what she had been expecting. Instead of sugary goodness filling her mouth, there was the pungent taste of dirt and sewage.
She spat the toffee into her hand and stared at it, watching for any sign of movement. The toffee obliged, sitting up and stretching its gooey arms and legs.
She was positive the toffee had not owned any limbs when she picked it up, but now it was resolving itself into a small, golden-coloured creature. The creature caught her eye and its mouth opened in a wide grin. Then it jumped to its feet and sketched a bow.
“Thank you Miss,” it whispered, barely audible above the noise of the nearby cars. “I was on my way home to my sewer, but the sun dried me up too quickly.”
Then the creature waved one golden hand, winked, and leaped down onto the sidewalk. It scurried across the hot concrete and disappeared into a sewer grate half a block away.
Only once it had vanished did Aly realize she was sitting in the middle of the sidewalk, staring after the creature with her mouth open. She stood up abruptly, hurrying home with a mind full of questions and her eyes darting everywhere, searching for more lumps of toffee.
There were none, to her mingled relief and disappointment. But Aly paused before the door to her apartment building and glanced at the nearest flower basket. She unscrewed the lid to her water bottle and poured the remainder of the cool liquid over the parched greenery before retreating inside.
A small green creature, about the size of a toffee, poked its head out of the basket and grinned.