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Once upon a time, gremlins had beautiful feathered wings, more beautiful than any peacock or any kingfisher. They flew higher than any bird, and faster, and further, and they thought themselves to be lords of the skies.

One evening, in a field near the court of the Gremlin King, a stranger was seen sitting on a blanket, looking up into the sky. The King sent a courtier to find out what the stranger was doing.

“Why, it’s simple,” the man said. “I am looking for the best, most beautiful flight that can be seen. There is a flock of starlings nearby, and I hope to watch them come in to roost.”

The Gremlin King laughed when he heard this.

“Starlings,” he cried. “Starlings? Why that’s the funniest thing I ever heard. Who could think that starlings make a better flight than we do? Let’s prove it to this stranger.”

So he gathered his entire court, all the gremlins for miles around, and they flew out in a great crowd to find the stranger.

He was still in the field where he had been seen, watching with a great smile on his face as the starlings swooped through the sky like a great fluid cloud. They ebbed and flowed like water, in perfect synchronisation, until they saw the gremlins coming.

The gremlins bared their sharp teeth, shook their fists, and scared the starlings clear out of the sky before they began their own display.

They flew through the air in a great swarm, perfectly coordinated, and formed the shape of the Gremlin King himself, only ten times as tall, dancing a jig. They flew out and back in again, and now they seemed to be like a giant flame burning the sky. They flew out and back in again, and now they seemed to be a great star, twinkling in the evening light.

The Gremlin King flew out from the crowd to hover in front of the stranger.

“There,” he called out, triumphantly. “Now you have seen the best, most beautiful flight that can be seen.”

“Yes,” said the stranger angrily. “And I was enjoying it, too, until you lot came along to show off!”

He stood up and picked his blanket up off the ground, his face as dark as thunder.

“I came a long way to see the starlings,” he said. “But your pride wouldn’t allow me to enjoy their natural beauty, and now you shall be punished.”

He waved his hand in the air, and with a great whoosh! and a thump! the entire Gremlin court fell to the ground.

They picked themselves up, dizzy from the impact, and they danced around, each trying to look at his own back to see why his wings had failed. Eventually, a smarter than average gremlin realised that they could all look at each other’s backs, and as they did so they all let out a perfectly coordinated wail.

Their wings were gone, and so was the stranger.

“For your pride,” came a voice out of nowhere, “You shall be cursed to never fly again.”

Gremlin pride quickly soured to jealousy and hatred, and from that day onwards, whenever they saw a man like that stranger take pride in anything he had built, they would do whatever they could do break it.

© Kari Fay