You just ate.
It wore off.
You just ate.
It wore off.
Once there was a little old woman who was baking a tray of lovely gingerbread aliens. After they cooled, she piped icing onto each little alien, making sure that they had three eyes and ten limbs and rainbow freckles. Just as she finished the last freckle on the last alien, the whole tray of cookies sat up, jumped out of the pan, and slid down the legs of the table.
The little old woman stood up so quickly that her chair fell down behind her with a thud. Unfortunately, the aliens were already at the front door. They slipped through the mail slot one by one before she could catch them.
She threw open the front door and ran down the first three steps in her slippers. The gingerbread aliens had all disappeared. “Come back,” she called to her empty front yard. “I need you for the bake sale. The choir needs new robes.”
But the gingerbread aliens did not come back. They hid under the rose bush until she went back inside. Then they crept around the edge of the yard and through the picket fence. The first alien frosted was the oldest of the group, so he was in charge and led the way.
They passed a yard with a wire fence. Behind the fence, a big black dog barked loudly. “Come here, little cookies,” he said. “I am hungry, and I think it’s been a million years since I last ate.”
“What good would that do us?” the oldest alien asked.
“What else are cookies good for?”
The gingerbread aliens all scowled with all three of their eyes. The dog took a step back. The aliens kept walking. “We are not here for bake sales or feeding dogs,” the oldest cookie said as they left.
“Then why are you here?” the dog asked. But the gingerbread aliens were all gone. “Come back,” he called. “I’m so hungry. Come back!”
But the aliens did not come back. They kept walking.
The oldest alien led them to a stream. A fox was sunning himself on the bank. He stood up as they arrived. “Do you need a ride across the stream? I could carry you on my back.”
The gingerbread aliens conferred in a murmur. “What is the cost?” the oldest cookie asked at last.
The fox smiled, showing off his sharp teeth. “I would only eat a few of you. Maybe five or six.”
“No.” The cookies turned and started walking alongside the stream.
“What else are cookies good for?” the fox called after them. But the gingerbread aliens were gone. The fox laid back down with a huff and fell asleep.
The cookies eventually reached a bridge. At this point, their many feet were crumbly and their icing was sticky. “Just a little further,” the oldest said.
But, as they reached a bridge, out jumped a troll. “Anyone who crosses my bridge must pay a toll,” he said.
“We won’t allow you to eat any of us,” the oldest gingerbread alien said. All the cookies glared fiercely.
“Trolls don’t eat sugar. That’s poison to us. I want gold or meat.”
The oldest cookie pointed further down the bank in the opposite direction. “Like that?”
The troll turned. He squinted. “Like what?” But when he turned back around, the gingerbread aliens were gone. “Come back. You didn’t pay the toll,” he bellowed. But the cookies did not come back.
They were already across the bridge and walking through the meadow on the other side. They darted towards a metal lump leaning against the fence on the far side of the meadow. It looked a bit like two large cake pans stuck together.
As the cookies approached the lumpy metal thing, they disappeared one by one, oldest to youngest. And then the lumpy metal thing rose in the air and disappeared.
Two doughnuts were inside already and began passing around paperwork. “How did it go? Did everyone make it back?”
The oldest gingerbread alien sighed. “Yes, but I would recommend scrapping the randomizer. It’s far too risky. I don’t think the camouflage potential is worth the risk. How long until this wears off?”
“Tomorrow somebody is going to have a batch of cookies back. And two doughnuts.”
The gingerbread alien sighed. “Well, maybe she’ll have something for her bake sale after all. I’m just glad it won’t be us. Cookies lead a hard life. Everyone wants to eat them.”
“Sure,” the doughnut said. “What else are cookies good for?”
It was twilight, and Isaac was sitting on the front steps listening to Miss Marta’s rosebushes sing lullabies. The stars were just starting to shine, but it wasn’t dark or cold enough to go inside yet. A light breeze blew past and Isaac shivered a little.
Marianne and Charlie were at the choir open house at Charlie’s school. The flier he’d brought home said that seating was limited, so Marianne and Isaac had played rock, paper, scissors to see who went with Charlie. Isaac lost. They promised to give him a full report when they returned home.
He looked down the street, hoping to see a glimpse of headlights. The street was empty. Maybe he should go in and make some hot cocoa. If he started it now, it should be ready about when they returned.
Isaac stood up and looked down the street one more time. This time, he saw something. It was a single, blinking light. Definitely not Marianne and Charlie. Perhaps it was a cyclist? But the light turned and veered across the lawn of the neighbor several houses down. It looked like it was heading straight towards him.
He waited, worried that it was someone with an emergency. Whatever it was, they were still able to ride their bike, he told himself. So, it couldn’t be too terrible. Probably.
The light came closer and closer, but he still didn’t see the cyclist. Was it really that dark already? The streetlights came on further down the street, and then next to Miss Marta’s. He couldn’t see the blinking light anymore. Perhaps they’d just cut across the lawns on their way home and were now inside.
He reached for the doorknob. “Excuse me,” a robotic voice said.
Isaac turned around. A silver cylinder, the size of a soda can, was hovering in the air in front if him. A light on the bottom of the cylinder was blinking brightly. Facing him, there was a round window. Through the window, he could see black eyes watching him from a tiny blue face. “Hello,” Isaac said politely.
“Greetings,” said the voice from the floating soda can.
“Can I help you?” Isaac asked politely.
“Yes. We are hungry and lost. Do you have any food or star charts?”
“I’ll see what I can find. Would you like to come inside?” Isaac opened the door, and the soda can followed him in.
There were a few pieces of bread in the bag on the counter. Isaac pulled them out of the bag and held them up. “Can you eat bread?” he asked.
There was a burst of light, as though someone had taken a picture with the flash on. “Yes. Thank you.” the voice said. The bread disappeared.
“Do you need fruits and vegetables too? I hear it’s important to prevent scurvy on long trips.” The voice didn’t reply. Isaac rummaged through the fridge and held up a few different things. The light flashed and the carrots and oranges and zucchini disappeared. Isaac wasn’t sure how they were storing so much food in such a little space. “Do you need any more food? Do you need water?”
“No, we have enough now. Thank you. Do you have star charts?”
Isaac led the little flying can to his desk and opened up his laptop. He scrolled through a number of charts. It took a while for the aliens to figure out where they were in the galaxy, and where the galaxy was in relation to the rest of the universe.
“I understand now,” the robotic voice said at last. “We took a wrong turn at Alpha Centauri. Thank you for your assistance.”
“You’re welcome,” Isaac said. “Have a safe trip home.”
The little soda can disappeared. Isaac closed and put away his laptop. There was still some time to make cocoa before Marianne and Charlie came home.
He was just giving the mugs one last stir when he heard Marianne and Charlie close the front door. “Dad?” Charlie called.
“In the kitchen. I made cocoa,” Isaac called back.
Marianne and Charlie hurried in and picked up their mugs. “You missed out,” Marianne said. “It was great. They had the older children come and sing, and it was amazing.”
“They had cookies. I saved you one,” Charlie said. He pulled some linty cookie pieces out of his pocket. “Oh. It broke. It will still taste good, though.” He handed Isaac the pieces.
“Thank you,” Isaac said. “It was nice of you to remember me. What did the children sing? What else happened?”
Isaac sat back and smiled as Marianne and Charlie took turns telling him about the open house. It would have been nice to go too, but it turned out that he was needed here at home. Hopefully the little soda can ship full of tiny aliens would arrive home soon with stories of their own to tell. And maybe they would have their own loved ones waiting for them and happy to have them home, somewhere far, far away.