was home in the middle of the day, because he was sick. If it was up
to him, he would have been at school. Today they were going to
make ice cream as a science experiment. That was much better than
staying in bed and staring at the ceiling.
Mom said that if you have a fever and a runny nose, and a terrible
cough, and a sore throat and can’t stop sneezing, then you should
stay home. Throwing up after breakfast hadn’t helped his argument
at all, either. So, Louis blew his nose again and sneezed and looked
at the ceiling. Ceilings are boring.
I’m bored,” Louis yelled. Then he coughed. Ouch. His
throat really hurt.
take a nap,” his mom yelled back. “You need to rest so that you
scowled. He was much too old for naps, and he wasn’t at all sleepy.
Well, he was maybe a little bit tired. But not really enough to fall
asleep yet. He turned and watched the shadows on the wall move.
The wind must be blowing through the tree outside.
then, the shadows started to fade, or maybe the room started to glow.
Louis wasn’t quite sure. It was all a little strange.
Everything looked a little bit foggy. Louis blinked, and when he
opened his eyes, he wasn’t in his bedroom any more.
was in a strange metal room filled with blinking lights. Something
was making a clicking sound. Three tall skinny beings with greenish
skin and bright blue eyes looked at him. They were definitely aliens.
Louis looked back. One of the aliens said something, but Louis didn’t
know what he was saying. “I don’t speak your language,” Louis
aliens approached and one of them looked closely into Louis’s face.
The aliens smelled like dust. Lots of dust. Louis
sneezed right into the alien’s face, and then he couldn’t stop
alien backed up, but the other two crowded closer. The sneezing hurt
his throat and upset his stomach. Louis threw up on the other two
aliens. The aliens backed up and bowed. One of the aliens pushed a
button on the wall, and the room started to get brighter.
Everything looked foggy. Louis blinked.
he was back in his room looking up at the ceiling. Had any of that
really happened? Mom knocked on the doorframe and came in. “How are
you feeling?” she asked. “Any better?”
I was just captured by aliens,” Louis said. “I threw up all over
them, so they let me go.”
sounds like a nice dream,” Mom said. “Is your stomach still
upset?” She put her hand on his forehead. “Oh dear, you’re
still quite warm. Would you like some ice cream?”
lunch?” Louis asked.
not,” Mom said. “You’re feeling sick.”
being sick wasn’t so bad, except for the staring at the ceiling
part. Even being captured by aliens wasn’t terrible. It had
been kind of interesting. If it really happened at all, of
days later, Louis was back in class. He’d missed the ice cream
experiment and a math quiz, but otherwise things had been pretty
quiet at school. Susie said that Dan threw up on the slide just a day
decided that being sick probably happened to everybody at one time or
another. He was glad that he felt better now and could move forward.
He hoped he didn’t feel sick again anytime soon and that he never
threw up on the slide. That sounded embarrassing.
of thousands of miles away, the crew of an alien space ship coughed
and sneezed and stared at the ceiling and tried not to throw up. “I
thought it was too eager to give us the samples we required. It was
completely suspicious,” one said.
thought it believed we were peaceful scientists,” another replied.
“How was I to know it recognized us as a possible threat.”
The alien sneezed and sneezed and sneezed.
I’m going to recommend we don’t try to colonize this world. The
inhabitants are far too hostile. And they don’t fight fair,
either,” the last one said. And then he threw up.
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
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,”
“We won’t allow you to eat any of
us,” the oldest gingerbread alien said. All the cookies glared
“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?”
Once there was a mighty civilization that lived on a dying planet. The sun was growing larger and the planet was overheating to the point that living there just wasn’t possible for much longer. Fortunately, the civilization had already built a colony on another planet, far away from the growing sun.
Unfortunately, the colony planet was on the other side of the galaxy. There was only enough time to make one trip. And so, the civilization threw all its resources into building space ships and gathering resources for the journey.
The politicians all promised that there would be room for everyone on the spaceships. Everyone was calm as they began to plan and pack and prepare. Eventually, it was time to load up the spaceships and send them on their way.
The trouble started when there were only three spaceships left. The last group of people on the list had nowhere to go. The spaceships were all full.
The group hurried over to the largest, newest spaceship before it could take off. The leader of the group, an older man who had done a lot of good for his community, called for the ship’s captain to come meet with them. After a long wait, the captain met them at the staging area just outside the ship.
“You have the biggest, newest ship. Won’t you make room for us so that we aren’t left behind?” the man asked.
The captain frowned. “My ship is loaded to capacity. Regulations say that it isn’t safe to add extra weight beyond the maximum recommendations. I will not risk the lives of those already aboard.”
“But if we’re left behind, we’ll all die. Can’t we ask some scientists if there is some way to redistribute the load to safely add a few more passengers?” the old man pleaded.
The captain shook his head. “It was scientists who designed the ship and decided on the safety standards after numerous tests. They were experts on this ship. Why consult anyone else? I’m sorry that I cannot help you.”
He returned to his ship, and sealed the door. The warning lights came on and the group hurried out of the staging area. The large, shiny new spaceship took off and left the dying planet behind.
The group turned to the next ship. It was as large as the first, but older. It had traveled to the colony planet more than once, and was considered a safe, reliable ship.
The leader of the group called for the ship’s captain. The captain met with them at the door of the ship. “Will this take long?” he asked. “I’m already behind schedule.”
The leader pointed out the group behind him. “Could you make room for our group? The ships are full, and if we’re left behind we’ll all die.”
The captain shook his head. “I’m sorry. My ship is old, and it’s completely full. I know what it can handle, and I wouldn’t risk adding any more weight. It just isn’t safe.”
The old man looked back at his group. “Can’t you leave something behind? Surely you can make room for at least some of us? There will be resources to make up what was lost when you arrive at the new colony.”
The captain sighed and ran his hand through his hair until it stood on end. “I’m sorry, I really am. Unfortunately, we’re already behind schedule. We just don’t have time to take inventory again and debate what we could leave behind. I’ve gone over the list so many times. I’m afraid that we just can’t help you.”
He closed the door and the warning lights went on. The group hurried away as the ship took off. Only the smallest, oldest ship was left. Feeling almost hopeless, the group approached the ship.
The leader called for the captain. The captain met them at the door. “There are people left here?” the captain asked in surprise. “Did you know this is the last ship?”
“Yes, we know,” the leader said. “Can you make room for us?”
“Of course I can,” the captain said. “If you’re left behind, you’ll all die.”
The captain called for a few of his officers. “We have to make room,” he told them.
“With extra people, we won’t need all those blankets,” the first said.
“Blankets don’t take up much room,” the second pointed out. “Let’s rip out the chairs. We can sit on the floor.”
“We can throw out our shoes and hats, too,” the first said. “Who needs those in space?”
“We don’t need doors.”
“We don’t need chocolate.”
“Let’s not get crazy,” the captain said. “Of course we need chocolate. Get rid of the bed frames and tables instead.”
The crew and passengers spent the next few hours building a towering pile of things to leave behind. The ship was still a little heavier than expected, but the captain wasn’t worried.
“If we can make it out of the atmosphere, the rest is smooth sailing,” he assured everyone.
They huddled close during countdown. The ship took off. As they sped through the atmosphere, everyone in the ship could hear the captain quietly tell them through the intercom, “We can do this. Our ship can do this. In a few minutes, the worst will be over. We can do this.”
He was right. The ship made it through the atmosphere just fine. It was a little uncomfortable crossing the galaxy without tables and chairs and bed frames, but at least there was chocolate.
The passengers and crew of the little-ship-that-could went down in legend. Great leaders and inventors and heroes in the colony planet could trace their family lines to the people who traveled there on the little ship.
Many years after the voyage, a researcher interviewed the last surviving passenger, who had been a little girl during the journey. “Why do you think so many great innovators traveled on that particular ship?” the researcher asked.
“We knew that we could do anything. The captain told us so, and he was right.”
Charlie and Marianne were at the grocery store, buying supplies. In the morning, they’d all be leaving on a road trip to visit Aunt Doris. Isaac had packed and re-packed the car with the things they didn’t need before they left. It was twilight, just at that point where he