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Story: The Gift
By Joseph Madden
The children at play in the schoolyard that early Friday morning looked up in awe as the saucer descended from out of the cool azure sky. All activity ceased as the ship drew nearer and the children stared in wide-eyed wonder realizing that it was about to set down on the athletic field adjacent to their building.
The teachers on recess duty that day tried to stem the flow of curious children from racing to meet the ship as it settled to the ground so feather light it barely disturbed the dust. Like lemmings, the children rushed through the gap in the cyclone fencing, sometimes three or more wide, jamming the exit until the push of students from behind popped them through like a cork from a bottle.
They gathered all around the gleaming silver disc, not knowing what to expect. Little eyes gazing in quiet wonder at this object from the stars, wondering, waiting for something to happen.
They did not have to wait long.
A sudden pop and hiss preceded the ship splitting in half like a shelled walnut. The abrupt sound and action caused a number of children to jump. The majority of them took a cautious step back.
By the time the two aliens emerged, a lone child, a little girl, remained where she stood. All others had shied back several yards. With a curious lilt of her head, she watched the new arrivals all but unfold themselves from their craft until they stood nearly three times her height, all legs and arms, with curiously small heads and large, dark eyes.
The girl watched, not at all afraid, nor aware of the fact that all her friends, schoolmates and teachers had by now retreated to the imagined safety on the opposite side of the cyclone fence. She adjusted her glasses and took a step forward.
The aliens finished their unfolding and looked down at the lone girl, blinking their large, dark eyes inquisitively at her as she did the same. The first alien smiled down at her, obviously charmed by her lack of fear. Her friends continued to remain behind the fence.
“I bring you greetings, little human. I am Zakkdahr.” It gestured to its companion, who also smiled and raised a spindly hand in recognition. “This is Grot. We come to you as visitors from the Zagnut galaxy. We have been instructed by our most esteemed Imperious Leader to come to you and present a gift to the first human we meet.”
At these words, the one called Grot produced a box of multi-colored crystal that seemed to radiate with some luminous energy from within. The young girls eyes grew wide at the sight of it.
Taking the box from Grot, Zakkdahr continued. “You are a most fortunate race to receive a gift like this. This gift will put an end to all your world’s troubles. Please accept it as a token of friendship from our people.”
He extended the box to the little girl who hesitated, but upon seeing the disarming smile on Zakkdahr’s face, took a tentative step forward and took it from him. She seemed momentarily surprised by the lack of weight for its size, nearly dropping it before compensating.
Zakkdahr smiled again. “I am sorry to say that we must leave you now. We have other worlds to visit upon which we wish to honor with our gifts. Please, use it wisely.”
Grot was already folding himself back into the ship as Zakkdahr turned and began walking back to the craft. Just before entering, he paused and looked back. “One thing of note.” He called back to the little girl, who was already being crowded by schoolmates now that they were leaving. All stopped and listened intently. “Please do not activate the gift before we are out of your planet’s atmosphere, as its power has a tendency to interfere with our drive systems. Once we are out of sight, feel free to activate it.”
He began that curious folding motion of his body again, and was soon in his seat next to Grot. Both waved to the crowd as it drew closer. “And now, farewell.”
The ship sealed itself again, seams melding together to form a single, flawless surface. With the barest whisper of sound, the craft lifted from the schoolyard, pivoting at an angle perpendicular to the ground once it was above the treetops, and thrust itself into the sky, disappearing from sight within seconds.
By the time the ship had vanished, the schoolyards entire population had gathered around the little girl with the box. As her friends egged her on, she lifted the lid, multicolored lights emanating from it like the rainbow of the Lord’s promise. Inside was a single button.
The girl looked from the button to the crowd around her, and back to the button. Smiling, she pressed it.
Zakkdahr and Grot howled with glee as they watched Earth disintegrate from a safe distance. Their ship rocked gently, like a boat bobbing on the sea, as the last of the shockwave reached them.
“Humans,” Zakkdahr crowed, wiping moist remains of tears of laughter from his eyes. “They blow up so easily!”
Beside him, Grot was a rolling mass of uncontrolled giggling, which only caused Zakkdahr to laugh more. Then the comm system sounded.
Both of them stopped laughing, sharing worried glances, holding their breath.
When the comm sounded again, Zakkdahr reached a trembling hand forward and switched on the receiver. A hologram appeared in the air before them, a being like themselves, but older. “ZAKKDAHR!!! Have you been blowing up planets again?”
Zakkdahr struggled to find words, but the older alien cut him off. “How many times have I told you not to go around blowing up lesser civilizations just because you think it’s funny?”
“But how did you . . .”
“It wasn’t hard to figure out it was you. I followed the debris trail. Plus, your little prank on Hargus Minor failed. The residents there pointed the two of you out.”
The elder waved his words away. “We will speak of this more when you get home. And if you think I’m upset, just wait until your mother finds out.” He turned his gaze to Grot. “As for you, Grot Maagus, I wouldn’t be surprised if your father removes your entire spleen this time, and don’t think I won’t tell him!”
In the seat next to Zakkdahr, Grot fainted dead away.
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