by Kellee Kranendonk
Clouds smeared across the sky, obscuring the sun as snow gently fell, and a light breeze swirled the flakes in occasional, mini cyclones. Few cars travelled the road that ran past the already snow-laden hill where children and their parents slid on sleds and toboggans. Grumbles—of having to climb back up the hill lugging sliding devices, and sometimes kids—joined giggles that rose up among the reaching branches of bare trees, and brought joy to the grey day.
“Brace for impact,” cried Captain Nightingale, gripping the arms of his chair.
The impact of ship hitting ground knocked him to the floor. He groaned and took a second to assess any damage to his body. Feeling no pain, he got to his feet and looked around the bridge. First mate Mr. Denver and Officer George also had fallen, but both looked unhurt.
“Nickels,” called Nightingale, looking for the final member of his bridge crew.
“Here, Captain,” she said, pulling herself up at her station. Blood trickled from a cut on her bald head.
“Have Dr. Roberts bandage that,” Nightingale said, then went over to Denver’s station. “Where are we?”
Denver had a map screen on a small table in front of him. He pointed to a blue and white sphere. “Here, Captain. A planet called Earth.” He pressed some buttons and the screen changed.
“What’s that?” cried Nightingale as the entire screen went white. It looked like thousands, millions of crashed ships. “It’s not. . .no. . .it can’t be. . .can it?”
Pressing more buttons, Denver brought up a screen with an image of their ship “The Project”. Six arms projecting out from a central hub where the bridge was located, the white of the ship sparkled and gleamed. The shiniest ship in the galaxy—a fact Captain Nightingale was proud of.
Denver tapped the panel in front of him and the image narrowed to one side, a second screen coming up beside it. Zooming in on the second image, Denver turned to see Nightingale approaching, eyes on the screen.
“It doesn’t look right,” said Nightingale. “We need to investigate. Officer George, call Earnest from security. We’re going to check this out.”
“Captain, I need Earnest to help with ship repairs. The thingamajig is disconnected from the dooflicky and the whatchamacallit is out of position.”
Nightingale nodded. “You have George and Earnest, then. Roberts and Nickels will accompany me.”
* * *
Bitterly cold wind blasted Nightingale’s face as he stepped from the ship. White hexagons covered the cold ground. Many of them resembled The Project except in miniature, and no two were exactly the same. Nickels picked one up in her hands, but it disintegrated as she inspected it. She looked at Nightingale, stunned.
“What happened? What is this?”
“Unstable earth,” said Nightingale. “We’d best be careful. Stay behind me.”
They started across the blowing, shifting ground. Nightingale stopped when he spotted an enormous grey path cutting through the white. On the other side of it, immense, strange trees touched the sky. They looked like the leafless Zingo trees from his own planet. He turned to the other two. “We’ll try to make it to that enormous path over there. This can’t all be unstable ground. There must be other ships here somewhere.”
Nightingale started out again when a loud noise stopped him. He turned only to see giants throwing themselves down a hill toward the path but never quite reaching it.
“Do you see that?” asked Nickels.
Nightingale nodded, watching the giants. They didn’t appear to be aware of the team. Suddenly one of them broke away from the group and came toward Nightingale.
“Get back to the ship,” the Captain shouted.
They scrambled backwards. Nickels stumbled. Roberts caught her then they ran for the ship. Earnest, George and Denver had just finished the repairs.
“Get in the ship and leave this planet. Now!” shouted Nightingale.
Inside the ship, Denver and George pushed buttons and pressed panels.
Finally the ship whirred into the air.
* * *
Martin ran back to his mom at the top of the sliding hill. “Mom!” he cried as she gave his sister a push on her sled.
Mom turned to him. “What is it, Martin?”
“Mom, I saw some ants. They were running in the snow and they got into a snowflake and flew away.”
“Martin, honestly. How many times have I told you not to make up such silly stories?”
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Kellee Kranendonk is a Canadian writer, a wife, mom, and the editor of Youth Imagination Magazine. She’s been published most recently in such magazines as Voluted Tales, 365 Tomorrows, Aurora Wolf, The Fifth Di, 101 Words, and Flash Fiction Press. Her non-fiction has appeared on the Write Well, Write to Sell website.