Author : Kathy Kachelries, Staff Writer

That Halloween, the ship decided to be a ghost.

The ship itself wanted to use an oversized sheet, but Tommy laughed at the artificial intelligence and pointed out that there was no way his mother would be able to find a sheet that big. It was a small ship, the kind most kids in his middle school got when they turned twelve, but even a small ship would require at least three or four king sized sheets, and besides, where would they put the eyes? It was a terrible idea. Being a ghost was fine, Tommy said, but the ship would have to be a ghost ship. Tommy himself would have to be the ghost driver.

Tommy placated the ship by allowing it to have a ghost flag, which was a pillowcase with a ghost drawn on it with permanent marker. He hadn’t asked first, but his family had plenty of pillowcases. He only used one pillow; his sister used four. He felt justified in his decision to give the ship what it wanted.

The ghost costume itself (the ship’s, not Tommy’s) was accomplished with a lot of dark tempera paint, the kind that most kids used to paint names, sports logos, and witty comments on their ships during the school year. He smeared it over the white plastimetal surface as the ship sat contentedly on its three landing feet, humming a popular tune through its speakers. The paint didn’t go over quite as well as he hoped. Rather than looking like soot or rust from outer space, it looked like fingerpaint, like a prank gone very poorly. Tommy didn’t tell the ship, though. He didn’t want to hurt its feelings.

His own costume was slightly more involved than the sheet would have been. Tommy used the leftover paint to smear over the only white pair of pants and shirt in the house, which he’d found in his older brother’s drawer, and after they were sufficiently filthy he went at them with a wire cutter, which was the only sharp thing he could find in his father’s workshop. When he came back outside, the ship whistled contentedly.

“I think we should be zombies instead of ghosts,” Tommy said. They looked more like zombies anyways. He drew a new flag on a new pillowcase, this one with a caption declaring a lust for brains, and he rubbed the last bit from the bottom of his paint jar over his face. They made much better zombies than ghosts, though he wasn’t sure if a ship could be a zombie. Either way, he again decided not to mention it. His ship was more sensitive than most, and often took things the wrong way.

Tommy’s mother took the usual pictures, and gave her usual lecture to the ship about its responsibility for the safety of the boy. “Braaaaaains,” the ship declared, and it plotted a course through the city. The year before, they’d charted out the best towers for candy and prizes, determined not to waste their valuable time in the wrong districts. By the end of the four hour window permitted by the city, the trunk of the zombie-ship was nearly full. Because his mother’s curfew was an hour later, the ship landed on a public pad atop one of the tallest buildings and they rolled to the edge as Tommy popped the front dome to look out over the twinkling city.

“Sorry you can’t eat candy,” he told the ship as he pulled the wrapper off a piece of caramel. The ship ate nothing, not even fossil fuels, sipping its power off of a hydrogen battery.

“It’s okay,” the ship said. Its internal lights flared with contentment. “I prefer eating brains, anyways.”

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