Author : Kyle Hubbard

Humans are remarkably ugly.

The kylhu child had never seen a real one before, so it stared with morbid fascination at the man on the stage. The human marched back and forth on two legs, bellowing and waving his bizarre limbs in grand, sweeping gestures. He was speaking a local kylhu dialect, but not very well; he did not meet the right vocal pitches, he paused frequently to suck in air, and his body language was all wrong.

“Come see aliens from all over galaxy!” he was shouting. The surrounding kylhu seemed confused and a little afraid as the human made his speech. The kylhu race rarely saw anything from off-world, as most space travelers felt that Kylh’on had little to offer them. It was a dry, desolate planet with harsh weather that spanned most of the solar rotation. The carnival had arrived on an optimal cycle, but it was unclear what they hoped to trade for the entertainment they provided.

The child began to wander the fair, marveling at the sights. Various alien life forms were on display inside metal cages, glass tanks, and fenced pens. As much as the child wanted to take its time looking at them, the carnival would be leaving soon, so it had to be quick if it was going to see them all.

Scurrying from display to display, the child stumbled blindly into the leg of a large creature. It looked up and up until it recognized the alien as the human it saw earlier.

“Greetings, young one,” the man said in the same barely-coherent kylhu dialect he used before. “You like fair?”

Nervous, the child said nothing.

“You like candy?” the human continued, though the final word was unfamiliar. He reached down and presented a pink, fluffy substance. “Cotton candy,” said the human in a language the child did not understand. “Human food. Try.”

Curious, the child took a small piece of the fluff and tasted it. The flavor was very strong, which the child disliked at first, yet it found itself ingesting a little more. Before long it was eagerly consuming the stuff, unable to stop itself. The child felt ill, yet it kept eating and eating until the pink fluff lost its color, and the world faded to black.

“You awake yet?”

It took the child a few moments to recognize the noises as words, but it could not decipher what they meant. Its vision returned slowly, and it let out a sickly gurgle, feeling queasy and disoriented.

“‘Bout time,” said the voice. The kylhu child peered around its surroundings and found itself trapped inside a metal cage. Everything nearby was grey and shiny, unlike the familiar orange sands of Kylh’on.

A figure approached the cage, causing the child to back into a corner. It recognized the figure at once: the human from the carnival.

“Have a nice nap, kiddo?” said the man, but the child did not understand him. The human crouched down and tapped lightly on a metal bar. “Sorry about this,” he said. “Your kind don’t have much in the way of currency. None we can use in the colonies, anyhow. But you… You’re something special. The colonies are just itching for a new display, and I think you’re it. You’re gonna put us on the map again, little guy.”

The young kylhu shrunk even further into the corner, its little body quivering. It wanted to go back home. It didn’t like this place.

The human exhaled and rose to his full height. “Buck up there, champ,” he said. “You’re in show business, now.”

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