Author: Ken Carlson

Maxx was puttering away with various adhesives and synthetics in the attic of his government-issued pod, one of the perks of being among the few humans on the Gliese 163 c mining colony. Encased in a series of domes and tubes, the inhabitants lived a rugged existence. Maxx’s family enjoyed many luxuries local citizens and visiting aliens could only dream of.
“Is Janica done with her studies?” Maxx asked.
“Yes,” said Ariana, his wife. “The comm-link with Earth should be closing down soon. She’s 13. She knows she has to complete her assignments by then.”
“Then bring her in. I’m almost done.”
Ariana sighed. She thought marrying a diplomat from Earth would be exciting. Instead, they were shuttled from one space station or rock to the next, with his attempts at forming local community bonds and rewriting war-torn history considered failed exercises.
“You wanted to see me, father?” Janica and her mother entered his room.
“Yes,” Maxx said, revealing the product of his work. “What do you think of this?”
“AAAAAGGHH!” Janica screamed and recoiled in fear into her mother’s arms.
“Maxx, have you lost your mind?” Ariana yelled.
“Hold on!” Maxx shouted. “It’s just a mask, see!” He held the rubberized image of a Genesian, a lizard creature that feasted many of this planet’s early inhabitants.
“I sculpted it from images I found in the historical medical data banks.”
“What are you doing with it?” Ariana asked.
“I thought Janica would like to wear it,” Maxx responded. His wife and daughter stared at him, then the mask.
“Back on Earth,” he said, “they used to celebrate a holiday, Halloween.” Maxx was an amateur historian, ever eager to spread the story of Earth. Janica and Ariana thought the overall embarrassment of his last effort, one involving the hiding of sweets throughout their pod under the guise of some enormous rabbit, would be the end of it.
“On that night,” he continued, “children would dress up in costumes representing fears and legends, then enter other people’s homes in search of food.”
“You want me to dress up like a giant gecko and beg for nutrition tablets?” Janica asked.
“You ask for a treat, playfully threatening to play a trick on the residents if they don’t provide one. We can try it with the Sundorffs. They’re human and older. I’m sure they’ve heard of it. They’ll probably think it’s funny.”
Ariana & Janica thought it was a horrible idea. Lars and Leiloni Sundorff were retired military attachés, more interested in credit from warding off nonexistent rebels than sharing pleasantries with their milquetoast neighbors.
Janica walked up to the Sundorff’s door in full Genesian costume. Maxx stood back on his property, beaming at his creation, as Ariana rolled her eyes.
Leiloni Sundorff opened their door. She screamed and ran inside. Janica took a few steps in tried to explain herself but was unable to be heard through the mask. She tried to take it off and couldn’t.
Leiloni returned with her husband and several incendiary laser blasts. A general alarm rang out as Janica ran out the door. Security shields closed down, cutting off Janica from returning to her home. Janica yelled for help as her parents cried as they tried to override the forcefield.
Sundorff slowly stalked his prey, steadying his hand for one final shot. Janica had nowhere to hide. She ran toward Sundorff, yelling through the muffling mask. Sundorff realized this wasn’t what he thought it was, but it wasn’t until after he squeezed the trigger for one more shot.