Curbita and Pepo lay in their patch, watching the ships burn in the sky. Occasionally one would flare, perhaps venting oxygen or ejecting a reactor. The humans were in full retreat, abandoning ships that couldn’t make the long journey back to their own planet.

pumpkin“Why, mamma?” Pepo asked. The fire behind her eyes was dim with sadness. “Why did we have to kill the humans?”

Curbita sighed, her own light flickering. Who wanted to have this discussion with their children? Who wanted to explain how, on the humans’ planet, their kind were carved for their delicious meat? Hunted and ground up for spice? That every year, the skulls of their distant cousins were mounted on human porches? That there were farms where their people were forced to breed ever larger, often merely for amusement? Should she tell him of the human “sport” involving catapults, in which their cousins were both star and victim? This was no discussion to have for a child. Curbita wished she were ignorant of the facts herself — the images sent from the human home world were horrifying. Even the most scandalous of tabloids dare not publish even the tamest of them.

“There is evil in the universe, my little Pepo,” she said finally. “We must be ever vigilant. We must never let our candles be extinguished.”

Pepo curled up against her side, turning away from the orbital battle that slowly receded from sight.