The alien thing – white and oblong like a small refrigerator – was still smouldering and popping as Brad slid down the loose soil into the great gouge it had cut into the earth. Suddenly isolated Brad felt his drunken bravado slither away.

He looked up to where the crowd had gathered on the crater’s lip. For a moment Brad considered scrambling back up the soft slope but the pressure of the crowd’s expectation kept him pressed into this hole in the earth.

He turned back to the alien thing.

“Hi!” Brad said, softly, acutely aware of all the eyes looking down at him. “I come in peace?”

Suddenly the thing chittered and throbbed. Rob yelped and leapt backwards, stumbling, and sprawling into the warm dirt.

Dozens of whip-like tendrils morphed out of the alien thing’s body, seemed to sniff the air, then flicked in his direction.

Brad screamed.

Somebody up above laughed, but he could hear the rest of them gasp and feel them stepping back, leaving him alone.

The alien thing shivered and, silently, a seam split down one face. Fierce white light ripped the night. Brad raised a hand, blinded.

“Congratulations dear friend!” The voice crackled. “You have been chosen as the most fortuate, winner of a very grand prize in the Antarean lottery. To claim your uncountable winnings simply place thirty kilograms of – ”

Thud! Crack!

Brad started kicking the alien thing. From above, on the lip of the crater, the growling crowd surged forward as one.

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