They were on the planet Lasonia. It was a lesser-known terrestrial planet in the Northeast quadrant of the Soduruta Galaxy. If Jane didn’t know better, she’d think those words were completely made up, but she’d never say it flat out.
The locals were friendly enough. Vaguely humanoid, their most alien trait was the hot pink color of their skin and the horns jutting out of their foreheads. Their architecture was more or less average for a village in the middle of a desert. The food was delicious. Just like the chicken and cheese quesadillas that Jane used to get at Izzy’s. She was pretty sure that wasn’t a coincidence, as Loki had muttered a spell over her plate before handing it to her.
Their room was furnished to resemble a hotel suite, complete with a bathroom and kitchenette. The proprietor bragged about all the research he did into Earth culture so he’d know exactly what the room should look like. For the most part, he did a good job, though Jane learned quickly that flushing the toilet too fast ran the risk of leaving her drenched.
As they settled in and Jane set up her equipment to take readings of the planet’s weather patterns, there was one thing that wouldn’t stop bugging her.
“Why are we here again?”
Loki threw open the blue and pink checkered curtains, letting the suns in. “I thought it was a nice establishment. Do you disagree?”
“I mean on this planet,” Jane said. “You said you had a surprise for me, but so far, nothing’s been all that surprising.”
“Patience, Jane,” Loki sang, plucking an apple from the mini-tree on the wardrobe. “This planet may not seem like much, but it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the galaxy.”
Jane looked out the window at the miles of sand and a single block of hunched-over structures made from something resembling plywood. “Are you sure?”
Loki grinned. “Would I lie to you, darling?”
Some questions were better left unanswered.
For the rest of the day, they rested in bed, weary after a long week of space travel. Food was delivered at noon and Loki’s magic allowed them to connect to Jane’s Netflix account on her laptop. After a few hours of cheesy holiday movies, Jane decided to spend some time reading while Loki took a walk.
“I will be back shortly,” he said on his way to the door. “Just need to check up on some things.”
“Have fun,” Jane said.
Ten minutes later, he was still gone and she’d finished the current chapter of her book. Setting it aside for later, she crawled into the silky cream puff of a bed and tried her best to get comfortable. It proved difficult as she found herself sinking into the unrelenting softness, buried under too many blankets. This was why she preferred firm mattresses.
“This surprise had better be good,” Jane muttered, closing her eyes and drifting off.
She shot up. “What? Huh? I wasn’t sleeping.”
Loki was sitting at her bedside, arms folded. Behind him, the once white-hot sky was now a dim red. “I think perhaps you were, dear. But no matter. Get dressed. We must leave quickly.”
“Leave?” Jane asked. “And go where?”
“Outside,” Loki said helpfully. “Hurry up now.”
Jane grumbled as she shoved on her shoes. First, he dragged her to some backwater planet with no warning or explanation, now he was ruining her nap. Some Christmas vacation this was turning out to be.
Heading outside, Jane was surprised to find a small crowd gathering on top of a hill. Most of them had the same pink skin and horns as the hotel proprietor, but several sported wings, extra limbs, bushy tails, and second mouths. They spoke multiple languages, words and clicks and grunts Jane couldn’t hope to comprehend. A greenish-yellow alien with a nose like an elephant hissed at a large, more humanlike creature with three eyes. The two threw their heads back, releasing raspy yelps Jane assumed to be laughter. The three-eyed man(?) looked at Loki and repeated the hissing. Loki laughed along and shook the creature’s hand before they moved on.
“What were they talking about?” Jane asked.
“Hm?” Loki glanced at her. “I have no idea.”
At the top of the hill were a pair of deck chairs. They looked exactly like the ones Jane had at home with their faded burgundy cushions and metal legs speckled with rust. The only reason they were still vacant appeared to be the layer of magic around them. An octopus-like being in a baseball cap poked a tentacle at the chairs, only to jerk back when a spark of electricity went through it. They squawked as Loki and Jane sat down, presumably in annoyance.
“Are you ever going to tell me what this is about?” Jane asked. “Because when you said we were going on vacation, I was expecting something a bit more… Christmas-y.”
“This isn’t Christmas-y?” he asked, sweeping an arm out at the ocean of yellow sand and sparse vegetation.
“No, not particularly,” Jane said.
Loki chuckled. “Ah, my dear, you mustn’t judge a book by its cover. Is that not the saying?”
Jane hated when he used that tactic on her. He always thought it made him right even when he didn’t have an actual argument.
“What are we waiting for anyway?” she asked. “Some kind of show?”
“You could say that,” Loki said, a mysterious smile forming. “You could say we’re about to see something truly majestic.”
“If you say so,” Jane said, casting another doubtful look around the sand dunes.
Loki clicked his tongue. “Now, Jane, are you not a stargazer? You must look harder. And higher.”
He pointed up as if Jane didn’t know where the sky was. In all fairness, he was right. Wasn’t Jane the one always choosing vacation spots that had the best views of the sky? The stars around here were certainly nice. Jane already had a new section of her ‘Ultimate Universe Star Chart’ planned out. Still, there was nothing here that she couldn’t find on Earth. A few constellations she recognized, a few more she didn’t. They’d seen a comet on the ride over, but other than that, it had been an uneventful trip.
The suns were setting and the sky turned orange. One sun was noticeably faster than the other, and as it sank behind the mountains, a spark shot out and vanished into the clouds.
“What was that?” Jane asked, tugging Loki’s sleeve.
He kept smiling. “Patience dear. We are about to begin.”
The second sun continued its lazy journey through the sky. Slower, it seemed, now that Jane was paying attention. No other sparks had appeared just yet, but though Lasonia’s second sunburned as hot as Earth’s, Jane couldn’t look away. She followed it all the way down until it was barely a wink of light. The sky was nearly black, stars pinpricking the endless void.
Then, as the second sun vanished, the sparks returned. Hundreds of them. They burst through the air like fireworks, exploded into millions of shards floating through space. More than that, each shard expelled a stream of color. Not just one, but dozens. Reds, blues, purples, yellows, greens, oranges, and so many Jane couldn’t name or fathom. Gasps and howls of joy rose among the spectators. The yellow alien raised his trunk and let out a roaring trumpet.
“Oh my god,” Jane breathed as the colors swirled together, forming a wave that traveled through the sky.
Loki took her hand. “This planet isn’t much by way of attractions, but it is unique in that every few years, when the suns have set, the sky comes alive with light. A bit like the aurora borealis, is it not?”
“This might be better,” Jane said.
Light illuminated the desert wasteland, turning the yellow sand gold. Instead of fading as the seconds passed, it only grew stronger. New sparks appeared and exploded with passion, replacing the fading light with shining new hues. There was no sound except the cheering, with Jane’s voice rising over the crowd as she was brought to her feet by a particularly powerful burst.
“I knew you would enjoy this,” Loki whispered in her ear. “Perhaps now you’ll let me choose the vacation spot more often.”
“Maybe I will,” Jane replied.
He started, not expecting her to acquiesce so quickly. It wasn’t like her not to fight him, but as the lights whipped across the sky in their eternal dance, Jane found she didn’t want to. She jumped into Loki’s arms, unheeded by the crowd, and pressed her lips to his.
“Merry Christmas, Loki,” she mumbled against him.
“Merry Christmas, Jane.”