The First Snow of Winter
by Caroline M. Yoachim
Morana bundled Leo up in two pairs of colony-issued pants and three shirts. She found a waterproof windbreaker that was a couple sizes too big for him, which was perfect for layering over all the extra clothes. Most of the winter supplies had been destroyed last year when the thrusters on the colony shuttle exploded, so she did her best with what they had.
"Can we go?" Leo fidgeted. "Most of my friends are already outside."
Morana looked him over. She wished there were gloves, but the work gloves were all sized for adult hands, and Leo was only five. She tucked some extra gloves in her pocket. After he'd been outside playing for a while, maybe he'd want them. She tied a shirt around his head as a makeshift hat.
With so many layers of pale blue clothes, her son reminded her of the tiny bird-like creatures that were native to the planet. Colony recruiters had promised an uninhabited tropical paradise, but they'd been wrong. Wrong about everything. The native species had mostly turned out to be harmless. Leo had loved watching the fluffy little birds build dirt-mound nests by blending the orange soil with their spit, but the fluff-puff birds never laid any eggs into the nests, at least not that Morana saw. It made sense. They looked like birds, but they were an alien life form. There was no reason for them to lay eggs.
Morana walked with Leo to the colony airlock at the south end of the dome, where a few other families waited to go out into the first snow of winter. The planet no longer boasted the tropical temperatures the recruiters had promised. It had been warm eight years ago when they arrived, but the planet's eccentric orbit meant they were in for a long, cold winter. The fluff-puff birds had disappeared when the overnight temperatures dipped below freezing.
"Niko! I'm going to build a snow rocket, you wanna help?" Leo asked, excited to see his friend. The boys ran ahead into the airlock, leaving their parents behind. Morana asked Niko's father in a quiet voice, "Are you sure this is the right thing?"
"Look how excited they are," he answered.