A look of complete and utter joy on her features, Trish clutched the check to her chest, her grin threatening to split her face. On the table to her right lay an opened envelope, the address of a prestigious literature company on the top left corner. Next to it was a certificate congratulating her on winning a science fiction writing contest.
Hearing a knock at her apartment door, she squealed with unrestrained delight and hurried over to answer it. Through the peephole, Trish saw her friend Belle standing on the porch, looking equally thrilled.

Flinging open the door wide and letting the other woman in, Trish exclaimed, "I won! I won the contest, can you even believe it?!" sounding several years younger than her age of 17 in her excitement.

"Of course I believe it!" scoffed Belle good-naturedly. "Let me see your award!"

Walking into the kitchen and chatting avidly, Trish gushed about the phone call she'd received from the corporation and the compliments on her work while Belle examined the certificate admiringly.

"Do you have any plans for the money?" She inquired.

"Not sure yet.a thousand dollars is a some dragons." Trish thought dreamily of her fantastic collection.

"Trish, I was thinking," Belle said, setting down the paper and lacing her fingers. "Maybe you should use it to get things that are , how do I say this.? Useful!"

"Er, I don't quite comprehend your meaning."

"You have a lot of dragon statues, and Star why not buy things like clothes, or shoes, with your money instead?"

"Well, I could get myself a Starfleet uniform!" Trish beamed.

"Oh, you are incorrigible!" Belle laughed. "Anyway, congratulations on winning the contest, you definitely deserved it! I loved your story! Tomorrow, unfortunately, my psychology class is having a huge discussion and I need to study up. So, I had better go."

"Alright, I'll see you later!" Seeing her friend to the door, Trish waved good-bye and went back to the small kitchen. Playing over different uses for her prize in her head, Trish couldn't help but feel slightly embarrassed by her friend's remarks though she knew they were given in good spirit.

It's not like I'm , maybe I am, but oh well. Trish's thoughts were interrupted by sharp rapping on her front door.

"Who.?" She queried no one in particular, going to answer it. Peering though the little glass peephole, she saw an odd man standing on her doorstep, a disarming smile on his face.

Tentatively opening the door about a third of the way, Trish said politely, "May I help you?"

"Yes, yes, you can!" He replied amiably. "I am Lawrence Rolark, here to let you know about a fascinating you are.?"

"Uh, Trish," she replied obligingly, though with a touch of unease. Something about the stranger seemed wrong somehow; physically he was perfectly normal, if a bit pallid.

"Good evening, Trish! At this time, I have been going door-to-door selling absolute top-quality pieces of that fabulously quaint little planet Pluto. Would you care to see what I have to offer?" Lawrence tilted his head expectantly.

For almost a full thirty seconds, Trish stood there staring bewilderedly at him.

"Pardon me, but did you say Pluto?" She asked finally.

"Sure did."

"And by pieces, you mean actual specimens, rocks, from the planet surface?"

"I do."

"In that 're crazy," Trish answered flatly. "You can't get to Pluto."

"Can't I?" The salesman defended, eyes glinting.

Mentally taking a step back, Trish mediated, "Alright, so maybe you can get to Pluto."

"I'm not asking you to believe me, just listen to my offer!" Rolark snapped, eyes gleaming in an entirely inhuman-like manner.

Eyes wide, Trish gazed at him in wonder, her copious imagination allowing her to actually entertain the theory that the man before her was an alien. Of course, the logical part of her brain fiercely opposed the notion, but Trish felt shivers go down her spine nonetheless.

Licking her lips, she questioned, "Could I perhaps see of Pluto?"

Nodding, Lawrence inquired, "May I come in, or should I show you here?"

"Oh, um, come in." Trish let him through and into the front room. On the short coffee table the salesman set a large suitcase. Rubbing his hands together as if in anticipation, he tuned to Trish, "Would you mind dimming the lights? The specimens have a very attractive aura about them."

Shrugging, Trish complied, then came over and squatted down next to him. Deftly opening the case, Lawrence withdrew three perfect black cubes that were roughly six inches in height, width, and length to Trish's estimates.

"Take a look!" He slid the top off, revealing inside a pale gray rock. It was featureless, flawless, and smooth excepting several sharply defined edges, and the shape was somewhat reminiscent of a warped obelisk. Gasping in amazement, Trish discerned a white light weakly emanating from the stone; she also perceived a bizarre sort of spectral glow surrounding the salesman Rolark, but did not comment, her mind racing.

He's not an alien, you imagination has just run away with you, Trish told herself sternly.

Reaching out to touch the miraculous stone, she was surprised to find an additional clear lid of the top.


"You weren't actually hoping to touch it, were you, Trish?" Lawrence asked in shock.

Looking at him, confused, she replied, "Why not?"

"Honestly, you don't know?"

"Er, no."

"Pluto is the farthest planet from this system's sun, correct? At least, when Neptune doesn't intercede. So, as a repercussion, it is very cold on Pluto. Very, very cold."

"I don't understand."

"All the specimens are cold, icy, freezing, frost-bitten, chill, cold, bitter cold. Physical contact with a piece this size could quite easily kill you," the salesman informed her stoically, solemnly. "In fact, I'm undoubtedly sure that, with a rock this size, full hand contact would be fatal."

" makes no 're only rocks!"

"No no no, that is where you are mistaken!" Lawrence responded gleefully, a mischievous gleam in his eye. "You'll have to take my word for it; I have only your best interests at heart-besides my career as a salesman, naturally." On a more serious note, he added, "I'm not joking; never remove the clear cover."

" , these stones are remarkable. I am of science fiction. How you asking?"

"Why, only one-thousand dollars." He gave her an oblique look, and the glimmer in his odd-colored eyes made Trish believe that he somehow knew that that was exactly the amount she carried. She shuddered involuntarily, though drawn by his offer.

Stop it, you're starting to believe that they really are pieces of Pluto! That's crazy! And that the Lawrence guy is an ! A thousand dollars! I can't, I won't buy one of those stones, no matter how attractive they are, Trish thought fiercely to herself.

"I'm sorry, sir, but I can't afford that, much as I like these beautiful rocks," Trish told him, standing up.

"Are you sure? Absolutely? Positively?" Getting to his feet as well, Rolark eyed her, something burning in his irises that wasn't anger, but not an emotion Trish could discern. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I'll tell you, I know that you will not regret purchasing one of these specimens."

Peering into his fathomless gaze, she was slightly unnerved, though persuaded. Still, logic cried out against what direction her thoughts were taking, but did not prevail. It was peculiar, as if the man's eyes were a deep, cool, whirlpool, inexorably pulling her down.

"Oh, maybe you're right." Trish murmured, entranced by the glowing rocks. Sluggishly retrieving her check and rewriting it out to Lawrence, she handed it to him.

"Thank you, this is most appreciated. Here, this is the best piece I have," the salesman said gratefully, setting a black box into her hands. Trish nodded, and politely showed him to the door.

Before leaving, Lawrence repeated once more, "Now, do not remove the clear cover! It is most dangerous!"

"Yes, I understand," she replied, then shut the door. For several moments she simply stood there, wondering what had just occurred.

I just threw it all away, a thousand dollars; I can't believe it! Trish mentally kicked herself. What had possessed her that she actually had believed the admittedly whimsical stone really came from the planet Pluto?

"Foolish, that's what it was," she muttered. Hurriedly, she went and checked out a window to see if the Rolark man was somewhere on the sidewalk, but the street was devoid of any people.

"Drat!" Belle would be polite about it to be sure, and her parents shocked. The money could have gone to more schooling. Trish dejectedly trudged back to her front room, seeing that the lights were still off. Resigned, she sat and slid the top off of the black cube and gazed at the softly glowing rock inside.

It was fascinating to look at, to observe its exotic characteristics, and Trish found herself tapping her fingernails on the clear covering. So weird; covered on five sides with impenetrable black, and then transparent on one.

"Maybe I could just." Pulling slightly at what she assumed was just some type of glass, Trish bit her lip upon encountering resistance; it didn't slide off fluidly as did the black top layer. Exerting a little more force, she yelped in surprise when it gave and she jerked back suddenly.

Sitting up and bringing her face to the box, Trish was hit with a blast of arctic wind, freezing her eyes and sinuses in an instant. Screaming, she felt saliva crystallize in her mouth, on her tongue. Frantically Trish scrambled back and groped her way into the bathroom, vision obscured by ice. Once at a sink, she turned it on hot and repeatedly splashed it onto her face; she did this for a full five minutes, shivering violently. When her sight returned, Trish's eyes flowed freely with cold, salty tears. Looking around, she noted with despair that she saw halos of light surrounding everything and her vision was blurry.

What felt like an ice cream headache resided in her skull, and she shook with chills, teeth chattering. First donning all the jackets in her bedroom closet and pulling on a hat and gloves, Trish ventured into the front room. Met with frigid air, the temperature lowering perceptibly every few seconds, she sought out the clear, second covering. Giving the now malignant box a wide berth, Trish watched in horrified disquiet as a thick sort of steam rose steadily from it.

Knowing what she had to do but reluctant to approach the black cube, she swallowed her fears and quickly kneeled by the coffee table. The cold emanating from in the box was almost a tangible presence, and she clumsily tried to reinsert the glass-like covering. Her fingers barely moveable, Trish haphazardly shoved the cover into its slot, and to her immense fortune got it in just right. The steam that had previously been rising and forming a sheet of gleaming ice on the ceiling was cut off, and immediately crystallized on the "glass", glowing palely. Despite the source having been halted, the room was still subzero in temperature, and Trish pawed at the control on the wall, cranking the heat.

Once it came on, she hovered over the vent, the warm air feeling like a breath of life on her face. All the time she waited to get warm, the hours it took to bring the house back to livable temperatures, Trish's mind was racing.

A real live specimen, a piece of Pluto right her in my friends in the astronomy club are never going to believe it.