The aliens must not leave the basement. A father struggles to keep them busy and satisfied for the sake of his son.
Through the Wall to Eggshell Lake
by Danith McPherson
The aliens in the basement were making noises. Jiggs heard them the moment he got home from work. After so many nights of unlocking the door and stepping into silence, the faint rustling caught his ear in a comforting way. The two little creatures were expanding the lake, a task sure to keep them busy for days while Jiggs contrived other things for them to do.
This morning the aliens had been satisfied with the fresh water oval a mile long and less than a mile wide that they had conjured up. Jiggs had to nudge them to do more.
“Must learn fast, Chiggs fren,” the taller of the two aliens had told him, sneezing out Jiggs’s name. “Must leave soon.”
Jiggs had blinked away a twinge that wasn’t quite fear, wasn’t quite pain. Just when he thought he was beyond both, he would get these little reminders that the world was still flesh and blood and he still had to live in it. He had stood on the sand, hands on his hips, and scanned the waveless surface as if he expected an idea to suddenly rise from the depths. He didn’t know what “soon” was to an alien, but he knew he had to keep them here.
“This is no more than a puddle by Minnesota standards,” Jiggs had argued. “What can you learn from that? But with a larger lake–well, there are numerous possibilities.” Too vague. Incomprehension rippled across their bumpy faces. But it was all he could think of on short notice. Dangerously close to being late for work, he’d needed to get creative. His mind wonder to the lake outside.
Weeks before the aliens arrived, the fall weather had grown bitter, and the speedboat had gone into storage. Jiggs’s first thought when he’d seen the aliens’ puddle was that he wished he could plop the 19-foot MasterCraft right into the middle of it and cruise away the coming winter. Hmm. That had potential. The little silver oval was fine for swimming but would be cramped for water skiing. A boat would have to turn tightly to avoid the three sides of nothingness where the water simply stopped, cut off by the dome of pale, sunless sky as if the whiteness held this world together.
Jiggs had shaken his head. “Too bad. If we had a bigger lake, I could teach you about water skiing. But if you guys don’t have the time–”
Find the complete story in my upcoming short fiction collection Through the Wall, scheduled to be released in 2021.
“Through the Wall to Eggshell Lake” was originally published in Azimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. Later it was included in the anthology Isaac Asimov’s Father’s Day.