The Rosetta Mind (Book Two of the Rosetta Series)
by Claire McCague
Copyright © 2022 by Claire McCague
Twin Butte, Alberta
The banging on the front door progressed from hesitant to insistent to resolute.
In the attic room, Estlin stared at the rumpled blankets on his bed. His life had taken a ludicrously sharp turn, and it was disconcerting to be home again where everything was exactly how heíd left it. He wanted to lie down. He wanted a few minutes of quiet, not to sleep but to wake again. The banging from below demanded an answer. It meant that the world had noticed the improbable object hovering over his old farmhouse and had sent someone to his door.
"Are you getting up?" Estlin asked the pair of shadows in his open closet.
There was no response.
He left the bedroom, following the short hallway to the top of the stairs.
"Iím coming," he hollered as he descended to the kitchen. Soft, blue-tinged light was spilling through the windows as though the calendar had stepped forward from summer to winterís first snow fall. He opened the door and found a fireman on his porch, wearing the full kit, heavy yellow overalls, bulky jacket, helmet, breathing mask and air tank.
It took Estlin a moment to recognize Bill, who owned the closest hardware store and volunteered with the local fire station.
Bill pulled down his mask, sweat dripping from his face. "Mr. Hume, are you alright? Is this," he gestured skyward, "is this some kind of emergency?"
"Itís not an emergency," Estlin answered. "Not exactly. Itís...aliens."
It wasnít necessary to point at the vessel obscuring the sky, so he didnít.
"Aliens," Bill said. "It does look like an alien sort of thing. I thought Iíd check on you before the military marches in."
"Iím sure theyíre coming." Estlin considered how much of the convoluted story he should tell. "My friend, Harry, is a biologist. He had the first encounter in Wellington, and he flew me down to see if I could translate for the visitors. Things got complicated. Thatís not a ship. Itís a tank full of ocean and cuttlefish. A lot of cuttlefish. Swimming up there."
"Aliens and cuttlefish. That does sound complicated." Bill looked at the structure supporting the water above them. "Your UFO is weird. It doesnít quite touch the ground. It goes right out to the edge of the road, like a wall, with a notch at your old postbox. When I walked toward the notch, a tunnel opened along your driveway." He wiped the sweat from his forehead. "What do the aliens look like?"
"Theyíre kind of small and spiky." Estlin dropped a hand to just above knee height. "And they like to climb, except for the ones that like to swim. Two of them are taking a nap on a shelf in my bedroom closet."
"Do you want to come in?" Estlin stepped back from the door. Three squirrels took the opportunity to dash around their feet and into the kitchen. Estlin ignored them. "Can I get you a glass of water?"
"No, thanks." Bill looked again at the structure that enclosed the house, particularly where it rose from above the roof to arc over the nearby tree. "Iím going to get quarantined, arenít I?"
"I should report back." Bill took a step backwards, and a second step.
"Wait," Estlin said. "When the cavalry arrives, tell them I want to see Harry when he gets here."
"Sure." Bill pulled the mask over his face as he descended the steps, picking up speed as he went. He jogged across the yard, visible until he passed the tree, and then the ice-and-ocean structure closed behind him.
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