This is a photo comic of my short story “I was a Translator for NASA”. It will be posted one page a day or you can get the full pdf version for “name your price” on Gumroad.
They came from deep space, hurtling through our orbital plane at such tremendous velocity we thought they would be gone before we got more than a brief look at them. But then their trajectory shifted. As they shed speed in Saturn’s gravity well, eighty-three satellites focused on the two objects. Ovid bodies, covered by near-black armor plates, a single “head” plate covered the blunt end of their bodies, near the tapered rear two “tendrils” extended backward, twisting and flexing as they changed course. From Saturn, they looped around Venus for a final course correction, before heading toward Earth.
Five hundred years ago, we invented the Gravity Wave Space Drive and the solar system became our new frontier.
The two creatures that had traveled untold distances in lockstep, now separated in Earth orbit. For several weeks they called down to Earth with bursts of radio chirps, squeals, and tones. We think they were searching for others of their kind. The two reunited and drifted into a higher orbit. They turned their bellies toward each other, armor plates parted, lifted, opened allowing them to join as one. Together they slowly spun as they orbited Earth. Three days later, they separated and returned to their previous orbit.
Gregor Snadbar is credited as the inventor of the GWSD. Just twelve years after gravity waves were confirmed to exist, he found a way to bend and warp them around an object to create lift.
Six months after the space whales’ romp in orbit, one descended to fifteen thousand feet over the Pacific Ocean. The plates around its tapered end parted and something fell. The blue green-brown object tumbled through the air for what felt like hours but it was less than a minute before it righted itself and flew back up to its parent. Four more fell and flew over the next six hours. When the parent began to ascend two days later, the calves followed into the upper atmosphere but would not or could not follow into space.
There are children’s stories about whales flying through space, coming to Earth, and teaching us to ride gravity waves. Those were just stories, right? Surely if alien creatures had visited Earth we would have recorded it.
The calves are miniature versions of their parents except where they are solid black, the calves have pale blue undersides and green and brown molted backs. Camouflage from predators perhaps; but what could prey on small-airplane-sized creatures?
Perhaps their first visit was much shorter, just long enough to find an empty nest and for us to observe them bending gravity waves. Short enough for us to forget. But someone remembered. Someone remembered who we owed for giving us the solar system. They remembered and turned it into a story.
In five years, the calves have doubled in size but are still dwarfed by their parents. We think it’ll be a few decades before they can leave Earth’s atmosphere maybe longer before they leave the solar system. Their parents come down into the atmosphere on a regular basis to spend a few days at a time with them. The rest of the time the calves wander around the planet, riding jet streams or skimming through clouds. They keep their distance from planes and rarely come closer than several hundred feet of the ground. There are websites and apps to track their movements. Even an animated show for kids.
Perhaps this time we won’t forget them.
My first breath was deep and sweet. It filled me with life and thoughts. I laid still on the ground breathing in and out. A Voice said, “Wake Up,” so I did. Bright sunlight filtered through the leaves of the tree I laid under.
Sun, leaves, tree. I had never heard these words yet I Knew them.
“Come,” the Voice said.
I stood and followed the Voice into a clearing. Animals of all types surrounded me. I was not afraid because I did not Know fear. An animal approached me and bowed its head.
“What Is It?” the Voice asked.
I reached out to touch the animal’s forehead. “Deer,” I said Naming the animal.
The deer raised its head and bounded away.
“Good,” the Voice said and I felt good and loved.
Animal after animal approached me and one by one I Named them until none were left. I laid down under a tree and breathed in and out. A squirrel ran down the tree and buried a nut. Nearby deer grazed in a meadow. Sparrows flittered from branch to branch overhead. A thought collected itself in my mind.
“What am I?” I asked the Voice.
The presence of the Voice grew greater. “You Are Me Made Flesh. I Merely Spoke The Sun, The Moon, The Stars, The Land, The Waters Above And Below, The Sky And All Animals That Walk Fly And Swim Into Being. But You Are Special. I Molded You And Shaped You From The Earth And I Breathed Life Into You.”
“Is that why I know Words?”
I thought about this as the sun traveled across the sky. As the sun reached the boundary between sky and land, a new question formed itself. “Who am I?” I asked.
The Voice was pleased and happy. “You Are Yourself. Chose Your Name.”
I thought of all the words I Knew and selected one.
“I am Eve,” I said and it was Good.
“What did she just say?”
“She said her name was Eve.”
“But Adam was the first man. How can there be an Eve before an Adam?”
“The game is programmed to adapt to the player’s gender identity. Its standard game design.”
“This isn’t a game. It’s supposed to be a recreation of The Holy Bible.”
“Well, regardless it’s unethical to override a user’s gender without their knowledge and since the ‘recreation’ includes memory blocks and no setup screen, remember you wanted the ‘recreation’ to start with no title screen, there’s no way to get consent.”
“So, what happens next? Adam is created from her rib?”
“That’s not how the bible goes. Fix it.”
“I can’t without either loosening the memory blocks or adding a title screen.”
“The whole point is for people to experience the Garden of Eden and the Fall From Grace first hand. Wait, if she stays in the recreation will the serpent tempt her or Adam?”
“Adam. We found that in playthroughs with women only 40% would be tempted by the snake but 90% would be tempted by their in-game mate.”
“At least it’s always Adam and Eve.”
“Well, we can’t override the player’s sexual identity without consent either.”
“So, what happens if a gay man enters the recreation?”
“He would enter the game as Adam and eventually another Adam would be ‘created’ from his rib.”
“No, it’s ethical game design.”
Death was a shadowy figure, standing in front of three identical doors. “Choose,” they said.
“Am I dead?” I asked. Thick fog obscured the world beyond.
Death inclined their head ever so slightly, extended an arm towards the doors and said once more, “Choose.”
I paced in front of the doors. “Ok, so these doors lead to like different afterlifes, afterlives?, or rewards or punishments, right?” I stopped and held a hand up towards Death. “No, don’t answer that.” I resumed pacing. “They could also all lead to the same place as some sort of metaphor about humans not having free will.” I stopped again with both hands held up. “Don’t tell me.”
I turned to study the doors. All three were plain wooden doors with a regular door knob on the right. No locks of bolts. I looked closer at the patterns in the wood grain. Was that a face on the second door? Whose face, my fathers? No, he wasn’t dead, yet. But maybe this was happening outside linear time?
“Hey, do I have to chose now or can I think about it for a while?”
“Chose,” Death said again in their monotone reverberating voice.
“Can I glance through the doors first?”
Death leaned back as if considering my question. After a minute, they nodded. I heard three sets of clicking and clacking as the three doorknobs turned. The doors cracked open.
Behind the first door, I saw a living room. Pleasant music drifted out. Seated on the sofa was my grandmother knitting the sweater she hadn’t finished for me. On the coffee table, a spread of cookies, homemade, sat.
Behind the second door, I saw a street. People walked back and forth between street vendors and food trucks that lined the street. Others sat in the shade talking, laughing, or just resting contently. Distantly I could hear a band playing on a stage.
Behind the third door, I saw a black void. As a stared into it I began to see shapes without borders and hear sounds that bled into each other. It was empty of meaning but full of potential.
The doors closed. I turned to Death. “Thank you, for letting me see what was on the other side. I’m ready to choose now.” They said nothing.
I walked up to my choice, opened it, and stepped through.
Inspired by this writing prompt: https://deepwaterwritingprompts.tumblr.com/post/185891958305
Imagine you are an alien with a modest grasp of the English language. You have never been to Earth nor met any humans. You learned English from a straight translation of a dictionary. You enjoy reading human books even if you don’t fully understand some elements. One day you find a cookbook. The idea of eating real Earth food is enchanting. After much deliberation, you choose one of the simpler recipes; an omelette.
So, do you, an alien with a modest grasp of the English language, think you could cook an omelette? Let me answer for you: probably not but with a little help maybe.
We will ignore the difficulty in obtaining all the ingredients and the ambiguity of a recipe that calls for eggs. What kind of eggs? Fish eggs? Snake eggs? Dinosaur eggs? No, you won’t have to deal with that conundrum. Fresh chicken eggs will be provided along with the proper spices and fillings.
So, where does the difficulty in preparing an omelette come from? For starters is there air in your alien kitchen? If there is air, what is the air pressure? What is the temperature in your kitchen? Air pressure, temperature, and humidity can affect cooking times and ingredient stability. Even the small variations on Earth are enough to require conversion charts.
Air pressure is measured in pounds per square inch which means nothing to you. A pound is 0.4536 kilograms and a kilogram is … you don’t happen to have a Kibble balance do you and do you have an understanding of Plancks Constant? Can you measure the precise number of atoms in an object? You know what, forget about that nonsense. Here’s a barometer/thermometer combo. Pressure should be between 29.2 and 30.2; temperature between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Not that the environment is close enough to Earth’s you can begin. Your omelette recipe says to heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. How hot is “medium-high heat”? Some recipes, mostly baked dishes, will specify a temperature in Fahrenheit. Do you know how to calibrate a temperature measurement device in Fahrenheit? Don’t worry most humans don’t know how Fahrenheit is calibrated, let alone the temperature of medium-high heat, so we’ll allow you a human stove/oven powered by the latest in fusion batteries. I’ll even throw in a frying pan.
Now you’re ready to heat two tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Wait, you do have measuring spoons right? No, well look at the inside front cover of the cookbook and you’ll see that one tablespoon is one-sixteenth of a cup or fifteen milliliters or half a fluid ounce. No measuring cups either huh?
Well, one fluid ounce is 29.5735 cubic centimeters. There are one hundred centimeters in a meter and one thousand meters in a kilometer. Light travels at 299792 kilometers per second. A second is … okay, I’m just going to give you a clock but you have to do the rest of the work.
At this point, you have a properly pressurized and heated kitchen with a working stove, frying pan, measuring utensils, and clock. I have one more gift for you; a set of cooking utensils(spatula, spoon, knife) and a plate.
Now you have everything you need to cook an omelette.
The first time I rode the Night Bus was an accident.
During the holidays we ended up getting out just a little later than usual and I missed the last bus of the night. The stop was well lit and I had some surprises in my purse so I was more annoyed about missing the bus than worried about being out there late at night. As I sent off a round of “Hey can anyone give me a ride home?” texts to my friends, another bus pulled up. I quickly mass texted “Never mind bus just got here”.
The regular city buses were white and blue with silver chrome trim. This bus was scarlet and teal with black chrome. The door slid open and I climbed the shallow stairs that seemed more like a short ladder. At the top of the stairs, I looked for the machine to swipe my transit card; there wasn’t one. I turned to the driver and showed them my card. The driver just pointed me to the seats. When I tried to tell the driver my stop, they reached up and tapped the “Pull Cord For Stop” sign. So I walked back to the seats.
The seats were comfortably padded bench seats with seatbelts draped over them from back to front. I sat in the third seat against the window. The door closed and the bus pulled smoothly away from the curb. The bus turned off the regular bus route at the next intersection. I was wondering if I had gotten on the wrong bus line when the world flipped.
The street lamp lit city was replaced by a noonday sun in the desert. My head whipped around to look out the other windows. On either side of the two-lane highway, the bus was now driving on, was desert. Behind the bus, the highway stretched straight toward the horizon. Ahead the highway curved to the right. I started to stand up and heard a sharp tapping. The driver was reaching up their arm stretched inhumanly long to tap the “Passengers Must Remain Seated While The Bus Is In Motion” sign.
I felt the gentle sideways push as the bus took the curve and the world flipped again. Smooth concrete replaced the sky and domed lights the sun. The two-lane highway was now eight lanes inside a tunnel. I scarcely had time to notice the multicolored cars sharing the tunnel with the bus before the tunnel turned to the left. The tunnel was replaced by a city at night but the bus did not speed through this landscape. It slowed and stopped at a bus stop.
The size of the buildings around the bus felt weird to my eyes like the sidewalk was too wide or the buildings too close. The bus stop shelter towered over the bus. A woman waited under it. She was almost as tall as the bus but had no problem entering the door. The woman walked to the seat opposite mine ducking her head only slightly though she was at least four feet taller than me. She sat easily somehow without cramming or contorting her body between the seats.
“Hi,” she said, her voice deep and resonate, with a smile.
I glanced away in embarrassment from staring at her. “Hi,” I replied.
“You have the cutest voice. Are you riding alone?” No one had called my voice cute since I gave up on voice training.
“Thanks, yeah I was just heading home from work.”
“You work?” She tilted her head to one side. “Wait, how old are you?” Her eyes narrowed as she examined me.
“I’m twenty-three. How old do I look?” The bus turned right and the world flipped. The road was now lined with giant green and blue mushrooms.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I forget people from little worlds ride the Night Bus too. I thought you were a child.” She chuckled. “I’m Nora.”
“I’m Yenna. Have you been on this bus before?”
“Sure plenty of times. Is this your first time?”
“Yeah, I missed my bus and then this one showed up. What is going on?” The bus turned right and the mushrooms vanished. Another tunnel, this one had clear walls allowing travelers to see into the ocean they drove under. Fish swam in multi-colored schools. A whale glided overhead.
“It’s the Night Bus. At least that’s what everyone calls it. I really don’t know much else.”
“How do I get home?” I asked.
“Just pull the cord for your stop,” Nora said pointing at the cord that ran the length of the bus just above head height.
“But how do I know when my stop is?”
“Your stop is whenever you pull the cord. The next turn will take the Night Bus there and you can get off.”
“I’m not stuck on an adventure through strange worlds?” Another right turn, this time onto a cliffside trail overlooking snow-capped mountains.
“No, of course not. It might be strange but the Night Bus is still a bus. It takes you where you want to go. I like to ride through a few turns before pulling the cord, to see something different. You haven’t been stuck on the bus for too long have you?”
“No, I got on a couple of worlds before you. If you hadn’t, I might have been stuck for a while.”
“You would have pulled the cord eventually and figured it out yourself.”
“Do you ride the Night Bus often?” I asked.
“Only when I work the closing shift. I used to take the regular bus but like you I missed my bus and the Night Bus showed up. I find it relaxing to see these other worlds. Plus it gets me home faster and cheaper.”
“How much does it cost? The driver wouldn’t take my transit card when I offered.” Right turn into another clear tunnel looking out at a barren gray landscape and black sky. In the distance, domes full of plants offered the only color.
“I don’t think driver understands money. They’ve never accepted or asked for money. The Night Bus is free as far as I know. Maybe we’re racking up debt that we’ll have for in the afterlife.”
“Maybe we’ll be fated to drive Night Buses of our own until someone else takes our place.” We laughed through the next world.
“This is nice. I’ve never had anyone to talk to about the Night Bus before,” Nora said.
“You’ve never brought anyone with you?”
“No it doesn’t feel like the kind of thing you just show people, you know?”
“Yeah, that makes sense. ‘Come ride a bus through alien worlds with me’ isn’t something you just spring on someone and you can’t talk about it without sounding delusional.”
“Yes, exactly. I wish I could stay longer but I really do need to get home.” She reached up and pulled the stop cord. We rode in silence as the bus made a left turn onto a street in a city. I recognized the scaled-up architecture from the stop she had gotten on the bus. She stood and began walking to the front of the bus. She stopped and turned back to me. “I’m off tomorrow but I might ride the bus if you wanted to talk more.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow I guess,” I said smiling at her.
She smiled back. “See you tomorrow.”
I watched her wave as the Night Bus pulled away from the curb. I waited for two more turns before pulling the stop cord myself. The Night Bus turned a corner and pulled up to the bus stop closest to my home. I smiled at the Bus Driver and thanked them as I got off. The Bus Driver smiled back; their mouth showing too many teeth that were too square. I tried not to think about what the driver was too hard as I hopped off the steps and onto terra firma.
The Night Bus’s doors closed and it drove off turning left at the intersection and disappearing. I walked the rest of the way to my home wondering what I should wear on my date tomorrow night.
At almost midnight I stand before Grandma Whitkin’s grave. Buried earlier today. Ideally, I would have done this right after her death but the family doesn’t understand things like this. So I waited until it was just me and her. Just like old times, when I knew her as Susan.
Susan was a healer. Like most healers, she built up a residue of death in her body. It’s not hard to cleanse and purge the necrotic energies but she died suddenly, without warning, without preparing herself. The first time I got close to her at the viewing I could feel it. She won’t rise tonight or tomorrow but someday she would.
I kneel and plunge my left arm up to my elbow into the loose mound of dirt over the grave. Freshly turned graveyard dirt is a powerful conductor letting me reach the necrotic energy easily. I begin pulling it strand by strand out of Susan. It coils in my arm; contained, compressed. I control my breathing as my flesh tingles and fizzes under the skin. When I die, I have special instructions on how to dispose of my arm so no one has to do this for me. This was my job. Ensuring the dead stayed dead.
Well, the dead used to stay dead when it was my job but there’s a reason people like me retire early. I feel a blockage and pull hard. It pops free and a surge of necrotic energy burns up my arm. Something gives, blood flows; I jerk my arm out of the dirt. A ragged tear across my palm drips. I squeeze my hand shut and back away from the grave. Did I pull out in time or … A faint thud comes from the ground followed by cracking wood and the dirt begins to shift.
It’s been too long or I’m just not strong enough to do it properly anymore. The result is the same. After a few minutes, Susan begins to claw herself out of the grave. I pull my revolver and put two in her skull and one in her heart.
I wrap my scarf, I really like this scarf, around my bleeding hand. I wait a while to see if Susan will have a second rising and to see if anyone called the cops about gunshots in the graveyard. It’s all quiet for thirty minutes so I make a phone call.
“Hey Johnny, it’s Denise. I need a clean up in Northside Memorial Park Cemetery.”
“Denise? I thought you were retired.”
“Special job. It went a little sideways. One corpse, buried earlier today.”
“Ok, I’ll be there in thirty with my people. Stay safe. Bye.”
“I’m trying. Bye.” And then it’s just me and Susan waiting in the graveyard like old times.
Little Suzie came out while I was recording the evening conditions. “Tía Mary said to come in for supper,” she said.
“Tell her I’ll be in a couple of minutes.” I checked the barometer and noted the reading in my notebook.
“You tell her.”
I laughed. “Ok, I will.”
“Is the sunset going to be beautiful tonight?” I had made a habit out of watching the sunset and recording my thoughts on it even if it didn’t have much meteorologic value.
“Maybe. Why don’t you tell me?”
“I don’t know.”
“Look at the sky and tell me what you see.” I flipped to a different section of my notebook and began making notes.
She shaded her eyes and looked toward the horizon. “I see clouds.”
“Are they thick clouds? Thin clouds? Fluffy clouds? Cotton candy clouds?”
“What’s cotton candy?” I forget sometimes how long it’s been since things fell apart.
“It’s sweet and fluffy like a cloud you can eat. Maybe we’ll make some one day. Tell me about the clouds.”
“They’re long and thin,” she said.
“Cirrus clouds. High in the atmosphere where they can catch the light and bounce it back to us. Horizon’s clear so the light won’t be blocked. Could be a nice looking sunset.”
“What’s the most beautiful sunset you’ve seen?”
“The most beautiful sunset.” I paused watching the clouds drift. “After the bombs fell, we huddled in the cellar for two days. We were outside the blast zone of course but we weren’t sure about fallout or like radioactive wind. The cellar wasn’t a bomb shelter it was just a cellar so it was lacking in certain accommodations. We decide to risk going out and into the house.
“When we climbed out of the cellar, the sun was just setting. The sky was washed in brilliant vibrant colors. Reds, oranges, purples, violets. You’ve seen them but not like that. And the scattered clouds caught the light and practically glowed. We were awestruck and just stared until the horizon turned black and the stars took over the sky.
“With the spell broken we raided the house for blankets, pillows, batteries, can food, water, clothes, whatever we thought we might need then we retreated to the cellar still afraid of radioactive wind. But we weren’t so afraid that we didn’t watch the sunset the next day and the one after that. The second night there were no clouds to break up the bands of color. By the third night, the colors were beginning to fade to normal.
“The colors of the sunset are caused by sunlight being scattered by the air. When you have mid to high clouds then the light has something to bounce off and the sky gets some texture and shape. After the bombs, the smoke and thick dust clouds cleared in the first day but the finer dust and ash took longer to settle. So for a few days, there was a thin layer of particulate to reflect the light and boost the colors.”
“Suzie,” her mother, the aptly named Big Suzie, called from the back door, “Dinner time.”
“I’m coming!” she yelled back while running toward her mother.
“You too, Toni.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said and slowly limped back to the house. We were lucky no bombs had dropped out here in the middle of nowhere. Then we were lucky more people came this way. Including Suzie.
“How’s the weather?” she asked, lending me her arm to get up the back stairs. I could have used the railing but this worked too.
“Oh not bad. Might rain day after tomorrow. Temperature is steady for now.”
“And the sunset?” I held on after reaching the landing.
“It’s going to a looker as long as the clouds don’t blow out but I doubt they will. You want to watch it with me?”
“Of course. Dinner first.”
“Of course.” It was a little awkward walking through the door arm in arm but we managed.
Hi, there neighbor. I’m swinging by to welcome you to the subdivision. So is it just you and your spouse? Partner, good good. And kids? That’s great! There’s lots of kids in the neighborhood. Besides welcoming you, there are some things I need to discuss with you. Can we go inside and sit down? What? No, this isn’t about the HOA and I’m not trying to recruit you into a cult. Cult recruiting happens at the monthly mixers. I’m kidding! Please, I do have some neighborhood regulations and safety rules to go over with you and your partner.
Most are common sense, wearing helmets while biking, no loud music after 11 pm Sunday through Thursday, no fireworks. I know technically we’re outside the city limits until they resurvey and redraw the lines but some of our neighbors are sensitive to sudden loud noises so they’ve been banned within the subdivision and surrounding area. If you give me your email, I can send you a complete list and sign you up for the weekly newsletter.
There is one rule I have to go over in detail. It’s more of an advisory really. Between the start of sunset and one hour after, you are advised to stay indoors. It’s not a curfew. You can go outside afterwards and no one will stop you from going out during but we don’t suggest you do so. You aren’t really going to believe me, I didn’t believe until I saw it, but I’ll lay it out for you.
We call it The Stranger. About once a week a woman, a man, a person or sometimes a child appears in the neighborhood and wanders around for an hour and disappears. It isn’t anyone in the neighborhood. When it first started appearing we tried to keep watch around the subdivision. Eventually, we tracked it back to the empty lots. So we started staking out the lots but it just appears on the sidewalk and starts walking. At the end of the hour, it disappears mid-step. Like a ghost but it’s not a ghost.
If no one engages The Stranger, it leaves on its own after an hour. It doesn’t take much to catch its attention, a nod of the head, a wave of the hand, a smile, even just brief eye contact might do it. Once you’ve engaged it, it will approach you and ask for help finding an address. The address will be close by, usually just around the corner. You can refuse or just ignore it but The Stranger will follow you for the rest of the hour yelling or screaming or crying. It will beg for you to “play the game right” or to “please help me get home” or curse at you. This is annoying or upsetting or potentially traumatic but at the end of its hour, it will disappear as normal with no other side effects.
However, if you lead The Stranger to his, her, their, destination something else happens. When you arrive at the correct address, you are strongly advised not to take them to the wrong address, we’ve already had two disappearances and don’t want any more, they will ask you inside for a refreshment. Accept and they walk to the front door, unlock it and lead you inside. The inside of the house will not match the outside. It will be bigger or smaller than you expect and the interior design will be odd. We’ve had people report Victoria townhouses, log cabins, Gothic mansions, and single room apartments. The Stranger may offer you various sodas or liquors or juices but your safest option is to ask for plain water. Drink it quickly but don’t be rude and gulp it down. They will lead you to a door other than the one you entered through, exit through it and you will be on the sidewalk somewhere in the subdivision. From there you can just walk home.
Should you refuse The Stranger’s offer, they will walk to the front door, unlock it, and enter alone. When you turn to walk back, the neighborhood will be changed. Instead of the modest two-story houses in the subdivision, there may be sparkling geodesic domes, Brutalist concrete cubes, or giant redwoods with doors and windows carved through their sides. Start walking at slow even pace. Don’t loiter in one place too long or the locals may become hostile. If no one approaches or talks to you, after an hour you will find yourself in another different neighborhood. This will continue for no less than three neighborhoods but no more than eight. Four is the average. Sooner or later you will wander back into our neighborhood. Once you are certain you are in familiar territory you may return home.
Should someone approach or talk to you, ask them to take you to your home address. If they refuse, it is advisable to simply walk away and leave them alone. If they agree to help you, follow them. The house they lead you to will not look like your house but your key will unlock the front door regardless. Offer them a refreshment. If they refuse, leave them on the sidewalk and enter the house. When you enter the house you will find your home inside and the subdivision outside.
If they accept your offer, lead them inside the house where you will find your house but different. No one will be home, the lights will seem dimmed, sounds will be muffled. Provide your helper with their choice of drink. Once they are done lead them to the back door or the garage door, just not the front door. Allow them to exit and close the door. When you turn around you will be in your home properly.
So that’s about it. If you just stay indoors from sunset to an hour after you won’t have to deal with any of that though.