There was a pop and a thump downstairs. “Honey, someone got stuck in the wrong dimension again,” Mrs. Rowan said. “Can you get it this time? I have to be up early tomorrow.”
“Fine, fine,” Mr. Rowan said. He walked down the hall and peeked in on the kids. It happened so often that they slept through all the new arrivals. Really, there were some major disadvantages to living here.
He walked down the stairs and paused. The big windows at the back of the house looked out on the lake. Moonlight gilded a path to shore. Fire flies glittered in the dark of the lawn. That’s right. The house was worth it, in spite of and because of its location.
No one was in the living room. However, the lights were on in the kitchen. A family was sitting at the table while the mother cooked up some eggs on the stove. The father looked up and saw Mr. Rowan. “What are you doing in our house? Where are our things?” he demanded. He crossed the kitchen in a few steps.
“Actually, you aren’t in your house,” Mr. Rowan said. “Don’t worry, this happens rather often.”
“Why are we here?” the youngest child asked. “Everything changed all at once. What happened?”
“It is our house,” the woman said. “This is my kitchen. The view out the window is the same. It just isn’t the same things inside. But you can’t have changed out all the appliances that quickly.”
Mr. Rowan sighed. This always took forever to explain. Perhaps this family would be more reasonable than the last family. They’d almost been arrested for trespassing after calling the police on him. He looked at the waiting, expectant faces and sighed again.
“This house is built on the corner,” he said.
“No it’s not,” the father said. “It’s at the end of a cul-de-sac.”
“Please don’t interrupt,” Mr. Rowan said. The father nodded and crossed his arms. Mr. Rowan continued. “It’s on the corner of several different dimensions. And somehow, my dimension is at the center, and everyone who accidentally turns the corner ends up here.”
“So, this is some sort of weird place where the laws of physics don’t apply?” the oldest child asked. “Can people fly or read minds?”
“It’s not like that,” Mr. Rowan said. “It’s usually just a lot of little differences.”
“Like different possibilities?” the mother asked.
“Yes,” Mr. Rowan said. “We can look you up on the internet, and there is probably another family just like yours here. It’s why you can’t stay. Plus, the house would get really crowded if everyone stayed.”
“What’s the internet?” the father asked. “Is it like the Neural Network?”
“Probably,” Mr. Rowan said. “Would you like to see?”
The family nodded and followed Mr. Rowan back to the living room. He booted up the computer and typed in the family’s names. The family watched him as though they’d never seen a computer before.
Their names popped up in an obituary from the year before. “I’m sorry,” he said. “It looks like your family in my world died in a riverboat cruise in Australia last summer.”
“We’re going to Australia this summer,” the youngest child said. “We already got the tickets.”
“We’re not going,” the mother said. “Not now.”
“That might be best,” Mr. Rowan said. “Would you like to go home?”
“Yes,” said the father. “What do we need to do?”
“Just stand right there in the center of the rug. It has most of the spells woven in. I’ll go get my staff and say the rest,” Mr. Rowan said.
“Magic is real here?” the oldest child asked. “It isn’t back home.”
“Like I said, small differences,” Mr. Rowan said. “Thank you all for being reasonable.”
The family crowded close together in the center of the rug. Mr. Rowan waved around his staff, said the spells, and sent them home. Well, that wasn’t so bad. That really was the easiest sending this month. Then he smelled something burning. The eggs!
He ran to the kitchen just in time to save the pan. He scraped the eggs into the garbage and filled the pan with water. Why had they started cooking eggs in a kitchen full of things they didn’t recognize? And then they left the stove on? Maybe they weren’t as reasonable as he’d thought.
He checked again to make sure the stove was now off and turned out the lights. It was late and he needed to get to bed. Maybe they could go fishing in the morning. He needed a reminder of why they liked this house so much, after all.