This week’s prompt:
An astronomer, “I hate to ask, but…”, a donut
The stars were lovely tonight. Of course, they were always lovely as far as Dan was concerned. It was his job and his passion to look at them. Tonight he was focusing on his favorite binary system. He had a grant to take measurements and determine if there was a possibility of life on any of the planets of the system. Dan leaned back in his chair and stretched. These wee hours of the morning were his favorite. Quiet, calm, no interruptions. Around him computers hummed and recorded measurements and data. The strip of sky he could see through the observatory dome was perfect in its cold beauty. Tiny pricks of light, each a potential home for life. A home for someone just like him, looking into their sky and thinking the same thoughts. Some people thought his job was boring, but he loved it. Even the countless hours in the dark quiet of the observatory. He was perfectly alone, the only soul awake in this starry field. It made his heart happy. It made him the keeper of secrets and dreams. “Excuse me,” a warm tenor voice said behind him, and Dan almost fell out of his chair in his surprise. His arms and legs did graceless windmill and his heart leapt into his throat. He spun around and saw someone standing in the shadows near the door. He had not heard it open. They were not very tall and something seemed off about the proportions. “Damn it, Eddy,” Dan resettled his glasses on his face and straightened his coat, trying to regain a small fraction of his dignity. “You almost game me a coronary!” “We are not the one you call Eddy,” the voice said. It sounded off as well. Almost human, but not quite. Coupled with the odd shape, Dan had the feeling that this must be like the uncanny valley sensation people get around too advanced an AI. “Ok, sure, whatever. Have your fun,” Dan said, still sore at being startled. “I hate to ask,” the figure held up something. A box. Possibly a box of donuts. Dan remembered seeing a box in the break room earlier, but he had paid no attention. They were a chain brand, and he was an admitted Donut snob. “Would it be possible I take this with me?” It asked. “Whatever floats your boat, Eddy, damn things are probably stale, anyway.” “I am not called Eddy,” they said again. “But I thank you for the donut.” It pronounced donut oddly. The emphasis was on the wrong syllable or something. Dan turned back around. Whatever game was being played was not his business. He was here for the stars and the science. The rest could go rot for all he cared. He did not hear anyone open the door, but a quick glance back confirmed that he was once again alone. There was a sudden flash of light. It lit up the night sky and caused the instruments in the room with him to go wild. He rubbed his eyes for a moment and looked around again. He was above the cloud line, lightning was unheard of up here. But that was the only explanation, because he would not admit to giving away donuts to a space alien.