Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams




It Came Gently

When it came, I remember I washed my hair in a cracked tub on the side of the road. You could walk miles out into the wastes, dig a hole, and wait. The water would rise soon enough. It felt like a miracle. A real-life miracle, not one of those TV miracles or Kentucky prairie miracles. Or miracles with a capital M for money. The aquifer we found waiting for us was a saving grace. It gave us hope for a little more time. Instead of shipping off to other worlds in search of a planet to quench our thirst, we could stay on Earth just a little while longer. We, as a planet, said yes to using this newly discovered well of water, and collectively, we all tapped in.

When it came, it was the first drop of fresh water many of us had felt in years. Empires, countries, and lands had dried out in the cracked knuckles of the Everlasting Drought. After most governments fell, the remaining few began mass-producing water tablets. They were made able to sustain us for a time. The tablets turned us into thirsty savages ripe for the catching. And that is how it found us, dehydrated to the point of desperation. It wasn’t long, though, before people started questioning what the aquifer was, and that made it grow hungry beneath our feet.

When it was questioned, it began vanishing people like a kid catching lightning bugs on a crisp summer night. The people who returned from being taken, like my aunt, seemed different, their glow just a little dimmer than before. In certain areas, the aquifer moved. Not dried out but literally uprooted itself. Seeped over to a place that didn’t have so many regulations on its water supply. With it, went swarms of the population. Slowly, like a whisper in a dream, we realized where the aquifer had come from. A gift from the stars to save us.

When it moved, it devoured the crust of the Earth. As we bathed, we absorbed it into us where it began taking apart the things inside that made us human. In the end, it became everything. The word for world was replaced by water; water was replaced by us, strong like a wave with an infinite hunger churning inside.

Aigner Loren Wilson

Aigner Loren Wilson - A side profile of a Black woman staring out at the sea with the ocean, cliffs, and trees in the background.

Aigner Loren Wilson is a queer Black writer of speculative fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and games. She serves as a senior fiction editor at Strange Horizons and has guest-edited issues of Fireside Fiction and Apparition Literary Magazine. Her work has appeared in FIYAH, Anathema, Arsenika, and other publications. When she’s not writing or editing for others, she’s learning, hiking, or loving on her fur babies—both human and animal. To check out her books, games, bread bakes, and other writings visit her website (