(copyright David A. Kearns)
Tim Stanton sat in his office in Durham, North Carolina and watched the old videos from YouTube. He wasn’t reviewing stock UFO film. He was going over footage from famous UFO conferences pre-2010, trying to spot the debunkers and the government plants.
It was a little exercise in which he indulged himself when he needed to divert his mind from an emergency, which in this case came down to Chuck’s disappearance and the deaths of Dave and Tom.
Watching these tapes became one in any number of rituals that had erupted out of Tim’s growing sense of paranoia. He wanted to know what a government plant or a bad penny looked like. He knew they were coming for him now, if they weren’t already in his group, or perhaps working for him as a manager within his chain of stores.
At that moment Tim was watching an old clip of an interview with the widow of Dr. James E. McDonald, who was largely considered the Dean of UFOlogy. The moderator seemed intent on driving the discussion into a forum on socialist Marxism, which Betty McDonald had been an admitted devotee.
Here the man sat with Dr. Stanton Friedman, Betty, and the publisher of Firestorm, a compilation of the McDonald papers and biography written by Anne Druffel. The moderator wanted to ramble on and on about a larger galactic civilization, and socialism; blending the two in a ludicrous stew of inanity.
It reminded Tim of that old television series V, that began with an alien talking about “universal health care” as a goofy slap at the Obama administration.
Classic, thought Tim. He noticed that the moderator never seemed to look anyone in the eye. He seemed more an actor, putting on a scene in a movie, than a genuine human being.
Reviewing this sort of thing was an academic exercise anymore as someone, or something, began bumping off ufologists in 2010, just after Obama had made his announcement concerning UFOs that disappointed so many disclosure people. That announcement, bland and non-committal to the subject of UFOs as it had been, had saved thousands of NASA-related jobs. After all, who would fund an agency that had been lying for so many years, when there were so many earth-based problems to address? Space-defense a key lobby; their jobs lost in the immediate would have derailed a campaign.
Back in 2010, Tim hadn’t been aware of the deadly politics afoot with regard to disclosure. Not until Ryan had died the following year would his eyes begin to open.
At what cost had those saved jobs come? No new initiatives in clean energy, no changes to the auto industry, and UFOlogy had driven off the agenda and sent deep underground. MUFON had gone the way of NICAP, after so many defectors and government plants.
Tim turned away from the old computer terminal and sighed, leaned back in his chair and let his mind wander.
There was nothing he could do about Chuck, and whoever it had been sent to play Judas to Tim’s growing underground, they were good; real good, he thought. Because no one he knew seemed to be conforming to the role; no one was overly solicitous, or sucking up. No one was trying to get next to him to do him in. Either that or they were still en route, or, the government hadn’t bothered to send in a Judas yet. Maybe they planned on creating Judas out of clay found in situ; among Tim’s devotees.
Well, they would have done their homework, wouldn’t they? They would have anticipated a likeness of mind between Tim and Ryan; that is to say, not easily fooled and wary of any nail head that never quite sat flush with the wood.
He began humming to himself an old song from Sesame Street “One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t fit in…”
He still had a few hours to burn. He thought about Chuck and Dave, and the conversation he had had with both of them back in the summer of 2011, at Ryan’s funeral.
They had been walking on the beach. Chuck was the first among the group to see the relationship between what the aliens were doing, and what Cortez did with the Native Americans of Mexico. How the Indians turned on each other rather than face the outside enemy as a unified force.
“Yes, World Ender, that’s it. You must think back, and remember.”
Every now and then Tim could swear he heard Red Dancing Bear speaking with him in his mind.
“You must connect with Charles. Go to that memory of him, and he will find you there.”
Tim had seen Red that summer as well, in a dream after passing out on the beach. Then he had run into Red’s grandson, Stanley, just before Red died. Red had told Tim his spirit would be reborn within Stanley. Which - if you believed him - meant that Red was back on earth, walking and talking; sharing his special powers.
Red had always spoken of skills which were latent, but unique to the human species. These were tools that allowed the human being to ‘hear’ the thoughts of his loved ones, even after they had died. Tim didn’t know how much of this business he could believe, but, Red’s demonstrations; especially during the summer of 1981 had been nothing short of fantastic.
“Trust,” came the thought. Almost audible like a whisper.
Tim, got up from his desk, turned off the wall intercom, shut the light off and laid down on the sofa beside the sink.
He again directed his thoughts backward in time, to that day in 2011 soon after Ryan died. He could see Chuck and Dave running up to him on the beach from the north.
This must have been after they had spoken, somehow. There had been a gap there in the continuum, Tim recalled, where Dave and Chuck had gone, and Red suddenly appeared, or a dream of Red. Space and time were squishy when it came to anything to do with Red. It was like he carried the bubble of some sort of not-world around with him, and shared it with you when he talked to you. It had happened that day in June 2011 when Tim walked on the beach with Chuck and Dave before Ryan’s funeral. He ran into Red, but at some point, Tim had lost all track of time and space and passed out on the beach. He late attributed the gap in his memory to alcohol from the previous night, knowing full-well that explanation didn’t hold water either.
This had happened, then, or it was happening within that gap!
“Good, you are learning,” came Red’s voice.
They had both turned back to tell Tim something, but Dave is out of focus, smeared. Dave stopped jogging, and began a slow walk. Chuck kept coming forward.
Tim can hear the voice of Red Dancing Bear, as Chuck continued running down the beach.
“Red, where are we? When are we?”
“If you are ever to learn the way of things you will have to learn to trust,” came Red’s voice.
“Hard to, with so much going on,” Tim said as Chuck continued on.
“Then think of something else,” Red said.
“You think of the star out in the middle of the Milky Way Galaxy, that one day decides, well, shit, that’s it. I’m done. And the next thing you know, supernova.”
“Then you think of a planet, much like this one, just about 93 million miles away from it with a civilization on it much like ours. One that has been in existence for more than a quarter million years. A civilization wiped out in the blink of an eye, every man woman and child, along with every other bit of life on the surface of that planet, never to return again.”
“Sucks to be them, on that day, doesn’t it?”
“It does, sure.”
“Now I want you to take in a great big, deep breath.”
Tim did as he was told.
“In the time it took you to do that, what I just described happened a million times, all across the known universe.”
“So…? We don’t have it so bad?”
“All we are dealing with here, Tim, is a simple infestation; a test of our right to exist. We will either pass it, or fail it, and either way life here, will go on. That’s a better deal than what the other guy got, while you were busy breathing, don’t you think?”
“I guess you’re right,” Tim said, marveling that this was perhaps the first time Red had used Tim’s name, and not some cryptic handle like World Ender.
“No, you know I am right. So I want you to do something you’ve never thought you were capable of.”
“I know what you want me to do, but I don’t know if I am capable of it, Red.”
Tim could see Chuck now beginning to slow down. Pain written on his face.
“That’s inexcusable bullshit, Tim. Just sad, really, and I won’t accept it. Charles has suffered greatly to meet you here, at this time and this place, and you must believe, and you must reach out to him, in the way I have showed you before. You must allow yourself to go back, to then, in your mind, and meet him. And you must do it now…”
Tim exhaled slowly and held his breath, then exhaled. Chuck’s image came into stronger focus. He was exhausted, tired, worn out.
Tim broke into a light jog, then a full-on run to meet up with him. He could feel everything, the hot summer wind, the hard grit of the sand on his feet.
“That’s it, Tim. Quickly now, there’s barely any time left. You must hurry…”
He caught Chuck around the shoulders before he fell in a heap.
“I….have to tell you something, Tim. I…”
“I know Chuck, I know, calmly now, take it easy, breathe buddy,” Tim said.
“There’s a….a couple ….of names….”
“Okay, first, where are you, Chuck? Tell me that. Just tell me where we can find you…”
“Damn it Tim, there’s no time. You’ve got to listen to me. The names are Colonel Jason Epps, and Lt. Colonel Kurt Warner,” he gasped.
“Epps and Warner,” Tim said,
“No Tim, the ranks and the names, repeat them to me so I know you got it, man. Okay?”
"Now where are you?
“ They told me I’m in the desert Tim, somewhere outside Rachel, Nevada in an underground bunker. But you’ll never get to me in time. You’ve got to remember those names Tim, use them. He wants me to tell you to use them,” Chuck said.
“Chuck, you’ve got to hold on. We’re coming for you!”
“No you’re not, Tim. By the time you get here, if this is where I even am, I won’t be myself anymore, understand? It won’t be me, it will be someone else. They’re going inside Tim. They’re …they have some way to sift through my memories like the pages of a book, and I can feel it Tim, if they can do that, they can change me, take over. I don’t know how they do it, but this is something we never had a countermeasure for. Soon they’ll know….”
“Everything. They will know all our plans. You have to get to Sean. I’ll fight as long as I can but you’ve got to warn Sean. They already suspect he’s with us…”
Chuck collapsed into a state of total unconsciousness.
Tim looked down at Chuck. He began to sob uncontrollably. He knew his buddy was close to death somewhere in the future. Tim looked up. He could see Dave in the distance jumping up and down, screaming something to him but it was as if a translucent wall had been placed between them. Dave knew too. Dave fell to his knees, sobbing, rolling over on his back, crying and rubbing his eyes. He knew his buddy was dying, the emotion distroying him, even though on some level, he was already well past dead himself.
Tim turned to call to Dave and then back to Chuck. Neither one was moving.
In an instant he felt himself being sucked outside his body .
He looked down to the beach below him and watched the earlier version of himself topple over in a heap, next to his friend. Chuck got up and wandered away in a daze with his buddy Dave, who was equally clueless as to what had just happened.
Tim swirled into the rays of sunshine like liquid travelling down a drain. The last thought he had before winking out again, was “we can go to places in time where the gaps are! We can go back, and if we can go back…”
All was blackness. No light, not sound, nothing.
The man called Grimes sat on the edge of the table near the old hooded bulb. His sleeves were rolled up like a FBI man from the 1930s interviewing a member of the Capone mob.
“You need to get you some better clothes, man,” Chuck began to sigh. His eyes were cloudy, unfocused like those of a drugged bear.
Grimes brushed the dust off his trousers and checked his old Timex watch.
“I will admit, Charles, you are demonstrating a great deal of resolve here. Of course it is an exercise in futility,” Grimes said.
“What’s your name, man?” Chuck asked.
“You didn’t give him your name, did you colonel?”
“His name is Epps. Jason Epps, colonel, US Air Force, and he’s a ma’fuckin faggit,” Chuck said with a nearly toothless smile.
“Brilliant Colonel. Remind me to recommend you for the dumbass star,” Grimes said.
“Any other pieces of information you compromised here, Colonel?” Grimes asked.
Epps looked at him and shook his head to the negative. Chuck merely smiled slyly through his remaining bloodied teeth.
“Charles, we will have everything, all of it, every last bit of information. Whether you know his name, my name, or the lat and long of where the Empire State Building is, it will not escape this room, because you won’t escape this room,” Grimes said.
“If you’re so sure, why ain’t you tell me your name, man?”
There was a pause.
“My name is Johnny Fucking Hamster-wheel, and I own you, you insignificant piece of shit. You feel that stuff working through your system? That’s not going to give up, understand me Charles? Imagine battery acid eating its way through your brain and your central nervous system, working its wall all the way into every cell, interrupting every synapse. It will not stop, it cannot be argued with, cursed at, called a faggot,” and there was smile here with the pause, “But different than plain old acid, in this case, what’s invading you is doing more than cleaning. In this case what we have injected you with is dropping little tiny seeds Charles. Little tiny, microscopic organisms which are a bit of biotech we’ve developed. Little angry nannites, and they just fucking hate human brain tissue, so much so they are busy turning it to something else. Despise it with a passion, Charles the way you hate cockroaches and spiders. The way you used to have nightmares about them when you were nine, and wet the bed so much your father tried to spank the tendency out of you,” he said.
“How did you…?”
“Oh, we know quite a bit about that, Charles. We know about those nightmares you had in 1973 before your family moved from Marietta, Georgia. Because what came for you that night, Charles wasn’t a very large cockroach. No sir, it wasn’t an owl, or a tiger, Charles, it was a friend of ours. A good friend who gave you a little gift, and took something from you in exchange.”
Chuck felt a tear escaping.
“Naughty, naughty Charles, let that strange woman with the big eyes do that to his wee-wee,” Grimes hissed.
“And so Charles had trouble for a time, holding his water. And so Charles got erections at strange times, and for strange reasons. Heavens, mom and dad even took him to a specialist, who did nothing but take their money. And he knew, just knew he was different from the other boys and girls didn’t he. He knew that aside from just being a black kid in a white world, he was also a dirty child, a sexualy deviant child, who couldn’t stop rubbing himself. Who used to go into a trance and pull out his penis. So sad, whatever are mommy and daddy to do with their boy?”
“So the other boys made fun, and so Chucky took up boxing, the only thing that helped. I mean, at least the name-calling stopped, but even that didn’t solve it, did it Charles. The itch was always there, wasn’t it, you dirty little fellow,” he said.
“When I get out of this…”
“ And so Charles had problems trusting sexual partners his whole, miserable, pointless life…” Grimes spat with a bitter flourish at the end. “Yes, there it is, the nerve center. All…those…wasted …relationships…”
What came from Charles’s throat didn’t sound human, but it did sound primate, and carried all the emotion of an earthly creature, a scream ending in a defeated cry.
“That’s it Charles. That’s it. Open those places, those unpleasant memories for us all, so that we might review them together. Charles wasting his seed with strippers; Charles breaking up with the only other woman in his life who loved him. Charles experimenting with all sorts of deviance in the name of finding out what it is he is missing. Thought he was gay for a while, didn’t he? And what a mistake that was. You’re either on the team or you’re not, eh Charles? He even thought he was in need of a sex change. Went back to girls, tried them older, younger, Asian, black, white, fetish, non fetish…even joined a vampire cult, didn’t he.”
“The great thing about LA Charles, it’s the fucking gateway to hell isn’t it. And so damned anonymous anymore, right? People know you but they don’t know you. They care, but they don’t care, isn’t that right Charles.”
“You best pray, mister, that they find you first,” Chuck said with a dying gasp.
Grimes held Chuck by the chin. Looked right into his eyes. It was the first time Chuck had considered the possibility.
No, it couldn’t be, could it?
“Charles, I am they. Silly… little… man!”
The slaps weren’t very hard, but they were just enough; sending Chuck into a renewed state of unconsciousness.
“He’s ready. Hook up the monitor and begin sifting. And so help me, colonel, you’d best not fuck this up. I leave it in your hands. There’s something I have to take care of.”