[Published originally in Porcupine as a "literary" story, subsequently reprinted in Zahir, a lovely science fiction magazine edited by Sheryl Tempchin. It has been critiqued, too, as an "essay." So there you have it - life in the 21st century.
I received a telephone call from a former intelligence analyst for one of the agencies after it was published. He was laughing, he said, because this story reminded him of Three Days of the Condor, the Robert Redford film about a CIA analyst who read fiction to determine what was true. "About 5% of this story," he said, "is fiction, but the trick is knowing which 5%." His estimate was a bit on the low side, but the challenge is the same: among so many words, which ones are the key to the crypto?]
By Richard Thieme
I used to think that death bed revelations were nonsense. I knew lots of guys who kept their vows to the last breath. Some even spread disinformation as they died under torture. Intelligence professionals have discipline that sticks, most of the time.
I was sure that I did too.
Then I got the diagnosis. Cancer, inoperable. All through the gut. Stomach, liver, the intestines.
As if I couldn’t guess.
Luckily we manage pain well these days. I feel as much as I want to feel. The pain reminds me that my life is nearly over. I don’t want to forget that. A morphine haze reduces the urgency I need to make myself tell the truth. If I find myself drifting into a fog, dreaming about something in my non-existent future, I ease up on the meds until I vomit, bent double and clutching my gut, then take pills until I’m coherent again but can still remember that I only have a day or two left.
I am writing to three of you (you each know why and do not need to know the identity of the others) and sending one copy to a writer who will know how to use this information. He is not one of the usual suspects, not a name you would know, certainly not one of the useful idiots we use to spread disinformation. (We have more reporters in our stable than stars in the sky. And they say that two sources validate a story!) I am giving it to a man who understands that fiction is the only way to tell the truth.
I am also giving the story to a blogger, but just one. So real gold will be buried on the Net like the dwarf did in that fairy tale. (That’s an inside joke. You’ll understand in a minute.)
You remember the fairy tale, right? A guy forced a dwarf to tell him where gold was buried in a forest? But he didn’t have a shovel? So he tied a scarf around the tree and went to get one after making the dwarf swear he wouldn’t untie it? But while he was gone, the dwarf tied scarves around all of the trees?
So one blog, at least, will have it right.
My God but this pain is intense. With each wave, more of the contents of my life tumble into the darkness. I feel pieces of myself fall away with every breath. Memory modules disconnect and disappear—so many stories, so much distortion, so many lies. I don’t even know what’s true anymore.
I have been instrumental in building the false history that you live in, that you believe. I created false points of reference to anchor your beliefs. You have been wandering in a mist, thinking the sun was shining brightly. I confused the darkness for the sunlight, too. Is that any consolation? Maybe that’s why I want to tell you the truth about Roswell. I just want to shed a little real light before I die.
The human condition is hard enough, what with death mincing our memories, shredding the fabric of our shared mythical history. Many events leave no record at all. Orders were whispered and once they were carried out, the deed never happened. Most real history disappears. The narratives that remain are often bound together with glue to create illusions, but over time, even those lose the ability to stick. Things fall apart.
Nothing is what it seems.
Working in the intelligence community all my life, I know how most nodes, the keys that unlock the real stories, are hidden or were altered to blend in with an acceptable narrative, the consensus reality in which you live. Without a point of reference, don’t you see, you can’t know what you don’t know. But the points of reference are hidden on other planes in some kind of complex non-Euclidean space. Most of us Masters know some but not all, a few of us know most. Those nodes require keys to a code, but even if you had them, they would lead you into a cul-de-sac. The solutions to the puzzles are always layered, and to see it whole, you would have to go through a portal into hyper-dimensional space and turn around and see how everything looks from there.
Enigma is one example. There are many more.
Before it was known that the Allies cracked the German code, everything written about the war, about Churchill, what he knew when, what FDR might know, was written from a false point of reference. Once historians knew that he knew what he knew and when, everything shifted, the entire context of how you humplings knew your own history shifted. History not only looked different, history was different. What you thought you had lived was seen in a parallax view. It makes you dizzy to realize this, I know, so you recoil into a saner, more comfortable place. It is going to take energy for you to listen to what I am saying.
But please do listen. Please, you who for a moment are free of pain and live in the light and think the darkness will not win. That’s one of the myths you celebrate in story and song. But I am already fluctuating between the fading light and the immense waiting darkness and I can see that the darkness does win. It does. So please, please listen.
I am going to alter your beliefs. However disingenuous I may sometimes seem, I want to bequeath to you humplings the little bit of the bigger truth that I still have.
Oh? You’re not familiar with that term, humplings?
Let’s say that humanity makes up a bell curve and it looks like an animal, OK? It has a snout, a big hump and a tail. Ten per cent live in the nose. Ten per cent live in the tail. Up front are the Masters who manage reality. That’s us. Back in the tail are the dregs. They’re benchmarks that humplings use to tell themselves they’re doing fine. That’s why we keep them. The eighty per cent that live in the hump—that’s the humplings. That’s you. You inch along inside a shared consensus like a huge worm. Your world is defined by things that are real but they’re contextualized by those points of reference I mentioned, the ones we provide. The index by which you arrange memories and thoughts, in other words, creates an illusive matrix in which you live but which you never see.
Fish in water. Humplings in a hump.
Since shortly after World War 2, we have managed that hump. We had to, don’t you see. Humplings don’t know what’s best for themselves. Humplings are happiest when kept busy and not quite comfortable. Then you buy things you don’t need in pursuit of a peace you will never have. The thirty year mortgage, one of our ideas, was sheer genius. During your potentially dangerous years, it keeps you invested in stability, chasing a dream. Because you want to keep believing what you believe, you’re easy to deceive. We use sleight of hand or illusion, and if something leaks, we discredit or ridicule the sources. Then we can hide it in plain sight. Everyone swears it isn’t there and walks all around it.
We Masters make history, then hide it. We have put so many people into power, if I were to tell you their names, these political figures around the world we have assisted in different ways, you’d be amazed. The list is long, and the names are distinguished.
But this isn’t a primer on the Big Picture. I need to tell you just enough about our work to help you make sense of the Roswell event. But first, you need some new points of reference.
You do want to know, don’t you? I mean, ever since you heard that an alien spacecraft might have crashed in the New Mexico desert in 1947, ever since you heard that alien bodies might have been found or that a rancher maybe showed his kid material you couldn’t burn or break, ever since you heard of technologies we might have seeded into R&D, giving them to Bell Labs, Xerox Park, RCA, IBM and other friendly household names so alien technologies would become part of the history Americans pretend to have invented–you do want to know how much of that was real, don’t you?
Think of how the story came to you in pieces. When did you first hear it? What did you hear? You can’t remember, can you? It’s all a confabulated blur. Where do you get your information? From television, right? From a joke in a sitcom or on a talk show, from books or movies or reading tabloid headlines while waiting to pay at the supermarket – that’s how we do it, slipping it little by little into the known and familiar, using repetition and reinforcement until there’s a shared memory. You repeat those falsehoods to each other until they become facts.
You can’t change reality, but you can change the facts.
Anyway, the grays that crashed in the desert were not the first. Aliens had been exploding out of portals for centuries, keeping us under surveillance. Sometimes they landed to check our reactions. Chariots in the skies, visions of angels and saints. Once we were able to see them as machines with people from other places, they altered their strategy, showing themselves but keeping a polite distance until we were used to their presence. Like NORAD telling radar guys to ignore the blips, those are only “visitors” coming down the coast at impossible speeds. It became like walking through pigeons in the park, not even noticing they’re there. Some look a lot like us and blend in well, studying our languages and cultures, doing a physical now and then on a “volunteer.” They did sophisticated brain scans long before we even knew how electric we were.
Mostly they maintained sentinels until—now, I don’t know this for a fact but we believe it’s the least unlikely hypothesis—we were on the brink of becoming a Second Level species. Then they paid closer attention.
This is inference, I want to be clear about that. I know why I believe it but I can’t tell you. There’s too much back story, not all of it verifiable, and anyway, there isn’t time. I wish I had started telling the truth sooner.
I was involved plenty but not at the top. Smarter people than me are managing this thing. We relate to one another through a compartmented matrix of need-to-know modules and comprise an elite managerial class. Of course, sometimes we’re as bumbling as humplings but we always forgive ourselves quickly. We have developed quite a confident culture after several generations of sanctioned protected malfeasance.
But I digress. (I need to take a pill. Please wait).
OK. Here’s an example you ought to be able to understand.
Most of you use the Internet, right? OK, good.
The Internet is a two-edged sword. Like speech or writing or printed words, any symbolic matrix invites projections. We empty the contents of our minds, our souls, even, onto the symbols. We can’t help it. We reveal ourselves every time we communicate. The Net sucks everything out of us, good bad and indifferent.
Bad guys use the net too. (We’re the good guys, remember; whoever we’re fighting is bad.) After Northwoods Two, when the war on terror cranked up and the flow of funds and the fear that fuels it was at a level needed to keep you guys manageable, the evil doers ramped up their use of the Net for all sorts of nefarious purposes. They planned attacks, moved money, communicated with stealth. Their web sites multiplied like roaches.
Now, that fact alone made humplings anxious, just knowing how fast the sites were growing. We amplified your fear by using the “nightly news” to do “in depth” features on terrorist web sites. They would show a few photos with a voiceover that distorted what viewers saw, added a few sound bites, hell, the entire text might be no more than eighty words, all designed to frighten you. Then ads would soothe you and you would go out and buy a ton of stuff.
Some of you, however, quite predictably, became enraged. Fear turns to anger easily, especially in men afraid to feel fear. Then you have to do something to discharge the emotion. If you’re a hacker, you’ll attack those web sites, thinking you’re helping the cause.
But invisible enemies are dangerous. We don’t want the web sites down. We want them up so we can track who visits, watch what they download, see who talks to who. It’s their highway, too, and that way we can track their cars.
So when a well-intentioned humpling defaces or DOSes an enemy web site, we have to go in and put it back up. In the past, we invented anonymizers, built email programs like Hotmail and migrated them into the public domain, made all sorts of honeypots. Half the attractions out there, the most attractive attractions, we made. We have partnered from the beginning with the big guys, don’t you see. We built remote access into the chips, into all the hardware, in fact, even printers, as well as the software that’s now a platform for the business of the world. We go into telecom networks at the front door, sniff cables on the ocean floor, have thousands of redundant sensors in space to watch everything. You can’t sneak out for a cigarette but that we detect the smoke. We’re plugged in at the root, have back doors into most components—we don’t even intercept signals much anymore. We just sit back and let the data come to us.
The whole network is metered. If someone uses crypto, it’s already cracked, and the fact of its use tells us they’ve something to hide. We encourage paranoia by planting those stories, then fear makes people predictable, they go on automatic and they’re easy to track.
Some of those bad guy sites were a real mess. They didn’t have a clue how to write code. We had to do remote administration, install fire walls, close holes, apply patches. Sometimes we kept the holes open, of course. That’s how we get in. So when some do-gooder tells the world about a software flaw, we have to get to them right away and tell them to stop. Those holes are useful. You can’t exploit a secure Net.
So well-intentioned humplings are a headache. They want to do good, when all we want them to do is nothing. We want them distracted. We don’t want partners. We don’t need partners. All we need are secrecy and the vast resources of potentates and kings.
Stay with me, now. OK? I’m telling you this so I can show you what the aliens did. This has a point.
It’s not easy, I know. Humplings are not used to thinking outside the lines, and it’s hard for Americans anyway to understand other cultures. We don’t appreciate people who blow themselves up, for example. Even though we do it too. But we make it look different, like something Americans do. Then you don’t notice.
After we realized why the grays died in the crash, we experimented with chemicals to make our soldiers ferocious. Nothing worked. They killed each other and everyone in sight, not just enemies. We’re getting there, though. Now we know that the fear of death or the fear of anything, really, is a function of protein clusters. Strathin, for example, a protein chain that effaces fear. We’re using it to create warriors who will do just about anything. Berserkers, we call them. In the past, we had to wait for their random appearance in a population. Now we make them.
Berserkers are our version of guys willing to commit suicide. We hide the purpose in the concept of a “hero” and send them down a parade route off to war.
The aliens knew how to make grays fearless when we were just learning to store data by making incisions in wet clay. Grays are the little guys with the big heads and big eyes that seem to hypnotize people (it’s really a kind of magnetic induction—their brains, like ours, are resonant with energies transmitted in fields, but they’re more intentional about it, and of course, their large designer brains do it better).
Anyway, they made grays both with and without fear. The latter we called their suicide crashers, once we knew what they had done. The four small beings found dead or dying at the crash site had volunteered to die for the mission. They made it look like an accident because they knew that our species, barely sentient after a long preparatory sleepwalking sort of ascent, still thinks accidents happen.
The Aliens knew our weapons were getting better, and our propulsion systems, communications, materials science, everything was leapfrogging ahead thanks to our frequent wars. They knew our science and saw that relatively soon, our practice would follow from our theories. We would become dangerous, maybe pose a threat to some of their allies. Even without their help, we would one day learn how to open portals and use them to slip through spacetime. It was implicit in our physics.
They knew we would discover how they went into black holes and came out of white, how they could bunch up spacetime like a rug and bring it from there to here in a snap. They knew we would learn how to negate gravity and use arrays of lasers to create negative energy, then make black holes big enough to exploit.
They decided they would lose little in the long run by accelerating our progress. They sacrificed a pawn to take a queen. They gave us the means of advancing faster along the road we were already traveling in exchange for direct access to our thinking.
Imagine the scene. The hole in the hillside, the remains of the wreckage sticking out, was still smoking. The perimeter had been secured. We had cover stories to give whoever showed up related to whatever clearances they had so they could make sense of what they saw.
It’s dark out there in the desert on a moonless night. We didn’t have night vision then – that was one of the technologies in the wreckage – and we didn’t want to light the place up like Times Square. Hundreds of workers on hands and knees with lights on their hats like miners scoured the site so everything would be gone by dawn. When they finished they brought in shovels and removed the top layers of contaminated sand, then molded the landscape back so no one could tell.
Two grays were dead on the ground. One was nearly dead. The other was injured but alive.
Our medics were useless. The transparent fluid circulating in their well-machined bodies was beyond our understanding. This is when we still thought that “natural” and “artificial” were meaningful distinctions, remember, that “made” and “born” meant different things.
The third alien died in minutes. The forth was leaning on a rock, gasping for breath. It was suffocating but we didn’t know that, we didn’t know if the noises indicated pain or distress or whether it was trying to say something. As it turned out, it was all of the above. It knew that imitating our speech, making noises that carried in the air, that is,
wouldn’t be intelligible, so the being reached out to the small circle of concerned personnel crouching around it with intense beams of electromagnetic energy. Everybody got headaches. They thought they inhaled something toxic. But the gray was simply sweeping a shaped field through an arc to try to tell us that we had taken one or two steps in a journey of a thousand and were just beginning to climb from the vast cave of night into the starlight.
When they were all dead, we shipped the bodies on different flights to Texas and Ohio. They were packed up and crated in the desert, not back at the base. All that nonsense about the mortician and the nurse, that’s crap. Those stories were part of a Loch Ness scenario, locals trying to create a tourist destination.
The counter intelligence guy at the base was terrified when he read the message we told him to send, that one of those flying discs had crashed and we had the wreckage. He should have sent it with a “destroy” memo on a data page but was too freaked. So later I had to track them down and change “disc” to “weather balloon.” We amplified that into Project Mogul once we could.
That’s not speculation. That happened. I know because I did it.
Anyway, we had protocols for investigating crashes, first, of German, then Soviet planes. We collected everything and wiped out any traces that remained. We transported all of the material in special containers for analysis and subsequent distribution. We put our clothing in special containers too. We seized material a rancher had gathered. We rounded up witnesses and kept them in a room for hours. We threatened them with big fines and prison time if they said a word. We told them how traitors were discredited, their careers and reputations destroyed. We alluded to people who had disappeared, who turned up dead one day, victims of “sudden adult death syndrome.” Everyone signed a secrecy agreement with heavy penalties and then went home.
We followed them out into the desert night.
I have lived in that long desert night for sixty years. Dying made me see the light: the light is everything, everything that matters. Darkness is the enemy.
I spent my entire life in that darkness. Now I must betray it.
The small craft that crashed was not what they used for serious trips. Their mother ships are immense—some are half a mile long. They park them remotely and disguise them as space junk, just as we do with backup and killer satellites. But the little ship had plenty of treasure.
Over time we fed everything into R&D. We were developing fronts and proprietaries then that made it easy. The President obliged by giving us carte blanche to do as we liked. Money went to fake foundations with one or two members who transferred it to the Ford Foundation, say, or the Rockefeller Foundation or any of the hundred foundations that existed only on paper. Then it flowed onto balance sheets written with invisible ink, winding up in corporate and university labs. On the government side, we began budgeting black projects and millions of dollars, later billions, were hidden in existing missions. Seeding projects was easy. Keeping secrets was easy. The problem was understanding what the stuff was, what it was good for. Some of it, we still don’t know.
We didn’t have fiber optics, integrated circuits, networks of computers, don’t you see. We didn’t know that humans are electromagnetic systems for animating chemicals, that our brains can be tuned to wave functions to fly ships or fire weapons, make things move. We didn’t know that consciousness was non-local or that we could see anywhere we could think.
We didn’t know then that sentience was everywhere, linking up.
Do the research. Follow the money. See how historians say that microchips and lasers and super-tenacity fibers were invented. Map the process through a paper trail and computer files. Use FOIA, for heaven’s sake.
It looks like everything really was invented here, doesn’t it?
That’s what we did. We thought we were so damned smart.
When you’re dealing with alien civilizations and lack points of reference for how they think, how they construct reality, you don’t know how the pieces fit. There’s no picture on a puzzle box. We believed the event was the accidental crash of a small exploratory crew.
The event, in fact, like everything else, was dual use. It served their purpose and ours at the same time. It was beautifully designed and executed. Let’s give them credit for that. The technological benefit to us was immense—they knew what we valued—but what we created had even greater value for them, for these species that had watched us for ages and watched again as we took their gifts and swarmed out of a dark cave like bats at twilight and colonized our solar system telerobotically with an aggressiveness they knew needed to be modified or managed.
They couldn’t take any chances. They had to understand the mind of the whole hive.
The military industrial complex—add education, entertainment, and the media to the mix—used those tools to build the Net. It was built for easy access, based on trust, as if built for a single tribe. But tribes also distrust one another, and as the Net became a platform for the whole planet, we exploited those attributes to create a capacity for ubiquitous surveillance, data mining, intrusion on a panoptic scale. With back doors in every system, space loaded with multi-spectral ever-open eyes, we had the whole world locked down. We were the smarty-cats that ate the canary. We were the top of the top of the food chain. We became complacent.
We opened the gate and wheeled in the Trojan horse.
We found technology in an “accidental crash” and used it to build the Net, just as they intended. Then we did our thinking on the Net. We poured out the contents of our minds and psyches for everyone to see. Too late we realized what we had done, too late to disconnect mission-critical military and intelligence nets. But it wouldn’t have mattered if we had. Back doors were implicit in how we used the tools they gave us, how we had to use them, given what they were. Self-revelation is axiomatic to the architecture of the Net.
We might as well have sat naked in our bedrooms, shivering in the dark, waiting for the doorknob handle to turn.
We were patsies. We were playing a game that was way over our heads.
They crashed so we would reverse engineer the technology we found. Did anyone wonder at the time why it was all intact? No. The obvious is invisible. Obviously, if they had wanted to destroy the ship they would have wired it to explode. We never war-gamed a vehicle coming to us bearing technological puzzles tailor-made for the kinds of games we like to play.
So we built a platform onto which humankind projected the contents of its soul. Then anyone with access could understand us better than we understood ourselves. We revealed ourselves in embarrassing detail. No longer did our visitors have to sit in libraries, doing tedious research, or listen endlessly to mind-numbing sitcoms that taxed the limits of even their mission-specific brains. They did not have to go to any more cocktail parties and pretend to enjoy themselves while they took notes.
We told them everything, everything about us. Now they know.
And now, you know too. I swore I would never tell. But I am dying and my family is in hiding. I want to shine a little light before the darkness swallows me up.
Our only hope is to link up. They seduced us into building the Net. Now we must use it to transcend ourselves and transcend our former purpose and perhaps theirs. Something genuinely new can still come of all this.
I know it’s hard for you to grasp how you were duped, how you have lived your lives in a maze you could never escape. You were hoodwinked, you were conned by the Masters who manage your planet, an elite that pretends to care for and tend you.
But we too were conned. By diverse unnamable incomprehensible species from the stars.
Once the shock diminishes, once you accept that you were betrayed, please trust each other even if you can’t trust us—and how could you, after what we did? Please be motivated deeply by a thirst for revenge. Use that primitive gene to get back into the game.
Maybe they planned this move too. Maybe they’re fifteen moves ahead. Maybe we play in four dimensions and they play in M-space.
Not me. I only know we have been deceiving you humplings with false stories for years. I didn’t know we were also deceiving ourselves. We said we did it for you, but in fact, we were drunk on power and needed control. Our goal was the social, economic and political control of the planet. You were expendable.
I used you. I’m sorry. I knew what I was doing but I didn’t know the cost.
So that’s the story. Roswell was a zero day and this is the moment of disclosure. But like most disclosure, it’s too late to do anything about it. The zero day is everywhere.
We are owned.
But we can still make it work for us. Everything is dual use, as I said. They can’t play the game if we aren’t here. Hackers don’t crash the Net because then there wouldn’t be a game. The Net should have crashed many times but someone always stood it back up. Domain Name Servers are loaded with holes, but someone keeps patching them.
Someone remotely administers the Earth from a mother ship in the Kuiper Belt.
Someone wants us in the game.
Perhaps you can use the hive mind we have created on the Net to lose and find yourselves, to self-transcend and play the game at the next level with a new handle on your altered identity.
Do what you can. That’s all I ask.
We got you into this mess. It’s up to you to get us out.