Astranger asked me this as I sat in my favorite café.
“Oh sure, military ya know. Air Force.”
“You?” I listened to a couple of travel tales, finished my coffee and headed on home. But that innocuous conversation had rattled something loose in this old brain. As I walked toward home the familiar cobblestone street faded out. I was walking down that hallway of the past.
The hallway that led to a top- secret briefing room. I was late. I was barely seated when the commander entered. He was easily the biggest man in the room at 6’4” or so, thin and pale faced. I tried to breathe. I’d never been in a top secret briefing before. I was almost too scared to breathe. This was the summer of 1963, two months before my twentieth birthday. I do remember that a look around the room gave me a weird impression of my fellows. Except for the commander, every man jack in the room was exactly the same height as me. All my life I’ve been the smallest guy in the room, barely making the 5’4” minimum height to enter the Air Force.
All twenty men, two officers and two civilians, we were as alike as a set of pawns. The commander had already begun to speak. I’d missed his first few words. Now he was saying, “Men, you are volunteering for a mission you will never speak of and which may require the ultimate sacrifice. You must have no doubt in your mind. Any man here who feels unable to make this commitment may now leave without penalty.” Silently twenty men sat, still and grim faced. I felt calm now, ready.
“Very well.” He concluded and began the swearing in ceremony. After that he introduced Dr. Trimwell, one of two civilians present. Trimwell was dark haired with a big nose and fleshy lips, he had intense black eyes and a deep voice for such a small guy. I can’t remember exactly what he said that day. He said so much weird stuff the next three days, it all blurred together. But the gist of it was that we were about to make a preemptive strike against the inhabitants of the Moon. So we got briefed on the need to secure the moon before President Kennedy’s public moon landing.
Secure the moon? From aliens? Uh-huh. Is it any wonder my memories are a bit blurred? Just at dark we were delivered by bus to private quarters and served dinner on a tray. It was an exceptionally good meal, tasted like my Grandmas cooking. They just don’t make food like that anymore. I’m pretty sure the beer was drugged though. My room was windowless and except for the soft hum of the air conditioner, soundless. I slept very well.
Morning started out with a flight to New Mexico. We unloaded next to a large featureless metal building. A couple of secretarial type ladies greeted us with cokes and cigarettes and left us standing stunned in the desert while they led our superiors inside. Blinking in the hot sun, smoking, our conversation was limited to “We are supposed to shoot little green men?” type mutters.
Once we were inside, Dr. Trimwell showed us some frozen remains, parts dissected from aliens. It looked like pieces of big dead insects.
“Men, these specimens of the enemy were collected over the last 2 decades by Air Force specialists. The evidence is from the wreckage of flying ships shot down in US air space. Our observations conclude these beings live, think and work without benefit of air or water. It draws sustenance directly from sunlight. It communicates with its hive by vibrating a membrane in its head which is received by a sympathetic vibration in all nearby. This “telepathy” also vibrates human eardrums. In other words we can hear their speech. You will experience this phenomena. When your brain receives the telepathic intention of the alien it automatically translates into words.”
So, the creatures, the luney bugs we started calling them, they live on the far side of the moon where they evolved on their dry airless sphere just like we have on our wet atmospheric world. They are telepathic, travel by anti-gravity, are coming to earth in flying saucers and twenty-four short guys are going to the moon to squash these bugs. Yes sir! President Kennedy wants the moon, OK!
This seems like a bad movie. They think we are off to conquer the moon, sure we can do that. Well, I do not feel so sure. Again no discussion, no questions, and we are kept separated. I am bunked in cramped windowless quarters and fed off a tray. Once again I have very good food with drugged beer.
Next morning starts with an old Air Force film showing fighter jets taking down flying saucers. After the crashes, the specialists recover the wreckage and bodies. Dr. Trimwell fills in the details.
“In the cases shown here some of the beings were still living and able to communicate. Each one died before revealing any military intelligence. Inside each saucer was found an undamaged white sphere. These appear to serve as a lifeboat of sorts.”
He then led us into a hangar and there it was, the lifeboat. He walked right up to it and a portal opened in the side. It spread out like smoke. “As you can see, the technology of Luna is quite different from ours. This anti-gravity homing craft will be used by you gentlemen, as well as myself, to travel to the far side of the moon. Tomorrow.”
After lunch we were instructed how to climb into our space armor. This was proving to be a minimal training situation. I didn’t know whether to laugh or faint. Was this some sort of military candid camera psycho experiment?
Morning of day three I am served only a small cup of black coffee and a cigarette, then a pretty secretary shows up and directs me back to the hangar. Much to my surprise it is still dark outside.
As soon as we are assembled and outfitted in our space suits, armed and dangerous, we enter the sphere. I feel very calm. Inside are a couple dozen small seats facing the hull. They are like bicycle seats with short back rests that slide up into a slot in our space armor holding us firmly in the saddle. Dr Trimwell takes the last seat, the one facing the portal which immediately closes with a seamless silent precision. The hull went transparent and we shot into the sky silently in the dark. We were already swinging around the curvature of the earth. I don’t know how to describe the feeling of gravity repelling travel. I could see the earth passing by on the other side of that clear hull, but I felt completely stable, motionless. It was like the opposite of those movies that make you motion sick. You know? You really are not moving but your eyes fool your body. So here I knew I had to be moving but it looked like the view was. Somewhere in the back of my consciousness was the realization I was on my way to war. I would be killing or being killed when we landed.
I was so overcome by the sight as the earth flew away like a baseball hit out of the park that I couldn’t think about war. And then we were landing on the far side of the moon. The sun on the horizon cast a pure white light and the stars filled the black sky steady and bright. We made a tight formation, weapons at the ready. Our lunar enemies poured out of open doors. They were unarmed and barefoot. We were not expected as an invading force. We were being greeted as welcome guests.
Our headphones were blasting orders. Simultaneous to commands I could hear the people of Luna in sweet musical thoughts. Their language was not words really, but well, more like love. “Come, enter” “Welcome our brothers” And the most astounding of all, “Join us in the name of Christ Jesus our Sovereign.”
At this point my hold on any sense of sanity fell away. The next thing I remember clearly was the silent landing in the New Mexico desert at the point of our debarkation. It was full day. I have vague memories of a debriefing under amnesia producing drugs. All I can remember I have just written. Six years later America sent men to the near side of the moon to collect some rocks.
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