©2019 C. Henry Martens
I’m not really sure how it started. But I’m sure it was over one too many drinks. I’d ranted to my friends often enough about social ills, economics, and what “shoulda been done,” and finally one of them, Billy “The Chadster” Foster, challenged me to put up or shut up. And one thing led to another, and somehow people were inspired by a guy that didn’t care whether they voted for him or not. I mean, enough people were fed up that they were willing to listen to unvarnished truth… or at least the fantasies I conjured in my head as I looked out over the world and judged it.
Being elected was a million to one shot… hell, a billion to one shot… but somehow Thomas P. Lowry managed to be the choice of the electorate for the office of the Presidency of the United States of America. The first and only truly independent never-a-politician in the history of a great and fading nation.
I was destined to be the worst President in the history of Presidents, or an accidental… naw, that was wishful thinking.
But I got my revenge on Billy Foster. I made him promise early on that he would be my Chief of Staff if I won, and with all of his faults, The Chadster had always kept his promises.
We walked into the Oval Office together. Billy in jeans that had seen better days, and me in my favorite sandals. We didn’t plan on putting on airs.
Kyle Dillon met us, he being the outgoing Chief of Staff. He was dressed in a dark suit, blue shirt, and broad tie, and probably the shiniest shoes I’d ever seen.
He pushed the box he was filling with knickknacks to the side of the Presidential desk and then placed it on the top of two other boxes stacked on a hand truck.
His eyes scoped me out, top to bottom, and if I didn’t play poker I might have missed the micro-sneer that passed through his eyes as they met mine.
He covered it well, though, extending a surprisingly beefy hand and exuding what appeared to be genuine warmth as he proclaimed, “Jerry,” the former President, “left yesterday. He didn’t have the stomach for watching you sit behind his desk.” There it was again, that flash of disdain masked by false cheerfulness.
“Prick never did have much for balls,” Billy said in a low voice as though what he said was only for my ears.
Both Dillon and I knew the ejaculation was meant to be heard by both of us, but he was beyond taking the bait from someone so far beneath him.
We had all met several times already, including the former President, making a show of a calm and orderly transfer of power. The truth was it was anything but. The status quo power structure had done everything it could, under the table, to delegitimize my win. Somehow the smart people in my campaign organization and the voters had foiled their attempts. That’s what you get when the voters get angry enough. So now it was time for Kyle to leave, and I actually felt some sympathy for him. But not much.
“One last thing to do, Tom,” Dillon had steadfastly refused to call me by my title as proper protocol demanded. I didn’t really care. We were going to shake up some of the ingrained procedures anyway. Might as well start with the respect I never felt I’d earned.
“What’s that,” I asked, “a tour of the dish room?”
Dillon laughed. A surprisingly lighthearted exclamation that immediately made me wonder if I had hit some kind of hidden truth, which led me to wonder if there was a reason this staid and shackled-to-the-status-quo man suddenly felt like a weight was being lifted from him.
I supposed that was possible. I mean after all, he was leaving the big responsibilities behind.
The Chadster (a nickname inspired by Billy’s ability to suck young women into his thrall) spoke up, not making eye contact but appearing to be intent on inspecting the Oval Office walls and construction.
“He probably wants us to carry his bags to his car.”
Again Dillon chuckled as though understanding an inside joke. As a guy that plays poker well enough that I usually go home with more money than I came with, his demeanor made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
The former Chief of Staff shook his head and made a motion to invite us to the bookcase built into the wall to his right.
The curve of the office gave the walls empty spaces behind them, I supposed. A good place to build in a book case. Otherwise the empty space would be wasted. I looked around and noticed a door at the opposite side of the room, one of the empty spaces that had been converted into an adjoining bathroom when the White House was plumbed for modern conveniences.
But what the bookcase held I could not fathom.
Kyle reached up to take a book from the head high shelf and after removing it he reached into the space created as though pushing against the inside of the case.
Silently, the case swung out over the plush carpet.
I couldn’t help noticing Kyle Dillon’s eyes. He was enjoying this… but there was an odd sadness behind his eyes, too.
“There are only three people in the country that know about this room,” Dillon said ominously. “You two… and me.”
I had to ask as it occurred to me immediately, “What about Jerry?”
The exiting Chief of Staff looked me in the eye, “His memory has already been wiped.”
Billy erupted in a huge guffaw, slapping his knees in pure delight.
Dillon chuckled too.
I waited for an explanation, my spidey sense tingling.
“What, like Men in Black?” Billy inquired lightly. “Somebody waves a flashy thing in front of his eyes and he forgets everything he did in office?”
Dillon sobered, “Well, kind of.”
The Chadster wasn’t done. He laughed again and asked, “I suppose when you leave the White House you’ll get the same treatment?”
Kyle hesitated thoughtfully and then said very seriously, “I’m counting on it.”
By this time I was inside the door that the movement of the bookcase had created. The tiny room was pretty unexceptional other than it being triangular. The bookcase had opened at the point of a pie shaped wedge, two relatively upscale folding chairs with a small table between just a little toward the crust of the pie, and nothing at the back of the room, the shortest wall.
The floor was a little odd, though. It seemed to be covered in tiles of odd shape, a single triangular tile under each chair at the small point of the room, and six tiles toward the back wall, perhaps two feet square in area but of inconsistent shape. Between the tiles under the chairs and the tiles against the wall there were a myriad of odd-shaped and sized smaller tiles forming some kind of snakeskin-like boundary. It looked like all of the tiles were clear and there was nothing below them.
And I mean nothing.
Walking into the room was like moving out onto a glass balcony, except there was no ground beneath to be seen.
If the chairs hadn’t been in the room I would have thought there was a… well… a void beneath the White House.
Billy gasped a little as he entered behind me, and he gripped my shoulder for support. I don’t often see Billy speechless, but I glanced back and could see he was wondering what the hell…
“Well, this is different,” I offered. There really wasn’t much more to say.
Dillon backed out of the room, saying, “Sit in the chairs. This is where it gets really weird.”
He closed the door behind him.
My stomach was having some trouble with vertigo. More properly, my gonads felt like they were being sucked up into my stomach. Stepping over to the chairs was like walking across air. I hadn’t noticed before, but it didn’t feel like I had any weight walking across the floor. The sensation was like falling continuously but being able to direct myself in any direction toward a focus point.
“I think I threw up a little in my mouth.”
I looked back at Billy. He was chewing as though tasting something awful.
“Well, if I wasn’t experiencing it I wouldn’t believe it,” I mumbled.
Billy nodded in agreement. He looked a little green, and I expected that if there was a mirror I would have been a little green, too.
“Should we sit down?” asked my new Chief of Staff.
Several moments passed as we tried to orient ourselves. The more time we spent in the room, it seemed the less oriented we were. Just as I was considering getting up to leave I noticed one of the tiles against the far wall. It wasn’t exactly glowing, and it wasn’t becoming exactly opaque. It was just… different.
To say the creature popped suddenly into the room would be an understatement. One moment the room at the far end was empty, and in the blink of an eye there was an alien being inspecting me.
Dillon had been correct.
Weird to the point that I wondered if he had drugged us as some kind of sick joke.
“Whooooooaaaaa…,” whispered Billy under his breath.
I reached over to grip The Chadster’s arm. I needed some kind of reality to hold onto. Billy and I looked at each other, trying to maintain our sanity.
“Tom, do you see what I see?” Billy asked, “I’m pretty sure this is real, but I need a second opinion.”
“Yeah, Bill,” I whispered back. “I see it, and I think one of the other tiles is… glowing or whatever.”
Six tiles, and soon there were five aliens inhabiting the end of the room. They looked like they were really there. Like they were actually in the room. Not some kind of hokey hologram like in the movies, but really there.
The aliens huddled together. They seemed to be communicating with each other, perhaps waiting for the sixth tile to produce another being.
Time seemed to speed up, as though outside the room time was moving through a thick and viscous syrup. I don’t wear a watch, but I could feel it. Billy glanced at his watch and tipped it toward me. The second hand wasn’t moving.
Billy and I were busy talking, too. He pointed out that the aliens seemed at first appearance to be the same size, but somehow that seemed an artificial impression. One of the aliens in particular looked like it should be huge. I mean really massive. The size of a house. Another looked like it should be tiny. It even had wings behind its back, giving us the impression of it being a fairy. The massive creature looked like a loose lump of warty, thick-skinned, reddish flesh. The fairy was bipedal, and looked like a cross between an insect and a human being. One of the others looked similar to a human being, another more like a salamander with a damp skin and bright spots, and the remaining one wispy, as though made of smoke.
One of the aliens disengaged and bowed from the waist. The creature that looked most human.
“You have broken the system.” The creature enunciated clearly. “You were not supposed to win.”
The words came across as a statement of fact rather than an accusation.
“We will work with you anyway, as long as you understand that we have goals, needs, and desires that take precedence. You will be subordinate to us. It is necessary.”
There was a hesitation.
A hand reached in, as though from off stage, with a glass of liquid for the speaker. It was a human hand.
I had nothing to say. First, I was stunned. Second, I was stunned. Third… well, no reason to keep repeating myself.
We learned a lot in a (?) short time. How Earth was really controlled by an alien combine. How there were two other rooms like this one on our planet, one in France and one in China. Six human beings at any one time were the only people on the planet aware of the real situation. We found out that when we left the White House, intended to be a one-term anomaly, we would have our memories wiped. Our planet was a market of resources for the combine. A farm that produced product when product was needed.
Now I’m sitting in the Presidential bathroom, writing as much as I can down on toilet tissue and trying to figure a way to get the information to someone without being discovered. Wondering if anyone could possibly take this seriously. If I am successful, you might hear about this. If I’m not… well, I understand that other Presidents have tried before me, and they were punished in various ways. If I exhibit sudden dementia or there is a tremendous calamity, it may mean I was discovered.
Wish me luck.