An Experiment in Short Fiction
by Graham Ranseen
The majestic blue skyline in the distance above the sprawling Appalachian terrain in rural middle Virginia was beautiful on this Spring morning in March. Terri had been driving all night long since nine o’ clock the previous evening when she departed her home in Port Wentworth, Georgia where she lived alone after her husband had passed away a decade earlier. Terri’s husband, Marcus had worked for the same Intelligence Agency as herself before he had succumbed to a heart attack while working on a peace keeping mission in Istanbul. Terri had blamed Marcus’ obsession with attempting to prove his goodwill to the Agency as leading to the stress and eventual health issues which led to his death at the early age of 54.
Terri herself had been employed by the agency going back to just a few years out of Brown University in her mid 20’s, where she had received a dual degree in both Communications and International Relations and graduated with Cum Laude honors – a disappointment in her fathers’ eyes . Back then she was highly idealistic as many youth fresh out of school are – but for Terri – trying to change the world and leave it in better shape than she found it was something she had never lost sight of, especially this morning. Perhaps that is why Terri who had not worked nights for years and would normally be asleep safe and sound at home in Georgia – had been driving all night to receive some ‘ears only’ news three states away. Terri’s was doing better morale wise ever since her assignments and contracts had shifted to the Southeastern Division offices but her work had taken some dark turns in the past few years and even more so after the Pandemic started. Now, in her late 50’s and living in the dream home that Marc had built for her in Port Wentworth overlooking the Little Back River – Terri was content with her new schedule which allowed her to work remotely through a multitude of Virtual Private Networks and secure connections.
On this particular morning, Terri was anxious, scared and unusually stressed in addition to feeling uneasy. Terri wasn’t just stressed, she was hurt and vulnerable and the reason a lump had been developing in her throat for the past 12 hours was that she had received information in the late afternoon the previous day from her longstanding contact in Canada – a versatile agent whom she only knew under the name of Forbes. This agent had informed Terri of an incoming plot near implementation and in the final stages of being written into speeches for transients and into the notes for media production segments as part of a 10 year – 13 point plan – about some major theatrics to advance some “real” control over the globe. A portion of the compartmentalized delegation of duties were on their way to the teams that both Terri and Forbes worked with – so this was something that Terri needed to know more about.
For years, Terri had heard about how events in society were not as real as the public believed them to be. The underground facilities with dozens of rooms of green screens she had seen in Northern Virginia – where she was headed – and which she was able to pass by on the way to a meeting once due to the Security Clearance she had acquired after Marcus’s passing had made her aware of the reality of how closely linked staged events were with what the public saw on the news. Wag The Dog, she was once joked to another Agent colleague, referring to the film from the late 1990’s which premiered during Clinton’s second term in Office, wasn’t a fictional film anymore, it was a Non Fiction documentary!
The advent of technological developments had made Terri’s life easier since Marcus had passed – even though she had buried the pain as well as any inquiry into the circumstances related to his death. She knew that’s how Marcus wanted to go out – he had finally done real good and the Agency wasn’t very happy. She knew better than to question it or, press it any further. After a few weeks of grieving and admiring Marcus’s heroics, she moved on and took six months off to fish off of the Fleming Key in Key West – his favorite fishing and vacation spot in order to heal. Since then, she had thrown everything into her work – believing that what she did for a living might actually be making the world a better place – even though lately she was losing more and more faith in believing what she did was actually a force for good in the world.
Recently, she had been weary and skeptical about where technology was headed and how it was being used and abused by those in power. The muscle relaxers she had been popping and chasing down with Pepto Bismol mixed with a small amount of vodka everyday were the daily band-aids she had been covering up with for long lasting pain and deep wounds which had been developing for some time. For the past few weeks she’d had difficulty breathing and the pain she had become used to and had been able to manage was now deeper and more unbearable than ever before. Without the muscle relaxers she wouldn’t be able to swallow comfortably – without the Pepto Bismol she couldn’t keep any food down – and without the alcohol, she wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning.
Terri knew she was a wreck and she knew what she had to do. This is why without a moment’s notice, the previous evening she jumped into her 2004 Buick Lesabre and jumped on I-95 to meet the mysterious Forbes – whom she had only been in email communication with since they had made contact through a mutual agent years earlier – prepared to get the scoop on some important details which she knew might alter the course of her career. As she was driving up I-95 through the beautiful state of Virginia, a state she hadn’t visited in years, she allowed her nerves to settle as the beautiful beams of sunlight began to beam through her car’s windshield and hit her face. When she got to Springfield, she shifted directions and drove toward Alexandria. She wanted to drive up Highway 1 and Hwy 123 along the Potomac River and admire the beauty of the area before she got to Turkey Run Park, where she was going to meet Forbes at 7am.
Terri had put on weight since the pandemic started and initially she had stopped working out after she had to make contact with teams in Eastern Europe – the region was near Turkey, where Marcus had died – and it brought up too many bad memories she had been successfully suppressing for years. Terri had always had a high metabolism, a natural athlete in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia where she had ran Track and also played Left Fielder for the Softball team . The toll her career in espionage had taken on her, from frequenting cheap hotels, ghosting agents and allies and constantly living with a paranoia and a distrust for humanity was catching up to her. Now the once slender, slim, athletic brunette homecoming queen felt like a treasonous piece of scum and she couldn’t take it anymore. The drive all throughout the night had been agonizing but she was fueled up on caffeine pills and had leveled herself out with the muscle relaxers and vodka. She had always loved the trees in this area and specifically as they appeared overlooking the Potomac were something she did not want to miss while she was up here.
Terri had an inside connection at a Red Lion Hotel – Iwo Jima in Arlington which was also about seven miles out from her destination. So, just when she saw the Nestle company building in the western local skyline, she took a sharp left turn and drove toward the Hotel where she had arranged for a room to be reserved upon an early morning arrival. Terri parked her car in reverse and closest the exit as she had been trained to do as an Agent and removed her front facing license plate which she placed in the trunk. While her trunk door was open, she glanced at her surroundings to see if anyone was watching her. Since the cold war began, this entire area was a hotbed for spies but this is why Terri used less popular or, difficult to access areas for her base locations. She pulled a bag out of her trunk which contained a .22 caliber pistol in a dark leather holster. She then checked into her room to shower, change and arrange for a taxi to drop her off a mile away from her destination. She would walk the remaining distance.
Before leaving her room, Terri threw her burner smart phone into a sink she had filled with water and added a vial of Fluoroantimonic acid into it to dissolve the metals and then grabbed a new burner phone she had just activated a few moments earlier.
Upon her arrival, Terri realized why Forbes may have chosen this location. It was right in the heart of the lions den, around the corner from the HQ with lots of dog walkers and hikers and relatively quiet with lots of open space. For a moment she wondered if this might be a set up – but remembered the mutual acquaintance which had connected her to Forbes – a loyal ally and friend who had retired some years ago but whom she still had contact with and held in high regard. “Jim would never connect me with someone he didn’t trust” she thought to herself. Forbes had realized who he had been waiting for and nodded to Terri in a subtle way. Terri walked toward the bench where who she suspected to be Forbes had been reading a newspaper on – with both hands in her pockets – as if she was quietly taking a stroll and wanted some privacy. She pulled out her brand new burner smart phone and texted Forbes from the new number.
Terri : Am I standing 50 yards away from you?
Forbes: Are you wearing a brown coat, sunglasses with a scarf around your neck?
Terri: I am
Forbes: Do you have a few coins on you?
Forbes: Ok. Do you see a double sided bench a quarter of a mile south of where I am up that hill along that abandoned hiking trail behind me with a pond in the middle? And do you have dead Ear pods you can put in your ears?
Terri: Yes and Yes, I do.
Forbes: Good, put them in naturally walk to that bench as if you are in a conversation and sit down facing the River. Continue to pretend you’re talking on your phone on your ear pods and place your scarf over your mouth so no one can read your lips. I’m going to pretend to take a call in a few minutes as well and will begin talking and gesturing as if I’m in a conversation while walking in your direction. On your way, I want you to throw coins into the pond as if you’re skipping them on the water and on the last throw, I want you to ditch your phone in the pond and on the opposite side on my way up, I’ll do the same. Once I sit down on one side of the bench I’ll continue talking after you hear me say the name Walt Whitman – we can begin talking.
After Terri read this text message, she knew she was dealing with someone who had been trained in some old school tactics. Agents had the technology and means to avoid taking these types of precautions these days. The detailed instructions set Terri at ease for a moment however even though her heart had been beating non stop since she had left the Hotel. She knew if anyone knew she was meeting with someone that she did not report to her contact in both the Southern and Northern field offices, it would raise a red flag. Yet, she had a solid enough alibi for now as she had been purposely dropping hints that she wanted to buy a house in the area for a year. Additionally, she kept reminding herself that at the moment, she hadn’t done anything wrong and technically she hadn’t. Forbes did not know her name and she did not know his – nor had they exchanged any sensitive intelligence. So, she did as she was instructed to do and positioned herself at the park bench facing the beautifully picturesque Potomac River which soothed her soul and kept her calm while she was gesturing as if she was on a phone call even though she wasn’t.
In about 10-15 minutes, Forbes arrived and sat down behind her and about three feet diagonal to her. Both had their backs to each other. After he caught his breath, Forbes placed a mask over his face and ended his fake phone conversation. “Just remember that the poet whose name is inscribed on that piece of furniture I want is Walt Whitman”
A few seconds later, Forbes placed his hands in his pockets and began to speak in a soft and just audible enough tone of voice.
“Is your name Teresa Wilt?” Forbes asked with a vulnerability and an urgency that Terri didn’t expect.
Terri didn’t realize Forbes would know her real name. So, without flinching she replied, “I have gone by that name in the past. Who told you that was my name?”
“A friend of your former colleague’s sent me a cypher and I figured it out” Forbes paused for a moment and then continued, “Do you know my name? ” he asked.
“Paul Gough”, Terri blurted out.
Forbes smirked beneath his mask, “It looks like we both did our homework didn’t we?”
Terri figured it was time to confirm the code and start the meeting, “Did you derive the code from the Cypher?” she asked.
Both Terri and Paul exchanged passphrases from Cyphers that both of them had sent to each other in their own uniquely created cryptograms.
“Alright, let’s get to business” Paul said sternly. “Here’s what I’ve heard. There’s a massive plan in place. It’s being advanced through the usual channels”
This was exactly what Terri dreaded to hear. “Is everyone at the level on board?” Terri asked with a shiver in her voice.
“Almost”, Paul said grimly. “They’ve gotten to everyone down to the 4th tier in one form or, another but of course, not everyone knows what’s going on. Need to know! But whoever objected or, would’ve objected has been compromised and when my contacts told me that – I knew it was time to make contact with you.”
Paul continued, “Do you remember the president saying, The Invisible Enemy at the start of the third social experiment?”
“Of course” Terri said. “I know the crew who helped write that language out of Maryland about a decade ago.”
“Well, you’ll be hearing more of that language soon” Paul said as he continued in his serious and confessional tone. “They’re trying to stage the fabled Alien Invasion we all thought wouldn’t happen.” Terri muttered something in a whisper to herself barely audible to Paul
“My God! So, soon?” Terri said. Then she regained the pitch in her voice, “Are they out of their minds? It won’t work so soon! The people aren’t desperate enough yet.”
Paul agreed, “I know but they got some old timers who have pull in the organization, they want to see some action before they pass on. It’s taking too long and it’s too delicious to resist to these guys” The pain in Terri’s chest returned with vigor, as she spoke, “Paul, I didn’t sign up for this. Not in my lifetime. This is pure evil and more than that its too greedy, the people still have much power in their hands and a lot of them won’t believe it – – half of them…..well… they’ll ignore it like they did the pandemic.” Terri spoke as if she was attempting to process something that she could not discern the gravity or, magnitude of.
“You don’t have to tell me, but you know that there’s enough money in that Space Program and Space Force as well….. and there’s tech most of the people on this planet have never seen that will blow their minds” Paul replied swiftly.
“I never thought it would be so soon, Paul! Don’t you feel that way? Terri asked in a slightly pleading tone.
“Oxygen deprivation, it’s already happening!” Paul retorted, unflinching as his fixed gaze peered into the distance. “You know those chemicals in that jab remove oxygen from the blood which will cause long term brain damage. It’s the theme of the plan, I saw the documents. There’s the masks – restrict oxygen. Stay indoors and away from fresh air – restrict oxygen. Take the vaccine and see oxygen removed from red blood cells through damaged hemoglobin – restrict oxygen.” Paul continued.
Terri was in shock. She had suspected some years ago that the freedoms being taken away from people after the terrorist attacks would be as far as the people would allow their Governments to go. But she didn’t think that people’s most private and sacred personal space would be ‘invaded’ to such an extreme degree.
“Paul, this is madness.” Terri responded with vigor. “I did not want this to happen in my lifetime and I’m sick of feeling like a sell-out. ”
Paul continued. “Listen to this Teresa, they have a few military planes that look like space-ships and a colleague I know who has worked in at least a few black programs for the air-force has confirmed they’re waiting until the world median IQ level reaches a specific figure across the board. ” Paul stated with intense focus and clear speech.
“And believe me when I tell you Teresa” Paul continued. “That figure has dropped 200% since 2001. The way to control the mind is to control the breathing which is where the ventilators and breathing machines will come into play once people’s oxygen levels continue to take a nose dive. People will be so deprived of breath, they’ll be begging for a new system of government. And let me tell you something else, the amount of taxes which will be funneled into the new alien government which will purely be a hoax – is going to surprise you. The metaverse, the matrix, whatever you want to call it. It’s all going to be rolled out through directives. I can’t even begin to tell you the documentation I’ve read. They send it through communications which disappear after a few seconds or, a few minutes after you read and sometimes even instantly. The AI screens scan your eye balls in the new laptops the Agency is testing out. I’ve been one of the Agents to test them out. The AI knows after you’ve read a line with a certain degree of cognitive focus and the lines disappear after you’ve read it just like those communications in the mission impossible movies – so most agents have no chance to blow the whistle or, gather evidence. It’s all hearsay. Whatever they say can easily be discredited and most are compromised anyway ” Paul stated this with a depressive and hopeless tone in his voice.
“And Teresa, I want my soul back. I never wanted to be involved in something this dark. This is too much. There is no turning back and I promised myself I would walk away when that happened. What is the point of collecting a pension if i’m tormented by what I’ve been complicit in?” Paul’s voice was shaking now. The level of composure and grit he had shown Teresa earlier was cracking. Terri could sense that Paul wanted out and that this was why he had pushed so hard to meet with her even though they knew they would be risking their lives.
“Is this why you asked me if I would be selling my house? Are you completely free of any weight?” Terri asked with a small semblance of wonder.
“Teresa, I’ve been ready to go for 18 months, just a few months into the pandemic of the invisible enemy – the moment I heard our president use that phrase – which was all over the documents about the staged alien invasion they’re wanting to rollout which I read over a decade ago – I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and I slowly started selling my assets and transferring them into other assets and foreign trusts.” Paul clarified.
“I need your help then” Terri said with a glimmer of hope. “The house and the car are all I have. They can go to hell with their pension. I’m ready to go off the grid” “Then do as I say” Paul replied with calm. “Don’t do anything too suddenly. Go home at your normal pace and wait to hear from me. It may take a month or, two but I’ll be able to connect you with a trusted colleague. Someone else who made it out alive.”
“I appreciate you. Make it home safe. I’ll be on this bench for a while longer. They got eyes everywhere” Paul said
“Paul I’m glad I came and I appreciate you more than you’ll ever know. Be safe my friend” With these words leaving her lips. Terri got up from her seat and walked back down the steep hiking trail, opposite from the direction she took to get up the hill. She was still in pain but felt better and there was a spark of positivity in her that she hadn’t felt in years. She walked all the way back to her Hotel in deep thought. “I just need to make it back in one piece and I’ll be alright” she said to herself. With this single goal in her mind she stopped short of a few blocks from her Hotel and gazed out westward to the distant mountain range of Appalachia which appeared light blue and barely visible in West Virginia. “I’ll be free soon” she whispered inside of herself.
End of Chapter 1