What I write many never see the light of day. The nature of my workplace is such. But that does not mean that the events I describe did not take place.
Three days ago.
I was sleeping on the floor. In my line of work, it was nothing out of the ordinary. Sometimes, mission-critical assignments kept me in the lab far beyond my prescribed working hours. And on such instances, it iscommon practice that I take an inflatable pillow with me, go to the far end of the gymnasium and lie down to catch a bit of shut-eye. This was one such instance.
I woke up after a deep sleep. I cannot really say that it was a long one but it was certainly a deep one. My body was still exhausted but there was work to be done. I woke up, groggy-eyed, and looked around. The usually plain landscape of the gymnasium had now been transformed completely. It was a dry and arid decor, but strangely, it did not resemble a desert. Well, perhaps a rocky desert.
There were cameras all around. Not your average polaroid cameras or the small ones that tourists carried around but the ones that you see in Hollywood. Video cameras and by the look of them, very sophisticated ones. I could not believe that Hollywood had finally penetrated this place. I mean, I did not imagine that in a million years permission would be granted to film a movie here. The people from the film must know people in high places, I thought to myself.
Curiously, the lights of the gym were switched off and new nights were temporarily put up. The lights had a strange white hue and were placed at a great height. The effect was positively eerie.
Then there was the most curious thing of all. I had only seen one in those science magazines and in those cheap movies that made one laugh rather than make one awe at the glory of such a creation that was the pinnacle of engineering. It stood there, right before my eyes. Absolutely perfect in its construction and in pristine white. An American flag adorned it.
Suddenly, the whole place was buzzing. Men were frantically adjusting the lights, making sure to get the effect right. A man, who I presume was the director of the movie, was calling the shots, moving people and things around and asking for adjustments to be made. Finally, he seemed satisfied.
Three men emerged. Clad in these suits that I had seen only once – adorning a certain Russian in 1961. But here were the three men. They emerged from the craft in a perfectly choreographed motion. They climbed down the ladder from the craft onto the uneven surface. They seemed to be bouncing rather than walking. One came out, followed by another. The third, I think, stayed in the craft but emerged later. I am not sure.
The first one came out and planted a flag on the ground, went bouncing along and uttered something to the camera. I was too far away to find out what it was. Either way, I was looking forward to seeing this movie when it was eventually released. I did not, as it turned out, have to wait long.
I saw the movie. I saw it as I had seen it. Only, this time, along with me, millions of others watched it happening “live”. A momentous occasion, they called it, a triumph for the human race. The final frontier had been conquered, they said. The same craft. The same men. The same flag. This time, however, I did listen to what the man said to the camera.
‘One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.’
I work in Area 51. Today is the 20th of July, 1969.