The Secret Project
Look… I’m just a finance guy. I work in the back office. I am not a hero, at all. To be honest, I can barely help my grandmother in the event of a fall. But it is impossible to sit idly by while innocent people could die.
On an average day, I sit in a dark room and crunch the numbers. Nothing more.
If your kid eats three hot-dogs at the Carnival, how likely is he to run to the crapper? When he covers an entire stall, and paying customers are unable to breathe at all, how many extra hours will that cost in janitorial duties? If some sad sack Stephen sits on a line too long… how likely is he to leave? Is there something we can do to please him?
You get the picture. Disney just loves to keep a smile on that face.
My star has been on the rise recently. At least, I believe that is the reason why my manager pulled me into a secret gathering of the higher-ups, last Monday morning. In the corporate world, we refer to those types of meetings as ‘NDA-level’. It is an exclusivity reserved for only the most trustworthy employees. I was excited. At first.
The board-room was decked out with a massive conference table that stretched nearly from end-to-end. The latest in high comfort rolly chairs were stationed underneath the butts of several old, fat men and women. There was a nice buffet of finger sandwiches and Cokes on a counter-top in the corner. I moved to help myself as the rest of the room stayed quiet. Apparently they had already eaten.
“Do you like X-Files, Aaron?“
The loud voice boomed from the other end of the room just as I finished putting together my plate. I shifted awkwardly and looked around the room. He was talking to me.
“Sure,” I replied. He laughed at that.
“Probably a little before your time. Althought, I hear there was a reboot. Have a seat. My name is Sylvio, but you can call me Sil.“
He shook my hand and gestured generously to the open rolly chair by his side. I sat down like a kid at Summer camp while he turned his massively over-sized belly in my direction. The man had a kind and understanding face. I hoped he was about to give me a raise.
“Disney headquarters has been investing in a little X-Files like project itself,” Sil said this with a sly grin. It was not welcoming to his sagging jowls and liver-spotted cheeks.
“Oh, man, did you guys buy the rights?!” I asked, excitedly. The thought had crossed my mind on many a drunken night.
He looked offended at my suggestion. An older Asian woman openly laughed from the other end of the table.
“Mike, are you sure this kid is right?” she asked my boss. Then it was his turn to look offended.
“Cool it, Carol. Aaron is the best man for this job,” Mike said confidently, with a pat on my back. I sipped my soda stupidly.
Sylvio took a long look at me. He placed his hands in front of his chin, like he was evaluating my entire life worth in a single glance. Apparently satisfied with what he saw, Sil continued.
“Aaron, what if I told you that some aspects of X-Files were real? What if I told you that the American government had made contact with extra-terrestrial life and were too stubborn to deal with them?“
I guffawed like an asshole. Sylvio slammed the table. He paused, and recollected himself by methodically unbuttoning the ring to his sleeve. When he spoke again, it was in a soft tone that reflected a very last ounce of patience with my stupidity.
“What if I told you… that corporate America took over. We have made contact with the beings. We have shared knowledge, and wealth, and culture.“
Sylvio smiled at the rest of his board-members with the love of a mother.
“We have even created free trade.“
I slurped at my soda nervously. The entire scene seemed like something of a stupid teen movie. Here I was, an asshole fresh out of college, placed inside the biggest conspiracy since the JFK assassination.
“I would say… Why the hell am I here?” I said. It was the only thing that came to my mind. The old folks in the room seemed to like that. A few of them returned to their laptops and typed away furiously.
“You are here for what you always are, numbers,” Sil said again. “We need a way to facilitate the payment we are receiving from the lifeforms. It needs to be hidden from the government. We have settled on…“
Sil scanned scanned the small audience beside us.
“Black market, folks?“
Carol spoke up again from the back.
“It has to be black market, Sil, you know that.“
Sylvio sighed softly and turned back to me.
“We will not rely on you to make any contacts, obviously, but we do need someone to wash the money. So to speak.“
His beady little eyes made him look like a hamster. The only thing I saw inside Sil was an instinct that matched every pair of eyes in that shady board-room. Greed.
“Can I just keep my old job?“
Sylvio laughed nervously. As did the other board members.
“Look, we are willing to pay you a lot of money for this gig. We are talking several times your old salary. Mike, here, has vouched for you. He says you are a perfect numbers man. And you have a little interest in the obscure… well, here you go.“
I shifted uncomfortably.
“Show him the tape!” Carol called out from the back.
“Ah, right, the tape!” Sylvio stood up so suddenly it made the entire table shake. He shuffled his fat little butt over to a button by the center. Suddenly, the front wall turned into a projection. The footage contained a sequence of several shocking events.
The first scene of the film opened with a wide-view of your typical day in the Disneyland theme park. The camera appears to be attached to a drone. It flies over a group of children posing for a picture. Then the sky changes and suddenly slips to night. It is only for a moment, but the scenery is suddenly dark as midnight. Sil slipped me another sly look and thumbs up as he turned back to the screen.
The image changes again.
The view is on the inside of a Pet Semetary scene somewhere inside our theme park. A small family of four is enjoying the sights, alone, in the rain. There is a quick distortion in the camera that causes it to flicker in and out. When it comes back into focus, the family is lying on the ground motionless. Several small creatures quickly run up and cover their bodies like insects.
The film cuts unceremoniously.
“First contact,” Sil mumbled aloud to no one in particular as he fumbled with the remote.
The footage started to flick through a sequence of events too quick to track. There was a sharp dressed man in a suit, staring blankly at a man missing half his face. A woman with a baby in her arm waited in an unending elevator ride. A princess waited in a castle for a savior that never arrived.
The last shot was of a uniformed janitor in the underground locker rooms. He scrubbed endlessly at a stall marked by the lucky number thirteen. A man in a Micky Mouse costume stood over him, as if comically inspecting the job for flaws. The character emphatically pointed out spots in the poor janitor’s work, and shook his butt a bit at the camerica, which caused the janitor to scrub harder and faster on command. The whole thing looked like part of a badly choreographed bit. But the camera zoomed when Mickey started to laugh. His whole mouth opened and clothed in perfect rhythm. Rows of bright white teeth stuck out impossibly through the cloth. I don’t think it was a man under that costume.
Then, as suddenly as it begun, the footage ended.
The board members returned to their seats and typed endlessly at their laptops. They seemed uninterested in what happened next. My look of shock and awe had fooled the best poker players in the company.
“It looks fascinating, I want in,” I replied with full conviction. I had to make it believable, so I asked one final question.
“Are people our trade pieces?“
The room grew completely silent. No one answered.
Sylvio smiled with his horribly sweaty sass. I signed a few papers after that. Shook a few hands. Even Carol seemed to warm up my charm after all was said and done. They told me I could start after the weekend.
When I got home, I searched on the Internet for similar cases. I still hoped it was bullshit. But that search led me to the stories that are linked.
This message is mostly for the authors.
The truth is that my company, and their cohorts, are luring more innocent victims by the day. The truth is that no one knows where they end up after the trade. The truth is that no guest, or employee, is safe.
I am taking the advice of a previous poster and leaving the country. It will be safer that way.
The truth is… I don’t know what will happen to me on Monday.