The Nap Lapkin Trilogy – Part 1: Mitcheltree Ridge
As far as detention centers went it was pretty much as Harold had always imagined them. Something out of an old spy movie, cold and cramped with just enough light to let the occupant know he was in a crappy spot. He had been in this crappy spot for what seemed like weeks. He lost count of the days after about five and there were no windows to let him know if it was daytime or night.
Had he been informed of the name of the building he was being held in he still wouldn’t have known where he was. None of the sexy Leavenworth or Alcatraz imagery, this place was off the grid.
When they first threw a bag over his head at the bank he truly had no idea why he was being hauled off. After a day or so of being interrogated it dawned on him this must have been about all the stamps he had been taking home from work. The bank did a lot of overseas business and he would routinely scan the incoming mail for new stamps that his collection did not have. Obviously the bank frowned on this behavior because for three hours straight there were shadowy men taking turns waterboarding him. He gasped and spluttered and begged for them to ask a question that he could answer but they only went about their work in the same way that men might have stacked boxes or audited someone. Wild-eyed he confessed to taking home postmarked stamps and, after another hour, a variety of other sins both real and imagined that the shadowy men had little interest in hearing about.
This went on for days. Finally after about a week someone actually spoke and asked him “Do you have anything you’d like to tell us?”
Harold nodded his head and told them all that they had the wrong man and that they could all go fuck themselves sideways. When that got no reaction he asked a question himself.
They answered with a syringe full of the latest truth serum in the hopes that he would answer that very question.
You see, they wanted to know why recently an automated robotic vehicle on Mars that had until recently been dormant and considered dead had sprung back to life. Why you ask would they think that Harold, a bank teller in good standing at The National Trust for the past seven years and who considered astronomy a slight interest at best, despite owning a very nice telescope which he received from his parents for Christmas a few years back, would have any idea about why this have occurred?
“Ever been to Mars Harold?” the man asked him in a voice that was eerily flat.
Harold stared back, assuming that the chemicals that they had injected him with was causing his hearing to be less than trustworthy. In a fog he answered “Pardon me?”
“Mars Harold. Ever been to Mars?” he again asked in a somewhat less flat tone that suddenly made it clear that Harold’s faculties were indeed working and he had heard correctly.
“Do you know anyone that has been?”
Harold pretended to give it some thought. Had our astronauts been to Mars? He wasn’t sure now, perhaps they had been and he had met one of them at some bank function. He shook his head to clear the cobwebs and then felt fairly certain that while Americans had in fact walked on the moon we still had either been unable or not interested enough in the endeavor to actually get to Mars with anything other than a few mechanical toys to probe and record and such.
“No sir. Nobody knows anyone who has been to Mars as far as I know.”
See, this is the strange bit. The reason the man in the dark suit was asking what seemed like odd questions of Harold was because he knew something that Harold didn’t.
Soon after the robot on Mars had suddenly began respond again the Deep Space Network had it back to work collecting samples and moving deeper into the crater it had been exploring. Soon after that it saw an object that had everyone at NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology gasping and fighting to comprehend what they were seeing. What they couldn’t be seeing. They were all looking at something that they couldn’t be looking at.
On the surface of Mars, on the edge of the Mitcheltree Ridge, there was what appeared to be a small white square. As the robot approached nearer it started to look like it was a Polaroid picture. The President was notified of what they couldn’t actually be looking at. After four torturous days of getting the rover maneuvered close enough to take a better look it became clear it was a picture of Harold.
Smiling and holding up what appeared to be some sort of tropical drink.
At this point you’re probably expecting to hear how that picture of Harold got there and I hate to disappoint but the truth is I have no idea myself. I can only assure you that neither does Harold. I could go further and tell you that the shadowy men in the dark suits never quite believe him but that might be a bit depressing trying to imagine what will become of Harold.