Telescopic Mysteries

[WP] NASA is shut down unexpectedly, the ISS and other space stations are quietly scuttled with the crews aboard, and men in black go house to house confiscating telescopes

“My god… it’s… it’s spreading... Alert the president – no, the U.N.! No one can know…”

“Papa, can we look at the sparklies again? Through the slidey tube?” The girl looked up at her father, a look of innocent curiosity shining bright within her eyes. A hand came down on her head, tussling her messy hair lightly. “Of course, Cindy. When the moon is high in the sky we’ll bring the telescope out back and look at the stars.” Cindy cheered, “Yaaayyy!!!” and jumped into her father’s arms, who promptly grabbed her and spun her around. Laughter filled the air as the two reveled in their bond. As the moment died down, the man placed his daughter on the ground and pointed toward the living room. “I have a few things I need to get done around here before mommy comes home, so why don’t you go play for a bit while I-“

The man was interrupted by a sudden loud knock at the door. “Strange, I wasn’t expecting anyone…” He said as he made his way over and undid the lock. No sooner was the lock undone than the door swung inward, nearly hitting the man in the process. “Hey, watch it!” He shouted as he took a step back. Men in black rushed in, scanning the entire house with large devices. “Roger Fletcher?” The man in black who had stayed by the door said. “Yeah, that’s me… Want to explain why you burst into my house and started tearing through my stuff?” Roger said irritably. The man in black flashed a badge, “Government business. I’m afraid the reason for our being here is classified. Let me ask you, Roger: do you possess a telescope?” Roger’s eyebrow went up, and he gave a quick look back at Cindy before addressing the man in black, “And if I do?” The man in black roughly placed his hand on Roger’s shoulder, “I’m going to need that telescope, Roger. And any other telescopic devices you might have for that matter. Telescopes, powerful binoculars, hell I need your cameras if the lenses are strong enough. This whole process will be much, much faster if you bring them here instead of waiting for my men to find them.” A moment passed as Roger contemplated the odd request, but finally he said, “Wait here,” before turning his back on the man in black. As he passed by Cindy, he gently grabbed her little hand and guided her along with him. She grabbed his leg and whimpered, “Papa, why are they here?” He shook his head, “I don’t know, dear… I wish I could tell you…”

Grabbing a small box, Roger began to gather the requested items up. Three pairs of binoculars, an expensive camera lens he’d received as a gift for his 36th birthday, and finally, the telescope. As he placed it in the box, Cindy’s eyes grew wide, “Papa, why are you putting the slidey tube in the box?” Roger gave his daughter an anguished looked, knowing how much she adored looking at the night sky, “I’m sorry, honey. The men need to… inspect our telescope. To make sure it’s calibrated right. Wouldn’t want to be missing any stars due to a poorly calibrated telescope, right?” A lie. And a bad one at that. But he couldn’t just tell her it’d be gone for good, that’d crush her spirits for lord knows how long. Cindy nodded sadly, “I guess if it means we can see more sparklies later…” With that the pair walked back to the man in black by the door. Roger handed over the box, pushing it rather sharply into the man’s hands, “Here. You have what you wanted; now, can you get out of my house?” The man in black stared Roger down for a moment before whistling. The other men in black stopped what they were doing and began filing out, back into the vans they’d arrived in. “Good day, Mr. Fletcher.” The apparent leader of the group made to turn toward the door, but Roger stopped him, “Wait. Why are you here? What did you need those for?” The man turned back and gave the stubborn father a steely look, “Listen carefully, Mr. Fletcher, as you will only get one warning from us. Let this go. Don’t look into it. Don’t try to circumvent it. Just let it happen. We’ll know if you try to disobey, and there is currently a zero-tolerance policy on this case. So for the good of your family, forget these devices ever even existed. Is that clear?” The two shot daggers from their eyes, but not another word was said as the man in black left, closing the door loudly behind him.

A month passed. While nothing was said aloud about the confiscation of telescopes, every so often one might hear something whispered about the odd event. This is how, slowly but surely, the majority of the population realized this wasn’t just a localized occurrence. Three weeks after it happened, every major news site was “hacked” to show nothing but a single article. The article explained how world governments had been confiscating telescopic devices, and silencing any who tried to get the word out. The reporter claimed to be the sixth person to attempt this “hack,” and warned that he would likely be captured soon and the article taken down. Fortunately for him, enough people saw it before it was removed for the news to spread quickly. Fear began to creep up among the people of the world, but fear of what, no one could say. For all the article contained, it was missing the most important piece of information: an explanation.

“Papa? When can we look at the sparklies again?” Cindy’s voice carried with it an innocent sorrow that only a young child can possess. Roger looked at this daughter long and hard. Finally, he took a deep breath and said, “Soon. Give me a few days, I just need to get our telescope back…” Waiting until Cindy was laid down for bed, the man began to dig through his closet. His wife spoke to him from their bed, “Honey, why don’t you lie down? It’s been a long day and I’m tired.” Roger shook his head, “Sorry Tracy, I’ll be there soon. Go ahead and try to sleep without me, I have something I need to do. For Cindy…” A concerned look sat on Tracy’s face, but she simply said, “Just don’t stay up too late. You know you’re not a morning person,” before lying down. It took about half an hour for Roger to finally put his hands on what he’d been searching for. He placed it on top of his dresser and laid down for the night, determined to look at it the next day.

As Tracy’s alarm went off, Roger jumped out of bed. He did so so suddenly that he nearly caused his wife to drop her glasses, “Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you get up so eagerly in the morning. What’s going on?” The man paused for a moment. “Nothing major, just have a little project I’m working on for Cindy and I want to try to do it while she’s asleep. So it can be a surprise, y’know?” His wife smiled and gave him a gentle kiss, “You’re such a good dad, Roger. And an amazing husband. I’m a lucky woman, I hope you know that.” They exchanged smiles and then Tracy got up so she could prepare for work. As Roger sat in bed, his eyes sunk momentarily to the ground as he thought to himself, “It’s better if she’s not involved… I don’t know how deep this thing goes, but if this is happening all over the world… No, I need to do this alone.”

The moment he heard the front door shut behind Tracy, Roger grabbed what he’d placed on his dresser the night before. It was an old college textbook, one on astronomy. And within it, buried in chapter 7 of the text, were the instructions for constructing a basic telescope. He ran to the garage and began gathering materials.

It took three mornings and two nights for him to finish it – since Roger would only work on it while Cindy was asleep – but finally it was done. It wasn’t pretty, but he was fairly certain it would work. That night, he took Tracy aside for a moment. “What is it, dear? Did something happen while I was at work?” Roger swallowed hard and tried to steel his resolve, “No, nothing like that. I…. I’m going to do something tonight, Tracy. Use something that… that according to certain people shouldn’t exist anymore. But I have to do it. For her. You understand?” Tracy’s eyes grew wide and she began shaking her head, “Roger, no… We don’t know what could happen. You can’t.” But the man had already made up his mind. He pulled his wife into a tight embrace, “It’s a risk I’m willing to take. I have to see that look again. You know the one. That… pure amazement on her face. I can’t just let that go.” Finally beginning to understand her husband’s motivation, Tracy nodded, “Alright… Just promise me you’ll be as careful as possible, okay?” Roger kissed her cheek and gave her a reassuring smile. With that, he left their room and made his way to the living room where Cindy was playing, making a t-rex chase a plastic horse.

“Hey sweetie, I have a surprise for you. Come with me.” Hearing her father’s voice, Cindy jumped up and ran over to him. She followed him without question, not a hint of concern on her face as he led her outside. “Okay, now cover your eyes. I’ll tell you when to open them. No peeking!” The girl placed her hands over her face, giggling beneath them. Roger guided her toward the spot he’d set up. He pulled the sheet off the homemade telescope, and then gently pulled Cindy’s hands off her face. An excited gasp passed through her lips as she looked at the telescope. She jumped up and down and then hugged her dad’s leg tightly, “The slidey tube! Can I look?!” Roger gestured to the telescope and off Cindy went, pressing her eye up against the tube and moving it around in search of stars.

A minute passed before Cindy let out a huff, “Sparklies aren’t sparkling.” Assuming his daughter had simply pointed the telescope at a dark area in the sky, Roger slid her over and peered through the telescope himself. As he looked through it, he did in fact see stars. “What do you mean, dear, they’re right there-“ but he stopped short as he realized what she meant. The stars, or what appeared to be stars, were dull and seemed almost… painted on. A crazy idea came into Roger’s mind, and he began to move the telescope around the yard, looking to test his almost unbelievable hypothesis. Sure enough, after a couple minutes of repositioning, he managed to catch one of the “stars” at an angle that showed it for what it truly was. “It’s fake.” He said in utter amazement. Suddenly he looked at Cindy, who was standing there in silent confusion. Truly fearing for her safety after seeing the strange “fake star,” he pushed her toward the door, “Honey, go back inside. I know you want to see more sparklies, but… but you need to go see mommy, okay? Tell her… tell her she was right. And that daddy needs to figure this out while he still can.” Cindy nodded and began trudging back to the house, clearly upset that the night was over already but not one to say no to her parents so easily.

Without missing a beat, Roger again searched the sky. As he started to understand the way the “fake stars” were setup, he was able to get almost every one he found at an angle which revealed its almost two-dimensional appearance. “So, where are the real ones…” He said to himself. He pulled the telescope off the stand and began looking all over the sky, no longer trying to be stealthy about his illegal activity. Finally he saw one: hidden behind an assortment of “fake stars” sat a few shimmering glows that he knew had to be the genuine article. However, something was wrong. They appeared to just be a small cluster next to an area of pure black. As if they were the only stars in that section of the sky; which of course, he knew had to be impossible. He studied the area, trying to figure the phenomena out, when his eye moved to the edge of the star closest to the black expanse next to the cluster. The glow was diminishing, like the sun being covered during an eclipse. Before long the glow was completely gone. “What the hell?..” He moved to look at the next closest star, and as he suspected, it too was consumed. The truth began to dawn on him. The telescope dropped and he began slowly walking backwards, his head shaking in disbelief, until he backed into what felt like a person. He didn’t even bother to turn around. From behind him he heard a voice he still remembered from over a month ago, “So, you’ve seen the truth.” Roger turned around, and uttered his final words, “You killed the stars.” The man in black looked up at the sky, “No, Mr. Fletcher… I’m afraid what we did is far worse. We didn’t just kill the stars. We killed the universe.”

 Death Saves His Job The Last Man on Earth