We're miniature gods, I'm telling you. We're the masters of our own realities. Well, at least I thought so for the longest time. They are the masters of our reality, but They are still humans just like us. There are a few "common folk" who know the truth of it all; the pranks they pull on us, and colors they paint our lenses. One would think that the day the term "man-made" jumped from being a sci-fi adjective to an every day reality, we'd be struck by lightning for being blasphemous children.
I know they see me as a madwoman these days, too. They don't want to hear my story, but don't let them stop you from listening. Let me tell you the story of how I became The Locksmith.
I was a senior at the Art Institute that October, and I was specializing in photography. I had always been fascinated with cameras and picture-taking. Something about taking pictures made me feel powerful and in charge. The camera is an amazing little invention; so intricate, so complicated, so systematic. The artist has many ways of capturing and creating reality, and at this point in my life, I wanted to be The Captor and The Creator.
On a particular October night I was rushing to finish a project that was due the next day, and so my studio partner, Connor, and I went to Pearl Park on the east side of the city to get some work done. I wanted to do an outdoor photo shoot to make a collage, and he was my photographer for the evening.
At that time, I was in love with Connor because he was perfection. He looked like a typical Frenchman, but what was so striking about him was this soft pink scar that stretched from the corner of his lower lip to just beneath his right eye. He told me it was from a near fatal motorcycle accident he got into when he was a freshman. I found it attractive that he never tried to cover the scar up.
Snap. Flash. Darkness.
Snap. Flash. Darkness.
Snap. Flash. Darkness.
Wide pale flashes of white light flooded over the grass each time the shutter of the camera opened. The flash of the camera had shown even brighter than the moon. In fact, it did a better job of lighting my path through the park than the natural night light did. I sauntered about, twisting and twirling my skirt as Connor shot pictures, and we made our way to the south side of the park near the pond.
"We've got about forty-six good shots tonight, Marta. I think your collage will turn out nicely, don't you?" He called to me through the dark.
"A perfect 4.0 for sure," I remember singing to him as we approached the pond. It was a small, rectangular pond, maybe twenty feet long and fifteen feet wide. It wasn't really deep enough to swim in, but swimming in it was never a desired hobby for any of the city's people as it was constantly littered with empty beer cans and cardboard boxes. Even so, Pearl Park was the most tidy of grounds in the city.
With my bare feet I stepped ankle-deep into the water, and Connor scolded me for it. "You're crazy for touching that water, Mar," he chuckled as he sat on the bank and fidgeted to replace the film in his camera. I remember shrugging and telling him the water wasn't that bad, keeping my eyes on the reflection of the sky upon the water.
The moon was near full that night, and it glowed with a murky luminosity; it had a quality I couldn't pull my curiosity from. It sat still and bare in the sky, almost as if it were flat, like a thin dab of fluorescent white paint. After concentrating on its reflection on the water for a few minutes, I noticed that there was a strange pulsating gleam on the top right hemisphere of its surface. I looked up at the moon to get a first-hand glimpse, and the tiny flashing light was still there.
"What the hell is that?" I blurted out as I stared with wide eyes.
Connor stepped up by my side and followed my gaze. "What is it; a satellite?" I pointed to the speck of flashing light and we both stood silent.
"… It's like a distress signal or something," he murmured.
I disagreed. "It looks more like… a void or something. It's just blinking. Weird..."
The next day in The Sun City Times there was a small article in the community forum section entitled, "Mysterious Light Seen on the Moon Last Night". The author, a local man, described what he saw, which was identical to what Connor and I saw. Two other people responded, noting what they saw and making hypothesis about what it might be.
While sitting at the café reading the article, I overheard many conversations about it. One teenager joked to his friend, "Do you think it was an alien signal?"
"Nah, dude. It's the fuckin' apocalypse." The friend replied, leaning back with a smirk, and they laughed heartily.
A day after that there was an article submitted to the paper by NASA entitled, "Flickering Light on Moon Just a Local Research Satellite". After that day, there was nothing more said about the sighting. There were no more conversations at the café about it, either. Everyone seemed to accept what they were told by NASA and stopped paying mind to it, even though I saw it clearly for weeks after it initially happened.
"How can it be a satellite?" I debated with Connor as we were in studio together.
"What makes you think it isn't?"
"Satellites aren't that big, and they don't flicker in such a manic way. You saw it, too, Connor!"
"I dunno, Mar. You're such a sucker for conspiracies." He rolled his eyes at me, and I became so frustrated that I packed up my work and left.
I walked home by myself that afternoon, angry and confused, and would have followed my usual path down the main streets, but I ran into an interruption. I heard a loud commotion to my right as I approached the corner of East and Main, and turned to witness a group of three men in gray and black suits cornering an old woman in an alley.
This old woman was by no means "normal" looking: She had curly, gray, waist-length hair, wore a torn brown petticoat and skirt, and was short and pudgy—maybe five feet tall. She turned her head to look toward me as she must have sensed me standing there, and that was when I got my first glimpse of her face: She wore the brightest green eye shadow I had ever seen, and she complimented it with bold coral lipstick. Her wrinkles were deep, and her thin skin pale.
As she and I made eye contact, the three men turned to notice me, and quickly walked away. As soon as they rounded the corner to leave the alley, the woman waddled quickly to approach me and took my hands in hers.
"Oh, thank you, dear. Thank you so much!" She shook my hands violently.
"Er… Were those men troubling you?" I perked a brow, looking down at our hands as she grasped mine tightly.
"Those damned suits…" she snickered. "They don't like when people are in on their secrets."
I just stood there looking down at her, perplexed. I was in awe of her quaint charm. "Secrets?" I inquired as I noticed a faded tattoo of the solar system that strung down the right side of her face, covered by her hair.
She noticed me observing her face and brushed her hair out of the way with a frail hand. "There's a lot to be said about the recent goings-on, child. Meet me tomorrow eve', five o'clock, at the East Side Bridge if you're curious." I had no chance to respond as she simply walked off as if I had not been there at all.
I went home that night to an empty apartment as usual and glared out the window from the sofa until bedtime. So many thoughts about the strange woman ran through my mind: 'Is she dangerous? After all, government agents were confronting her. Is she a threat to me? What is this "secret" she knows, and will she tell me?' And then I remembered the old tattoo on her face; detailed, faded enough to look very old, and done in purple ink, all nine planets depicted in perfect proportion to one another. I hardly slept that night— my eyes stayed open, examining that annoying blinking blemish on the moon.
As soon as studio was over the next day, I gathered my things and ran downtown to the East Side Bridge. On my way out the door Connor snagged me, asking if I'd help him develop some old rolls of film. I explained to him what happened the day before and where I was headed, and surprisingly, he wanted to tag along, so I let him.
We arrived at the middle of the bridge at 4:40- twenty minutes before the lady told me to meet her- and she was already there waiting for me. She stood beneath a street lamp with her arms folded, and watched us approach her like a hawk eyeing a mouse. As we came within a few feet of her, I smiled and said hello, but she paid no mind, flashing a mean scowl at Connor.
"Wipe that off your face, young man."
"What good does it do you? Do you think you're fooling anyone?"
"I don't know what you mean…" Connor stepped back, looking slightly toward the ground.
"I suggest you stop lying to yourself, young man. Get out of my sight." The woman glared at him hard, and the three of us stood there in silence, until Connor finally looked up at me and shrugged with a questioning look. He drew his right hand up to finger his scar gently, then pressed his finger against it and smeared what must have been stage paint all that time. My lips parted in an attempt to express my anger, disbelief, and confusion, but I was too dumbfounded, and all that slipped out was a whisper, "why?". With this, he turned around and walked off.
"People always try to create what shouldn't be." The woman sighed. And to think, I had always been so entranced by the subtle "bad boy" image Connor had because of that scar.
She led me to an old apartment complex, most of it being vacant, and as soon as we entered her room, the smell of fungus and stagnant water fill my nostrils and curled the ends of my hair. "Make yourself at home," she motioned with the swipe of her hand for me to take a seat on a ripped red velvet sofa in the corner of her cluttered apartment. There were cardboard boxes of every size littered all about and bead curtains in the door ways to her kitchen and bedroom. Spider webs adorned every corner and the dark violent paint on the walls was peeling in many places.
The petit old woman waddled back into the room with a pitcher of lemonade and two glasses, and joined me on the sofa. "Well, Marta, I bet you're wondering why I brought you here."
My eyes widened as she told me my name, and it was then that I knew this woman was not a force to be reckoned with. "Yes, I'm quite curious. I won't ask how you know my name… but what's yours?"
"Delphie," she grinned, handing me a glass and continuing, "I brought you here because I knew you'd come. I knew you'd listen because I know you want to know."
I inhaled deeply and didn't speak a word. I had my suspicions, but didn't think about them too hard for fear she was reading me.
"Those men? They were agents. They check up on me every so often out of nowhere just to make sure I keep my mouth shut. I only pretend I'm scared so they'll get out of my hair." Delphie chuckled, sipping her lemonade.
"So, what's this big secret?" I sniffled and asked bluntly, wanting to get to the point before my allergies killed me.
The old woman perked a brow and nodded her head slightly, turning her attention to the window. It was 7 o'clock by this time, and the moon was starting to appear. "It's kept you on edge, hasn't it?"
I automatically knew what she was referring to: "The moon? Yes, it has. And it has you, too, I take it?"
She laughed like a jackal and replied, "Everything about it, child. Now, the question is, do you want to know the forbidden? Do you want to know what we sheep aren't allowed to know?"
I bit down upon my lower lip almost forceful enough to cause it to bleed and nodded. She waddled off to her bedroom and retrieved a large steel box with a combination lock, opened it, then sat back upon the sofa and motioned for me to look inside.
Various yellowed papers haphazardly filled the box, and as I sifted through them, I noticed they were government documents:
"Project Canvas to go in effect January the first, 1960 after Luna 3 has completed photographing 70 of the far side of the moon."
"… The Agency will implement Project Canvas at this time. 548,373,863 projectors from 548,373,863 global stations will begin electric projections of the holograms at 12 a.m. central time."
"… to counteract the peak time for thickest smog accumulation…"
"… air pollution will soon become irreversible…"
"… too expensive and strenuous to implement clean up…"
"The Project will be kept classified in order to prevent public calamity."
"Celestial objects in the night sky are, and will continue to become hard to observe due to accumulation of air pollutants."
"... holographic projections will appear identical to celestial bodies. It will be virtually impossible for the public to tell the difference…"
"… president approves of the bill; project will begin immediately"
I remember being cut with fear and despair and slumping back against the sofa to cry myself to sleep that night throughout Delphie's speech on how she used to be N.A.S.A.'s single most prestigious historian until she learned of Project Canvas. Because of her disagreement with the project which had been going on for nine years before she became historian, and her threats to expose the information, Delphie lost her job and was told that her life was hanging by a thread which they controlled, and that she'd shut her mouth about the whole subject if she wanted to live. So, she moved off the base and came to this little worn out city to return to her less well-known life as a clairvoyant. She read palms and tarot cards to make money.
When I woke the next morning in her apartment, she was nowhere to be found. I had to continue my day at the studio, but when I was done, I came back to see if she was home yet. Approaching the door to her apartment, I saw that her door was ripped off its hinges and the entire contents of the apartment were mangled and throw about, and the steel box of classified government documents was emptied and gone.
They got her.
Delphie slipped a note into the back right pocket of my jeans, must have been while I was sleeping, and I found it days after I discovered she was gone for good. It read:
Those who lie and those who deny will always live the happy fantasy. You are The Locksmith now, child. It's your turn to nurture the burden in my eternal physical absents.
In the air,
… And thus commences the completion of my task, because now you know. Now you, too, must share the burden of knowing. And so, I ask you this question that has been spinning in my head since I excreted my first tear on the matter: how are we to live natural, normal lives knowing that what surrounds us is fake?
Culp, Randy. 22 March 2002. Timeline of space Exploration. 7 Jan. 2005