Pareidolia: Deleted Chapter (Holcomb’s Interview)

Enjoy this deleted chapter from my first novel, Pareidolia. The premise is available here, and the table of contents can be found here.


Here we find Zeke and Marcus discussing the astrophysics conference that Zeke lately attended (outlined in this deleted chapter), and Marcus shows Zeke a taped TV show episode that he suspects must contain an anonymous interview with Kenneth Holcomb.

Zeke has to be cagey about the details revealed in the interview because he’s in the middle of figuring out how to get Marcus waved into Holcomb’s secretive inner circle of followers that he befriended at the out-of-town conference.

Cut for brevity.


Zeke had a hell of a time keeping the contents of Cory’s letter to himself. Co-authoring the Holcomb profile with Marcus was one of his proudest accomplishments, and it’s not like they didn’t openly fantasize about somehow getting a copy to Holcomb. This, they admitted was a pipe dream. The man was elusive, untraceable. Impossible to reach.

Yeah right! Unless you’re Zeke Eppler or any other member of the Super Secret Kenneth Holcomb Inner Sanctum Sanctorum Fanboy Club (not its real name). This is what Cory had meant by bringing Zeke “inside”, by inviting him to attend the next bimonthly meeting scheduled for early September, just ten days away. This was the encrypted message. These meetings allowed Holcomb to remain active and relevant, to interface with the outside world, and to continue his quest of exposing a massive government conspiracy while staying very much the fuck underground. Zeke had every intention of asking Cory if he could bring Marcus as his plus one, figuring that Marcus deserved to be there as much as anyone else, but Cory wouldn’t return his calls. Zeke’s default position was to keep the invitation very much a secret.

His stomach had been tightening all afternoon thinking about it, and now, in Marcus’ living room at the beginning of the academic year (Balero thankfully absent), Zeke sucked air through tight lips as he pretended to focus on another eight-bit adventure with Marcus to save the princess. (No apple buds this time: Marcus mentioned this right up front, saving Zeke the embarrassment of asking: “Fucking dry spell. Never seen anything like it.”)

They were sort of half playing the game and half getting Marcus all caught up on every single last detail about the astrophysics conference, which Marcus was still kicking himself for missing. Zeke was trying to break down the finer points of the Otto Struve / Frank Drake lecture when a visibly impatient Marcus interrupted.

“Don’t care. Want more on Nikki.”

“But Stuve’s lecture was a seminal…”

“Bored! Nikki.”

“Fine. There’s not really much else to tell.”

“Describe her again. Slowly.”

Zeke described her in terms both physical and (what he imagined to be) spiritual, Marcus wanting very much more on the physical. But Zeke circled back, talked about how she was more than just a hunk of flesh, and probably more like a cosmic soul mate waiting to happen or something. This inspired Marcus to blow a raspberry and demand another description of her tits. And no, Zeke pointed out, they never actually technically had sex.

“Technically?”

“Shut up.”

“How did you let that one get away? You were at a fucking out-of-town conference! Those things are just fuck piles waiting to happen!”

Marcus made his avatar poke Zeke’s avatar in the back with his sword, something that for some reason was allowed in the game, causing Zeke to lose several hundred points.

“Stop it, dude!”

“You had it coming. C’mon, more!”

Zeke emptied himself of every last Nikki detail he could think of. He was making a gallant attempt to bring the topic back around to the thrust of the convention when he remembered with a start that he hadn’t yet brought up the way he met Nikki in the first place.

“Holy shit the profile!”

In his mind Zeke had already filed away the restaurant scene as confidential since talking with Cory over the summer, but of course everything said that day was repeatable without bringing up the secret Kenneth Holcomb meetings.

“What about it?”

“I got a chance to brag about it with some conference attendees. Over lunch on the first day.”

“Dude, nice! Give out any copies?”

Careful. “Uh, no. But there were some people there who remembered Holcomb’s confrontation with Bergman the year before. One of them actually witnessed…”

“Oh, holy mother of God!”

Marcus paused the game and shot out of his beanbag, knocking over an end table and sending Professor Waffles under the couch.

“Jesus, what?”

Marcus was at a shelf above the TV, rifling through video tapes, CDs, and expired beer cans.

“Un… believable. I can’t believe I forgot to show you this the… second… you… walked… in. Aha!” Marcus held a VHS tape over his head and turned to give Zeke a holy shit look. “Buckle your seatbelt, bitch.”

It took Marcus a few minutes of grumbling and cursing to get the TV switched over from the gaming console to the VCR, during which time the cat tentatively emerged from exile and took up residency on Zeke’s lap.

“Get the lights.”

“Can’t. Cat.”

Marcus got the lights, rejoined Zeke on the floor, and fiddled with various remote controls. A blast of white noise filled the room and inspired another jump from the cat. Zeke held him down and whispered relaxing words of cat-speak in his ear. The Professor reluctantly allowed himself to be squashed back down into a sitting position. The static pattern on the TV screen resolved into dark images, perhaps random people talking about something Zeke couldn’t quite make out. Marcus rewound the tape and pressed play.

“Get a fucking load of this.”


TCA NETWORK

© 1994 TCA ENTERTAINMENT ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

TRANSCRIPT

UFOS: EXPOSED!

EPISODE – S02 : E03 “The Hunt For Alien Technology”

AIRDATE – November 4, 1994

CAT # – 4544B

SEGMENT TWO: EX-MILITARY WHISTLEBLOWER COMES CLEAN

[MONTAGE OF AMATEUR FLYING SAUCER VIDEOS INTERCUT WITH SPECIAL EFFECTS]

HOST: Have we been visited by aliens? What artifacts might have been left behind? Have we studied them? If so, what have we learned? These are questions asked by many, yet the answers are few. Citizens the world over demand to know if the U.S. is hiding information about this recovered alien technology, and what it could mean to humankind. Evidence collected by scientists and researchers suggests that these devices are being warehoused and studied in remote military bases across the United States, but government officials refuse to comment on their existence… until now. One man who worked with the military during the peak years of this activity has stepped out of the shadows to share his story with us.

[CUT TO GUEST]

GUEST: I never said I worked for the military, let’s be clear on that [LAUGHS]. I’m not going to mention my name on camera, but I can tell you I worked as a project manager and head research developer for [REDACTED] from 1960 to 1969, one of the many contractors hired by the Department of Defense at the time. On several occasions my colleagues and I worked with what I now believe to be recovered alien technology. So far I am the only one, that I know of, who’s come forward with this information.

HOST: This man’s face and voice have been digitally altered to protect his safety.

[CUT TO HOST]

HOST: Why are you so afraid to reveal your true identity?

GUEST: I’d have to answer some tough questions [LAUGHS]. During the ‘70s I was wanted by the CIA for supposedly selling classified military secrets to the Soviets, which was a fairytale. I know they’d still find a way to isolate me today if they could. This is all just a way to shut me up, to scare me into not sharing this information with the public. But I can’t stay silent any longer. Not after what I’ve seen.

[FOOTAGE OF NIAGARA FALLS]

HOST: The devices discovered near Niagara Falls in the early 1950’s are, according to our guest, currently being housed at a top secret military base in the American southwest. They are rumored to cause severe disorientation, hallucinations, and even superhuman feats of strength. Our guest claims that the scientists and engineers hired to study the devices were at a loss to describe how they worked, or even why they were made. What’s more, he says, no one who has come into close contact with this technology has come forward to share their story, either because they are too afraid, or because they had been silenced by the government. These devices, our guest claims, are extraterrestrial in origin.

GUEST: I have it on very good authority that parts of this recovered technology, known by project name ‘FLANGE’, are still being housed in military installations in the southwestern United States, where they’ve been tucked away for more than forty years. They have been obtained, they have been photographed, they have been studied. I know this because I was one of the engineers hired to work on FLANGE in the late 1960’s. Our job was to back engineer these little guys, to figure out how they worked and what they were made of. We were kept in a separate area, just off the perimeter of a military base in Texas, absolutely in the middle of nowhere. We lived in trailers and worked in plastic domes covered on all sides by thick canvas sheets to protect us from the sun and the wind.

[REENACTMENT FOR DRAMATIC EFFECT]

HOST: The scientists who worked on Project FLANGE had to shower before going in and out of the military research area, and were required to wear special chemical- and radiation-proof suits. They were not allowed to leave or discuss their mission with friends or family.

GUEST: None of us were allowed to go outside for the duration of the project, not for a minute. We were flown in and out on company helicopters. I never once saw the name of the nearest town. All I know is that we were somewhere near the New Mexico border. We got around from tent to tent through a series of large plastic tubes. During our stay we studied the electromagnetic and thermonuclear signatures produced by the devices, and doctors studied their effects on animals. You didn’t want to get too close to these things unless you had to. We had more than a few nosebleeds, bladder infections, stomach aches, and the like. One of my supervisors started losing his hair. Two members of my team had to be reassigned due to severe hallucinations and paranoia. They were screaming about conspiracy theories and murder plots by the time they were dragged away to be treated outside the facility. I never saw those guys again.

HOST: When we return: What did the military learn about this captured alien technology?

GUEST: The objects I saw were small, about the size of a pack of cigarettes, and greyish-silver in color.

[CUT TO COMMERCIAL BREAK]


Marcus paused the tape and turned to Zeke, open-mouthed. At Zeke’s request they rewound the segment and watched it again. This time Marcus paused the tape just before they cut away from the mystery guest’s darkened profile.

“Does this guy come back? Later in the show?”

“Nope. That was it. But that was definitely him, right? That’s Kenneth fucking Holcomb! Right?”

Zeke stared at the dark figure and shook his head. “How in the hell did you find this?”

“It just came on one night dude! Like a month ago. I was grading papers in the living room when I heard the show come on. It must have been like two in the morning. I heard ‘UFOs’ and ran over to the living room. I was desperate for a break, and I love stupid shows like this. Anyway so I’m watching it and they do that thing at the end before a commercial break, the teaser or whatever, and there was a shot of a guy talking about Niagara Falls in the ‘50s and so I scrambled to find a blank tape and hit record just as the show was coming back on.”

“Yeah, but the ‘when we come back’ part at the end of the segment…”

“They never come back to Holcomb. Or whoever the guy is. But it’s him, right?”

Zeke sighed, feeling another stab of guilt for keeping the upcoming Holcomb meeting a secret. He promised himself he’d bring it up the next time he talked to Cory. To get Marcus brought inside.

“Yeah, it’s him.”

Go to Deleted Chapter: Van Zorn’s Interview

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