The Fortunate Few: A Flat-Earth Short Story

"I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone." - Rainer Maria Rilke Read Story

Conspiracies   ·   Narrative   ·   Satire

Published by

Jonathan Helvoigt Website

Jonathan Helvoigt, writer of short-story blog 'Fat Bird', was the head-chef at a sushi restaurant for three days with no prior experience. Years prior, he started a riot in Chihuahua Mexico, which alerted the Mexican military. During his studies at Fort Lewis College as an English major, he hosted a radio show, wrote a sit-com pilot under the tutelage of an accomplished writer for CBS and Netflix, and started 'Fat Bird Carpentry' which now has hand-crafted drums in shops across the country. He and his wife, Ryan, currently reside in Louisville, KY, and plan to return soon to the more mountainous, less bourbonous land of Durango, CO after graduating with an MDiv from Southern Seminary. There they will apprentice with Gospel Church Durango, and write about strange things.

Eddie was nervous. He had every reason to be. Anytime someone in authority tells someone to tell you that they want to see you in their office, nerves are appropriate. Heck, they could be planning to kill you. You don’t know.

The door to the office read, “Charles Courtney – Branch Manager.” Two first names. Eddie wondered if Charles’ parents had hoped for a girl, but then he realized this thought was absurd. He then also realized that the absurdity of the idea didn’t prove it false.

The door opened to reveal an incredibly tall, well-built man, by American standards.

Charles looked like the sort of man who would conveniently show up at the gym just as you were leaving, causing you to wonder if he knew that you were wrapping up your set unjustifiably early.

“Edward?”

“Yes sir.”

“Charles.” He reached out his hand and shook Eddie’s. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Come on in. Have a seat.”

Eddie sat in the leather chair centered before the desk, and his eye caught a particularly interesting paperweight.

An indoor-paperweight is interesting enough. What’s going to blow your papers away? Your success?

This weight was dome shaped. Its base looked like a strange map of the world. The dome was glass, and under the dome above the base hung a mobile of the sun and moon. They were on opposite ends of a rod that spun gently in circles, probably powered by a triple A.

“I want to ease your nerves, Edward. You are in no sort of trouble.”

Eddie was grateful for this comment.

“In fact,” Charles continued, “you are about to enter a high state of knowledge. You are one of the fortunate few.”

Eddie wondered if the Manson kids heard this same speech. But maybe it was better than getting fired.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes Eddie.  But I want you to know, that if you share anything that I am about to tell you with the outside world, you will be killed.” Charles pressed a button on the phone on his desk, and his secretary (also one of the fortunate few) entered the office with a sheet of paper, placing it in front of Eddie for him to sign.

“I’m sorry, what?” He began to skim the fine print. It amounted to agreeing to confidentiality under threat of assassination. Termination from his job would result from not hearing the information. Revealing this preliminary information would also result in assassination, even if termination was chosen. “Is this a joke?” he asked.

“Not a joke Edward. Go ahead and sign, I won’t be telling you anything illegal. Obviously, you want to keep your job, and not telling people something that isn’t illegal is not worth losing your job over. Also, it’s fantastic to know the information I am to share with you.”

Eddie thought about this for a moment, and signed the paper. He’d resolved recently to grow in making quick decisions. The information before him was enough to make this a reasonable choice.

“Very good. This often takes more convincing. I think you will do fine at this company.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Now, to get right to the point,” Charles took his place in the chair behind the desk. “As a technician on aircraft navigation systems, it is important that you know something about the world your systems will be interpreting.”

“What is that sir?”

“The earth is flat.”

Pause entered the room and stayed for a while.

Eddie chuckled. “Oh, yeah?”

Mr. Courtney maintained his composure. “This part usually takes a bit of repetition, but do know that I am completely serious. You see the continent you now know as ‘Antarctica’ is not so much a continent as it is a perimeter…”

The idea that this man was serious snuck into Eddie’s mind and his eyes widened. Already he couldn’t wait for his friends to hear about this. Then he realized he signed a paper acknowledging his understanding of eminent assassination. Could this be for real?

“This has been the best kept secret of all time, and we aim to keep it that way. But for the sake of air travel, we risk it. People need to be able to fly over oceans, my good man. Thus, we need instruments that can direct pilots, without revealing the shape of the earth.”

“Why is that?” Eddie asked, playing along. He was still nervous to be speaking with the Regional Manager.

“Well, if we don’t have to tell pilots, then we have fewer people in on the secret. Remember, you are one of the fortunate few. Two nav-techs can design a system that can go on many airplanes, piloted by hundreds of pilots. Even those who mass-produce the system don’t need to know how the software is deceptive.”

“Deceptive how exactly?”

“Well since the earth is flat, the distance between South America and Australia contains many more miles than the “globe” would lead you to believe. The software needs to show fewer miles than are truly passing beneath the plane.”

“How do the pilots not notice that the trip is way longer?”

“They are too busy talking about being pilots.”

That was a fair point.

“Doesn’t this affect fuel?”

“Of course. I just finished this exact conversation with a jet-fueling manager.”

“One of the fortunate few.”

“Exactly.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to deny air travel? Than to threaten nav-techs, and jet-fuelers with death? Aren’t there still like a ton of those people in America?”

“In the world, Edward. To answer your question, planes are just too helpful to give up. The lives are worth the risk. Everyone who rides in an airplane, finds the experience to be worth risking their own lives. It’s just that convenient.”

Eddie’s mind was reeling. Then he realized that he was playing the fool.

“Alright sir, you had me going for a while. But obviously, this isn’t true. I’ve seen space footage.”

“Have you?” asked Mr. Courtney, quite smugly.

“Yes. I have. Quite a lot, actually. I am an airplane tech. Aerospace has always been a big deal to me.”

“It’s all fake son. We have the finest computer graphics people on it, along with forgers you wouldn’t believe.”

Is that an oxymoron? Eddie thought and then jumped right back into conversation. “We didn’t have those graphics capabilities back in the forties, did we? How long has this been going on?” he asked audibly.

“I’m not sure to be honest. But people have known since the beginning of time. We started lying about it en masse during the space race.”

“Why are you lying about it?”

“Why are we lying about it, Edward. Why indeed. Let me answer that by asking you a question. Do you believe in God, Edward?”

The question seemed from out of left-field, and honestly inappropriate for a work setting. But the curiosity was overwhelming.

“I’m not sure honestly. I’ve begun to think of myself as an agnostic.”

“Well then you’ve got a difficult road ahead of you son. The truth is for the Satanists, the Atheists or the dead.”

“What the devil do you mean?”

“The devil exactly. Let me back up. During the space race, the deception started as military necessity. We all heard from Galileo, and Eratosthenes and the like, that the earth was round and space was vast. Even in the old days when we thought that the sun revolved around the earth, the sun was still thought to be in the bowels of space. So, the space race began.”

“Whoever militarizes space, militarizes the world.”

“That’s correct.” Charles was growing in respect for Eddie and whoever hired him. “However, we found that there was no space. Just a dome. Our rockets blew up at the top. But we were in so deep, and needed everyone to believe we were a threat (which in turn actualizes us as a threat), so we faked the moon landing. We were then delighted to find that our enemies the Soviets decided to join us in our charade.”

“Interesting. So, to protect America’s military interests, we had to keep it a secret from other countries which were doing the same to their people.”

“Exactly.”

“Didn’t you have to tell a lot of people.”

Advertise

“Well now, young Edward, as I’ve already alluded to, the more people that know a secret, the less secretive the secret, and the more likely that it will be released. So, we only tell those who absolutely must know. This way we don’t have to tell all the factory workers, just those in charge of the factory…”

“And those in the factory who need to factor global flatness into their calculations.

“Precisely.”

“So, just everyone who make the cell phones operate, and those who design cell towers. All the software engineers for GPS, pilots who pay attention to their work. All military personnel…”

“Just a lot of military personnel…”

“Right, I suppose a lot of ground troops wouldn’t need to know. But then there’s just, meteorologists (and most of their crews), the president, a bunch of his cabinet, astronauts, families of astronauts, extended families of astronauts, particularly those who died in accidents…”

““Died”” Charles said using air quotes.

“Yes… I get it. Everyone in the command center for every launch, those who design arrival algorithms for package delivery services, package delivery service workers who are paying attention and go overseas, private space companies, and many of their employees, cable television executives and thousands of their employees, internet executives and thousands of their employees, most people at NASA, most people who live in Florida, and many of these are repeated for other countries with “space programs…”

“You forgot aeronautic navigation technicians such as yourself.”

“Ah, yes. So. Millions of people.”

“The fortunate few.”

“How do you keep that many people quiet?”

“Mostly threat of death, but those we like we pay off. Like those Challenger folks for instance. That was a pretty penny, especially to fake their deaths. Of course, we let most of them keep their names, but we still were able to fool most people.”

“So, you must have a massive army of hitmen. Right? That’s a lot of people to keep in check. I mean one whistle blower with the right evidence would bring this whole thing crumbling down. And this has been going on for decades, with not one leak.”

“Yes, that’s true. We have people all over the world ready to act.”

“Thousands, right? It’d have to be.”

“That’s right. So, watch your back,” Mr. Courtney chuckled so everyone knew it was all in good fun. “Seriously though, they will kill you.”

“A lot of police, judges and other members of the justice system must also be in on this in order to keep the hits going.”

“Yes, hundreds of them. But remember, most people don’t want to die, so there are very few hits.”

“But when hits that do happen, they would have to kill everyone involved in the leak: leakers and those leaked to.”

“There are mass shootings all the time Edward.”

“Dastardly.” The revelation that some of the mass shootings on the news were likely due to the shape of the earth made Eddie’s heart squirm, but it was still exciting to be on the inside of such knowledge. “This whole operation must cost a lot of money,” he continued.

“Oh, definitely billions.”

“Yeah, with all the state-of-the-art graphics, ongoing rocket launches, pay-offs, hitmen payroll, it’d have to be. Where does all the money come from?”

“In America, the tax payer. Other countries have other means of procuring the money.”

“So, we need to add both state and federal accountants to the list. Treasurers aplenty to rearrange the numbers. I can’t believe taxes aren’t higher,” Eddie tangented, trying to wrap his mind around all this sweet, sweet knowledge. “All of these people need to be okay with everyone they know paying a lot of tax-money to hitmen who are watching them.”

“Well, they don’t need to be okay with it Edward. They just need to comply or die. As you’re inwardly processing all of this, please try to be reasonable.”

“Right, sorry.”

“It’s no problem.” Over the years, Charles found that unleashing all the information right away, answering most questions, and allowing time for verbal processing is the best way to keep follow up meetings to a minimum.

“But wait, Eddie verbally processed, “we’ve gotten off track. I’ve gotten off track. What happened after the space race? Why are the lies continuing at such a steep price?

“Great question, Edward. Interests in space eventually extended beyond the reach of the military. In fact, the military has claimed “space” for nothing more than surveillance and navigation. Not giant lasers from the sky. So, over the long haul many entities, private and public have wanted to use space for satellites among other things.”

“Which aren’t real?”

“Right.”

“How do cell phones work then?”

“Try to stay with me on the topic at hand son.”

“Right sorry. You were talking about Google, Amazon, Apple, OnStar, Garmin, Verizon, AT&T, the Department of Wildlife, Tesla, Space X, SES, Astranis, Audacy Space, Infostellar, Isotropic Systems, OneWeb, Facebook, Speedcast, RedBull…”

“Yes, all those companies and more wanted to use “satellites.” It clearly became apparent that we would need to tell people the truth. The truth would get out of our hands somehow. However, it occurred to us that there were further implications to be considered.”

“What implications?”

“Well, obviously if the earth is not in the middle of a vast cosmos, then the big bang never happened?”

“Huh.”

“That’s right. No evolution. No survival of the fittest. It’s all gone. All our theories about the beginning and sustenance of all things are gone. All we have left is the feeling that this whole thing was built. Clearly, someone threw this together and put a dome over it. The earth being a glorified snow globe basically proves God’s existence. People would convert to Christianity in droves.”

“Does the Bible say the earth is flat?”

“It doesn’t deny it.”

“But it doesn’t say it outright? Do all Christians believe the earth is flat? Do you have to believe it’s flat to be a Christian?”

“No. Definitely not, but that’s not really the point. The point is that the mission has pivoted from militaristic posturing to concealing volatile information.”

“So, you are not telling people, because what? It generally proves God’s existence?”

“Precisely.”

“Do you believe in God?”

“Of course not. If I did, I wouldn’t cover it up. Unless I was a Satanist, and boy are there a bunch of Satanists over here.”

“So, you guys are spending billions and billions of dollars, for decades and decades, killing people, and paying people off, all so the general populace doesn’t see evidence that God exists; evidence which you yourself don’t find convincing? And the millions of people who are in on this see it the same way?”

“That about sums it up. We hate God. Especially the god who didn’t make this dome-disk.”

“Huh.”

Eddie had many more questions, but his brain was beginning to hurt, and he was too excited to think straight. He decided he would take a day off and then try to come back for a follow up meeting.

After some further light conversation and hand shaking, Eddie stood and turned to leave, opening the office door. This sucked a draft out of the room, causing his signed agreement to flutter to the floor. Charles walked around the desk, picked up the paper, and placed it beneath the flat-earth on his desk. He then pressed the button on his phone and said, “Send in the next one.”

Published by

Jonathan Helvoigt Website

Jonathan Helvoigt, writer of short-story blog 'Fat Bird', was the head-chef at a sushi restaurant for three days with no prior experience. Years prior, he started a riot in Chihuahua Mexico, which alerted the Mexican military. During his studies at Fort Lewis College as an English major, he hosted a radio show, wrote a sit-com pilot under the tutelage of an accomplished writer for CBS and Netflix, and started 'Fat Bird Carpentry' which now has hand-crafted drums in shops across the country. He and his wife, Ryan, currently reside in Louisville, KY, and plan to return soon to the more mountainous, less bourbonous land of Durango, CO after graduating with an MDiv from Southern Seminary. There they will apprentice with Gospel Church Durango, and write about strange things.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Books
Twitter
Sponsors