Story Competition 2008, winner's story - Steven Butler
You are running and suddenly fall down a hole. What happens next and where did you fall?
by Steven Butler
It was a warm, clear Friday afternoon as my friend Sean and I gently touched down on the soft sands of the Nevada desert in our single engine aeroplane.There wasn't a cloud in the sky and it was well over 30?C.
Whilst Sean offloaded the picnic from the back seats of the plane, I decided to go for a short walk onto the top of a large sand dune that, according to our GPS, would overlook 50 square miles of desert.I was well aware that we were in very close proximity with 'Area 51'; possibly the most secretive place in the world.That was one of the main reasons we were out here, we planned to fly close enough to Area 51 to get a good photograph for our aviation enthusiasts website.
As I walked nonchalantly towards the dune I felt something shift beneath my right foot.I stood frozen. A thousand thoughts rushed questions ran through my head; a land mine?A trap?Or maybe just an empty fizzy drink can? Whatever it was I was stood right on top of it and something told me that it was no coke can. I slowly tried to move my body weight off my right foot onto my left foot when suddenly the entire earth below me fell away.I felt as if I had jumped off a building or been on a vertical drop ride at a theme park.My stomach felt like it was in my head.Slowly I realised the vertical drop was ever so slightly curving to form a slide like tube.I fell for about a minute as it slowly curved; I must have been at least a thousand feet below the surface.Suddenly, without warning, I shot out of the end of the tube. That was the first time I saw Dr.Dray.
"Nice of you to drop by," spoke a shadowy figure in the corner of the room into which I had just fallen.I was on a 5 metre high cube of foam and it had broken my fall magnificently.
"Who are you?" It was the most obvious question to ask; as I had slowly recovered from the drop I thought the answer to 'Where am I?' would be a very obvious 'In a dark room under the Nevada desert'.
"I, am Doctor Dray.' The shadowy figure came into the dim light that reflected off the edges of the metal tube I had just fallen from.There was no direct sunlight in the room because of the curve."You appear to have fallen into an Area 51 secret employee entrance.Because of this I now have 2 options; I am to either employ you into the American Government or kill you.Which would you prefer?'
At first I thought it was a joke.If not, the answer would be obvious but I hesitated for just a second; what if he wasn't really working for the government?What if the government wanted to use me as a lab rat?Despite these concerns, I favoured living.
"Well I think I will have to work for you then."I slowly said; my voice was a little faint from the shock."My name is Steve."
"Hello Steve.Anyway, no time to chat, follow me."I followed Dr.Dray into an almost pitch black passage way.I was blinded for a second as he turned on a light switch.The passage was long and straight.It must have been at least a mile long and I wasn't looking forward to walking down it.Good thing; Dr.Dray pressed another button just right of the light switch.As soon as he pressed the switch, a very comfortable looking chair sprung from each side of the passage way; I then noticed the metal railings down the side of the passage way.I didn't need telling; I sat on the chair and Dr.Dray sat on the one beside me.He pressed another button and off we went.The acceleration was beyond imagination - we must have been going at around 50 miles per hour on these two chairs down a passage way.Just as I thought we were going to go head first into the wall at the end Dr.Dray shouted for me to go into the typical brace position for a commercial airliner.I tucked my head between my knees with my hands around it just in time as the lift stopped suddenly and we flew head first into the wall.I couldn't believe what was happening until the wall was pivoted around as we hit it.Once again we landed on a large block of foam.
"Was the really necessary?Could we not have just slowed down and got off?" I was furious at how I had come close to two heart attacks within 5 minutes.
"Hey, it makes it more fun!' Said Dr.Dray as he led me through a door into a lift.In the lift there were 3 buttons.One read 'Ground' the other read 'Below ground' and the third read 'Emergency'.Something inside told me that 'Emergency' would do more than just ring an alarm bell.Dr.Dray pressed the 'Ground' button and, as I had expected, the lift shot up at a ludicrously fast speed pushing me into the metal floor.Just like the chairs, the lift stopped suddenly sending us both flying about 3 feet into the air.I still didn't understand why they were in such a hurry here.
"Pamela I have a new employee; he chose to live.' Dr.Dray didn't even say hello to his attractive, young secretary.Pamela Jones was one of Area 51's best employees; in the 2 years that she had been working there she had 'dealt with' over 100 'drop-ins'.She herself was one and as Dr.Dray announced that I had chosen to live she almost gave a surprised look.What was so surprising?What weren't they telling me?That was when I saw it.
"I...don't...believe...it!" I could hardly speak.Stood in front of me was the most spectacular and unimaginable aeroplanes I had ever seen.I had heard of the 'Blackbird' spy plane that was tested here at Area 51 but nothing had prepared me for what stood in front of me.
"This, my friend, is the 'Eagle', the most advanced, fastest, quietest and most manoeuvrable plane ever known to man.The controls are so simple and easy to use a 7 year old could use it.' Pamela had a soft, high voice.She spoke directly to me as if we had known each other for years and seemed to have failed to realize I hadn't even signed any secrets act papers.
"How do you know a 7 year old could fly it?" I had to challenge that comment; it was impossible!
"Because, Steven, we've tried.' I was stunned, they had let a 7 year old fly this?Unbelievable!
I stared, awestruck, at the sleek, curved, silver yet discreet exterior of the most stunning plane known to man.I could not possibly have imagined a more futuristic looking work of art.As I slowly admired the sleek architecture of the plane my thoughts were suddenly drawn to my own, clapped out single engine plane sat on the scolding sands of the Nevada desert; I had been gone for almost an hour I would be amazed if Sean hadn't gone looking for me.I immediately requested that I made a phone call and Pamela didn't hesitate to hand me a mobile receiver.There were no buttons on the receiver.I was the only person now in the hanger as Dr.Dray and Pamela, his secretary, had gone into a small office followed by a short and fat man in a lab coat and ridiculously large glasses.I didn't want to interrupt their meeting so, just out of curiosity, I lifted the receiver to my ear.To my astonishment, a female voice erupted from the speaker asking me to whom would I like to make a call.I said 'Sean Ross' and before I could continue with his phone number I heard the familiar dial tone of a phone connecting.Sean answered within 3 rings.He didn't seem too concerned he just asked where I had got to.I told him I had fallen into the hands of the American government and I was now working for them.I remembered that I wasn't supposed to tell anyone this but Sean was extremely unlikely to even remember I had said this; his reply was 'Hurry up, your ice tea is getting hot'.I explained that I would return as soon as possible and requested he removed our aircraft from the sand runway, he didn't even ask why.
After terminating the conversation, I went to speak to Dr.Dray.He had a stack of papers that I signed without question and before I knew it I was the new test pilot of the 'Eagle'.I could not believe what had happened to me in the last hour so I took a 30 minute break in a comfortable lounge over-looking the hanger.I couldn't stop starring at the magnificent plane.It's twin jet engines were almost invisible due to the stunning manufacturing and the entire plane looked about a foot in height (excluding, of course, the 4 foot landing gear).Before I knew it, a team of men and women in lab coats had me wrapped up in an astronaut-like suit and I was sat comfortably in the one and only seat of the Eagle.I barely had time to ask Dr.Dray what I would be doing on this flight, he replied 'Whatever you want, you have 4 hours of fuel and enough pressure in the tyres to make about 10 landings of your choice.Your air traffic control reference will be E1 and you will have priority landing and taking off clearance at every runway in the world.Enjoy your flight!' I daren't ask how far 4 hours of fuel would take me, I assumed that this plane could go fast but when I applied full thrust on the runway of 'Area 51' I could never have prepared myself for what I was about to experience.The forward thrust was so great that I was pushed firm into my seat as if being pushed back by a hundred men.I stared straight ahead, eager to make this the best take off of my life.It certainly was.The landing gear shot up like a bullet at the push of a button as I was thrown across the Nevada desert by the 2 high powered jet engines.I took a glance at my GPS to find my position but I needn't have bothered.I had somehow managed to line up with the sandy runway at which Sean was sitting by without even thinking about it.I eased the throttles back to about halfway and the speed dropped at almost the same pace! I had never experienced any plane this responsive.As I slowly descended down the glide slope towards the runway the look of shock and amazement on Sean's face was a true work of art! I had wished at the time I had had a camera but fortunately this plane already had that covered, filing every second of every angle of the planes flights.When I was about 50 feet above the ground I thought I was doomed as I had forgotten the landing gear! Fortunately it shot down at the speed of light and I made a perfect, smooth touchdown on soft sand stopping almost instantly.
It was the best day of my life; Sean and I are now full time test pilots on the 'Eagle' project at NASA.It was the best hole I ever fell down!
That is the end of the story.