The Planetarium

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

There's something mysterious about the college planetarium where custodian Carl Rimoldi works. Little does he know, but Carl is connected to this mysterious building and soon finds out why...

Very fairy tale-esque, "The Planetarium" is a work in progress piece based on prompts given sporadically from an outside source.

The domed, concrete sentinel of a building stands silent amongst a sparse grove of trees and benches. The dull, ocean-green dome is beaten down after years of combating the vicious rays of the sun. The off-white ledge plays home to birds, spiders, and all other manner of creeping things. The tracks of water through layers of dirt tattoo the building, exposing a level of age greater than some may know. The copper-hued skeletal structure houses three murals of exploding color. One of majestic blue-purple, one the dark orange of a dying day, and the last the brilliant yellow of a new day reborn; the murals are the only sense of variety found on the bland pallet of the building. Cracked and worn, age hasn't forgotten them, however their luster still remains. Their beauty is missed by passing students and faculty. Like a rare diamond in a pile of cubic zirconia, easily missed by the passerby but easily appreciated by those who care. One sentinel lamp on the south side guards against the night. Two drain pipes and a grated stairway lay attached to the structure like barnacle to a boat. The trees, few in number, surround the building. Various benches of gray lay in wait for someone to sit. The surrounding grounds are cracked and worn concrete; a foundation complimenting its educational structure. This planetarium stands quiet. It stands…with a secret…

Every morning at 3:03 am, the tarnished green dome of the building opens up, like an orange being sliced into wedges. The hinges cry out and shriek as the dome welcomes in a new day. It takes precisely two minutes, to the second, for the dome to open completely. During normal hours, the ancient building would house students as they explore the universe, striving to understand humanity's place within it. Astronomy is a popular course, for many find the reclined seating and darkened atmosphere of the planetarium a suitable place for a nap. However, unbeknownst to the students and faculty alike, this cold building is much more than a simple planetarium; for inside, hidden in the middle of the planetarium floor, lays a beacon hidden from view. Each morning, at 3:05am, once the dome has fully exposed its inner workings, the beacon turns on, letting off a low hum. The signal it produces scans the vast galaxies above hopelessly awaiting an answer, until 4:02 am, when the dome retracts back and the waiting game plays on. However, on this particular day, at 3:43am, unlike any other before it, the signal was heard. Upon this revelation, the building began to vibrate with such vigor that one might have thought the building to be alive. The lights around the top flickered. The drain pipes caught the passing breeze as it blew over their openings, like breath over the top of a soda bottle. They trumpeted joyously, for not only was the signal heard…but it was answered.

It was about this time that Carl Rimoldi, the bald, pot-bellied custodian working the early morning shift, happened to be making his rounds a bit earlier than normal. Carl craved punctuality. "If you're early, you're on time. If you're on time, you're late," that was his motto. He was so in love with the idea of being punctual that he typically came into work three hours early. Strutting around behind his cleaning cart, his rosy cheeks gleaming as he stroked his greasy mustache ever so blissfully, he moved around the campus cleaning with swift vitality. Normally at this time he would be found cleaning out the library bathrooms, but he happened to have a particular pep to his step this morning and found himself walking up to an unusual sight, right where the planetarium usually sits.

Scratching his head at the sight of the open dome, Carl headed for the door with his huge set of keys in hand. As if sensing the oncoming disturbance, the planetarium began to vibrate at a much higher rate. The ground began to shake and Carl, thinking it was one of those "good ol' fashioned California tremors", headed away from the building, should there be any destruction to occur. This was good thinking on Carl's part for a tremor was not the source of the shaking. It was the planetarium lifting off into the morning sky, like a NASA shuttle at the Kennedy Space Center. Smoke and steam billowed from beneath the structure as it tore away from the ground that held it captive for so long. It took everything he had for Carl not to throw up the breakfast he ate on his way to work. As it rose, the planetarium's dome closed and continued it's ascension into the heavens above. Concrete, dirt and all manner of rubble rained down as it climbed towards the stars. Finally, it waited no longer. The time had come. It was going home.

It didn’t take long for its absence to go unnoticed. Carl made sure of that. Second to punctuality, Carl loved the lime light. As insane and disturbing the incident was, Carl reveled in the fact that he, and only he, would be the one to tell the world the story of the flying building. As much as this made his shiny, grease-filled mustache dance upon his grinning face, he couldn't help but think that had he been to work three hours later, when he was suppose to, he would have missed the whole thing. "When you're early, you're on time," he said humbly. Before long his picture was plastered on the morning news as well as footage of the gaping hole and his detailed account of the "mysterious space ship that disguised itself as a planetarium"…according to Carl.

As outrageous and unbelievable a story as it was, it was still national news. The planetarium's ascent was tracked by local and global governments alike. Unresponsive to various hails, the planetarium continued to hurl its way up, disregarding any attempt to make it stop. Failing in their attempts to contact the blip on the radar, and gaining no ground through the help from NASA, counter measures were scrambled should the mysterious object turn out to be a weapon of some kind. Their efforts soon became fruitless once the planetarium escaped the earth's atmosphere. The cold, empty vastness of space was warm and inviting to the old building. Free from the vicious pull of the blue planet, it began to pick up speed, eventually moving at the speed of light. It traveled out of our known galaxy and into what can truly be classified as the unknown.

Back on earth, the campus was a hive of buzzing bees. The CDC, National Guard, and other government agencies set up moveable walls all around the campus. By noon that day, the entire school was cut off from the world. A few CDC agents and Carl were all that were left on the inside. Carl was taken to a small tent set up about a hundred feet away from where the old planetarium used to be. He vibrated with excitement; being at the center of all this chaos brought insurmountable joy to his quivering body. A man in a hazmat suit was taking his blood pressure and writing notes down on a clip board.

"What's this all for?" Carl asked; a giant grin on his face. "Am I sick or something?"

"We're just taking some tests in order to deduce any plausible contaminations," the CDC man said in a monotone voice.

"Fascinating!" Carl stated. "How long do I have to stay here? I was in the middle of my rounds when the building shot off into the sky. I wouldn't mind getting back to that."

"I don't think you'll be cleaning anything anytime soon," Mr. CDC answered.

It was at that moment when a tall, stone-faced man in a fitted black suit and sunglasses entered the tent. The CDC agent turned quickly towards him.

"Hey, who the hell are y--"

The suited man swiftly made for a side arm under his coat and shot the CDC agent in the chest. Carl yipped like a Chihuahua; jumping in his seat, his eyes wide as his smile melted.

"Don’t worry Mr. Rimoldi," the man in the suit said as he placed the oddly-shaped, chrome-plated gun in its holster and stepped closer in Carl's direction. "He's not dead, just merely unconscious. I need you to come with me."

"What? Who are you?" Carl mumbled, still shaking a bit in excited fear.

"I'm no one," the man stated matter-of-factly. "But you can call me Agent White. Now, I need you to come with me."

Agent White turned and exited the tent. The sounds of multiple gun shots suddenly filled the air and Carl jumped at each one, ducking as if they were fired in his direction. He stumbled out of the tent and looked around. Men in black suits and sunglasses were all around, guns in their hands. Bodies of hazmat-wearing individuals populated the ground. Carl scanned each body, his jaw dropped and his face was drenched in fresh sweat. He could feel the cold beads run down his spine as the chills from what he witnessed raced up.

"What the hell is going on?!" He screamed.

Agent White walked towards him; a shorter, stout suited fellow accompanied him.

"Mr. Rimoldi, this is Agent Green. He'll be accompanying us." Agent Green nodded in affirmation and quickly looked down at his watch.

"We have approximately twenty minutes before our window closes," Agent Green informed in his deep, raspy voice.

"Ready the car," Agent White replied. Agent Green straightened his black tie and quickly walked away.

"Now, Mr. Rimoldi," Agent White stated hurriedly, "What you saw today was not a figment of your imagination nor was it a government sanctioned act."

"What? I saw the planetarium blast off into the sky!" Carl stated bluntly. "I know I didn’t imagine it. Government sanctioned act? What the hell are you talking about?"

"Mr. Rimoldi, what you think was a normal planetarium is, in fact, not a normal planetarium."

"No kidding!" Carl screamed, his mustache quivering with his upper lip. "Planetariums don't blast off!"

"Mr. Rimoldi, what you witnessed was the launch of an interstellar vessel that landed on earth sixty years ago. Inside that vessel was a beacon of alien origin. That beacon was hailed at precisely 3:43 this morning. Meaning, Mr. Rimoldi that an alien intelligence has reestablished contact with the vessel and now that vessel is gone."

Carl paused, staring blankly at the man in front of him. His eyes struggled to blink as he desperately strived to contemplate the magnitude of what he'd been told. Finally, he shook his head and rubbed his eyes vigorously.

"This is crazy. Who exactly are you?" Carl asked bringing a hand to his head, rubbing his baldness with subtle movements.

"I am no one, Mr. Rimoldi, as I said. But you can call--"

"Yes, you said that but who are you with?" Carl asked.

Agent White paused for a brief moment then answered, "That's classified information, Mr. Rimoldi. I can neither confirm nor deny that we are a part of an organization that specializes in the communication and regulation of alien activity on earth."

"What?" Carl cried as his brow furled. "Aliens?"

Agent White pointed to the sky where a flock of news choppers hovered around, trying to get a glimpse as to what was happening. The barriers around the campus didn't allow for great visibility.

"Like I said, I can neither confirm nor deny this, Mr. Rimoldi. Not while they're around."

Agent White immediately put a finger to the earpiece in his right ear. Carl looked around; the other men in suits had lined all the bodies they had shot in a row on the ground underneath a large canopy they had set up. Agent White suddenly placed a hand on Carl's shoulder, causing the custodian to jump at the touch.

"It's time, Mr. Rimoldi. We must go, now."

With that, Agent White led Carl away towards the edge of the quarantined area where a sleek, black sedan waited just outside. Agent Green was in the driver's seat. Once Agent White and Carl made it into the vehicle, Agent Green stomped on the accelerator, causing the car to lurch forward and out of sight. Carl flew back in his seat and desperately tried to buckle himself in.

"How far did the vessel get before we lost contact?" Agent White asked.

"Just outside our galaxy, sir," Agent Green replied. "All attempts to reestablish contact have failed.

"Damn." Agent White turned his head towards the passenger side window.

"What is happening?" Carl asked sheepishly. "Where are we going?"

Agent White turned in his seat to face Carl. "Mr. Rimoldi, we collected you because we're going to need you to assist us."

Throwing his arms up in complete confusion, Carl let out a sarcastic chuckle.

"What exactly am I suppose to do? I'm just a custodian for crying out loud!"

"Don't worry Mr. Rimlodi," Agent White replied as he turned back around. "You'll know soon enough."

Agent Green bobbed and weaved through traffic with the greatest level of finesse. Carl was amazed that they were able to travel at such a high velocity without hitting anything. He sat quietly, trying desperately to hold his ground in the back seat rather than getting tossed back and forth. He tried replaying the day's events up to this point. As he dwelt upon his current predicament, a sudden cold chill shot down his spine as his breath quickened. He suddenly realized that had he clocked in when he was supposed to earlier that morning, he would have missed the planetarium blasting off. He would've been left on the outskirts of the campus, free to watch or simply go home. Home felt like a fabulous alternative than riding around with two strangers out on an extraterrestrial hunt. Before long, they reached an open lot at the edge of town. Carl recognized it right away as they pulled in. He leaned forward to get a better view.

"This is the old Al's Auto Repair Shop," he informed his suited comrades. "It closed down like ten years ago. What are we doing here?"

As the words escaped his mouth, the ground gave way to a hidden tunnel, under the main shop. Carl gasped as they proceeded down the brightly lit corridor.

"Holy mother of pearls!" He exclaimed.

The car came to a stop after driving down the long stretch of underground driveway. Agents Green and White exited the vehicle with Carl close behind. At the very end of the driveway was a large metal door that led to a hallway, which led to a set of double doors. The hallway was pale gray with bright white lights. Carl walked briskly behind the two agents, his eyes wide and his mustache beginning to drip with sweat. His rotund figure bounced as he strived to keep up with the agents. I gotta lay off the fried chicken, he thought.

Through the double doors was an elevator, shiny and new from the looks of it. The three of them rode the elevator down for many floors, Carl wasn't sure how many exactly. The elevator had no numbered floor buttons, just "Bottom", "Top", "Door Open", and "Door Close".

"How far does this thing go?" Carl asked.

"Pretty far," answered Agent Green.

They reached the "Bottom", exited the elevator and made their way down the connected hallway, similar to the one up top.

"How much time do we have?" Agent White asked.

Agent Green looked down at his watch. "Less than seven minutes, sir."

They entered a small, nearly vacant room. It was about the size of a small bedroom; four walls, no windows, one entrance. On the left was a single desk with a computer sitting lonesome on top. Save for this desk and its accompanying chair, the room was empty. Agent White made for the dark brown, worn leather chair, pulling it out from under the desk.

"Have a seat, Mr. Rimoldi."

Carl stopped and stared. He was breathing hard as he wiped the sweat from his face.

"Why do I need to sit?" Carl asked. "What am I suppose to do?"

"Please have a seat, Mr. Rimoldi. We don't have much time." Agent White stated with a level of urgency.

Carl did as he was told and sat down. Agent White pushed Carl up to the desk.

"Mr. Rimoldi, this is very crucial." Agent White said. "What you are about to do will never be known by anyone outside of this room, but it will have the greatest impact on humanity as we know it."

Carl looked at Agent White with fearful dignity.

"I'm just a lowly custodian sir; I don't know what exactly I can do for humanity." Carl said softly with a chuckle. He took another swipe at the sweat dripping down his face. Agent Green pulled a handkerchief from his jacket and handed it to him.

"Thank you," Carl said, wiping his entire head.

"Now, Mr. Rimoldi," Agent White said, "are you ready?"

"Five minutes, sir," informed Agent Green.

"Ready for what?" Carl asked, looking at the blank computer screen, a single cursor blinking in the top-left corner.

"Mr. Rimoldi, I need you to type your work login into the computer."

Carl turned to face Agent White with a twisted look on his face.

"Come again?" he asked.

"Four minutes, sir." Agent Green began to pace.

"Mr. Rimoldi, has it occurred to you why it is we seem to know who you are?" asked Agent White.

Carl thought for a moment, reflecting back to when Agent White first entered the medical tent, shooting the nice CDC man. He had called him by name. Carl's eyes widened.

"That's right!" He exclaimed. "How did y--"

"We've been monitoring you Mr. Rimoldi," Stated Agent White. "From the moment your employment commenced at Chabot College. You have a tendency to start work early. Well aware of the planetarium's early morning activities, it was pertinent for the safety and secrecy of all of humanity to monitor your activities, should what happened today actually come into fruition."

"Three minutes, sir." Agent Green cried as his pacing quickened.

"As a failsafe, Mr. Rimoldi," Agent White continued, "we designed a state-of-the-art homing beacon of our own in order to track the planetarium's location should it leave. We synchronized it to your work login information. So every morning when you clocked in, it would activate the homing beacon; shutting it down when you clocked out. Upon lift off, the beacon shut off, for what ever reason, probably jostled from the ascent. We need you to turn it on again."

"If you know my info, why can't you just login?" asked Carl.

"We tried," Agent White said as he began to type on the computer, "but we kept screwing up your password. We need the answers to your security questions."

Carl looked at the screen. Three lines of text had appeared:

"What is your mother's maiden name?"

"What is the name of your first pet?"

"What is the name of your favorite food?"

So that's why they ask you those!" Carl thought to himself.

"Mr. Rimoldi," Agent White stated, "if you don't mind. Time is of the essence. If we don’t reestablish contact with the beacon in-"

"Two minutes, sir!"

"In two minutes, we'll lose contact capabilities permanently." Agent White stated.

Carl looked on towards the screen. He thought about the new reporters interviewing him, his fellow employees that were sure to be jealous of him, and of his trusty cleaning cart. The feelings of dread, confusion, and exhaustion he had dealt with throughout the day dissipated as he reflected on the highs of the day. He had a chance to do something unprecedented, to be apart of something greater than himself. When you're early, you're on time…

He smiled, stroked his mustache, and began to type:

Coletti

Mr. Sprinkles

Cannoli

 

* * *

 

Before long, the planetarium entered a galaxy many light-years from earth, slowing as it entered a solar system much like our own. This particular system had seven distinct planets orbiting around two central suns in a figure-eight-like orbit. These celestial beings had been seen once by the Hubble, but scientists deduced that they were looking at a galaxy of stars. Indeed, this new solar system was blanketed with stars like the sands of the sea. However it was much more than a simple group of stars.

As the planetarium moved through the system, it passed the two outer planets, small gaseous orbs of violet and orange. Both smaller than earth, they rotated the fastest, having the shortest cycle over a longer orbit. The third planet from the system's edge was a large, dense rock. Much like the earth's moon, it was brown in color and dead to the sight. The fourth planet in was the destination of the planetarium. Its atmosphere, much like Earth's, was a prime location for life to evolve. As the planetarium entered its atmosphere, the lime-green sky came into view. Dense purple clouds parted swiftly as the domed building sliced through the sky. Most of the planet's surface was covered by oceans of red-rust colored liguid. Large waves threw themselves about as the planetarium soared over them. On the north and south ends of the planet were two land masses of equal size and density, both royal-blue in color. The planetarium, following the guidance of its ancient homing beacon, located its landing zone, just a few miles off the east coast of the northern most hemispheres. With a thunderous roar and billows of smoke and steam, the planetarium landed with a ferocious thud. The ancient beacon beeped for the final time, then fizzled into a pile of dust within the flooring of the alien structure. There, sitting in the crater of its descent, shrewd in smoke and steam, the domed, concrete sentinel of a building rested from its journey. The crusted and worn dome creaked and cried as it opened one last time, like it had so many times before on earth.  

It was then, as the planetarium opened its dome ceiling and the terrain settled from the jostled landing, that the bulbous head of a creature not seen by any human, popped out from behind a sponge-like rock, curiosity dripping from its large, luminescent eyes. It wasn't so much the structure itself that caused its timid approach.

 

But the strange beeping sound that suddenly started from within.


Submitted: November 28, 2014

© Copyright 2021 BrandonEverett. All rights reserved.

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Bangarangutan

Neat. Interesting intro, easy-to-follow writing, and not at all uninteresting. Not very exciting or mind-boggling, but a nice little pause from the crap this site often produces. Very neat.

Sun, November 30th, 2014 9:45pm

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Thanks for your honesty and the kind compliment! I agree, not my best work, but it's always great to hear feedback.

Mon, December 1st, 2014 11:25am

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