Rumors

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a true story. People tend not to believe it, but I assure you it is what happened the way it happened to the best of my ability to describe it in the English language.

Submitted: March 26, 2015

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Submitted: March 26, 2015

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"And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars . . ." -- Matthew 24:6; King James Version

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Thankfully, the paranoia of the Cold War is a thing of the past. People who did not live through the Red Scare of the 1940s, '50s and '60s can barely imagine the fear that gripped the public during times of crisis. It was the dawn of the Atomic Age when, for the first time in history, an entire city could be annihilated in a single flash. Back then, World War III seemed inevitable. The only surprise was that it turned out to be a cold war rather than the hot war that people envisioned in their nightmares.

Two systems, Communism and Capitalism, vied for domination of the planet. They stared in hostility across the Iron Curtain that split the European continent between East and West. Each side built enormous stockpiles of nuclear weapons, enough to destroy the other's population centers several times over. Essentially it was a stalemate. If one side started an atomic war, it could expect massive retaliation from the other. It came to be known as the Doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, MAD for short.

As insane as MAD was, it was not the ultimate terror of the Cold War. That distinction belongs to something known as the Doomsday Device. It was reputed to be a weapon so powerful that it would eradicate all life from the surface of the planet, all higher forms of life anyway. 

Personally, I do not know if a doomsday device was ever built. Obviously, no such thing was ever tested, not full scale at any rate. However, it was rumored that two devices existed. One of them was supposedly buried deep in Soviet occupied central Asia, beyond the range of our bombers and hardened against the inaccurate ballistic missiles of that era. The location of the American one, presuming there was one, was a lot more mysterious, and speculation on that issue was as crazy as any conspiracy theory.

The rumor hit close to home one night when I was on liberty. A sailor from a ship that had just returned to port got drunk and started raving about it. He said not only that it existed but also that he had been there. He claimed we were truly doomed. People appeared from nowhere and hauled the sailor away. That left the rest of us wondering. Was the American doomsday device perhaps sequestered on the seabed? What a devilishly clever way to hide its location from the prying eyes of Soviet intelligence.

Maybe two weeks later, strangers came to the ship. We were ordered to give them our full cooperation. They asked a lot of questions but answered none. If it was a test, we passed with flying colors. We were given essentially an infinite amount of money to order every piece of equipment, every spare part and every consumable supply we could imagine we would ever need, and it was our job to ensure that every single thing on that ship was in tip top condition. Then, shit got seriously freakin' weird.

Officers went through our lockers, confiscating cameras, radios and anything else that could conceivably be considered to be a recording, transmitting or receiving device. Sailors who were foreign nationals working on their U.S. citizenship were transferred ashore. Sailors without sterling disciplinary records were similarly given the boot. Men in civilian clothes commandeered various spaces on the ship, and RESTRICTED AREA signs popped up everywhere. Strange things, hidden behind canvas coverings, were welded to the deck in various places. I was getting the queasy feeling that maybe I would rather be somewhere else, anywhere else, at that point in the Cold War.

Basically, we snuck out of port under false pretenses. Ostensively, we were heading out for a couple of weeks of ISE (individual ship's exercises). In reality, it would be 57 days before we again set foot on dry land, and even that would be only as the result of an accident. Furthermore, we weren't sailing under the command of either the First or Seventh Fleets. Rather, we were taking our orders directly from Joint Task Force 8.

It seemed like the voyage to nowhere. All I can say is that it was boring. For day after dreary day, we sailed so far outside the normal shipping lanes that all we ever saw were flying fish and the occasional frigate bird. Even the whales and porpoises seemed to be avoiding our route. Then, shit got exceedingly seriously freakin' weird.

We spied a smudge far away on the horizon one morning. It appeared to be an island, a rather odd and curious island. It appeared to be surrounded with a white, picket fence. Nobody had heard of such a place before, so someone scrounged up a pair of binoculars for a closer look.

One by one, sailors looking through the binoculars fell silent. When my turn came, the blood froze in my veins. Those weren't pickets in a fence. They were guided missiles, scores of them, so many that I didn't even estimate the total. It was a huge shock because the cost of such an installation would have been astronomical. The cost of maintaining the missiles at the ready, erect on the launchers day and night, would have been ten times astronomical.

Nobody said a word. Nobody had to say a word. We all knew instinctively that there was one and only one thing on God's green Earth that would require that level of defense.

We didn't go to the island. We just circled it, slowly, endlessly, over and over, while the men in civilian clothes conducted their skullduggery with their secret equipment. I presume that would have been the end of it except for the fact that we experienced a major equipment failure. We had no choice but to land on the island for the couple of days it would take the crew to make the necessary repairs.

Now, it is a universal quirk of bureaucracy that all secret military bases, including the ultra-secret one dancing on the precipice of human extinction, require flunkies to scrub the toilets and take out the garbage. Consequently, this island had an Enlisted Men's Club. In actuality, it was hardly more than a shack. The only items available for purchase were beer, soft drinks and packages of salty snacks. I think the joint may have had a juke box for entertainment, but my memory is vague on that point.

The most annoying thing about the club was the restriction on beer. A sailor was only allowed two beers per day. Not being a drinking man myself, I quickly discovered that I could sell my beer ration under the table for ten times what it cost me. It is probably the only time I returned to the ship from liberty with more money than when I left. I also find it humorous that I once conducted a black market beer operation under the protection of the most awesome defensive battery in the Free World.

Repairs complete, we put back to sea for some more circling skullduggery before eventually losing the bizarre island in the ship's wake. I have never been back.

So, people want to know, was it there? Was that the home of the Doomsday Device? I assure you that I have no idea. If it was there, I didn't see it. If I had seen it, I wouldn't have recognized it. If I had recognized it, there is a distinct possibility that I might not be alive today to talk about it. However, I did come away with a deeper understanding of the nature of life. You see, there is one weapon even more powerful than a doomsday device. It is the rumor of one.

Copyright © 2010 - 2015 W.C. Bell; All Rights Reserved.


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