Gray April

by Philip Holthoff

IT WAS in the spring of 2003. It should have been our finest hour. Instead it has become one of our greatest mysteries.

It was to be a day of firsts for our great nation. Tens of thousands of our citizens lined the shores of Gulfport and Biloxi to gaze out to sea at our newest wonder, Gray April, as she remained motionless almost a mile off the coast.

We led the world in submarine technology. The Gray April was the first nuclear submarine in the world to utilize a form of underwater jet propulsion using nuclear-heated steam and water. As a result Gray April was the fastest submarine in the world, reaching an underwater cruising speed of 45 knots. Her unique propulsion was also quieter than the old metal propeller system, making her almost impossible to track by sonar.

She was a beauty. A sleek four hundred foot long vessel painted in traditional gray with gold battle stripes on the conning tower above and below the large painted flag.

And it was to be a great day for me. For the past five years I had been employed by the Raphael Simms Advanced Institute for Naval Research (RASAINAR). My job was the development of an advanced ‘killer satellite’ designed to generate an intense electromagnetic field that would short circuit all enemy satellites attempting to spy on our naval bases. The satellite also had specially-hardened circuitry that would allow it to send us encrypted images of the earth’s surface so that our surveillance operations would continue unimpaired — pictures so detailed that a newspaper could be read through a window shown in the images. It would give us the edge against our traditional rival. The new weapon was to be launched that day — and from the Gray April herself. She was destined to be the first submarine to launch a satellite into earth orbit while out at sea. It was truly a day for celebration.

We were delayed about an hour waiting for the President’s helicopter to land. By that time, cloud cover had moved in. However, all systems were still ‘go’ and the satellite was launched from one of Gray April’s ballistic missile tubes. It roared into the July skies, trailing a large streamer of orange flame as the crowd roared its approval and the band struck up the national anthem.

We are not sure what happened then. Somehow the satellite malfunctioned and switched on its electro-magnetic reactor just as it entered a cloud bank. All the computer consoles on the Gray April went haywire, as did our land-based tracking systems. When we finally restored them, twelve hours later, we couldn’t find the satellite. It was supposed to be in low earth orbit, but we could not locate it anywhere. We were put on full military alert and ordered to sea to try to aid in the recovery attempt in case it had fallen there.

But then, a full 24 hours from its launch, the satellite began to send communication images back. We still couldn’t locate it — but the damn thing was sending us pictures!

At first we noticed nothing odd about the pictures. They were detailed sequential pictures of the earth’s surface, showing us whatever area we chose, clear and in perfect focus, coming through exactly as the designers of the system intended. Then, we began to notice… differences. The earth the satellite was showing us was not our earth.

Our scientists were at a loss. Some speculated that since the satellite malfunctioned and turned on its electromagnetic reactor in a storm, perhaps the storm “multiplied” the effect and somehow sent the satellite into another space/time continuum — an alternate universe.

The “earth” we saw existed in the same time frame as ours, but somehow history and politics had taken a bizarre turn. The satellite functioned for six months before falling silent, even though it had been designed to function for twelve years. All information we received was classified, with the public being told that the satellite reached earth orbit and fulfilled its mission. They were never told otherwise.

This “alternative earth, if that is what it was, astounded and shocked us. It was a world in which the United States had won the Battle of Gettysburg, thus preventing Britain and France from recognizing the independence of the Confederate States. A world in which the United States went on to become a global power — and the South was conquered, occupied, and reduced to a backwater province. A world in which Yankee Imperialism eventually reached gigantic proportions without a strong Confederacy to act as a counter-balance. A world in which the United States made it to the Moon first — instead of our joint British and Southern expedition. Thus the Stars and Stripes, and not the Union Jack and the Confederate flag, were on the Moon. A world in which American states lost all their power and the central government ran amok over the rights of its citizens. A world in which judges ruled as tyrants and demanded “integration” of our schools and our society with the descendents of African slaves.

It was clear to those of us who saw this horror-world unfold before our eyes that, without a powerful independent Confederate States of America, the corrupt leaders of the United States became mad with power. They invaded or interfered in the affairs of one nation after another until the world was poised on the brink of nuclear destruction.

Our historians speculated that the Yankee abolitionist legacy somehow mutated into some sort of egalitarian creed, almost a religion, after the Union victory. The US imposed this creed, which they called ‘democracy,’ on others by force on a global scale.

We also found that the world was populated with, at least in many cases, the exact same people who lived in our reality — with sometimes bizarre and humorous results.

Thus a charlatan like Bill Clinton became President in the horror-world — whereas in ours he was in prison for rape. Some fellow named George W. Bush was the current President there, and we had difficulty locating his counterpart in reality, almost negating our theory of exact doubles in this counter-earth. Then someone found a newspaper clipping showing that our Bush, in reality, was killed five years ago in a drunken brawl in an obscure Texas bar. Their Bush, so corrupt that he had sold himself to an alien group from the Middle East, had invaded Iraq and was making threats to various other nations in that region, spilling our blood and impoverishing our people.

The President has been in a foul mood since we located his double. I don’t think he liked the idea that their David Duke was in prison for alleged mail fraud — whereas our David Duke is President of the Confederate States.

President Duke is of the opinion that in the horror-world, good men — Southern patriots and White racialists — would be persecuted by the Federal Government, since the US had stripped away all states’ rights and constitutional protections in their victory over the CSA. The President explained that, in such a system, based on ‘democratic’ egalitarianism, corruption would reign supreme and elections would soon be dominated by money. Opponents would be denied Constitutional protections and possibly be jailed or framed by the central government. An inverted morality would reign supreme; principled people would disdain public office; while men devoid of character would ascend to the highest positions in the land, easily manipulated by alien groups proffering cash and favorable media coverage.

That horror-world would be our world if we had not won at Gettysburg and thereby secured our independence. Who among us could have imagined the horrible consequences that would have followed had our great-great grandfathers had not given their all for our nation?

Some questions remain. Should we tell the public what we have learned about the world that might have been? Are they ready for that knowledge? Would publishing our findings help our nation avoid the kind of horrible tragedies that we witnessed on our screens?

And I ask: In what sense does that nightmare world really exist? Are those millions of White children really suffering — as we saw them suffering? If so, what, if anything, can we do about it? Can we get a message through to them, somehow? Some nights I cannot sleep; my soul cries out for the answer.

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Arvin N. Prebost
Arvin N. Prebost
4 November, 2010 9:12 am

Very nicely done!

But what happened to the tyrannical and murderous Lincoln in the sane world?

Perhaps he spent his last days as a gibbering monstrousity in some humane Southern asylum for the criminally insane?

Hume Eddington
Hume Eddington
2 April, 2020 12:59 pm

That is one of the best short stories I’ve ever read! Thank you NV!