I know who did 9/11 — part two (Strange Stories collection)

He lost sense of time and space, and would find himself in the middle of the night still in front of the white light of his laptop. It was an orgy of scheming, plotting, conspiring — it was like plunging into the plots of dozens of thrillers, spy stories, mystery novels, with hints of science fiction. And all from the comfort of his house. Some nights he fell asleep on the desk with his head resting on the keyboard. It was only thanks to Oswald that he managed to get a few hours of decent sleep in his bed. The dog gently tapped his thigh until he woke up. If that wasn’t enough, he climbed onto the chair, tucked his body in the gap between his master’s stomach and the desk, and squatted on his owner’s belly.

When the first cold winds of the season started sweeping New England, the land of the Founding Fathers, Norman took stock: after long nights, after gigabytes of information downloaded, he hadn’t come to any firm conclusion. He needed a plan, a method for sifting through the conspiracy theories and studying the most plausible. Yes, it was time to grow up, to move from the amateurism of most conspiracists to the professionalism of the few who would unearth the Truth.

Mulling over the way to proceed, he heard a screech. He span round and saw Oswald dragging his bowl over to the desk. Milk stains on the floor marked his path. Oswald crouched by Norman’s chair, his head resting by the bowl, as if showing his master that no matter the venture he embarked on, he would be there, beside him. He only needed a little food to get by. Norman smiled, and bent down to caress Oswald’s head. “You are right, Oswald… let me get you something,” he said. He was heading for the kitchen when he stopped and turned: “And, yes, I love you too, my friend.”

On Monday, after work, he turned on his laptop and dived back in. A couple of minutes of searches were enough to discover new versions of the 9/11 events. He resisted the temptation to follow his usual scattershot approach, and focused on one single conspiracy theory, the one which presented the most likely scenario: remote demolitions. Oswald began roaming around the living room making little jumps in the air to attract his attention. Once he realised his plan was nowhere near a success — his master didn’t as much as turn — the dog shuffled back to his basket.

It was blatantly evident, Norman considered, scanning the laptop screen: the rapid collapse and the short-lived fires pointed to controlled demolitions. The perpetrators implanted explosives over weeks, if not months, ready for the aircraft to detonate them! The footage of the towers collapsing showed as much. As did the reports of the sounds of explosions shortly before the collapse, and the violent ejections from windows many floors below the collapse. This is the one, he thought, striving to contain the excitement. Not too fancy or hi-tech, a traditional bombing attack with an artistic touch, if you like. He frantically copied, pasted, downloaded files after files, in a state of euphoria. Until he ran into something he didn’t like.

An inquiry by the National Institute of Standards and Technology argued a different mechanism. According to the study, the impact of the planes severed the support columns and dislodged the fire-proofing, spewing ten thousand gallons of jet fuel over several floors and starting fires that reached temperatures of up to 1,000C. It was these high temperatures that made the floors sag and the perimeter columns bend, causing the sounds of “explosions”. Norman grimaced. How convenient for the authorities — but what would you expect from a ‘National Institute’ of something or other? Yet as much as he wanted to dismiss the findings, once they penetrated his mind, they wouldn’t leave. His favoured conspiracy was debunked. He groaned, shut down his computer and stood up. Oswald dashed up to him whining. Norman nodded and took him out.

On the following day, he focused on the “Air Defence Stand-Down”. How could the defence system of the most sophisticated military in the world have failed in preventing the 9/11 attacks? Why didn’t the Pentagon scramble fighter jets to bring down the hijacked planes? Even if there was no way to prevent the first plane from hitting the South Tower, what about the North Tower? There was just one reasonable answer to that burning question. A stand-down order had been in place, given by someone at the top of the government. Hell, yes! Apparently, on the very morning of the attacks a military aviation exercise was being run, adding to the confusion. Go figure, thought Norman. And now they were churning out dozens of explanations, from failures in the chain of command to “lack of imagination” by the CIA. They should hire Hollywood scribblers!

He felt observed, and looked around. Lying on the floor, Oswald was staring at him with wide eyes. “Why?”, that pleading look asked? Why had he completely forgotten the companion of his life? Norman couldn’t bear to meet his gaze, so he grabbed one of his chocolate cookies, tossed it over and turned back to his laptop. Oswald watched the cookie arching over his head to fall on the floor and crumble into pieces, then turned back to look at his master. Who was already immersed in his new lead: the “Pentagon attack”. Flicking through the enormous amount of material on the topic, he was shocked by the unexplained facts, the peculiar lack of photographic material, the suspicious coincidences and unanswered questions. And the location, Oh my! The location, was just perfect! So intriguing, so full of inner meanings, so damn exciting! How could any independent thinker ignore the duty of scrutinising all sorts of hidden scenarios? Vicious agendas? You just couldn’t, and, above all, you mustn’t.

The first unanswered question was crucial to him. How could an amateur pilot fly a commercial Boeing 757 in such a complex manoeuvre and crash it into the headquarters of the most powerful military of the world? Especially when only one hour and 20 minutes before two planes had already been hijacked and everyone at the Pentagon should had been at DEFCON 1, ready to shoot down any goddamned bird happening to fly over their heads. Did a missile, not a plane, hit the Pentagon building? Or was it a drone packed with explosives? Both hypothesis were much more believable than a hijacked plane driven by an amateur pilot. Norman didn’t even consider it to be a conspiracy theory — it was just plain and simple common sense, the kind of good sense that the government wanted them to forget. With this in mind, he threw himself into the dark waters of the attack to the Pentagon.

The more pieces of information he was collecting, the more he was confident that he was entering a cave of lies and cover-ups — it gave him the shivers. At dinner time he didn’t make himself a meal. He had no time, the world was waiting for him to find out the Truth. A caffeine kick and some more chocolate cookies would have to do. That’s what he thought, heading for the kitchen, followed by the affectionate gaze of Oswald who started wondering if he had become an invisible dog. When he came back with a plate full of cookies, some chunks of dark chocolate and a big mug of coffee, Oswald lowered his head and rested it on his paws. Norman sipped at his coffee without raising his head from the screen. It was as though he was becoming part of it, his body cells blending with pixels and microchips in a new form of conspiracy-theory android.

The doorbell rang. Perceiving it as a sound of unknown origin which didn’t mean anything to him, he stood up and headed for the door as though following some kind of imprinted instinct. Oswald followed him, tongue dangling, hopeful for a walk or just a stroke of the head. A young man holding leaflets was on the doorstep, mouthing words. Who was this person? What did he have to do with the Task? “And so we’d like to engage as many people as possible in a project which aims to help the needy of our community”. Norman slammed the door — he was the one doing something for the community! On his way back to the desk he bumped into Oswald, who yelped piteously.

Back to work. Before being disturbed, he had come to the conclusion that the Pentagon building was hit by a missile. The lack of photos showing the moment of impact suggested it. In addition, right after the attack, the FBI confiscated all the available video recordings from nearby businesses. How about that? And you want us to believe this story? He snorted.
 During another two hours of researches, however, he ran into reports of several witnesses who saw a plane, a commercial carrier, crashing into the west block of the Pentagon. They described it hitting the ground in front of the facade and being swallowed up into the building with a huge explosion. Of course, witnesses could have been suborned, but how many, and for how long? He rubbed at his face. The media would get hold of them sooner or later, and the whole lie would fall to pieces like a mummy doing bungee jumping. Not to mention that the remains of crew and passengers on the American Airlines Flight 77 were found and identified by DNA evidence. No, he was heading nowhere. As much as he thought it was absurd, it seemed it really had been a Boeing 757 playing kamikaze with the Pentagon.

Frustration and rage were growing inside him. He felt like smashing something. Hitting someone. They were screwing him. Once again.


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Originally published at alexoriani.com on January 24, 2016.