Episode 18 --Clavius Cowboys

Episode 18 —
Clavius Cowboys

Episode 18:
Clavius Cowboys


The psychiatrist who treated this young male patient in 2198 for nightmares did not believe his claims about seeing a video documentary that revealed a top-secret military base on the moon.

The oddly dim blue-grey lighting within the psychiatrist’s office on the young man’s first visit elevated his feelings of being threatened. Was the psychiatrist a man or a woman? Evelyn Grant could be a man’s name. Doctor Grant’s facial features were obscured by shadows, as if deliberately so. The doctor’s giggle suggested masculinity, but—.

“Can you conceive of the possibility that you actually may have dreamed you saw that moon documentary?” was Doctor Grant’s opening question.

“Of course,” the young man admitted as perspiration formed on his forehead. “But, I remember very detailed and quite vivid things. Actual words. And images. My dreams aren’t usually very specific or so clear. Plus, the knowledge conveyed is not stuff that I know about.”

“Tell me about your experience. So I can understand. You told me it was on very late—around two in the morning. You were scanning through the channels when you noticed the documentary was starting.”

“Yeah, exactly. I probably missed the first few seconds. I don’t know. When I landed on that science channel, it was the opening title of the documentary. The narrator’s reassuringly deep and confident voice said, “‘The crater Clavius has given up many secrets deep inside the moon.’ The image I saw on screen was like a close-up of that crater from lunar orbit.”

“Why do you think that particular crater is significant to you?”

“Because of the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.”

“So, you’re interested in very old movies?”

“Well, that one, yeah. From long ago in the year 1968. I bought a special restored version that came out for the 230th anniversary of the film’s release.”

“Had you ever heard of the crater’s name before you first saw that film?”

“I feel defensive, Doctor Grant. Like you don’t believe what I’m telling you.”

“Just questions. You’re doing great. Tell me more about what you saw.”

“The name of the documentary was strange. Sarcastic. As if someone thought it would get attention.”

“Who thought that?”

“Uh, in the documentary, the narrator said a photograph was found under the crater. Amid wreckage of some underground structure. The photo was nicknamed ‘Clavius Cowboys’ because of what it depicted.”

“What did the photo depict?”

“Five young men apparently being hanged by the neck with rope like cowboys were executed during the 19th century. In the American West. But, the photograph was partially damaged. No way to identify the hanged men due to that damage.”

There are several elements that the damaged photograph could reveal to any observer:  All 5 men appear to be under the age of 30. They all are shirtless and their feet are bare. They each wear blue denim jeans that were popular during previous centuries. Their legs extend down so that some of the men’s toes can touch the floor to prevent—if only temporarily—the slow suffocating death that each man inevitably would endure from a suspension hanging.

Who were those 5 men? Did they only wear cowboy costumes, or, in the real world did these men work as actual cowboys? Most puzzling is the fact that the photograph gives no indication as to the purpose of the apparent simultaneous suspension hangings of five young men. Nicknaming the photograph as the “Clavius Cowboys” created a mystique that is both artificial and manipulative. Yet, nobody can trace where that nickname originated.

Doctor Evelyn Grant says, “You can describe that photograph is such vivid detail. Yet, you admit that you only saw it on a video display while you watched a documentary late at night.”

“Yeah, that’s because the photo was so stunning. So unforgettable. And out of place. How could a damaged photo of 5 hanged cowboys be found in wreckage of an underground lunar base?”

“What do you remember the documentary saying about this?”

The documentary narrator’s reassuring voice says, “That damaged photograph depicting the brutal deaths of 5 young cowboys led to many findings.” A man’s hands hold a printed copy of the photograph in standard 8 and a half by 11-inch format up to the documentary camera. “The original was in digital format only,” the narrator says. “This is a replica. The original artifact was held for a time in a museum in Geneva, Switzerland, but has since been lost.”

An older male dressed with a white laboratory outfit while seated in an office in front of bulging bookshelves is identified on the screen as Richard Montgomery of the International Museum of Geneva. He speaks with a heavy accent as he explains, “I examined the original digital file. But, now that file cannot be found. The artifact is a standard image file. It did not show any indications of having been manipulated. The damage to the file also seemed genuine and not faked.”

The documentary narrator explains as a close-up of the image of the hanged young men moves across the screen: “They all would have died after being lifted upwards by the ropes around their necks. Nobody can survive against the relentless force of gravity when the neck is crushed by a noose that tightens as it is pulled downward by a man’s full body weight.”

Doctor Evelyn Grant asks, “You’re aware, of course, that some men have fetishized executions such as hangings?”

“Of course,” is the reply.

“Did you find that you became sexually aroused when you first saw the ‘Clavius Cowboys’ photograph in that documentary?”

“Yes. Other gay men that I know have had the same or very similar reactions when looking at depictions of men’s hangings. So what?”

Full color photographs of underground wreckage are positioned on the documentary screen as the narrator says, “Explorers on the lunar surface recorded these images apparently showing all that remains today of what once was a lunar base beneath the crater Clavius. There were no human remains found anywhere in those ruins. But, that’s easy to explain: Human remains would have been ejected into the vacuum of space after an explosive decompression destroyed the lunar base.”

Doctor Evelyn Grant asks, “Do you believe that lunar base suggests intelligent life beyond our planet?”

“No, not necessarily. I think the base was most likely built by humans, not aliens.”

The doctor replies quietly, “I though there was no longer any missions to the moon by humans.”

“Just telling you what I saw in the documentary. That’s all. Someone—I’m guessing from Earth—has visited the moon recently to be able to get those underground photographs. Maybe that was a secret military mission nobody is supposed to know anything about? Do you want me to continue or what?”

The doctor’s masculine laugh—unsuccessfully stifled—reveals a complete disbelief in the existence of the lunar base.

“So you don’t believe me. That’s okay with me, Doctor Grant. What’s crucial is the purpose of that base. I think that’s what led to my nightmares. They found a log written by someone who had worked there at the base.”

“A log? What do you mean?”

“Some guy who worked there. An agent. He kept a log. Typed out the whole thing.”

The documentary narrator says, “In addition to that ‘Clavius Cowboys’ image, one other electronic artifact found was tantalizing portions of a personal log left by a man who lived and worked within a base located far below the crater Clavius. We don’t know the man’s name, but he tells of a fantastic underground operation that will seem to most people as though it was pure science fiction.”

The documentary screen shows a deep stairwell of metal steps descending downward. The documentary narrator says, “The personal log found in the lowest levels of the lunar wreckage does not pinpoint when the base was built. The exact date of the destruction of the base took place is also not known. But, the portions of the personal log that survive suggest that some sort of violence at the top-secret military base explains why all its human occupants are now gone.”

Doctor Evelyn Grant asks, “You have had recurring nightmares that have something to do with that lunar base being destroyed?”

“Yes,” the young man replies with tears welling up in his eyes.

“Bad men. A very lonely location. Doing harm to other men,” the young patient explains to Doctor Grant. “Hurting them. Killing them.”

“And because of the nightmares, you fear that harm will come to you?” Doctor Grant asks.

“Yes. I’m sure that my fear is irrational. The documentary said the violence had origins in religion. The men went after those who would not accept the religion. Tortured them. Killed them. I’m not connected to their religion.”

“I’m glad that you understand, ” Doctor Grant explains. “Fear that is linked to religion is very common. There has been violence and killing based on religions for many centuries now. Ironic, of course. Most religions claim that they exist to bring people’s faith into focus and to honor a deity or some universal truth. But, many end up causing hurt. And death.”

“The documentary said this was about a new religion. This new religion was based upon a discovery on the moon about extraterrestrial life,” the young man explains.

As the screen shows color photographs of the underground wreckage, the documentary narrator says, “The personal log tells about men working underground on the moon. They started a new religion just for the men who lived and worked at the base beneath the lunar surface. The religion claimed that a new supreme being had been found in a far distant galaxy. Some of their own crew members on the moon were thought to have become holy men. It is believed that they could float in the air and perform miracles such as repairing damaged skin or broken bones.”

Doctor Grant says, “It’s all just fiction. Imaginary powers. A deity who was invented by human beings. A very familiar story.”

“You’re saying that all religions are the same? Everyone who is religious chooses to believe in fake gods? Created by mortal men for reasons we may never understand.”

Doctor Grant replies, “Well, some things we know from history. Ancient Roman leaders used religion to control the people needed to serve their empire. And, in the 21st century, some religious people chose to believed the falsehood that human sexuality could be thought of as a sickness or as something evil. These religious people further believed that if you said prayers and went to see specialists approved by the religions, then you could change a person’s sexuality so that they would become holy.”

The young patient asks, “Are you making this up?”

Doctor Grant replies, “Religion may all just be fiction. Populated by imaginary beings created by mankind to manipulate and control people using fear.  We live in 2198. We’re very logical now. No primitive beliefs needed. But, some still cling to religions even today.”

“What about my nightmares? What if they continue?”

“To start, I can prescribe 30 minutes of mental massage for you. No drugs. A very relaxing experience. Like a ‘brain vacation’ for you. Hook you up at the center. Just downstairs. They put this device on the top and back of your head. Feels great. If you like it, and you want more, let me know.”

The documentary camera zooms in on the damaged image of the 5 hanged cowboys and the narrator explains”Perhaps the truth about this image is that it depicted some sort of religious ritual. A human sacrifice. Like in ancient times. To appease what was thought to be some angry deity, religious leaders took human lives. Often involving beheadings of infidels. Or, hanging young disbelievers by their necks until they were dead. Just for refusing to accept the wisdom of the elders.”

– – – – – – – – – – – –

The documentary narrator says, “Other electronic records found in the wreckage below the crater report that crew members who formed the new religion for Baja Clavius were rounded up and executed one-by-one as the violence erupted that resulted in the destruction of the base. But, there are no photographs that survived.”

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Episode 19 is next
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