Gadsen Tunnel, 1959

by M. Bennardo

I. Collision

At approximately nine o'clock on the evening of November 12, 1959, my car, while traveling due west through Gadsen Tunnel in New Mexico, struck another.  Ten or fifteen seconds before the collision, the electric lights in the tunnel had dimmed.  As instructed, I took this as a warning of the possible sudden appearance of obstructions in the roadway, and I reduced the speed of my vehicle accordingly.  Despite this, I was unable to prevent my car from running head on into another that appeared traveling due east through the same tunnel.  The rate of my car had slowed to approximately fifteen miles per hour at the time of the collision.  I was unable to observe the relative speed of the other vehicle.

During the impact, my body was thrown forwards and my glasses were disarrayed on my face.  I struck my head on something, which was painful but did not cause me to lose consciousness.  Later I discovered while bathing that my restraining harness had left a sharp red welter across my body.

The windshield of my car fractured and partially shattered on the passenger side.  The hood was knocked free of its latch and a brief spurt of steam or smoke escaped from beneath.  Further examination would later reveal that my right front headlamp had been broken and that the front of my car had dented against the engine block of the other car.  A full report of the damage sustained is recorded in the Department of Energy's official transcript of the event, but these are the major items of interest.

The other car was far less sturdily built than mine, and its components appeared to be made largely from plastic and aluminum.  The front of this car crumpled irresistibly and was twisted out of shape.  The hood was thrown clear off its hinges and both headlights were pushed out of position and rolled up, giving the car a sort of fish-eyed appearance.  The windshield fractured almost to opacity, but did not shatter.  During the impact, a large white bag or balloon inflated to fill the cockpit of the car, which resulted in a convex distortion of the windshield.  These items comprise all those that are listed in the transcript.

II. First interaction

A few moments after the collision, the other motorist ("subject") and myself exited our vehicles.  Subject was wearing a pair of dark slacks, a light windbreaker, and a shirt of some sort that I am unable to recall. Although the lights in the tunnel had returned to their full brilliance, I could not see clearly what color his clothes were.  Subject's upper body was covered in a white powdery substance, which he continued to wipe out of his eyes for much of our interview.  Subject stood for a  while, steadying himself against his car, while I performed a similar activity opposite him.

The official transcript records that I was the first to speak.  According to that transcript, my words were, "Are you all right?"  Subject's response was to point at me and then touch the crown of his head.  He said, "You're bleeding," whereupon I touched my own head in the place that he had indicated and found that it was so.  At this point, the transcript states that I assured subject the cut was nothing and then repeated my initial question.

In my original notes, the interaction is described in a slightly different order.  The main difference is that I recalled subject speaking first, informing me that I was bleeding.  My notes do not record body language or gestures, but it can be surmised that I touched my skull and asked if subject was all right concurrently.  I then told subject that my cut was nothing and asked my question again.

The differences between the two versions likely arise from the emphasis placed by the investigators on the question of who spoke first.  In my first interview, I reported the event as it was written in my notes.  I amended the order of events after the investigators asked me to add also any gestures I could recall, as the original order seemed to be confused. I do not know which version is more accurate.

Another strange dissonance in my memory is that I recall standing perfectly opposite of subject -- that is to say, I remember being on the passenger side of my car while talking to him.  I did not record this in my notes, but I strongly felt this was the case.  In truth, I must have been standing diagonally from subject, as we both exited our vehicles from our own doors.

Other memories I have of the event are also inconsistent with my impression of being on the passenger side, but I have difficulty picturing the scene otherwise.  The transcript correctly records the relative positions of both subject and myself as being cater-cornered.

After subject and I were assured that we were both more shaken than hurt, we proceeded to examine the damage to the cars, each of us on our own side.  It was not necessary for me to look very closely at his car before my original impression of its appearance was confirmed.  I had never seen the like of his car before, and do not expect to see one like it until I am a very old man.

The transcript states that subject began to talk.  Upon seeing that my left headlamp was still illuminated, subject said, "I can't believe I never saw you."  Subject shook his head and continued, "I must have fallen asleep." Subject seemed to be perplexed at that thought.

According to the transcript, I said something similar.  According to my original notes, I only grunted.  I am almost positive that I said little or nothing to subject at this point in our interview, but I remembered the scene differently when I described it to the investigators.  I now believe that this portion of the transcript was invented.

Subject observed that my car did not look very much damaged.  I recall him knocking his fist against the steel hood, but this image survives in neither my notes nor the transcript, as it is completely absurd.  Subject had only recently had difficulty standing, and it is unlikely that he would have behaved so cavalierly.  However, I am certain of subject's next words.  He said, "Boy, that sure scared the hell out of me."  He pressed the palm of his hand against his forehead.  "I actually thought that I had died when I hit you."  These words are repeated verbatim in both my notes and the transcript.

At this point, I reached inside my car to access my glove box.  On seeing me do this, subject approached and asked if I had a telephone.  I answered in the negative.

III. Interlude

The action of reaching for my glove box is another that I seem to remember incorrectly.  The only image that I can recall is one of leaning in the passenger window to open the glove box.  This is consistent with my impression of standing on that side of the car, but it is impossible to accept.  All of my car's windows were closed that night, and none of them (excepting the windshield) were broken in any way that would allow me to pass so much as a hand through them.  The only way I could have accessed my glove box would have been to climb back into the driver's seat and reach across to it.  In fact, I distinctly remember exiting the car again from the driver side door with the gun in my hand.

The gun had been placed in my glove box by the Department of Energy some months earlier once the nature of the anomalies had been at least mostly understood.  Everyone on the project with security clearance had received the guns, along with instruction on how, when, and why they should be used.  According to that instruction, I was to shoot subject to death as soon as I could safely manage it.

The project's reactor -- by some mechanism that I am sure was never fully understood -- seemed to occasionally transfer objects from the future to the present time.  The transfer was instantaneous but temporary, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to several days, after which time the object vanished again.  It was unclear what happened to these objects when they vanished, but theories suggested that they might have been returned to their own time, erased from organized existence, or transferred to some other arbitrary time.

The effect was first noticed when motorists in strange cars began appearing around the Gadsen Tunnel.  Some of these motorists remained in the present time long enough to be interrogated.  Their responses indicated that the tunnel would be used, probably beginning in the late 1970s, as part of a sparsely traveled highway.

Working under the assumption that the transferees returned to their own time after disappearing, the Department of Energy determined that it was necessary to eliminate any of them who had extended contact with or physical evidence of anyone or anything associated with the project.  By colliding with my car, subject had gathered physical evidence of my existence, and it was my responsibility to prevent as much of that evidence as possible from surviving.  Were any damaging evidence to survive -- no matter how late in history it should again reappear -- the resulting investigation would no doubt be damnatory in the extreme to any participants in the project still left living.

Therefore, I exited my car again from the driver side with the gun in my hand pressed flat against my body.  The darkness and the pains I took prevented subject from seeing the gun, even though he was now staring at me.

IV. Second interaction

While I retrieved the gun from the glove box, subject had walked around the back of his car and had come around to the same side as me.  The official transcript records that subject now looked at me suspiciously, but it is not really possible to make that assertion.  Even in the moments when I could most clearly see subject's face, I was unable to determine exactly what it reflected.

At the time I felt that subject was looking at me suspiciously, but my mind was also occupied firstly with concealing the gun and secondly with convincing myself to use it.  I believe now that subject was more confused and frightened than he was suspicious.  I believe that he approached me not in order to threaten or intimidate me, but because I was the only other nearby human.

Subject's approach unnerved me considerably and I began to wish that I had put the gun in my pocket.  Both my notes and the transcript agree that he next said, looking at my car, "They don't make cars like that anymore."  At the time, that statement seemed an accusation, as if he had discovered what had happened to him.  Consequently, it is presented as such in the transcript.  My original notes contain only the words and no extraneous presentation.  Upon reading them again, it strikes me that the comment was most likely an innocent one, and that subject probably was attempting to draw a response from me, as I had theretofore been unnaturally quiet.

I did respond, but because I thought that subject was trying to bait me, I did so belligerently.  I did not show the gun, but I asked in an angry voice, "When are you from?"  In my notes, the question is phrased, "What year are you from?"  In the transcript, it is rendered, "What year is it?" Whatever I asked, subject was visibly confused, and so I continued asking the same question -- or possibly variations like those shown above -- until he told me what year he thought it was.

"It's 2003," said subject.  The transcript states that he said this frantically, but I can only confidently assert that he had stopped advancing towards me and was instead backing away.  Upon hearing the year, I could not keep from doing some subtraction.  I calculated that 2003 would not arrive for another forty-four years and that I would be seventy-six years old when it did, were I still alive.  This information was not supposed to have any effect on whether or not subject should be eliminated since it was not clear exactly what time subject would be transferred to when he vanished again.

While I was subtracting, subject looked around himself.  The transcript implies that this is the moment when subject's suspicions congealed into something definite -- that is to say, that he added together all of what he might have found strange in my clothes, my car, possible visible differences in the tunnel, and the circumstances surrounding the collision.  The transcript states that although subject may not have guessed what had happened, he had certainly guessed that something had happened.  My memory is no longer able to completely certify this view.  Subject certainly looked about himself and then at me with an expression of wonder, but it is not clear he had settled on any conclusions.  As there was no exchange of words during this episode, my original notes contain no mention of it, except for the single word "dog."

That word "dog" refers to an event in my childhood when a playmate and myself were suddenly confronted with an irate dog.  We had been playing in some yard or lot and had turned around to find a large mastiff snarling at us.  Upon seeing the dog, my friend had moved slightly forward and laterally so that he had placed himself just between the dog and me. Whether consciously or instinctively, my friend was protecting me.

What I have never told anyone is that I had no similar concerns for my friend.  Instead, my only thought was one of comfort -- that if the dog attacked, I would likely be able to escape while it tangled with my friend.  Fortunately, after only a short moment the dog ran off and left us alone for reasons that were known only to it.  This event was the image that came to my mind when subject looked me in the face again.

The investigators asked me to explain the note, and I told them the story above, omitting any mention of my friend.  I suggested that subject had reminded me of the dog.  Naturally enough, the transcript contains nothing of this gibberish.  I mention it here because I never felt that subject was anything like the dog.  Instead, as I leveled the gun at him, subject reminded me overwhelmingly of my young friend.

Here, subject opened his mouth and, I believe, formed part or all of the word "what."  Beyond this point, my original notes record nothing.  It is not incidental that this is also the point at which the official transcript veers sharply away from reality.  The transcript states that I then repeatedly pulled the trigger of the gun, firing point blank into subject, until I emptied the magazine.  According to the transcript, subject and his car vanished while I was firing, but after at least one or two bullets had struck him.  This is not true.

Subject and his car disappeared after I raised the gun, but before I had decided to shoot.  Upon raising the gun, I had suddenly doubted whether it was loaded or not, as I had never before needed to use it and had not even taken it out of the glove box before.  Immediately after subject disappeared, my hesitation did so as well, and I then emptied the magazine into the nothingness in the tunnel.

V. Appendix

The Gadsen Tunnel passes through one-quarter mile of solid stone in the Sacramento Mountains in southern New Mexico.  It was built by the Union Pacific Railroad in the late nineteenth century as part of a transcontinental train route, but was abandoned when a more economical one was surveyed.  The United States government acquired the tunnel in the early twentieth century, and the Department of Energy expanded it to house a highly classified nuclear studies project beginning after the close of the Second World War.

The full extent of the project was not known -- as far as I know -- to anyone who worked in Gadsen Tunnel.  Scientists and technicians were cleared to have access to only the portions of the project on which they worked.  The project was decommissioned at the end of 1959.  When I encountered subject, the reactor was being shut down and I was on my way home.

When the project was dismantled, all evidence of its existence was obliterated.  The desire for complete erasure of the project (excepting certain sealed and coded files) precluded the Department of Energy from taking special precautions to prevent access to Gadsen Tunnel in later years.  The state of New Mexico subsequently used the tunnel as part of their highway system, which ultimately created more problems (as shown) than were probably necessary.

There is no official count of the number of transferees who were transported by the reactor from their time to the present.  However, eight (not including subject) were reported eliminated over the course of the final six months of the project.  The rest (including subject) were permitted to vanish again after the effect wore off.  The result of this second vanishing -- whether it ended or preserved the life of the transferee -- was never determined.

As far as I know, my account of what passed in Gadsen Tunnel has never been much doubted.  Whether those forty-four years will tell or not tell the truth is a question that remains at the mercy of the vagaries of history. Some version will no doubt eventually surface, but I hardly expect to survive long enough to find it as unrecognizable as it no doubt will be.

A.T., 1960

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