The Secret Got Out

By Charlie Chitty

As the interview wound down, Neil Armstrong made the joke that he knew the viewers would enjoy. In fact, they always did.

“And whilst it’s likely that we’ll be back at some point.” said Neil. “I can confirm that the moon is, contrary to popular belief, not made of cheese.”

The audience members laughed and Chris Tassler smiled. He imaged all the audiences across America laughing at this grizzled old explorer, some older audience members remembering the Apollo 11 landing with Buzz Aldrin and telling their children and grandchildren about it. Even better, sometimes they’d record it for when they had a moment in their damn lives that wasn’t taken up with those bleepy mobiles or stupid video games. It wasn’t ratings, but it was almost as good.

Chris suddenly remembered he had to talk.

“I’m sure glad of that, Neil! Thanks for coming in today!”


As the camera lights faded and Chris had to go to his next segment about a skateboarding puppy, he saw Neil muttering something out of the corner of his eye. It sounded like “Quick”.

After Alfie the pup had done a few skateboarding tricks, Brian had noted that the weather was “Cloudy with a high chance of rain despite the fact we’re in July, making it the perfect day to snuggle up in a corner of your house and sip a hot chocolate whilst listening to the rainfall.” and that was the news for the day.

Chris saw Neil after the show on his way back to his guest dressing room and he gave him a sly wink. Chris smiled back, before heading back to his own. And he sat, and he waited five minutes, and when he had an idea that perhaps Neil was decent, he went to go and knock on his door.

“Is it the sound guy? I took my mic off and put it in the purple box just like-

“No, it’s Chris.”

“Oh? Come on in!”

He entered Neil’s dressing room and was immediately taken by just how different Neil looked. Make-up off, suit replaced with stonewashed jeans and a t-shirt, Neil could easily be mistaken for just some old guy instead of the first man on the moon.

“I’m a big fan.” Chris started. And it was true, he’d always loved astronauts. “And I was just wondering if I could trouble you for a quick signature?”

He held out a white pad and a biro. Neil dutifully scribbled on it and handed it back.

“If you think it’ll be worth something in the next few years, I’ll have you know that I’m still doing my morning jogs and feel fit as a fiddle.”

Chris laughed at the joke, somewhat dutifully.

“I was also wondering- “Yes?”

“I was wondering what you muttered under your breath at the end of the interview? When the cameras were going to the next segment?”

Neil stared at Chris. His eyes shone.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

And with that, he got up and left the room.

Half of his belongings were still on the dresser.

A week later, Chris Tassler got a telephone call. He never answered it, for he was in the garden under the summer sun, watering his freesias. But he did get the voicemail.

“Chris, I need to talk to you. I can’t hold this secret in anymore. You have to know. The whole damn world has to know, before this whole damn house of cards comes crashing down. Meet me at the little pub at the end of your drive. And watch out for people in dark sunglasses.”

And so Chris found himself walking down to The Abbott Inn, in the pouring rain, that very next day.

He found Neil Armstrong in the back of the pub, looking out slightly wistfully at the pub garden as the rain lashed down. There was something about him that looked slightly defeated, and even his bright yellow macintosh looked oddly weary.

“I suppose you already have some idea of what I said.” began Neil.

“Quick?” he replied. “There’s something bad coming, that we need to prepare for?”

Immediately, Chris’s heart rate tripled. Something was coming. His brain ran off thoughts about asteroid belts, exploding stars, even-

“Have they found us?”

Neil blinked.


“The, uh, you know.”

“The what?”


Neil, laughed. A full bodied laugh that somehow made Chris’s heart rate slow.

“Oh, you thought I said ‘quick’! No, no, no, my dear boy!”

“Well, that’s a relief.”

“I said Quark.” Chris’s heart rate quadrupled. The quarks are expanding. Protons are dying. Reality itself is folding and we’ll all-

“The structure of a proton?” he asked, hoping that Neil wouldn’t notice his concern. “Up Quarks and Down Quarks like we learned in Science?”

Now Neil looked impatient.

“No. I mean Quark.”

And with that, Neil reached down into his backpack and pulled out a plastic pot. Chris realised some time later, that it was a variant of a popular yoghurt snack.

And Chris sat there, with the first man on the moon, as he tucked into a Sainsbury’s version of a Muller Corner.

In between swallows, he spoke.

“You’ve probably been wondering why cafes are starting to sell Almond, Soya, Coconut or other kinds of useless milks that taste awful, right? And you’ve probably wondered why the weather has been so erratic lately, yes?”

Chris nodded, looking at the rain outside as it splashed onto the patio. The decorative candles in their glass Coke bottles hissed and one went out in a thin puff of smoke.

“It has been odd.” he replied.

“Yeah, well, NASA are preparing the population for it.”

“You’ve lost me.”

Neil considered, chewing his words as he chewed a dried apricot from the corner pocket of his yoghurt.

“Of course, the moon was never made out of cheese. Space has no oxygen, and so the resultant ball you see in the sky is more the texture of soured yoghurt. Quark. The quark, as few people know, came from the bolide that hit earth and-

“Eliminated the dinosaurs?”

“Dinosaurs don’t exist,” said Neil Armstrong. “Please keep up, Mr Tassler.”

Chris opened his mouth, but the words just failed. Neil Armstrong continued.

“The Gigacows, bovine monstrosities with nine hundred udders, were killed by the impact of the bolide and the seas, kilometres upon kilometres of milky marshes, were thrust by the trajectory of our planet into space.”

Neil smiled at me, waiting for the response.

“You’re telling me,” Chris began. “That the Earth isn’t made of cheese?”

“Correct.” said Neil Armstrong.

“Because it’s actually made out of yoghurt?”

“Correct.” said Neil Armstrong.

Chris laughed.

Neil smiled.

“It’s fine that you don’t believe me, because you’ll all be faced with the truth in just a matter of weeks. The chief scientists of the world have tried to stop it, but nothing will stop the impact.”

Chris felt the colour draining from his face.

Neil pulled out a picture from his backpack. The rain continued to patter outside and Chris stared mournfully at the pint of Monk’s Beard that he no longer wanted to drink.

“You see this?” said Neil, pointing at the picture and grinning. “Ever wonder about the shadow?”

Chris stared at the picture, one he was familiar with but was always so grainy on television or in books.

The shadow of the flag wasn’t a shadow.

“It’s a patch of blackcurrant jam!” Neil laughed. “Buzz took some preserves that his wife made us on the Apollo mission and-

“This is an awful joke, and however much they’re paying you, you’ve sold out your integrity and any respect that I had for you.”

Chris could feel himself shaking slightly and began to realise how angry he was, his hands gripping the wooden table so hard that they turned white.

Neil looked taken aback.

“I’m not lying, Chris. Haven’t you ever wondered why our footprints went so deep into the bedrock? Haven’t you considered-


Chris was suddenly aware that two men at the bar had stopped talking and were staring at them.

And that he was standing up.

And that he’d sloshed his pint down his front.

Chris left, and never heard from Neil Armstrong again.

Two weeks later, The Splattering happened. The moon simply fell out of the sky and hit Earth.

“Nobody.” Chris said. “Could have seen it coming.”

The teleprompter continued as Chris felt his voice rise and swell whilst he read the casualties as they ran down the screen in bright neon lettering that he’d never forget until the day he died.

“Four hundred people with severe lactose intolerance were immediately hospitalised and three thousand towns and cities have been buried until the liquid debris from the moon.”

He swallowed.

“Seventy five percent of the dairy firms worldwide have had to make staff cutbacks due to the sudden accessibility of milk. We go live now to a milk farmer from Aberdeen. Angus, how are you?”

The studio camera cut to an angry man surrounded by curds. “Well to tell you honest, Chris, I’m bloomin’ irked! That was my livelihood that’s gone up in roons! Roons, I tell ye!”

“And is there anything positive that’s come out of this?” Chris said, from the London studio, his voice breaking ever so slightly.

“Well,” sighed the farmer. “There is one thing.”

He gestured to his puppy. “I’m sure you remember Alfie.”

Alfie the skateboarding puppy stood on his skateboard, panting happily as he crested wave after wave of quark.

“He’s taken quite a liking to surfing.”

The camera cut back to the London studio, and when it did so, millions of viewers saw a man in a suit with his head in his hands. His cue cards lay next to him, forgotten, as he sobbed.

Leave a Reply