The Spy

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Secrets need a place to be kept, where light cannot reach and the world will not notice them. Such a place needs strong doors and thick walls, for secrets are like prisoners, restless in confinement and always threatening to pollute the world with their toxic truth.

Submitted: September 24, 2010

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Submitted: September 24, 2010

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Secrets need a place to be kept, where light cannot reach and the world will not notice them. Such a place needs strong doors and thick walls, for secrets are like prisoners, restless in confinement and always threatening to pollute the world with their toxic truth.
 
My father was such a place. And then his tortured remains were discarded by a roadside, to be picked over by crows. The secrets he held remained, at least for a time, in captivity. He had entrusted them to me before his pursuers found him out and went to work on his body. Having already released his burden, their terrible efforts were in vain, and my father was able to die in peace despite them.
 
I’m not my father, and I soon realized the strength needed to segregate truth from existence is hardly human. There was no point in kidding myself. I had to pass the secrets into another repository. And so I wrote them down. He had warned me not to. Making secrets concrete is like taking prisoners out of solitary and letting them roam in the exercise yard. The light of the world shines upon them, and their restlessness to escape intensifies.
 
I tried to write in code. A silly, nonsense code for which there could be no possible key; something only I would understand. But it was useless. The disturbances in my mind were just as strong, and committing a lot of nonsense to paper is no more an act of transferring a secret than doing nothing at all. I was still the jailor of truth.
 
So I tried again, this time making a complex cipher that took months to get right. When it was too good, the secrets wouldn’t move, and when it was too weak I could feel them reaching out to the world. I had to build a cipher with strong doors and thick walls, but which could, at least in principle, be breached. Truth would accept nothing less.
 
When I had finished, I felt a release that must have been similar to my father’s when he had passed the secrets to me. But now I had a new worry. A hidden fortress is far stronger than one that sits in plain sight. Where to hide the book? I changed the hiding place so many times I feared I would forget where it was myself, and worried the truth would escape without my knowing.
 
The burden of keeping the hiding place secret was, of course, a secret itself, with its own insistence to be told. But it seemed like a much lighter one to handle. I knew that even if I gave it up under the kind of conditions my father had suffered, there was still the cipher to break. It was an immense relief, and I have to admit a source of some pride, when one day I realized I’d forgotten how the cipher worked and couldn’t reconstruct it. All the intricate complexities had not been for nothing.
 
And yet the book’s location still fidgeted in my consciousness. I found myself addicted to subterfuge and deceit as if in compensation for my insecurity. I had a brief affair with a friend of my father’s, for no other reason than to have a different and less consequential secret to guard. I started lying at work, little lies at first, but then bigger and scarier ones. I embezzled money from my employer – not a large amount to them, but a small fortune to me. I stashed the money inside the book. Perhaps if they discovered the money they would ignore the container, or so I reasoned.
 
And then a day came when my conceits were exposed, and some of those little secrets, long itching to be abroad, managed to tunnel under the wire. A friend overheard a call, a neighbour noticed me coming home late, a smell - a faint ever so undetectable scent - gave me away to a colleague’s wife. In turns, I lost my job, my friends, and – after another half-discovered truth landed me in court and minor jail time – my liberty. My life was in ruins, but the book remained hidden, and so did I.
 
I spent the small fortune out of necessity, but eventually I stopped thinking about secrets, stopped looking over my shoulder, forgot to fear every car pulling up at the kerbside. I even forgot the book itself. I had found something else, or someone else: an honest, caring someone, who brought me happiness and peace. I started to live a life like the one I’d had before my father’s death. And it was bliss.
 
My husband gave me children, and they consumed me. I didn’t think about the book for years, even as I reminisced about my father. I had re-written the end of his life so effectively I’d almost forgotten the truth.
 
But forgotten or not, truths don’t die, and secrets do not lie still. My father had sacrificed himself to bury those secrets, to hide them in the farthest reaches of his mind, to keep apart what is with what should be. But they would wriggle and wrest their way back to light. My father’s struggle had been as pointless as the flickering of life on a spinning rock whose separated existence must, in the end, be embraced by the sun it hurtles towards each day.
 
When they came for Peter I had no idea. They said his real name was Pietr, and that he was not at work. After they finished questioning me and let me see the children, I rushed back to the house. I tore through the heavy boxes in the attic, throwing them aside as if they were Styrofoam till I reached the very dankest, darkest hidden corner under the eaves, a place where no light could reach, but where the truth confronted me with shocking brilliance. Where the secrets had been held, there was only an empty cell. 
 


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