They wandered ‘round the blaze.
“How’d it happen?”
“No one knows, except for him.”
Shined a flashlight on a man hanging by the throat in the darkness, his body slightly cooked by the flames.
“They say no one keeps secrets like the dead.”
“It’s not entirely true.”
He let the man down, and opened up the mouth after they had laid him down upon the ground. The fire illuminated his face, he wasn’t so old now, was he? Though, none too young either. The lips were dark blue, lack of oxygen, the night cold had made sure of it and the fire cooked the color in. They were coarse and had not felt a woman’s kiss in years. Inside his mouth was a small note that had been folded thrice over. Upon the page was nothing but a word that could not be spoken without being heard. She began-
“Don’t.” He said, quickly, calmly, firmly, and it was left alone.
There weren’t any words left either, until at last he spoke again.
“There are other ways, god, we’ve tried for years, since the beginning of time some say- some, believe. We used to put live human sacrifices in glass vats, boil them until the blood rose from out their senses and sealed them away. Glass breaks easily though, the spell was weak, hard to store so many human sized vats. Plus they had to be boys born under a blue gibbous moon when they reached the age of nineteen. At least that’s what they believed. So specific, so arbitrary it always seems- these funny little traditions. Oh, I’m pulling your leg, there was no such thing, no vats of glass. What would be the point of that? But the dead did keep secrets, still do. Only there’s no spell about it. Or so the Tellers say. It certainly seems to follow that as long as they stay dead so too will your secret remain hidden. Benjamin Franklin was a Teller, he knew of plenty of other ways, and despite his rampant humanitarianism, he was a large proponent of the Dead Man’s Secret. God only knows how many secrets that man must have kept. How many he must have taken to the grave…”
“What about the trees?”
“What?!” Like a bee stung him, thankfully he was turned away, caught himself, turned surprise into incredulousness and turned around. With a smile… “What are you talking about?”
“I heard there’s a tree- you can’t find it, but it’s there. It’ll find you when you’ve lost your way. It whispers or something, and it will hold your secrets.”
“Kinda silly don’t you think?”
“Not quite as silly as putting teenagers in vats.”
“We have always had a fascination with bottling things.”
She gives him a look.
“Ok, ok, it was a joke. Now what about these trees?”
“I heard it from my grandpa when I was a little girl, he told me there are these trees, and you tell it your secret, you put it in a knot in the tree and cover it up with mud.”
“You really put so much stock in these childhood stories?”
“I don’t know, I mean, no. Not at all. It was amusing when I was a little girl and I used to tell secrets to the trees and stuff them with mud, but my secrets never stayed secret for very long.”
“Should’ve tried a vat.”
“Funny. But all these things that have been happening lately and well it just reminds me of my grandfather’s stories. He said that every so often a bug might crawl up and hollow out a hole to make a home of the knot, and the secret would fall out. And when it did, strange things would happen.”
“What kinda things?”
“He never said. Or if he did I can’t remember. But I feel like things are happening…”
“I can’t say exactly what, I just feel like, I don’t know, things are happening that aren’t exactly, natural. Sorry, I know it’s not a lot to go on, it’s just kind of a feeling you know. Like the hair pricking up on the back of my neck or something.”
“Yea. I getcha. You look a little tired kiddo. How ‘bout you get yerself some rest. I’ll finish here.”
“Alright, partner. See you bright and early in the AM. Don’t forget the report.”
“Yea, I got it. Don’t forget my coffee tomorrow.”
“Two creams, one sugar. Tall. Got it…” Staring down at the corpse, then back to the flames. “Seriously though, some weird shit is happening man… See you in the morning.”
She goes, she’s gone.
He waits, to make sure.
Alone, he dials a number into his cell phone. Someone picks up. “Hello? Yeah, I found it. It’s still intact. Nobody knows. No one saw me. My partner? She doesn’t know shit. Nothing to worry about. It’s NOT a problem. Anyhow, where to next? What? …The department store? Ok… Yes. Right away.”
Hangs up. “Shit…”