How do you keep a secret? Imagine a secret as a pebble. Now, get a bucket and fill it up with rocks - some so sharp that they lacerate the skin on the lightest touch, others smooth and mild and effortlessly bland, still others shimmering with tiny flecks of red. Next, throw your pebble in the bucket. A stone hidden among stones, surrounded by flashy distractions. Finally, the hard part: carry the bucket with you at all times, wherever you go, and never let anyone notice that your eyes linger for a little bit longer than normal on one inconspicuous pebble.
Life’s a violent place. Every bruise, every punch is a delicate reminder of its fragility. I was slumped over one sunrise and noticed my blood shimmered neon in the hazy light. Not sure if I was going insane, or if one of my kidneys ruptured. I squinted through the colors; they formed into words and I saw your story written in the lymph. Regret quickly threaded through my lungs: greedy, imperious regret, coasting through my mind like a triumphant armada of inadequacy. Their sails were tattered, and the pattern of rips in the fabric spelled out one horrific sentence: “I wish I could have attended a few more of your moments.”
Genuinely, if you saw yourself the way I saw you, you’d never shut up about how great you are. You’d count the days left until your hands parted ways. Small events would punctuate the silence, you’d photograph the butterflies that funneled through the violence. You’d never ask for much - time alone is triumph. You’d perceive yourself in every oil spill, a kaleidoscope against a golden backdrop in the mud. You’d find yourself in every raindrop that breaks a drought to form a flood.
Here is one of the scarce moments I did witness. My dear reader, imagine this scene: sunlight pours from above, a weeping artery ensconced in smoke and jasmine. Wind whips chaotically across the field of war. A surviving soldier sprints along the smoldering ruins, collecting secrets from his fallen comrades as they donate their last exhales to some esoteric deity of carbon dioxide. The way his fluffy hair bounces as he runs traces a sine curve in reality’s horrific marrow. I watch carefully, unable to pull the trigger. This must be how Oppenheimer felt when he observed the first atomic detonation. Shadows transfixed by light, immaterial rendered immortal.
Why harvest secrets? What value lies within a person's dying words?
For years, our sides have clashed. Whatever dwindling dregs of humanity that remain still seem profoundly intent on finding new and creative ways to cause each other suffering, and we are no different. This is a normal state of affairs. It is, in fact, one of the few proud traditions that we preserved from our ancestors, along with canned vegetables, food poisoning, and sarcasm. And yet, this was a turning point. I must talk to the secret collector, I resolved. Truthfully, I had considered this for a while. As the days lengthened and the Daito grew more ravenous, the need for action grew.
It was time to resurrect yet another proud tradition, passed down like a blazing, glorious torch through the strata of generations: betrayal.