The Secret

Mary-Jean Harris
It is no longer the time to hide. We must reveal ourselves!” the young man announced. He pounded his fist on the wooden table in front of him and glared at his comrades demandingly. Although the novice of the group, he held a distinctive pride that most of these perceptive men possessed.

An eruption of objections with immense dissatisfaction projected across the room. Disgruntled men lashed fervent protestations that echoed through the stone walls.
“Enough!” cried Andrew, the leader of the guild.

The men fell silent and settled back down in their high-backed chairs, which contained intricate carvings elaborating the wood. Impressions of monks working zealously on scrolls, nobles dancing in courtyards of roses wearing finery only the richest could afford, knights slaying unicorns and other enchanting beasts, and many more revelations and events of the day. The room of the guild was built to hold complete secrecy—no one could hear a word of the avid conversations held inside.

“Thank you,” Andrew said, once the men had given him their complete attention. He turned his sharp, wise eyes to the younger man who had interrupted. “No,” Andrew declared, “We will not share the Secret.”

Biting his lip to prevent eviction from the secret union, the guild’s novice kept his mouth shut.

In the centre of the engraved wooden table lay the Secret. It was an elaborate manuscript placed on a delicate surrounding material of silk so to protect it from unnecessary scratches. The Secret was ancient, yet with vehement care through the ages, looked like it was just bound. Accurately placed letters were pressed into the dark leather binding, and were filled with golden, shining ink. On the pages comprised in the book, which each guild member could read only once, were colourful illustrations and careful lettering. Each page was adorned with masterful sketching that illuminated the grand Secret. This Secret was what the guild was preserving and protecting. Men belonging to this critical organization devoted their lives to concealed existence, with their goal focused on the Secret.
Another voice broke the sober soundlessness and threaded another uncommon novelty through the familiar, unchanging attitudes.

“With all due respect, Andrew, I do not agree. The longer we remain hidden and non-expanding the more likely it is for us to be destroyed. We have come so far and can breach out even farther. The more trusted men know of the Secret, the better we can keep it from being destroyed,” James, one of Andrew’s closest supporters, revealed.

Worried eyes met around the room, frightened of what the implications were. The Secret was only meant for the chosen few, not for the world to dissect and throw carelessly around without contemplation.

Most of the dedicated men expressed disgust: “We have no reason to share the Secret with others. If we are to expand, we must do so with the great care we always have and only choose the best to guard the Secret,” John, a brusque man with cropped black hair and jade rings lined with strips of gold stated. He gave an appropriately respectful glance toward Andrew. “Andrew is correct. The Secret is only for the best; any others will never appreciate its noble significance.”

A contented murmur penetrated the room, as middle-class men exchanged reassuring comments. Andrew nodded, tugging his long, whitened beard instinctively.
James shook his head in desperation. “What if we are killed?” he started, “What if the plague comes back? With us dead, the Secret will fall into the wrong hands and could be destroyed. The best of the villagers are already here—we will not find many men better than us. Whenever two of us die, which will not be an unusual occurrence noting our ages, only one is found to take our place. We must breach farther to more common men or risk demolition.”

The tyro of the group, confidence rising again, stood and added, “The guild does not belong in the shadows any longer.”

“We have succeeded for over a century and will not fail,” affirmed Andrew, “The plague will never take everyone, and we are not negligent enough to be all killed. No—we will keep our same procedures and remain hidden.”

John nodded in agreement, and eyed the room for those who wished to dispute. His jade rings flashed gold in the firelight.

“And what of Simon? He left us because we were not doing anything at our meetings,” James started up again, pushing himself up from his chair, his wrinkled hands clutching the table.
“Thomas is correct,” he said, nodding to the most recent member of the guild, “We do not belong in the shadows.”

“Simon was old! He would have left us in any circumstances!” John interposed. He narrowed his eyes with a conniving air asserting his superiority.

“He was no older than I,” James announced, glaring down at John, “He left because we were being negligent to the true safety of the Secret.”

Again, a fury of debate heated the room, blasting the air with shots of rage. As Andrew respectfully commanded for silence, the Secret sat on the table, unmoved by the commotion unsettling the men around it. Its gold letters flickered orange and red in the light of candlesticks in the dark, chilly crypt.

“We must not stray from the rules of the guild!” interjected a devout, ancient member.
Yet another ancient member spoke up, “If the rules are not changed, we will be put to ruins!”

Without significant gain of either side, the men continued their argument, Andrew persisting on impossible quiet. Some men necessitated on creating a copy of the Secret for safekeeping. Others abhorred the idea with zeal and demanded that the true Secret be locked forever in the crypt. As if quarrelling for the well-being of the human race, the guild projected concerns for the Secret’s containment and spread. Questions never spoken in the hundred years of the guild took hold of the men, concerns that were persistently lingering on the sidelines, yet were always brushed away. Forever patient and cooperative, the Secret lay on its expensive bed of silk, holding promise for all those who were consumed in its pages.

Meanwhile, a diminutive draft of air pushed its way through a new crack in the door. The candles swayed almost immeasurably as the door silently opened. The old guild members did not hear a sound. They could not hear the crack of a fire being lit above their already fiery arguments. Then, without prior warning, the room exploded in a fire and a blast of black smoke. The tables and chairs burned to cinders and the thick stone walls flung into the village. The conversation stopped immediately, as well as the dozen quickly beating hearts that surrounded the table and the one just outside the door who had started the flame. All evidence of the guild was destroyed in the vicious explosion.

No one of the living has, or ever will know the Secret of the guild. The guild succeeded. The Secret was now safe from prying human eyes. It will thus remain a secret eternally.

© 2009 Mary-Jean Harris. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Mary-Jean Harris attends Nepean High School, and has written short stories for the past three years. Writing is one of her major interests. She writes fantasy, science-fiction, and historical short stories that are perceptive and exciting. She has previously been published in Polar Expressions, Discovery Girls, and Teen Ink.
Black Lantern Publishing © 2008. Design by Pocket