…stories and poetry to touch, teach, & turn the heart toward truth.


The Toll of a Secret, Part 5

The passing of time allowed Daina to carefully evaluate her surroundings. She only ceased to sweat when darkness came, and by counting the times of darkness, she determined that she had been awake in this remote box of concrete for three days and two nights. From the heat and surrounding noise, she actually thought she might be somewhere in the tropics.

The sun set on the opposite side as the door, so she had the most light in the mornings. It was during this time that she took advantage of the sunlight glowing under the door to explore as much of the room as she could.

The building had a dirt floor, and at first she though she might be able to use her hands to dig under the wall. This hope was quickly dashed, though, when she realized that almost half of the wall was underground. The door actually began about three feet up from the dirt floor. She had carefully explored each wall, both windows, and the door at least twenty times to see if there was some way to escape. There absolutely was not.

Her recurring desire had been to try to dig with her hands under the wall—however deep that went—and then up and out the other side—like a dog under a fence, only worse. Once, she almost had her gumption built up to try it, but a new discovery had quickly stopped her.

She was being watched.

Hidden discretely in the left, rear corner of the room was a tiny glass dome, behind which hid a camera. If they were watching her, she would never manage to dig out of here before they came and stopped her. What would they do to her then?

After her initial shock and bewilderment at being kidnapped, Daina had realized that she wasn’t in the custody of some creep or serial killer. She felt more like an inmate, or even a lab rat! Once she had finally grown brave enough to leave her bed, she’d found military-style MREs in a box labeled, “6 Months Rations.”

The realization that she was intended to live here for at least that long, had sent her back into bed in paralyzing desperation. After crying it out for another several hours, she had simply reached a resolve.

She was thankful they hadn’t killed her. Aside from a small red dot in the soft crook of her left arm from an IV, she was unharmed and undefiled. All she had to do now was wait patiently until she discovered an escape. With that resolved, she continued to search her surroundings. She never let herself wonder if escape was even possible. Even if it was false, she needed something resembling hope.


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The Toll of a Secret, Part 4

After Lex left Nana’s, he went home to his flat and began devising a plan. How would he explain Daina’s disappearance to their friends and her family? A twinge of guilt tickled at the back of his mind, but he suppressed it anew with the knowledge that the secret must never again be exposed.

How could he continue his life as before? Could Nana expect him to continue as though nothing had happened? People would ask him about her. Her family would want to know what he knew. The law would doubtlessly consider him a suspect. What was he going to do? Oh, how he hated the truth of this whole mess. Why did this all have to happen to him?

Suppressing the questions he couldn’t answer, Lex forced himself to honestly review the entire circumstance. It all went back to the secret.

Lex’s father, Myron Walton, was a scientist—a nuclear physicist. He worked in some advanced form of radiation research that could redefine atomic warfare. As a legal front, his father’s company published groundbreaking cancer treatment research.

Before Lex had turned eighteen, he had known next to nothing about what had kept his father away from home throughout Lex’s abandoned childhood. On his eighteenth birthday, Lex had been given a special gift by Nana. The gift was a book that had now been passed down in his family for four generations.

According to Nana, the book contained information about the work that Lex’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had compiled through covert research so advanced and classified, most of the world had yet to even know it could exist. At first, Lex thought his grandmother was joking when she explained to him the importance of the book. The look in her eyes and the explanation that followed sufficiently convinced him otherwise.

“Lex, the information in this book would change the world as we know it for the grave worse. You must make certain, as the next generation of Waltons, that this information is never revealed to anyone. It may seem like a joke now, but this responsibility is a great one.”

In the years following, Lex had taken his responsibilities seriously—until he met Daina. She had one of the most infectious personalities he had ever encountered. When she looked into his eyes and asked him a question, he felt he could do nothing but tell her the truth. Despite his resentment for the truth, this grip Daina had on him was intoxicating.

One night, they were out together on a quiet walk. With his pretenses all lowered, he’d been careless enough to bring up the secret book with her. It hadn’t taken her long to pull out of him the information his grandmother had told him to keep hidden.

As Lex had done, Daina initially thought he was joking. To prove himself to her, he had taken her to the book and showed her its contents. Together they were able to work out some of the mathematical algorithms contained within.

Lex and Daina were both chemistry majors in college. It was how they had met—Lex following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather, and so on. Grasping even a small amount of the information held within that book, both of them realized quickly the depth of information it contained. It truly would change the world for the worse if the wrong people discovered what it said.

That’s when Daina had ruined everything. She had decided that she wanted to discover how to use the secret for good. Ever the idealist, Daina was convinced that if the right people were allowed access to this information, it could change the world for the better. Lex had to threaten her to convince her otherwise. He’d told her that not only could no one be trusted with his family’s secret, but the secret was not to be shared—regardless of the outcome. He’d told her that if anyone found out that she knew, they could both be killed. When he’d said it, he thought he was exaggerating to make his point. Now, he was unsure of that.

That day, Lex and Daina had promised to never reveal Daina’s knowledge of the book to anyone. Aside from a few off-handed mentions to him of the good she thought the secret could do, Daina had kept her side of the promise. She hadn’t pushed the issue.

In the end, he was the traitor. He might have found her idealistic notions annoying, but she didn’t deserve this. The full truth of what he’d done—knowing what could become of Daina—filled him with rage. How could he have been so stupid as to tell her the secret? This really was his fault!

Lex had never asked to be born into a corrupt family. He’d never asked for the burden of the secret to be laid upon him. Nonetheless, he’d been imprisoned by the dark secrecy that had been harbored for generations. He was still paying the price it required.

Now, so was Daina. Even though he could say she was partly to blame by not leaving it alone, Lex would always blame himself. He had to. If he hadn’t given in to trusting her, if he hadn’t allowed himself to believe that the burden of the truth wasn’t as heavy as he knew it was, Daina would still just be annoying, idealistic, beautiful, smart, lovable Daina. What would happen to her? He couldn’t allow himself to imagine.

Lex left his flat for Daina’s. Marching into the cloudy afternoon, he went to find her. He couldn’t just let them have her. Even if she had been a complete pest as of late, he knew she was worth it. He had to try to save her. Maybe they could escape the prison in which his family had so mercilessly bound them. Why hadn’t he thought of this years ago?

When he got to Daina’s apartment, Lex found the door open. Regret hit him like a blast—another burning truth he would hate forever. He was too late.


The Toll of a Secret, Part 3

Post image for Pumpkin Bread

“Yum! That smells absolutely delicious!” The heavy scent of pumpkin bread literally seemed to ripple through the air of the small kitchen of Nana’s flat. Lex loved being here. It was the only place in the world he actually felt at home.

“Alexander, you’re home! Just in time too, I was beginning to think you weren’t coming.” She was the only one who called him by his full first name–the only one allowed to–but he didn’t mind. He’d probably let her call him “Kitten” if she liked, and he hated cats.

“Well, I’d be an utter fool to miss Sunday brunch with my favorite Nana in the whole of England!”

She smiled at that, and he was glad. He wished he knew better how to thank her for taking such good care of him.

“You know, there was a day when my grandson showed up early enough to help his old Nana fix the food as well as eat it, but I’m sure you’re far too busy these days for that, now aren’t you?”

“And too wise,” Lex added. “I can’t imagine how I was ever gullible enough to actually work for my breakfast.”

With that, she rolled her eyes dramatically and said, “Well, as long as my eggs and bacon keep bringing you back, I’ll keep fixing them. Here, dear, have some of this pumpkin bread. You know it’s your favorite.”

She was right; it was. “Thank you, Nana,” Lex mumbled, feeling a bit embarrassed by her doting.

“Now, tell me how things are. Are you still taking good care of that dear Daina? She’s a good girl, you know. ” She pressed, eyeing him more seriously now, “You haven’t brought her with you in a while. I’m beginning to wonder about you two.”

Lex had grown to dread this question a little more each week–even from Nana. He realized this was probably because he wasn’t too sure of the answer himself. He still liked Daina, and knew she was getting fed up with him, but he just wasn’t sure of where things were going with her. Their’s was becoming one more relationship in which he felt increasingly out of control and terrifically uncertain. There were too many of those in his life. As always, this thought sparked others, and he was quickly running back through the same nightmare of memories he couldn’t seem to stop reliving in his mind.

Lex had been moved out of his parents’ home when he was five to be sheltered from his mother’s neglect. Since he’d been old enough to turn on the TV, she would leave him alone at the flat from morning until just after dinner most days. Lex would never know here whereabouts, or when she would return. She never bought groceries, but would bring home scraps of leftovers from whatever pub she’d had dinner at that night.

His father would only come home long enough to sleep most nights–some not at all. He was too addicted to his job. Lex still knew very little about what his father did, aside from handling the business handed down to him from his father–Nana’s deceased husband. As Lex grew older, he became increasingly aware of the secrecy associated with his father’s job, and was now almost completely convinced that it was probably illegal.

Lex remembered that on Sundays–which became his favorite day–sometimes they would walk through the park together. He loved having his parents together and with him, like a real family–like the ones on the telly. When they were all together, he would dream for a few fleeting hours that they were just like the American Brady Bunch, but with fewer people. He just knew that if they all were together more they would be happy.

It didn’t take long for his dreams to die, between his parents’ arguing and the fact that Sundays together were a rare occurrence at best. By the time he’d moved in with Nana, Lex couldn’t remember the last time they’d done anything as a family.

On Lex’s fifth birthday, Nana–she was his father’s mum–had stopped by to see him. When she discovered that Lex would go all day without eating, and hadn’t had a change of clean clothes in weeks, she’d nearly set the house on fire. Never the confrontational type, though, she’d quietly left a note for his parents and took him with her. Taking his small, bony hand, she’d spoken softly, “It’ll be better this way.”

He hadn’t seen his parents since. They hadn’t tried to retrieve him either. After experiencing life with Nana for one, blessed week, Lex stopped caring if he ever saw either of his parents again.

Now that Lex was in his twenties and lived on his own, his father would stop to visit Nana. Sometimes she would tell Lex how his parents were. “Still together,” she would say with a sigh, staring out the window, “I’ll never understand what’s become of that mother of yours. She was the complete downfall of my son. The poor girl doesn’t even seem to know she’s completely wasted the two best things that ever happened to her.” She would look at him then and smile gently, “That’s what you are, you know, dear…your father was the best thing that ever happened to me, and you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to any of us.”

She willingly chose to overlook much about his father’s crookedness, he knew, but she sure knew how to make him feel like he was worth something. Despite her faults, Lex loved his Nana, and didn’t like to differ with her. After what she’d done for him, he could certainly afford to be tolerant.

Looking up at her now, across the table from him, Lex mumbled a response to her question about Daina, “Things are fair enough, I suppose. Daina’s fine. I’ll have to bring her with me next week.”

Had he said that last week? Probably.

Nana looked at him knowingly, and caught him off guard by speaking plainly, “Alexander, you don’t have to avoid the truth with me, dear. I know you too well for that.”

He nodded and looked down at his food. It didn’t look as appetizing anymore.

“Daina discovered the secret, Nana, and I can’t seem to figure out what to do about it.”

Nana’s eyes grew wide, very wide. Then they grew dark. No one was to know the secret.

Lex expected Nana to ask how Daina knew, but she didn’t. Instead, she simply wiped egg yolk from her upper lip with a white cloth napkin and said, “I’ll take care of it, dear. Don’t worry about a thing.” Forcing a smile, she assured him, “You won’t need to bother yourself over that girl any longer.”

Lex wanted to defend Daina, but he knew he wouldn’t. The secret must stay hidden, and that was definitive.

As he’d done so many times before, he reminded himself now, “It’ll be better this way.”

Also read: The Toll of a Secret, Part 1 & The Toll of a Secret, Part 2

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The Toll of a Secret, Part 2

Here are the ingredients I was given:

  1. Caustic tongues
  2. Pumpkin Bread
  3. Bikini Atoll (note the story title)
  4. Volleyball
  5. Hawaii
  6. Love Story

Enjoy part two!

The Toll of a Secret, Part 2

By Clayton E.

Two Weeks Earlier – London

“Your tongue is sharp as a razor,” spouted an agitated British accent, “and I’ve had quite enough of it!” The athletic twenty-something brunette grunted, as she lunged for the volleyball that came briskly at her over the net.

A male voice responded, slathered with sarcasm, “Well, surely your perception of ‘enough’ will completely demand my decision to discontinue in my sarcasm, dear lady. Pray tell your heart’s desire for the future utterances of my heretofore caustic tongue.” He spouted the words smoothly. Spiking the volleyball back across the net, he hit t

he wooden floor just before his contestant in her failed attempt at a save.

A wry smile filled Lex Walton’s face, and a dark glimmer sparkled in his eyes. He had her now, just precisely where he knew she would be most vulnerable. Though he still spoke with sarcasm, the directness with which he’d asked for her response was enough to set her off guard. He could see her considering whether or not to provide a response.

Daina Teany responded, eyes searching his. “Well, you might try…” she paused, allowing him to believe she was about to be transparent, giving him what he wanted just long enough to drive home her impending jab, “saying something intelligent for once.”

It was weak, she knew, but it accomplished its intended effect. Lex chuckled and spouted, “You tell me to stop, and then you start. Women.”

“You would, you pig.”

Lex rolled his eyes, “Listen, perhaps if you could just grow up and deal with the petty injustices of life, you’d be able to put up with a little tease. People aren’t going to ask you for your permission to speak. They’re going to say what they want. I don’t see why I need to be any exception. You act like I’m your enemy rather than your boyfriend. Not everything’s a competition, you know. By the way, I win.”

With that, he spiked the ball once more. Daina lost her third game in a row.

Lex and Daina had been together for nearly four years. It was long enough to be past the naive, sappy stage, but not quite long enough to be tired of each other…yet. Daina liked Lex. He used to be a sweet guy, tender and open.

Lately, though, Lex was almost mean in the way he spoke to her, like he was beginning to resent her. She could think of no reason for him to feel this way, but was finding such behavior to be contagious. The more his biting sarcasm got to her, the more her’s grew. She didn’t like it, but she wasn’t about to let him walk all over her for no good reason. She was his girlfriend after all, not his slave…nor his wife.

It was becoming more and more difficult to talk about anything important with Lex–really hard. She didn’t even seem to be getting across to him that she didn’t care for his incessant rudeness. If he knew, he certainly didn’t seem to care.

During one of their silly spats, she’d actually asked him if he was tired of her. His response? “No, but I might be tired of your face, if you don’t stop looking at me like you’re my mum or something.”

She’d gone off on him then, knowing he was just making a rude joke, but tired nonetheless of him avoiding the issue. Maybe things weren’t going to work out for them after all. She really didn’t know.

He never acted like he truly wanted to be away from her. He still called to “just talk.” Daina knew that Lex had suffered a rough childhood and valued her friendship. Lately, though, the more they talked, the more he treated her poorly. The more he treated her poorly, the more she pulled away from him to protect herself.

Unless he decided to treat her better soon, things might just have to be over with them. She wasn’t sure how much more she could take from him.

She let herself consider this possibility. She might be okay with things being over between them. Then she remembered that one, small complication–his secret.


The Toll of a Secret, Part 1

It’s finally time to begin posting my new short story–the one some of you gave me pieces with which to build. Here are the ingredients I was given:

  1. Caustic tongues
  2. Pumpkin Bread
  3. Bikini Atoll (note the story title)
  4. Volleyball
  5. Hawaii
  6. Love Story

As I should have expected, it’s becoming much longer than I’d anticipated. I’m already at 5,100 words, and am really only about half-way done! Regardless of the length, I will only be posting it in digestible amounts, so I do hope you all will join me for a new adventure!

This is my first attempt at writing a story that would fit into the “suspense thriller” category, so we will see if I can keep you on the edge of your seat. In the meantime, enjoy this first post! Please let me know what you think. Does it draw you in? Any guesses of what is to come? 

The Toll of a Secret, Part I

by Clayton E.

What is it about hidden things that often makes them so uncontrollably desirable? Perhaps the best kept secrets are the ones most chased. When discovered, though, are they worth the strife it takes to know them?

If he was being honest, Lex didn’t like the truth. Yes, he was aware of the irony of that statement, but it was true nonetheless. Not only did he dislike telling the truth, but he often disliked hearing the truth. It was the truth that bound him to what he could not control, and what he could not control was what he truly disliked.

Lex usually avoided the truth. He was willing to accept the consequences. Most of the time, this avoidance of the truth served him well enough. Other times–times like this–it left him in a position from which he could see no escape.

Daina awoke in a ten-by-twelve cement building on a small island called Bikini Atoll, but she didn’t know where she was. She was having a hard time even remembering her name.

She noticed sunlight sneaking through the wooden shutters over the windows on either side of the room, and there was more light under the door directly across from the small bed on which she’d been sleeping. Had she been sleeping? She felt more like she’d been unconscious.

Where was she?

All of her body parts seemed to be intact. She was able to move her legs to the floor without feeling any pain, but when she sat up, she thought her head might implode. There was a throbbing through her temples like she’d never felt before, and she wondered if she’d been drugged. Had someone hit her on the head?

She considered these thoughts for a moment, then halted. If either were the case, then that would mean…had she been kidnapped? She tried not to let her mind go directly to worst case scenario. Maybe she’d fallen and hit her head, and someone had been taking care of her in this room.

If that was the case, though, wouldn’t she be waking up in a hospital? Daina couldn’t figure out why her brain seemed to be working so slowly, but it was making her uneasy. Something had happened, and she didn’t have a clue what it was.

Where was she?