“Secrets” by Devon Clements (’18)

Enjoy this short story written by one of our contributing writers, Devon Clements. 

His discretion on this mission was of paramount importance. His superiors had stressed that repeatedly during his morning briefing, and as he now silently crept through the shadowed terrace which ran parallel to the exterior of the building on his left he reminded himself once more. He had been given this assignment just less than an hour ago allowing little time for proper mental preparation, leaving him now more than a little concerned over the task that lay ahead. As he continued his silent approach he came to a large wooden enclosure containing only one access point, a gate sitting on rusting and stagnant hinges of a black metal he didn’t recognize. He stopped, considering, and processed his options, “do I scale the fence? Or instead risk the noise of the gate?” which appeared to be unguarded. After much deliberation he decided the risk of being seen atop the barrier was equal if not greater to the known threat of the gate. As one slightly unsteady hand reached toward the latch he heard a rustling off to his right and immediately withdrew his outstretched arm and ducked behind the wooden enclosure. No sooner had he done this that a great roar erupted to his immediate right. The sound of some great and terrible beast echoed throughout the stillness, a cacophony of growls and snaps accompanied by the pawing of dirt. He sunk closer to the ground his heart racing, hoping beyond hope the beast wouldn’t draw attention to unseen enemies and that it would be contained on the opposite side of the adjacent wall. It was then that he noticed the rocks at his feet and with a quick decision he laid down the rough wooden stock of his rifle and scooping a handful of pebbles in his hand, flung the cluster as far as he could to his distant right, hoping to deter the animal. As the sediment clattered into the far side of the partition and the surrounding brush, he heard the great brute dart away towards this new intruder.

Disallowing time for the animal to return he reclaimed the hefty, yet comfortable weight of his firearm and proceeded to unlatch the gate and gently push it inward. It gave an eerie screech as it swung open, but the noise paled in comparison to the recently departed cries of the creature and without hesitation he slipped quietly inside the timber outskirts. He found himself in a large rectangular forested area, bordered on one side by an enormous structure covered in a vast array of windows and doors. The building vanished into the horizon above him and seemed to be constructed of a red stone which he was unfamiliar with. The other three sides of the region were restricted by the same expansive fence from which he had just passed through its tall wooden planks restricting light as well as his vision to the outside world. Standing in the middle of this compound was a strange structure he didn’t recognize, yet that seemed slightly familiar. It was comprised of a pointed apex roof on one end covered with a striped tarpaulin in bright shades of crimson and gold, adjacent to this was a long wooden rod from which dangled some foreign objects which he couldn’t recognize. These alien appendages consisted of long chains wrapped in some form of rubberized coating, dangling near the ground attached together by a board of hardened polymer plastic. He was astounded for he could make no sense of the structure which stood in front of him. He feared that it may be some contraption of imprisonment yet, at the same time he didn’t feel as if they were the tools of some nefarious action.

It was then that he heard them approaching from behind the far perimeter, he knew at once they were his enemies. He couldn’t see anything in the shadowy darkness but instinctively knew that the presence he felt was of a hostile and carnivorous nature. Without a moment’s hesitation he hit the ground with a thud and mechanically drew his weapon into a firing position and began to release rounds in the direction of these new manifestations. Sweat began to pool on the creases of his unblemished brow as he continually fired into the darkness hoping beyond hope that he could vanquish the enemy. He squinted into the darkness hoping to distinguish foliage from menace. His hands began to ache from the coarse, unfinished stock of his weapon which he gripped with his life. After what felt like hours he finally ceased his firing and peered into the darkness, sighing with relief at the lack of movement or sound.

Having overcome the unforeseen enemy he turned his eyes upward towards the open room just below the apex of the canvas covered roof, there his eyes lit upon his goal, the reason for his quest. He wasn’t certain exactly what lay above him just that its material possession was his only mission in life. Having found the object of his desire he stepped towards the structure, only now noticing the looming, jagged cliff wall which he would have to scale in order to reach the room above. The rock face was speckled by multi-colored sediment which stuck out in odd and unnatural angles, affording his small hands crevices which he could easily grip. He began the ascent not pausing to look down or contemplate the immense height he was gaining. Halfway up the rock face his footing failed him and he careened off to the right, as his rifle fell thousands of feet below him he managed to catch himself on a single outstretched shelf. He paused for a moment here, regaining his composure and dedication to the task at hand. He continued the rest of the way without incident his agile frame working his way quickly up the serrated fortification. He was on the cusp of the precipice and beginning to throw himself over the lip and into the connecting room when his eyes once more honed in on his goal. The vague shape of a dazzling cylinder began to appear from the darkness when a thunderous, maternal call echoed through his head and the surrounding environment.

Before he could move the world around him began to disintegrate, changing shape and color and becoming something all too familiar. His combat boots become small canvas tennis shoes, the cliff overhang shifted and began to shrink as did the rest of the infrastructure surrounding him. What at first was unintelligible noise took the form of human language as he heard from above and behind him, streaming from an open window on the now substantially smaller complex which he had noticed earlier, “Lunch Time!”. It was at this moment that the final ties to his world were cut loose and he stepped back, dropping to a grass covered floor. He turned towards the voice and began to walk, briefly stumbling on a long tree branch the bark of which had been rubbed down from excessive handling, which he realized he had dropped earlier. As the boy ran towards the now open door in front of him, eagerly awaiting his sustenance which would most likely come in the form of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, he glanced back once more at the play house structure found in suburban backyards across the country, and for just a moment he glimpsed the last remains of the universe he had created.

 

Devon Clements. Class of 2018. English Philosophy major. Missouri. Soccer. Coffee. Historical Fiction. Edward Sharpe. Of Human Bondage. Travel. Moleskine. Pens. Vans. United Kingdom. Trees. Gym. Literature. Sour. Northwest. Theatre. Explore. Skateboard. Run. Cats. Blue. Finished.

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