He woke up frightened. His chest was a rock of fear and his arms were covered in a glossy sweat. Someone knew what he had done. It had been many years, but now someone knew. The deed was out in the world. It swirled in the light of the sun and then found him in his dark apartment in the layers of night and dreams. How the rock had been turned, he had no idea. But the worms were exposed and a wind had drifted towards him and disturbed his still body.
The note had been left on his car. Such a small innocent piece of paper, no different from any of the other pieces of abandoned trash that coasted down the street until finally drifting to the sea. Only this one was not lost. It had not fallen out of a blue trash can on an early Tuesday morning. It had been folded with care and written with a precise hand that revealed black block letters. It was for him. And it found him. It began with his name and was attached perfectly to the side of his car. How he wished that a strong wind had shaken it loose and sent it running through grass and cityscapes, but it didn’t.
He grabbed it with curious eyes and slightly shaking hands. It was on his nightstand now. A small white innocent piece of paper, only its message was a demand.
“I know what you did. I want two million.”
He was over forty. He had done many, many things he was not proud of. Things he would never tell his mother. He had lived a wild life for many years. It was the consequence of money and fame. It was the consequence of being a male. It was the consequence of abundant energy and the pursuit of the unknown and the love of a female body. He had been ripe and he had stepped into the world wanting to lick it all.
As he sat in bed in the early morning light, the smell of coffee coming from the kitchen, he knew there were some things he would not repeat if given the chance. They seemed fun, they seemed okay at the time, at least some of them for a few minuets before rationality and consequences caught up to him, and although he tried not to live with any regrets, still there were some things he would not repeat. There were some things he didn’t want exposed. He was a public figure, he needed to fit, at least partially, into what the majority of his audience viewed as “appropriate.”
What did they know? Was it that one time on Christmas Eve? Or that one comment he said while intoxicated. What did they know? Which secret? There were a handful, some he didn’t want to think about.
His mind went to his family. He thought of their faces bunched in disappointment. He winced, his chest hurt. The walls began to push against their wooden supports, it felt like they could crumble. His skin glistened.
He looked within and suddenly he knew what they knew. His body was still wet, his heart still raced, but he knew. And now, he had to reduce its power. The secret, the deep, deep hole in his chest that spun like a wild storm would have to be revealed. His mouth would bring it forward. His words would expose it and turn it over and over until there was light. Until the eyes of the world judged him. He would tell them all, and he would drain the secret of its power. With each sentence, spoken live and slowly, he would let the flashlight of a million eyes do their work.
It was only a secret if no one knew. It only held strength as long as he locked it up in fear. Blackmail could work only if he held tightly to the moment, if he clenched and gritted his teeth and pushed the rock further into the moist dank earth. It was only a source of power if he kept it hidden in the closet of memories.
There would be no money. There would be no dark well within his chest anymore. Tonight he would expose himself, he would reveal his secret, he would tell them all and they would reject him or laugh, but the secret would be drained. The power of that little folded note would be worthless, because they would all know. And the secret would die under the sunlight. Such is the nature of secrets.