Yesterday I wrote Requiem For a Writing Contest to honor the passing of a 499-word Dan Brown tribute contest that used to be sponsored by a writing group I belonged to. Today I’d like to post a previous entry to the contest. Although the entry was supposed to be a spoof of The Lost Symbol, it now seems as if it would be an interesting story in its own right. I’d have to rewrite it, of course, to lose the similarities between the beginning of this story and the beginning of DB’s, but it might be fun. Someday.
THE LOST SECRET
The secret is how to live.
Since the beginning of time, the secret had always been how to die, or rather, how to make others die — and he’d learned that secret well. Now he needed to learn an even greater secret — how to live . . . forever.
The thirty-four-thousand-year-old Voltari gazed down at the crucible cradled in his palms. It was filled with blood, the blood of all the innocents who had died that he might live.
Drink it, he told himself. You have nothing to fear. Yet he knew the truth — he had everything to fear. Without death, there is no reason to live. Without death, time yawned immeasurably. Without death . . .
Oh, hell, just drink it.
As was tradition, he’d adorned himself in the latest ritualistic garb — well-tailored white shirt that covered his pale chest and expensive dark suit that made his thin shoulders seem broad. Around his neck hung a noose — a “power-tie” as the brethren called it.
The assembly of brothers encircling him all were adorned in the same funereal regalia. Only the color of their ties varied, from a new-bruise maroon to bright artery-gushing scarlet. Many of these men had powerful stations in life, the rest had powerful stations in death, yet the Voltari knew their ranks meant nothing within these walls. Here all were equals sharing an unearthly bond.
As he surveyed the daunting assembly, the Voltari wondered who in the outside world would ever believe this collection of beings would assemble in one place, much less this place. The room looked like a vault from a great and private banking institution in Switzerland.
The truth, however, was stranger still.
I really am in a Swiss bank vault, with gold stacked everywhere.
The Voltari’s forebears had come to Earth four hundred thousand years ago in search of the gold they needed to granulate like fine sugar and suspend above their world to keep the atmosphere from escaping into space. When the transplanted Voltari workers rebelled at the arduous and unending task of mining, refining, and storing the gold, their leaders had created a race of slave workers, which they facetiously named homo sapiens sapiens, to do the work for them.
And the humans, all unwittingly, had done their job. Most of Earth’s gold now resided in this vault and dozens like it all around the city. In days, weeks at the most, his fellow Voltaris would be arriving for the gold, and he had to make a decision. Now.
He could choose to stay on Earth and rule his financial kingdom forever, or he could choose to return to Votari and be . . . no one.
There was a third choice — not to choose, in which case he would join the ranks of the dead in the netherworld.
The secret is how to live, he reminded himself.
“It is time,” a voice thundered.
Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+