Nek entered the room, allowing the door to slam shut behind her. He didn’t move, either lost in thought or ignoring her. “Is Suci sending rude children to me now?” she asked sharply.
“Oh! Your Grace!” he replied, almost falling off the chair as he twisted to face her. “Father Farouk at your service.”
She leaned harder on her cane, glaring at him until he hurriedly got up and assisted her to her chair.
“Sorry, sorry, Your Grace,” he blabbered. “Uh, I… I didn’t expect you to, well—”
“Father, are you? Young for one. What are you, twenty?” She straightened her chair behind her desk and waved him to the visitor’s chair on the other side of it. The one he should have been sitting on in the first place. She checked that the desk drawers were still locked, not that she kept anything of importance in them. Everything confidential was locked in her head, in the Memories.
Farouk flushed as he took a seat. “I’m thirty-six, actually.”
“And what are you here for, Father Farouk? A confession? A Memory request?”
“I’m ah, well.” Farouk cleared his throat and took off his round glasses to wipe them. His small eyes squinted at her, looking slightly anxious without their protection. “Suci has sent me to, um, handle the transition, Your Grace. The Secretkeeper transition from you to your granddaughter?”
“You?” Nek Ramalan leaned forward, studying his features. “Why you? I’ve never seen you before. Surely, you’re too inexperienced for this role.”
“Uh, you have, actually, Your Grace.” Farouk tugged at his collar. “I grew up in this temple.”
The old woman frowned. Images were suddenly pushed into her mind—standing forlornly by a double casket, trying unsuccessfully to hold back his tears; receiving a tongue-lashing from Nek and the then-chief priest for running through the temple courtyard; waving at Nek as he walked into the temple grounds with Rahsia in tow—shimmering slightly as they pinged on her own memories. The thin, awkward orphan with clumsy limbs she’d once known had grown into this round, jolly-faced man in the holy city’s robes. “What did you—how…?”
“Thought projection. It took me years to master. A lot of hard work. Not anyone can do it, you know? You have to have an exceptionally strong mind.” Farouk beamed.
Nek’s eyes narrowed. Suci and their secrets! At least, the boy—young man—wasn’t the stupid official she’d initially took him for. “So, the earlier thoughts…?”
“All fake. I mean, kickball is fun, though I really don’t have time for that anymore. It’s been years since I’ve played.” He straightened, pulling out a handkerchief. “But, as I was saying, Your Grace, I’m here to talk to you about the transition. Is Rahsia ready—”
“It won’t be Rahsia,” Nek interrupted. It was risky, but if Farouk could fool her, the Secretkeeper, he was probably the best person suited to handle the situation.
“But she’s your only granddaughter! Isn’t she?” The bewilderment on his face was as thick as the sheen of oil he was trying to scrub off his forehead.
“I don’t understand. I need to know how this works, Nek. Isn’t the Secretkeeper title passed down the women of your line? And do you,” he flushed again, voice plaintive, “know when you’re going to die?”
“No more ‘Your Grace’?”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude. I just… old habit. Sorry. Your Grace.”
Nek Ramalan looked away, her eyes flitting over the bare brick walls, this empty shell of a room. She’d already packed all her personal effects, labelled them for Rahsia’s convenience. “It’s alright. Few enough call me Nek now.” Only Rahsia called her Nek now, Rahsia and her friend Iman. There was no one else she was close to. “Four months, at most.”
“I once foresaw that I would die at ninety-five. I’ve been ninety-five for almost eight months now. I don’t have much time left.” In that vision, she was skeletal and shrunken, hunching over a thick cane; her black hair turned a dirty, greyish white pulled into a severe bun. She’d been at home when she died.
“And your successor…”
“Was supposed to be my granddaughter. But things have changed.”
His frown deepened, no longer the vapid boy, but the serious priest. “How? Why?”
She hesitated again, thin, wrinkled fingers tapping on the mahogany table top. With a shake of her head, Nek stilled her fingers and looked him in the eyes. “I’ve had a recent vision.”
“And you did not inform Suci because…?”
“I do not report to Suci, Farouk, no matter what the High Priest may think. I report to the Impian Temple, which means Father Rahman, who will then tell the High Priest in Suci whatever he wishes. But even Father Rahman…” Nek took a shuddering breath, “I have yet to tell him. It is incomplete. The vision did not reveal who my successor will be. It just showed me that it would not be my granddaughter.”
There was a long pause before Farouk asked, “So when will you know who your successor will be? Will there be another vision? Is it like a dream? A thought popping up in your head? Do all Secretkeepers have visions?”
“Sorry, Your Grace.” He didn’t look very contrite.
Nek Ramalan sighed. She was weary. She could feel the end coming, knew from the Memories of her ancestors and her own visions that her time was almost up. But without a successor in place, how could she go? For once in her long, confident life, Impian’s Secretkeeper was at a loss.
This one's a new short that would take place sometime in the Secretkeeper WIP. Also, apparently, my writing tends to be confusing?
I dunno. =/