Your cart is empty. Go to Shop

Secret Keepers Dafydd McKimm

That night, I bring home buckets of rocks plucked from the shore and spread them across the driftwood table in our dining room.

“Earth bones,” I say, when Jo, my partner, asks what they are. “Secret keepers.”

I remember reading to her from a book about local history when we first moved to this part of the country, her head on my lap, my fingers entwined in her hair. I recited from the page that when people in the scattering of small villages and hamlets nearby had secrets that were too overwhelming to keep, they would whisper them to the rocks, safe in the knowledge that those silent grey listeners would guard their darkest passions, their secret shames.

“Let’s open them up,” I say, fidgeting like a child on Christmas morning. I imagine them as cockles, ready to be pried open, the delicious meat within quivering, soon to be devoured.

Jo rolls her eyes, tells me I’m wasting my time and that she’s going to bed. I wait for her to add that I should come too, a coda which always assured me any bed lacking the other was somehow incomplete. But she has already turned away.

I say I’ll be up in a bit and doggedly make my way to the tool shed to fetch a hammer and chisel while she, quietly sighing, climbs the stairs.

We both mumble I love yous, a habit that neither of us has yet dared to kick.

* * *

I hold one of the rocks in my hand, a giant ostrich egg of dappled black, lay it down, and with a swift motion drive in my chisel, gouging a wound from which words long kept silent might escape.

The rock blanches, scarred for life, but nothing emerges, not a peep, not a whisper.

I repeat the act with all the stones until they resemble a brood of hungry birds, yearning mouths upturned to me, craving a secret I’m not brave enough to speak.

I stare at them for a long time. After a while I concede that yes, it’s late, put down my tools, and retreat to bed.

* * *

I find Jo softly snoring, the ridges of her spine and shoulder blades tracing the gentle undulation of the Pennines where we used to walk, it seems, a very long time ago.

The us of then would have stayed up all night together, cracking open rocks to hear their secrets, she indulging me perhaps, but enjoying my folly, enjoying me. How long have we been broken beyond repair? How long has she known this truth but, like me, been unable to admit it.

I place my hand lightly on the contours of her bone-house, imagine the rocks within her, imagine their secrets, wonder how long they will remain silent.

* * *

A light sleeper, she wakes before me. There is a noise downstairs, something unearthly and yet rooted entirely in earth. The rocks in the dining room are shouting.

Together, we boulder down the stairs and through the door.

Voices like the grinding of millstones clamour to be heard; long-forgotten diction dancing from quartzite older than the dinosaurs.

—Moira Green’s got a third nipple. I seen it when she was changing and she begged me not to tell no one or else they’ll call her a witch.

—Captain Bright never died at sea. He ran off with the barmaid at the Hind. Poor Doris. It’s better she thinks he’s dead.

—My husband didn’t drink himself to death; I put arsenic in his coffee and that done him in. He deserved it, the devil!

—Lucy Beynon. Good God, I’m in love with Lucy Beynon and she’s marrying my brother. What do I do? What do I do?

The old secrets flow, finally free of their silica cages. Jo looks at me, eyes shining, like she used to when we were adventurous and new, and together we listen to the secrets the rocks spill, laughing at some, gasping at others, wondering if the names we hear are still alive or long dead, now bones of the earth themselves.

When the rocks finally quiet, murmuring their last words like the tide retreating over shale, we sit together at the table, eyes lingering, quietly pondering if we too can be as open as the rocks, tell each other how we really feel, what we really want to say.

She yawns. “I’m going back to bed. It’s late. You should come too.”

“I’ll be up in a bit,” I say.

She stands, pushing her chair backwards, and the sound of it scraping on the floor as she rises is like a chisel hitting the rock inside me.

My hand shoots to hers, halting her retreat.

I open my mouth and speak.

© Dafydd McKimm

Meet the Author

Dafydd McKimm

Dafydd McKimm

Dafydd McKimm is a speculative fiction writer producing mainly short and flash-length stories. His work has appeared in publications such as Deep Magic, Daily Science Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, and The Best of British Fantasy.

He was born and grew up in Wales but now lives in Taipei, Taiwan. You can find him online at

Become a Patron! Check our our NEW Patron rewards!


Receives weekly links to new stories, exclusive behind-the-scenes content and interviews with the authors, and our undying love.


Receives a free monthly download of our current issue, access to Ask Me Anything chats with the FFO staff, submission statistics, plus benefits from lower levels


Gain access to our monthly Mini-Critique sessions, the FFO Editorial Team slushpile wishlist , plus benefits from lower levels


A chance to have your work discussed by the FFO editorial team, receive 365 Writing Prompts and our latest anthology, plus benefits from lower levels


Receive a monthly mini-critique from the FFO editorial team and request custom writing videos, plus benefits from lower levels


Receive one flash fiction critique per month, mini-critique sessions, an opportunity to “sponsor-a-story,” plus all the benefits of lower levels!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Support Flash Fiction Online

Flash Fiction Online is a free online magazine that pays professional rates. So how do we make that happen? It’s due to the generosity of readers like you.

Here are some ways you can help:

Become a Patron.

Sign up to become a monthly donor and gain access to exclusive Patron rewards like manuscript critiques, insider submission statistics, the Editors’ Wishlist, free downloads of our current issue, and Ask Me Anything chats with the FFO staff. Read more…

Subscribe to FFO.

Never miss an issue! E-reader formats delivered to your inbox. Available from

Buy our issues & anthologies.

Each of our issues and anthologies are available in convenient e-reader formats (epub/mobi/pdf). Available from the Flash Fiction Online Store and WeightlessBooks.


Consider a one-time gift that fits your budget.

Advertise with us.

Have a product, service, or website our readers might enjoy? Ad space available on the website and in our e-reader issues. Sponsored posts opportunities are also available. Learn more…

Spread the word.

Love one of our stories or articles? Share it with a friend!

%d bloggers like this: