I died a little bit that day. I did not know why, but I felt a part of me fade. My ignorance at the time stemmed from traveling between France, Canada, and the US for business. The winery had consumed my time—not that I was unhappy to do it. I supported the family business because it gave me purpose—however, I was also running from my true purpose and I should have known—should have detected that a major shift had occurred.
In denial about my life’s duties, I immersed myself in every aspect of production—the caring of the vineyards; the meticulous and tedious work to ensure the grapes had the optimal environment to yield the perfect turgidity to produce the most bodacious flavors; the precise science of their fermentation process to coax out robust flavors and subtle nuance in every sip—but I digress.
I, like my father and his ancestors before that and so forth, had been entrusted with one of the most sacred tasks of all time: to protect the great balance of the Universe, to serve the Divine. We were Keepers of the locket: a sacred portal for souls that had not fulfilled their contracts.
This precious trinket was the only instrument that could keep the balance between the physical and spirit worlds. Every now and again, rumors resurfaced of its existence and jeopardize the balance and the Order did everything possible to crush the gossip, for the locket held a corruptive power that could consume the person when wielded in the wrong hands. The Order’s Eliminators were quite adept at their craft when they were still active in their roles.
When I was twelve, Father sent me to France with Ivan, the Order’s Archivist, to study our history. Keepers were one of the twelve members that all worked harmoniously to maintain the equilibrium of souls. When I was young, I had known that my life path was different from the other children’s. Father did not exactly hide the fact—but Mother refused to speak of it. She hated that my father, and later I, would be betrothed to the Divine like that (despite my father’s devotion to her). Over the years, my mother grew resentful of the Order for stealing us away.
When my time came to study the Keeper’s path, I was resentful—probably influenced by my mother as well. Although open to, I was uninterested in the content and did not see why I was fated to this life. As I matured, I began to accept the knowledge, but I confess I pushed it away for as long as possible. My father was alive after all, and I was in no rush to step into a role that was not yet mine—nor had I been deemed Worthy for the said role, yet.
But that day—that fateful day—changed everything for me. It was not obvious at first. There was no epiphany or switch that flipped on. There was almost a certain…disconnect from life. A slow, tormenting feeling like everything became dulled. Despair grew on a global scale. It just seemed like the world was entering a decline in its cycle. With every boom, so there is a bust. If I had been attuned with my senses, connected, I would have realized immediately that I should return home to Prague. But as a young adult, I fought with my better judgment and poured myself deeper into the work at the winery.
Two years passed. Finally, with a heart weighted with cold lead, I knew change was imminent. Societal depression was the catalyst. Perhaps it was time that I open my mind to the work of the Order. I had all the knowledge, but without action it was useless—and although my father was still alive, I was still trying to outrun my true purpose. I revisited the Archives with a new perspective, and the ancient texts started to resonate with me. I knew it was time to return to Prague, to accept my destiny, and to make peace with my father.
Little did I know what awaited me there. In all the seven years I worked in Bordeaux, I had not a peep from my father, who had refused to communicate with me until I was ready to accept my role—his stipulations were clear from the start (although I did not believe his convictions to hold out that long). But when I arrived in Prague on that cool, autumn evening, my world turned. I was plunged into a vicious manhunt. The Order was out for blood.
They ambushed and interrogated me about my whereabouts for the past seven years, and about my communication with my father. I was forbidden to see or speak to him for days—all without a clue as to why. The Inquisitor was savage and insisted I remain the Order’s hostage until they were satisfied. It was then that I learned that the locket had been missing for over two years! And they thought Father stole it to resurrect my mother from death!
How ludicrous! It was her time to die and he understood that as much as any member of Order. I mentioned that the Order’s purpose was to ensure that souls fulfill their contracts on Earth. Well, that meant neither staying too long by trying to renegotiate or due to a spiritual glitch, or too little if their contract was terminated suddenly by unfortunate events due to another spiritual glitch. When spiritual energies are out of balance, chaos ensues because each action has an equal and opposite reaction. That being said, it had been rumored among the Order that special circumstances could arise where this law was not followed…
Anyway, the locket’s power was alluring—I myself had thought about what it might be like to use it on occasion—which was precisely why the other members existed: to prevent corruption and to regulate the locket’s use—never unnecessarily. What is more, a ritual required all members of the Order to work together to successfully execute it. Ha! My father? Using it for his own gain after being its protector? No one would seriously believe that…
But, my father had “played his part” and they blamed him for its disappearance. I admit I suspected him for a moment—he did love my mother dearly—but he was adamant about what a happened the night it went missing. In fact, the locket was stolen from him.
The Order had just finished a ceremony, and upon his exit from the church, Father was attacked. A man pistol-whipped him in the head and snatched the locket but to Father's horror he accidentally opened the compartment as he lost consciousness. The other members were finishing up inside when it happened. No one had seen the man, or the locket suck out my father’s soul from his body—meaning my father had been walking around soulless, a shell of a man! I shuddered to think what hell that would be—without a zest for life? As if anyone would willingly let the locket take their soul—ah, my apologies, I shall continue the story.
Some members thought his story was a terrible excuse so he could use it for himself, while others may have believed him, but thought the locket punished Father for being reckless. Either way, he was blamed. I was unaware of any tension between him and the Order growing up, and he did not say much on the matter when I asked. He was a changed man, one who did not care to live anymore. He only held out so that I might know his truth and he could keep my name clear.
My father died three years ago and I vowed I would find the man who stole the locket and prove Father’s innocence. The man dropped his passport in the struggle, but no one from the Order had any success finding him—he was a ghost. I too found it difficult to track him, but I never gave up…unlike the Order. Sadly, without the locket they—we—were useless. They did not bother to initiate me as the Keeper or share with me the detail of their efforts either because they suspected me to be an accomplice. I assure you I was not. Alas, the Order went on hiatus after years of failing to locate it.
Pathetic, if you ask me. They are bound to the Divine and gave up? According to their logic, the locket was sure to turn up on the “underground radar” at some point, so it was just a waiting game.
That was not exactly how it happened…but I will reveal my secret: I managed to slip through the cracks.
At some point? I still hold a grudge. But that is neither here nor there because as I stand at the foot of the skyscraper of the agency’s headquarters in Manhattan, I grin and feel my chest begin to buzz with delight. It was no easy feat, but I found it. I found it! I found where the locket has been for the last decade…and I have plans for the secret agent who stole it, and the entire Order—they will answer for their actions.
I am the locket’s true Keeper now, and I vow to restore balance so that I can pass my knowledge through the generations to come, as the Divine intended. I feel alive for the first time in ten years—ready for duty!
I pull my hair from the elastic band and let my long, dark curls topple over my shoulders. I glance into my compact mirror one last time, fixing the smudge of my dark eye shadow—perfect—and blink up as the storm begins to pick up. The rain mists past me, soothing my warm skin. I take a breath.
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