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The Secret Room

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

By A.R. Milton

Oscar Greten, World Renown Physicist


Founder of Sundial Industries, Passes away at 72.

July 12, 2036

The man who lined our highways and cities with solar panels left the world a better place than how he found it last night. Passing away in his sleep, surrounded by family. He leaves behind his only son, Lamar Greten (45) and three grandkids. Even though the news just broke, users on major social media platforms have already begun voicing their opinions on what’s next for the company:

TenBannersOneBrain: His son is going to burn that company to the ground!

iCryManTears: Ay look, nobody asked but imma type this anyway…Lamar is a FRAUD!!!

BuyAJournalGrowAHeart: I hope he —

“Excuse me, Mr. Greten? You with us?”

Lamar Greten locked his phone, allowing his eyes to freely roam out of their digital cage. They grazed around the board room of the company his father built, filled with twenty suit and ties eager to hear all of what he left behind. And to who. Lamar sat at one end of the long mahogany table while the family lawyer, Mr. Felch found himself at the other end. The rest of the invitees to the reading of the will, found their seats somewhere in-between or around the room.

“Yea. You can start.” Lamar answered, stuffing the phone into his pocket. Who has time to read anyways, especially the filth that leaks out of people’s minds through their fingertips.

The high-rise building had a view of the clouds Lamar could get lost in if he wasn’t already lost in the moment. It was hard not to get carried away by the whispers or cyber screams concerning his father’s death. He was the modern-day Willy Wonka, giving the world amazing treats with a smile. His breakthrough invention- an affordable solar generator for homes, made him a household name. America’s dad (nothing like the last guy who held the title), Oscar Greten was a big deal.

“You think he left me the solar car project? Oh God I hope that’s why I’m here.” One of the nameless suits packed in the room behind Lamar pleaded to another like siblings on Christmas eve.

Mr. Felch held a golden letter opener to a sealed envelope for what felt like a lifetime, “Ok. Let’s begin.”

As the adhesive split, Lamar searched deep for a slender piece of optimism, scraping for the crumbs of it that fell from the employee’s words behind him. Even though he was the only child in a room filled with twenty individuals ready to hear the reading of his father’s will, Lamar looked down past the whiskers of his greying beard, at the Visitor’s badge clipped to his plumbing uniform - which was a set of navy blue coveralls and felt as if he was the one that didn’t belong.

Each rip of the envelope folded Lamar’s thoughts on top of each other like a mental sandwich packed full of anxiety. Oscar Greten may have been America’s sweetheart but to Lamar he was nothing more than a foreman. Always focused on the task at hand. He searched for a connection that he could hold a little closer than the rest of the people that filled the room. Playing catch outside in the back yard? Lamar couldn’t remember if that was a dream he was attempting to mold into a memory or if it happened once as a toddler and never again. How about a bike ride around the neighborhood? That only happened in movies as far as Lamar is concerned. Maybe that Lego set of the Batmobile they built together when he was nine? No, that’s not how it went. The disappointment of that birthday was hard to forget. His dad showing up to a sporting event? Not a chance. By the time Lamar was on the varsity football team, Oscar was hosting his own Spiritual & Science driven tv show called “Connect the Dots”. But not even dear ol’ dad’s charm could keep that show running over three seasons.

Ingrained in Lamar’s brain however was the fact that his father practically lived in the basement of their childhood home. Only to leave when fighting off starvation at the urging from Lamar’s mother, Grace. Or to take his first shower in three days. The only thing the two shared between each other is a joke about the area Lamar was never to enter. His father’s secret room.

What do you do down in your secret room dad?

I’m trying to find the time for you to mind ya business! Oscar would respond jokingly with an electric smile all the way until he sold his first thousand generators, moving Grace and Lamar across the country afterwards. To a county that nobody knew called Cardinal-Wood. Lamar never thought to ask about the secret room again.

Mr. Felch severed the seal and removed the contents of the envelope. Lines upon lines reflected off the lenses of his circular frames as he began to read, “This is the will of Oscar E. Greten. Written by Oscar E. Greten. First, to my first born, I leave you:

1. My shares in the company. Now making you the majority owner

2. The key to your childhood home

3. The key to my life’s work.

Next, we have-”

At least six pairs of ears including Lamar’s tuned out the rest of the reading after a collective gasp. Lamar figured the other minor shrieks were from employees thirsty for money he didn’t care for. He stuffed the thought of running the company he never wanted anything to do with far back into his own secret place. A place down in a corner of his heart that Lamar knew he’d have to revisit later. There were more pressing matters at hand, like finding out what made his dad keep that house?

The childlike spirit that should never die, the one that Lamar felt dwell down to a simmer over the years sparked into an inferno on the inside. He was finally going to see what was in the secret room.

For all you, computer minded souls… Imagine if our moon was coded- I mean big banged just a little closer! Ha Ha! Kiss those scheduled seasons goodbye! Well, on the next episode ----

Lamar turned the stereo of the rental car down as he approached the cul-de-sac of his roots. From three hours ahead to three hours behind, ten hours’ worth of flying and twenty episodes of the “Light Beat” podcast, his father’s last gift to the world, Lamar finally found himself at his past.

On the outside there was nothing special about the neighborhood. Fresh cut grass surrounded the four encircled homes. Each came with their own picket fence painted white, but if it weren’t for the yellow swing set in the front yard of the house directly next to his old now new property, Lamar would have fertilized the thought that the rest were model homes. All the other driveways were empty.

He took out his phone and sent a text to his wife: I’m here. Tell the kids I’ll call when I get back to the hotel. Love you. Stern conviction led Lamar down a different career path from his father, but he constantly chuckled under his breath at how instinctually he walked the same line of Oscar’s character path like an apprentice. He was a man about his business. The life of a scientific tinkerer wasn’t for him, but he was good with his hands, and he liked to fix things. Solve problems, even if they were covered in shit. It made starting his own contracting business easy. But having the ability to watch the same thing done from the basement of your home is a priceless experience.

You learn a lot from the person who lives in the secret room in your basement. You learn how to be there for your family and how not to. You learn how to put a face on- zip up the skin that has it’s smile already sewn. You learn how to say Hey Miss Johnson, I can’t come to fix that sink in your bathroom. I’ll have to send one of my guys instead. Rather than: Hey miss Johnson, my dead dad left me with an old house and empty memories, I’ll be back next week.

Lamar pulled out the one of the two keys that traveled over three thousand miles with him, placed it up to the keyhole, and with a turn, swung the door forward without hesitation. He stepped in-

Is that pine?

The sweet scent of cleaning products filled the empty space as natural lighting reflected off the hardwood floors. Lamar’s lungs were pumped with a new wind of curiosity. There was supposed to be cobwebs and turned over furniture. Why did it look like this place was regularly cleaned?

He looked around, starting in the kitchen. The fridge- empty, no cups or plates, and the silverware was nonexistent. At least he knows Oscar wasn’t using this place as an Airbnb. Minor relief. Next, he made his way down the hall to where the rooms were. His eyes were focused on the empty room down the hall, which he remembered to be his parent’s until a red bike in the room to the right hooked his attention.

“What the-”

He couldn’t finish the sentence on his tongue. Memories that he never knew he had begun to rush in, drowning him with clips of prerecorded actions that rivaled any Netflix binge session Lamar had endured. Him and Oscar riding around the neighborhood. His bike red, his father’s blue as they rolled towards the sunset. Lamar’s eyes danced around his old room, noticing it was furnished with many things he thought was lost. Memories kept pouring in just the same. It was a twisted sense of Déjà vu. Lamar wanted to call out, “I know what happens next!” to the wind but the phrase that was running sprints in his mind was I lived these already over and over. The baseball on the dresser him and Oscar used to throw in the back yard was there. Next to it was the baseball cap from his high school that his father wore to every game. Stumbling backwards, his foot bumped the batmobile Lego set they built together for his ninth birthday.

Still with loose legs under him, Lamar stumbled into the bathroom in the hall to vomit. Chucks of cheap buffet food he thought he’d treat himself to before embarking on this endeavor made its way back from where it came.

Lamar’s head was rocking for the next five minutes. He sat on the bathroom floor as he tried to compose himself. After his heart finished thumping through his ears, he took out the second key he brought with him. The one to the secret room. He studied three numbers engraved on it, 352. It was time to find out his father’s life work.

There was a suffocating silence in the air as Lamar studied the door to the basement. He didn’t plan on getting into a boxing match with his past but hey, he figured at least eighty percent of the population are going through the same fight, so he put the key to the door. He tried to push but looked over at the hinges. They had been reversed from how he remembered. A tug of the door revealed another but this one was a steel door with a keypad. He thanked God for the small things and typed 352 and the door swung open with a click.

The basement looked just like a bunker from a sci-fi movie. Bright white lights above barely added life to the cement floors. The center of the room had a tuning fork attached to a rotating tripod with three mirrors completing the circle. On the far-right side was a low-tech computer, straight out of the 90’s with a yellow post-it stuck on the monitor. Lamar walked up to the machine and saw his father’s handwriting. Turn me on!

Lamar pressed the power button and watched a black screen load what appeared to be green Linux syntax with another message that read aloud:

Son, I leave to you my second prized possession. As a father all I wanted was more time. More time with my family. Lifetime’s if I could…So I found a way. By using light reflected off a tuning fork at the right frequency, I was able to calculate the seismic thumbprints of the Earth using recorded data from past earthquakes. Using that data combined with the frequency’s all humans emit once their born and even nonorganic items once created, I invented a way for time travel. However, it is only a Point of Origin time-travel. I was only able to calculate how to send someone or something back to when they were created. Forgive me for finding this out at your expense. Hopefully next time (if there is) I’ll use other objects besides yours to test. Turns out that items sent back remove the memories that are attached to them. I imagine the same goes for humans too. I gave the world all I could give but I did not give it everything. They cannot handle it. I needed to buy the block just to power the thing! So rightfully so it’s yours. Your birthday is already entered into the program. All you must do is type or press enter:

What? Time travel? Point of Origin? This wasn’t a secret room but the lab of a mad scientist. Or was it?

Lifetimes. That word from his father’s message kept ringing through Lamar’s brain. Lifetimes? All the forty-year-old memories that he had just gained ten minutes ago made his shoes feel heavy. Like a mob boss had his goonies fit him with cement slippers and toss him into the river. He felt as if he sunk here in this exact spot before, contemplating typing enter.

Lamar thought about the walls he put up for himself based on the designs of trauma. Trauma that he didn’t ask for nor did he expect it to be reassured in a twisted way. He thought about the times where he put himself in his own mental room, boxing himself in from the outside world. Starving expectations. Only striving for what he knew he could do. Choosing to tote the thin line between mediocracy and content.

If he pressed enter, would he choose life again at the age of twelve when it all seemed hopeless. Lamar hoped so. One life has endless possibilities. And that’s enough.

He thought about his wife, the love of his life. Would he still find her if he pressed enter? Or would he end up exploring a loved long lost or not love at all? What about his kids? Would he make ones with the same names? Would they have the same hair? Would they favor him over their mother, whoever it may be?

Then his mind flipped to the opposite end of the spectrum. Would he act out on the anger he enclosed in his calloused hands? An old dream began to poke the front of his brain. He was wearing an orange prison suit behind bars. His claustrophobia left him in a puddle of sweat that night but now he thinks his body was dreaming of a life last lived. One that maybe he did squeeze the eyeballs out of that one acquaintance. Or maybe his docile eyes finally ignited and activated his hands to strangle that one friend that talked behind his back. That version of Lamar surely got out of prison after twenty-five years of good behavior and found his way to this house to press the button.

What about that nap from last week that was cut short? He could go back in time, hopefully remember to put his phone on ‘do not disturb’ and he may not feel so sluggish right now. Even going back to place bets on games was a little tempting. Or he could just go home to his family and fortune.

He could even explore that hidden dream he once convinced himself was a lie. Next time choose to believe in the whisper from the heavens planted inside rather letting self-doubts fester like an ingrown toenail. The contracting job was nice and paid well but he always wanted to become a student of the pen. Paint pictures with words and let the ink do the damage.

Lamar’s hands hovered over the keyboard for a fragment of eternity.


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Mar 18, 2023

Awesome read. Elegant and interesting. Thank you brother.


Mar 14, 2023

Impeccable story-writing. One of the best reads for me in a long time. On edge, and looking forward to the next part/chapter. Don’t stop writing.



Devin Milton
Devin Milton
Mar 12, 2023

“Forgive me for finding this out at your expense. Hopefully next time (if there is) I’ll use other objects besides yours to test. One man’s sacrifice for his sons ability to get the most out of his time/ experiences on earth.“

Lately I’ve been believing God wants us as humans to reach a point where we realize the most important things we have is time. Time to love with all our heart, time to create and dream with all are heart, and time to teach and give others the same. We have to learn to embrace all that we experience not for the trauma or pain caused but for the lessons it’s taught us. That we may share to preve…

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