Psst. You there. Are you alone? Are the curtains drawn? Is the door locked? Have you plugged up your keyholes? Have you nailed shut your windows? Have you combed your room for cameras? Have you combed your room for bugs? Have you combed your room for those Boston Dynamics robot dogs the cops are buying these days? Do you have one of those little plastic stick-on things over your laptop’s webcam?
Sorry for the theatrics, but you can never be too careful. There could be a Listening Boy in your air vent, or a tactical chimp with a GoPro outside your window. After all, information is more valuable than ever. Every secret has a price tag, and even that price tag is sometimes secret.
Look around you! These days, a nugget of juicy gossip is worth more than a nugget of gold. Scammers dress up as computers to farm social security numbers at old folks’ homes. President Joe Biden was elected on a platform of “I’ve got a secret, and if you pick me I’ll tell it,” then refused to tell the nation at his inauguration on the grounds that “it wouldn’t be a secret if I told you.” High-powered rumor traders have laid fiber-optic cables across the entire length of the country so Hollywood gossip can reach New York a tenth of a second faster. If you loosen your grip on a secret, it’ll be swiped before you know it, and sold in the marketplace of ideas for pennies on the dollar.
Of course, it isn’t easy to keep a secret all on your own; bringing someone else into the fold can make you feel less alone. If you get this urge, make sure to pick a reliable confidant. Shy boys are great at keeping secrets, like which girls they think are cute and whether they’ve been radicalized on a far-right internet forum. Parrots are very bad at keeping secrets, as are nationally syndicated gossip columnists. You can’t go wrong with a lonely old man on his deathbed; he’s got nowhere to be, and if you sit there long enough you might get one of his secrets in return.
If you want, you could even share your secret with me. I have a terrible memory. If you tell me something, I’ll forget it within a week. I won’t tell anyone about it, because I’ll forget that I was planning to tell them until after they’ve left. Come spill your darkest treasures into my sieve. Pretty soon I’ll start talking about a lizard I saw, and soon after I’ll forget about that lizard too.
Whatever you decide, you’ll have made somebody’s day a little more interesting. Who doesn’t love a good secret? Our obsession with them makes sense; nothing can compare to the elusive satisfactions of the unknown. It whispers questions too titillating to leave unanswered: What is behind the mahogany door marked “Nothing To See Here” in bloodred letterhead? What is the woman in the flower dress whispering to the man in the dapper suit? What does cheese from a mouse trap taste like? Can a doctor tell if a hand injury was sustained while extracting cheese from a mousetrap? Will a doctor make fun of you if you tell them that you sustained your hand injury while extracting cheese from a mouse trap?
There’s so much we don’t know in this world. We live in the dark, and peer at the world through a crack in the wall of a high-end cell in a minimum security prison, where white collar criminals exchange little baggies of Oxycodone and stock options and the food is shockingly good. Half of everything we believe is untrue, which means a quarter of everything we believe is untrue.
Still, there’s no shame in that. Everybody has their blind spots. Maybe you pronounce “milk” weird and nobody’s ever corrected you, or maybe you think gullible isn’t written on the ceiling. People who travel to the ISS always leave thinking the world is flat. Many city-dwelling children are so sheltered in their concrete prison that they don’t know what animals are. When they inevitably come across a subway rat or sewer gibbon, they just assume it’s an oddly shaped man. The generous ones will toss spare change, and the civically minded ones will ask if the creature is registered to vote. We all live in fictionalized worlds of our own construction. For every secret we learn, there are a thousand more that will remain behind the veil.
So do what you will—keep a secret, learn a secret, take a secret, tell a secret, write a secret on a scrap of paper and stick it in a golem’s mouth. The unknown will always hover just beyond your understanding, undiminished by your trove of forbidden truths. That can be sort of freeing, in the end. It’s impossible to know everything, but it’s also very difficult to know nothing.
This is the Secret Issue. I can’t tell you exactly what’s in it, because I’ve already forgotten. I can tell you it’s full of secrets, so read up and try to remember as many as you can. At the end of the day, you’ll have barely scratched the surface.
Editor in Chief