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Archive for the category “Stories”

Till the day I die

Next weekend, I’m going to a LARP (live acting role play or something like that – lajv in Swedish). I’ll be a novice in a convent follwing the (fictional) Saint Tuva of the truth, at the moment fleeing from the war that has already taken our village, Glimminge.

We’re a pretty serious group, with lots and lots of backstory-making, clothes-sewing and of course song-writing. The music to this song is written by my friend Sara, the lyrics by me. Another friend and group member, Björn, sang it in harmony with himself.

The song has the same title as the LARP: Till the day I die

Rough translation from Swedish:

The sun that rose is already sinking
The day that broke has turned to night
And in the hearth, the glow is fading
Saint Tuva’s folk is fleeing

From our home we have been driven away
Our Glimminge is wrecked
In ours hearts it will remain
Our village is with us where we go

So dark is the night around us true ones
So cold the storm sweeping around us
In shadows are we alone
Only Tuva is always with us

If the truth shall be victorious at last
You have to keep the light with you
And through the darkness follow the way
Where Tuva takes you towards the truth

Of our world only ruins are left
So dark the night in front of us
But within me, a light is still shining
It will shine till the day I die.

Story: Red Moon

The sun rises every day. The sun is reliable. Up north, I know it leaves them in the deep of winter, that they have to persuade it, satisfy it with sacrifices of wheat and salt and sometimes more, but not here. Here, it’s the moon.

We have God Father, of course, and his son and his priests and church every Sunday, but the moon is our goddess, our mother, our ruler and queen. She pulls and pushes the sea, brings us high and low tide, brings us the fish we need – if she wants to. She is changeable and fickle, smiles at us one moment and hides her face the next. We fear her and adore her.

In the warmest weeks of summer – not at midsummer, but the sweltering hot month just before the fever breaks and the year tumbles into autumn – she rises blood red. Then, we gather on the shore of our harbor to see her reflection in the water. The young people swim out to bathe themselves in her glow. It brings them great luck, sure hands at the ropes and steady feet on the rocking boats. If you have bathed in the blood of the moon, your own blood will never stain the water.

The days before that full moon, we watch the sky closely. Every cloud is an ill omen. Even the smallest hint of white in the blue above makes brows furrow and mouths tighten. Not among the young people, of course. They look at the red lanterns rusting in the boathouses with scorn. They still swim out to be blessed, of course, but for every year it is less out of reverence and more out of a will to prove themselves. They don’t know. I try to tell them, but they have stopped listening.

I remember, you see. I have held a red lantern in my shaking hand, in a suddenly small and somehow forlorn boat on a cloudy night, trying to sooth the sea, trying to lure the moon out to meet this false reflection. I have seen the clouds shift and open to wash us in red moonlight – that was the first year. I have seen the sky remain stormy gray, I have returned to the shore once my lantern had burned out, I have lived through the year after such a night. That was the next seven years.

For seven years, the moon refused to let her blood for us, and those seven years were the worst that our village has ever lived. We would not have survived an eight year. For seven years, the fish didn’t fill our nets, the grain didn’t grow in our fields, our sheep sickened and died. We sickened to, all too many of us, and so few ever got well again. The old and the far too young had to go out in the boats instead of those who drowned, the weak and the sick had to work the fields and watch what sheep we had left. And in the late summer, we lit all the lanterns we had, painted them red, and shone them on the sea, let their light reflect at the unrelenting clouds.

The seventh year, only five people went with lanterns out in the harbor, the rest had to be out at sea even this sacred night, trying to catch enough fish to feed us another winter. Three young men in one boat, me and my sister in the other, with lanterns hung all around the railings. I rowed and my sister was leaning over the prow, our brightest lantern in her outstretched hand, letting her tears fall in the salt water. She pleaded to the moon, and to the clouds, and begged the sea to bring his lover back. She prayed to all she held holy, and all that she feared, and offered them anything if they would just let the moon shine on us again. The wind that had whispered in her hair on the shore rose into a loud cry to mingle with her voice. Waves rocked the boat, dipping the lanterns and quenching them one after another. I tried to hold us steady, tried to keep us from drifting too far off shore. I wished the wind would help us, scatter the clouds, show us the sky again.

Then my sister cried out. Her lantern was the last one still shining and when it went out, we were all plunged into darkness. It seemed an eternity, but I believe it was only moments before the light returned. “She’s back!” I heard the others call, and it wasn’t until I looked up into the indifferent face of our moon that I realized they hadn’t meant my sister.

That is why I watch the sky so closely. That is why the clouds fill me with a fear so strong that my hands shake and I drop the needle I’m holding. And you laugh at me, and you pick up my needle – because you are good hearted, only so very young and thoughtless – and you pat my shoulder before you go away. I look at you as you stroll down the path to the harbor – good, strong men and women, all of you – and I hope that the sky will remain clear tonight, that the sea will remain contented with my sister’s sacrifice, that I will not live to see which one of you it will claim one day to keep her company.

Writing exercise

One sentence. More than you could possible want to know about the state of my room. Go.

 

It’s not that bad a thing to be a messy person, I try to tell myself (over and over again), because that means when I finally after weeks and weeks take the time to clean my room thoroughly I find really interesting stuff, like money (friends who help me cleaning are always shocked by the amount of money I have in odd corners, but I think it’s a good thing to lose money in my own room because then I can always clean if I get desperate) and books I thought I’d lost, and needles (sometimes I find those with my feet, or by laying down on them and realizing that they’d been stuck in my mattress for weeks at least and I’ve been sleeping on top of them all this time and isn’t that kind of creepy) and candy that’s even edible sometimes, and shirts that I’ve wanted to wear for weeks now and suddenly I have enough socks again (although that one light blue sock will probably be lonely forever) and I can wear my newfound socks and shirts and scarves when I go out and buy more candy (for the candy I find is almost always horrible anyways) for the money I’ve found, and when I come back the monstrous amounts of washing might have dried and I should really put all those clothes away, but I’m far too tired by then so they end up in a pile somewhere and didn’t I clean just a moment ago, why’s my room looking like this?

Story: Five Stars

Early morning light filled Arimund’s room with a soft glow. The sun was hidden behind the hills, painting the horizon golden. It was still some hours until the rest of the family would wake, but Arimund couldn’t possibly go back to sleep. It was his birthday, his twelfth birthday. In a way this morning felt like the first birthday gift, meant just for him.

On top of his clothes chest laid a new tunic in rusty red silk that his mother had bought last summer in Adalborg. Arimund put it on, shivering in pleasure at the unfamiliar, rich feel of the fabric.  Compared to his usual woolen garments, this was as thin and light as cobwebs, something more suited for a fairytale than for Fallsjö Castle. He run his fingers through his hair, tried to smooth it down. There was a mirror upstairs, in his parent’s room, but the door would be closed and he’d probably wake them if he tried to open it. All the doors in Fallsjö Castle squeaked and screeched when you opened them. He slipped out his own half-closed door and down the tower stairs instead. There was a small pool just outside the castle walls – he would be able to see his reflection there.

The western terrace, when Arimund stepped out on it, was dark. On this side of the Castle, the sky was deep blue and still dotted with stars. A breeze, so light that Arimund usually wouldn’t even notice it, found its way through the thin silk of the new tunic. He should have brought a cloak, but he didn’t want to go back now. There was a narrow stair at one corner of the terrace that would take him down to the pool, and then he could run back to his warm room and thick blankets again.

Even on a summer morning, the cold from the flagstones crept up through the leather soles of Arimund’s shoes. He hurried across the terrace and down, through the opening in the wall and out in the knee-high, dew-wet grass. His linen breeches and the hem of his tunic were drenched by the time he reached the pool.  Arimund looked into the still water and saw his reflection, rippling slightly but clear enough. He bent down, trying to get a better look at the embroideries around the neck of the tunic. Golden knotwork with small pearls and gems around his family’s double-horned ram, and beneath the reflection he could see the stones on the bottom of the pool. A few stars shone like the gems, and it almost looked like he could reach out and touch them.

Arimund’s hand was halfway to the surface when he saw something shift in the reflection. Something moving behind him. Not something – someone. Someone he didn’t recognize, someone tall and pale. He started turning his head, but the figure held up a hand.

“Take them.” It was a high, clear voice speaking, and now Arimund was absolutely sure this was nobody he knew.

“Take what?” he asked.

“The stars. They are meant for you.”

Arimund bent forward again. The water was cold around his fingers and the bottom was farther away than he had realized. He felt hands gripping his shoulder tightly, holding him up as he leaned out and finally reached one of the stars. It felt like a pebble in his hands, small and rough and slightly warmer than the water. There was another one just beside it, and then three more before he at last sat back with the glowing stones in his hands.

“They might fade a bit once they’ve dried”, the voice behind him said. “Things found in the water so often do. But keep them. You will have use of them one day.”

“What are they? Who are you?” Arimund tried to turn around but was held still.

“You saw it yourself. Stars. And I – I will tell you my name, but not today.”

The hands on Arimund’s shoulders loosened their grip. He stood up, slowly, suddenly feeling how cold he was. When he turned to go back to the castle, the stranger was gone. He ran back through the wet grass, clutching five gray pebbles in his hand.

 

 

Early morning light filled Arimund’s room with a soft glow, even though he could have sworn he’d drawn the blinds the night before. The window was even slightly open, letting the cold air in to dance with the dust in the corners. Arimund was shivering with cold. His covers were lying on the floor, he must have kicked them off at some point during his dream – and all at once, the dream was rushing back to him, clear in every detail.

He had been to Fallsjö Castle, of course he had. It was just up the hill, after all. Most parts were closed off nowadays, too dangerous to be in, but he was sure that if he got up in the tower, he would find the room he’d woken in. If he went to the western terrace, there would be a narrow stair, a door deep in the wall, high grass and a clear pool. He could find it with his eyes closed – after all, that was what he had been doing the last six nights.

Tomorrow was his twelfth birthday. He had no doubts of what he would dream of that night. He had no doubts about where he would go that morning.

Story: Laika

(Translated from Swedish. Please tell me if anything sounds weird.)

Rodya looked at me. I looked at Rodya. Rodya glanced towards the dog.

“Someone really ought to…” he began.

I looked back on the dashboard. Three readings taken so far today. All three showed results that were well within the framework of acceptable.

“Emmy. You. Emmy, hey. Laika. Someone should go out with her. She’s been whining for a while now.”

I continued taking down my readings. At a visual inspection, as it they call it, the sun had grown significantly. That is, when I last looked out the window the damn thing looked larger. But according to the telemteroscope, it was the same size as yesterday, the day before yesterday and in fact all the week, month and year that we’d sat here staring at it.

It was not just the sun we looked at, of course, even if the damn ball of gas was the most intrusive.  We kept track of the entire cosmos. All the fifty-two ships of our fleet, from the Ace of Spades to the King of Hearts sent their messages to us two. We were the last astronauts, you might say. Rodion Raskolnikov and Emily Smith. The dregs of our profession, you could also say. Those who weren’t good enough to join the fleet that would find a new home for mankind. But when that humanity realized that the layer of debris in the atmosphere was too thick to get a decent signal through, we were suddenly wanted again. I was called away from my farm in Arkansas, Rodya from his cold little apartment in a suburb of Moscow. They sent us up with a space ship that was held together with duct tape and hope and dumped us on the remains of MIR.

“Emmy,” Rodya said again. That pleading, whining tone that I hated had crept into his voice again. “Emmy, can’t you go out with Laika this time? I wouldn’t ask you, but I’m so tired.”

“I’m doing the readings,” I said curtly. Actually I was done, but I reminded myself that protocol demanded I checked them again at least once. I started on it.

“I can do them for you,” he said. “Emmy, you know I can. I don’t understand why I never get to do them.”

I sighed. “You’ve got the dog to take care of,” I said. “You know it’s you she likes the best. How could I take her, she can barely tolerate me.”

“Oh, when the spacesuit is on in she won’t notice any difference, you know. Right, little Laika?” Rodya looked worriedly towards the sleeping quarters. “Can’t you hear her whining?” he asked.

I looked down at the dashboard and pretended not to hear him. Unfortunately, after a whole year together, he was too good at reading me to fall for that.

“Emmy, Emmy, let me do the afternoon readings today,” he said. He seemed to have forgotten the dog for the moment. “I never get to do them anymore.”

He came and sat next to me. Since the chair wasn’t designed for two people he pushed me off and I would have fallen to the floor if it weren’t for the lack of gravity. He was about to start pressing the buttons and the levers when I pushed him away. I misjudged the amount of force, as usual, and he didn’t stop until he bumped into the window across the room.

“That was unneccesary,” he said with a hurt voice.

I saw I’d have to talk seriously to him. That was nothing I looked forward to. The last time he had refused to talk to me for weeks, and however annoying he was, he was still my only companion here. “Rodion Romanovitj Raskolnikov,” I said. “You know what happened last time. It nearly cost us our jobs.”

I didn’t add “It nearly cost us our planet.” I didn’t have to. I saw a flicker of guilt cross his otherwise so innocent blue eyes. His lower lip began to quiver. I quickly put on a smile for him.

“Wont you take take the dog for a walk now, hm? You know she likes you the best.”

He nodded slowly.

“There you go,” I continued in the same encouraging tone. “Put on your spacesuit and tell me when to open the air lock.”

I continued with the readings. No new messages from any of our ships. There was a beep on the radio, but it was only Rodya. I let him out with one touch. He glided up just outside the window and waved to me. He looked incredibly small in the black space.

“There, Laika, sweetie,” I heard a whisper on the radio. “Do you want to play?”

Rodya bounced away in the emptiness out there, alone as always.

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