My Crazy Friday

So I went to Stockholm this Thursday to participate in some workshops and lectures for my journalism course. And when they were over, I simply decided not to go home.

I took the sub downtown and wandered around for a while in the rain and the increasing darkness of early evening. The otherwise so crowded streets were emptying and the stores and cafés were closing for the night. I found one that was still open, ordered a chai latte and settled down by a small table with a candle to write.

From the ceiling mounted speakers flowed the kind of music perfect for Moments. You know, those short islands of clarity in your daily life, that you know that you will remember for years to come. Maybe with envy because you are not there anymore.

The latte was also perfect, and the words flowed. Then, seemingly suddenly, the café closed and I was out on the streets again, wandering aimlessly. It was getting too late to catch a train back home anyway, so I looked up a cheap hostel that I checked into.

The Red Boat, just as the name implies, was a hostel contained onboard a red boat laying at anchor by the river winding through the city. The room was small but perfect, and I dumped my things there before returning to the darkening city streets. In want of my camera, my cellphone had to make due.

Stockholm’s windows glowed like celestial bodies in the night and the passing cars were that imagined sky’s comets and asteroids. A friend called me, one who knew I was in town and who wanted to meet. We ate and drank and then we went clubbing. My first time in Stockholm. I got to see light and smoke and people getting thrown out in the night without their jackets for no apparent reason. It was glorious.

Then remained to return, alone, to my small room and fall asleep while the city night and the flashing lights of police sirens fell through my curtains and painted the ceiling in blue stripes.

Now I’m sitting in that very same café again, a chai latte in front of me and a realization in my mind that for Moments to happen one sometimes has to step out of the secure, comfortable box that makes us take the train home directly after journalism classes. My own train home leaves in about an hour, so I guess it’s time to drink up the latte and savor the Moment before stepping back into the box.


Oh, and by the way: my word count is now 23341. And I don’t know what my computer was thinking with the tags on this post. I’ll fix it when I get back home lol. Over and out!

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Tracks

This text is from 2008, and was written as part of a short story project I never finished. I’ll read through it when I get back home and see if I need to make any changes. Feel free to leave a comment!


Happiness, laughter, naive delusions that life will last forever. In young years everything can have such a wonderful aura of invincibility, and in the eyes of the newborn explorer anything is possible. But this kind of imaginary reality is so frail, so easily shattered, that what seems in one moment to be the start of something, can suddenly turn out to be the end of everything.

The snow was falling intensely outside the windows, striking against the front of the small car like stars around a fast flying space ship in one of those movies. There were just the three of them, on their way to her family cottage some distance outside of town. They had been driving for about an hour, and were more than halfway there. As usual they were all joking and laughing, she in the back seat and her two friends in front. The sky was inky black and no star was visible in this long winter night – only the full moon helped light the shadows of the road where the car’s headlights were too caked with snow to do it.

Later she would remember these details as clearly as if she were still there in that car, in those last moments of the world. She would breathe these remembered moments as if were they oxygen and she drowning, alone and desperate in a dark sea. She saw them smiling back at her through the rear view mirror and then they all burst out laughing at what had just been said. They had known each others for years and knew that they would still be friends when they were all old and gray, sitting at some home and whining about the ways of new generations. This though, as it would turn out, was never going to happen.

She saw the one of her friends driving turn around towards her to say something. She heard her other friend scream suddenly, and saw the driver hastily turn his attention back to the road. He also screamed, and turned the wheel frantically in one direction. The car jumped and spun on the icy road. She screamed. They all screamed. She never even saw what had caused the commotion, and then everything turned black.

In confused and despairing lonely hours to come, despite the blurriness that had consumed every other memory of that fateful awakening back to light and reality, she would always be able to recall cold snow against her bruised back, someone screaming about a survivor and a blanket being wrapped around her shoulders by supporting hands – a blanket that was most probably warm but which she could not at that moment feel at all. Her senses registered no sound after that whatsoever, even though she was well aware that there should be sirens screaming since she could see them flashing, and a fire roaring since she could see the reflection of its flames against the glittering white winter snow. The flames themselves, though, she was not allowed to see. She was promptly turned away from them, even as several uniform clad men and women rushed past her to reach the source of their raging dance. She was all alone, even with all the people surrounding her and supporting her. She could not hear their worried voices, she could not see their concerned faces for all the tears in her own eyes. She knew nothing but that she was alone. The two stars that had once lit her darkness would never shine again, and her own fire was waning. But still no pain. Only tears and silence.

Just before they gently pushed her inside one of the waiting emergency vehicles, she managed one last glance back at the burning wreck that had once been her friend’s red car. The flames stood in screaming contrast to the dark forest and the black winter sky, and in a way it was all very beautiful in a terrible, terrible way. But what caught her attention most was not the fire, not the mashed metal of the carriage body or the limp arm of the person that was now being carefully lifted out of the car by two fire fighters clad in bright colours. No, it was neither of those things. Rather, it was something far more insignificant. Beside the burning car, in the snow that was melting by the fire even as she watched, were a collection of tracks made by small, small paws, trailing away from the scene of the tragedy and into the nightly forest beyond. And she would remember afterwards how she stood there, looking at those tracks, holding the hems of the blanket close together, and finally totally comprehending the full horror of the situation. And then came the pain. Then came all the terrible, searing sounds of the world. Then came the cold, the desperation. And she would remember nothing more.

She spent a long time in a hospital where everything was white, and everyone was smiling at her, talking to her in low tones as if the sound of human voices would damage her ears. She saw pity in their eyes and felt that she could not get away soon enough. But there was much inside her that was broken, not counting her heart, and her stay in that place would not be a short one.

Nights were her worst time, since it was then that everything around her went silent and she had time to think, to ponder and to grieve. Dreams were never easy on her and the memories she had of the accident she was forced to relive every time she closed her eyes. She grew to hate the white walls and the smiling people with the soft voices and the pitying eyes. She grew silent and withdrawn, and when at length she was allowed to leave the confinement of the white, accursed walls she had already sunk below the surface of herself. And slowly drowning, invisibly, unnoticed and seemingly irrevocably, she entered the world anew – but nothing was longer what it had been, and she least of all.

Spring came and with it memories. Memories of a time that had been happy and innocent, before the world ended and shades emerged to put up a pretense of blissful normality. She never returned to everyday life, to the things she had liked to do in the time Before. She only wandered and remembered, tortured herself with What Ifs and Whys. Her wanderings took her to places they had been together; an old playground, a steep hill destined to be covered in green grass when the weather got warmer, the roof of an old house where no one dared to live anymore in fear of wandering legends. In all these places she saw ghosts of her Happy Life, shadows of her lost friends laughing and singing.

Summer came and the steep hill gained its soft draping of flowing emerald. She lay there for hours gazing up at the sailing clouds above. Then she went down to the lake where they had used to swim on sunny afternoons. She sat down in the life-saving boat they had used to borrow-without-asking on several occasions, and gazed out at the dark waters. Nothing was as it should. Not anymore. She felt that she should have died in that car, too, which would have saved her from this agonizing existence. No shape of cloud and no song of water could ease her inner pain, and no bright summer sun would be ever able to light her darkness.

Autumn and falling leaves. Rain and thunder, wind and the crow of dark birds on otherwise empty branches. The season did nothing to help her, but she felt at home in it since it mirrored her inner feelings. The sorrow did not go away, as the others had said that it would. She hated the word “Eventually”, since the vocabularies of all the people surrounding her seemed to have suddenly lost all other words while they were in her presence. During stormy evenings she crept up into the window of her room and looked gloomily out at the darkening streets where falling water and wet red leaves seemed to compete furiously for the wind’s attention. Let me be a leaf, she thought. Let the wind take me and carry me away.

But she was no leaf, and when the air got cold and the wind grew biting rather than wet, she sat there still by her window, looking down at those streets. Soon the ground became white with frost and later covered by an even whiter blanket of snow. This was when she went out into the world again, to fully feel the pain of knowing that a year had passed her by and nothing inside her had changed even the slightest bit. She wandered the known streets. She left them for unknown ones, and ended up outside the areas of the most crowded habitation. Trees grew here, and the road was small and would not allow the width of two cars beside each other.

This road she walked, never looking back or up at what was in front of her, but always looking down at the ground, thinking and grieving. This is probably why she did not at first notice that someone was walking ahead of her. She saw the tracks before she saw the people; in fact, it was when she saw the tracks that she looked up from the ground at her feat, and noticed them. Shocked, she stopped on the road and only stared. For the two people that were walking some distance ahead of her could not be any other than the two persons that she missed most in the world, and also the two persons she had expected the least ever to see again. Two pairs of tracks trailed after them in the snow on the ground, and they seemed to be dancing where they went; dancing in the beautifully falling snow, just like they had used do in the past.

She called their names, but they did not seem to hear her. Laughing happily, they continued down the forest road, away from her. She called again and started to run after them, joy rising in her heart for the first time in a long, long time. Could this possibly be true? What had really happened on that night, since they were both here, now, alive? But she did not give these thoughts much time, since she had to run her fastest not to lose sight of them. Because however fast she ran, she never seemed to get any closer to them; they were always a long distance ahead of her.

They rounded a turn in the road and were for a moment hidden from her sight by the close growing trees of the forest. She hurried to catch up, but when she too had rounded the turn they could no longer be seen. Confused and disappointed she stopped. In front of her was a small bridge spanning a frozen river, but the tracks her two friends had left did not go any further than the beginning of that bridge. Then they were gone, without any sign of where they could have disappeared.

She gazed out over the river, and saw how the ice crystals on the snowy surface mirrored the twinkling stars in the dark heavens above. The forest was silent but for a murmuring wind that danced in the treetops. No laughter, no dance. Not even a nightly bird broke the tranquility. And nowhere anyone at all. Again she was alone. The bridge stretched empty in front of her, and on either side the world seemed to hold its breath and wait for her to think through the strangely wonderful thing that had just befallen her. But yet she did not understand.

Then she turned around to return the same way that she had come, and suddenly she remembered the tracks. There should be more tracks than her own in the snow behind her, if she had not imagined it all and was finally going mad. But the tracks of two pairs of shoes that she had been following were not there anymore. Only the depressions in the snow where she had put her own feet remained, and even they were being filled with falling snow as she watched.

With a heavy heart she was just about to take the first dreary steps on her journey back home, when she noticed them. Small, small tracks made by paws trailed along her own. Tracks made by two cats, seemingly playful, dancing, where the tracks of her friends’ shoes had been a moment ago. And suddenly she remembered. The very same kind of tracks on the snowy ground next to a burning car on a winter night like this, a whole year ago. Two pairs of tracks leading away from two persons killed in a tragic car crash on a dark road in the middle of nowhere. Two. And now the very same kind of tracks on a snowy night road where she had only moments before spotted her lost friends, very much alive and even dancing happily.

All came back to her then. Every memory, happy and sad, good and bad. The laughter, the screaming, the pain and the cold. She relived the end of the world, but not in the same way as she had done every night for the last year. Stronger, more painful. But then there were the tracks in the snow. It all ended and started with those tracks. Cat tracks. Two cats dancing in the snow.

A single tear rolled down her cheek, and she followed the tracks all the way back to where the houses begun. The silence was still unbroken, but inside of her a bright red flower had sprung up from soil that she had though of as dead and dry.

There are those who claim that the souls of lovers, if brutally and suddenly ripped from the world and from each other, can sometimes escape in the form of nightly creatures. Cats? Perhaps. I am not sure what to believe about that, but what I do know is that where a heart was earlier slowing, stopping, it is now starting to beat with more strength than it has ever had before. Someone who thought that all was lost suddenly discovered that nothing is ever, ever lost as long as there is a will to survive, to carry on. And as seasons change and the sun and moon continue to circulate the sky, so does hope return to a world that has ended many times but has been resurrected almost as often. For hope is our strongest force; a force that will outlive time itself.

Their Master Plan

A long time ago there was an ancient alien race that wanted to take over the world. They were equipped with superior technology and a total lack of empathy. But still, for reasons now unknown, they did not succeed. They went sulkily into hiding and were soon forgotten.

It is no secret that humans like cats. Everybody loves them a nice, furry cat, except for ninja rat mutants and really strange people. And because of this, you would be hard put to find a town where not at least a third of the population keeps a fluffy feline as a lodger.

But people are also lazy, at the same time as they have way too much to do. This results in a situation where cats are left alone for most of the day when their masters are at work, and are left to entertain themselves when the masters at long last get home and are too tired to suitably socialize. Cats are easily frustrated, and masters are easily guilt tripped.

There was only one way this could possibly end, really.

Really was, by chance, also the name of Riley O. Burrow’s cat. ”Riley & Really” was the signature at the bottom of all Riley’s Christmas cards, and on Facebook his professional status was set as him being an employee of a faux company with that same name. The phrase ”oh, Really” was also not seldom heard echoing through his spacious flat as he discovered yet another product of his furry friend’s innovative play style.

When Riley got back from work one evening, he wearily noticed that Really had, rather imaginatively and quite obviously for want of better things to do, turned his masters excessively expensive headphones into a chewing toy.

”Oh, Really”, he sighed as he picked up the sorry remnants of shredded cable that lay sprinkled all over the floor. The perpetrator himself made big eyes and beckoned him into the kitchen – it was time for his dinner. Riley would have loved to not give Really his food tonight, but he was to kind a master for that. So kind a master was he, in fact, that he drove into town the very next day to get the cuddlesome culprit a better toy to play with than his pricey electronics.

He quickly found what he was looking for. A large sign in front of the pet shop advertised the newest innovation: ”The Decoy” – a mouse shaped toy so engaging that it would keep the kitty busy for hours on end. It didn’t run on batteries and was totally child safe. Riley bought it without any hesitation.

Quite correctly, The Decoy became an instant hit when Riley put it down on his living room floor. Really really liked it and was totally absorbed in playing with his new toy from the moment he laid paws on it. He carried it around, beat it across the room, chased it, threw it into the air and fought it furiously with tooth and claw. Riley was content. Now his stuff wouldn’t have to fear being torn to pieces by a restless cat when he himself was at work. He went to bed.

He awoke in the middle of the night from a ceaseless racket. A burglar? He was instantly fully awake and speeding through the room to hit the light switch. But the source of the disturbing noise was just Really, playing with his new toy.

”Oh, Really?”, Riley said and went back to bed. He didn’t sleep much that night, however. The sound of a cat fighting, running, jumping and attacking kept him awake.

He was deadly tired the next day, and decided to throw The Decoy away – or at least to put it away on a shelf. The problem was, he couldn’t find it. Really followed him through the flat and seemed to be looking for the toy as well. Riley realized that his cat must have lost the toy, just as he had managed to lose all other small trinkets he had been given over the years. It was like with socks in the laundry – once lost, they were never found again. Riley decided it was just as well, and went to work – still feeling like undead shit.

When he got home, the cat was already asleep. Riley put new food and water in the bowls on the floor and followed suit. He had struggled to make it through the day in his sleepless state but now, finally, he would be allowed to sleep.

Around midnight the ruckus began. Really chased The Decoy though the apartment, clawed at it, fought it within the confined space of his transportation cage and generally made it impossible for Riley to go back to sleep again. He went up, took the toy from his cat and put it in the trash. Sleep still eluded him, however, and he spent the night in frustrated and futile attempts to get at least some rest.

At work the next day, he was not the only one to shuffle around like a zombie. A co-worker, funnily enough, cursed his own cat for keeping him awake at night. Riley shared a coffee with him, and together they valiantly made it through the day.

When he was again awakened by the sound of cat violence the next night, Riley knew that something was wrong. He had put that toy away, hadn’t he? But there it was again, being violently abused all across his floor by his completely absorbed cat. Riley screamed at his pet, but that didn’t help. He chased Really through the apartment until he got his hands on The Decoy. Once again he threw it away, but just like last night he was too worked up to go back to sleep.

At work the next day, his coffee mate had called in sick. And not just him, actually. Several co-workers were missing, and Riley had to skip his lunch break to cover for everyone.

The following night, The Decoy was back again with a fury. He threw it out the window, but still it was back again one day later. Riley despaired, he didn’t know what to do. After five sleepless nights, Riley, too, called in sick. He couldn’t do this anymore. The people at the office would have to make due.

What Riley didn’t know, however, what that more than a third of his co-workers had had the exact same thought. And not just at his company. People all over the country, all over the world, were calling in sick – for lack of sleep. Their colleagues had to work overtime and skip their lunches, in turn leading to even more people going on sick-leave. Little by little, the world slowed down – until one day it stopped.

And the ancient alien race watched from their sulking hideout and stopped sulking. Their estimations had been correct – cats were the weak spot of humankind and they had aimed their vicious attack correctly. Now the time had come to employ and deploy their superior technology and total lack of empathy, now was the time to shine. And they crept forth from their dark corners, hellbent on world domination.

Riley O. Burrow had been slumbering on his couch, but now he was wide awake, unable to believe the images that flashed before him on the TV-screen. Explosions, fires, floods, an army of space aliens marching through the capital. What the hell was happening, and why didn’t the army do anything about it? A yawning news reporter was held at gunpoint by one of the invaders.

”…and their spokes…person…has ordered me to tell you that all this has been possible because we let their Trojan Horses” – the news anchor stopped, listened to a voice in his earpiece and corrected himself – ”Oh, sorry, let their Trojan Mice, into our homes. This has allowed them to effectively wear all our defenses and infrastructure out from within. And that’s all from CNN News, I’m afraid. Now they’ll finally allow me to go home again and sleep.”

Riley just stared as the news anchor was ushered away and the sacking of the capital continued. His eyes went to his cat, still playing with The Decoy on the floor.

”Oh”, he said, sudden insight dawning on him. ”Oh, really…?”

…Every Cat But Mine

This text was written in reply to a writing prompt that said “Cats around the world start to do strange things like doing their owners taxes, or getting part time jobs to earn them money. Your cat however is incredibly special in that it does absolutely nothing interesting. Ever”. Feel free to tell me what you think!


I was amazed, of course. Maya poured me some more tea and underlined what she had just said with a gesture towards the desk in the corner. I could see a pair of fuzzy ears protruding from behind the monitor, but otherwise I would never have guessed who was sitting there, hammering away at the keyboard like a pro.

”Oh, and the only reason I even bothered to make this tea myself is that Morris is monitoring the stock market right now”, she said apologetically. ”I’m not even interested in that shit, but hell I’m not complaining. I expect him to pull that off just as well as he did that phone call to talk me out of those parking tickets from last week. Those people really can’t handle arguing with a cat.”

I nodded and drank my tea. The brew Morris made was much better, but I didn’t mind. I hadn’t gotten entirely used to this thing with a cat making my tea yet anyhow, and Maya’s attempt wasn’t that bad. ”Yeah, I heard Anderson’s Tanis has taken to repairing the neighbourhood’s cars. I didn’t even know there’s cat sized tools for that yet.”

”Nah, there isn’t. I’ve checked. But Tanis makes them himself from stuff he orders from Ebay. He’s quite the Cat Gyver, that one. I wish Morris was more practical like that.” She cast a fond look towards the corner, where a furry paw just reached into a water bowl and retrieved a few drops before vanishing behind the monitor again. ”Don’t listen to me. Morris is the cat of my life and I wouldn’t trade him for anything.”

I finished my tea and excused myself. In contrast to everyone else nowadays, ever since the Thing happened and the cats suddenly started pulling their weight, I still had to do my own chores and make my own phonecalls. I even had to repark my own car, I noted sourly as I observed Maya’s neighbour cat, Holiday, getting out of the family’s red Kia after moving it a couple of yards down the lane. I got into my own bucket, which started on the third try. I wished, not for the first time, that Mr. Bruce as well would rise to the occasion and learn some mechanic skills, just like Tanis.

On my way home I took note of just how different everything was now, compared to before. There were cats everywhere, doing stuff not even people were expected to be doing on such a regular basis. I could see felines taking out garbage, watching small children, shopping for groceries, painting houses, walking dogs… I even thought I saw a tabby driving past in a police car, but that must have been my nerves playing tricks on me. Right? The headlines were full of amazing stories where furry kittens rescued families from poverty by building shelters and malkins directed blockbuster movies. Of course it was mind blowing, but it also made me irritated. Why could not I, too, be allowed to reap the fruits of this fantastic turn of events?

I arrived home, where I parked my sorry vehicle in the over grown driveway and made my way across the unkempt lawn to the door. The house was in dire need of a new layer of paint, and there were several bags of garbage sitting on the porch. I sighed. It was all good and well that Maya and everyone else got so much help with everything, but I still had to do it all by myself. I opened the door and immediately grew even more irritated. Couldn’t Mr. Bruce at least come tripping to the door and greet me like a normal cat, if he wouldn’t make himself useful in any other way? ”Hello?”, I called, but still no reaction. I sighed again, heavier this time, put the heavy bag of groceries on the kitchen table and began to unpack it.

”Good”, a low pitched voice called from the living room. ”Put the Whiskas in a bowl – the large one – and bring it here. Oh, and I want some coke too.”

I almost lost it, but clenched my teeth and tried to stay calm as I walked into the living room. I stopped in the doorway. ”Can’t you at least pretend to be useful around here when I’m away?”

Mr. Bruce looked away from the screen for only a couple of seconds, gave me one of those disgusted faces that was his specialty and then returned his full attention to the match of Team Fortress 2 he was currently playing. ”Bitch please”, he said. ”What d’you think I am, a dog?”

And I just shook my head and went back into the kitchen to continue doing what had to be done around here, all by myself. Just as usual.