They Are Always Watching

This story has taken me several months to write. I’m going through a pretty heavy dip right now and inspiration is a scarce commodity. Therefore I am doubly happy with at long last being able to produce something creative. Feel free to comment, I’d love to hear your feedback.


She was singing when they found her. The forest was dark and the swamp was hungry. The small shape on the log almost blended with the humid and murky night crawling forth from beneath rocks and amongst drooping branches. But only almost, because murky nights do not sing pentatonic songs in seven disparate languages under perfectly aligned stars – and neither do they commonly come in the shape of a five year old child.

Later, the Pascal women always told her about the knowing darkness in her eyes as she watched them approach. Later they told her that the first words she uttered after she ceased singing and they stopped one man’s length away from her and asked for her name was a warning in perfect French.

“Fear”, she said as she turned to face them. “All of them are watching.”

Then she slumped from the log and into the water as if invisible strings had been suddenly cut from her naked body. When next she awoke in a warm bed and with seven silent and wondering women standing over her she did not speak a word of the languages they had heard her use in the midnight forest. She did not speak a word of any language at all.

They taught her French and magics and the ways of men and she was a quick learner. With the ease and efficiency of someone taking in knowledge for the second time she picked up on everything they told and showed her until she could barely be told apart from any other child her age in New Orleans – save for the magic of course.

But if her saviours had been hoping to learn the mystery behind this child when at long last she was able to speak, they were soon to be dreadfully disappointed. For at the very same rate as she was learning new words and names and customs, her memories of what had passed before drifted from her memory. In the end even she could barely tell herself apart from the other children – save, of course, for the magic and the fact that most other children knew at least one of their parents.

Her seven mothers slowly learned to be content with not knowing, with silently fearing whatever it was the child had warned them about but would apparently never be able to explain further. With time they almost learned to forget that she was more and less than other children, and that they had initially doubted whether or not she was really human at all.

Her seven mothers endowed her with many names, one at a time, but none of them stuck. They all glanced off of her like mercury poured on ice. They were all girls’ names and she didn’t listen to them because she was not a girl, and in the end her seven mothers gave up and let her decide. The name she chose for herself was Seth, and before long none of the seven Pascal women could even understand how they had ever thought of any other name for this child.

They wanted her to let her hair grow long, just like theirs, but she always kept it as short as the blade of a sharpened knife would allow. They wanted her to wear flowing skirts and ornate jewelry just like them, but she chose to dress simply and practically and never wore any symbols or signs that rigorous and concentrated study had not made her choose to really believe the meaning of. Some of the superstitious symbols worn by her seven mothers she made the choice never to don at all. She made her own choices and her own way and her only regret was her inability ever to remember what she had been before she was a dark eyed human with olive coloured skin.

That starlit night was long ago, but the dark eyed child was me.

I repeatedly catch myself thinking about stars as I make my way down the rain soaked pavement below oh so many blankly staring windows reflecting the cloudy night sky. I decided long ago that I am not a star, that I might once have been many things but never that. However, the stars have always fascinated me. If I were only able to hear their music and musings, I am positive that I would like it.

I see a glowing point rising on the sky before me like a shooting star in reverse, and from beyond the heavy clouds I hear the thunder of a roaring engine. My bag is not heavy but still I am weary of carrying it. I hurry to the waiting cab fighting off the warm rain with frantically dancing screen wipers. The airport behind me never sleeps, but I long to crash into bed and not wake for days.

The backseat of the taxi is warm and smells like too much subtle perfume. I need no psychic powers to tell that we are being followed. If I knew that I had something to gain from it, I would bet my left eye on the pursuer being the same man I have spotted several times on my journey here from Los Angeles. I don’t like his vibe, nor his suit, and would rather just return home, hoping for my intuition to be nothing more than paranoia this time. But I know better, and I’m not so stupid as to lead a fox straight into a rabbit hole. So I tell the driver to turn left and left again.

The forest is dense and the darkness is scraping against the sides of the car like soft, slender fingers clad in heavy velvet. Looking out through the rear window I can see the headlights of the other car illuminating the trees from behind a bend in the broken road. Not so smart, this one. That, or entirely confident in his own ability to take down his prey even without being in the least discrete. Possibly – probably – both.

I almost feel sorry for the driver, I know he didn’t sign up for this. But such is life, that you seldom or never get exactly what you bargain for or deserve. I calmly ask him to stop the car, pay him what he is due and then step out into the night. I leave my bag in the trunk and when the driver tries to remind me of it I give him one of those glances and he is off along the road again. I shouldn’t do that to people, I think. I really shouldn’t.

The light from the cab isn’t even entirely gone behind the trees before the road is again lit up, by a colder type of light this time. It is almost as if the headlight of the pursuing car reflect the aura of the man behind the wheel. I don’t know enough to estimate his abilities, but still I wait by the tree line a few more seconds to make sure that he spots me. Just before the anonymous car comes to a halt on the rocky forest road I start making my way into the woods.

There is no path here but I can hear the trees and the moss and the breath of the rocks on the ground. I need no light in this place, I don’t know why but I suspect it has something to do with me once having been born under these crowns and amidst these trunks. I am in no hurry, I can hear him too as he stumbles forward through the vegetation. He is probably armed but shouldn’t be able to get a good shot just yet. Maybe I should be afraid, but I’m not. Because somehow I feel I know something that he doesn’t.

He doesn’t gain on me and I keep on going. I wonder who he is, why he wants to hurt me. Because I can feel clearly that he wants to do just that. If he wanted to kill me he could have done so much more easily many times on our journey here. He wants something else, but it isn’t something good. Not for me at least. Then I wonder suddenly if he, too, can hear the song of the stars, or if it’s just me.

And then I step into the clearing and the darkness gives in to the soft illumination of the moon and the glowing clouds and the singing stars. I don’t know where I lost my shoes but now my naked feet tread softly upon the moist moss and the shiny rocks in the dark puddles. When I get to the middle of the clearing I can feel his eyes and his gun on me. I brace myself and turn around.

“Did you really think that you could run from me?” His voice is as neutral as his ashen suit and nondescript features. The only thing alive about him is the light reflecting off the worn silencer fastened to his weapon.

“No”, I say. I really didn’t think so. I watch him choose a better stance upon the porous ground without taking his eyes off me for even a second.

“Good”, he says. “Do you know who I work for?”

I shake my head. I don’t know. I want to tell him that neither do I care, but maybe that would be pushing it too much.

He seems to be looking at me, but in reality I know that he is looking down on me. He knows that I cannot run, he knows that he can afford to slightly prolong this finale of his victorious hunt.

“You’re not going to kill me, are you?” I feel strangely calm and this is not really a question.

He laughs softly, falsely, imperiously and almost invisibly shakes his head. “No, I’m not. I am going to subdue you and put you in the trunk of my car. If you force me to I will hurt you, but I’d rather not. That would probably take away from the sum I can get for you. But make no mistake, damaged goods is much preferable to no goods at all.” And I can hear that this is hubris talking, in this place of all places.

“Goods? What is this, some kind of trafficking?”

He nods and smiles viciously. Takes one step forward on the swampy ground. “In a way, yes, you could say that. The people I deliver to pay well for exotic specimens like yourself – not entirely human but not entirely not, either. Or your friend in L.A. I’m sure you’ll want to tell me all about him in a couple of hours.”

I feel cold suddenly. Not frightened, just cold. “The Enjoyment Club”, I say.

He stops two men’s length away from me, a surprised smile spreading across his face and his gun still trained on my forehead. “So you have done your homework. Good girl”, he says.

“I’m not a girl”, I say softly.

“What?” But he doesn’t care for me to repeat myself. Instead he starts walking again, talking to me in a calm voice all the while. Like a mendacious predator striving to lure its prey into a false sense of safeness before going in for the kill. “The Club love their little treats of vampires or werewolves or maybe even the odd djinn every once in a while. The rarer the better – and the more expensive. You’re going to make me rich, little witch.”

“I’m not a witch either”, I say and start backing away from him.

“No?” He laughs softly and follows. “Not a girl and not a witch. What are you then?” He is so close now that I can see straight into his eyes and detect all the truths hidden in them about what he plans to do with me. The Enjoyment Club consists of ruthless humans with way too much money, time and arrogance on their hands. They feast on paranormal creatures in every thinkable and unthinkable way before disposing of them in ways that are probably just as unspeakable. This man works for them, and he is planning to make a fortune by selling me to those human monsters. I can hear the stars singing clearly now as the clouds are dispersing.

“I am Seth Pascal, a freelancing priest”, I say and stop. We are in the middle of the clearing now and both ankle deep in murky water. I can feel the cold mud and soil and moss beneath my naked feet.

He reaches me in one big step and puts his gun to my forehead. The metal is cold and resonates with anger and excitement. The look on his face is one of victory, he know that he has me now.

“Witch, priest, potato potato”, he smirks. “You have nowhere to run now, little girl. But don’t you worry, I’m sure they won’t eat you or make you into a rug. With those dark eyes and slim body you’re probably gonna be put to much livelier work.”

I meet his gaze along the barrel of his gun and see him flinch involuntarily. Underneath my cold feet the ground is stirring restlessly, boiling and throbbing deep down in the nameless darkness. He hasn’t felt it yet.

“Aren’t you afraid?” He tries on one of those patronizing smiles but it doesn’t quite go with the glint of sudden fear in his eyes.

I shake my head slowly, the barrel of his gun moving together with my forehead. I am cold, but not afraid. Because the ground is pulsating beneath my feet and a memory has come to me suddenly. I smile, broadly.

“What?”, he says and darts a glance around the clearing. “What’s so funny? Remember what I said, I will hurt you if you try to pull something.”

I form the long unused words with my mouth, trying them, tasting them. I realize that I like the taste and smile even wider. He knows so little about the world, this little man with the gun.

“What? What?” He is yelling now, his finger trembling on the trigger. “What did you say?”

I look up at the congregation of stars gathered above the clearing, listen to the last stanza of their thundering crescendo and then lock my eyes with his once more.

“Fear”, I say calmly. “Because all of them are watching.”

He opens his mouth to say something, but before he can form the words the heart blood of the clearing, of the world, boils over and gushes up to engulf him. He screams as smoldering mud and soil and water explodes all around him, melting his skin and crushing his bones. He fights for his life against the earth that crashes into his eyes and his ears and his mouth. It fills his lungs and smothers him. He whimpers, he cries and sobs as he is pulled down into the mossy water, before the pressure from inside his soil packed lungs becomes too much and they explode in a cascade of blood and mud spurting forth from his mouth and his nose. He struggles pathetically in the shallow water for half a heartbeat before finally he becomes still and the hungry clearing devours him entirely. The surface in front of me calms instantly and all that remains of him is a speck of oil and dark blood floating silently on top of the murky water, and the worn silenced pistol lying uselessly where he dropped it in the dark moss.

I pick up the gun and turn it in my hands. He was never going to kill me, but there are things worse than death and that was the fate he had in store for me. I wonder how many people and unpeople he has wounded or murdered with this gun. I put it in my deep pocket, not wanting to desecrate this place by leaving it here.

The clearing is silent, but I know that it is not empty. They are all watching. The memory that felt so lucid and clear just moments ago is slipping. I try to hold onto it, but I know that the struggle is useless. I remembered briefly because I was told to, by the stars or by the forest or the darkness, I don’t know. And I realize that the loss of this memory is perhaps what makes me human, what allows me to carry on this sort of existence. The thought strikes me that maybe my oblivion is a gift, and that without it I would become again the something that was once found here, in this very clearing, and was made human only through the care and love and teachings of seven mortal women. Perhaps forgetting was a choice I once made by my own volition, in order to become what they wished me to be. Perhaps I made that very same choice again just moments ago. I wouldn’t know, because I cannot remember anymore. I stare into the darkness between the trees and wait for an answer, but there is none.

With the gun weighing down my right pocket I then turn around and make my way back across the clearing. I don’t need to watch my footing, the ground tells me where to tread. I watch the stars, listen to them, but they are silent now. I enter the woods and feel roots and thorns caressing the soles of my feet. When I reach the road I seat myself behind the wheel of the dead man’s car and narrowly turn it around. The headlights cut like knives through the old darkness and I turn them off. I don’t need them right now. I floor the pedal and make my way back to the airport from whence I came. The man who got eaten by the world spoke about my friend in Los Angeles, and I know that I have to warn him.

My name is Seth Pascal. I am a freelance priest who wears no symbols that rigorous and concentrated study has not made me choose to believe the meaning of. Other than that I wear the mark of every plausible god and deity just to be sure, and I know the incantations and rites of every religion commonly known to man. I never curse, because you can never be sure who is listening, and I am up for hire by anyone who needs my services – whatever faith they might follow.

Apart from that there is much that I don’t know about myself, about who I am and what I was before I was human. But the thought doesn’t scare me as much as it used to and I don’t feel as lonely anymore. Because at least I know one thing, and what I know is this: They are always watching.

Chris Smedbakken 2017-02-06

Her Golden Gaze

He stood at the brink
No cloud in the sky
Awatching the field of play
As shadows did rise
From actors unknown
His worries drifted away
A mist in his mind
Was lifted, removed
When beauty rose into place
A precious short time
‘Fore he was forced down
He could see the gold of her face
She lowered her gaze
To meet his eye
But smiled as he fell off the ledge
His dying tribute
He sang with the stars
Then he sank and she climbed to the edge
She looked at the world
And started to throw
A red light over it all
For well she perceived
How short was the time
‘Til also she must give in and fall
And the Moon in his grave
Not dead but asleep
Did not mourn over days of yore
For he knew in his dreams
That the hour drew near
When he would glimpse his beloved Sun once more.


This is an older piece that I wrote back in January 2007. By that time I had just become unemployed for the first time in my life and would soon (though I didn’t know it at the time) begin working as a freelance music journalist. That step has lead me to where I am today. Life’s certainly full of surprises.

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.

The Star Child

Yet another old text, this one written in September 2007. I´m still in Budapest, so you´ll have to wait until Tuesday for a new text (and a proper grammar/spell check) 😉


It gave her no consolation whatsoever to think of her life’s adventure as just a dream; nor did it soothe her when all those around her stubbornly continued to tell her to do so. Reason battled emotion inside of her head when she thought about it – and believe me: this she did almost all the time.

Some nights had passed since her recovery to reality, as all the others saw it. Some nights of unendurable, bodyless pain that no one could see in her face and which she refused always to admit even to herself. Always, but for the lonely hours just before dawn, that is. For in those small hours of twilight illumination, as all infused with the smallest inkling of craving for dream adventure would know, all your hidden thoughts are brought up before the merciless court that is your own half sleeping consciousness for hard interrogation. No shady corner of your mind is left unsearched when the restless soul seeks to ponder every fault ever done to or by you, in an attempt to please the unseen and half imagined watchers in the dark – those everyone tries to convince of their undisputable innocence when in reality all they want is to convince themselves.

And she, she was no exception. The only thing that separated her from all the others over the world, lying in the same way, praying to the rising sun to grant them a few merciful hours of sleep again before the beginning of the new day, was that she had a choice and did not know it. She could at any given time rise from her bed and leave the gloomy room behind; yes, literally fly out the window to reunite with the subjects of her endless pondering. This, though, she did not know in the same way that she could not truly accept that all she had witnessed and experienced in the past nights was as truthful a reality as the bed in which she lay at night, or the ceiling at which she had now been gazing unceasingly for how long she could not tell. And this ignorance, involuntary though it may have been, was close to costing her her life.

She was ill and she knew it. Nothing done by the others to keep from her the truth could prevent her from sensing it in her whole being. The fever that ate her constantly, tearing away her sanity at the same pace as it consumed her physical being, burned her from within like the fire of a raging star. And that star was visible every morning at her waking, to all those who loved her and cared for her, in her newly opened eyes before the agony of the newborn day burst forth to drag her away from her peaceful dreams once more.

This way her life had become not a year ago, but signs of this condition had been creeping up on her all of her life. In her early childhood she had often been forced to stay home from school due to her ever coming and going fever which always left her frail and weakened, knowing the span of several weeks was to expect before she would be fully recovered. Or almost fully. Each time the fever got a little more of her, and in the last few years she had been forced into a kind of exile from reality, mostly staying indoors, locked up in her own room with the computer as the only window to the outside world.

But even then her condition had been endurable. She had never given much for society anyway, thinking its every day intrigues all too prosaic and meaningless. Not that she did not see the wonders in the world of men and women; to the contrary she saw it very well, eyes wide open. Her problem was that she did not feel part of it and in that lay her great salvation since she was robbed cruelly from it at an relatively early age.

Her loved ones had all through her wasting away provided her with books plentifully, knowing her to be helplessly in love with the outside world though neither capable nor willing to be part of it. She read all kinds of literature, both fact and fiction, devouring the written word as though were it nourishment for her dying form, and she also wrote her own. At the computer or using the more old fashioned means of pen and paper she tended to lose herself for hours writing fantastic tales of creatures of the sky or of the forest, pressing her imagination to the extent and with the conviction that all but her loving family would have questioned the degree of her sanity. This, though, they never did.

And now, sadly, the moment they had all been dreading but oh, so fearfully waited for, had at last come. The girl with the silver hair and the star-filled eyes, she that would have been just about to enter the complex but wonderful world of early womanhood had she been allowed to live, was dying before their eyes. Long had it been since she last had had the strength to lift her delicate fingers to the keys to write her fantastic stories of other worlds. Long since she last had the voice to reassure them that she was just fine and would be totally alright after a quick rest. Long since she communicated at all, except through unconscious ravings in her twisting sleep or through low, repressed moans of obvious pain in her few waking hours.

All they knew now was that she was in pain, that she had been unreachable for several days and had awakened only a couple of nights ago, laying staring quietly at the ceiling ever since. At one point after her waking up she had related in a fast flow of words the substance of her long night’s dream, still not taking her eyes of the wooden boundary above. It had been the most fantastic imagination of all the stars being individuals gazing down upon the world, of the forest being full of strange beings with their own tales, of seeming human beings passing us by every day but really, perhaps without knowing it themselves, being the stuff of legend down to the core.

She told them in swift words that she had been floating with the stars – her sisters and brothers – singing to the moon and the sun that are forever the mother and the father of them all. She told them that she had seen the world from above, in obscured vision due to her still earthbound form; that she had seen a wolf in agony because of his love for a mortal woman, and a man brought into the human world after a full life among the very small people of the woods.

I am sure she would have told them many more things about all the faithfully kept secrets unknown to mankind had it not been for their interrupting her, their attempts to assure her that it had all been naught but fever stained nightmares not to bother thinking about ever again.

At those words she grew quiet. At those words her spirit sank and the pain filled once again the gap that had for some merciful moments been occupied by dreams and wonders that she had almost believed in. At those words she was once and for all totally convinced that death was standing beside her bed, distancing and alienating her from the loved ones that surely meant nothing but to comfort her but who only succeeded in doing the very opposite.

For one day and a night, finally, she had neither eaten nor slept – only stared out in the space above her, waiting for the ender of all life finally to make his claim on her. She dared not look out her window, that was always open to the night sky due to her eager wish, lest she be reminded of her impossible dream of stars and skies and succumb to crying or to fear of death. She could afford no such thing.

She wanted so badly to be able either to fully believe in her fevery dream or totally to dismiss it as imagination; in the first of these cases she would not have to be afraid of anything, and in the latter she could muster her last strength in life to write the dream down for those she left behind to wonder about it when she was finally and irrevocably gone. She could, as it now was, do neither of these things and this was her great sorrow.

And as she lay there, listening to the others roaming about the house, occupied by their every day tasks thinking her asleep, she fell to pondering what death would be like. Would there be anything left of her spirit after it had fled her body? Would she feel the pain of drawing the last, totally unuseful breaths right after her heart had failed and would aid her lifespan no more? Or would her soul by then be already halfway on the “other side”, and by that preventing her from knowing fully the horrors of final, hopeless mortality?

She tried not to be afraid. She tried not to feel the pull of deadly, primal fear that always precede the utter unknown. She had promised herself that she would be strong, that she would not upset her family more by showing her pain and anxiety in front of her approaching end.

Night fell slowly outside. She heard the others talking quietly in the kitchen about whether or not it would be wise to disturb her in her sleep to check how she was. She knew that in the end they would settle for glimpsing in at her through the half open door to see that she was still breathing, and then let her be. She did not mind. She never did anymore.

The gentle creak of the door followed by soft footfalls withdrawing confirmed her thoughts, and soon she knew that she was alone awake in the house.

She was not to look at the stars, she knew it. She was not to think of the dream or to feel false hope building inside of her. Hope was for all but her now. All was for all but her. But still something drew her gaze to the sky outside. A faint noise – a voice? It could not be. But there it was again; soft, safe, reassuring. She knew that voice. She had known it all her life, but had only heard it once before in a distant past. Maybe in another world.

Breeze in the light white curtains, filling the room with a flowing light that came from nowhere and everywhere still. Was this death? Surely not. And still she was sure that she was not dreaming, that this was really happening and that she was to understand it in some way. And it made sense, this ghostly light and this loving voice from the starry sky. Deep inside of her it did.

She could hardly believe it when she felt her own feet upon the cold tiles of the floor and the soft swirl of her nightgown around her ankles as she moved towards the window. Her fever burnt skin was soothed somewhat by the soft night breeze from outside and she felt weak but alive in those last moments. With hands upon the window frame and silver hair glittering in the light of the full moon, which she had not beheld for months, she lifted her head and gazed up at the forbidden stars. They sang to her now, in her head and in her ears. It was a song she knew all too well but had never sung. It was the song of her fever dream.

She knew that she must be hallucinating, that what she saw and heard must be her dying mind’s final salute to the world, but she stubbornly refused to be robbed of this her last moment in life – be it real or not. I guess that is why she wasn’t scared when the light of the sky – the moon herself – spoke to her in a melodic singing voice, calling her from afar. And in the moment she looked up onto the utter brightness of the otherworldly source of evening light she thought for a split second she saw the face of a goddess smiling down at her from between scattered stars.

Had it been not for her dreamy amazement and sense of eerie victory, she would in this moment have felt the horror of death she had so dreaded in her last few nights. Her heart was beating its last struggling beats now, and the breaths of night air that passed her lips now in waves that were uneven but refreshing did little good for her any more, as her body was at last too weak to bring them to proper use for her survival. This, though, she would not acknowledge anymore than she could bring herself to think of her family that would surely despair in the morning at finding her lifeless at the floor by the open window, and without doubt blame themselves for their recklessness in leaving it open for the cold wind to hurt her.

In those last seconds of her life she could not, and would not, tear her eyes from the faces of the sky that so fondly gazed down at her and beckoned for her to join them. Wind in her face, wind in her billowing linen gown, and she climbed the windowsill smiling.

Standing there at the edge of the known universe, at the end of her world, she was not afraid of death or falling. She had been falling and dying for as long as she could remember, and this would be the last time. This would be her flight for freedom and adventure. And then she took the step, and all the stars drew in their precious breaths but never quit their singing, and the moon that was the mother of them all reached forth down to earth to break the fall.

Have you ever experienced, on a particularly starry night, perhaps in the middle of biting winter when the northern lights are dancing across the sky whispering secrets to all those with sense to listen, a moment in reality when the space and the world grow so quiet you could hear a snowflake hit the roof of a car? Often following those rare and precious moments you can se a star shooting across the night towards some fantastic destination far away. But sometimes that quiet is followed by the birth of a new star into the sky, so bright and clear that all take for granted that is has been there always, since nothing so self evident could ever have not existed. Well, if you have, and if that happened recently, maybe not more than a few years ago, it might well have been the very same occasion that is related in this story. Because when she took the fatal jump from safety and knowledge, and the stars were stunned and the moon calmly reached for her, she did not fall. The night took her in and she flew, ever ascending, never looking back, towards the stars that twinkled welcomingly and the moon that ever smiled towards her homecoming daughter.

Happily she understood that her dreams had been not fantasy but wonderful reality, and in her flight to her carefully guarded place on the nightly velvet curtain she was told everything by her brothers and sisters – everything about the world and everything about their own omniscient ever presence. And in the millennia to come she guarded safely always from her haven in the sky, ever able to look down upon the world she so loved from, a vantage point where she could see and know all without having to participate in commonplace human life. Not until now could she truly comprehend the beauty of life or the wonderful mystery of the world. Not until now did she understand that reality is so much more than what the human people want to think in their ignorance. And not until now could she possibly grasp the true meaning of the word happiness. This and much more came to her as she took her place close to her mother, who lovingly embraced her and said that she was so, so very much awaited and longed for. She was home at last.

Grief struck her mortal beloved ones in the morning at her absence. Her bed was empty, the window wide open and not a trace was to be found of their beloved girl who had been dying for so long they could not accept the thought that she was gone but not dead. The police was called in, the neighbours searched everywhere, but nowhere was the girl with the silver hair and the starry eyes. Nowhere could word of her be heard and nowhere was consolation for those who loved her. Weeks passed and the sorrow was so great that not even when the night called them with soothing song of tidings and consolation did they take their time to look out at the sky of stars.

Thus it was not until a long time afterwards that they found their answers, even though not all of them were willing to believe in such tales that others took for facts in their desperation after an end to this agonizing not knowing. The answer was in the girls computer, that had stood vacant since her disappearance and was at the time of their discovery covered with a fine layer of dust. What they found was one of her stories of old, this one being one of the last ever written by her before her illness took hold of her for good.

It told a rich tale of the love affair between the sun and the moon, who could meet once a month only when their paths crossed and who at all other times missed and searched for each other unceasingly. Their meetings sometimes resulted in the birth of a new star, and sometimes, even more rarely, the star child was placed into the world as an earthbound being to learn and wonder before ascending to her predestined place in the sky. These children could not live as mortal creatures for very long, since the star fire inside of them always burned at their earthly form and eventually caused it to die painfully. But before this happened the child was given the choice to join her kind on the outmost border of the world to see all and know all forever, and most often the child choose to do so. That resulted in the child’s disappearance from the mortal world without a trace, but her reuniting with her true family above.

This sole evidence would have convinced alone the most desperate of truth seekers since it was in the eyes of the human world a child’s tale and nothing more. Things were settled only some days later, when a knock on the door announced a stranger on the doorstep. He was finely dressed in clothes not very appropriate for this time and era, but which would surely have been very suitable some hundred years ago. He kept looking down at a beautiful watch he kept in his inner pocket, as if he was in a hurry to get somewhere else, and, after introducing himself as one Mister Wolf, quickly presented to the family of the disappeared girl a letter written in an all to familiar hand on a beautifully textured piece of paper.

Then he excused himself and withdrew as suddenly as he had come, down the narrow trail of concrete tiles that lined the sidawalk. Many attempts by the police to find the mysterious stranger were later made, but with no success. During a short period his description was posted every day in the local paper, in the hope that he could lead the authorities on the right track in finding the missing girl, but with no result whatsoever. It was as if he had never existed.

The family of the girl, though, was not any longer as eager to look for their missing love. The letter they never showed to the police, since they knew they would not believe a word of it. But they themselves did. Its contents shall not be related here since it was neither addressed to us nor relevant for the ending of this story, but I will stretch as far as to confirm what you should have already guessed. It was written by the star child, as a last consolation and explanation to those she still loved but would never talk to again. It was written in loving words and in a style which brutally ended all doubts as to its genuineness. It calmed the distressed family and made them feel at ease at last, after all this time.

They collected all the stories ever written by her of her beloved and amazing fantasies into a book that could and would be read by many mystery thirsting souls, and they knew that she was at peace wherever she was. And every winter night when the moon was full and the northern lights danced across the starry sky, they always stopped by the window, taking their time to gaze up at the shining stars, knowing that somewhere up there, south east of Orion, she was lovingly gazing back at them.

Wintercome

I have to settle for uploading another old text today, since I am in Budapest over the weekend and would feel sorry for my company if I were to sit down and write for hours right now. This text was written as part of my NaNoWriMo-challenge back in 2007. I finished the text, but not the challenge. We´ll see if this year will see my revenge. Feel free to leave a comment!


Stories are told on cold nights when the moon is high in the sky and nightmares and the fantastic unknown stalk close by the windows of human dwellings, careful not to step into the light cast by fires and candles. Stories grant peace and occupation to frightened minds and give everyone something to think about apart from the fear of shadows and glaring, haunting eyes in the sunforsaken hours between twilight and chilly dawn.

This particular tale is a very old one – so old that in our day I would be surprised if anyone human could remember it enough to retell it fully. In fact I am very much strengthened in this assumption by the fact that I, in my striving to put this story to paper truthfully, had to consult someone very dear to me but who could in no reasonable way be called even something close to “human”. With his help this writing down of the story that could maybe be considered the most beautiful of them all was at last possible, and I want to thank him deeply for all the help and time he offered me in this. You will notice that this tale carries some differences in relation to some of the others in this collection. The reason, I guess, is that it has been told and retold so many times that it has acquired the character of a fairy tale, whence the others are merely documentations of more or less fantastic events.

In the time and era of this tale, as you are about to see, the borders between realities were not yet firmly secured and no one really doubted the fact that humans were not alone in dreaming and thinking and shaping the world. By this I do not mean that anyone was not surprised when this long suspected fact was sometimes direly proven before their very eyes – they were, I can knowingly assure you – but they accepted it as part of their view of life and seldom tried to deny it. That is why something like this cannot happen anymore; people are too afraid to open their eyes in front of the unknown to be able to see what really lies beyond the edge of their knowledge. Everything has a fixed explanation nowadays, and questing for answers with danger of losing everything is no longer in question. But the destination of this particular journey is in fact very real.

I will not tell you where to find it, lest I accomplish no more than adding to the already swelling pile of “common knowledge” that is so effectively dulling the curiosity of human dreamers worldwide even as I scratch pen against paper, writing this for you to read. No, I will not. But I will go as far as telling you that where I am sitting right now, candle burning in a room otherwise wrapped in winter darkness, is a place very, very close to the sacred spot where the subject of this story finally finds his answers. This I tell you only to convince you further not to doubt my word when I sacrifice my time to open your eyes to some of the mysteries of your world – and I hope sincerely that my efforts will not have been in vain. Now to my story.

The summer was long advanced in this particular village by the start of the chain of events that would at length mark the beginning of an adventure. A young couple was about to get married and everyone was eagerly preparing for the festivities – and not least for the ceremony itself.

A tradition was upheld in this village, that the shift of seasons at the end of summer and winter was always marked by the uniting of a man and a woman in loving marriage; this symbolizing the coming together of Queen Summer and King Winter twice a year when time was right for the one to pass the sceptre of season domination to the other. When the first leaf of autumn fell to the ground, and not until then, was the ceremony to start and the bridegroom to step up to the Autumn Bride by the forest altar to be with her united for the rest of their remaining lives. This both for their shared happiness and for the luck and well being of the village, which relied on the ceremony to grant them the favours of the Greater Unknown in securing their harvest and protecting their families.

It was not common for couples to be married at any other time of the year in this village, since no one wanted to miss the honour and blessing of being Autumn wed or Spring wed, and thus it was a great privilege for a couple to be at last admitted to the altar, perhaps after several years of waiting. This young pair had been chosen to be Autumn wed this year not only because of their obvious and limitless love for each other, but also because of their curious resemblance to the Queen and King of the Seasons themselves; the young bride-to-be wore her sunny, blossomy red hair long and often entwined with colourful flowers and she was never far from heartily laughter that reminded the villagers of a dancing brook in high summer’s swirl, while her future husband had hair like silvery ice on the mountain peaks, reflecting the sun’s light like half frozen crystal water in a wintry lake. His eyes were like the cold blue sky on a frosty day and though he was often quiet and thoughtful, there was a passion and a strength burning in those eyes that sometimes broke through his silent surface and swept him up like a winter storm – and those moments had grew even more common since he met her. They were meant for each other, no one doubted that.

The preparations for the ceremony were in high progress and the whole village was doing their best to make this year’s festivities something really special – like they did every year, but always, in some way, seemed capable of succeeding with in the end. The bride had been working for days on her wedding dress, in which time she had seen no one except her closest family. The bridegroom had been finished with his own ceremonial garments for some time, as tradition prescribed, and was now taking long walks through the wilds every day, searching for the perfect wedding gift to give to his bride in the name of the sacred bond they were about to tie.

In the likeness of the Winter King’s courting of the Summer Queen when they come together at the close of each year, at which occasion he brings her wonderful gifts in the form of turning the leaves golden for her and summoning glistering ice rain down over the two of them and the rest of the world, the Autumn bridegroom must bring the bride a gift of autumn – something worthy that must represent the love he felt for her. This he could do first when the turning of seasons had just begun, since no autumn gifts could reasonably be found before that time. And when he had found his sign of autumn and love, the ceremony would take place the very following day – like the gifts of the Winter King, the returning of the bridegroom with the ceremonial gift marked the beginning of the period between Summer’s End and Wintercome.

I suspect that my source for this story knew the name of this young man – yes, I think he remembered it very well indeed – but for reasons I can only guess he refused to tell it to me and that I will respect and thereby leave it at that.

Anyway, the young man wandered for days and days around the borders of the village, searching for the first sign of autumn, but without luck. His future bride was soon to be finished with her preparations, and the festivities had all but begun. Autumn had been late in coming before and at first no one worried about it too much, but when the weeks went by and the weather showed no signs of changing from the sunny state of high summer and not even the early mornings saw the smallest suggestion of ice on the surface of the villagers’ water buckets, people begun to get anxious. Why did not Summer’s End begin? What caused this strange delay in the turning of seasons?

The future bridegroom became more and more certain that something was not in order, and begun to fear that the marriage would never come to pass. What if the first leaf never fell? He would never have his beloved bride if he could not find a proper autumn gift to seal their bond; anything less than such a gift would be unworthy and would certainly bring dishonour to her name. Her family would never ever permit her to step up to the altar as anything less than a proper Autumn bride, and in case he could not find his ceremonial gift they would consider it a sign from the higher forces that he did not have their blessing in becoming part of the Autumn couple.

One night, draped in desperation, he went to consult the village elder. He was told that nothing in the likeness of this had happened since the beginning of known time, and that the elder suspected that something was terribly amiss with the greater scheme of things.

If you want your bride”, the old man said, “seek then the place where Summer and Winter meet – the sacred spot where spring and autumn begin.” He looked him deep in the eye and then handed him his beautifully carved walking stick. “Take this and everyone will know that you have my blessing.”

The young man met his future bride at sunfall by the large oaken tree in the hilltop clearing on which the forest altar stood. She was wearing the wonderful dress in which she hoped to one day stand bride, and her hair danced freely in the warm, late summer breeze. He told her of the journey he must make and held her tight when she cried wide eyed at this terrible revelation. He told her never to fear for him and not to be sad, and under no circumstances doubt his promise that he would soon return to her.

Even with tears in her eyes she was more beautiful to him than anything else he had ever laid eyes upon, and he swore to himself that for her he would do anything. He told her that, and he told her that he loved her. And with those words, and after holding her close one last time, he started to untangle himself from her embrace to begin his journey. Before he managed to force himself to say goodbye, though, she took hold of his shoulders and looked deep into his eyes in a way that only she in the whole world could do. She smiled sadly and forced back the tears momentarily.

Remember this”, she said, fighting to keep her voice steady, “I love you and will not have anyone other than you. You are my reason to keep on breathing.” She stroked the side of his face with a tear wet hand, lovingly. She seemed to summon her last vestige of willpower and continued: “I do not care whether you find the most fantastic autumn gift in the world, or if you come back with only a moth eaten leaf or even empty handed. Just to see you back alive will make me the happiest person in the world, and whatever gift you bring back with you will be worth more to me than the sun in the sky or all the diamonds on the surface of the sea at night. This because I love you. Nothing matters apart from that. Nothing. Because love makes all other things seem small and simple. Remember that, and return to me safely and soon. I will wait for you. I will wait for you here, right on this hilltop.”

She kissed him passionately and let him go. He looked at her and felt how tears started to fill his own eyes. But before she could see this, he turned and started down the hill, back turned to the village that was his home.

The Autumn bride watched him leave, tears finally running down her face and falling to the ever green grass at her feet. She stood there still when the sun disappeared behind the larger hills at the horizon, and when the full moon rose it was to see her sitting by the large oak tree, gazing in the direction in which he had disappeared. The leaves of the oak were deep green like the soft grass beneath her, and the air was warm. No sign of Summer’s End she could see, and no sign of her beloved. She promised quietly to wait for him there, beneath the rustling branches of the oak on the hill. She promised to rise first when it was to step up to the altar in front of her and be united with her love at his return. When the first leaf fell from the tree by which she was sitting, she would know that he had found what he was seeking and was on his way back to her.

Nowhere he came did he see the slightest sign of autumn, even though he wandered for days. Dressed for rough weather and prepared for almost anything, he visited village after village asking for the way to the place where autumn begins. He was treated with respect due to his being sent by the elder of his own village, but nobody seemed to know anything about how to find the place he was looking for. Everyone he met, though, was also worried by the fact that no winter seemed to be approaching this year.

This way he wandered aimlessly for many days and nights, sometimes finding shelter under a roof by evening and sometimes not. He kept always the picture in his mind of his beloved one standing on the hilltop, gazing longingly after him. He wanted so much to return to her but knew that if he could find no sign of autumn to present to her and the villagers for the ceremony, he would never be allowed to be with her. If the higher forces had judged him unworthy of this honour, he would have to find out why and if there was something he could do to change their minds.

He met with many different people during his journey, all very helpful but none who could tell him anything truly useful. He had begun to mistrust when finally he came to a place where a tall forest loomed over a small collection of houses. He was exhausted from his wanderings and was just about to ask for a place to rest when an old, bearded man stepped up to him and told him he recognized the staff he was carrying. The young man told him that he had been given the staff by his village elder and also revealed his mission.

The old man eyed him for a long moment, much like the village elder had done, and said finally that he knew the place that he was searching for. He told him that the way there was long and a bit dangerous, but that the place was real and fully possible to reach if one dared to seek it out. He pointed in the direction of the high mountain peaks beyond the forest.

I have not seen the place with my own eyes, but I believe the old stories about it being hidden among those cliffs, because every spring and fall I see the proof of it clearly.” He gave the young man a serious look. “It is down those slopes over there that the changes come charging before they are visible anywhere else. It is from up there that the season of Summer’s End should have poured down upon us a long time ago now.”

So without staying in the little village to rest even for the night, the young man bid the older one farewell and entered the dark forest, walking steadily towards the mountains far, far away. He had a new hope in his heart now that he knew where he was going, and worried little about how he was going to climb those slopes once he got there. Again he recalled the face of his bride-to-be, and smiled happily when he thought about how he soon again would hold her in his arms.

Back in the village, the one he was longing for was sitting still under that oak, refusing to talk to anyone and always searching the distant forest edge for any sign of him coming back up the slope towards her. Sometimes her gaze strayed upwards to the branches that sang and danced between her and the summer skies, but no red leaf could be seen and no chilly wind ever played in the greenery around her. Her heart sank but stayed always true to the promise she had made, though every day that went by saw her face even more hardened, as though the frost that refused to present itself to the grass and the water had anyway reached out and honoured at least the silent Autumn bride with its icy touch.

It took him several days of hard travelling to reach the slopes of the mountains. He paused here for a day to rest and to contemplate where to go from here. How was he going to find out which mountain trail to follow to reach the point among the cliffs that some called “the place where spring and autumn begin”? He thought about it for many hours, and decided at last that if he wanted to find the source of autumn and spring, he should look out for spots where the flowers and weeds grew the thickest; in the places that spring reached first the vegetation should have had the longest time to grow and spread, whence in all other places it should be more, but maybe not obviously, sparse.

He started up the trail and searched eagerly for any sign of change in the undergrowth. He thought after a while that he had found what he was searching for, as some patches of green were stained with colour due to collections of small, blue flowers, and followed heartily every sign that he found. These signs led him higher and higher up among the rocky slopes and heights, and when he at length turned and looked back, he could see the whole world stretch itself out far, far below him. All was green as far as he could see.

He imagined for a second that he could see the hilltop outside his own village home, and thought that he could see the shape of his beloved standing there, looking at him from afar. Of course this was just a dream, but when he again turned to his task of climbing this the highest of mountains the thought crossed his mind for the first time that the peaks might kill him – that there was a risk that he would not return alive to see her smile again or to feel her loving embrace. The thought chilled him terribly, but when he again looked down at the blue flowers that guided his path he pushed it aside with force. Of course he would return safely. Of course he would.

There was a strange sensation in the air that grew the higher he climbed. Some kind of tension that he did not like, but which was not really frightening either. He continued his climb, which was getting harder for every step he took due to the sparse foothold and the thorny vegetation that sometimes blocked his path. The blue flowers grew thicker here, and he knew he was getting very close to his goal. The peaks above him no longer seemed as distant as before, at the same time as the landscape below him had grown frighteningly small and far away. A fall from this point would certainly prove fatal, and he tightened his grip on the branches of the small trees that grew on the steep trail.

At last he reached the top of a rocky cliff and drew in a breath of relief. He had been fighting the heights for several days with little or no rest in the intervals between climbing, and was tired in both body and soul from the struggle. One day a careful but intense rain had fallen, soaking the steep mountainside and turning the trail to slippery mud. He had been forced to seek shelter within a shallow cave between some gray rocks to avoid the risk of falling all the way down to earth, and every hour that went by with the rain showing no sign of ceasing, his mood and mind darkened at the thought of how much time he was losing. At length the downpour stopped, but still he had to wait in that cave until the next morning when the trail was once again solid and safe.

Another day, or another night to be more precise, he had stood in hiding against a wall of stone to avoid the attention of a stalking something that he could hear faintly in his closeness, but which he could see nothing of except for its cunning, yellow eyes. The beast – or beasts, he could not be certain of the number – either missed him or decided against attacking for some other, unknowable reason, and although he got no sleep that night at least the morrow found him alive and unharmed, and he could continue his climbing wandering, stumbling like a sleep walker. When now he dragged himself up onto the high plateau that had been his unreachable goal ever since he left solid ground, he was half delirious and half afraid of what might face him on the other side.

He lay still on the flat surface for a long time, breathing heavily and quickly until his heart slowed down and he felt more like himself again. Then he rose to a sitting position, took a deep breath and crawled to the far edge to see what lay beyond the plateau on the other side. The sight that met him caused him to let out a sigh of relief – then his repressed exhaustion got the better of him and he collapsed on the stone surface, unconscious before his head hit the ground.

What he had seen stretching before him was not more cliffs only, but a panorama of bright colours and mist clad peaks. He had reached the top of the mountain that was said to hold the meeting place of seasons, and only a small drop separated his vantage point from endless voids of long forgotten wilds. A stream sang quietly close by, just below the cliff on which he lay, and the ground below was covered in bluish moss and rough, short grass that seemed to have gotten its colour from moonlight. Much of the landscape consisted of rock undressed in either of these, and the trees that grew sparsely but none the less existed here and there in this place were small and strangely shaped, as though their struggle to survive this far above the world had forced them to twist painfully around themselves to find shelter from the fierce winds that haunted this borderland between earth and sky and played the eerily mist draped peaks of nearby looming mountains like unworldly phantom flutes. This was a place of forgotten magic, but its cold and otherworldly spirit made it also a place of nightmare, and it was in such haunted dreams the young man twisted for long hours before he was awakened at dawn by the unmistakable howling of a wolf somewhere in the distance.

After lying still a while after waking, listening terror struck for signs of beastly pursuit, he rose on shaky legs to once again take in the beauty and endlessness of this place towards which he had been striving for so many days. The brook sang still beneath him, and in the distance the wind had begun its ghostly playing of mountain flutes, as if to greet him welcome to this the end of sane, merciful reality.

A terrible thirst came over him, and suddenly the sound of dancing water seemed almost irresistible to his tired ears – and so he begun to climb down from the high place on which he stood, taking care not to fall even though the distance was no more than a couple of meters, letting himself drop the last few inches down to solid ground. The moss was crisp under his feet and the prints he left, making his way over the frozen plain, remained there for many years, even after he had forgotten the music of the place; this place above world never forget anything or any man’s visit.

The wind was strong here, in the shelter of no tree or cliff, but he was well dressed and did not suffer much from the cold – at first. It was day when he first trod this strange land, even though the sun did little to warm or comfort these high places. Its light played beautifully in the dance of the lively brook, but the water’s swirl made it impossible for his reflection to fasten itself on the silvery surface. This, though, did not hinder him from quenching his thirst with handfuls from this burningly freezing source, and soon he felt refreshed and suddenly more as one with his surroundings.

With new opened eyes he started his wandering anew, not knowing for what he was looking but hoping that when it presented itself to him he would be aware of its importance to his purpose. The ground sloped slightly upwards, and soon the music of the brook was left far behind and below. Even the plateau on which he had rested was soon below him, and even though the air grew colder still with every step, he saw no sigh of snow as far as his gaze could reach. The little blue flowers grew everywhere here, no thicker or sparser in any one place which caused him to think that as least he had found the right place. But what was he supposed to learn here?

Soon the cold began to get the better of his thick winter garb, and he felt chill creep into his bones. He struggled on, more and more depending on his staff to keep him standing upright. His gaze fixed upon one of the high peaks that lined the open space that he was fighting, and it was towards this peak that he unconsciously set his path when it was all he could do to remain putting on foot in front of the other.

He did not realize it at first, but the reason the peak had first caught his attention was that it stood out against everything else because of its colour; whilst all else was shrouded in pale green and blue, the top of this particular height was shiningly white. It was covered in snow. The insight took the breath out of him, and for a while he stopped and just stood there, looking up at the whiteness with a thousand thoughts running through his head. Why was the snow resting silently on that one peak, when it was nowhere else to be found in the whole world?

Despite his numb limbs and confused thoughts, he fought on against the dark cloudiness that now had begun to line his vision. The dizziness increased until all he saw was the top of that peak, tightly surrounded by a dark tunnel of black clouds that expanded all the time. At last the cold got him, and his benumbed legs would not support him anymore. He fell to his knees, eyes still on the distant snow, consciousness fast slipping away.

But right before he lost connection to reality, when his vision was mostly covered with a veil of blackness and the wind that shouted all around was outvoiced by the ringing in his own head, he thought for an instant that he saw a shape standing on that faraway peak, rising out of the snow as if one with it. And though the distance was great and he was inches from fainting, he knew by the aura of majesty and omniscience shrouding this appearance that he was in the presence of King Winter himself.

Awestruck and half doubting his own senses, he bowed in front of the royal incarnation of the winter he had sought for so long. Time seemed to have stopped; he knew he was still going to faint – a dangerous thing in these cold lands – but he got the feeling that he was given time to ask the one question which had driven him this far from home and safety.

Why have you not come?”, he whispered, the words barely escaping his frozen lips as he again looked up at the cold majesty standing on the peak, gazing down at him. “Why have you not come?”

The king of Winter let time pass, let his eyes take in this boy dying in the cold, before answering. Then the young man heard the wind’s roaring take the shape of words, resounding painfully in his head. Still the shape on the peak did not move, but there was no question of who was speaking.

You could not possibly understand, but since you have made this long journey not made by many in this time, I will tell you. There is one in this world, only one, whom I love. She is beautiful and breathes life itself, and everywhere she goes she makes wonderful things grow. I have always thought that I was a worthy groom to her, that when we met at fall after being separated for one whole season, I was able to present her with gifts suitable for Her divine presence. But I was wrong. What is golden leaves to one who can create flowers from dead soil? What worth is there in an intricate flake of crystal snow to one who makes the air smell of sun on the ocean, to one who invokes joy of life in every soul? To her, the music of the northern wind in a storm must seem like nothing, she who conjures the song of birds and the laughter of playing children. Thus I have settled not to disturb her life-full reign with my bothersome and contemptible attempts at declaring my love to her another time. Thus I have settled for quiet longing and grieving, for I will never be her equal and thus will never be more than a loathsome bother to her.”

The young man blinked and looked up at the King in silent and sudden surprise. He wondered for the split of a second whether the world had gone totally mad.

But”, he said, and remembered the tender words of his own beloved at his departure, “do you not know that she loves you? Just to see you back will fill her with joy, and whatever gift you bring her will be worth more to her than the sun in the sky and all the diamonds on the surface of the sea at night. Do you not know that love makes all other things seem small and simple, and that if given with love the smallest snowflake can be worth more than all the riches in the world?”

At this, the fierce northern wind became quiet, and for the split of a second the young man could see the eyes in the face of the faraway majesty widen in sudden realization. The boy’s eyes widened too, but in surprise and frightening insight.

You did not know this, did you?”

Then everything started to spin as the time and the world suddenly started again. The young man cast one last gaze up the peak, but there was nothing there – only the quiet, eternal snow resting there, sleeping, sleeping. Darkness dragged him down into silence, but he did not feel anything. All of his body was already numb from the cold, and even his mind was so clouded that he did not even reflect upon what fainting in this biting wind would mean. Then he did not think about anything at all.

They came together in the middle of the open, under the clear sky. The sun, at the sight of the two of them together, let go its focus of the world in relaxation, knowing that its full attention was needed no more for this season. At once the light that radiated from it grew slightly fainter and took on a more chilly quality, making the ground and vegetation seem even more pale and frozen.

This cold light shone down upon the barren landscape where seasons were said to start, and made ice crystals gleam like diamonds upon the trail of snow and frost that followed in the wake of the king of Winter, where he made his way down from his wintry peak. Flowers withered and died where he went by, crust-like spider webs of ice spread in his tracks every time he set down his foot.

She, the goal of his journey down from the far mountaintop, stood patiently waiting for him in the middle of this barren landscape, a silent smile on her lips. The road she had walked was marked by a trail of small, pale-blue flowers that spread out like the hem of a wide dress around her where she now stood. Red never still hair flowed down her shoulders, crowned with a wreath of eternally fresh summer flowers in warm colours and white. Her light dress billowed around her in the cold wind that he brought with him, and in her right hand she held a plain wooden staff overgrown with green ivy and decorated with flowers and feathers at the top.

He walked up to her, silvery hair flowing behind him as he went, robes the colour of winter night draping his majestic form and his head crowned with a circlet of frost covered ice. He stopped one step away from her, and there they stood, looking each other in the eye. He did not beam as she did, but a lively spark in his eyes made his otherwise stern expression melt a little, and if one looked very close, his face could be seen to soften by a faint but fond smile.

So there the seasons met – Winter standing in snow and frost a pace away from Summer who resided among a million of blue flowers. The king opened his outstretched hand, slowly, and revealed a single maple leaf, golden and gleaming in the fading sunlight. The queen looked at it for a long time and then, while lifting her gaze and looking deep into his eyes, accepted the gift with a delighted smile illuminating her whole face.

Now also the king let his face mirror his inner joy at seeing her again at last, after all this time. She took the golden leaf and held it up for the wind to catch it, still smiling. Then she reached out for him, and together they walked off from this barren plain, down the mountain and out into the world. With his right hand on her shoulder, protectively, lovingly, he led her through the world, showing her how his essence turned trees ablaze and puddles into mirrors; forests became dreamlike and silent, and everything gained a dull shell of ice inlaid with tiny, shining gems.

They would have the whole period between Summers End and Wintercome to explore and laugh together before they would have to part for another season, and they intended to make it worth the while. They took turns holding the wooden staff, sometimes holding it together, and so the weather shifted – so the seasons changed.

When he woke there was snow everywhere, but by some unknowable design the place where he lay was not shrouded in snow, but in warm little blue flowers. He struggled to his feet, regaining his grip on the staff he had dropped to the ground when he fell. Confused and dizzy he looked around. No sign of life could be seen anywhere, and the world was covered in white, ice-cold snow as if winter had come to this place while he was unconscious.

Then, right before he started walking, he looked down on the blue flowers and saw something. A golden maple leaf, stuck in the vegetation and waving frantically in the wind, lay among the flowers as if waiting for him. He picked it up and looked at it for a long time. It reminded him of something, vaguely. Something that he had seen in a dream. But he could not recall what the dream had been about, and so he put the leaf safely against his chest under his warm clothes, and got going.

Staggering he made his way back the same way that he had come – the going was harder now with all the ice and snow on the ground, and the air was unquestionably colder than before. When he had reached the plateau from where he had first gazed down on this strange world, just before he started to descend the mountainside, he cast one final gaze over his shoulder, on the distant peak where he thought himself to have seen snow when it was to be seen nowhere else. Now, though, he was not really sure which one of all the peaks that was the one he had noticed; now all the peaks were dressed in white, none distinguishable from the other. With a sigh he started down the steep path, wonderingly shaking his head.

Everywhere he came the world had changed. The mountain trail was covered in snow and wintry already, but the farther he got from the mountain the less wintry the weather got. However, there was no doubt that Winter would catch up, for even though the season itself had not reached far from the mountain yet, it was evident that Summer was over for this year. Fall had come to the world at last, with Winter in its wake. It would not be long before the season of Wintercome started, and the leaves were already turning golden and crimson – but none of them as golden as the one he kept with him.

He passed all the villages again on his way back, and all the people he met looked a bit strangely at him when he returned, but he did not understand why since he did not think about how much he looked like Winter himself, coming down from the legendary mountain with Fall in his wake. And so he did not linger anywhere too long to spend thoughts on such matters, and the journey back was swifter than it had been when he first travelled the road, in the other direction.

She had been sitting by the tree for so long that she had lost count of the days. The sun had been her only companion by day, and the moon had been the only one to watch over her at night. She never lost hope, but her spirit became heavy and she almost felt as if she was on with the tree. Then, finally one evening, so soundlessly and suddenly that she nearly did not notice, it happened. She looked up towards the green branches, and all of a sudden one of the leaves broke loose from the others and glided down to land on her knee. It was first then that she noticed that its colour was not green, but fiery yellow. She picked it up and turned it between her fingers, at first not really realizing what this meant.

Then the insight dawned on her and slowly, slowly, not really daring to in fear that she would be wrong, she looked up. At first she did not see anything, and her heart sank. But then a shape could be seen moving up the forest hill. He looked worn and tired, and his silvery hair was tangled and strewn with leaves and dirt, but when he laid eyes upon her, sitting there by the tree like the embodiment of Summer in front of him, he smiled.

When he reached inside his coat and withdrew the golden leaf, unharmed by the rough journey and still shining as brightly as before, she rose from beneath the tree and ran towards him, laughing with tears streaming from her eyes. They embraced, and then he stroked her face with his left hand, while he used the right to put the golden leaf, his gift of Autumn, in her hair.

The ceremony begun before long and did prove to outshine all previous weddings held in this particular village. The bridal couple was more beautiful and more representative to the change of seasons than any couple before them, and no couple had ever been as happy or loved each other as much as these two did. The golden leaf gleamed beautifully in her hair as they said their vows, and all thought that it was the most wonderful autumn gift ever – but she herself did not think about it much, since all her attention was on him, her beloved one who had returned to her from afar. For love makes things like golden leaves seem small and simple.

And Summers End passed over into Wintercome, with snow, cold nights and short days. Winter reigned fair as he always did, guarding the world well until his beloved Summer was once again ready to take up the sceptre, or the wooden staff which is what it really is. She watched him from afar, from a spot hidden in the mountains where blue flowers grow forever, and longed for the short time in Spring when the two of them would again be together, when she would be the one to give him gifts and show him wonderful things all over the world.

Everything was as it should be. The years went by, new generations grew up and new beliefs spread over the world, obscuring or replacing the old ways as it has always been. And never ever again did one of the seasons delay because it doubted its importance to the other.

In the Heart of A Star

Yet another text in response to a writing prompt. You can also find an audio version of this story here. Feel free to leave a comment!


She stepped over broken and rusty things as she made her way through the old and forgotten room. She had followed him here, where he had obviously come to lick the wounds they had inflicted on him. The bloody trace of her terrible, cold creation had led her across the world. Now she had finally found him.

The light from the single window fell upon him where he lay in the rubble, almost possible to mistake for part of the rubble himself. For several heartbeats she just looked at him in silence. Though broken, he was still beautiful, just as she had made him. But the beauty was deceiving – she knew that now. His heart was cold as the distant stars, and he had not been the loving remedy for her immortal solitude that she had wished for him to be.

”I did not make you for this”, she said coldly.

The cogs in his head were rusty and chipped, but tried their best to turn. “You’re my mother?” The voice was cracked and discordant; the steel wires in his throat had slackened and worn down.

”There was a time when I would that you be my timeless companion, my sole comfort, my immortal lover. And yes, it was I who once made you. Thus I am your mother.” She knelt beside him and took his once so flawless face between her hands.

His one remaining eye met hers and she almost drowned in it. When he blinked a single, oily tear rolled down his cheek, leaving a black trail in its wake. ”…lover?”, he rasped. It pained her that a voice once made for singing now derided the art with its very sound.

”Yes, lover”, she whispered. ”I have searched for you, followed in your steps, traveled the world in quest for you. But you are broken now, my love, and you have done terrible things. The time has come for you to rest.”

His porcelain face contorted in fear, but there was no strength left in his body. With strong arms she cradled his upper body close to her. He tried to struggle as he saw her removing the chain with the little key from around her neck, but she held him firmly and began singing to him softly the tunes she had once learned from the sky.

”Hush, hush”, she whispered gently. ”I’m sorry for everything. I was just so lonely, drifting through the endless ages with no one by my side. But I know now that stars were never meant to walk the Earth.”

She put the small silver key into the hole in his chest, just as she had done that night so many years ago when she had first brought him to life. As she turned the key the little door in his chest opened, revealing the still pulsing piece of eternity that shone there. Its light illuminated the cluttered room and painted flowing nebulas upon the slanted ceiling.

”Please, don’t do it”, he said. It was barely more than a whisper. ”I’ll be anyone you want me to, just let me keep it. Please.”

Deep in his bottomless eye she could see the galaxies and suns of yore slowly spinning around the black void of his pupil.

”I wanted to love you”, she whispered and closed her hand around his borrowed heart, the heart of a fallen star. He tried to grab her wrist, but she was stronger and pushed his hand away. She never let go of his gaze, her sorrow meeting his fear for the very last time.

When she removed the pulsing star from his chest, all lights of nebulas and novas instantly left his staring eye and the broken chords of his voice silenced. His limp, lifeless body collapsed in her cradling arms and she was again alone in the world.

In her hand the fallen star still pulsed with all its secret life, shifting in its searing light that was too strong for all but another star to look at. She turned it between her fingers, allowed herself to bask in its familiar light one last time. She had been desperate for a companion, but a heart like this was a heart destined to grow cold and cruel. It had been a dream, but now she must wake up.

With tears streaming down her face she lifted the little lump of stardust to her lips and gently blew it out, extinguished it with her breath. Its light went out, its warmth slowly faded in her hand. The room went dark again, no universes painted on the slanted ceiling and no secret life in the eye of the clockwork lover in her arms. Just her, alone, as it had always been. Stars were never meant to walk the Earth, and still she remained.

And outside the small, broken window the distant and unblinking lights looked down at her and continued singing the ageless, soundless tunes of the cold and uncaring sky. She closed her eyes, clutched the dead stone in her hand and silently sang along.

The Giant

This is another of my older texts. I wrote it back in 2007, and I think it was the first semi-long text I ever wrote in English. It inspired me to continue working on a short story collection on the same theme, and to be honest I’m still working on that project. I still like it, and I hope you will as well. Feel free to comment!


He could not tell from where the light really came; was it from the starry sky, barely visible through the semi transparent veil of clouds? Was it from the wet rocks, ever glittering by the force of the recently fallen rain? Or was it, by some ancient magic, the silvery autumn branches high above, with their last stubbornly clinging silver leafs, that cast off the fairy illumination? He could not tell, and he guessed that it was just as good he didn’t, as the question, unimportant as it might be, helped him greatly by keeping his thoughts off more important and frightening matters.

He struggled to stay in line; it was hard as the others, his captors, were so much smaller than he ever was, and saw a grave trespassing in every small inch he happened to move outside the given route. The dark forest was full of eyes watching, but it was the wrong kind of eyes; nowhere did he ever glimpse the lilac radiant glimmer in the night that he so wished to see, and thus he understood that he should harbor no hopes of rescue from these fierce monsters that kept him stumbling down the narrow trail in the middle of this godforsaken night.

He understood, as he had done from the beginning, that the puny magic of his people, wonderful though it was, could put up no threat to these villains. He had beheld his family getting brought down on the cold forest floor with blows of ugly dark weapons and spells of a kind he never saw before, when they refused to give him up without a fight. He had no idea of their fate now – if they were still alive and if the village had survived the fire that he had seen licking at it when he was carried away, half conscious, into the unknown darkness.

He had been very much beautiful to them, his people, in the same way that they were beautiful to him. He could vaguely remember a time in his life, distant from now in the past, when he had not been so much bigger than them as he was now. His memory did not, however, cover any time at all when he had been just as small as them.

But he was well aware that memory could be a tricky thing (he even had, laughably enough, some silly imaginary memories from long ago when the world around him had not been only trees and trees), so he understood clearly that he must have forgotten about the time when he, also, had been small and feline. Just like he had forgotten totally about the incident which his people had been so reluctant to tell him about until this very night; the incident (or accident, for that matter) that had in some magical way caused him to start growing in size to such a degree that he was now some kind of giant of the woods.

He wondered now whether he would grow even more, maybe to the tallness of the trees, so that he in time would be able to look down from the drifting clouds and see all the forest of the wide world. He hoped not, because then he might accidentally happen to step on some animal or friend of his, and that wouldn’t be very nice, would it now? Anyway, he thought, his people had accepted, loved and adored him (even though they had had to fly up to the first branches of the leaf carrying trees to look him in the eye) and they had thought him beautiful.

These misshaped creatures, on the other hand, did not love him and to them he was most certainly not beautiful. This they let him know through kicks and blows whenever they got the chance, and through yelling at him in a language that was not of the forest and which he did not understand. Every now and then, though, they assured him of their standpoint towards him by throwing into their hysterical shouting some occasional word in his own language, the language of his people, with the general meaning of “ugly” or “giant”. So if he in the past had been a creature of wonder and beauty, that was no longer the case. In this twilight world which he had now been robbed into, he was no more than a freak show, and to his captors he was no more than an ugly giant.

They kept their pace for all of the night, never stopping to let him catch his breath or offering him to drink from their bottles. When they stopped to rest every morning, just before the hour when the horizon would turn red had they been able to see it through the trees, he was tied to the ground by the use of some evil magic, and forced into an uneasy sleep by some strong liquid they made him drink against his will. He never woke before the twilight hour, and thus his world became one of night. He did not see the sun for many days.

In his restless sleep, forced upon him by the witchcraft of these fiends, he again and again relived the night when he had been snatched from his peaceful life among his people. The colors of the dream were always distorted, as is the case when you sleep with a heavy fever upon you, and the voices of everyone, friend and monster, were warped and twisted and he was always afraid during those dreams.

He again and again experienced the hour just before twilight, the night of the autumn feast in the village. He again and again looked out through the little window in the small cottage they had built for him (which was just big enough for him but already starting to feel a bit narrow as he continued to grow with the changing of each season), to see his pretty little family and his friends hurrying this way and that, trying to get the banquet ready before sundown when the festivity would begin. They called to him and smiled, and asked him to put the decorations on the taller branches which they themselves could not reach easily. He smiled back at them and climbed out of his little house, ready to assist. His little sister was on his shoulder now, and whispering told him a secret he had now forgotten; something about the way the birds fly when the winter is nearing, and why they do that. He walked up to one of the trees surrounding their glade village, about to braid into its lowest branches a garland of tiny, glittering sparks made by his cousin.

Now time slowed down and the fever dream made him relive these last moments of sense in some kind of slow moving pace, at the same time as reality shifted colors and every sound was stretched, as if to mimic some infernal singing of the fish in the brook.

From every direction now, surrounding the glade, crawled dark shapes out of the descending twilight. The creatures had teeth just like the predatory, four legged animals of the woods that his people so shunned and feared, and dark red, cunning eyes.

They carried iron rods, sharpened and darkened by night, and chanted in low voices an evil rhyme the words of which he had never heard before. His people started in horror at this sudden attack, and gathered around him in the middle of the glade, fearfully gazing in each direction and singing protective spell songs to ward off the approaching demons (if this was to protect him or seek shelter in his presence, he could not know).

But the fiends had stronger magic, even though they were no larger in size than the forest people, and continued to approach until they had closed in and surrounded the circle.
One of them started to speak to the forest people in his strange language, and the chanting grew louder. This part was always cloudy in the dream, and he had a hard time remembering what happened afterwards. Through a dreamy haze he could see his people trying to fight back the intruders, using sticks and magic. He felt himself starting to fall, as if some evil spell of sleep had been cast upon him, and as he lay there on the ground he could do nothing but hope that he had not fallen on some of his friends. He could not move anymore, and his vision grew blurrier every split second.
The last thing he saw though the descending fog was fire; fire everywhere. And his brothers and sisters, all his people, fighting the demons and failing. He could not help them, he could not protect them. And so utter darkness engulfed him, and he knew nothing.

He could not remember awaking from that darkness. The only thing he could recall was that suddenly he was striding along this row of foes, the dark forest the only thing around and no familiar stone or landmark anywhere. Thus he had no idea how long had passed since this terrible incident that was maybe the end of his village, and fierce beating was the only answer he got, did he dare to ask his captors.
Every night when he awoke from his spellbound sleep he cried bitterly. At first he had refused to stand up and obey when they beckoned him to rise each night. This had resulted in a lot of pain, both from their weapons and from their spells. They had shouted at him and beat him until he was covered in blood and he could take it no more. Then he must struggle on through the night with aching limbs and bleeding scars all over, until next morning when he was finally allowed to lie down again. When again he woke, some magic had always caused his wounds to heal – uselessly, since his refusal to cooperate at once made them bear down on him again as soon as he started to strain.

After a while, though, he grew numb.He no longer fought them and no longer cared. His soul he hid deep within his weary body, and he no longer thought of anything but where he put his feet. They still beat him all the time (even more and even harder when they, to their frustration, noticed his lack of concern), but he didn’t notice it much. He felt the pain in his body, but his soul was out of reach.

Many, many nights after this they wandered. The landscape grew sparse of vegetation and finally no moss or twigs longer covered the ground. They passed over a fence made out of silver thread, and after walking some distance everything was changed. The rocks that he knew to always be round and uneven now spread out before him in a strange flat kind of way; the ground was covered with them, and they were no longer round or raw but square and very much flat under his sore feet. Wherever he looked were strange, heaven high buildings with sharp corners made out of both wood and stone, and they had glittering squares of light fastened to their every side.
He was totally unprepared of this powerful vision of strange wonders, and his wall of protection crumbled to nothing; he let out a gasp of awe, and stood as bewitched gazing up towards the towers of light that stretched endlessly before him.

The demons that held him captive glared at him and dragged him down on the ground so that he was at their level. Evil eyes were fixed at him from all directions, and then they spoke. He was amazed beyond words as they did so, for suddenly and without any further explanation, he understood them!

“Don’t try to find your way back over the silvery fence”, they growled hatefully. “You will never find it again from this side of the world. And even if you did you would not be able to find the trail we walked. You are changed now. Changed back, from what you should never have been in the first place.”

And with those last words they turned their backs on him and started back the way that they had come. He rose to his feet to hurry after them before his road was closed forever, but lots of new noises surrounded him and he was no longer sure of what it was that he had to return to so much. He stood a second in confusion, and when he again came to his senses, they were gone without a trace. It was as if they were never there in the first place, and surely they did not fit into this gleaming world of fast passing, bright colored vehicles and burning sunset towers of the whitest marble. After a while he was not even sure that they had really been there.

Then he saw the creatures of this magical city of light, and he almost fainted from the realization; they were like him! He was not taller than most of them, and they were of all kinds. Some where smooth and vigorous, while others had skin like crumbled fruit in the autumn and walked leaning on sticks or other strange apparatuses. No one looked twice upon him.

He was totally at loss with this situation. His memory of where he had come from was slipping from his grasp even now, and he was surprised that he understood everything these creatures, so alike him it was almost frightening, said to each other. He looked around for somewhere to go, somewhere to hide – and his gaze fell upon a lightning square, a window, where he suddenly laid eyes upon the most wondrous and beautiful sight he had ever beheld in his whole life. More beautiful was it than the golden leafs of autumn, or the gentle crystals in the air at winter. More wonderful a sight than the wild and musical swirling of the brook at spring, or the flight of the most daring of blue birds in the time of summer was it. Much more than all of that.

It was a girl. She was slowly and carefully combing out her golden hair, sitting at the window but not looking out. Her curls gleamed beautifully in the last light of the dying sun, and she was dressed for the night in the whitest silk, decorated only at the edges with purple lace ribbons. Her skin was white and smooth, and he in some strange way knew that she was very much like him. Her window was far above him, and even then he could behold all this.

After that he knew nothing before he stood in front of her door, in an echoing stairwell, reading the small letters printed at a pretty, decorated sign in the level of his eyes (and yes, he really could read them). She had such a wonderful name!
He carefully pushed the white little button next to the door, and a melodious ringing sprang forth inside the closed door. Footsteps fell on some soft surface inside, and soon she stood there, right in front of him, and looked into his eyes. She truly was beautiful, more beautiful than he had thought when he stood in the darkening street gazing up at her.
He thought for a second of how her eyes had something slightly familiar about them; something in their color reminded him of birds and magic. They twinkled like radiantly lilac little stars, and for a moment he was utterly confused and taken aback.

She smiled in a way that somehow indicated recognition, and then a name came to him. His name. And it was not a fairy name or a giant name, but a human name. The name of one of these creatures that were his size. His kind. He spoke his newfound and newly re-remembered name out loud, and she smiled again and thought that it was the most wonderful name.

He still stands in front of that door now and then, but now he has the key and does not have to press the doorbell, and the decorative sight in level with his eyes contains now not only her beautiful name, but his as well.
He is happy together with the girl with the radiant eyes, who knows not more than him about the forest and small villages with tiny people, or dark demons from the night.

But sometimes, at the end of summer when twilight comes earlier with each passing day and the shadows grow longer, he finds himself waking screaming and crying from a restless, sweat drenched dream where small, pretty figures stand around him in a darkening glade, speaking words of strangeness to menacing creatures with dark red eyes,
who answer them in a language that he can now understand clearly.

He always stays in the dream just long enough to hear one of the demons speak to the pretty people: “We are here on behalf of the Agency of Switch-cases. Hand us the changeling! He is not of yours; he is to be taken back to where he came from! Give in freely or we shall take him by force, with no concern of the consequences!”
And as the devilish voice of the imp-creature dies away, leaving not complete silence but the din of battle and death in its wake, the dream vision fades away and he feels himself falling down, down into a deep foggy darkness.

It is after such autumn dreams of another world that he wakes crying and twisting in his bed, without knowing where he is or why, half expecting the agony of sharpened iron rods brought down on him any second. But then her hand is on him, reassuring him and loving him, and he is again who he is; a human creature just like her, completely safe in her embrace from all the horrors of the dark.

They are very happy together, and soon she is to tell him that they are expecting a little one of their own into the world, and he will be so filled with joy. And as time goes by, as it inevitable does, memory of past lives grow bleacher and bleacher, until nothing remains but now and then a dream about a clear autumn evening ending in tragedy. Just a dream.

But once a year, on the day that he eventually guessed to be the day of his birth or the day of some other important event in his life, he finds on the hallway carpet, infallibly, a card decorated with golden leafs and strangely twinkling sparks, covered with words written in a language he can no longer understand.

But he nevertheless keeps them close at heart and stores them carefully in a beautifully decorated wooden box that he has made himself, and takes them out every now and then to look at them and try to remember.
And even though he forever fails to do that, he is very, very happy.