Across The Void

An audio version of this story can now be found here.

White light from the screen. A blinking prompt. The desk and the computer an island in the darkness of the room and of the world. Ice outside. On the ground, on the cars, on the dancing leaves still clinging to the sleeping trees. Darkness shining down from the saturated canvas of the sky. With it silence, emptiness, nothingness. The window a fragile shield against the cold and the loneliness radiating from the endless above. The world sleeping as island thoughts travel.

Putting thoughts to paper like a knife to a heart, making it bleed words. Easier in dark and silence and night. Burial in the headphones, all those noises and ideas. Here we are, up here at night. All that beautiful madness. Then suddenly a voice cutting through.

”What are you writing?”

Stopping, breathing, staring. Nobody on the line and still that voice in the headphones. ”Who are you?” The mic picking up words that should not be heard, but are.

”Someone who is wondering what you are writing.” Faint, distorted, almost part of the music.

”I am not writing. I am thinking.”

”Thinking about what?”

Nothing. Everything. Time. Space. Life. ”The world. I’m thinking about the world.”

A heartbeat of faint static. ”So am I. All the time.”

The music filling the gaps. Don’t be afraid to step into the unknown. The window is a shield.

”Where are you? Can you see me?”

You are not alone. ”I’m too far away to see you, but I can see your light. It’s like a star. And I can hear you through the night.”


”Can you write about this?”

Fear stays out of this. Other rules in the night than during daylight hours. The window is a shield, the sky is a canvas. A blinking prompt. ”What should I write?”

I began to believe voices in my head. ”Write about someone lost, who went away into the unknown and can never return. Write about someone drifting through the blackness above, thoughts going mad and becoming one with the stars. Write about the loneliness between words and worlds.”

That this world that we imagine in this room might be used… ”Is that you?” …to gain access to other rooms…

”Yes, write about me.” …to other worlds… ”Write about the moment I had to tell you this.”

previously unimaginable. ”But where are you? How can we even speak?”

”I can see the world from where I am, but it is far away. I haven’t seen it in a long time and I don’t know if I ever will again. Your light is on my radar, guiding my voice to you. I’ve been calling into the night for ages and you heard me.”

”But why me? Why now?”

”I think space is thinner in the dark and the silence of the night. And you’re awake, and listening.”

Static, white noise. The night sky strewn with distant lights. ”Are you up there? What have you seen?”

”I’m outside of everything, and what I’ve seen… there are no words for it.” The music increasingly out-voicing the words. ”I’m drifting again. Write about this. Promise me. Write.”

”But who are you? At least tell me your name.”

The voice almost swallowed by the void. Almost. ”Tom. My name is Tom.”

Only the music again. All those noises and ideas. All that beautiful madness. The prompt still blinking in the silence, the light of the screen like an island, like a star. Stabbing thoughts through paper, making it bleed. Words. Words. Words.

Strange things and thoughts and times in the dark and silence and night. Reality an illusive companion to dream and imagination. Other rules, other fears. Looking through the shield, thoughts traveling across the canvas of the sky, through it. Obeying the blinking prompt, keeping a promise. Listening to Burial and writing about Tom.

By Christina Smedbakken 2015-10-30

The Shadowsmith

I read about the artists
who sold their souls for skill
in trade with darker forces
that always have their will

I read the works of masters
now long lost, gone and dead
and relish in their worlds that now
reside inside my head

I too have struck a bargain
not once but now and then
where souls have been involved to
make sharp enough my pen

But I don’t need dark forces to
inspire me to write
I smith my words in shadows
so what I need is light

I meet them at the crossroads
and listen to their plea
I grant them inspiration
and they inspire me

And as they build their artworks
I work on my own draft
inspired by their fervor
in practicing their craft

When thus wrought masterpieces
have reached their final line
the authors of those stories
become characters in mine

For nothing is as perfect
to make my stories whole
as to lock in them a mortal
who has volunteered their soul

And thus my inspiration and
the sharpness of my pen
depends on souls of artists and
the vanity of men

So meet me at the crossroads
and sell your soul tonight
I smith my words in shadows and
for that I need your light

A Dream In Blue

It was late. Jonathan was late. He parked his car by the curb and drummed impatient rhythms on the wheel. Completing his errands had taken too long, and he had barely had time to get properly dressed before hurrying here. When she showed up in the doorway, however, he instantly thanked himself for sacrificing those extra moments in front of the mirror. She was a dream in blue and deserved far better than him, but at least he had given it his best.

He hurried out of the car and opened the door for her. Was awarded with a little kiss in return. He smiled, said the right things. He wanted her, had wanted her since they first met six days ago, but it was impossible and he knew it. It was part of who he was, of who she was. If she found out… No, he would be gone before she did, if she ever did. He wouldn’t be able to look into her eyes when that happened. Better enjoy it while it lasted and not think ahead. He returned to the driver’s seat and started the car again.

She told him about today’s rehearsal. She was a singer of some renown, and that was also how he had found her. He had heard her in concert the previous week and instantly known that she was the one. Long, dark hair, pale eyes and a voice to kill and be killed for. He knew the right people and they were introduced at a party two days later. They had met a couple of times since then. Coffees, dinners, even a movie. He had needed to get close to her, and as the days went by he had found himself wanting it as well.

He told her about his day, his work and his thoughts on tonight. The first consisted of vague generalities, the second of believable half truths and the last of outright lies. But she didn’t call his bluff and he found himself, again, enjoying talking to her. She didn’t judge, she didn’t measure and she didn’t demand. He had money, sure, but so did she and something told him that she wouldn’t mind overly much having to make due on a far more humble income. Everything about her was so different from what he was used to. He bit his lip and took a deep breath. He could not let himself fall in love with her. There really was no way.

As they approached the house he could see that several limousines and cabs had aldready been parked in the spacious driveway. All the windows were lit and through them could be seen glamorously dressed people mingling, drinking and dancing.

”Oh my god”, she laughed as he parked his car next to another of the same make. ”I can’t believe that you invited me to come with you here. This is amazing, thank you!”

”Don’t thank me”, he said as he opened the door on her side and helper her out.

”Don’t be humble”, she smiled and kissed him again, obviously misinterpreting his tone of voice. ”You’ll have to introduce me to everybody, I can’t imagine that I know anyone here.”

”I’ll introduce you to those who matter”, he said truthfully and tried not to feel, but it was hard.

They entered through the tall double doors and were instantly greeted by smiles and welcomes and enthusiasm. All fake, of course, and all according to the rules of play. He smiled back and shook hands and answered politely. They knew him very well, knew that he was below them but also that the one he worked for was not. Nobody would dare to touch him, but many would love to touch her. Luckily for him, she didn’t know this. Yet.

And she was lovely. She conversed delightfully with anyone she was introduced to, asked the right questions and laughed in the right places. She caught the attention of many, but it was when Albert Limestone – a corpulent man with a fondness for art and artists – began talking to her about potential bookings that Jonathan knew he had to get to the point with all this. He made an excuse and pulled her away from the crowd, and tried not to listen to her thrilled voice as she told him how happy she was to get to know all these new contacts. He had to do this before she killed his resolve entirely with her lovey smile and entrancing voice.

Jonathan found him at the top of the stairs. ”Tanya, here’s someone I’d like you to meet.” He led her to him, felt his pulse quicken at the sight of the predatory smile on the man’s lips when he looked at her. At the hunger and the fire in those dark eyes.

Stefán MacCormach took her hand and kissed it. ”It’s a pleasure to meet you, Tanya. My name is Stefán. I’m looking forward to getting to know you better.”

She smiled and blushed and Jonathan knew what effect those eyes must have on someone not used to meeting their gaze. Terrifying and exciting and deadly, and she had no idea.

”Nice to meet you”, she said. ”Are you a friend of Jonathan’s?”

Stefán laughed humorlessly. ”Not quite. Rather of his… employer, I would say. Now, if you would be so kind as to come with me, I will tell you everything about how I know Jonathan.” He grabbed the hand he had just kissed and started leading her away.

”But… Jonathan?” She tried to turn, but Stefán just shook his head and whispered something in her ear, and she followed him.

And Jonathan remained where he was, following them with his eyes until they were gone in the crowd. These people always got what they wanted, and he hated himself more than ever.

Dawn was approaching and the party would soon be over. People were leaving, and Jonathan was hoping to be allowed to drive Tanya back home. She would hate him, of course, but she would be safe. He had never harbored any illusions, he knew he would never see her again after tonight. There was no room for her in his life, anyway. But then he was called to the basement, and that’s when he knew.

She lay on the floor, unmoving and silent, but he saw that she was breathing. He felt sick as he stepped out of the ancient elevator and approached her. They were alone, but escape was not an option. Other things than fear prevented him from leaving this place.

Stefán had wanted a singer for the party, a dark haired beauty, someone whose laughter was clear and would be interesting for him to break. Jonathan had obliged, searched and delivered, as was always his job. Now the people above had decided that she had seen and heard too much and must be dealt with accordingly. That was why Jonathan was holding a knife.

He sat down beside her and stroked her hair. He couldn’t help himself, he had fallen for her. He didn’t want to do this, but when she looked up at him and screamed he slit her throat anyway just to silence her. Now she would never sing again.

Jonathan held her as she trashed and turned and fought and bled out. He had blood all over his hands and clothes when it was over and he just sat there for a moment, realizing what he had done. But it was late now, and his masters expected him to be done with this before daybreak. So he picked her up and carried her through the basement, past the boiler room and into the small corridor with the hatch and the secret room beneath it.

And it was not until he had lowered her body into the darkness and watched it disappear amongst the floating shadows that he sat down and cried. She had been a dream in blue, and he had betrayed her and killed her. He had known somewhere that Stefán would not let her go afterwards, that was not his way. He was merciless and impulsive and hungry, just as all the others of his kind. And Jonathan could have done nothing to save her, once he had led her into the predators’ den. He was just a servant, bound by blood to do his masters’ bidding. And now he would never hear her voice again.

But then the time came for the sun to rise, and Jonathan dried his tears. There was much to be done, and he could not afford to dwell on these feelings. He had to clean the basement, sleep briefly and then wake in the afternoon to prepare the house again for tomorrow night’s guests.

The Kindred were terrifying and deadly, and their world was a banquet where lives were served each night to quench their undying thirst for blood. Jonathan was their servant, and not just fear but also greed and hunger and ambition bound him to this place. There was no room in his life for regret, and there definitely was no room in it for love or for dreams in blue. The sun rose and life went on.

On Blood And Dreams II

This text works as a stand-alone, but if you want to read the first part you can find it here.

The brave new world she stalked through was filled with brave new lives and brave new loves, but not for her. Never for her. She would taste the warmth of innocent hearts and let it awaken in her for a moment memories of a time when she as well had felt and dreamed and hoped, only to leave them just as empty and dying afterwards as she had been left herself so long ago. But whilst the blankly staring eyes of these new lives were doomed to fade not long after she walked away, her own two eyes were cursed to remain forever open.

She saw cruelty, she saw suffering and death and all of these were far worse than the pain her own hunger and cold would ever be able to afflict upon a humanity that was slowly torturing itself into hardened submission.

Sometimes she took lives in the name of souls too defeated to extract their own vengeance upon murderers and oppressors. It was during such brief moments of chimeric justification that she came close enough to feeling to actually remember that the word had a meaning attached to it.

For the most part, however, she took lives in the name of her own vices and did not discriminate between the guilty and the innocent any more than the blind distinguish between light and darkness. It was during such moments of liberating numbness that she realized that feelings and principles were constructions belonging to the living, and that monsters such as herself were meant to thrive and thirst in the regretless shadows of apathy. And so she did, until the night when she heard again the words of a monster long dead being spoken into the night like painful phantoms of the past.

The boy was young, but still older than she herself had been when the night had swallowed her heart and slowly begun hollowing her from the inside. He had dreams in his eyes and fight in his voice when he recited verses forgotten by the new world but remembered in the hearts of lovers and warriors, and she stood in the shadows and waited and hated as memories too painful to keep but too precious to lose struggled towards the frozen surface of her soul.

His borrowed words were embraced by those who heard him speak and she realized that he was known and loved and respected for knowing and speaking them. She also realized that he had broken something inside of her by doing so, something that was bleeding and would not mend on its own.

Mad with memory she stalked him through the night. She learned his name and his passions and saw him dance and laugh and live. He was a poet and a dreamer, but unlike the monster whose words he worshiped he was no thief and would not steal another’s heart unless freely given. She realized she saw in him something she had vainly looked for in her long dead killer and lover, and she hated him for it because the thought frightened her more than she wished to admit.

Nights went by and unseen she followed him through them even as the wound inside of her kept bleeding. For full a year she listened as he spoke the words of others and of his own, and watched him struggle with life and words and dreams. She was drawn to him in ways that she could not explain and for a time forgot to be the thirsting monster in the regretless shadows.

But time affected him as it did all mortals, and she heard his words and thoughts growing heavier and deeper for each moon that passed. The dreamer boy was turning into a man, and she knew that soon he would be old and withering and dying. His inspired words and dreams would slowly harden into pragmatic philosophy and then he would die, like they all did.

But he had made her feel, if only just so slightly. She knew that the uncaring apathy was ready to embrace her again, but having seen the light anew through this living thing she knew she would have to die all over again if she let it. So in order to save her mind and her memory of a soul from drowning, she stepped out of the shadows.

She stared into his eyes, she touched his face and she watched cold realization creep over him. Then she snapped his neck and drank his blood and listened as he drew his final, chocked breath.

And as she watched him die she slit her own wrist and let the red darkness pass from her to him. He would never grow old and die, and his words and dreams would never change.

“I have all the time in the world”, she whispered as life left him and made room for something new. ”Make me love you.”

This is the second part of an installment of three. It was inspired by a writing prompt, and you can find the first part here. Stay tuned for the third and final part, and feel free to leave comments!

A Market For Crime

This one is from 2011. I’m just home from Hungrary, and hopefully I’ll get time to write a new text tomorrow. Feel free to leave a comment!

Richard Gimmons had always been deeply fascinated by the dangerous but, as he imagined it, oh so glamorous underbelly of society that hid in plain sight.

He knew perfectly well that reality was not like in the movies, where handsome men in expensive hats drove around in shiny cars and extracted swift but furious vengeance upon their unjust gangster foes in merciless drive bys – and always managed to talk their way out of it afterwards; the police knew that these mobsters were fighting the good fight. But he imagined that the fiction could not have deviated too far from reality.

Rich Gimmons’ own reality, however, deviated a great deal from the fiction. Indeed, the life he led was such that anyone would consider it boring, and your old, half deaf female neighbour would describe it as dull. He went to work every day at eight a.m dressed in his best grey suit (or one of them, at least, since he owned many), did his job as best as he could selling ecological soap to unwilling house mothers, and then went home at five p.m sharp. Well at home he changed into something more comfortable – usually a turquoise robe and a pair of furry slippers – and got down to business watching somewhat exciting TV thrillers from the safe confines of his old, favourite sofa. At weekends he sometimes visited his mother at the home, always bringing her a bouquet of pink roses, watching talk shows together with her until it was time for him to return home. On some, extremely rare, occasions he allowed himself to be talked into joining his colleagues for one glass after work, but lately he had begun to suspect they only asked him to be nice.

This stagnated habit of his, paired with his just as stagnated personality and lack of both courage and imagination, resulted in two immediate reactions when he one sunny Saturday morning opened up his daily newspaper to find this strange add on the middle page:

Is your life boring? Do you sometimes watch the news wishing that was you getting fussed over as a victim or a hero on TV? Let us spice your workday up for you! You only need to grab your phone and dial 555-3369BUYACRIME. And you know what? The first one is on the house! Don’t hesitate, we want to hear from you today!”

The first of his two reactions was excitement – this add could have been written for him personally. The other reaction was fear. Spicing up his workday? Buy a crime? No way he would have anything to do with such obviously dangerous and… strange affairs. An hour later he dialed the number anyway, his hands shaking slightly as he used them both to hold the phone steady against his ear.

After a couple of signals a pleasant, computerised female voice asked him please to wait in line, after which he was entertained with a somewhat catchy tune for a couple of minutes. Just as his fear of the unsafe was beginning to get the upper hand of his patience and curiosity, the music ended abruptly and he heard the sound of a receiver getting picked up.

Welcome to Life Spice Enterprise! How can we assist you?”

The voice on the other end was charming but, thought Rich, held the timbre of a voice capable of selling the apples back to the tree as well as scaring it into retracting them. He hesitated.

Hi…”, he said after a moment slightly too long had passed. “My name is Richard Gimmons, and I would like to… er… I’d like to buy a crime, please.” He blurted the words out, before he had a chance to change his mind.

The man at the other end let out a polite laugh. “Certainly, sir. What kind of crime would you like to order? We have a respectable selection of both services and entrepreneurs.”

Now Rich’s lack of imagination took its toll, and he started to sweat. How stupid he was! Of course he should have thought about what exactly he wanted to order before he made the call! “I… I don’t know really… Do you have anything to recommend?”

Well”, said the salesman, and Rich faintly heard him tapping the keys of a keyboard. In the background could be heard the sounds of other conversations, and Rich was reminded of the soundscape at his own office. “In fact I have. We are actually running a special campaign, today-only. You can get a Mugging and Severe Beating for the price of a Simple Pickpocket, if you sign up today. Or is this your first time here?”

Rich nodded and then realised that the salesman couldn’t see him, so he hurried to answer “Yes”.

Then I have to apologise, sir! Your first order is always for free with us! But I can give you a hint”, he said conspiratorially. “You can choose another kind of crime as your free try, and then also buy the Mugging and Severe Beating for today’s beneficial, heavily reduced price. That way, you can both have the cookie and eat it, so to speak. What do you say?”

Rich knew from his own experience with the salesman-job that he was being talked into something, and that the man at the other end probably got a percentage of every crime he sold. But at the same time he felt that he had taken a big step even calling this number in the first place, and suspected that he would never be able to work up the courage to do it again did he not strike the deal right away. And he had to admit: it sure sounded like a smart and advantageous deal.

Sure, I’ll take it”, he said in a voice that sounded ten times more sure of itself than he felt. “I’ll take that Mugging-thing, and…” He searched his brain for ideas for a crime, mentally going through movies he had seen and books he had read. Finally, he came up with the perfect idea. “And also please add a crime where I am dramatically forced off the road when I’m driving in my car”.

Excellent!” The salesman sounded genuinely rejoiced. “This is a very good choice, especially as it is your free crime; incidents involving vehicles are usually the most expensive ones. Then I’ll just need your name, address and Social Security Number.” Rich gave it to him. “And… Ah, I forgot to ask. Do you intend to benefit from the crimes yourself, or should I write them as a gift certificate for someone you know?”

No, I would like the crimes for myself, please”, Rich hurried to ensure him. “Both of them.”

Excellent, excellent.” The frenetic tapping of keys could once again be heard. “And now remains only the tailoring of your order. Do you have any specific wishes concerning time, place, perpetrator or any other circumstances for us to take into account, Mr. Gimmons?”

No”, Rich answered calmly, his fear of the unsafe momentarily suspended. “Surprise me.”

It was two days later that Rich was jumped on his way home from work. He had just gotten out of the subway station (he sometimes refrained from driving if the weather was rough) when someone knocked him down from behind, snatched his briefcase and started beating him senseless even as his accomplice violently rumaged through Rich’s pockets and removed his wallet and cellphone.

Rich screamed his lungs out, but it was dark and no one was nearby. The robbers left him bleeding on the pavement and took off with his belongings. He must have passed out, because when he came to several people were standing over him with concerned looks, even as a couple of medics were forcing their way through the crowd while yelling for the bystanders to leave room.

He was lifted onto a stretcher and placed in the back of an ambulance. He thought to himself as he saw the last strip of dawn light disappearing between the closing doors that this was probably the first time in his life he was inside an ambulance. This thought felt strangely soothing to him; things were changing.

Two ribs had been broken. And his nose. And three fingers on his left hand. He had suffered a heavy concussion, and a sharp, black field around his right eye made it impossible for him to conceal his sorry state. Apart from all this, he ached all over and had suffered several, less serious injuries that the doctors had said would heal without their intervention. Even so, he had been in hospital for a week and had had to call in sick from work for several days even after he had gotten home. His colleagues sent him flowers, and his insurance company was forced to cough up a respectable sum for his injuries and inconvenience. The TV news even made a small coverage about his ill luck, and the newspapers warned people about walking around alone at night in the area where he had been attacked.

Rich Gimmons began to feel that this being-a-victim business wasn’t so bad after all. His injuries healed pretty quickly, and he could return to work to bask in his new glory. People he had never spoken to before stopped him in the corridor to ask him how he was, and his boss went easier on him than usual – even offered him the first weekend off to rest.

He got in his car after the first work day, smiling as he saw his black eye in the rear view mirror. Maybe life wasn’t so dull and boring after all. He took the highway for a bit, before turning onto one of the smaller mainlines leading to his suburb. The sun was setting and some children were out biking. With helmets, he noted to his satisfaction. He passed them, and steered to the side to let by a pickup truck that was coming up fast from behind. Only it didn’t pass. He only had a moment to get a quick glance of the other driver’s cold stare before he realised what it was all about. He waved and shouted to the other driver to stop, please not now, that he had changed his mind. The driver just shook his head and gave Rich a businesslike smile.

Richard Gimmons’ Sedan was forced sideways off the road, through the crash barrier and down a steep slope. Rich screamed all the way down. He didn’t see the pickup drive away. Neither did he notice when the police and ambulance arrived. Everything went dark when he hit his head on the wheel as his expensive, ultra safe car collided with a beech and turned into a burning wreck.

Do you have any enemies, Mr. Gimmons?” The policeman wore a stern face and tapped his notepad with his ballpoint pen for every syllable he spoke. “Anyone who would wish to harm you?”

Rich shook his head with effort; the supportive collar they forced him to wear, together with the pain in his neck, made it hard for him to move his head at all. “No, sir, not that I know of”.

Of course he could not tell them about his doings with Life Spice Enterprise, that would only be stupid. He wasn’t even completely sure that ordering crimes to be committed against oneself was fully legal in his state. He continued struggling to spoon yoghurt from the bowl on his lap and into his mouth – a real feat when half your face is covered in bandages.

Are you completely sure?”, the policeman insisted, still tapping his notepad. “Because we can’t help but to find it kind of strange that the same man should be attacked and abused two times in one month, and that these incidents should be completely unrelated.” He gave Rich a concerned but stern look.

I’m completely sure”, Rich said between mouthfuls. “I’m a completely ordinary guy. I sell soap, watch TV and visit my mother. I don’t even have many friends – how can I have enemies?” The yoghurt tasted of raspberries.

The policeman seemed to agree; Richard Gimmons didn’t seem like the kind of person who would make enemies, or anything else either for that matter. He thanked Rich for his time, and left the hospital room.

Rich got home from the hospital two weeks later, to find a whole bunch of flowers and presents waiting for him in his apartment. His kindly landlady had obviously been sweet enough to let the deliverymen in with their gods, and he knocked on her door and thanked her for that. Then he spent the whole evening eating chocolate and watching The Godfather I on DVD.

When he got back to work some days later he was greeted with even more attention than the last time, and he felt that he really liked how things had turned out. A reporter from one of the major news channels visited him at work and asked him questions, and later that night he was delighted to see his own face on TV.

Life went on, and for a while his fame held. But as the days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, he noticed that people didn’t acknowledge him as much as they had done in the beginning. He was fear struck when he realised that he was slipping back into his old, boring lifestyle. The first thing he did when he got home from work that night was to call the number from the add that he had saved.

The police was beginning to despair. Richard Gimmons had no enemies, was not involved in any shady activities, had no criminal friends. And still he was repeatedly attacked at seemingly random intervals and under unrelated circumstances. He was on TV several times, and became something of a local hero – even though he had done nothing to deserve it except getting mugged, beaten, robbed, abused and almost murdered more times than a normal person had time to read about in a week. And the police had no means whatsoever to solve the case. In the end they just leaned back and enjoyed the show, hoping that A: it would eventually end, B: the case would solve itself, or C: Richard Gimmons would finally succumb to all the violence directed at him and drop down dead, one less hopeless endeavour to waste resources on. None of this happened.

Rich Gimmons himself was living what he considered the high life, getting recognised in the streets and even receiving mail from a handful of (probably crazed, but what the heck) admirers. People at work had long since begun to regard him as something of a wild card, not knowing if he really was involved in anything or not. Best to be on the safe side, they decided, and Rich found himself nervously shunned by some and treated with almost mob like respect by others. All to his liking.

Therefore he became desperate when he realised one day that his meager pay check, heavily reduced by all his recent sign offs and hospital bills, did not nearly cover his crime expenses. He had been borrowing from his savings account for weeks, and it was beginning to dwindle. And still he needed more crime.

He had thought of the perfect one last night, one where he was threatened by mysterious phone calls for days and then, the evening after receiving a rabbit’s head in a box at his office (for all his colleagues to witness, of course), forcibly tattooed on the back of his neck and thrown off a bridge with a Bible stapled to one of his legs. This would certainly rouse the media’s interest and spice up his life just that extra bit. But he had gotten a rather great overview of the company’s tariff over the weeks, and knew that this kind of crime would cost a small fortune. Maybe if he wasn’t in hospital so much and missed so many days at work, he would be able to afford it. But as things were now, he wasn’t. He hadn’t even been able to pay up for the last installment, and was beginning to worry what would happen if he didn’t pay it soon. He wasn’t afraid they would send thugs to beat him up – that would be getting one for free – but he feared that he would be black-listed as a customer and prevented from placing any new orders in the future. So he called them.

He had learned through experience that there were four regulars working the phones at Life Spice Enterprise, and this time he got number three: a man with a fat voice who couldn’t be anything but corpulent (and probably extremely dangerous, regardless of the pleasant note in his voice as he took the call).

Welcome to Life Spice Enterprise! How can we help you, sir?”

Hello, my name is Rich Gimmons.” He had gotten quite sure of himself over the weeks in regular contact with the company. “I have thought of the perfect crime for me.”

The salesman was quiet for a moment, and then replied: “Ah, Mr. Gimmons! I see here that you haven’t carried out the payment for your last purchase yet. I’m sorry to say, but you cannot place a new order until the previous one has been paid for.” He tapped some keys. “Have you lost your invoice? Shall I send you a new one?”

Rich felt despair bubbling inside of him, threatening to take over; he needed this crime! He held it back with some effort. “No, I haven’t lost it. I just… Could I not please get a discount? I am a returning customer, after all…”

We don’t give discounts on that kind of basis, Mr. Gimmons. We do however have some special offers. Would you like to hear them? You will still need to pay for the previous order, though, of course. Let’s see here…” Rich could hear the salesman going into vendor mode.

And what if I can’t?”, Rich interrupted. “What if I can’t pay?”

The salesman stopped writing on his computer and was quiet for slightly too long. “Well”, he let ring a short, rhetoric laugh, “We couldn’t very well contact the public debt collection, could we. No, we would simply have to kill you.” He resumed tapping his keyboard. “Now, would you like to hear about our special offers?”

Rich grew cold inside. Kill him? That was definitely more than he had bargained for. With stiff hands he hung on to the phone like his life depended on it, but couldn’t think of a word to say. He began to shake all over.

Mr. Gimmons?” The voice at the other end sounded distant and polite. “Mr. Gimmons, are you still there?”

Rich took a deep breath. “Yeah, I’m here”, he said. “Listen. Is there… is there really no way I could get a discount? Or maybe be allowed a part payment?”

No, I’m sorry, Mr. Gimmons”, the salesman replied. “But is there really no way you can pay up?”

Rich didn’t know what to say. Would they kill him right away if he said no? He cast nervous glances towards the door to his apartment. But still, he actually couldn’t pay…

No”, he replied after almost half a minute of agonising indecision. “No, I really can’t pay. I have no money left”. He waited in horror for the verdict.

Hmm… I see”, said the man on the other end of the line, suddenly taking on a completely new kind of business voice. “If you are completely sure…” He tapped his keyboard with a new kind of zeal.

Rich waited and waited, growing more anxious by the minute. “What?!”, he burst out suddenly, too nervous to keep his mouth shut any longer. “What do you mean?”

Ah, here it is”, the salesman finally said, triumphantly. “I have a solution for you. Would you like to hear it?”

Yes! Yes, of course!”

Very well, then. I can sign you up for a possibility to work off your debt to our company, and at the same time open up an account where you can save the credits you earn, for later use on our services. How does that sound?”

Rich didn’t believe he had heard the man right – this was too good to be true. “Yeah, that sounds really great! Sign me up!” Then he came to think of something. “How exactly do you mean, work it off?”

The other man adopted his happy-salesman-voice again. “Well, it’s quite simple, really. You know the services that we provide? They are carried out by independent entrepreneurs hired by us. You could become one yourself, and accept contracts from us. The more advanced the contract, the more credits are deposited into your account.”

So you mean… I can earn money this way?”

The salesman laughed. “No, we do not deal in currency. We deal in services. Don’t you know that it’s a crime to pay prowlers and criminals to commit infringements? It’s called criminal instigation. Instead, all our entrepreneurs have the possibility to cash out their earnings in free services. These services can be enjoyed by the contractors themselves or, more commonly, by other individuals decided by the entrepreneur doing the withdrawal. Most of our employees carry out other business alongside the engagements provided by us, in order to earn their living. Their dealings with us are strictly for the sake of being able to extract services and return favours.”

I see. Well, it sure sounds great. But I’m a bit unsure as to what kind of services I would be able to provide? I have never done anything like this in my entire life.”

I see here that you have purchased no less than thirty seven crimes during the past two months. Is there nothing from those experiences that you can draw inspiration from? What do you want to specialise in? Hit-and-runs? Poisoned beverages? Sharp shooting? Armed robbery?”

Rich thought for a moment. “Hmm… Maybe hit-and-runs? That doesn’t seem all to complicated to start with.”

Excellent, Mr. Gimmons! Shall I sign you up as a private contractor, then? You will have to start at the bottom of our list, working your way up doing more and more complicated assignments – and at the same rate you will of course be rewarded with larger and larger salaries.”

Yes, please”, said Richard Gimmons with a grin. “Will I have to use my own car?”

No, of course not. We will provide you with vehicles suitable for each particular contract you are assigned to. We will contact you on this number as soon as someone places an applicable order.”

Okay, that sound great. Sign me up.”

Splendid! Now you are registered on our list of private entrepreneurs! Your first assignment will of course be a no-payment one, since you still have your unpaid debt to us. But after that, the credits will start rolling in! Isn’t that great? Any more questions?”

No, all is crystal clear.”

Great! Then I want to wish you good luck, and am looking forward to hearing about your progress in our company, Mr. Gimmons! Have a nice day!”

Thanks”, Rich said and put down the receiver.

Over the next six months Richard Gimmons made himself busy executing his assignments as best as he could, picking up cars, stalking his taskmasters, analysing their habits and everyday patterns, striking when they expected it the least and making sure not to kill anyone. He was close once, but luckily it ended well. He only got half his salary for that one, though. In time he perfected his methods and rose in reputation within the company.

He found it hard, however, to keep up with his regular job. He managed, but he suspected that the major reason his boss didn’t let him go after repeatedly coming in late (or not at all, when his moonlight assignments got in the way) and doing a generally crappy job at the sales department, was the fact that he was afraid of Rich. It was obvious that he had shady business going, even though nobody could prove it.

He had to move to a smaller apartment, though, to be able to afford the rent with his reduced income. And he didn’t have as much spare time as before to enjoy the saved credits in his company account, and the free crimes they could afford. But he found that he liked his additional job, and was beginning to wonder if this wasn’t something he could do full-time – weren’t it for the fact that his current employers refused to pay him in cash instead of in credits. He was just beginning to consider starting up his own contractor side-business, when the police came to his office one afternoon and arrested him, to his colleagues’ wide eyed excitement.

They asked him in endless interrogations who he worked for, and if he had anything to say about the accusations that he was a hired killer for a major crime syndicate.

No, you’ve got it all wrong”, he assured them calmly. “I’m only a private contractor under a commercial business corporation that trade in commissioned crimes”.

For some reason they mistook this for a confession, and rewarded him with a five years sentence.

During his time inside the bars of the well renowned state prison, Rich Gimmons made many friends. Dangerous friends and powerful friends. These friends would rather suffer torture in Hell than let Rich be thrown out on the street when he had served his time, and to his delight they gave him all the contacts and resources he needed to start up his own business when he got out. The only thing he would have to do in return was to provide free services to their allies every now and then. Great!

So Rich didn’t even bother trying to get his old job back, and he didn’t go back to Life Spice Enterprise, either. He didn’t need to buy crime anymore; he was crime. And he was surprised to notice that he made ten times the money in this new line of work than he had ever done at the office – and the dramatic incidents that he had previously been forced to pay expensive fees to be able to enjoy now came for free as part of his average workday.

Sure, his old pals from prison contacted him every now and then, wanting him to sell stuff for them or to beat someone up. So high was he in demand by them and his regular customers, that he eventually had to hire extra hands to help him keep up. Soon he was in charge of his own little syndicate, and he felt very proud of himself.

Then came the day when he was required to kill a person for the first time. It was an old player who didn’t have the good grace to pay up for his debts to one of Rich’s new friends. Rich, on the other hand, had the good grace to know when to repay past kindness.

He stalked his prey for a couple of days, until he felt sure about his habits and doings. Then he struck, quickly and mercilessly. He felt as if all the past years since he first saw that strange add in the paper had prepared him, groomed him for this very moment. He felt no remorse, only a sense of being born for this. For days afterwards he followed the police investigation through the news, and was satisfied and more than a little bit proud to conclude that they were getting nowhere. Richard Gimmons truly had perfected crime, perfected murder, perfected himself. And his life was very much spicy, nowadays.

Soon he had made a name for himself amongst the lowermost layers of society. If you’re looking for one of the big ones, Richard Gimmons is your man. Yesterday he even dared discovery just for the hell of it, posting a not-so-discrete add in one of the major papers:

Is your husband boring? Do you ever watch TV wishing that was your troublesome neighbour getting pushed down a roof in that movie? Let us spice your boss’ coffee up for him! You just have to grab your phone and dial 666-137KILLYOURDARLINGS. And you know what? The first one is on the house! Don’t hesitate, we want to hear from you today!”

Did anybody call? Well, that’s another story for another time. The point it that Richard Gimmons had managed to perfect crime. And is there a market for it? Yes, indeed, there is, I can assure you. There is.


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.