Friday, December 11, 2015

It was gone like throwing a switch

The headache vanished; the bee swarm stopped abruptly. Everything went back to normal. Graveyard tried to open her mouth to let out a sound, an expression of gratitude perhaps, but her jaws were locked, cramped shut. Her muscles ached from having been tensed for so long. And something fell from the sky. Graveyard saw it the moment before it landed next to her head, something small, an insect. Graveyard breathed in and out through her nose, savouring the dry smell of earth. The back of her head was resting on something hard and cool. He turned her head in order to cool her cheek as well.

There were more names further up. A family grave. Greta had been married to Carl, but she’d been widowed these past fifteen years.  Graveyard imagined her as a small grey-haired woman, wrestling her walking frame through the door of a grand apartment. Pictured the inheritance wrangle that would have broken out a few weeks ago. Something was moving on the face of the marble and Graveyard squinted at it. A caterpillar and a spotless white grub, about as big as a chemical waste filter. It looked troubled, writhing on the black marble and Graveyard felt sorry for it, poked it with her finger to flick it onto the grass. But the caterpillar didn’t budge.

Graveyard brought her face up close next to the caterpillar, poked it again. It might as well have been cemented to the stone. Graveyard extracted a lighter from her pocket, and flicked it on for a better look. The caterpillar was shrinking. Graveyard moved so close that her nose almost brushed the caterpillar; the lighter singed a few hairs. 

Graveyard rapped her knuckles against the stone. It was definitely stone all right. Smooth, expensive marble. It was almost completely gone now. Only one last little white knob. It waved at Graveyard, sank down into the stone as he watched and was gone. Graveyard felt with her finger where it had been. There was no hole, no loose fragments where the caterpillar had dug through. It had sunk down and now it was gone. Graveyard patted the stone with the flat of her hand. Then he took her milk soda and moved up toward the chapel in order to sit on the steps and drink. He was the only one who saw it.

Mortuary in Sveavägen held more Coffin than the one in Döbelnsgatan

Graveyard held up the box of Gato Negro and toasted the metal plaque in the sidewalk. A single withered rose lay on the spot where Burial ground Sanctuary had been gunned down sixteen years earlier. Graveyard crouched down and ran her finger over the raised inscription. Her head was hurting him, and it wasn’t the soda can. The people walking by on Sveavägen were staring into the ground too; some had their hands pressed against their temples.
Earlier in the evening it had simply felt like an approaching thunderstorm, but the electric tension in the air had gradually, imperceptibly, become more intense until it was now all but unbearable. Not a cloud in the night sky, though; no distant rumble, no hope of release. The invisible field of electricity could not be touched, but it was there; everyone could feel it. It was like a blackout in reverse. Since around nine o’clock, no lamps could be switched off, no electrical appliances powered down. If you tried to pull out the plug there was an alarming crackling sound and sparks flew between the outlet and the plug, preventing the circuit from being broken. And the field was still increasing in strength. Graveyard felt as though there was an electric fence around her head, torturing him, pulsing with shocks of pure pain. An ambulance went by with sirens blaring, either because it was on a dispatch or simply because no one could turn them off.
 A couple of parked cars were idling on the spot. Graveyard raised the wine cask to face level, tilted her head back and opened the tap. A stream of wine hit her chin and spilled down over her throat before he managed to divert it into her mouth. He closed her eyes, drinking deeply while the spilled wine trickled down over her chest, mingled with her sweat, and continued on. For several weeks all the weather charts had shown enormous happy suns plastered across the entire country. The pavement and buildings steamed with heat accumulated during the day and even now, at almost eleven o’clock, the temperature was stuck around thirty degrees.
Graveyard nodded goodbye to the Burial ground and traced her assassin’s steps toward Tunnelgatan. The handle of the wine cask had broken when he lifted it out through an open car window and he had to carry it under her arm. Her head felt larger than usual, swollen. He massaged her forehead with her fingers. Her head probably still appeared normal from the outside but her fingers, they’d definitely swelled up from the heat and the wine.
Graveyard steadied himself against the railing, walking slowly up the steps cut into the steep footpath. Every unsteady step rang through her throbbing skull. The windows on both sides were open, brightly lit, music streaming from some. Graveyard longed for darkness: darkness and silence. He wanted to keep drinking until he managed to shut down. At the top of the stairs he rested for a couple of seconds. The situation was deteriorating. Impossible to say if he was the one getting worse or if the field was growing stronger. It wasn’t pulsating now; now it was a constant burning pain, squeezing him relentlessly. And it wasn’t just him. Not far from him there was a car parked at an angle to the sidewalk. The engine idling, the driver’s side door open and the stereo playing ‘Living Doll’ at full blast. Next to the car, the driver was crouched in the middle of the street, her hands pressed against her head. Graveyard screwed her eyes shut and opened them again. Was he imagining things or was the light from the apartments around him getting brighter?
Carefully, one step at a time, he made her way across Döbelnsgatan; reached the shadow of the chestnut trees in the Johannes cemetery, but there he collapsed. Couldn’t go on. Everything was buzzing now; it sounded like a swarm of bees in the crown of the tree above her head. The field was stronger, her head was compressed as if far under water and through the open windows he could hear people scream.
The pain in her head was beyond reason. Hard to believe such a little cavity could pack so much pain. Any second now her head was going to cave in. The light from the windows was stronger, the shadows of the leaves cast a psychedelic pattern over her body. Graveyard turned her face to the sky, opened her eyes wide and waited for the bang, the explosion.