Thomas Enger


My life, I promise you with all my heart to belong to you until death extinguishes my burning passion for you and for joy.

Halldis Moren Vesaas, To Life, 1930


September 2007

He thinks it’s dark all around him, but he can’t be sure. He can’t seem to open his eyes. Is the ground cold? Or wet?

He thinks it might be raining. Something touches his face. Early snow? The first snow?

Jonas loves the snow.


Shrivelled carrots in snowmen’s faces, clumps of grass and earth. No, not now. Frosty the Snowman, it can’t be you. Can it?

He tries to lift his right arm, but it won’t move. Hands. Does he still have them? His thumb twitches.

Or, at least, he thinks it does.

His skin is crisp and delicate like snowflakes. Flames everywhere. So hot. His face slides down like batter on a sizzling frying pan.

Jonas loves pancakes.


The ground is shaking. Voices. Silence. Wonderful silence. Protect me, please. You, who are watching me.

It’ll be all right. Don’t be scared. I’ll take care of you.

The laughter fades. He is out of breath. Hold my hand, hold it tight.

But where are you?

There. There you are. We were here. You and I.

Jonas loves that there is a ‘you and I’.


Horizons. Blizzard rain on an infinite blue surface. A plop breaks the surface, line and bait sink.

Cold wood beneath his feet. His eyes are still stuck together.

It’ll be all right. Don’t be scared. I’ll take care of you.

He feels the balcony under his feet. He has a firm foothold.

Or so he thinks.

Empty hands. Where are you? Rewind, please — please rewind.

A wall of darkness. Everything is reduced to darkness. Siren sounds approach.

He manages to open one eye. It’s not snow. It’s not rain. There is only darkness.

He has never seen darkness before. Never really seen it, never seen what the darkness can conceal.

But he sees it now.

Jonas was scared of the dark.

He loves Jonas.


Chapter 1

June 2009

Her blonde curls are soaked in blood.

The ground has opened up and tried to swallow her. Only her head and torso are visible. Her rigid body is propped up by the damp earth; she looks like a single, long-stemmed red rose. Blood has trickled down her back in thin, elongated lines, like tears on a melancholic cheek. Her naked back resembles an abstract painting.

He takes hesitant steps inside the tent, glancing from side to side. Turn around, he tells himself. This has nothing to do with you. Just turn around, go back outside, go home, and forget what you’ve seen. But he can’t. How can he?


Only the swishing branches of the trees reply. He takes a few more steps. The air is suffocating and clammy. The smell reminds him of something. But what?

The tent wasn’t there yesterday. To someone like him, who walks his dog every day on Ekeberg Common, the sight of the large white tent was irresistible. The strange location. He just had to look inside.

If only he could have stopped himself.

Her hand isn’t attached. It’s lying, severed, next to her arm as though it has come undone at her wrist. Her head slumps towards one shoulder. He looks at them again, the blonde curls. Random patches of matted red hair make it look like a wig.

He edges up to the young woman, but stops abruptly, hyperventilating to the point where his breathing stops. His stomach muscles knot and prepare to expel the coffee and banana he had for breakfast, but he suppresses the reflex. He backs away, carefully, blinking, before he takes another look at her.

One eye is dangling from its socket. Her nose is squashed flat and seems to have disappeared into her skull. Her jaw is dented and covered with purple bruises and cuts. Thick black blood has gushed from a hole in her forehead, down into her eyes and across the bridge of what remains of her nose. One tooth hangs from a thread of coagulated blood inside her lower lip. Several teeth are scattered in the grass in front of the woman who once had a face.

Not any more.

The last thing Thorbjorn Skagestad remembers, before staggering out of the tent, is the nail varnish on her fingers. Blood red.

Just like the heavy stones lying around her.


Henning Juul doesn’t know why he sits here. In this particular spot. The crude seating, let into the hillside, is hard. Rough and raw. Painful. And yet he always sits here. In the exact same spot. Deadly nightshade grows between the seating which slopes up towards D?lenenga Club House. Bumblebees buzz eagerly around the poisonous berries. The planks are damp. He can feel it in his backside. He should probably change his trousers when he gets home, but he knows he won’t bother.

Henning used to come here to smoke. He no longer smokes. Nothing to do with good health or common sense. His mother has smoker’s lung, but that’s not what stops him. He wishes desperately he could smoke. Slim white friends, always happy to see you, though they never stay for long, sadly. But he can’t, he just can’t.

There are people around, but nobody sits next to him. A soccer mum down by the artificial turf looks up at him. She quickly averts her eyes. He is used to people looking at him while pretending they aren’t. He knows they wonder who he is, what has happened to him and why he sits there. But no one ever asks. No one dares.

He doesn’t blame them.

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