Ake Edwardson

Sail of Stone

The sixth book in the Erik Winter series, 2012

English translation © 2012 by Rachel Willson-Broyles

Originally published in Sweden in 2002 by Norstedts Forlag in the Swedish language as the title Segel av sten.

To Rita


In the harbor the ebb had put the boats ashore. They lay crooked, stems pointing at the steps in the wall.

Pointing at him.

He saw the bellies of the boats shining in the twilight. The sun was curving behind the cape to the west. The gulls cried under a low sky; the light thickened into darkness. The birds were pushed toward the surface of the water by the sky, which was stretched like a sail over the horizon.

Everything was pushed toward the sea. Pushed toward the sea, pushed down under the surface, pushed…

Jesus, he thought.

Jesus save my soul! Jesus save my soul.

So foul and fair a day I have not seen.

He heard sounds behind him, footsteps on stone on the path back to the church, which seemed to be carved out of the mountain, pounded out of stone by a hammer, like everything else here under the sail of the sky. He looked up again. The sky had the same tint of stone as everything else around him. A sail of stone. Everything was stone. The sea was stone.

Here I have a pilot’s thumb,

Wrecked as homeward he did come.

The people moved behind him, on the way to a moment of peace in the Methodist church. He didn’t turn around. He knew that they were looking at him; he felt their eyes on the back of his neck. It didn’t hurt; they weren’t that sort of eyes. He knew that he could depend on the people here. They weren’t his friends, but they weren’t his enemies either. He was allowed to move about in their world, and he had done so for a long time; so long, actually, that he had become something more than them, he had become like a part of the stone, the cliffs, the walls, the steps, the houses, the breakwaters, the sky, the sea, the roads. The ships. The trawlers.

The ones that lay here.

The ones that lay buried under the waves that moved in all those rolling quarries between the continents.

Jesus. Jesus!

He turned around. The footsteps had quieted and disappeared into the church, which was shut, closed up. The few streetlights down here were lit, and their only effect was to intensify the darkness too soon. The light thickens into darkness with time. He thought that thought as he began to walk. A darkness, before it was time. Every late afternoon. Before time and after time. I am living this life in after time. Way after time. I am alive. I am someone else, someone new. That other someone was a loan, a role, a mask like this one. You cross a line and become someone else and leave your old self behind.

There were children’s clothes hung to dry in the yard next to the steps up to the road. The small arms waved at him.

He stood on the street. The viaducts towered over him like railways built to the heavens. Here is the streetcar that goes to heaven; Jesus drives and God is the conductor. But there had never been streetcars here. He had ridden the streetcar, but not here. That was in another life, a life far away. Far away. Before before time, before he crossed the line.

The viaducts cut through the sky all the way across this part of the city. The trains had roared along up there, but that was a long time ago. The last train departed in 1969. Maybe he had seen it.

The stone road in the heavens was built in 1888. Had he seen that, too? Maybe he had. Maybe he was a part of the viaduct’s stone.

And nothing is but what is not.

They brought him here, and here he stayed.


He stayed, but not for that reason.

He walked across the street and continued on to North Castle Street and went into the pub at the crossroads. There was no one there. He waited, and a woman he’d only seen a few times before came out into the bar from the back room, and he nodded toward the taps on the bar in front of her.

“Fuller’s, right?” she said, and took a pint glass from the clean stack beside the register. She hadn’t yet had time to put the glasses on the racks.

He nodded again. She filled the glass and set it before him, and he watched the haze in the glass clear slowly, like the sky after a storm, or the bottom of the sea after a squall.

He ordered a whisky. He pointed at one of the cheaper brands behind her. She set the whisky glass before him. He drank and shivered suddenly.

“It’s gettin’ to be a cold night,” she said.


“It calls for somethin’ warming, eh?”


He drank some beer. He drank some whisky again. He felt the cold warmth in his stomach. The woman nodded in farewell and disappeared again into the back room.

He wondered if she would come this afternoon.

He heard the sound of a TV through the wall. He looked around. He was still alone. He looked around once again, as though for figures he couldn’t see. He was what he’d always been, alone. A lone visitor. He was the visitor, always a visitor.

He was not afraid of what would come.

Present fears are less than horrible imaginings.

The whisky was gone, and he finished the beer and got up and left.

The sky had become black. The silhouettes of the viaducts were like animals from a prehistoric time. Before time. A north wind blew in his face.

He walked on the road again. There were no cars. The city glittered under him. There was no light on the sea. He stopped walking, but he saw no light out there. He waited, but all was dark. A car drove past behind him. He didn’t turn around. He could smell the sea. The sharp wind was like needles in his face. He felt the weapon in his pocket. He heard the scream of the sea in his head, other screams.


He knew now that everything would come to an end.

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