Elena wakes up with a gasp. How…Where… What… The memories of what just happpened come to her slowly but surely. Helena Gravsten leveling a gun at Hannah. Shots. A roar to shake the fundaments of the world. Then darkness. She glances around; she stands on mist-covered ground. A look up reveals thick clouds, and a pale, pale sun on the horizont.
“Dead”, she mumbles to herself. “Fuck it, I think I am dead.” She puts her hands on her hips, now realizing that she is naked. “Ah cmon!” “I deserve some dignity!”
She doesn’t really expect anyone to answer, and when nobody does, she starts to think. They say that you should search for landmarks when you’re lost… and really, are you ever as lost as when you’re… dead? She quickly excludes the misty ground which seems the same anywhere she can see. The clouds don’t appear to be moving. That leaves the sun.
So she starts to run towards it, singing a song about a girl who kissed another girl, and who liked it. Eventually.. eventually I am going to reach the Pearly Gates. Shit, what if this is Hell?
She stops. She’s been running for what feels like four hours, but what might just be four minutes. The seriousness of the situation hits her. I am dead. This isn’t a movie. I am dead– and the dead don’t come back.
She bites her lips, and the pain ensures that she won’t cry. She remembers another time, a van, gloved hands and soft command to not speak. She remembers a ransom, and a shrill voice asking if she is fine. She remembers a courtroom, a verdict and a promise. A promise to never relent, never compromise, to never be weak.
She stands up. Takes a breath. And continues to run.
Rune once told her that energy cannot be destroyed. That it can only be changed, very much like cents becoming dollars, or öres becoming kronors. She argued that the electricity that enables synapses has to go somewhere when people died, that people go somewhere when they die. Turn to heat and fade into the atmosphere, the very atmosphere people breathe. Rune didn’t agree to agree. “Does this mean that I was right?”
“DOES THIS MEAN I WAS RIGHT?!”
Her scream echoes across the white landscape.”… I was right”, “I was right…”, “I was right….”
“That isn’t creepy at all”, she mutters.
After a while she realizes that she isn’t getting tired. No sweat. She places a hand on her chest, only now noticing that she isn’t breathing. It figures that she doesn’t need oxygen now that she is dead…. but still, how does that work?
If she doesn’t need to breathe, then perhaps she doesn’t need to eat, and if she doesn’t eat then odds are that she doesn’t need to poop. But what sustains her?
She stops. Despite the fact that she has been running for what have to be days, the distance between her and the pale sun hasn’t lessened at all. She sits down on the misty ground, not quite certain what she should do now.
She can feel the passage of time go her by, seconds, minutes, hours and perhaps even days. Suddenly inspiration strikes her, and Elena folds her legs beneath her knees and closes her eyes.
She starts a countdown in her head, a neccessary gimmick now that she isn’t breathing. 10… her body is still tense. 9…. she makes an attempt to relax. 8….. she ignores the need to scratch herself.7…. her body starts to relax.6…she wonders what her mom is doing right now, before promptly banishing the thought. 5….she finally reaches that zen-level of calm.4…. her worries become a thing of the past.3…she exists in the now. 2…. the moment hasn’t yet arrived. 1… now.
Unbid, she glances up at the sky. An aurora-like light dances through the clouds. When it has passed,the sky changes. Or atleast a part of it does. A section of the sky is hazy, with an oblong area, and through it she sees…. things.
She spots a grey dragon, as big as something from those Japanese animes that Rune masturbates to, flying, silhoutted by stars. In the distance she can make out a city. Something about the city seems familiar. The dragon holds something in one of its… talons? Claws? Forelimbs?
The scene in the sky changes perspective to ground-level. Rune is trapped in a… water-sphere. It takes all of her considerable focus to not lose the tranquility of the trance she has achieved. Next to Rune is a blue-skinned man, Cordelia Holm…. and is that Alexandra?!
They talk for some time. She wishes she could hear them, but the oblong section of the sky remains silent, despite her wish. Something startles them. They all look up, and the perspective changes, again. The grey dragon swoops down at them. Whatever force that holds Rune imprisoned inside that water-sphere disappears, and he falls, naked, to the ground. The dragon flings the blue-skinned man away and now the perspective splits; on one side the grey dragon fights the blue-skinned man, who grows in size, and on the other side Nevena Stanislaw fights Cordelia Holm.
She watches, incredulous, as the air around Nevena shimmers, very much like the air does on sunny days. Stanislaw makes a cutting motion, and a tidal-wave of that shimmery air travel towards Cordelia Holm, who spreads her hands, and a…. hole appears next to her. She steps into said hole and reappears through another hole ten metres away. Elena looks on the other side of the sky, where the grey dragon lifts the blue-skinned man in a judo-throw that causes the ground to vibrate.
She looks down. This can’t be real. I am not dead. These things I am seeing, they can’t be real.
She looks up again, in the same way an alcoholic cannot help but drink. A scene of great solemnity is depicted against the backdrop of clouds. A white room, where her mom sits. Sits, with puffy eyes, her hands intertwined in a prayer and staring at something. Elena frowns; her mother is an avowed atheist. The switch in perspective this time is as quick as it is startling. Elena finds herself watching a blond girl with sallow skin sleep, her throat filled with tubes.
The sight breaks her trance and she stands up, upset. She starts to pace. Me, that was me. I am dead, I knew it! Except…. if I were dead, wouldn’t they just unplug me? More information, I need more information.
She plonks down, and attempts to reach that trance more. It’s not until her fourth try that she actually manages the feat. Come on, show me that hospital again. The sky obliges her, and the oblong section of the heavens show her body sleeping, like Cinderella. This time her mother has left, for which she is incredibly grateful for. Alright, that machine to the left…. The focus changes to that of a machine, a machine sprouting tubes that enter her throat and exits into a tank of some kind. She follows the tube and as she does, she notices that her chest rises only to fall and then rise again.
The discovery breaks her trance and she jumps up and down. “I am not dead! I am alive! I am alive!”
“Yes, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.”
“Aaaaahh!” Elena reacts the only way she knows how towards the unknown speaker .With extreme prejudice- she throws the intruder to the ground with a move that would make Sensei proud. She stops her fist milimetres from the intruder’s face, her body now responding to thoughts and not merely just reacting.
Brown eyes crinkle at her. “You are very pretty, and very naked, but this is neither the time nor the place”, the intruder, a woman in voluminous robes say with a smile. Elena takes a step back, her eyes not leaving the woman. Olive skin, robes like some ancient priestress, and long black hair- all of these things she categorizes and considers.
The woman points one finger down, and a pair of panties, a bra, leggings and a t-shirt stream up from the ground. Each piece of clothing apppears to be made of some kind of white material, perhaps the mists that covers the ground.Elena glances at the clothes, then at the woman, who gives her an un-assuming smile. She puts on the clothes, while simultaneously watching the woman. When she is fully clothed, the woman speaks.
” I am quite certain that you have questions.”
The woman waves at the sky, and Elena watches as Rune and Kai Blut fight in a snow-covered meadow. Kai chucks spears made of lightning at Rune, who weaves between them with an agility she has never seen before. The woman snaps her finger, and the vision fades.
Elena stares at the sky for sometime before speaking.”Alright. What is this place? And the things I have seen…. how real are they?”
The woman pauses. “This place has many names, some of which I won’t say out loud because I fear that would bring the attention of things you never want to meet. We could use the name ‘Between’ or perhaps ‘Limbo’ if you are a Christian.”
The woman pauses, yet again. “All of the things you have seen are real, very much so.”
“How? How can they be real? Rune and Kai… are they mutants? Is the government operating some kind of secret program in Fallowfell? Are you going to offer me a blue pill?” Elena paces as she asks her questions, each question delivered faster and with more sarcasm.
“In one word the answer is magic.”
“Oh you’re kidding-” The woman makes a slashing motion over her throat, and Elena shuts up. “Watch”, she commands. The vista above them changes. Elena watches as a sunken city come into being. Against a stone-pillar as large as a sky-skraper something sways in tune with the sea-grass. The creature… it looks like a cross between a bat and a octopus with wings. “What….” Elena starts, “An Old One”, the woman says curtly.
The scene changes to that of a road covered on both sides by frozen fields. A nearby sign proclaims the road E18– all of the major highways in Sweden have such designations. A dozen bikers pass the sign, and the perspective follows them. One biker reaches out and swathes another biker. The injured biker retaliates by slicing up the offender’s cheeks with claws. “Werewolves”, the woman summarizes.
Elena stares as a party is portrayed in full session. There doesn’t seem to be a cohesive dress-code. The attendants…. a fat man is wearing a cod-piece and padded shoulders. A thin woman wears a waistcoat and bowler-hat. A small child wear a skirt that starts at his belly button and ends above his knees and a golden choker that looks vaguely Egyptian. One woman wears nothing at all. And they all seem to be sipping on red wine. “Vampires”, the woman answers with disdain.
This time they watch young scantily clad women and men gyrate on poles. An old man with an eye-patch stares at the dancers, unseeing. He has the kind of beard that teenage boys can only dream off and a staff leans against the wall next to him. Two birds, both as black as night sit on the worn-down table in front of him. Suddenly he frowns, and glances with his left eye in their direction. He actually winks at them. “Gods”, the woman intones.
“Okay I get it. Magic…. is real.” The admission costs her something. Not faith, but an acceptance of a world she no longer recognises. “Magic is real”, the woman reiterates.
The woman claps her hands in a sudden move that makes Elena jump. “Magic is very much real, which brings us to you.”
“Yes, you. How would you like, Elena Havenius”, Elena shivers at the way the woman says her name,” to have magic?” She continues in the same vein,not waiting for an answer. The woman extends two closed fists towards Elena.”You spoke about two pills before. Right now, as we speak, Rune Fallowfell is on his way to the hospital with a certain item that will bring you back from your coma. I can make it so that you don’t remember any of this when you wake up.” She unclenches her left fist and turns the palm up, towards Elena face. “Or I can make it so that you do remember all of this.” Now she unclenches her right fist and turns the palm up.
“And the magic?” Elena asks, in a bid for more time. “Oh, the magic would be a favor from me. You see, magic is force that lies dormant in all of us, and normally I wouldn’t be able to awaken it, but in this place the rules can be broken.”
For a moment Elena actually entertains the thought. To forget– to go on with her life blissfully unaware. But that would be the coward’s way out. And you can say many things about Elena Havenius, but that she is coward? Nope.
“Before I accept this offer of…. awakening my”, I can’t believe I am actually saying this out loud,” magic, I have a question. You’re not the Devil, are you? Nick Scratch etc?”
The woman smiles. She reaches out with a hand and touches Elena’s forehead. A blue-white light envelopes Elena and she experiences a sensation like going on a rollercoaster- twisting and going up and down- and then the light fades.
She has barerly gotten her wits together when she experiences a sudden tug. “What is happening?! Dammit, what was that?!”
The woman waves goodbye to her. “You asked about my name, Elena Fallowfell. It’s Tiresias.”
There is another tug–
–and when she opens her eyes, she is in that hospital, Rune and Hermann next to her. “Gaah!” “Breathe”, Hermann instructs. “Gah….!” She glances at Hermann, and as she does, she sees a man standing next to him, a young man with a beard, wearing Arabian muslin. Rune hugs her, hard. “I didn’t think you’d make it”, he whispers. She cranes her neck back, and super-imposed on Rune’s face is mask, an alternative-version of his face, with single green eye, and a forked tongue that makes its way out. She blinks, and Rune and Hermann look normal now.
In the place called Between, Tiresias stand, satisfied as to what she has accomplished. And as to what has to be…. she removes the robes on her upper body, revealing a back filled with so much scar-tissue that you cannot even make out the skin anymore.
“I am ready”, she says, directing her comment to the non-descript man next to her. The man brings out a seven-tailed whip. With a well-practised snap the man tests the whip. “You shouldn’t have done that”, he says in a bland voice. “Flaunting the Big Boss’ rules.” He snaps the whip yet again, and Tiresias feels a Pavlovian shiver wrack her body. ” I don’t like doing this to you. I have to, but I don’t like it none.”
“I know. I know.” And then he starts to whip her.