Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Legend of Hjarnes Island - Chapter 4

Chapter 4: The Vacation begins

There was a buzz outside Jenny´s house the morning of departure. Everyone was excited. Jim and Mike had been up as early as 5 in the morning to get ready and when they arrived, Jenny and her parents had already set up the family´s luggage in the gigantic courtyard prepared for packing. The entire setup had Jenny´s dad, Robert, written all over it. Suitcases and bags had been sorted in size and type and placed in well defined rows and columns. He was a Captain in the army reserves and loved the systematic approach to any problem, that being people, animals or objects. He was just coming out with a cooler box in his hands as Jim and Mike came strolling down the driveway with one bag each for the week. He set the cooler down and welcomed them heartily.
“Gentlemen!” he greeted them his arms wide apart. He shook their hands after turn while commending them for their foresight to not bring more luggage than they did. Then he leaned forward and said in such a low voice he might as well have whispered:
“Those women in there don´t know when to stop.” He glanced over his shoulder to ensure they hadn´t come out yet and then continued:
“You should think they were going to a deserted island for several years with all that rubbish they want to bring.”
He paused for a bit and then leaned forward again.
“Don´t tell them I said so,” he pleaded, “or I´ll be in big trouble.” They both nodded in agreement and Mike even saluted Mr. Mason.
“Yes, sir!” he snapped, “you can count on us, sir! We won´t say a word!”
“About what?” Jenny said. She had just come out of the house and was setting down the biggest trunk, any of the two boys had ever seen. ‘Flump!’ it sounded as the one side hit the rubble.
“What aren´t you going to say a word about?” she repeated as she approached them.
“If we were to tell you, we would need to use words, wouldn´t we?” Jim said, “and that´s exactly what we promised not to do, isn´t it?” Jenny looked to Mike, but no winnings there either. She set her arms in her side and straightened up.
“I might just begin to regret I even invited you on this trip,” she said, but with a smile on her face to let them know she was just kidding.
“Oh, no, daughter dearest,” Mr. Mason broke in, “first of all, though it was your idea to begin with, you did not invite these fine gentlemen. Your mother and I did. Secondly, this will be my first vacation since I married your mother, where there will be other male participants and I´d be an idiot if I let that chance pass me by. So, my dear: they´re staying! You mark my words, young lady.”
Jenny looked at them one by one trying to keep up appearances, but it didn´t last long. She burst into laughter and started tripping her feet and waving her arms wildly above her head.
“We are going to Denmark!” she sang and took their hands and soon the three of them were dancing together, although the boys seemed to enjoy the dance less than Jenny. But what won´t you do for a friend?
All that dancing and singing brought Jenny´s mum outside. She held a plate in one hand and a drying towel in the other.
“What´s going on out here?” she asked. Jenny passed her by with a secretive look on her face.
“The boys have secrets,” she said, “and they are not willing to share them with us.”
Mrs. Mason lit up in a big smile.
“Everyone is entitled to have secrets,” she said, “In fact, I´ve got a few of my own, waiting in the kitchen for you besides toast, bacon and eggs. Come get your breakfast before it gets cold.”
The last bit she yelled out to the three gentlemen still standing by the car, but as soon as Mike heard the word ‘breakfast’ he practically flew over the bags and boxes and rushed inside with Jim and Mr. Mason on his tail.
It was a breakfast for royals and they all dug in deep, except for Jim who barely touched his food.
“You´re awfully quiet this morning,” Mrs. Mason remarked, “Isn´t there anything here that appeals to you?”
He looked up.
“I´m sorry, Mrs. Mason, “ he answered, “It really looks great. I´m just not in the mood for anything.”
“I´m sorry to hear that,” Mrs. Mason said, “You do look a bit sad. I thought you would be thrilled about the trip.”
“I was,” he replied, “till last night, that is...” She gave him the ‘and now?’ look and he continued: “Well, I might as well tell you now.” He looked round the table hoping for comfort. Both Jenny and her parents looked at him. Mike was still busy eating. Then he dropped the bomb.
“I´m adopted,” he shrugged looking lost. Jenny put down her fork and knife and they all had their eyes fixed on him. Even Mike who had his mouth full of delicious pan cake stopped chewing.
“You´re what?” Mike spat pieces of pan cake as he spoke.
“My parents told me last night,” Jim explained, “right after the twins were tugged in. I´m adopted.”
Mrs. Mason felt his dispair and put her arm around his shoulder.
“They wanted to wait till after summer,” he continued, “but I found the papers and they had to come clean.” A drop of salty water crawled down his left cheek, but he didn´t want them to see, so he pretended to not notice. Then maybe, they wouldn´t notice either.
“Look at me, Jim!” the authoritive, but kind voice of Mr. Mason commanded. Jim did and met the comforting eyes of Mr. Mason.
“It doesn´t matter, Jim,” Mr. Mason said, “I know this must be a chocker right before leaving for vacation. But it doesn´t matter, Jim. They love you! Your parents? They love you! I know they do, because I know your parents... and they love you!” There was a short silence and then Mrs. Mason pulled him closer.
“And so do we, Jim,” she said wholeheartedly.
“I know,” Jim said, “That they love me, I mean. It´s just that... I don´t know... I just feel...”
Mr. Mason helped him out.
“Lost?” he said.
“Well, yeah... I suppose I do...”
Mr. Mason leaned forward.
“Jim,” he said, “it´s only natural to feel lost, but you´re safe and sound with us and we are going to have a splendid holiday these 3 weeks. Let it sink in and we´ll talk some more later, okay?“
Jim nodded with a smile and they ate the rest of the meal in silence.
Thor´s quiet staring made Loki uneasy. He really hated that look and found it hard to decide if it was meant as caring or demeaning.
“I´m sorry?” Thor said.
Most of the crew probably hadn´t noticed, but Loki heard the anger behind his soft voice.
“That´s what I said,” Loki explained, “somehow the console was moved and they are researching it as we speak. That´s why I chose to speed up the gathering on the Island. Both Tjalfe and Roeskva are on their way, but I´m afraid they brought some friends with them...”
He shrugged as he continued: “...and I can´t see how we can contain it, unless we bring them up to date.”
Thor looked at his friend trying to hide his disappointment, though he wasn´t very succesful.
“And how long have the scientists known about the console?” he asked.
Loki breathed in and leaned back in his chair.
“Well, I suppose that´s the good news. They´ve had the console for almost a century, but they still haven´t figured it out...”
“Come on girls. We´re leaving,” Mr. Mason called from the car, “We´ve got a boat to catch and it´s not waiting for us. We´re not the royal family, you know!” Mike and Jim were already sitting in the car, but as usual Jenny and her mum had very important facial refurbishing to do before they could leave. Mike had his mouth full of a candy bar he had brought with him, but when Jenny appeared in the door his jaw dropped to his chest and the suliva smerged chokolate fell into his lap. His eyes were wide open as he looked upon the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. It was as if the light of the sun tenderly caressed her red hair and she was most definitely glowing.
“Wauw!” he let out, “She is HOT!”
Mr. Mason turned around in his seat.
“Ahem!” he said, ”That´s my daughter you´re talking about, Mr. Baker.”
Mike was startled and confused.
“Oh, I´m sorry... I... I.. I didn´t mean to...” he tried explaining himself.
“Take it easy, Mike,” Mr. Mason smiled to ease Mike´s terrified look, “I´m just fooling around.”
Then he leaned a bit toward the back of the car his eyes narrowed and fixed on Mike.
“Unless of course your intensions are less than honorable, Mr. Baker!”
“No, Mr. Mason!” Mike replied, again bewildered, “I don´t like Jenny... I mean, not like that... I mean... She... ehm... I...”
Mr. Mason burst into laughter.
“Ha!” he said, “Gotcha!”
Jenny and Mrs. Mason entered the car and of course they noticed the sudden silence.
“What´s going on?” Jenny asked.
Mr. Mason started the engine and they moved up the driveway.
“Men´s stuff,” he said, “Honorable men´s stuff!”
It was a long trip from the Mason residence down to Harwich, where the boat departed. Almost two hours of heavy traffic. The first half hour Jenny, Mike and Jim had a marvellous time chit chatting in the back of the car, where they sat on a row playing cards.
But after a while, Jim found himself drifting away and looking out the window.
The typical English rain had set in, making the scenery outside looking like something from an old silent movie, only with a hint of color in the else gray picture.
Coming out on the motorway Mr. Mason sped up to the allowed 70 mph, no more, no less. With this speed it was more difficult to make out the scenery out there, but nevertheless, Jim still enjoyed watching the trees. As they went under a bridge near Springfield there was a sound of thunder and the sky seemed to split into smaller pieces and then moving together again. Jim smiled as he realized it looked very much like a Power Point show going from one screen to another.
A bang and a flash broke the sky into pieces again and slowly it faded back in its right place. The zig-zaggy lines of the flash sort of disappeared into the dark gray. Except for one place where it seemed to stay for a while. Bang! Flash! Again the lines faded away and once again he noticed that little spot in ske skies where the light didn´t disappear. After a while that one light even seemed to glow. Stronger and stronger it glowed. What is that? He thought to himself, but before he could give it anymore thought, the light started moving. Swoosj! Right across the sky it swooped like something from one of those old fashioned Science Fiction movies from the 50´s. The light went over a hill top and was gone.
“What?” Jenny said. She was sitting next to Jim and had just pushed her elbow in his side.
“What did you just say, Jim?”
He turned his head toward her. “I didn´t say anything,” he answered.
“Yes, you did,” Mike supported her, “What was it?”
Jim looked at them. What are they getting at? Is this a joke? If it is, it´s not a very good one.
“Look, guys, it´s not funny,” he said clearly annoyed, “I didn´t say anything, okay?”
“Alright,” Mike said leaning back in a defensive position, “if you say so.”
Jim was really getting irritated now gazing at them with a fierce look in his eyes.
“Okay, then,” he said, “what do you think I said?”
They both shrugged.
“Don´t know,” Mike said, “didn´t make any sense. You just made some weird noises, really.”
“Yeah,” Jenny contributed, “or some kind of strange language.”
Jim looked puzzled and angry at the same time.
“Weird sounds? Strange language?” he said, “Could you make up your minds, please?”
“Kind of the same to me,” Mike said, “But it sounded like...”
Mike paused and looked to Mr. and Mrs. Mason to be sure they weren´t listening in. Then he leaned over Jenny and whispered:
“like ‘Ass and Ham’ or something...”
“Mike!” the ever behavior focused Jenny scolded him, “language!”
Her eyes squewed at her parents, but they didn´t seem to notice anything.
“Well, it did!” Mike defended himself, “You heard it too!”
They were silent and looked at each other for a while, but then Mr. Mason startled them.
“There we are!” he proclaimed loudly, “The port to The Viking Nation awaits our presence!”
Outside the rain had stopped and the sun lurked through the white edged clouds casting beams of cheerful light on both port and boat. The windows of the boat reflected the sunlight as it swayed calmly on the water as if it knew they were coming and wanted to let them know how welcome they were.
Mr. Mason drove through the paying booth and parked the car as directed by the staff placed strategically throughout the parking zone. They had to wait for half an hour before they could drive aboard, so Jenny´s parents allowed them to stretch their legs.
“Don´t go too far, mind you,” Jenny´s mum said, “you should always be able to see the car.”
The three of them began walking toward the water.
“Keep your phones on, so you can hear them if I call you,” Mrs. Mason yelled, “And don´t go too near the water, you hear!”
“Sure, mum, no, mum” Jenny waved and turned her back to her mother.
“She´s such a drag sometimes,” she mumbled.
“At least she worries,” Mike replied, “My mum´ll let me play with knifes, if I want to.”
“Yeah, I know,” Jenny replied, “but it still can be quite annoying.”
They turned about 20 feet before the water front and walked along the edge talking about how they were all looking forward to three weeks of absolute freedom to do whatever they wanted.
“My dad says the Island is haunted,” Jenny said, “did I tell you that?”
“Yes, you did,” Jim answered, “several times, in fact. I think we got it about now, though we are so unbelievable slow in the uptake.”
She pretended to not have heard that last bit.
“Well, it is,” she continued, “at least that´s what the legend says. My dad says it´s just what happens in a backward civilization when you don´t have science to explain natural events.”
“What does the legend say?” Jim wanted to know and then Jenny got all excited and told them everything she knew about the stories of the Island. Hjarnes Island was small. Only about 8500 feet wide and 7500 feet broad. It was placed in the fjord of Horsens, a city with a population of about 40.000 people.
The legend said that the Island had it´s name from Hjarne, who was given ownership of the Island as an appreciation for writing a hero´s song for King Fredegod. He and his men were Vikings and lived on the Island as farmers in the summer and as raiders during the winter. On Hjarne´s last raiding expedition round 800 AD he and most of his men got badly wounded and barely made it home. Just a few days after they returned to Hjarne´s Island they all died and were buried in a ship setting.
“Ship setting?” Mike asked, “what´s that?”
Jenny explained: “it´s a sort of marking made with big stones to form the shape of a ship. The Vikings used to place their dead on a ship and then they set the ship on fire and pushed it out to the sea. I guess the ship setting works as a kind of substitute for the real thing.”
“So, why weren´t Hjarne burnt at sea?” Jim said.
Jenny shrugged.
“No one really knows, but legend has it that the Yetten were close and prevented them from leaving the Island.”
“The what?” Mike was baffled with all that information and he was sure his head was about to explode.
Jenny sent him a tiresome look.
“Don´t you ever listen? As I told you before, the Viking Mythology speaks of several godly races. The Aseir are the good guys and the Yetten are the bad guys. Pay attention, please!”
“Sorry!” Mike said defensively and Jenny continued explaining the legend. For a long time, the generations on Hjarne´s Island had respected these ship settings and left them alone, but around the mid 1700´s people started removing some of the stones to use them as building materials leaving only a few settings intact, because they were hidden by plants and trees.
“One stone was left out in the open,” Jenny explained, “because no one dared moving it. They were convinced the stone was bewitched and that if anyone was to ever move it, the ground beneath would open its mouth wide and swallow the whole Island.”
“So that one is still there?” Jim said, “They left it there out of fear of being sucked to Hell?”
“For many generations, yeah,” Jenny said. She was really getting excited now and her eyes were sparkling.
“But then...”
Jenny paused for drama.
“Then in the 1920´s a local farmer, Thomas Jensen, took that stone to build a barn for his cows. The elders warned him that the stone was cursed and that if he even touched it, bad things would happen to him. He didn´t believe them and claimed to have touched that stone many times and he hadn´t felt a thing. So, he took the stone, cut it in smaller pieces and used them to build his new barn.”
Mike and Jim stopped walking and looked at Jenny for the continuation.
“So?” Mike was eager to know more.
“Nothing happened!” Jenny said, “At least for a while...”
Again being the drama queen she paused to let them fry in expectation. Then she moved on in the story:
“But then one day...”
Jenny was interrupted as her phone rang. She spoke shortly with her mother and put the phone back in her pocket.
“Sorry, guys, but mum says we have to go back to the car. We are about to board. I´ll tell you the rest on the boat.”

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Legend of Hjarnes Island - Chapter 3

Chapter 3: A mysterious drawing

”I am sorry to see you leave.”
Professor Haymann had been the closest thing to a father Britt could have ever hoped for.
”And I am sorry to leave, Britt.”
He was clearing his desk in what had been his office for the past 24 years at the university of Yale and he was clearly as frustrated as she was, although he did his best to hide it.
”But those who govern this place felt otherwise.”
By ”those who govern” he meant the magistrate and the university board, who had finally decided that his theories were too much of a public burden.
Haymann was a man holding on to his views and since they could not persuade him to hold his tongue and at least research the most awkward of these theories on his own time, they had seen no other option than to let him go.
He put the last folder in his briefcase and sighed deeply while looking at Britt. ”So,” he said, ”this is it. Thank you for all your help.” He reached out his hand and she took it.
”I am the one, who should thank you,” she said while trying not to show her sorrow too much, ”the past 3 years have been the most exciting of my life. And you have always been there for me.” He put his other hand out and held hers with both of his.
”Britt,” both his words and eyes said, ”you mean more to me than I can tell you. I will miss you and you are always welcome to come visit me.”
Then he let go of her hand and grabbed his briefcase.
”I will forward my address to you as soon as I arrive.”
As he left, Britt stood there for a moment, then went to the window and looked out. He put all his things in the trunk of the waiting taxi and just before he stepped in, he looked up and waved a heartily good bye. She waved back trying to smile, but could not overcome her feelings and confusement at the whole situation. Why couldn´t he take her with him? Or at least tell her, where he was going?
She watched the taxi drive away and then turned around. The office looked barren without the pictures and diplomas on the wall. With a deep sigh she sat in the chair and took in as much as she could of what was left of Haymanns presence. Her left hand was fiddling with the knob of the desk drawer as if it had a life of its own. She turned the chair a bit to the side and looked out the window. How would she cope when Haymann would no longer be standing at her side and helping her making hard descisions?
She heard a clicking sound as the drawer knob twitched and a wooden plate beneath the drawer popped out. She took hold of it and pulled it out a bit. Nothing was on it, but there had to be reason for it to be hidden there. Her hand struck something underneath the plate, so she took it out and flipped it. A piece of paper was folded and glued to the plate. She ripped it off of the plate and opened it. There was a drawing on the paper; A circle with two lines at equal length drawn as a cross from the edges of the circle.
I´ve seen this before, she thought, but she couldn´t remember where. All she could think of was that it had something to do with Scandinavia.
Well, I´ll forward this to his new address as soon as I hear from him, she thought to herself, then stood up, got her jacked from the hat tree by the door and walked out with the note in her pocket.
It had been almost three weeks and yet there´d been no word from Haymann. Britt usually wasn´t the type for worrying and though she had been trying to convince herself that it was just Haymanns well known tendency of forgetting even the simplest things, she´d had this nagging feeling that something was wrong. Three days after Haymann left, a group of men in grey coats had shown up at the university and turned his office upside down. They had left as quickly as they arrived and the janitor was well occupied repairing the broken wall panels. Haymanns desk had to be replaced as it was ripped to pieces leaving only the legs in two pairs with their respective halfs of the desk attached.
But more than anything else it was the accumulation of little strange things she had experienced for a few days that made her decide to act. Sometimes, when she knew she was alone, she´d had the feeling that someone was watching her.
At first she dismissed it as being the grief making her imagine things, but after a while, she told the magistrate about it. His face had turned white and he simply refused to talk about it. Or about Haymann for that matter. While it was obvious why he didn´t want to talk about Haymann´s theories; in fact he had never wanted to; still she didn´t understand why Haymann´s whereabouts and actions were suddenly off limits. It had always been one of the magistrate´s favorite interests and he´d usually be more than keen to spit and course at Haymann´s behaviour. Up till two days after Haymann left in the taxi, the magistrate had acted as usual and every lunch break he would deminish the work of his former collegue. But suddenly he didn´t want to talk about Hayman whatsoever?
This morning she had left home and now she was waiting at the subway station. The train was late due to a suicide attempt down the track and she decided to call the university to let them know she was late.
What? Oh, no... My phone... forgot it at home.
She had to go back to get it even it meant she was going to be even more late. Her whole life was in that phone: calendar, contacts, everything. As she was walking down the street to where she lived, she noticed a red van parked by her house with the engine running. Four grey coats came rushing out from her house, jumped inside the van and left with sqeeling wheels.
She waited for a few minutes before entering the building and taking the stairs to the third floor. Constantly looking over her shoulders she went down the hall way to her apartment. The door was open a crack and the lock had been ruined. Someone had been in there, probably the grey coats. She opened the door and looked inside. Her furniture was scattered all over the place, paper and books were spread across the floor, clearly taken from the shelves and tossed over the shoulder. They´d been searching for something, but what?
She had a feeling it would be best not to stay there too long and decided to not even begin packing a bag. Instead she just grabbed her phone and left while calling her collegues to tell them that she would miss the morning meeting.
She finished the call as she came out to the street, threw the phone in a garbage can and went into a shop to buy another one, then punched the number of the one man, she could think of, who may be able to help.
“Britt? Hi!” Johannes sounded absolutely thrilled, “So good to hear from you. What are you doing these days.”
She couldn´t help smiling at his Danish accent. So clean and clear. Like most Americans, she loved that accent.
“Hi, Johannes, good to hear your voice,” she said her eyes constantly keeping aware of her surroundings, “Listen, I don´t want to be blunt, but I don´t have much time. There is something I want you to look at. Can we meet?”
“Sure,” he answered, “but isn´t Professor Haymann the better man to ask?” She felt sad.
“That´s not an option right now, Johannes. He´s gone missing. You are the only one I can trust.” There was a short silence, before he cleared his throat.
“Okay.. ehm.. so... what is it, you want me to look at?”
“Well, it´s basically a drawing.”
“Why not just scan it and send it in an email?”
“I can´t get to my computer, Johannes, we need to do this in person.”
“Allright, Britt, what do you want to do?”
“I´m getting on the next available plane to Copenhagen. Would you meet me at the airport?”
“Anything for you, Britt. Let me know when you will be in Copenhagen and I´ll meet you by Lost Properties, is that okay?” She agreed and tossed the phone in a bush nearby, then hailed a taxi.
“Rumors have it, that you´ve had quite some fun down there?”
Loki looked up at Sif as she spoke. She had always had that dry sense of humor. She knew very well, that Loki wasn´t all that keen on his job down on Earth these past 200 somewhat years.
“Oh, yeah!” he said with a smile full of home cooked food, “Tremendous fun!”
Sif returned his smile and put more food on the table. In many ways, Sif was what you might call an old fashioned housewife. She loved to cook and especially if the men enjoyed her meals. She was always the first to volunteer for practical work such as washing and cleaning - even in areas that were particularly dirty. Still, one would be a fool to underestimate her. And she had a temper every Aseir knew wisely to react to accordingly. Just like Loki, Sif wasn´t Aseir. She was a Vane, a race from far away, whom the Aseir encountered severel millenia ago. In fact, the Aseir and the Vanes had been at war with each other for more than a century, before they finally resolved the conflict and made a non-aggression pact. To ensure lasting peace, the two races had agreed to exchange a group of important people from each race to live with the other race. Sif was one of the first of these emmisaries and she moved to Asgard, where she met Thor and they got married. She and Loki were good friends, but that hadn´t always been the case. In the beginning she really didn´t care much for him, possibly because the Yetten had given her people so much grief in the past when unprovoked attacks and raids with senseless killings had deprived the Vanes of many good men and women. The Yetten were ruthless and made no discrimination in their actions. Not even children were spared. So, at first she didn´t even want to say hello when meeting Loki on the streets of Asgard Centropolis. Loki had been wise and just kept greeting her kindly and helping her out, whenever he could. He had even done chores that male Yetten usually wouldn´t even consider touching. And eventually she thowed and began speaking to him.
With time they became friends and now Sif was maybe the only one besides Thor, who had Loki’s undevided loyalty. In some ways, she could even do or say things that Thor couldn´t. Sif was the one person who could really reach Loki to the core of his soul. That is: if he had one, which was still, after all those years of service in the Aseir fleet, a subject for debate with the crew when ever they thought Loki wasn’t listening.
That was a mistake, though. Loki had a special ability: he could change his appearance whenever he wanted. So, from time to time, when he had a feeling they were spreading rumors about him or in any other way speaking ill of him, he would change his form to a lamp post, an animal or, if on a space ship, maybe a console button or a panel. Sometimes he would make himself flat and wrap himself around a pillar to listen to what people were saying without them knowing he was there.
Sif sat across the table to keep him company.
“Loki?” she said, “can I ask you something?” With his usual nag for stating the obvious, he informed her that by asking she had already asked a question.
“You´re sooo funny, Loki,” she responded sarcastically, “I heard someone say you posed as a dog trying to court a girl down there... is that true?”
“Please, Sif,” he replied, “I would never do such a thing... besides, it wasn´t a dog, it was a cat...” He paused for a bit to see her reaction. She was still smiling. Then he grabbed another piece of meat and got to his feet.
“And it was all in the line of duty...” he said as he was leaving the room to go make his oral report to the executive staff...

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Legend of Hjarnes Island - Chapter 2

Chapter 2: The bird in the pine

James Phelps was bored. He was sitting on his usual seat in the class room close to the window. But his focus was not on the black board and certainly not on his teacher, the ever talking Ms. Twinch. Or Tweetie, as all the kids called her for obvious reasons. Instead he was focusing on what was going on outside the window. Actually, nothing much was going on out there on the school lawn, but even a bird singing from a tree top was more interesting than listening to Tweeties tweets.
It was one of the most beautiful birds he had ever seen: black with a white tail feather and a beaming yellow beak. It was sitting at the very top of a huge pine like the angel on top of a Christmas tree, though Christmas was long gone. It was mid June and there were only a few weeks to summer break, something James was very much looking forward to. He just couldn´t wait to get to the end of the last day of the semester and go home to pack his bags. And then it would be off to Bath. The Phelps family wasn´t exactly a poor family, but they could not afford expensive vacations. James knew his parents felt they should be able to give him and his sisters a better holiday and they were constantly excusing this fact to their children. Especially his mum. And though going there every year as long as he could remember was getting a bit tedious, it was far better than going to some exotic beach paradise. At least he thought so. Besides, there wasn´t much he could do about it and he didn´t want to let his parents know how he felt. They really did the best they could.
Another bird flew up to the top of the pine and the first bird stepped to the side as if it was welcoming a guest to its kingdom. It even seemed to nod its head, just like a real person saying hello without using words. James smiled. It was amazing how sometimes animals seem to copy human behaviour.
The janitor was mowing the lawn with a huge garden tractor. He had his thermos on one side and a box from the local bakery on the other. With one hand on the steering wheel the janitor managed to drive the tractor while munching loads of sweet bread. Every now and then he put the bread in the bakery box and went for coffee. For this he had to use both hands to open the thermos and pour its contents in his metal mug while driving the tractor with his legs. There is a solution to every challenge, if you really want to find it, James thought to himself with a smile on his face.
“What is so funny, James?” Ms. Twinch was looking at him with frowning eye brows, but he didn´t notice. His smile had already disappeared and he was staring at the birds in the pine. There were at least 5 of them now and they were all sitting on the same branch looking his way. It looked as if they were starring back at him. This was peculiar enough in itself, but what really puzzled him was that he was almost sure they had just nodded a hello to him - in unison? No, that can´t be, he thought, I must have imagined it. The birds shook their heads, again in unison, as if to say: No, what you saw is real, but don´t tell your teacher...
“James Phelps! Please pay attention in class!” Tweetie sounded quite annoyed and he´d better start focusing on school work, so he turned his head and looked at her. “Yes, Ms. Twinch, I´m sorry. I was drifting.”
“Yes, you were, but not anymore, you hear?” she said.
Out in the school yard, James was walking with his two best friends, Mikael and Jenny. They had brought their lunch with them and sat down by the pine. Jenny opened a green lunch box and offered them all cake. She always brought cake to school, even though they weren´t supposed to with the school having a food policy against any kind of sugar. But as long as they stayed out of sight from the principal´s office at the second floor, they should be all right. At least they hadn´t been caught ever. As the three of them enjoyed a mouthful of heaven in the warmth of the sun, Jenny broke the silence with the question, James had expected.
“What were you looking at, James?” she mumbled through chocolate chips and frosting, “Just now in class? What was it?”
Can´t tell them about the nodding, James thought before answering.
“Nothing much,” he said with eyes focusing on the grass, “Just some black birds sitting in the pine.”
Of course, Jenny knew him better than that. He couldn´t fool her.
“Yeah, right...” she laughed, “and Tweetie is my favorite teacher.” The irritation in her voice made him lift his head and he looked her in the eyes.
“You were looking at something much more than a few birds. I could see it in your face. You had one of those strange experiences again, didn´t you?”
James twitched his mouth. He knew, there was no way he could get around it.
“Yeah...” he sighed, “But if I tell you, you better not laugh this time, all right?”
They both smiled.
“Hey,” Mikael said spreading out his arms and looking as if he had just been accused of stealing cookies, “It´s us.”
“Yeah, that´s what I´m saying. When I told you abot the cat, you slapped your thighs red and rolled on the floor laughing.”
“What did you expect?” Mikael said leaning forward and looking at him through the top of his eyes, “A cat singing serenades at your window isn´t exactly something you see every day. It was hilarious! I thought you were joking…”
“Well, I wasn´t! It really happened and so did the thing with the birds today!”
“What thing,” Jenny asked, “You haven´t told us yet.” And so he told them about the black birds nodding hello and the connection he´d felt with them.
“It was as if they somehow spoke inside my head,” he tried to explain, “as if they had minds.. and their minds sort of.. I don´t know.. melted with mine?”
There was a tense silence as they looked at him as if he had just come out of a madhouse.
“So...” Jenny started, “You kind of.. connected through... I don´t know... like a kind of telepathy thing?”
He shook his head.
“No, it was more like.. I just knew what they knew. I didn´t exactly hear a voice. I just felt and knew what... well, I suppose what ‘they’ did? I even got the scent of the pine. And I wasn´t anywhere near it. I was sitting in class.. behind a window!”
James looked at them half expecting them to begin laughing any time soon, but they didn´t. They just sat there, looking at him with their heads tilted to one side, listening to what he had to say. The silence was creepy and he felt like it was approaching him from all sides, squeezing him into a closet of silence and darkness. After a while, he couldn´t take it anymore.
“Look, I know this is all strange and stupid... crazy even, but...”
He paused, giving Mikael the idea that this was a time for jokes.
“You forgot ‘insane’ and ‘delirious...’” he began, but stopped as Jenny punched him in the side with her elbow.
He was about to protest, but then got the message.
“Sorry, didn´t mean it like that... go on?”
“Well, I don´t know what´s going on... But I know I´m not imagining all of this. I really do have some kind of connection with animals and I can´t explain it. I just know it´s real....” He paused for a bit, checking their reaction, and then continued.
“I just know it is, okay?”
“Hi, Jim! How was school today?”
Katherine Phelps was baking in the kitchen as he entered and sat down by the kitchen table.
“Fine,” he answered absently. She had just pulled some of her fabulous home baked bread out of the oven and began slicing a couple of pieces.
“If you get some spread in the cupboard, we could have a head start on the bread. And some coffee, if you want?”
He got up and went to the cupboard while his mother finished slicing and brought the bread to the table. They often did this the moment he came home from school. It was one of his favorite things. His mum worked as a cleaning lady early in the morning, so she was off work by noon. His two younger sisters were autistic and went to another school and his dad usually worked till late afternoon, so this was the only time during the day when everything was calm. ‘Normal hour’ he and his mother usually called it.
“So,” she said cheerfully, “Want to tell me about your day?”
“Nothing much to tell,” he shrugged, “Tweetie was a bit annoyed with me, because I was drifting.”
“James Phelps!” she corrected him, using both his Christian name and his surname.
“Sorry, mum. Ms. Twinch was angry with me, because I wasn´t paying attention in class. She was right, though, ´cause I really wasn´t.”
“Why not?”
This was one of the reasons why his mother was the best. She didn´t get angry as many of the other mums he knew. As long as he knew he was wrong and took responsibility to correct his mistakes, she would let it rest.
“I don´t know,” he answered reluctantly, “I saw some birds in the pine tree outside and just... I don´t know... I just sort of drifted...”
She leaned back in the chair and sipped from her coffee mug with a frown on her face as James continued.
“Mum?” he asked, “Have you...? Am I...? Am I different than the other kids?” She fought back her tears as she tryed answering his question without revealing too much.
“Of course you´re not different, Jim. Why do you think that?”
He let down his eyes looking at the floor.
“I don´t know, mum. Sometimes I just feel different. Like I´m in the wrong place and don´t fit in.”
He looked up again and into his mother´s eyes.
“I love my family, but sometimes I feel as if I belong somewhere else than here.”
She leaned forward and taking his hands in hers she looked him assuringly in his eyes.
“Jim, you belong here with us. We love you. We are your family.”
He didn´t say anything, but his smile convinced her she had managed easing his worries. Little did she know that he had seen more in her eyes than she wanted him to. He knew, she was telling the truth as she saw it. That they were his family, that they loved him and that because of that love, she felt he belonged with them. But deep inside her soul, something else had emerged. It had shined through her eyes though she had done everything she could to hide it from him. He had no doubt in his mind that he was loved, but he also understood that she was trying to hide something from him. Something important. And he intended to figure out what it was.
It had to wait, though. After all, he loved her and he didn´t want to alarm her. “Thanks, mum... Maybe I´m just over thinking things...?”
A honking outside broke the moment and they both went out to greet his sisters...
That evening, James had trouble falling asleep. He was lying in his bed with his hands under his head as a pillow listening to his mum and dad downstairs. They were arguing. Not angrily and not with shouting and screaming, but they were definitely disagreeing on something. Something important. Something about him.
“We have to tell him, Henry,” he heard his mum pleading his dad, “He´s got a right to know.”
“I know, Kate, I just don´t think this is the right time.”
“When is the right time, Henry? He´s not a toddler anymore, you know.”
“Look, Kate, can´t it wait for a bit longer? At least till after Bath? That way, we can...”
His dad suddenly stopped talking and then there was the sound of foot steps up the stairs. James jumped out of bed, turned off the lights and jumped back in bed just in time before his dad showed as a shadow in the hall way. James had turned to the side facing the wall pretending to be fast asleep as his dad carefully shut the door to his room.
After that he couldn´t quite make out what his parents were saying downstairs. They only whispered now. But he knew more than ever before that there was something they hadn´t told him. And he had to find out what.
The school bell rang and all the kids were cheering. This was the moment they had all been waiting for. Holiday! On top of everything else, the sun was shining and there wasn´t a cloud in sight as the three of them ran down the stairs in front of the school. Mikael had his hands wildly waving above his head screaming.
“Yaaaaaaay! Free! I´m free at last! No more torture! The number one menace to society has escaped! I will wreck havoc upon this earth! Freeeeedoooomm!”
That last ‘freedom’ he growled like the devil´s lap dog and twisted his face in the most hideous grimace. Jenny and James smiled and shook their heads.
“You´re crazy, you know,” Jenny called to Mike, who bowed deeply in response.
“Thank you, M’Lady,” he said with a posh London accent, “I am most grateful for your analysis of my mental state and you shall forever have my utmost gratitude.”
Then he returned to as normal as could be expected of him and returned to her side with his elbow raised as an invitation for her to hold his arm like an old couple from the past century. She smiled and accepted the invitation and the three of them walked arm by arm, Jenny in the middle with the two boys on both sides of her.
“So,” Jenny said, “where are you both going this summer?”
“Same as always,” Mike shrugged, “absolutely nowhere. I have a signed and stamped contract with my bed, my armchair, my TV and of course my loved ones.”
He placed his hand over his heart and sighed. Jenny shortly looked surprised, but then she got it.
“Oh, you mean...” she looked at Mike and they both ended the sentence together: “The Playstation and the iPad!” and then they all laughed.
“We are going to Denmark this year. My parents rented a house on an Island they say has Viking history, but no one knows much about it,” Jenny told them.
“Wauw!” Mike cheered, “Are you going to Legoland as well?”
Jenny smiled and drew them both closer.
“That´s what I love about you guys,” she said, “Never an ounce of envy, because my parents have money.”
Then she turned her head to Mike. “I don´t think we´re going to Legoland, though. My mum wants this to be a quiet vacation teaching us to be humble and reminding us how lucky we are to have means...” Mike and Jim concurred her: “while kids all over the world are starving!” and Mike continued: “Yeah, we´ve heard that track before.”
They walked silently for a while thinking about it and then Jenny said: “Well, she´s right...” Again a short silence, before she turned to Mike.
“What about you? What are you doing this year?”
Bath,” he answered, “as usual.”
“Aren´t you getting tired of going to Bath every year?” she asked. Mike´s face went sad. How could she ask that? She knew how he felt about Bath?
“Well,” he hesitated, “I suppose... but my parents can´t afford anything else, so... it´s okay.”
Jenny looked straight ahead with an awry smile as if she was talking to the air in front of her.
“Wouldn´t you both like to go somewhere else this year?” she asked. The two boys stopped at the same time and let go of their friend. They looked reproachfully at her. But before any of them got to say anything she put her arm in theirs and dragged them further down the road.
“Jim, you´re not going to Bath this year!” she declared.
“Yes, I am,” he said in a puzzled voice.
“Nope,” she insisted, “and you´ll not be spending your summer playing games, Mike!”
He looked evenly puzzled.
“I´m not?” he said.
Then Jenny stopped for a while and looked from one to the other.
“Boys,” she continued, “you´re coming with me to Denmark, to Hjarnes Island this year.”
None of them could speak. This was just too weird. Jenny, however, was everything but speachless. Her eyes were sparkling and she obviously enjoyed the moment to its full potential.
“My parents spoke to your parents and they have all agreed that you two are coming with me and my parents to Hjarne’s Island! Isn´t that great?”
Jim didn´t quite understand was she was saying. He couldn´t see his parents agreeing to accept such a gift and he knew for sure they couldn´t afford it. “But...” he began, but Jenny cut him off.
“I know what you´re thinking, Jim, but it really isn´t a big deal. We are driving there anyway and since our tickets with the boat covers a car with up to 6 people there is no additional cost for any of you.”
“But food cost money as well,” Mike said. Then he had a dreadful thought and his face changed to a strange look.
“We are going to eat on the trip, aren´t we? I mean... it´s not one of those health guru kind of things, is it?” he asked.
Jenny laughed. “No, Mike, you can take it easy. My mum got past that last year. We´ll be eating perfectly normal food.”

Jim looked at Mike. Mike looked back at Jim. That´s when they realized both of their summer vacations had just reached to a much higher level than any of them could have hoped for. They both breathed in deep and while their eyes lit up along with their smiles the sound of joyful cheering spread out to entire neighborhood.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Legend of Hjarnes Island - Chapter 1

Chapter 1: Returning to Earth

All was silent in the dark of space behind the Moon. Silent except for the endless radio signals rushing back and forth through Earths satelite network. The moon´s surface lay barren, quietly reflecting cascades of sunlight toward the planet around which it circled. There in the silence and coming from Earth, a small vessel approached the place where the American lunar landing module had once been set down in 1967. The vessel didn´t land, but simply hovered above the NASA site, humming above the spot, waiting. Painted on the side of the vessel was a symbol of an eye inside a triangle and next to this what looked like a giant snake around a ball. It was the symbol of a people once worshipped as gods by the indigenous population of the planet. In the vacuum of space a cloud gathered close to the small vessel. Sparkling with energy a bubble of bright white light grew stronger and from the center of the bubble a large space ship appeared. It had an image on the side similar to the one on the smaller vessel and next to it the word “Mjolner” written in Runes. The captain of the small vessel smiled. He was really looking forward to seeing his old friend and commander, who´s company he hadn´t had the pleasure of for almost two centuries. He called up ‘Mjolner’ transfering the security codes and an appropriate greeting. The response was immidiate and friendly.
“So good to hear your voice,” Loki heard a voice say, “you are clear to embark.”
“Likewise, Commander Thor,” Loki replied as he entered the code for the engagement procedure, “I crave for some decent food, so I hope you brought some.”
“You bet, Loki,” Thor responded, “In fact, Sif is in the kitchen right now, preparing a hero´s meal.”
Loki smiled and glanced out the window for one final look at the vast emptiness of what the Vikings used to call ‘Ginnungagab,’ a word they had taken from the Aseir language and translated to their own tongue. It simply meant ‘never ending gap’ and while the Aseir used it to describe the essence of space, to the locals it was the feared concept that if you ever crossed the edge of the world, you would fall down and forfeit your life, both the present and the afterlife.
Loki had mixed feelings about the humans. He liked them just as much as most Aseir did, although he wasn´t technically an Aseir, but rather a renegade Yetten. Still, something bothered him about the way the Aseir treated them. It was almost as if they bowed to these barbaric and backwords beings, instead of saving them from themselves - or at least ignoring them. However, this wasn´t for Loki to decide and as long as Thor was the commander, Loki would follow his orders.

As he approached the docking area he recited to himself his report on the progress on the surface. He would emphasize the importance of Tjalfe and Roeskva and the fact that they still showed no signs of remembering anything. He knew how important this was to Thor and he meant to be sure not to leave anything out, however tedious it may seem. As for the other events, he had no clue what to tell Thor. How could he explain that somehow parts of their secret had been uncovered by simple humans? It shouldn´t have happened. It couldn´t have happened. But it had… A small group of humans were slowly gaining knowledge about the Fyrkat Project.