THE BLOOD FENRIR SPILLED
K. J. Pedersen
Copyright © 2012-2013 by K. J. Pedersen
(Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / website: www.kjpedersenbooks.webnode.com)
Elisha Christian Bengtsen
“I OWE YOU AN APOLOGY.”
“Listen, I know what you’re going to say,” I tell Brandt as we make our way across Jessica’s front yard after leaving the party.
“No. You don’t,” he says. “What I did last night was uncalled for.”
He’d apologized earlier in the day, before we’d met up with Mattias at the Barnes and Noble café. “It’s cool,” I say.
“My behavior was unacceptable. Completely,” Brandt says. “Getting all physical and aggressive with you...it was definitely not cool.”
I grunt agreement because he’s right about that—it was unacceptable—but I don’t see any reason to linger on it.
“I know I’m intense, focused, even aggressive sometimes,” he continues. “I guess it’s just that....”
“I’m used to getting what I want.”
“Then I need you to understand that I know it was wrong,” he says. “One doesn’t treat friends like that. And I’m sorry.”
“Fine. Apology accepted. I’ve already said so once today,” I say. “Let’s drop it. It happened. You were wrong. You’ve admitted as much and apologized. Twice.”
We don’t say anything more about it and continue in silence, yet somehow I feel things between us are still unresolved, that some deeper matter remains not only unspoken of, but unrecognized.
Besides, Brandt’s restive, and I’m eager to call it a night because he’s making me nervous. Still, there’s a lengthy walk ahead of us. Jessica’s house is about a mile northwest of mine, and, following that, Brandt has another half mile to go through the woods.
The weather’s nice, though. It’s still on the cool side, but not unpleasantly so, and the air is perfectly still, if also fresh with the scents of an early Spring night. The sky is cloudless. And over the dark line of trees and the neighbors’ roofs, I see the twin peaks of Mount Olympus well-defined in the silver-blue light reflected by the crescent beyond.
Walking through the neighborhood and enjoying the peacefulness of it, I’m struck by a romantic thought, and find myself wishing Mattias was beside me instead of Brandt. It would be nice to walk together, hand-in-hand, undisturbed, the way my other friends do with their girlfriends.
“Sycophants and children!” Brandt snarls, an outburst which jars me from my reverie.
“Your classmates, Elisha, are first-rate, ass-kissing toads.”
What exactly brought this on? I wonder, surprised by the bitterness of his tone. But aloud, I ask, “My classmates? Don’t you mean our classmates? Or do still consider yourself a Lion?”
“U. Park Lion or Spring Creek Gryphon, what difference does that make?” he asks with a humorless chuckle. “I consider myself post-high school and have for at least a year now.”
“We have only another month and a half until graduation.”
“And that’s forty-five days too many.”
“I don’t know. I kinda have mixed feelings about it all,” I say. “I’ll miss my friends. I’ll miss watching Jason and Eric play football in the Autumn...all the home games and rallies...the crowds and their energy...the Homecoming bonfires. I’ll miss singing Christmas concerts with the SATB chorus. And I’ll especially miss skateboarding in the Students’ Parking Lot with Mattias, Dave, and Cole after school. Hell, I’ll even miss some of the teachers!”
Brandt stops me at the corner. “Didn’t you see them at the party tonight, your so-called friends, and the way they were hanging all over me, thick, like a coat of tar?”
“What do you expect, Brandt? You’re popular.”
“It was pathetic. God, man, don’t they have any self-respect at all?” he says. “I could’ve whipped it out in the living room, let loose against the wall, and the girls would have praised the elegant arc of the stream, while the boys lauded the artistry of the splatter.”
“Lyngdal!” I shove him. “That was the most completely, inappropriately graphic—”
“Alright—sorry!” He raises both hands defensively. Even so, there remains that self-satisfied air about him. He certainly isn’t sorry. “That was a bit of an exaggeration—I’ll concede that much, Elisha—but you get my point.”
“I can’t believe you said that,” I say. “If your mother heard you talking that way, man, she’d take steel wool and a cake of lye to your tongue!”
A wry smile crosses Brandt’s lips. “You might have a valid point there.” Then he places one arm over my shoulder and nudges me forward along the road again. “Now that I’ve shocked the hell out of you, maybe you’ll begin to understand how tired I am of this whole childish routine. High school! Popularity contests and false friends! Curfews! I’m over it. I’m through. It’s time to move ahead with my life and leave this”—he makes a broad, dismissive gesture with one hand—“all behind.”
“Why the rush?”
“Because when you grow out of something, you cast it off,” he says. “There’s no going back, and no point lingering, either. That’s the truth, and we both know it.”
“Well...I guess so.”
“We’re more alike, you and I. We’re more mature—ready for life’s next challenge, to accept adulthood eagerly.” With his arm still about my shoulders, he draws my head closer to his so he speaks directly into my ear. He whispers, “I’m not wrong about you, am I?”
“No,” I say, and bump him away with my shoulder, to put some distance between us. The boy has a serious problem about invading my personal space. I outpace him a few steps, turn then to face him directly, and pause. “I’ve always been more mature than—”
“No. And that’s really very presumptuous of you,” I say. “You don’t know my brother like I do.”
“Who, then? Olav the Immature?” he intones in a mock Swedish accent, grossly exaggerating the musical lilt of it.
“Mattias is not immature,” I protest. “My friends, my closest friends, Mattias, Dave, Cole, Tad, they aren’t immature; they’re wild. Irrepressible. Matty’s an imp.”
“Ah!” Brandt laughs. “Teen devil on a skateboard.”
“Cute,” I say sarcastically, though the visual he’s conjured is fitting. “That’s my boyfriend you’re talking about.”
“Which kind of surprises me, to be honest.”
His comment pisses me off, royally. “I don’t appreciate your attempt to tear my boy down. You may not understand, or even care to, but I love him.”
“I have no problems at all with your sexual orientation, if that’s what you’re trying to get at,” he says. “I thought I’d made that abundantly clear.”
“But you have a problem with Mattias.”
“No problem. The Olavssons are good neighbors and he’s a decent enough kid,” Brandt says. “But that’s just it: He’s a kid.”
“He’s older than I am—!”
“You know, Brandt,” I say, “I’m beginning to understand why Elijah doesn’t like you.”
Like mere cannonballs against Old Ironsides, Brandt simply brushes the words aside.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN, ‘GOODNIGHT’?” Brandt demands when we reach my house. “It’s not even ten yet. Why not come over to my house for a while? When’s your curfew anyway—eleven, twelve?”
“Then it’s settled,” he says. “We’ll hang out at my place until midnight.”
I relent, knowing Brandt will keep at it until he gets his way.
Once we’re off the cobblestone right-of-way between my yard and the neighbors’ and well into woods, he says, “I didn’t tell you this earlier, but I got an important letter in the mail yesterday after school. It was an offer, a full ride scholarship to the U.”
Grinning, I take him by the shoulders. “Excellent!” I laugh, excited for him. “I mean it, that’s great!”
“Didn’t hurt that the old man’s a professor, I suppose.”
“Right. Exactly. I been offered scholarships, too,” I tell him and spill the details. “One from the U., naturally. Another from Utah State. And a few others from out of state, including one from U.H.”
“U.H.? Nice. O‘ahu’s beautiful,” he says. “Know how to surf?”
“With the way you ride a skateboard, kid, don’t bother,” he jokes.
“Listen,” he goes on, “since we’ve both been offered scholarships to the U., I think we should go. Together. Maybe even rent an apartment off campus.”
“Why the U., Brandt? Don’t you want to get the hell out of here? That’s what you said, that you wanted an end to all of this. That you’ve outgrown everything—popularity contests, false friendships—”
“I wouldn’t say that ours is a false friendship, would you?”
“Good. Because I haven’t outgrown you, yet.”
“Always some proviso with you, isn’t there?”
He stops in the middle of footbridge crossing the creek and stops me too. A mischievous spark appears in his eyes. “Always. But I might still have one or two uses for you.”
WHEN WE ARRIVE AT BRANDT’S, he dashes up the stairs with me close behind. “You didn’t give me the chance to explain things last night,” he calls back to me. “Trust me this time.”
Somehow I figured that’s where this was all leading, back to that strangely-carved oak disk, that old Norse Ouija board. “I thought I made it clear last night: I don’t care.”
“Then there’s no good reason to protest.”
Brandt pushes his bedroom door open further, half-way. Through the opening, a sliver of light spills into the room, falling upon Mr. Barks, who sleeps, muzzle between his paws, on Brandt’s bed. “Down! Off!” he commands the dog and throws the door open all the way.
The dog looks up anxiously, wags his tail.
The hard-edged scolding stops the old Lab’s wagging. He slides off the bed. Warm brown eyes lowered and tail lank, the dog slinks toward Brandt. It’s a cautious approach, and when there’s but a foot between them, the dog looks up to his master and lets out a worried, half-hearted bark.
“Out!” Brandt’s voice remains stern. “Downstairs!”
Once the dog obeys, Brandt and I go into his room. My friend doesn’t turn on the overhead light, but goes to the computer desk in the corner and flicks on the reading lamp instead.
“Close the door, would you?” he says. Then, from his bookshelf, he removes the cardboard box where the oak disk is stored. He places it on the bed. “Don’t look so nervous.”
“I’m not nervous.”
“Good,” he says. “Go on, sit down.”
I sit on the bed’s corner.
Brandt leans his weight to one side, crosses his arms over his chest, and considers me for a long moment. I watch him, too. Well dressed for his appearance at Jessica’s party, he is particularly handsome tonight, looking noble and slim in the leather shoes, dress shirt, tie, and slacks. I can’t help but notice this; he’s a beautiful young man. He kicks off his shoes, then undoes the tie, pulling it free. “You don’t mind if I change clothes, do you?” Naturally, he doesn’t wait for me to reply, and opens his belt buckle and the top button of his khaki slacks.
I turn my head away, embarrassed, as he takes off his shirt and leaves it hanging over the arm of the plush extra-wide armchair that dominates the space this side of his bed. His zipper slides open smoothly, and unable to resist its call, I look. His slacks drop down around his ankles. Black briefs and dress socks. When I see the stylish, athletic cut of his underwear, worn on his hips, and accentuating his Apollo’s belt, I look away again, afraid I’ll stare if I don’t.
“It isn’t anything you haven’t seen before,” he teases.
“You know, I was thinking we should work out together.”
“Now you’re making fun of me because I’m skinny.”
“I’m not making fun. And you’re not skinny. You’re wiry, Bengtsen. There’s a difference.” With a stunning, rapid movement, Brandt grabs the front of my T-shirt and leans back; his weight and the sudden change in our equilibrium brings me to my feet. I nearly trip and tumble over into him, but catch myself. Our eyes meet. And with his fist still grasping the front of my shirt, he pulls my face closer to his. I smell mint on his breath. Peppermint. “You have nothing to be ashamed of,” he says, “and nothing for me to make fun of you for. You have a lean, fit body.” He places his palm on my chest, right over my heart, and let’s it slide downward until it’s flat upon my stomach. He lifts the bottom of my shirt, high, and touches my belly with the back of his hand. It’s a feathery touch, one that makes me uncomfortably aware of his presence, and of how desirable and overwhelmingly sexual it is. “Of course,” he goes on, “there’s always room for improvement.”
He takes my right hand between his, then places it on his tight, ridged stomach. “Tell me with a straight face that you’re not envious, that you don’t want abs like these,” he says.
“Of course, I do.”
“You can have your own,” he promises. “I can show you how.”
I pull my hand away and sit on the bed again, unhappily aroused. “Stop playing with me like this,” I tell him. “I don’t appreciate it.”
“What?” he asks innocently. He stands there statue-still with his hand resting on the inside of his right thigh, drawing my attention down, toward the full pouch front of his underwear.
He gives me this look, thoroughly exculpatory, his eyebrows raised with concern over bright eyes, yet his hand remains dangerously, provocatively close to his equipment. He ignores my protest. “Friendship, Elisha—” he begins, “genuine friendship, that is—is about more than simply fondness or shared common interests. It’s about helping one another, about teaching one another new things, and acquiring, together, new skills.”
“Such as...working out together?”
“Improving and maintaining one’s physique is always an important priority,” Brandt says. “But I’m talking about something more, something beyond that. An excellent body is just the beginning.” He sits on the bed a few feet away, the oak disk between us. “You and I both have active, curious minds. If there’s a question, we want an answer. Even if we must dig for it. Am I right?”
“I’m right about that. You know I am.” He runs his fingers over the surface of the board, touching the runes. There is neither reverence nor humility in this gesture, simply curiosity. “Here we have a mystery—an enigma—to dissect and to study, and then...to comprehend.”
“What precisely is so important about this thing that you think you need to share it with me?” I demand. “Why me?”
“First, let me tell you how I came to acquire it,” he says.
“Answer my question first, then—”
“No. First things first,” he says, cutting me off short. He pauses, as if challenging me to interrupt him, then begins his story. “My junior year our family went to Norway at Christmastime. Our winter vacation started a week early because my father was eager to see the site first hand, to photograph it, and to quickly prepare his paper for initial review and publication,” he says. “Circumstance forced us to stay a week longer than we’d planned. In all, we spent a month in Jørpeland, a village on the sea, in Rogaland.”
“What site?” I ask.
“That past Summer ground was broken for new high-end tourist lodgings in a shallow canyon-like valley called Selemork, which leads inland away from Jørpeland. In the Spring and Summer, Selemorkvegen, the Selemork road, provides for a popular walking tour, crossing through farms and ending in forest. But it was just outside of town, at Selemork’s broad opening, that ground for the lodges was broken.
“Work stopped immediately.
“The workmen had discovered a Norse site dating to the late pre-Christian era, complete with the stone foundations for several halls, one great, two smaller. Around and inside the hall foundations were there wooden beams, some intricately carved, many broken.
“In a relatively short period of time, the archeological team from the University of Oslo had, within the confines of those foundations, uncovered swords; spear and arrow heads; sodden, rotting wooden bowls; and coinage minted at Scania, Jutland, and the Danish islands.”
Absent-mindedly, Brandt picks up the slate stone—“the Tyr stone,” he’d called it—and presses the flat carved side against the inside of his right thigh, which is exposed, his right leg being on the bed, flat upon it, and bent at the knee.
“Apparently, the site met its end with the introduction of Christianity to the Norwegian kingdom, and the gradual suppression of the old Scandinavian faith and its rites. For at the south and west ends of the site, archeologists discovered thickets of wooden crosses, placed here and there as if to cleanse the ground.
“When we arrived, and once we’d checked into our rooms at the Jørpeland Inn, my father wanted, first thing, to go to the site. I was eager, too. My mom and Harry didn’t much care, though that was the reason for our visit, and remained at the inn, to settle in, promising they’d go later.”
“How does this relate to the disk? It wasn’t found there, was it?”
“No. Of course not,” Brandt says. “I’ll get to how I found the disk in a moment. And, at first, you might think the two events are unrelated, our visit to the Norse site and my discovery of the rune-disk, but you’ll soon see otherwise.”
Brandt lets the Tyr stone fall from where he’s pressed it to his flesh. The outline of the stone and image of the rune remain on his skin, a faint imprint. He rubs the inside of his thigh a moment, making it disappear.
“At the site, we were met by an Englishman, a professor from Manchester, who’s an expert on pre-Christian Scandinavia. The discovery of this site has sparked worldwide interest, you see, because it’s been an incredible find. A variety of historians and archeologists, from all over Europe and the United States, have come to examine the find, and to write papers for their respective university journals.
“The Englishman, Professor Arnold Huntington, was eager to show my father around. The head of the archeological team, Professor Kirstiane Thorkettelsen, had been expecting us, but not so soon, Professor Huntington explained, and would return to the site from Oslo Monday.
“The snow in the Selemork was unusually deep, but had been cleared away from the site. To the north and east, the site’s surrounded by woods, hills, and mountains, and to the south and west, by fields and the road. The crosses I told you about earlier were visible, but no longer upright. Over the last thousand years they’d come down and were buried under the soil and vegetation, only now to be seen again. Inside the compound itself, there were excavation trenches, covered with tarps, while the hall foundations remained uncovered, canopy tents overhead. It was fantastic to see. It was exciting to be onsite for such a dig! And Dad—well, I’ve never seen him so excited.
“Professor Huntington showed us how the wooden beams, which made up the halls’ frames, had fallen. The halls had been forcibly pulled down after Christianity took root—likely during the reign of King Olav Tryggvason at the end of the tenth century—destroyed by an overzealous clergy, eager to extirpate the worship of strange gods.
“Then Huntington took us alongside one trench that widened and deepened very noticeably upon reaching the site’s center, between the remnants of the three halls. Inside were several stone monuments, which had been knocked over, but were otherwise unmolested. Upon these there were no runic inscriptions, which was peculiar, as typically such stones were marked with the names of the place, the folk, their ruler, and a description of purpose.
“The largest of the stones monuments, however, had been smashed. Upon its face, in its many pieces, I could make out the shape of a wolf, its massive maw open, its teeth curved and sharp. There were no runes to indicate who or what this wolf represented.
“The image was singular, repeated nowhere else. In fact, it was the only image uncovered at the site, period.”
“Of a wolf?”
“A wolf,” he repeats, “standing on its hind legs, jaws apart, as if to swallow the sky.”
I consider telling him of my dream, of the forest wolves, but cannot. For some reason, however irrational, I feel I should not...that I should keep it to myself.
“Monday,” Brandt continues, “we all returned to the site, Harry and Mom, too, and met Professor Thorkettelsen from Oslo. She was glad to meet my father finally, with whom she’d corresponded since almost as soon as the site’s discovery had become known.
“But I wanted to see more, not of the site, but of the town, and of its nightlife. After all, this was our Christmas vacation. And I was looking for some excitement.
“That night I was able to shake my parents. But unable to lose Harry, we explored the center of town, then ventured northwest. Not far from an old church, we came upon an antique store—”
I touch the disk this time, tapping it with my index and middle fingers. “And that’s where you found this, isn’t it?”
“Okay, so what is it?”
“Be patient, Bengtsen,” he says. “I’ll get to that in a moment.”
I nod, waiting for him to continue his story.
“The antique store was long and narrow, located in an older building—dating back, I’d say, to about the middle of the nineteenth century—which contained several such shops, a restaurant, and a bakery. The shop’s owner had his home in the rooms above. It was charming, you know? Neither Harry nor I could resist.
“The shop was stacked floor to ceiling with just about everything you can imagine—every oddity and useless thing, that is. Harry, enthralled by a hollow bronze horse, struck up a conversation with the owner, a spry eighty-year-old named Gunder Hansen. It was funny to listen to them, Harry proceeding in Norwegian for as long as he could manage to before asking if herre Hansen spoke English. And as I listened to them chatter, now in English, I proceeded deeper into the shop.
“It seemed the deeper I went, the narrower the shop became. It wasn’t long before I felt a certain claustrophobia, a sensation completely alien to me. But I pressed on until I reached the shop’s far wall.
“Most of the antiques herre Hansen had for sale were simply old junk, but there were exceptions,” Brandt says. “When I came upon the book collection, I knew Dad would want to see it for himself. There were old hymnals, probably discarded by the neighboring church many years before, dated 1897; bibles; a purportedly original edition of Ibsen’s play Kejser og Galilæer; histories, most of them written in boksmål, a few in Danish, fewer still in Latin; and a collection of Norse and Lappish myths, legends, and folklore. Though I read and write Norwegian and Danish quite well, I was determined to bring my father the following day, so the two of us could sift through the garbage for the few gems. And then’s when I saw it.”
“Yes,” he says. “I may not be as remarkably tall as you, Elisha, but I was tall enough to see it on the top shelf, right up there under the ceiling, half-buried behind bric-a-brac. I grabbed a step ladder to retrieve it. The moment I touched it I knew I had to have it.
“Taped to its face was a faded red satin pouch. Inside, the Tyr stone.” He holds it up for me to see. “I had to have it. But I was afraid. I didn’t want my father to know what I had found. I could tell immediately it was very valuable, and much more so than the price in kroner suggested, the equivalent of fifteen-hundred dollars.”
“At that price, a steal,” he says. “And that’s what I was afraid of—that it was an artifact the Norwegian authorities would not want removed from the country.”
“You believed herre Hansen stole it?”
“No. Merely that he was unaware of its value, and that by selling it, he was robbing the Norwegian people of a piece of their heritage.”
“Even feeling that way, you still went ahead and bought it?” I cry.
“I had to have it,” he says. “I can’t explain why. But I’ve never felt such an intense desire for an object, for any thing. Never, Elisha!”
“So you bought it, that night.”
He shakes his head. “I didn’t want Harry to know about it, so I returned it to its place on the top shelf, put a few more pieces of junk in front of it, to hide it from any other potential buyers, and went back to the front of store. I bought Harry the bronze horse.
“The next morning, using my tablet, I logged into my bank account and transferred some of my college savings to checking,” he says. “Ready money for my debit card.”
“So, you went back to the store that night and bought the disk?” I ask.
“Yup,” he says. “But I was wrong in my impression, that herre Hansen was unaware of the disk’s value. When I approached him about rune-disk, he seemed personally reluctant to part with it, but insisted nevertheless that I buy it.”
“Honestly, it sounds to me like he stole it and wanted to be rid of it.”
“No,” Brandt insists. “I don’t believe so.”
“Does your father know now you bought it?”
Brandt shakes his head. “I’ve kept it a secret.”
“Maybe you should tell your dad—”
“Fuck no!” He laughs, a very cold and humorless laugh. “He wouldn’t understand what I have here.”
“And what is it you have here...?”
“Let me finish, please,” he says. “After I bought it, I managed to sneak it into the room I shared with Harry. I kept it hidden. The next evening, when they all went out for dinner, I feigned a sick stomach, asked to stay behind.”
“The first time I placed the stone on the board and touched it, the same thing happened to me as what happened last night to you,” he says. “I was stunned.”
“No. I was overwhelmed, perhaps, but not frightened,” he tells me. “That night, I dreamt of wolves.”
“In the forest, skulking through snow?”
Fuck my loose tongue!
A glimmer of recognition, of understanding appears in his eyes. “I dreamt of wolves in the Selemork,” he says. “I saw them in the dream clearly, on a Spring day, advancing, and followed by a dark brown wolf of absolutely monstrous proportions. I saw the halls, one great, two smaller, as they approached. I knew I was dreaming of the site we’d come to Norway to see, when it was still in use—”
“As a shrine,” I say.
“One consecrated, I’m certain, to Fenrir.”
“Tyr and Fenrir. The war god and the fen-dwelling wolf.” He does not elaborate, leaving his meaning a mystery, but licks his lips, as if they’re suddenly dry. “You asked me what this is, and why it’s so important,” he says and touches the disk again. “What it is, precisely—I can’t answer that. But I do know this: First, it dates back no further than the ninth century; second, it isn’t some ‘Viking Ouija board’; third, that said, it was probably still a means of divination, and certainly associated with the god Tyr; lastly—and this is why it’s so important to me, and why it should be to you—it’s an object of great power.”
He leans forward. “No?” he asks. “Are you telling me you saw nothing at all last night? No spark? This stone didn’t jerk suddenly across the board’s face and come to rest upon one of the runes? It didn’t balance on its rounded end? Is that what you’re telling me, Elisha?”
“I don’t know what I saw last night.”
“But you saw something, didn’t you?” he says. “Something that freaked you out so badly you scampered away, tail between your legs.”
“I told you, I wasn’t scared.”
He snorts, amused by this. “Then again...maybe you were—are—right to be frightened. There’s raw power here,” he says. “I’ll admit it’s presently inexplicable, what happened last night, and what happens every time I place the stone on the disk and then touch the rim with my fingers.” His gaze intensifies. “This is merely a chunk of slate.” He presses the Tyr stone into my hand, closes his hand around mine, and squeezes until it hurts. “And the disk is just oak wood, correct?”
“Exactly. Slate and oak. Nothing more,” I say and jerk my hand back away from his. Disgusted, I chuck the stone at him.
His hand flashes outward, plucks the stone right out of the air. It happens so fast—
“I don’t know if the power resides in the disk or the stone, or if they merely focus some ambient energy, some universal constant, which remains unseen,” he says. “I want to know.”
“It’s some trick.”
He runs his hands back through his hair, leaving it no longer smooth, but tousled, and tips his chin so it falls over his face. He taunts me with a look, eyeing me through the loose, dark strands. “A rather elaborate trick for me to pull on you, wouldn’t you say?”
I pause, think this one over. “If it’s powerful...? Why me?”
“I’ve already answered that question—”
“But I have,” he says. “Intellectually, Bengtsen, we’re two of a kind. We want to understand the world around us. And if one wants to understand the world, one must understand the powers that govern it. Am I right?”
“I suppose that follows.”
“And the best way to understand a thing is to test it,” he says.
Brandt places the stone in the center of the disk and places his fingers on the rim. “Then touch the disk,” he insists.
A MOST PLEASANT EUPHORIA PREVAILS.
I am only vaguely aware of the cascade of energy that pours over and between my fingers, chilling my hands. Only vaguely aware of the roughness of the wood under my fingertips. Of the rapid movement of the stone as it darts about the board, flitting from one rune to the next, like a gray hummingbird between blossoms.
The runes glow, each a different color.
Sights, sounds, scents...all these are muted.
Except for the runes; only they are clear; only they are distinct.
My eyelids draw down, heavy.
I am aware of Brandt’s presence, but just so, a presence somehow spectral.
Self-aware...I am self-aware. But even this is strangely æthereal.
My mind is....
I do not comprehend.
Such serenity and euphoria.
What is that noise?
Is that a dog’s barking?
I am jarred suddenly, painfully out....
My eyes snap open.
The rune-blossoms—their color has leached away into the murk, leaving mere scratches upon the disk’s oak face.
Brandt jumps up from the bed, yells again, “Enough!” He throws the door open. “You stupid fucking dog, shut up! Shut up!”
The poor thing withers under Brandt’s stern command.
Footsteps on the stairs, rushing.
“What is all this noise?”
That voice...Brandt’s mother.
Brandt stands there, underpants clad, nearly naked.
I would die humiliated if my mother found me like that, so dressed.
“Downstairs!” Brandt commands his dog.
“Do you know what time it is, Brandt?” his mother cries. “Nearly midnight! And between you and your dog, you’ll raise the dead!”
I’d lost all sense of time.
Mrs. Lyngdal sees me. “It’s time for you to go home, Bengtsen.”
Brandt glares at his mother. “Do you mind?”
Mrs. Lyngdal returns her son’s glare with ice and takes the dog by the collar. She leads the frightened, agitated animal downstairs.
Once gone, Brandt says, “You heard her, Elisha. You should go home now. It’s getting late.”
I’M IN THAT ALTERWORLD BETWEEN sleep and awareness, where every sound confuses or startles, leaving you unsure if it is real or the prelude to a dream.
Again, I hear it, that steady rattle beside my ear on the bedside table. My cell phone, set to vibrate. An incoming text message. I open my eyes and see the blue glow from the phone’s screen above, shining on the ceiling. It dims, and a moment later blinks out, leaving the bedroom black.
Before I started to drifted off, I was thinking about Brandt, thinking how deeply unfair he’d been in his assessment of my friends, of our classmates.
He’s popular with them, and all they want is to know him, to gain his approval. He finds that contemptible?
Maybe Elijah was right about him all along.
Remembering my earlier train of thought, I decide Brandt’s a user, manipulating everything and everyone, going so far as to use his sexual appeal to prod....
For a straight boy, why such homoeroticism? I wonder and recall his closeness, of the way he’d stripped to his underwear, all too eager to show off his body, and how he’d touched me, hand on my chest, over my heart.
Maybe I should reevaluate our friendship, I think. What do you want from me, Brandt? Really?
I recall the glowing runes then and Brandt’s words spoken before we’d activated whatever that disk happens to be. Tyr and Fenrir. The god and fen-dwelling wolf, that’s what he’d said.
I need to read up on Norse mythology, I decide, to understand what he’d meant.
The phone hums. The room’s bright again. Another text.
I reach for the phone, read the messages:
Mattias>12:34>Just got back from the party in W. Jordan.
Mattias>12:34>Had to drive Cole home 1st. He’s hammered.
Mattias>12:36>How was Jessie’s party, Jinja?
My nickname’s Jinja, ‘cause I have red hair. Haha. My friends think that’s really funny. Jinja. Or, when we’re burning herb, Ganga Jinja. Haha, even funnier. Assholes.
Me>12:36>It was okay. Brandt and I didn’t stay long.
Mattias>12:36>Cool. Cole’s friend’s party was okay too.
Mattias>12:37>I didn’t wake you, did I?
Mattias>12:38>Brandt was acting weird this afternoon.
Me>12:38>I’ll tell you later.
I put the phone back on the night stand. Jessica’s party. I get out of bed and stumble across the hall toward my brother’s room, open the door, half expecting to find Jason there in bed beside him, but the bed’s empty. Elijah’s missing. His cell phone, however, is on the bedside table.
I pick it up, knowing I really shouldn’t, and look at his messages.
Jase>11:11>Left me alone at the party--not fucking cool!
Jase>11:36>Where are you?
Jase>11:49>The silent treatment--seriously!?!
Jase>11:56>What’s your problem?
Jase>12:24>Fine, asshole. Good-fucking-night to you too!
I don’t know where Elijah is, but reply to Jason’s bullshit anyway.
Elijah>12:43>It’s me, Elisha.
Jase>12:43>Where’s your brother?
Elijah>12:43>Downstairs, drunk & passed out on the couch.
I return the phone to its place on the night table and pad back to my bedroom, wondering where my brother is, what he’s doing, who he’s with....
There’s another message on my phone.
Mattias>12:40>Cole nearly got his ass kicked.
Mattias>12:46>Hitting on another guy’s woman.
Me>12:46>Was she worth it?
Mattias>12:46>For a girl, yeah. Nice tits.
Me>12:46>And you still doubt his heterosexuality?
Mattias>12:46>Jinja, the fucka humped my leg!!!
Me>12:47>We were all drunk.
Mattias>12:48>That’s what he said.
Mattias>12:52>Wish you been there tonight. With me.
I place the phone on my chest, stare at the ceiling, start to drift off.
On the cusp of sleep again, the phone vibrates.
Me>1:13>haha ~(==8 RBAY
Me>1:14>Right Back At You
I fall asleep, cell phone on my chest.
THAT NIGHT, AS BEFORE, I dream of wolves.
* * *
To be continued....