Translated from the Norwegian by Alison McCullough
I. CIVIL WAR (version 37.0)
Steam rose from the jungle.
He crept stealthily forward below the dense foliage, listening to all the sounds he
knew and loved. Stood for a while, smiling, under a beautiful tree in full bloom, like a lighthouse flashing among the green.
‘Dicorynia paraensis,’ he whispered to the trunk – he had never forgotten the beautiful Latin name his father had taught him. A flock of hoatzins chattered in the crown of a nearby tree while a swarm of statira sulphurs, lemon-yellow butterflies, took flight from a pool of rainwater left behind by the intense afternoon showers. He felt an almost dizzying joy at the sight, sound and smell of the lushness that surrounded him; the teeming life in all its endless variation, from the forest floor up into the canopy above him.
This was where he was born; where he’d grown up. Memories of his childhood poured over him, vivid and good.
This was where all the magic came from.
As he moved tentatively onwards he examined the leaves of the new trees that had suddenly forced their way in, everywhere, including here in the rainforest. But the new forest had not damaged the original one. It was as if it revered and respected the existing vegetation that had taken three million years to reach its current state, with its rich diversity of species. Now the new plants filled the empty spaces, their virginal green shoots coiling softly around the ancient trunks. A perfect symbiosis; absolute balance.
As he walked deeper and deeper into the jungle, he lifted and turned the fresh, paper- thin leaves of which there had been no sign just a few days ago, but which were now flourishingly rapidly. Almost faster than the eye could see, this new vegetation had penetrated the innermost regions of the Amazon Jungle.
The Skyflower tree.
Exactly as it should be.
Just as he and Señor Yenso had planned.
He carefully parted the leaves before him and soon found what he was looking for. On
the underside of the leaves in a dense, freshly grown cluster, he witnessed a small miracle. At the sight of it all the sounds of the jungle seemed to roar into a crescendo, becoming a beautiful music that flourished and filled his body with a deep and heartfelt joy, with gratitude.
For a while he simply stood and looked. Then he opened the box he had brought with him and started to gently pluck the branches clean. The leaves weren’t few in number – there were many of them. So many!
He filled the box with hundreds, maybe thousands.
Then he sat down under the great sorac tree – the tree of wisdom, as the Sucuruki called it. Ancient legend has it that anyone who spends their life beside a sorac tree and sees it bloom will have all the hidden wisdom of the rainforest revealed to them.
He had once sat under the great tree and watched as the flaming red and yellow flowers at the top of its crown burst open. It happened only once in all the mighty tree’s long life.
He had listened and understood.
He carefully placed the box with its valuable contents at the bottom of the large bag he carried. Then he thanked the tapir for the meat it had provided him when he had killed the young animal with his blowpipe; took out the smoked strips of meat and ate them with the passion fruits he had gathered.
He sat there below the sorac tree for a long time.
The man was of indeterminable age. With his attractive, clean-cut, almost feminine face and lush, blue-black hair, he could be anywhere between twenty and fifty.
Then he got up, and with the ease and elegance of a magician moved back through the dense forest.
He was Mino Aquiles Portoguesa.
2. KARL IVER
Night had fallen across Europe.
A long, heavy, dark night. Nobody knew how long it would last; whether a new day
would ever dawn. A time in which hard, bleak clouds had spread themselves slowly and inescapably over the continent, like leaden wings. Everything had been turned into a world of shadows, in which the contours of all that existed shrank into themselves, into a soothing oblivion, free from the pulsing pain of hopelessness. Those who still lived in the shadows let their memories glow deep within them; the most optimistic believed the night would soon end. That the world would be able start over once again.
Karl Iver Lyngvin lived in the shadows.
He’d been there for a long time.
All through these dark days and dark nights.
In his hideout he stayed on high alert and mostly kept himself out of sight. Now he sat
well-hidden behind a hawthorn bush, keeping a close watch on the empty street. It was almost eight in the evening. A gloomy, vermillion haze lay over the landscape from the fires in the city centre that never seemed to burn out.
Hunger gnawed at his guts – it was almost three days since he had scraped his last can of food empty. He had to find something to eat. But a small glimmer of hope had presented itself – for the past three nights, from his hiding place in overgrown Cottons Park, he had watched two activists dressed all in black, probably from Umayya Hayan, the group that controlled the district, this suburb of London. He had noticed that they would first walk past him with an empty trolley; half an hour later, they would return with the trolley full of green cans. Surely the cans could contain nothing other than food?
He waited. Looked down at the narrow street, which he knew ended somewhere further down, at an intersection with a larger main road. What might be there at the end of the street, which seemed mostly unoccupied, he had no idea – but tonight he intended to find out.
Just a year ago, St. Edward’s Way must have been a busy main road but was still now, silent, like a grey, lifeless snake. Just as all roads had become. In the lanes of the motorways, in the middle of streets and on pavements, the abandoned empty shells of cars could be seen everywhere. Dead.
He squeezed his eyes shut and withdrew a little; sat back on his haunches. They came. Out of the shadows. At around the same time as yesterday. But this time there were three people dressed in black. The first, tall and skinny, walked ahead of the others – a young boy and an older man. The boy was pulling the trolley.
Karl Iver Lyngvin glanced about him, pulled up the hood of his jacket to hide the long, blonde hair that reached almost to his shoulders, and stood up, grabbing his empty rucksack and slinging it onto his back. There was nobody else out on the streets. He’d left his handgun back at the camp, but his hunting knife was in its sheath on his belt. He crept down the slope towards the ruins of the 400-year-old church.
Stalking after the three figures in black, he glanced across at the church. He had long observed how the workers who supported and were loyal to Umayya Hayan had started the construction of a mosque in the open space at the centre of the suburb, using stone that they hacked and blasted from the old church. But a couple of months ago, the work had suddenly stopped. He knew why. They were short of food.
Everybody was short of food now.
He had seen how the few people still living here – mostly Somalis and Sudanese – had started to break up the tarmac and pavements beside the houses or blocks of flats in which they lived in an attempt to find soil they could cultivate. Huge areas around here – as elsewhere in London’s fringes, most likely – now looked as if gigantic water voles had ravaged and upended their streets and pavements; paving stones, flakes of asphalt and clumps of concrete heaped haphazardly here and there. The few white British citizens who had lived here before the civil war had long since vanished.
It was silent. As all the nights were now.
No droning buzzing from machinery or motors.
No streetlights or flashing neon signs above the broken windows of empty shops. And the toxic red mist that hung over the landscape from the fires in the south-west
made the May evening seem surreal, almost threatening.
That he had chosen to find a place to stay among the dense underbrush of a hill in
Cottons Park was by no means accidental. The worst seemed to be over here in this suburb; it was now a relatively peaceful area, and he seldom witnessed riots or confrontations. The BNF or British National Front, the most aggressive group of nationalists and neo-fascists, stayed away. And the self-proclaimed, non-violent movement consisting of supporters of the two major political parties, Labour and the Tories – which had been given the peculiar- sounding name ‘Laboratory’ – had more than enough on their plate defending the barricades that had been established around some of London’s most famous and iconic relics: the British
Museum, the Tower, Westminster Cathedral and Buckingham Palace. Rumour had it that the frail and senile King William and the rest of the royal family had long since moved from the latter to some unknown location.
On the few occasions he had inadvertently encountered any of the area’s inhabitants, Karl Iver had generally only been met with ignorance, although some abusive words and gobs of spit had occasionally been thrown his way before he had calmly backed off. He had so far managed to avoid being attacked physically. But he could never be sure of the mindset of anyone he might meet.
There is no evil, only the fight to survive.
He moved down towards street, keeping to the shadows, hiding behind hedges and the corners of buildings but never letting the three figures with the trolley out of his sight. He followed them into an area where stacks of car tyres stood outside a grey, rust-spotted warehouse. They walked purposefully across the area and came to a windowless, green brick building. Five or six of the autonomous electric SUV-type vehicles with the MUSK V logo on their bonnets stood huddled against a wall, feeble and soulless, bulky and weighed down with stones, their windscreens smashed. Even these were green.
He crouched down behind one of the cars and watched as the three figures stopped outside a gate-like door reinforced with ironwork, a ragged, football-sized hole cut around the door handle. Hanging from the hole was a heavy chain with a huge padlock.
The tall, thin man stood beside the gate for a moment as he glanced warily about him. Then he lifted a commanding index finger to the boy and the older man, who withdrew around the corner and out of sight, as if this had been agreed in advance. The tall, thin man then quickly ran across to one of the cars and dug around in the sand behind its right rear wheel. He soon had a key in his hand; back by the gate, he whistled loudly, and the boy and the old man ducked back out from behind the corner.
The chain was removed, the gate slid open, and all three disappeared inside with the trolley.
Karl Iver Lyngvin suddenly understood what was going on. This was a military depot. Could it be weapons that they were collecting and transporting? Explosive charges in the small cans loaded into the trolley? A sudden disappointment seized him just below the breastbone; a painful gulp followed by hopelessness, sadness, dejection and anger. But he continued to stand and wait.
A quarter of an hour later, the three figures emerged again, the trolley now full of green cans. The procedure was repeated: the boy and the old man disappeared behind a corner, the chain was put back in place; the tall, thin man hid the key under the wheel of the car, whistled, and they were soon walking back the same way they came. They passed just a few metres from where he stood. Probably Eritreans, he guessed, based on the light colour of their skin.
He waited for ten minutes.
Then he went across to the wheel of the car and dug up the key. The chain in the jagged hole locked a handle at the back of the gate. He opened the door, but closed it after him as he went in.
Inside, it was dark.
He had one of his six flux lighters in a pocket of his bag. The flame ignited, and in a few seconds he saw the outlines of huge stacks of identical cans lining the walls. There must be thousands, tens of thousands of them, here on the spacious premises. But could it all be explosives and ammunition?
He turned up the flame and was then able to make out the following inscription on the can he held in his hand, which he thought must weigh around a kilo: ‘ARMED FORCES OF
THE CROWN. British Army.’ Fuck. The disappointment almost brought him to his knees. But then he moved to the door and opened it a crack, letting in the light so that he could read what was printed on the can in smaller lettering: ‘Emergency supplies, weight 1.9 pounds, 3150 calories.’
He almost cried out, began to shake but pulled himself together; twisted his backpack from his shoulders and started to fill it. He had space for almost forty cans, and although he was weak – starving – he hardly felt the weight of the full bag on his back. He now had enough to feed himself for at least a month.
Karl Iver Lyngvin did not lock the door to the military depot. He left it open. There were plenty of people around here who should have the right to help themselves. The fact that it was long since he had seen children playing football or cycling around the open square was a bad sign.
Hunger gnawed at him as he hurried up the street. Distracted, he was no longer keeping such a close eye on his surroundings, and so in the dim evening light failed to see the person who emerged from a door before it was too late and there was nowhere to hide.
It was a woman.
Wearing a brown hijab, a plastic bucket in her hand. Her face was beautiful, its ebony skin etched with pale wrinkles. But there was no life in her eyes – they seemed dull, hardly shielded by lids almost free from lashes; her eyebrows wispy and narrow, each shaped like a circumflex. Her entire expression seemed frozen and absent.
They stood, looking at one another for a moment, before she quickly lowered her gaze. Karl Iver Lyngvin raised a palm before him and smiled. She didn’t smile back, but pointed with her free hand to the downpipe from the gutters, at the bottom of which stood a tub filled with rainwater.
‘I’m here to get water.’
‘You don’t have water in the house?’ he asked tentatively.
She didn’t respond. Just stood there, staring down the street.
‘Have they cut off the water supply?’
‘Don’t speak,’ said the woman in a low voice.
‘Can’t you talk?’
‘They destroyed the water pipes in the buildings here a month ago, I’m scared, they’re
evil, and I can’t talk to you, you’re a kafir.’ Her words were a hushed whisper.
‘Talking to me isn’t dangerous.’
‘My husband will beat me if he sees me speaking to a nonbeliever. I have to go.’ She
took a few steps in the direction of the downpipe and tub of water.
‘Wait,’ said Karl Iver Lyngvin. ‘Do you have children?’
She stopped abruptly and looked at him, fearful. Her eyes were set deep below her forehead and shone with need; with months of anguish and powerlessness.
‘Three. And they cry constantly. Now I have to get some water.’
‘You see that door, the gate over there, in the green brick building without windows?’ he said, pointing. ‘Behind that door there’s food. Loads of food. Do you understand?’
She glanced in the direction of his outstretched arm.
Then he turned away and walked quickly on.
On the hill, on the way up to the overgrown park where his campsite lay hidden, he had to sit down and rest. The straps of the rucksack cut into his bony shoulders. Soon he would eat. Would be more sated than he had been in weeks.
This country and its flora and fauna were completely alien to him, and there was no point in his continued existence. Yet here he was, still alive. The silence and beautiful death it had
been his mission to cultivate had not come. He had misjudged the timing; the hate and the rage. In the prison of this existence there was no far off blue that his gaze could scan for the secrets that lay hidden behind the next ridge, the next mountain: a fishing lake, a forgotten farmstead, a fertile valley. Or as in the last years he had spent in the rainforest: a wall of living, green vegetation, teeming with meaningful life and display.
There was nothing beautiful in this landscape. He could smile, and it would snarl at him in return. And the nights he sank into each evening were filled with the dark, aching murmuring of loss.
But he had to keep going, even if he had no idea towards what. Towards a place where, given time, his thoughts might spin a web of hope and trust.
He let his gaze slide down towards the ruined church. It was the first time he had seen it from this direction and proximity. The walls of the tower had been ripped down, bare beams remaining over the jagged remnants of the nave.
Then he saw the crows again. On several occasions, from further away, he had observed how flocks of crows swarmed around the remaining beams of the tower in the early morning and as evening fell.
He stared. Within the tower, he saw something dangling there, hanging.
A shape. Rotating slowly, moving, as the birds fought one another to get at it. It was a person that was hanging there.
Karl Iver Lyngvin got up, turned away.
There is no evil. Only the fight to survive.
3. KARL IVER
It was early morning.
He had eaten until sated every day for almost a week now. The contents of the green
cans, military rations, were hefty and filling. He had fresh water in the plastic bottles he filled from the little stream that trickled its way down the slope across the way.
But he felt no satisfaction.
He could sit for hours simply staring out into space, and that was how he sat now. The light of the early morning sun pierced the smaze, falling through the shrubbery and bringing the myriad shades of green to life, the growing buds of flowers gingerly opening and the song thrush whistling in the treetops above him. But he paid no attention to any of this.
Zoe, where are you? a voice cried out within him.
Some nights, when the cry was at its loudest and woke him from sleep, he imagined that he could hear her answer him, heard her voice from somewhere in the thicket. I’m here Karli, with our child. We’re coming.
He shook his head forcefully and stood up. He had to get out of here. It was only a matter of time before someone discovered his camp, the little space where he had slept and lived over the past few months, shrouded by the dense vegetation surrounding some blocks of stone on the south side of the park. He had recently heard voices nearby on several occasions, and understood that someone was planning to start cultivating the park. He had hidden most of his camping equipment and weapons, just in case someone should stumble upon him unexpectedly.
Despite his hopelessness, he had curiously managed to mobilise at least a minimum of survival instinct. He had no idea where it came from, but it was there.
Even from the very beginning, when the whole thing broke loose – from the exploding bombs at the airport that had probably killed over three thousand and injured many more – he had forced himself to think strategically, long term. As if he had understood what was coming.
And it came.
Riots, street warfare, barricades, fires, bombs.
And finally, all out civil war.
London had become a war zone within just a few weeks of the Heathrow bombings.
And it wasn’t just London – he’d heard the same said of all the country’s major cities. The same had also happened on the continent, in France, Germany and Italy.
Europe had suddenly been engulfed by fire, but unsurprisingly it seemed – it had probably been smouldering for a long time, all while he was somewhere on an entirely different part of the globe.
As the chaos and panic raged through those first weeks, he had wandered around and seen the unbelievable – shootings, death and mutilation, blood running in the gutters; disfigured bodies, abused corpses. Looting. Not a single intact window was to be found in the streets; supermarkets, watchmakers and car dealerships were completely destroyed. Electronics stores and jewellers were invaded by hordes of people who had never before in their lives stolen so much as a packet of chewing gum.
He had observed all of this, afraid.
And he had pondered.
If he was going to survive this absurd meaninglessness, he would have to make a
plan. As if he was about to embark on a long trip out into the wilderness, away from civilisation, where everything would be dependent on him and the things he carried alone.
And so one day, he had followed a mob that broke into a gun shop. There, he had helped himself to four things: a Glock 17 pistol, a double-barrelled automatic shotgun, a Mercury Bower knife with a sheath and several boxes of ammunition. In a sporting goods store – where he was practically alone – he found a solid rucksack, a small tent, a sleeping bag, practical clothing and various bits and pieces of camping equipment. Everything could be carried on his back. He understood that this was the stuff he would need to get through the coming days and weeks, perhaps even months.
Karl Iver Lyngvin had spent almost his entire childhood and adult life in the wilderness. First as a mountain warden and gamekeeper at the Femundsmarka national park in Norway, until at the age of thirty-two he was headhunted to become a member of the crew at a research station in the Congo rainforest, where he had spent the past two years.
And now he was here. In London, in a park. Hiding like an unwanted individual, cast out from a society that might have once existed but was now fragmented, pulverised. The thoughts of what had brought him here, so suddenly, so dramatically, grieved him. But these were thoughts that he rarely allowed to surface now.
He heard voices again, people not far away. He had to move. The park would soon be swamped with people desperate for soil, for a place to grow food. But where would he go?
He didn’t know; he just had to leave.
Get away from the city.
Packing up didn’t take long. He soon had his bag containing his tent, sleeping bag, a
few toiletries and the rest of his equipment on his back, the shotgun slung over his shoulders. He didn’t want to cross paths with anyone before he was safely out on the wide, deserted motorway that led out of London to the south-west.
He reached the road without being accosted and climbed over the guard rail. On the
other side, on the hill that sloped down towards the houses, he saw a group of women bending to gather dandelion leaves. All dressed in black, in niqabs and burkas. He raised a hand, but none of them waved back.
He had soon left the densely populated areas behind him, as most white, so-called ‘ethnically British’ citizens – but also many immigrants – had done months ago. They too had left the city and the meaningless, never-ending hostilities. Which road did they take? They probably headed for the open fields, the forests, the meadows; the farms and nurseries where food could still be found and where the farmers needed manual labour now that all mechanical operations had ceased. There was no electricity, no fuel of any kind. Nor any communication, since the digital support mechanisms that had propped up society for the past three quarters of a century had been sabotaged, collapsed and died. Every tiny village, every farm, every cluster of buildings had become its own isolated island.
Why had he waited so long? For over a year?
Because he didn’t want to give up hope. The hope that everything would die down, blow over; that after the unrest and disturbances had passed he’d be able to make some sort of contact with the world far to the south. With Africa, the Congo, the research station he had left.
With the woman he had failed.
Zoe Wildt, the entomologist, the butterfly girl, who must have given birth to their child by now. A boy? A girl? All he didn’t know tormented him as he took step after mechanical step down the deserted motorway. Memories, images, forced their way to the fore; the words from one of their last conversations clawing relentlessly at his mind.
‘When are you leaving?’ Her eyes were large and shining in the weak light that surrounded the research station, the sounds of the jungle strong and comforting around them.
‘In a few weeks.’
‘And you’ll be gone for almost two months?’
‘Something like that.’ What a lie!
‘And you have no reservations about leaving your pregnant girlfriend for so long?’ ‘Zoe, darling. I don’t have a choice. I’ve been instructed, it’s an order.’ Lies. Lies! The lump in his throat was still there – it had been there the whole time. The lies –
how many times had they threatened to blow his head to smithereens? The truth was that he was never going back. He was going to die. Together with millions, billions, of others.
But Zoe Wildt and the baby would live.
The memory – the intimate, brutal memory: At Heathrow airport, in the departure hall with thousands of other people just half an hour before the bombs went off, he’d had two choices. But then he had suddenly come upon a third option. Overcome with relief, he had immediately left the departure hall and followed the exit signs to a bus stop. The bus had driven two kilometres when they heard the explosions, saw the black plumes of smoke.
The question that had been continuously grinding around in his mind in the months since the explosions was whether what had happened – the failure of his own assignment and the start of a civil war, the collapse of civilisation – had been a given from the very start, guided by some force of which he knew nothing whatsoever.
It was impossible to know.
No thinking now. Just walking.
The May heat made him sweat. He pulled off his all-weather jacket and stuffed it
under the flap of his rucksack.
There is no longer any point to your life, Karl Iver Lyngvin.
He told the voice to shut up. Because was it not evolution’s imperative, life’s deepest
meaning, that nothing is, that shouldn’t be? And he was. The thought of this simple truth made him pick up his pace. His stoic wisdom and Epicurean approach to everything as yet undiscovered, the unknown, was curiously enough still a spark that still smouldered somewhere within him. Nothing could not exist without something. Simple philosophy.
Because it was not death that Karl Iver Lyngvin feared.
He was. He existed. Somewhere, Zoe and their child existed, too. A tiny smile slipped suddenly across his gaunt face as he left the motorway and made his way towards a copse of trees, far from any sign of human inhabitation.
He was there again: in the membrane between air and water. Where the prime mover had made everything move. Where he could see everything.
All that had passed; much of what was to come.
In this membrane he heard the voices and laughter of friends. His playmates, Lucas, Pepé and Armando, who had teased turtles under the plane tree in the square before the helicopters with their firebombs and machine guns came. He heard the guffawing laugh of the great magician Isidoro as he performed his small miracles. And Jovina, ldebranda and Orlando on the beach, before the Turkish jandarmas sent a shower of bullets their way. And not least, his dear Maria Estrella.
All of them were dead now.
Mino Aquiles Portoguesa had lost much. But nothing was gone.
He lay in the exquisitely thin membrane between air and water, face down in the
mighty Rio Negro, the blackwater river that flowed into the equally great but mud-grey Amazon at the jungle capital of Manaus. The city was gone now. Eaten up, swallowed, devoured by the new forest. Just across the water, the trunks of the Skyflower tree rose up from the ruins of the grand Tropical Hotel.
The people had long since turned to dust.
He let himself float on the surface of the river for a long time before swimming slowly towards the shore, taking great care to ensure not a single drop of water made its way into his nose or mouth. The chemical analysis that his friend Señor Yenso had noted in his book showed that the roots of the new forest made all waters in their immediate vicinity toxic with an extremely strong poison, but one that would fade away after a few weeks. This is what he told the scattered groups of indigenous peoples he met on his way through the jungle – that they must only drink rainwater.
They had listened and thanked him.
He had left Señor Yenso – or Jens Oder Flirum, as was his real name – in Europe, where he would implement his part of their Great Plan. They had seen the forest grow rapidly in France. He could often sense, almost hear his friend’s thoughts, which reached him no matter where he was, and Señor Yenso was therefore never out of sight. And right now, he knew that Señor Yenso was in pain.
On the shores of the great river he found a tiny clearing where the sunlight permeated the leaves of the treetops. He sat down to let the sun dry his body, and closed his eyes. The smell of canforeira, camphor, from a large tree nearby made him happy. He could see once again how the merging of the old and new forests was absolute; the plants encircling one another in a silent, erotic embrace.
No death, only life.
He took the box from his bag. Opened it, and picked up a handful of the fresh leaves he had placed inside it. He would soon need a far larger box, he knew.
He had gained the ability to hear the thoughts of people nearby. This oddly wondrous skill had developed incrementally, little by little, becoming stronger as the new forest grew thicker. He could often hear Señor Yenso’s voice.
But recently, he had also started to hear a new voice, and this voice had a face: a dispirited, anxious, tense young man at the large airport in England before the explosions. He’d been sitting on the bench directly opposite him in the departure hall. And when the man had suddenly stood to leave, he had followed him.
He had been following him for almost a year.
As the deep red sun sank down into the mighty river and the frogs prepared to perform their nightly song, this voice became stronger and stronger.
And Mino Aquiles Portoguesa, the magician, listened.
5. KARL IVER
Karl Iver Lyngvin had walked for two days, until he was far from the city. He had passed the enormous solar power plants and Allcom masts, all destroyed and in ruins. Walked in sweeping curves around farms and smaller villages where he could see groups of people, men women and children, working out in the fields, where all work now had to be done manually if food was to be grown and harvested.
City people who no longer had a house or home.
Karl Iver Lyngvin wanted no contact with anyone.
He cut across an undulating patch of forest where he could see no signs of human
inhabitation, but between the deciduous trees – mostly oak, hazel and maple – were small, open clearings. He found a certain pleasure in this landscape. England was a flat country, he knew, and its shape on maps made it seem like a great ship permanently moored off the coast of Europe. But other than this he knew little of the English countryside or how it was populated, although he imagined the area in which he found himself probably belonged to a large country manor or estate.
Yesterday evening he had shot two pheasants, which now dangled from his rucksack, and for the past few hours the anticipation of soon being able to enjoy a meal of fresh meat had overshadowed his bleak and gloomy thoughts.
He stopped abruptly.
There in a narrow valley, beside a small, trickling stream, was a figure – a man. Sitting on a stone, completely unmoving, staring down into the water.
He couldn’t pass by without being seen. He loudly cleared his throat, pushed some branches aside and stepped out into the open terrain, just a few metres from the man.
The man didn’t look up. Simply continued to stare down into the stream.
Karl Iver cleared his throat again and saw that a small dam had been built there, using peat and small stones. The water trickled over it, between two stones at the top.
‘Good afternoon,’ he said cautiously.
The man lifted his head, but didn’t reply.
Uncertain, Karl Iver stayed where he was, studying the man. He had learned to
thoroughly scrutinise the people he met before approaching them.
The man had light, copper-brown skin; he wasn’t white British. He was fairly stocky,
and his small eyes bulged, as if they were being pushed out by his swollen eyelids. His bushy,
dense eyebrows met at the bridge of his nose, and his aggressive profile was somewhat softened by the fatty tissue that had been deposited over it. His ears were large, sticking out from the sides of his head. Although he was balding, he’d let his curly hair grow long at the sides. On the whole, thought Karl Iver, the man’s face had a worried appearance, but didn’t seem threatening. He had the characteristic look of a well-fed fifty year old, of Caribbean origin, perhaps. And no apparent weapons.
‘You’ve built a dam?’
‘I just finished it.’ The man glanced up. His voice was deep and gruff, but not malicious.
‘Are there any fish in there?’
The man exploded in sudden laughter, slapping his thigh.
‘Are you crazy?! Of course there’s no fish!’
‘But… Why not?’
‘You’re carrying a weapon, and you’ve shot some birds.’ The man lifted a long,
skinny index finger and pointed at the pheasants.
‘So?’ Kar Iver was unsure whether he’d violated some sort of ban, if such things were
‘It’s not a good idea to shoot,’ the man said, and turned to stare down at the little dam
‘You better watch out – they can come up and invade your brain.’
‘What can… come up?’ Karl Iver moved a little closer.
‘Don’t you see? They’re right there.’ The man pointed down at the dam.
Karl Iver Lyngvin leaned forward; the dam wasn’t deep, perhaps half a metre or so,
the water clear and the bottom visible. But he couldn’t see anything down there.
‘It’s not a good idea to shoot,’ the man repeated. ‘They pop up again.’
The man must have a screw loose, thought Karl Iver. He stepped over the stream and turned away, wanting to continue on his journey.
‘There were two of them,’ he heard from behind him. ‘From your country – I can hear it in your accent. You’re from Norway, aren’t you?’
Karl Iver stood there, a cold slowly stealing across the forest floor and up along his body. ‘The Arctic Front, you know, Norwegians, based in the Eurotunnel. I shot two of them by the exit, at close range – saw their terrified faces before their grey matter sprayed out – ha-ha!’ His laughter was hard and perturbing.
Karl Iver noticed that the cold was spreading; he wanted to get away from here as fast as possible, but continued to stand still.
‘Do you think it’ll rain soon?’ The man glanced up at the blue sky.
‘But fuck, man! Why do you think I’ve dammed the stream? If it rains, it’ll flood, and then the dam will burst and everything will disappear, be washed away, and they’ll be gone. Gone, gone, I say!’ The man’s quivering index finger pointed down at the little dam, his whole body shaking, eyes bulging even more than before.
Karl Iver Lyngvin turned and walked away.
There is no evil. Only the fight to survive.
He hurried up the little slope away from the stream; tried to calm his breathing. Thought that the man would probably have to wait a long time before the rain came and washed away the apparitions that had taken up residence in his mind. Then he’d have to find new streams, build new dams. A person who has killed another – whether in peacetime or in war – is probably never the same again, thought Karl Iver.
He found a place to set up camp for the night.
But he didn’t light a fire.
The pheasants remained hanging from the flap of his rucksack.
He crept deep down into his sleeping bag and finally slept, but through the flittering veil that invaded his sleep he heard Zoe’s voice, clear, loud, exhorting: I am, you are, Karli.
I’m walking towards a nothingness, the voice within him said, so why am I walking? I have no aim, no meaning. My footsteps go unseen, and not even the shadow I cast reveals anything that could be said to be due to meaningful movement.
He had been walking for half the day. Again, he stood beside a stream, a little larger than the last, which wound in gentle curves across a flat, fertile meadow. In front of it was a fairly steep slope, a hillcrest or ridge overgrown with small bushes and dense scrub. He took off his rucksack and sat down.
Listened to the silence behind the birdsong.
A heavy, crushing silence. The inquisitorial silence of the past investigating him; the ironic silence of the unknown future to come.
He planned to walk no further. He wasn’t sure exactly where in England he was, possibly far east and south of the Thames. But he was fairly certain that this vast, uninhabited but well- maintained area he had crossed over the past few days – he had walked in a wide circle, since he had no desire to enter the more open, inhabited landscape – must belong to an estate. He hadn’t laid eyes on another person since the man by the stream yesterday afternoon, but he had seen other living creatures – hares, pheasants and a deer. The will to stay alive, the hope that slumbered somewhere within his consciousness, had not been extinguished just yet.
He put up his little tent on the grass beside the stream.
Gathered wood for a fire.
The pheasant meat tasted good, seasoned with the abundant common sorrel and wild caraway he found. For a while, it was as if he was back in Femundsmarka.
The next day it rained, and so he spent the day lying in his tent. Heard the raindrops against the nylon fabric, watched the condensation that gathered on the inside of the roof to become rivulets that ran down the canvas. He thought about how the man’s dam would burst; how he would have to build new dams when the apparitions returned to cripple his mind. The illness that tortured the waking to madness; sent the sleeping to the dark bottom of the deepest well. The man had shot two of Karl Iver’s fellow countrymen, but he felt no sorrow over this; they had belonged to a neo-fascist organisation, the Arctic Front. He’d heard rumours that they had occupied the Eurotunnel, the main traffic artery between England and the continent.
This was how things were now.
Fortress Europe, torn apart from within.
The Union had already begun to crack and crumble many years ago; he remembered the first major stock market crash and subsequent unemployment that had spread rapidly through most nations. Alongside this came the conflicts between ever more aggressive nationalistic groups and extremist organisations. That was when he had decided to get away from people, become a warden, a gamekeeper in the large national park east of the Femundsjøen lake. He had stayed there for many years.
But things changed, even there. The winters became warmer; the summers longer, often with violent rainstorms, causing erosion. Many insects vanished. The great bushes bearing juicy crowberries became increasingly rare.
The earth’s climate was changing.
And things only got worse. The next financial crash that originated in Asia, in which the Chinese, Indian and Indonesian economies were completely devastated, led to paralysis and panic among the western nations and brought about new hordes of unemployed workers. Governments were overthrown, new ones established; nationalists and ultraconservative forces gained more and more power, and the Union – which Karl Iver’s father had bitterly called the ‘Fourth Reich’ – was about to crack up completely, like crazy paving.
And when the famine and devastating drought in the Middle East and Africa – in the Sahel belt south of the Sahara – as well as bloody tribal and religious wars sent millions and millions of refugees northwards, Europe was slowly transformed into a boiling pot; a lava lake in which religious differences were hyped up and used to instigate violent revolts and frequent street fights in the larger cities. Europe was unable to help the people arriving from the countries the Union itself had suppressed and exploited over hundreds of years. And whom they had to thank for their own wealth and prosperity.
The deformed and bloated paunch of Europe was about to split, to spill all its disgusting, half- digested gore.
It wasn’t pretty. Words and phrases, accusations and screaming threats were hurled about. Opinions and attitudes that had for decades been taboo were now aired on the news and delivered from statespeople’s rostrums. Cars were ablaze in the streets. A monster was about to rise again.
And all while he had wandered in his own little world in the mountains.
Where he seldom kept up with the news, instead counting bumblebees, wasps, cranes, yellow wagtails, dotterels, wolverine and wolves; eating freshly caught trout grilled over the embers of his campfire. Karl Iver Lyngvin wanted for nothing, and wanted nothing from the outside world.
If it hadn’t been for his earlier achievements at the shooting range, where he had been crowned best in Norway, and his outstanding performance in his veterinary school exams, he would probably still be tramping around in the marshland and mountains, looking for lame reindeer calves or wounded wolves.
But things hadn’t worked out that way. He’d suddenly ended up in another strange existence – this one also far from civilisation. He’d been offered a job at a research station deep in the heart of Congo’s rainforest; as a shooter in the work to tag the jungle’s large mammals, and as the station vet. He’d had reservations, but he’d accepted the position. The more than twenty researchers stationed at CORAC, the Congo Rainforest Centre, were tasked with registering changes in the climate and finding methods to counteract them; with saving what could be saved.
He’d enjoyed the work.
And he had met Zoe Wildt, the butterfly girl from Australia.
Life was meaningful.
Until Nelson showed up.
In his tent, Karl Iver Lyngvin turned over, curled up into a ball, tried to resist the dark shadows of the past that threatened to push him into an even deeper depression. The balloon had burst; Europe had exploded before he had managed to carry out his dark deed – that was a fact. Whether or not this had worked out for the best, he couldn’t say. But he was forced to live. He was.
The rain poured down.
He stayed in the tent, but his thoughts and their repetitions continued to hammer away, refusing to let themselves be drowned out by the drumming of the rain against the canvas. During those first days and weeks in a completely anarchic and lawless London, he had
wandered around and witnessed the impossible. Understood that there were basically two main opposing groups: supporters of the BNF, the British National Front, which had attracted masses of white, unemployed British, and on the other side Umayya Hayan, the fundamentalist, multi-ethnic organisation that had long proclaimed the coming of the new caliphate was near. Between these two were a number of smaller groups, as well as the powerful neo-Turkish Ummah, which had probably set several European capitals ablaze. There was fanaticism among all political factions and religious ideologies, with their various hobby horses and goals. The unified Labour and Tory supporters – the ‘Laboratories’ – had long called for reason, attempting to block the worst of the aggression but with little success. Likewise the Al-Andalus Brothers, an Islamic organisation – but these were pitifully low in number among their fellow believers.
One of the countless rumours that circulated purported that it was dark-skinned RAF pilots, supporters of Umayya Hayan, who had dropped the bombs over Heathrow to provoke the rebellion that would lead to the caliphate. From the opposite side, it was claimed that the pilots were BNF sympathisers who had planned to carry out a major act of terror and lay the blame for this at the feet of immigrants.
Who had dropped the bombs over the airport was never determined. But that neo-fascists had set an entire immigrant community in Brixton on fire the next day was not simply a rumour, but fact.
And from that point on, there had only been chaos.
The police and the military were completely paralysed, because even within these agencies there were equal numbers of white and dark-skinned British citizens. Who should turn their weapons on whom?
Karl Iver had stood in the shadows and listened, watched and pondered, but had also been punched, kicked, chased, threatened and mocked – and felt a curious glee at this. Come on, hit me, thrash me, let the blood flow out of me to mix with that of others in the streets!
But he had survived.
He curled up, clenched his jaw to stop the memories, the terrible thoughts that so incessantly returned.
The rain battered against the fabric of the tent.
Karl Iver Lyngvin lay with his eyes closed and hoped that the rain would never end, that the floods would come, that all the dams would burst and the floodwaters rush down across the meadow and his tent to make everything float away, the entire world dissolving in a sea of nothingness.
But it didn’t happen. His thoughts refused to let up; an unstoppable, agonising maelstrom.
All commercial shipping operations in the waters around Europe had ceased, since there were no longer any safe ports; the same was true of all air traffic. After a few months, all telecommunications died out. Computer screens turned black. Sabotage, destruction, insufficient maintenance. Electricity, mainly supplied by the large, modern solar power plants, ran out after just a few months. Coal, petrol and diesel were impossible to obtain. Should he be allowed to keep on living? How many times had he asked himself this question with the Glock to his temple in those first few weeks?
Eventually he had put the gun away.
The winter had been mild, but early on his survival instincts had told him he’d need to equip himself with good clothing. Canned and dried food he had managed to procure in the same way as most other things – through plunder.
The winter had been mild, the smog and acid smoke from countless fires hanging thickly over the metropolis as it gradually emptied, people fleeing hunger and their ruined homes.
He himself had gone nowhere. He simply was.
Now it was May.
And he had left the city.
The countryside that surrounded him was living and green.
The rain drummed monotonously against the tent. Karl Iver Lyngvin finally sank into a deep and liberating sleep, far from the troubles of the recent past.
This new forest was beautiful.
The Skyflower – that’s what the Sucuruki Indians he had encountered in the jungle
had called the beautiful orchid, which under special conditions grew and lived in a symbiotic relationship with another plant.
Now the symbiosis had become a tree.
Mino Aquiles Portoguesa lay on his back at the bottom of an abandoned canoe, listening to the chattering of a nearby group of woolly monkeys and staring up into the treetops above the banks of the river. He understood why the Indians had given the flower, and now the tree, this name – right at the top, at the outermost points of the slender leafy branches that stretched towards the sky, were beautiful, light-blue flowers. He recalled Jens Oder Flirum, Señor Yenso; his friend’s voice when he had read from the journals of the researchers at the Arbes et Flores Centre, abbreviated to ARBETFLO.
‘This is a species of the genus Duranta, an extremely fast-growing and hardy subfamily of trees, of which Duranta plumieri is the most well-known. But this species has the name Duranta attenwolli and grows sparsely across the Amazon basin. What is special about this species is that it grows together with one of the world’s largest orchids, Grammatophyllum speciosum, an epiphyte that can grow to up to six metres in height. In some studies, each of the plants have been found to contain the other’s specific properties; the seeds of the Duranta attenwolli were also found to contain the epiphytic orchid’s genes. But these seeds were never able to germinate, as they require a soil temperature of between 60 and 70 degrees Celsius. When the soil temperature was raised to these figures, growth was triggered – a hybrid of these two species, which grew so wildly and rapidly that nothing could stop it.’
He and Señor Yenso knew how to get the seeds to germinate – that was the Great Plan. That this plant would conquer the globe – save it, reclaiming it from human folly and destruction. The Skyflower tree was now growing in Europe and would soon be found on every continent and island in the world. His pleasure was immense, as he now had confirmation that the plant grew well alongside the original vegetation.
It was magic.
A magic even greater than that he had acquired himself. Greater than his master Isidoro ever could have dreamed of. But as he got older, Mino had gradually begun to notice that his own skill, his magician’s art, was developing into something more than simple trickery, dexterity and illusion. Before, he’d been able to make the marbles in his hand disappear, only to retrieve them from his hair, ears or nose. Now he could make the marbles
hang calmly in the air before him. And he could cover great distances via an invisible bridge whenever he wished, to reach the people whose thoughts he heard.
His beloved Maria Estrella must have built this bridge for him, this bridge that could transport him across the great ocean. He knew Maria Estrella was always there with him, unseen.
But now, as he closed his eyes to sleep, he heard once again the thoughts of the stranger he had seen at the airport. So loud they almost drowned out Señor Yenso’s voice.
This person, too, he thought, must have attained the ability to send thoughts to others after the Skyflower tree, with its enormous power, had started to spread.
He would soon have to find the invisible bridge that would carry him across the great ocean.
Can you hear me, Maria Estrella? he whispered into the night. She heard him.
7. KARL IVER
He lay curled up, huddled in his sleeping bag. Like a mole that had come upon a stone and had no idea of the direction in which he should continue to dig. He ascended, gradually, from the slow saraband of an indistinct dream.
Karl Iver Lyngvin woke completely and stared up at the roof of his tent. He had the vague sense that it must still be early in the morning. He dragged himself out of the sleeping bag towards the tent opening and peeked out. The sun was shining, steam rising from the grass. A thousand diamonds, droplets on the leaves and branches, sparkling. He lay there for a while with his head outside the tent, dazzled by the glare, rubbing the last remains of sleep from his eyes. Then he withdrew into the sleeping bag again, lying half on his side, half on his back.
There must be some hope, came the whisper from his lips.
But reality – his life – existed not only within the confines of a tent but behind a heavy, gloomy curtain, but as to what might lay on the other side of it he wouldn’t like to guess. He lay there, listening to the rumbling of his stomach, his body’s pestering demands that didn’t seem to give a damn about his thoughts; about the apathy of his consciousness and desire for peace, silence – nothing.
He cocked his head. Listened.
Against his will, he suddenly strained to listen, because couldn’t he hear footsteps? Was there somebody outside? A dark shadow was cast across the fabric of the tent.
‘Well I never, what have we here – who’s decided that this is the perfect camping ground!’
The voice was gruff, but still high enough that it might belong to a woman, he thought. He raised himself onto his elbows; it was a posh English accent, with typical Oxford intonation. He stared up at the dark shadow on the canvas, obscure and alarming in its size.
‘Made a fire and eaten birds, the scoundrel – it’s obvious from the bones and feathers strewn about. If there’s anyone in there you’d bloody well better come out and show your rotten face!’
The shadow shrank as the person approached the tent, then morphed into the shape of a foot lifting to kick the canvas. He fumbled for his rucksack to find the pistol, the Glock, which he still hadn’t used since stealing it, but reconsidered.
He cleared his throat, loudly.
‘Hello? Is there someone in there?’ The shadow withdrew again.
Karl Iver Lyngvin turned over, got to his knees, did up his shirt and trousers, crawled out, stood up, and blinked against the harsh sunlight several times. Finally, he saw the figure standing a few metres away.
It was a woman.
Tall and stately, thickset but lean. Wearing colourful, flowing garments; a green tunic over baggy, yellow and blue striped trousers, knee socks pulled half way up her calves and brown leather sandals on her feet. A black cap on her head, with an image of a skull printed on the visor. A pair of glasses with tiny, oblong lenses, perched on the tip of her nose.
Her face was rugged, but not unattractive; its outline sharp but filled with a smattering of freckles between faint wrinkles. She wasn’t young – well over fifty, he guessed.
They stood there looking at each other for a while, the woman squinting at him over the frames of her glasses but not in a hostile way – her gaze seemed to express an astonished curiosity.
‘Hi,’ he said, lifting a hand and giving the woman a careful smile.
‘Well, it seems you’ve found yourself what might be the most peaceful place in the entirety of this fucked up kingdom – do you plan to stay long?’
He shrugged, curiously calmed, almost a little cheered by her coarse, direct language, which seemed funny coming from a posh-sounding, upper class Englishwoman.
‘I’m not really very keen on the idea that you’ve set up camp here,’ the woman said, turning back the brim of her cap so that the skull could no longer be seen.
‘Is this your property?’ he asked, uncertain.
‘Well, mine and mine. It could have been mine. Was,’ she answered cryptically.
For the first time he noticed a small trolley just a short distance away, with large wheels and shafts attached at the front, fully loaded with something or other.
‘It looks as if you’ve decided to set up camp down here, too – I can understand it,’ he tried, looking around at the idyllic stream that wound its way through the flower-covered meadow; at the remains of the campfire and the pile of wood he’d gathered, now wet from the night’s downpour.
She suddenly took a step towards him and held out her hand.
‘Politeness, good manners and normal behaviour might have departed this country – and the rest of the world for that matter – but my name’s Lilith Larkindale. Doctor Lilith Larkindale.’ Her eyes glinted sharply above her glasses.
‘Karl Iver Lyngvin, from Norway. Also Doctor – I’m a veterinarian,’ he blurted as he took her hand and gave it a firm and forthright shake.
‘Interesting.’ She glanced back over her shoulder, towards the trolley. ‘And now my young lad, mister tent dweller doctor veterinarian – if you’d like to show me your fire-making skills we can perhaps enjoy a cup of earl grey tea and a couple of biscuits. I think we need to have a jolly old chat, you and I – unless you’ve thought to pack up all your bits and bobs and hurry on out of here, tout de suite?’
He couldn’t hide his smile – young lad? He was doubtless twenty years younger than she was, at least, but stood a good head taller.
He walked over to the pile of firewood, pulled out his knife, and started to whittle away at a branch to reveal the dry wood inside. He’d done this hundreds, thousands of times, back in the mountains before his life suddenly took a new turn. He noticed the murmuring satisfaction he felt at getting the flames to blaze up after digging up some dry grass from beneath the tent. He filled a pot with water from the stream and held it over the fire with the spit he’d used for the pheasant.
The woman dragged the trolley all the way over to the tent, rummaged around in whatever
she had inside it, nodded and brought out two teabags, a couple of plastic cups and a packet of biscuits.
They stood looking at one another across the fire.
Considering each other silently, with a not excessive but obvious curiosity.
As the water boiled and he poured it into the two cups, the woman suddenly stared hard at him, lifting her arm and patting her tunic, beneath which something bulged.
‘You don’t look dangerous, but this here,’ she lifted her arm again ‘belonged to my grandfather, and is loaded with twelve rounds – five of them already shot, actually, and with bloody good results.’
‘Okay.’ He nodded. He didn’t want to ask what had caused her to fire off the five rounds – or what the results had been.
‘As I’m sure you can understand, you dumb Norwegian tent rat, it is terribly annoying that in the twenty-first century, a decent and generally – generally – peaceful woman of a certain age should have to run around carrying a murder weapon in her armpit. But drink your tea!’ She flung the packet of biscuits at him over the fire and he caught it, but spilled half his tea down his shirt in the process.
He took three biscuits and closed his eyes as he chewed.
‘Are you planning on saying something any time soon?’
‘Well, I…’ Karl Iver Lyngvin met Lilith’s eyes above her glasses, and noticed for the first time that they were green. ‘I wanted to get away, away from…’ He felt suddenly muddled, a waterfall of words flooding his throat; a violent urge to speak, relate all of it – but he fell silent.
‘I understand,’ she said. ‘Same here.’
‘Are you from the city, too? From London?’
‘From Sevenoaks, a little further south-east. It’s just as bloody awful there. Last week my antiquarian bookshop, closed though it was, was burned to the ground. Thousands of books, but luckily I managed to save the most valuable ones.’ She pointed at the trolley.
‘But what’s a Norwegian doing here? In the middle of this fascinating little project certain powers that be have decided to put into action and bring about the ruin of the United Kingdom – and Europe besides – and take us back to the Middle Ages?’ She motioned to indicate that she wanted a refill; he poured more water into her cup.
‘It… it was a lecture I had to…’ he lied. ‘And then Heathrow blew up. I couldn’t get home.’ He stared at the ground.
For a long while, neither of them spoke.
Lilith threw her plastic cup onto the fire and it sizzled.
Then she turned down the brim of her cap so that the skull became visible once more; took a few steps around the fire, moving close to him.
‘This old woman can see you’ve not had an easy time of it. And there’s absolutely no reason to feel nervous about this skull!’ Her green eyes glittered. ‘It’s intended for barbarians who’ve never read anything but the Quran, and for neo-fascists who don’t even know the alphabet or how to spell their own names.’
He said nothing; wondered how the encounter might end.
‘Do you know,’ she said suddenly, giving a slight smile that illuminated her expression and smoothed the strictness from her face. ‘Do you know what made me strangely happy in the middle of all this madness?’
‘The silence. That everything was suddenly so dark and quiet. Not a light to be seen at night
when the electricity ran out, only the starry sky as I’d never seen it before.’ She blinked and looked up. ‘And the humming, all that racket made by machines, the noise – what the ear had got used to over the course of several generations and so never really noticed – it was suddenly gone.’
He nodded, listened, heard the birds singing in the surrounding forests. Noticed how he hoped the conversation with this woman would never end.
‘Did you enjoy your tea and biscuits?’
‘Yes, thank you.’
‘So, mister doctor veterinarian – do you plan on staying here for good?’ She sat down on the edge of the trolley.
‘Well.’ He cleared his throat, unsure. ‘I don’t have any plans, and this is a place I could imagine staying in for a while, if that’s…’
‘Yes, well, yes,’ she interrupted. ‘I suppose I’ve got no bloody right to hunt stranded Norwegians nor any other roaming vagabonds – sorry, I’m expressing myself poorly here, but I have a difficult decision to make.’ She took off her cap, used it to waft away a few insects. She sat there fanning herself for a time; he saw that her grey-brown hair was tied up at her neck. Then she put her cap back on, pushed her glasses up her nose and squinted at him, her eyes narrow as her spectacles’ lenses. Then she pulled the frames back to the end of her nose; the sun gave her green eyes an extra glow.
‘Based on what I’ve seen and heard – and I know people often lie to hide greater truths, and that a name and job title say nothing about the life one’s lived or what’s to come – but I’ve decided, gullible imbecile that I am, to trust you. But just know that I’ll give you hell if you try any funny business!’
Karl Iver Lyngvin didn’t understand. He moved uneasily towards the entrance to the tent, fiddling with the buttons on his shirt. Funny business – what did she mean?
‘Come here, you lout!’
It was a command, but one delivered in a way that made it seem there was something encouraging, something heartening in it. He hesitated for a moment, then took the few steps across to the trolley.
‘If you stay here, and as I said I have no right to hunt you – my grandfather would have done, but he’s dead and all his earthly goods have been wasted, all but a few – if you stay here you’ll discover it anyway, so you might as well pack up all this junk of yours and come with me.’ She stood up.
‘What…?’ He shook his head, confused.
‘You heard me. It’s not far, barely a hundred metres, across to that steep, green hill you can see over there. Prepare to see something you’ve never seen in your life, my young veterinarian from Ultima Thule.’
Then Lilith grabbed the shafts of her trolley and started to walk.