Afterward, Soren could no longer work. The visitor had left an unsettling presence, as if a heavy residue clung to the cottage. Soren’s mind was ill at ease. Wormwood had said nothing that a legion of other critics had not said before, but something in his tone and demeanor disturbed Soren. He felt a vague sensation of dread as if something with dire consequences was about to happen.
He stepped out into the garden. It was still sunny, but clouds had begun to congeal on the horizon, and they were steadily marching like threatening columns of troops across the sky. By the time Soren reached the house, the sun was hidden, and the world was cast once again into a dark, wintry gloom. The house was empty and quiet. It was unnerving. Soren went from room to room looking for someone. Nothing was touched, but nothing seemed essentially as it was supposed to be either. A mounting sense of panic gripped him. He rushed into the kitchen. The maid was crying. Soren was horrified, and then relieved, as he realized she was peeling onions.
“I’m sorry, Mrs Ingalsen, but do you know where Mrs. Sorensen and the children are at?”
“Oh, Mr. Christensen,” the woman smiled and brushed away her tears, “it was such a pleasant day that Mrs. Sorensen thought she’d take the children down to the esplanade for a walk, although it’s snowing now, it seems. Perhaps you should fetch her? She didn’t even take a coat for herself, although I asked her to. This time of the year, I said, the weather can change so quickly.”
Soren walked quickly out of the house. He was somewhat relieved to know where his family was, but when he looked at the blinding snow falling to the ground, and the increasing wind, he grew alarmed once more. Without a coat, he rushed to the town; he ran down the spiraling, cobbled streets to the town square. He could not see more than a few meters in front of his face.
The wind whipped around the clock tower and almost knocked the large man from his feet. But he continued. He realized he was near the municipal dock, and finding the railing, he was on the walkway of the esplanade. He screamed Katrina’s name into the wind. He yelled again and again. There was no answer. He rushed up and down the board walk. It appeared to be empty. He heard the rough waves of the North Sea slapping on the strand, but the board walk was dry.
The wind grew so strong that Soren soon needed to take shelter. He knew there was a booth with an enclosed bench, but the snow and wind were so fierce he could not see it. He felt along the handrail until he reached it, crouched down in the aperture, and slumped against the wall. He prayed that Katrina and the children had made it to safety. They may have even made it back home. There was a quick way back to the house, up the dunes, and they may have taken that route, effectively passing Soren in the heavy snow. As Soren Christensen began to pray, he felt the waves of the North Sea, seemingly inflamed with anger, swamp the board walk and lick at his feet.