Monday, July 23, 2012

The Devil in Jutland (conclusion)


              Soren Christensen stopped, and took deep gulps of the stew.  In a moment it was gone.  Constable Andersen took the bowl and filled it, making sure Soren got large chunks of fish and potatoes.  Without a word he handed it to Soren.
            “Thank you.  I don’t know how long I stayed there,” Soren continued slowly. “There was no way to judge time.  It was always day, always noon, and always summer.  At first it was pure bliss, or close to it.  But eventually, I began to have doubts.  The world was out there, beyond the clearing in the woods.  There was suffering, violence, privation.  What was I doing here, I wondered, in this fantasy?  One day I kissed Katrina and the children for the last time.  This time, unlike the kiss I gave them on the day they died, before I went to work, and before they walked on the strand, I knew I would never see them again.  It was hard -- very, very, hard…” Soren Christensen began to cry.  The Constable went to the sideboard and poured a glass of schnapps.  He gently nudged the man, and when Soren saw what was being offered to him, he gulped it greedily.  After a moment, and after he wiped the tears from his face, he started to speak again.
            “When I walked out of the clearing and into the woods, I wasn’t surprised to find Wormwood waiting for me.  He was sitting on a stump.  He smiled and shook my hand.
            “‘You have been given a great gift, Soren.  Men do not recover what is lost.  They simply lose with recompense.  But I felt sorry for you.  You are an earnest man, just misguided.  You now have to pay me for my service.’ I knew that this was coming.  I was very frightened.  But what he told me was shocking.
            “‘You must find everything you have written, every scrap, and burn it.  Every word.  Everywhere.’ He then shook my hand again and walked away.  I have not seen him since.
            “That is why I am here, Constable.  I’ve come to burn all my books and papers.”
            “They are in storage,” the Constable answered. “When you didn’t return, and we couldn’t figure out what happened to you, and there was no word, I took your possessions, the portable ones, and put them in storage.  The municipality sold your house.  The proceeds are in escrow.  It’s all yours now.  You just need to sign the papers.”
            “Good,” Soren answered triumphantly. “I need more money to complete my task.  I sold a great many books.  Finding them all will prove difficult.  I can’t believe people still read that drivel!”

            Later, the Constable came out of his bedroom.  Soren had fallen asleep on the hearth stones.  The fire was nearly out.  He laid a blanket carefully over him.

            The next day Soren brought a wheelbarrow full of his writings to the Constable’s house.  Constable Andersen showed him the corner of the yard where he burned his trash.  Soren held up a manuscript.
            “I was working on this the day they died!  I was about to finish it.  The publisher was clamoring for it.  It had taken a long time to finish.  Then Wormwood arrived.  I can’t believe this thing still exists.  It feels like a dream.”  Soren Christensen soaked the papers in kerosene, and laid them on a pile of waste and ashes.  He lit a match and it quickly caught fire.  He then carefully laid his other books and papers atop it.

            The next day Soren prepared to leave.  He shook the Constable’s hand heartily.
            “Thank you for your help,” he smiled shyly, “you have made this so much easier.”
            “On occasion people still come through here looking for you,” the Constable answered as their hands unclasped.  “I tell them I don’t know what happened to you.  I think I will continue to tell them that,” and on hearing this, Soren laughed.  But when the paroxysm of mirth passed though his slim body, he became gravely serious again.
            “I know.  It is inexplicable.  The tale of a madman, perhaps.  I’ll tell you a secret Constable, and if you do not think me mad already, you will then.”
            “I wish you wouldn’t, Mr. Christensen.  I’ve heard enough of your secrets to last a lifetime.”  Soren laughed again, and just as quickly, his mien grew serious.
            “That wasn’t the Devil who came to me, Constable Andersen, that was God.”
            “God?” the Constable raised his eyebrows.
            “Yes.  Perhaps not the God.  But at least the God who created this world.  This place.  This cesspool of matter.  It wasn’t the Devil who came to me.  Nor Satan.  It was just the arrogant deity that created the earth, and the race of beings who think they are created in God’s image.”
            “I don’t think I understand, Mr. Christensen.  I’m no theologian, sir.”
            “I am not either!  No longer, anyway.  All I know is what happened to me.  And how it made me feel.  That is what I base my conclusions on: my emotional intuitions.  Not on the working of my mind.  My mind only sent me down dead ends.  The real God did not create this world.  He is hidden from us.  I don’t know why he hides.  When I have finished my task, and destroyed all my works, I will set out to find him, even if he hides from me.”
            “Good luck to you, Mr. Christensen.”
            “Goodbye, Constable.  Remember me, please.  Remember me.”
            And Soren Christensen turned around and walked away.

            The Constable went into his office and closed the door, which was so uncharacteristic his staff commented on it.  In an hour he opened it again.  Just as he did, he was called out.  He broke up a fight at a tavern down by the strand.  Then he was summoned by a dairyman outside of town who thought two of his cows had been stolen by a suspicious looking man walking along the highway.  The Constable found them an hour later stuck in a bog.  Later still, in the afternoon, the wind kicked up and a report came that a fishing boat had capsized in the channel; the Constable and his men plucked the fishermen from the choppy water in the municipal boat, and when the men arrived at the door of the Constable’s office, the sky had turned black.  The waves tumbled toward the shore.  The rain blotted out the harbor.



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