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Three Barrels of Barley
Three Barrels of Barley
Three Barrels of Barley
Ebook125 pages1 hour

Three Barrels of Barley

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Lena, the mother of three small children, has inherited a farm near Grimstad on the southern coast of Norway. The property is worth a fortune, but an unsolved problem from the past overshadows it. Something is wrong, but she struggles to put her finger on what. The tooth of time has not yet gnawed away the pain that lies beneath the farm's grounds. Thus, Lena realizes that this old power is about to wake up again. An evil that extends to both her and those she loves.

In this novella, Tom Thowsen breathes new life into Terje Vigen, Henrik Ibsen's famous poem from 1861

PublisherTom Thowsen
Release dateFeb 26, 2022
Three Barrels of Barley
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Tom Thowsen

About Tom Thowsen If you enjoy books of Wilbur Smith and Ken Follett, you`d likely enjoy Tom Thowsen too. He is a Norwegian illustrator and fiction writer with a passion for history. This passion is also reflected in his books, where he often uses two different time frames, two different stories woven together. One from the present time and the other from the past. His novels have received very good receptions from both readers and newspapers. Halden Arbeiderblad said this about Kayaweta, his newest novel: "Thowsen manages to combine facts with fiction and writes excellent novels." Another newspaper, Demokraten, concluded: "The author sparkles with the joy of storytelling and knowledge."

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    Three Barrels of Barley - Tom Thowsen


    The rain flogged hard against the windows, and the wipers ran at full speed. About a quarter past three at night, the car watch revealed. The dark and grey night was gloomy, a little too eerie, Lena Wiighen-Hansen thought as she leant forward past the steering wheel to get a better view. The quietness was an anomaly, even out here, with no oncoming traffic. There were no humans in sight, either, which was, all things given, understandable under such conditions. She let her gaze run from left to right, tried to make as much sense of the darkness as possible. The surroundings turned hillier, as far as she could tell from the downpour. The forest was dense on both sides, black and sinister, with dark finger-like branches moved to the will of the wind. She had chosen to follow Google Maps on the iPhone rather than Tesla's own navigation system. Turn right, Google said. Not far away, there was a gap among the trees. A possible alley.

    She slowed down and eventually stopped.

    Paul, her husband, squinted at her from the passenger seat. He looks tired after the long journey. Are we close?

    We should be by now, Lena replied without the slightest hint of joy in her voice. Their three children were still asleep in the back seat, in a dreamworld, hopefully, full of fairies. To wake them now felt wrong — especially given this was an unknown place in the dark. And in addition, amidst a raging tempest!

    You're looking forward to it, I hear? Paul’s attempt at cheering her up didn’t work as planned.

    Lena glanced at him, but she did not answer him immediately.

    Mind your own business, she said after long, tried not to burst out in anger.

    Paul backed off, grinned, a finger run by his hipster beard. To be a farmer will do you good. You'll see. As soon as it stops raining, my dearest one.

    Lena tried to make up her mind, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She wanted to turn around and instead of continuing check into the nearest hotel. Hotel Scandic Grimstad still had available rooms. At least they did the last time she checked their website. But Paul had straight out refused. Hotels were an unnecessary expense, one that should be avoided if possible. Truth be told, Lena did partly agree now that the darkest hours of the night were nearly over.

    She moved her foot onto the pedal, the vehicle bursting forward into the unknown. She turned onto a side road, soon discovered to her dismay that it is far narrower than expected and unusually bumpy, like an old cart road.

    Darn it! she swore. Teslas aren’t exactly all-terrain vehicles!

    Shrill and disturbing scratching noises appeared against the sides of the car. The ruts they were following were deep, tufts of grass and stones protruding in the middle, a common trait of these old roads. Branches crunched under them, too, boughs that’d fallen from the storm-twisted trees along the alley. The strong gusts of wind came straight in from the North Sea.

    The weather was harsh on the coast, in the southern part of Norway.

    Watch it! Paul warned. His eyes and ears were alert. The bottom plate that protected the battery was costly. There were small margins, and the slightest hit could quickly prove extremely expensive. More than 300,000 Norwegian Krones, according to the car’s manual. Just to buy a new Tesla battery.

    After about two hundred meters, Lena suddenly halted the car. A crossing stream had carved a miniature canyon in the road, a little bit deep to pass. However, the storm changed, drifted higher, about to dissolve. Clouds passed by, and it got brighter as the grey light of dawn break in the east. Gradually, the landscape emerged in the pale-blue light. A valley between rolling mountain ridges appeared, where several deer grazed on the meadows. And beyond the field, a slight hint of the courtyard at the end of the avenue.

    Lena sighed heavily. I’m not driving another meter!

    Paul nodded. Agreed. We can walk from here.

    They woke the children and prepared to leave the car. They would leave the luggage behind until further notice. Months had passed since Lena made up her mind to sell the farm she’d inherited. She did not even want to see it. The previous owner was a jerk, a charlatan, and a scoundrel. Just thinking about him made her ill. She had not shown up at his funeral, either. In fact, Lena had not seen her father since she was nine.

    The closer to the yard they got, the worse things began to feel. A murder of crows screamed from a big tree amidst the open yard, the echo rolled between the mountain peaks. A haze crept in deep down the valley—grey like silk veil.

    "No more!’ cried three-year-old Julie. She insisted on being carried.

    Paul obliged, lifted her up. She clung on tight around her father's neck. Next to him walked seven-year-old Knut and his nine-year-old sister, Ida, both wary of the place the night had brought them to.

    Ida shot her mother a discomforting look. Mum, don’t tell me we’re going to live here.

    Lena, taken aback by the farmstead, did not hear her daughter.

    We don't know yet, Paul interjected and turned to his wife. She looked distraught. The face became more and more tormented.

    Lena halted, then observed the farmstead. A voice inside her wanted to cry, to bellow out in rebellion against God for being this careless, this cruel. She hated this place already

    The white house before was dilapidated and eerie. The roof tiles were all covered with a moss grey as stone, the gutters full of pale grasses. Paint was flaking off the walls and putty from the windows. The red barn was the worst, with gaping holes in the roof where swallows flew in and out to catch a glimpse of the newcomers.

    There wasn’t a single corner of this barren hole of a place they’d come that wasn’t poorly maintained. The fence had toppled, almost dissolved in its constituents. The pink-flowering apple trees stood crooked and moss-grown and had not been pruned in years. And the gloomy forest, which she had also learned to loathe, grew inwards from both sides of the valley. Shortly, the whole meadow would be overgrown by thickets, the old cultural landscape fainted to a distant memory.

    Are you alright, love? her husband said beside her.

    No, but I’ll manage, Lena sighed and fished out the keychain from her jacket pocket. Let’s take a look, then.

    What’s in there? Knut said, the little lad’s eyes dilating.

    I don’t know yet, but whatever is in there is ours! Paul said encouragingly.

    What if there are ghosts there?

    Paul smiled at his son. No, Knut. That is impossible. Ghosts do not exist.

    Come, let's go. Lena gave Knut a safe hand to hold, and the eldest daughter Ida quickly grabbed the other.

    Everyone seemed reluctant except Paul, who kept a cheerful tone.

    Yeah, come on. Let's look inside.

    They stopped by the door. Lena fumbled with the keychain. It consisted of multiple keys. Big and small, rusty, and shiny. It was impossible to tell which of them was the right one. So, she randomly chose one, inserted it into the keyhole, turned it, then pushed the handle down and pulled the door.

    Nothing happened.

    It was still just as stuck.

    Paul handed the youngest daughter Julie over to Lena.

    Let me try, he said, slammed the door open, added, It must have rotted into an odd position. The mist hit them. A raw, trapped air.

    With low expectations, they entered the house but quickly discovered that it was clean and tidy. Yes, it was actually cosy in there. Through the kitchen window, the first rays of the sun flowed into the room.

    Wow, Lena mumbled. It's big and spacious here, though the fireplace takes up a lot of space.

    A pizza oven? Knut rejoiced.

    The white cemented baker oven reminded him of last year's holiday in Italy.

    Paul nodded recognizably. Now that is interesting.

    Apart from the baking oven, which was ancient, most of the kitchen interior was from the early 1950s. The stove, refrigerator, pipe table and pipe chairs were from the same era. The walls, kitchen decor and pipe chairs were turquoises. That was the fashion during the happy days of rockabilly.

    Hm, this is weird, Paul continued. The kitchen is a kind of time capsule.

    Lena listened, nodded.

    Oh yes, she said, smiled. Everything is from the 1950s. It feels almost a bit unreal, just as if time has stood still.

    Mum, mum! There's a letter to you, Ida exclaimed. She was standing at the pipe table, pointing to a grey envelope.

    To me? Lena said, frowned.

    Yes. It says to Lena.

    Holy smokes, a letter from the 1950s? Paul whispered.

    But Dad, then, nine-year-old Ida interjected, sent him a resigned look. How does that add up? Mum was born in 1982.


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